erik lundegaard

Movies - The Oscars posts

Tuesday March 01, 2016

Post-Oscar Quote of the Day I

“Finally, it's worth another raspberry for the producers' use of Ride of the Valkyries to 'play off' winners who went on past the 30-second mark. I've always argued that the thank-you speeches are much more interesting than the scripted shtick and that straitjacketing people at perhaps the apex of their careers is both cruel and stupid. But it was particularly outrageous last night — especially when Wagner was invoked to drown out the Hungarian Jew who'd won an Oscar for his Holocaust movie, Son of Saul.”

-- David Edelstein, “David Edelstein Looks Back on the Uneven But Memorable 2016 Oscars,” on Damn straight. I'm seriously tired of this shit. My favorite Oscar speeches, such as Dustin Hoffman in 1979, require a little room. Give it to them.

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Posted at 02:45 PM on Mar 01, 2016 in category Movies - The Oscars
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Sunday February 28, 2016

My Oscar Picks

Oscars 2015

Every year we have an Oscar pool, and every year friends tell me they can't do it because they haven't seen enough (or any) of the nominated movies, and every year I tell them the same thing. You're better off that way. You don't have any opinions. You can vote with the head and not the heart. 

The picks below are heart picks; they're what I want to win. Your mileage will vary—particularly if you like “Mad Max.” (See Nathaniel at Film Experience, who inspired this post):

  • PICTURE: “The Revenant,” but I'd be happy with “The Big Short” or “Spotlight.” 
  • DIRECTOR: Alejandro Inarritu, “The Revenant.”
  • ACTOR: Leo, damnit, for “The Revenant.” One, he's most deserving; and, two, let's get this over with already and move on.
  • ACTRESS: Charlotte Rampling, “45 Years,” although I'm not passionate here. 
  • SUPPORTING ACTOR: Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies,” although Sly makes for a better story, and let's face it this is a stacked category. 
  • SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Rooney Mara, “Carol.” If she'd been nominated in lead, I would've picked her there, too.
  • ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Pete Docter, et al., for “Inside Out.”
  • ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Charles Randolph and Adam McKay for “The Big Short,” a book that no one, including its author, could envision as a movie. These guys nailed it. 
  • CINEMATOGRAPHY: Emmaneul Lubezki, “The Revenant,” but I'd be happy for the oft-nom'ed, never-won Roger Deakins winning for “Sicario.” 
  • FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “Theeb,” yo! Sadly, haven't seen any of the others, even though three (“Son of Saul,” “Mustang” and “A War”) are currently playing in Seattle. Who wants to go this week?  
  • ANIMATED FEATURE: “Inside Out,” although I haven't seen most of the others.
  • PRODUCTION DESIGN: Adam Stockhausen, et al., for “Bridge of Spies.”
  • FILM EDITING: Hank Corwin, “The Big Short.” 
  • COSTUME DESIGN: Sandy Powell for “Carol.”
  • VISUAL: Andrew Whitehurst, et al., for “Ex Machina,” although I'll take “Star Wars.”
  • MAKEUP AND HAIR: Lesley Vanderwalt, et al. for “Mad Max.” I'll give them this one since there are only two other options, and “100 Year Old Man” should not win.  
  • ORIGINAL SCORE: No skin in this game. 
  • ORIGINAL SONG: Blech. Worst category, year after year.
  • SOUND MIXING: I don't know enough about this to have an opinion.
  • SOUND EDITING: Seriously, what do I know? 
  • DOCUMENTARY: Wow, I haven't seen any of these! When was the last time that happened? 
  • DOC SHORT: Someday I have to get off my ass and see the shorts before the Oscars.
  • LIVE ACTION SHORT: See above.
  • ANIMATED SHORT: See above. 

Et toi?

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Posted at 09:32 AM on Feb 28, 2016 in category Movies - The Oscars
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Saturday January 16, 2016

The Nominees and the Noise

Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation

Was it racist that Idris Elba wasn't nominated? Or would it have been racist to nominate him?

It's less the Oscar nominations now than the noise surrounding the Oscar nominations.

This year, it's been the outrage of #OscarsSoWhite, led, in my Twitter feed anyway, by Sasha Stone of Awards Daily, who has been one relentless piercing note on the subject, despite being part of a group you might as well tag #CriticsSoWhite. Glass houses, kids.

Here's the issue: For the second year in a row, no person of color has been nominated in any of the acting categories. This used to be a regular thing, then it wasn't, now it is again. Here's the history of African-American acting nominations and wins by decade:

 Decade Nominations Oscars
1930s 1 1
1940s 1 0
1950s 3 0
1960s 4 1
1970s 5 0
1980s 12 2
1990s 11 2
2000s 22 7
2010s 7 2

So a big surge in the 2000s, followed by a drop-off. Because of that surge? Who knows? I wouldn't mind a more in-depth discussion of that from an industry insider. 

But why am I not more outraged like these other white critics? I don't know. Maybe my outrage meter broke 10 years ago when “Crash” beat “Brokeback Mountain” for best picture. Maybe I assume the worst from the Academy. Maybe I'm not into identity aesthetics. (I'm not into identity aesthetics.)

Or maybe I just don't see the fuss this particular year. Basically I find myself in agreement with Jeff Wells over at Hollywood Elsewhere, who posted a podcast with Sasha and another critic, Erik Anderson, Thursday, adding this on his blog: 

Neither Erik nor Sasha would admit that The Revenant is far and way the likeliest winner of the Best Picture Oscar at this stage. Not would they grapple with my riff about current racial profiling gripes (i.e., why no nominations for Straight Outta Compton and Creed?) not being worth discussing except in the case of Beasts of No Nation's Idris Elba, who definitely should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

That's my feeling. Who else should have been nominated? Alyssa Rosenberg over at The Washington Post has a soft piece in which she lists “8 great performances by black actors” without saying if they should have replaced any of the nominated actors, and if so who. The whole piece is the sound of one white woman patting herself on the back. Her choices: Michael B. Jordan (Creed), O'Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Outta Compton), Abraham Atta (Beasts of No Nation), Jada Pinkett Smith (Magic Mike XXL), Audra McConald (Rikki and the Flash), Adepero Oduye (The Big Short), John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Teyonnah Paris (Chi-Raq).

Some of these are headscratchers. Oduye? She was in the movie for like a New York minute. Pinkett Smith? In that awful film? Rosenberg says Atta was as great as Jacob Tremblay in “Room,” but of course Tremblay didn't get nominated either. (Kids rarely do in lead roles.) Jordan was fine, and if you'd swapped him out with Matt Damon for “The Martian” I wouldn't have blinked; but Damon lost weight for his role, Jordan built up for his. The Academy rewards you for starving yourself rather than working out with a personal trainer. 

“Beasts of No Nation” might also have suffered with the Academy because 1) it all-but-premiered on Netflix, giving it a “straight to video” vibe; and 2) it was condemned, in some circles, as racist. On Roger Ebert's site, Matt Zoller Seitz brought up the issue of Hollywood's constant depiction of the monstrous African man. Movie critic Charles Muedede was even more insistent. So nominating Elba might have opened up the Academy to a different charge of racism: that the Academy only recognizes the work of scary black men: Denzel in “Training Day”; Forrest Whitaker in “The King of Scotland.” That can be countered with Jamie Foxx in “Ray” and Morgan Freeman in “Million Dollar Baby,” but it would've been out there. There will always be an outrage.

My outrage, such as it is, is for the number of nominations for “Mad Max,” which, to me, is a two-hour-long chase movie, in which bad, ugly people pursue good, good-looking people, and the good, good-looking people win. Somehow this meant critics awards and 10 nominations. 

But mostly I was happy; the Academy recognized some of the best movies I saw in 2015: “The Revenanat,” “The Big Short,” “Spotlight,” and my favorite film, “Theeb,” which became the first movie from Jordan to be nominated in the best foreign language category. It's about a Bedouin boy in the 1910s; it's “Lawrence of Arabia” from a different perspective. Oscars aren't always so white.

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Posted at 09:30 AM on Jan 16, 2016 in category Movies - The Oscars
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Thursday January 14, 2016

'Theeb' Nominated Best Foreign Language Film, and Other Oscar Thoughts

Normally I get up early for the Oscar nominations—5:30 a.m. here on the west coast—but I passed this year. What was the rush? To judgment? There didn't seem to be any need. That said, now that it's an impossibly late 7 a.m., I do kind of miss it. Oscar nom morning always has a Christmas morning feeling. What did Santa bring this year? Even if, most of the time, we find a lump of coal in our stocking. 

OscarThe lump of coal this year, for many, was the lack of a best picture nomination for Todd Haynes' “Carol,” but that's an art picture more than a narrative-driven picture, and the Academy isn't big on those. Here are the nominees for best picture:

  • The Big Short (yes!)
  • Bridge of Spies (I guess)
  • Brooklyn (thank you!)
  • Mad Max: Fury Road (Lord help me)
  • The Martian (sure)
  • The Revenanat (yes, yes, a thousand times yes)
  • Room (ewww)
  • Spotlight (mais bien sur)

Director gave us a bit of a surprise. It's the DGA noms (McKay, Miller, McCarthy, Inarritu) but instead of Ridley Scott for “The Martian,” it's Lenny Abrahamson for “Room.” He's an indie Irish director who will turn 50 this year. His last film was “Frank,” in which Michael Fassbender wears a big puppet mask and sings. I didn't see it, as you can tell. I didn't see “Room,” either. The storyline—a woman kept captive for years in a single room while raising the son she had with her captor/rapist—freaks me out. As a novel, it seems more interesting, since, from what I've heard, the perspective is the boy's, and it's an obviously stunted perspective. Almost like Plato's cave shadows. But as a movie? Still, I suppose I should see it. It's part of the conversation. 

No real surprises in the acting categories: Matt, Leo, Eddie, Fassbender, Cranston. Cate, Brie, Jennifer, Charlotte, Saoirse. Oh, I guess some people thought Johnny Depp would be nom'ed for “Black Mass.” Well, so-so movie, so no.

Supporting boys? Sylvester Stallone got a deserved nod for “Creed,” along with Bale (“Big Short”), Hardy (“Revenanat”), Ruffalo (“Spotlight”), and frontrunner Mark Rylance (“Spies”). No love (or mercy) for Paul Dano's turn as Brian Wilson. Jeff Wells is fulminating, I'm sure, but I'll take Rylance, who gave us one of the more indelible characters in 2015. 

Supporting girls? Jennifer Jason Leigh (“Hateful Eight”), Rooney Mara (“Carol”), Rachel McAdams (“Spotlight”), Alicia Vikander (“Danish Girl”) and Katie Winslet (“Steve Jobs”). I'll take Mara. 

Already a brewing controversy that no people of color were nom'ed. Any discussion of this should indicate who it should have been, and who they would replace. I could see Idris Elba for “Beasts,” for example, but in place of who? Plus the Academy opens itself up to the charge that they only nominate scary or bad characters of color. I could also see Michael B. Jordan for “Creed” over, say, Matt Damon in “The Martian.”

A plus: Aaron Sorkin, whom I normally like, didn't get a nomination for “Steve Jobs” despite winning the Golden Globe. Good. The script was the problem. Note to budding screenwriters: never build a movie around product launches. 

Overall, “The Revenant” wound up with 12 noms, “Meh Max” with 10. Via the L.A. Times, here's the complete list of nominees

I'll end on a high note: My choice for the best movie of 2015, “Theeb” from Jordan, was nominated in the best foreign language category. It won't win (“Son of Saul”), but it's great that it's been recognized in this way. That's like the best Christmas gift imaginable. Thanks, Santa. 

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Posted at 07:47 AM on Jan 14, 2016 in category Movies - The Oscars
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Sunday February 22, 2015

Best Picture Box Office: Yeah Yeah, 'American Sniper': But Which Film Did Best Overseas?

2014 best picture nominees

First, how great is it that the Oscar race is coming down to two artistic, independent and original movies like “Boyhood” and “Birdman”? I've been thinking about this all week and wanted to reiterate it here as a kind of thank you to the cinematic (or Academic) universe, before delving into the dirt of the numbers. 

Second, a mea culpa on my post-Oscar nomination, um, post, “The Bad Box Office of the Best Picture Nominees,” in which I worried over the low, low box office of the nominees, adding, “I could see 'Imitation Game' gaining some moviegoers.” (I was right.) “Will they expand 'Birdman'?” (They did, barely.) “Will they re-release 'Whiplash'?” (Dunno.) And finally:

“Are people psyched to see 'American Sniper' now? Will its distributor let folks outside NYC and LA see it?”

Five days later, it had grossed more than $100 million and counting. It will probably be the biggest box-office hit of 2014. So ... culpa from mea.

Even with that sudden turnaround, though, the Oscar box office numbers are down. 2009 was the first year since World War II with more than five best picture nominees—when they Academy, trying to boost ratings, went from five nominees to 10. A few years later, they opted for 5 to 10. Here's what that b.o. has looked like:

Year No. Films Total Gross Avg. Gross High Low
2009 10 $1.7 billion $170 m Avatar: $749 A Serious Man: $9
2010 10 $1.3 billion $135 m Toy Story 3: $415 Winter's Bone: $6.5
2011 9 $628 million $69 m The Help: $169 The Tree of Life: $13
2012 9 $1 billion $111 m Lincoln: $182 Amour: $6.7
2013 9 $813 million $90 m Gravity: $274 Nebraska: $17
2014 8 $620 million $77 m American Sniper: $319 Whiplash: $11

Huge blockbusters the first few years with this format. Then a tapering off.

2014's numbers will continue to rise a bit, maybe another $30-$50 million, mostly on the back of “American Sniper.” So it won't be the worst total b.o. since 2009. But close. 

And it will certainly be the most lopsided. Even “Avatar,” the most dominant box-office hit of all time (unadjusted), didn't dominate its fellow nominees the way “Sniper” has done this year. Eastwood's flick has grossed $319 million domestically. The other seven movies combined? $301 million. 

Here are the numbers, with worldwide gross (domestic + foreign), along with the non-UK foreign market where it's made the most money:

Picture Domestic Worldwide Big Foreign Mkt.
American Sniper $319,607,000 $428,107,000 Italy
The Imitation Game $83,921,000 $160,840,682 Australia/ Italy
The Grand Budapest Hotel $59,100,318 $174,600,318 France/Australia
Selma $49,598,000 $53,598,000 Italy
Birdman $37,733,000 $73,333,000 Australia/ Italy
The Theory of Everything $34,145,000 $104,145,000 Italy/ S. Korea
Boyhood $25,295,600 $44,438,600 Germany/ Neth.
Whiplash $11,330,000 $12,231,092 Turkey

How great that “The Grand Budapest Hotel” did better abroad than any other best picture nominee—even “Sniper”? Little Wes Anderson and his quirky characters. Who knew? Bravo, too, Germany and the Netherlands for the “Boyhood” support. 

See you in a few hours. 

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Posted at 01:14 PM on Feb 22, 2015 in category Movies - The Oscars
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