The Lumiere Awards -- in French film inustry terms, the Golden Globes to the Cesars' Oscars -- actually took place on Friday, but I missed the news in the Sundance crush. Anyway, better late than never, and you probably could have guessed anyway that Michael Haneke's "Amour" took the top prize, as well as Best Actor and Actress for Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva. It wasn't a sweep, however: Haneke was foiled by Jacques Audiard and "Rust and Bone" in both the Best Director and Best Screenplay categories. Meanwhile, I'm pleased to see a newcomer award for Ernst Umhauer, a crafty presence in one my top 10 of 2012, Francois Ozon's "In the House." Full list of winners after the jump and at The Circuit.
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PARK CITY - I think it's safe to say that at this point, I have no idea what constitutes a David Gordon Green movie. Is he the filmmaker who directed "Snow Angels" and "All The Real Girls" and "George Washington"? Is he the comedy fan who made "Pineapple Express" and directed episodes of "Eastbound and Down" and who made "Your Highness"? He's one of these guys who seem to have slipped loose from any sort of box that Hollywood tried to put him in, and so walking in to see something he's made these days, I've learned to leave expectations at the door and to meet the films on their own terms.
Set in the aftermath of some brutal Texas wildfires, "Prince Avalanche" is a small character driven film about two guys working a road repair crew through a seldom-used rural area. Alvin is the older guy, the one who got the job in the first place, the one who knows how to live out in the Texas woods. He's got a girlfriend back home, he's sending her money, he's using his time to read and paint and better himself. Lance (Emile Hirsch) is the younger brother of Madison, the girl Alvin loves. Lance doesn't know the first thing about camping or working or much of anything. He's all impulse, a jittery little goofball. Alvin finds himself frustrated with the kid most of the time, but he's making the effort because he loves Lance's sister and he wants to help her.
PARK CITY - "I found a state park in Texas that had burnt in a forest fire, and before it started growing again, I wanted to film a movie in it." That is the simple thought process that led director David Gordon Green to make "Prince Avalance," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival Sunday afternoon. It was an area -- Bastrop State Park, southeast of Austin -- that he knew from hiking and the atmosphere spoke to him.
PARK CITY - It's been another good year for documentaries at the Sundance Film Festival from what I've heard. I, unfortunately, have missed most, though I did catch up with Alex Gibney's "We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks" today. In a word, excellent. But I'll cover that in another capsule post later on.
The only other doc I've been able to catch up with was actually one of my most anticipated films of the fest: Barbara Kopple's "Running from Crazy." An examination of the Hemingway family's unfortunate history of mental illness and suicide, the film is seen through the eyes of "the littlest Hemingway," actress and model Mariel.
It's a fascinating subject and Kopple is one of the great navigators of the form, having won two Oscars, for 1976's "Harlan County, USA" and 1991's "American Dream." Indeed, the latter is the only film to sweep Sundance's documentary award categories. So the stage was already set for this one to be captivating, and that it is.
After most pundits and critics (me included) fell all over themselves praising Beyonce’s rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at Monday’s presidential inauguration, word comes today that she was lip-syncing, according to the Times of London.
In the ever-evolving story, first U.S. Marine Band spokeswoman Kristen DuBois stated that Beyonce decided to lip-synch to a recording of her own voice at the last minute on Monday. We know Beyonce recorded a version because she sent an Instagram photo of herself reviewing the music the day before and footage of the recording leaked out by Monday morning.
After the attendant brouhaha, the Marine Corps (which accompanied Beyonce and were also, apparently, on tape) walked back the statement, as they say in government speak, releasing a statement that said they weren’t sure what had happened and that they, according to CNN, weren’t in a position “to assess whether [Beyonce’s vocal performance] was live or pre-recorded.”
The Marine Corps statement went on to explain that the musical pieces are always pre-recorded to allow for extenuating circumstances. For example, four years ago, cellist Yo-Yo Ma played to a pre-recorded track because it was too cold for his fingers to do what he needed them to do to sound good.
But then, Jezebel linked to this version, which is a different feed than the one run by the networks, to indicate that she was singing live and the sound we hear is the echo, not her singing along to her own pre-recorded vocal.
The bigger question is does it matter? It’s clearly her singing, so what’s the harm if it’s not live?
As we learned from Watergate and from practically every political scandal since, it isn’t so much the crime as the cover-up. When Beyonce pulled out one of her in-ear monitors mid-performance, whether intentional or not, that was a signal that she was singing live and needed to adjust the arrangement she was hearing in her ears in order to sing to the best of her ability. If she was lip-syncing all along, why make that kind of gesture?
The gold standard by which all other versions of the National Anthem are judged is Whitney Houston’s version at the 1992 Super Bowl. Following her blockbuster performance came word that she too was lip-synching. It’s too hard a song to sing and there are too many variables when performing outside, especially in cold weather, to mess around with it.
After the initial uproar, and after the Super Bowl folks explained that they always pre-tape the National Anthem just in case, the furor died down and 20 years later, Houston’s version is now seen as the definitive.
Beyonce’s representative, whom we reached out to, has declined to comment to anyone. But as the story began trending today, a new theory emerged, which is that Beyonce was singing live to her own taped version and that is why she pulled out the ear piece.
I honestly don’t know if it matters. What I do know is that the pressure put on performers to be perfect live is unrealistic, especially in a setting such as Mondays: very, very cold temperatures that can play havoc with vocal chords and nerves that can trip the finest artist up. When an artist does sing live and muffles it, such as Christina Aguilera did at the Super Bowl a few years ago, they never hear the end of it. When they lip-sync to their own voice so there won’t be any mistakes, they get criticized for that too.
The weird thing about Beyonce’s performance and part of what makes it so hard to tell, is that she starts off softly and a little wobbly, so it seems like if she was lip-syncing, they would have made her intro stronger.
All I know is no one seems to know for sure. There’s a hot debate going on on a top music producer’s page on Facebook and even the studio cats can’t seem to decide for sure . (Both Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor’s reps have gone on the record stating that they were singing live).
The one thing I definitely know: Beyonce is not the main story we should be taking away from yesterday’s festivities.
Do you think she was singing live? Does it matter?
PARK CITY - Ahead of its premiere last Sunday, Zal Batmanglij's second feature "The East" -- which I reviewed earlier this morning -- was one of the most curiously awaited titles of this year's Sundance fest, not least because his first collaboration with writer-producer-star Brit Marling, "Sound of My Voice," made such a splash in Park City two years ago.
With their reputations thus established, the pair could command some bigger names for their follow-up -- among them, "True Blood" star Alexander Skarsgård and Oscar-nominated actress Ellen Page. Both have key roles to play in this topical thriller on the theme of corporate terrorism, in which an intelligence agent (Marling) infiltrates The East, a mysterious group of left-wing anarchists bent on punishing corrupt corporations for their social and environmental misdeeds.
If we know anything, it's that you can never count out a long-running soap. After a previous deal to revive the canceled soaps "One Life to Live" and "All My Children" fell apart, now The Online Network has announced it has closed deals with the following talent to revive both shows. More deals are expected to come through in the following weeks, and soap fans can rest assured that at least some of their favorite actors -- and characters -- will be retuning to a screen (yes, a computer screen) near them. Below is a list of some of the writers and stars who will be continuing the story.
Vampire Weekend will release its next album May 7.
The group posted the words “Vampire Weekend LP3 COMPLETE” over Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze's famous painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware River on its website. The image alternates with a shot of the quartet on a bridge with the dates May 6/7 (May 6 will be the ex-U.S. release date). It’s the band’s first album since 2010’s “Contra.” The group had confirmed a new album would appear in 2013, but now we have an actual release date.
It took almost two years of writing and recording to complete the still-untitled set, Vampire Weekend singer/guitarist Ezra Koenig told Rolling Stone. “Sometimes we thought we were done, but it’s always very apparent when you’re not.”
He and multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij wrote the set, which includes “Unbelievers,” a tune the group played on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” last October, as well as a rockabilly-oriented track called “Diane Young" and another called "Obvious Bicycle."
The album has a more organic sound, according to Koenig. “Things that we might have found boring in the past, we’ve started to find more fresh. This record has more piano and acoustic guitar and organ,” he told the magazine.
Well, ABC has figured out a way to air all the remaining episodes of "Happy Endings" before "Dancing with the Stars" returns in March — it just comes at the expense of the network's other Tuesday comedy, "Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23," which has been pulled off the schedule, effective immediately.
Both shows are pre-empted tonight by the premiere of ABC's new cooking competition show "The Taste," but starting next week, we'll get "Happy Endings" at both 9 and 9:30 each Tuesday until "Dancing" is back.
The return of "Dancing" — and the decision to back away from a planned four-comedy Tuesday bloc that was announced last spring — left ABC with more inventory of both shows than the network was going to be able to air. For a few weeks, the solution was to air additional episodes on Sunday nights (the "Happy Endings" producers talked to me about that back at press tour), but the ratings were so low that the Sunday airings were dropped. I'm told that all the remaining "Happy Endings" episodes should air by the time "Dancing" is on the air again, while there will be eight episodes of "Don't Trust the Birkenstock" in limbo. (As "Don't Trust the Bugle" co-star James Van Der Beek bluntly put it on Twitter, "We've basically been canceled.")
I won't mourn the loss of "Don't Trust the Biplane," but that's also because every time I tuned in this season, it seemed to be a leftover episode from last spring (Liza Lapira tended to be the giveaway), which meant I got very little exposure to whether the show did or didn't improve in season 2. But given its ratings, there was no way it was going to return next season, anyway. The question is whether this represents a significant sign of hope for "Happy Endings," or just Paul Lee playing favorites between the fanbases of two different doomed comedies. At a minimum, it's not bad news that Lee picked "Happy Endings" to stay on the air for the next couple of months.
Lady Antebellum is upping the sassy level on “Downtown,” the group’s first single from its forthcoming fourth studio album.
The song, written by Luke Laird, Shane McAnally and Natalie Hemby, features Hillary Scott on lead. It's a twangy, Americana, rootsy tune with a fun bluesy guitar lead that has more in common with Bonnie Raitt than Taylor Swift. It's a spare, airy production. Listen to it in full here.
Scott wants her boy to treat her right and take her downtown instead of acting like, well, a jerk.
“I’m only counting on your cancellation when I should be counting on you at my door,” she complains. And I’m pretty sure “downtown” has a few different interpretations here if you want to take it that way. It’s a little change of pace for Lady A.
The group will debut the track on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” on Jan. 28, one night before it tapes an episode of CMT’s “Crossroads” with Stevie Nicks. The trio will also perform the tune on CBS’s “The Talk” on Feb. 6.
No word on a release date on the new album yet, but it looks like Lady A is not slowing down at all during Scott's pregnancy other than cancelling a few dates right around the time she's due in late spring/early summer.
What do you think of the breezy "Downtown?"
When "The Taste" premieres with a two-hour episode tonight (Tues. 8:00 p.m. on ABC), the new cooking contest promises to put 16 competitors of varying skill levels -- from professional chefs to home cooks -- to the ultimate taste test. Each must create a perfect bite for food icons and judge/mentors Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, Ludovic Lefebvre and Brian Malarkey. To make it a little tougher on the judges, the taste test is truly blind -- they don't get to see the chef or learn anything about him or her before they must decide whether or not they want that chef to be part of their team. Then, at the end of each episode, they must judge the competitors' dishes blind to determine who's getting sent home. You know, like "The Voice," but with food.
Mark Duplass likes to work — and the more job titles, the better. In 2012 alone, he appeared in four movies, doubled as a producer on one of them ("Safety Not Guaranteed"), did his usual 13 episodes as Pete on FX's "The League," and wrote and directed "The Do-Deca Pentathlon," his latest filmmaking collaboration with brother Jay Duplass. (Their previous films include "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" and "Cyrus," among others.) And tonight at 9:30, the brothers Duplass make their latest on-camera appearance on FOX's "The Mindy Project" as Brendan and Duncan, a pair of midwives who are competing with Mindy's obstetrics practice.
I spoke with the brothers back in December (shortly before the release of "Zero Dark Thirty," in which Mark is part of a massive TV Character Actors On Parade supporting ensemble) about how they hooked up with Mindy Kaling, what it's like to play brothers on screen, and whether Mark prefers one of his many showbiz identities to the others.