Latest Blog Posts

<p>James Dean in &quot;Giant,&quot;&nbsp;one of the films featured on the new poster for the 84th annual Academy Awards.</p>

James Dean in "Giant," one of the films featured on the new poster for the 84th annual Academy Awards.

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

84th Oscars poster could have been better

Films like 'Gone with the Wind,' 'Forrest Gump' and 'Giant' are featured

Greg Ellwood over at Awards Campaign has already posted and criticized this year's official Oscar poster for being "instantly forgettable" and looking akin to "a home video cover for the best of an Oscar ceremony compilation."

I don't disagree with that. There have been some creative spins on this annual artwork over the years, but there has also always been that nagging flavor of conservative design holding things back. Still, what do you want from the Academy? All they're interested in is having a date and the Oscar as big as possible. Tune in. That's the message.

But I've been considering the film images chosen to accompany the big statue. Greg notes that "Giant" is out of place, because it's the only film featured that didn't win the Best Picture Oscar. The others are "Gone with the Wind," "Casablanca," "The Sound of Music," "The Godfather," "Driving Miss Daisy," "Forrest Gump" and "Gladiator."

Read Full Post
<p>A rare scene of Captain Haddock (voiced by Andy Serkis) not drinking in &quot;The Adventures of Tintin.&quot;</p>

A rare scene of Captain Haddock (voiced by Andy Serkis) not drinking in "The Adventures of Tintin."

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Round-up: Raising a glass to 'Tintin'

Also: the invisibility of Tate Taylor, and the dark horses in the Oscar race

Captain Haddock, the crusty seadog sidekick of boy-wonder reporter Tintin, has, as even casual readers of the Hergé comics know, a bit of a drinking problem. It's a weakness the books always treated as greater cause for comedy than concern, and Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin" follows suit, hinging several gags on the Andy Serkis-voiced character's alcoholism. Fine by me, but others seem worried about treating the subject so lightly in a piece of family entertainment. David Haglund looks into the issue, also wondering if Spielberg is a more booze-friendly filmmaker than his wholesome reputation suggests. [Slate]

Read Full Post
<p>Jeremy Irvine as Albert Narracott with the titular character in &quot;War Horse.&quot;</p>

Jeremy Irvine as Albert Narracott with the titular character in "War Horse."

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Interview: Richard Curtis and Jeremy Irvine on Spielberg, ‘War Horse’ and human empathy

The writer and star call the film quintessentially anti-war but not a 'war film'

If we were to canvas 10 cineastes at random and ask them to define the term “Spielbergian,” we would likely see a similar set of responses with varied points of focus. For some, the term denotes a drive toward an inevitably bittersweet, but ultimately joyful conclusion (though this has not always been the case in his films). For others it references a number of iconic images ranging from the “The Spielberg Face” (a push in on an awe-filled gaze) to an elaborately constructed, and ultimately effective, chase sequence peppered with intermittent one-liners.

Most would agree that Spielberg has often used a non-human entity, be it an alien (or aliens), a shark, dinosaurs, a trusted family pet or, now, a horse, to highlight aspects of his perception of human nature via our response to said entity. His central characters are, in many cases, ordinary people given a set of extraordinary circumstances (with the exception of Indiana Jones, who is inherently remarkable). He is fascinated by the idea of innocence, its value, the threats it faces in the larger world and the sacrifices that are necessary to transform nativity into willfully preserved innocence. And, well, he is interested in war.

Read Full Post
<p>Sean Astin as Sam, Elijah Wood as&nbsp;Frodo, and Gollum as himself in a scene from the second part of the 'Lord Of The Rings' trilogy, 'The Two Towers,' the subject of tonight's liveblog</p>

Sean Astin as Sam, Elijah Wood as Frodo, and Gollum as himself in a scene from the second part of the 'Lord Of The Rings' trilogy, 'The Two Towers,' the subject of tonight's liveblog

Credit: New Line Home Video

A Return To Middle-Earth, Part II: Liveblogging 'The Two Towers' on Blu-ray

Gollum arrives, trees talk, and Helm's Deep goes to war in the second 'LOTR' film

Sorry we missed the second night, but a horrifying stomach flu raced through the McWeeny household over the last 36 hours or so, and last night was my turn to transform into some sort of horrifying Slurpee Machine From Hell.  Now that we've conquered that and banished the illness, it's time to dive back in with a second round of liveblogging our Return To Middle-Earth.

Two quick notes.  First, I promise to spell Ian McKellen's name correctly tonight.  And second, I am startled to realize that I remember very little about the way these next two films actually work.  I know I've seen them, I know I've reviewed not only the theatrical but the Extended cuts before, and I know the general shape of things.  But when it comes to remembering the specific beats and scenes, I'm drawing a bit of a blank...

... and I LOVE that.

I love that these return viewings are fresh for me.  As fresh as possible, anyway, considering how many times it feels like I watched everything the first time around.  In this case, they're so massive that it feels like I'm wading into something new all over again.  I'm excited.  And now the disc is in the player and here we go...

We just wrapped up a Film Nerd 2.0 screening of "The Muppet Movie," and the boys are irritated that they have to leave the room now.  I love that they're excited about these movies, and they know the time is coming that they'll see them.  But this time through is all about me enjoying them anew and getting a better sense of them as movies, something that's been a long time coming.

Read Full Post
<p>Jeff (Joel McHale) showed off his stick-handling skills on &quot;Community.&quot;</p>

Jeff (Joel McHale) showed off his stick-handling skills on "Community."

Credit: NBC

Why I'll miss 'Community': Because Jeff played pool in shorts

Joel McHale strips down to flex his comic muscles

We're getting another "Community" rerun tonight, and another one next week, but then the show leaves NBC's schedule altogether for an indeterminate period of time. So until we find out when new episodes will be airing, it's time for the latest installment in my series on why I'll miss the show when it's gone.

Read Full Post
<p>Elton John</p>

Elton John

Credit: AP Photo

Interview: Elton John and Chris Cornell talk their Golden Globe-nominated tunes

John's duet with Lady Gaga happened 'by accident'

Neither Elton John nor Chris Cornell are newcomers when it comes to writing songs for movies, but the two Golden Globe nominees—and Oscar contenders— tread new ground with their contributions this year. (see the full list of Best Original Song contenders here).

John brought to life two ceramic garden figures in animated feature “Gnomeo & Juliet,” while Cornell took on summarizing the life of the very real Sam Childers, a minister turned crusader in “Machine Gun Preacher.”

I recently spoke to both John and Cornell about their works (for Cornell fans, Kris Tapley’s two-part interview with Cornell earlier this year is a must read).  John and longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin wrote several songs for “Gnomeo & Juliet,” an uplifting retelling of Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet” complete with a happy ending, but only two tunes ended up fitting into the final production:  Golden Globe nominee “Hello, Hello,” John’s duet with Lady Gaga, and “Love Builds a Garden,” a touching song that plays over a montage about two plastic pink flamingos and their very real love story.

Read Full Post
"The X Factor"

 "The X Factor"

Credit: Fox

The lessons I learned from reality television in 2011

Yes, there are things to be learned from some 'real' housewives, Meatloaf and even the Kardashians

While it can be argued that reality television is a vast, useless cesspool with little, if any, educational value, I have to think that at least some of my time spent in front of the tube has been justifiable. It's certainly not doing anything for my fitness level, after all, unless you count rolling on the floor laughing or extended groaning as cardio. I'm happy to report that there are some helpful tips to be found in this morass of lowbrow entertainment, although some of them have to do with proper uses for a spork. 

Read Full Post
<p>Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt restock their saccharine combustion engine</p>

Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt restock their saccharine combustion engine

Credit: Aaron Light

Cute overload: Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt sing 'New Year's'

Also: Zach Braff and Donald Faison croon to 'Baby, It's Cold Outside'

Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are actors that play music when they're not in front of the lens -- and, sometimes, when they ARE in front of the lens. Their cover of "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" is an example of the latter.

The "500 Days of Summer" co-stars have posted a darling video duet on YouTube of their live-performing the classic tune, with Deschanel on wee ukelele and Gordon-Levitt on a travel guitar. The She half of She & Him dons a tiara. Of course.

"When we did '500 Days of Summer'... we spent every lunch hour dancing to Marvin Gaye in the hair and make up trailer; we had loads of fun," Deschanel mugs on (!!), the site she co-founded. Cute! "I hope to do a thousand more movies with him because he’s simply the best." Cuter!

Once you're done picking the sugar from your teeth, note that he's "Joe" Gordon-Levitt, and don't you forget it. Because it's the cutest. Cue gooey eyes, aw.

Read Full Post
<p>Alexandre Desplat arriving at the Academy&nbsp;Awards last year, where he was nominated for &quot;The&nbsp;King's Speech.&quot;</p>

Alexandre Desplat arriving at the Academy Awards last year, where he was nominated for "The King's Speech."

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Tech Support Interview: The ubiquitous Alexandre Desplat on living his dream

Where does the film composer find the time to keep knocking it out of the park?

When Tech Support first launched at In Contention five years ago, Alexandre Desplat had proven his talents with top-notch scores for “The Girl With a Pearl Earring,” “Birth” and “Syriana.” It was clear to those of us watching (and listening to) the film composing world that this talented Frenchman was going places. His Golden Globe win that year for “The Painted Veil,” and Oscar nomination for “The Queen,” kicked off his success with awards bodies.

His record since then, in terms of quantity and quality of work, as well as awards recognition, has been nothing short of phenomenal. Oscar nominations for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “The King’s Speech” have followed, undoubtedly contributing to his seemingly being the most in-demand composer today. This year, he incredibly managed to score eight titles, including Chris Weitz‘s “A Better Life,” Roman Polanski’s “Carnage,” Stephen Daldry’s “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” David Yates’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” George Clooney’s “The Ides of March” and Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life.” He is eligible for Oscar consideration for his collaborations with Clooney, Daldry and Yates.

Read Full Post
<p>PJ Harvey</p>

PJ Harvey

Immaculate Noise's Top 25 Albums of the Year

PJ Harvey, Mastodon, Tom Waits, Battles, The Weeknd, Bon Iver, Colin Stetson...

I didn't listen to as many albums as I wanted to this year. I say this every year.

Part of it is the singles artform itself, but I didn't hear many hip-hop albums that felt complete and completely likeable as I wanted. That's not to say they're not there. Same goes for dance albums and R&B.

What astounded me was the devotion to song-craft by lighter artists, some of which have been around for years. These past few months, I noticed a lot of think-pieces on "soft rock," floating around on the blogs, sometimes in revolt of NPR-rock, dad-rock, whatever you want to call it. Among those offenders, I have several on my year-end list -- like Bon Iver, Feist and Laura Marling. But even among the growing indie establishment, I found records from St. Vincent, Panda Bear and The Weeknd to give off much the same result, that is, soothing, smart, song-centered mini-theater, start to end.

Check out the excellent first-time efforts from Washed Out, Shabazz Palaces, the Head and the Heart (yes, yes, TWO Sub Pop albums), Korallreven, tUnE-yArDs and Sallie Ford. Josh T. Pearson, let's you and me have a drink with Tom Waits, it'll make you feel better. It would be an honor for Fucked Up to f*ck up my apartment. And in news from the self-awareness camp, half of the artists on my Top 40 Songs of the Year were from artists of color; on this list, just over 10%. In 2012, I'll spend more time considering diversity: is there remedy, and is it remedy?

Beyond that, here's the hodge-podge. Listen to tracks from all of these albums (with exception to Danny Brown and The Weeknd) via my Spotify playlist.

  1. PJ Harvey, "Let England Shake"
  2. Mastodon, "The Hunter"
  3. Tom Waits, "Bad As Me"
  4. Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside, "Dirty Radio"
  5. Feist, "Metals"
  6. Washed Out, "Within & Without"
  7. Danny Brown, "XXX"
  8. Laura Marling, "A Creature I Don't Know"
  9. Cut Copy, "Zonoscope"
  10. Liturgy, "Aesthethica"
  11. Fucked Up, "David Comes to Life"
  12. St. Vincent, "Strange Mercy"
  13. Peggy Sue, "Acrobats"
  14. Korallreven, "An Album By Korallreven"
  15. Bon Iver, "Bon Iver"
  16. Colin Stetson, "New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges"
  17. tUnE-yArDs, "w h o k i l l"
  18. Shabazz Palaces, "Black Up"
  19. Battles, "Gloss Drop"
  20. Anna Calvi, "Anna Calvi"
  22. The Head and the Heart, "The Head and the Heart"
  23. The Weeknd, "House of Balloons"
  24. Josh T. Pearson, "Last Of The Country Gentlemen"
  25. Panda Bear, "Tomboy"
Read Full Post
<p>Was Spielberg being &quot;stubborn&quot; in shooting &quot;War Horse&quot; on film?</p>

Was Spielberg being "stubborn" in shooting "War Horse" on film?

Credit: Touchstone Pictures

Round-up: Did cinematography turn a corner in 2011?

Also: A potential Oscar double for 'Pina,' and Hollywood's sequel binge

There's a provocative piece on IndieWire by filmmaker Jamie Stuart that is likely to provoke strong opinions on either side of the film-or-digital cinematographer divide. Looking back on a number of major 2011 releases, Stuart wonders if 2011 was the year things conclusively shifted in favor of digital, and takes filmmakers like Steven Spielberg to task for his "stubbornness" in shooting "War Horse" on film when it doesn't, in his opinion, adapt well to digital projection. (Conveniently for his argument, he doesn't mention "The Adventures of Tintin" at all.) I'd have more time for Stuart's argument if he admitted to seeing more than two films in theaters in 2011, but aside from that, who's to tell an artist what medium they may or may not paint in? [IndieWire]

Read Full Post
<p>&quot;Giant,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;The Sound of Music,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;Driving Miss Daisy,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;Forest Gump,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;Gladiator,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;Casablanca&quot;&nbsp;and &quot;The Godfather&quot; are showcased in the official poster for the 84th Academy Awards.</p>

"Giant," "The Sound of Music," "Driving Miss Daisy," "Forest Gump," "Gladiator," "Casablanca" and "The Godfather" are showcased in the official poster for the 84th Academy Awards.

Credit: AMPAS

The Official Poster for the 84th Academy Awards showcases former winners or does it?

Which movie didn't win the best picture Oscar?

The Academy released the official poster for the 84th Academy Awards today and boy is it a snoozer.

Featuring bubbles of former Academy winners including "The Sound of Music," "The Godfather," "Driving Miss Daisy," "Forest Gump," "Gladiator," "Casablanca" and "Gone With the WInd."  It also strangely includes "Giant" which was nominated, but didn't win (which makes it a tad out of place).  The poster is also instantly forgettable and looks like a home video cover for the best of an Oscar ceremony compilation.  What the tagline "Life. Camera. Action." has to do with the images is unclear.  Are these movies supposed to be representative of life?  Hmmm. O.K.  We're hoping the show will be better or at least watchable under Billy Crystal, er, producer Brian Grazer.

Read Full Post