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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: 2010-2011 Awards Season

Six days of Oscar: Who will win this weekend? Part 2

February 23, 2011 |  4:31 pm

As the Oscars grow closer, we continue with our handy guide to winning your Oscar pool, or at least not coming in last to that tool in the accounting department. Today, a look at documentary features, visual effects and those pesky screenwriting categories.

Documentary feature:
The art geeks are pulling for Banksy, but while the reclusive one has spiced up the Oscar run-up with his signs around Los Angeles, "Exit Through the Gift Shop" is a serious longshot. Voters will go with something more topical; the only question is whether it's war or the economy. We'd bet the latter.
1) "Inside Job"
2) "Restrepo"

Visual effects:
If ever there was a sure thing at the Oscars — or a moment when you could safely get up from the couch and not worry about hitting pause on your DVR — it's that the team Christopher Nolan hired for "Inception" will win this category. Sorry, the good people of "Hereafter."
1) "Inception"
2) "Inception"

Adapted screenplay:
The less dramatic of the two script categories — namely because Aaron Sorkin is a shoo-in. There's historically a chance of an upset in the category — last year "Precious" scribe Geoffrey Fletcher upstaged Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner — and that could fall to "True Grit," but it probably won't happen. Sorkin's Facebook tale should almost certainly earn him his first Oscar.
1) Aaron Sorkin
2) Joel and Ethan Coen

Original screenplay:
A few weeks ago it looked like a three-way race among "Inception" writer Christopher Nolan, "The Kids Are All Right" scribes Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg, and David Seidler of "The King's Speech." Seidler has emerged as a front-runner, but don't count out Nolan, who did win the Writers Guild prize. Then again, "Speech" wasn't eligible for that one.

1) David Seidler
2) Christopher Nolan

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: An array of Oscar statues. Credit: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Awards Tracker: Full awards coverage


Mr. Brainwash was always a ham, high school teacher says

February 23, 2011 |  1:06 pm

Mr. Brainwash was a ham in high school.

So says Judith Krischer, who says she taught L.A. street artist Thierry Guetta’s English as a second language class at Fairfax High School in the mid-1980s.

Guetta came to California from France as a teen in the early 1980s speaking nearly no English. After dropping out of Fairfax, he went on to throw parties in Hollywood nightclubs, sell vintage fashion and make videos of street artists.

His transformation from filmmaker into the artist known as Mr. Brainwash is the unlikely story chronicled in the Oscar-nominated documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” directed by Banksy, the anonymous British vandal.

The considerable hype surrounding the film has focused on its veracity: Did Banksy get Guetta to act in the film and mock the art world’s consumerism? Or is Guetta really the guy depicted in the movie?

Krischer hasn’t seen the film but swears Guetta is the real deal. She recalls him doing Charlie Chaplin-like mime stunts in her ESL class, cracking up his fellow students and delighting Krischer. (Today, Mr. Brainwash uses Chaplin in his art.)

“He’d have me laughing all the time,” Krischer told The Times this week, after recognizing Guetta’s face in a photo in the newspaper.

She recalls him as impulsive and very bright, but also lost. He once cried while confiding to her that his mother had died when he was a child. His father died not long after bringing the family to Los Angeles, leaving Guetta and his siblings to fend for themselves.

 “I was worried about him,” she said. “He didn’t have anyone.”

 After Guetta dropped out, Krischer recalled running into him on Venice Beach, where he was selling things.

 “He’d tell me he was doing these club things ... renting spaces, holding these parties,” she said. “I thought, how can he do this? Who is he? He was unlike anyone I ever met ... lots of street smarts and very charismatic.”

Krischer said she is hoping to reunite with Guetta soon. But she’ll likely have to wait until after Sunday, when Guetta is attending the Oscars.

— Jason Felch

Photo: Thierry Guetta, of the Oscar-nominated documentary "Exit Through the Gift Shop," seen in front of a mural he painted on La Brea near San Vicente. Photo credit: Liz O. Baylen/Los Angeles Times.

Six days of Oscar: Who will win this weekend?

February 22, 2011 |  4:29 pm

Because we care about your financial well-being -- and because everyone else in town is doing it  -- we decided to break down the Academy Awards ballot for all those readers laying down some cash in an Oscar pool this weekend. Whether you're in a generic office pool or one of those fancy point-allotment jobs, we'll give you our top two choices to win, in order, and a quick handicap of the category, based on conversations with consultants and other decidedly unscientific methods. (For full awards coverage, you can of course check out our Awards Tracker blog.)

We'll continue every day until most of the major and even many of the minor categories have been dissected. Balloting at the academy actually closes Tuesday, so you don't have to worry about the winds shifting between now and the big show. Just send a portion of your winnings to us here at The Times (but please direct accounts of penurious disgruntlement somewhere else).

Today, a look at the animated, cinematography and supporting actor categories.

Continue reading »

Mr. Brainwash reveals how Banksy helped create him

February 21, 2011 |  8:45 pm

As Banksy art begins popping up mysteriously around Los Angeles in the days leading up to the Academy Awards,  Mr. Brainwash -- a.k.a. French-born Angeleno Thierry Guetta --confirms that he is as much a creation of Banksy as he is an autonomous creature.

"Banksy captured me becoming an artist," Guetta told The Times over cigarettes and fries (of course). "In the end, I became his biggest work of art." (He doesn't allow whether he in fact may be Banksy, as some have suggested.)

Debates about modern art aren't the first thing one expects from the Oscars. But with the best-documentary nomination of "Exit Through the Gift Shop," British phenom Banksy's examination of the street-art scene and the derivative sensation that is Mr. Brainwash -- or is it the other way around? -- that's pretty much what we have.

Among the questions the film has raised: How much of "Gift Shop" is an elaborate joke staged by Mr. Brainwash? Or by Banksy? Or are they, perhaps, even the same person?

In a talk with The Times' Jason Felch -- Guetta's first extended interview since his movie became a hit at last year's Sundance Film Festival -- Guetta describes how Banksy pulled the strings on his now-infamous 2008 show, in which a host of work from Guetta's Mr. Brainwash that paid, er, strong homage to other artists quickly became a sensation.

Continue reading »

Join our live chat with Times film critic Kenneth Turan

February 17, 2011 | 12:04 pm


Oscar season is winding down, with the Academy Awards coming, at last, on Feb. 27. To help us sort out our feelings about this year's awards -- and anything else cinematic -- L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan will be joining us for a live chat on Tuesday, Feb. 22, at 11 a.m. PST.

He'll be answering your questions on the Oscars, the big films at this year's Sundance Film Festival, movies currently playing in theaters or movies only playing on your Blu-ray player. Basically, he'll be here to talk movies, movies and movies. What better reason do you need?

Sign up below.

-- Patrick Kevin Day


Photos: From left: "Black Swan" / Fox Searchlight, "King's Speech" / The Weinstein Company, "Inception" / Warner Bros., "True Grit" / Paramount, "Toy Story 3" / Disney, "The Social Network" / Sony.

Around Town: Short films, Anjelica Huston, Italian art house cinema and more

February 17, 2011 |  8:00 am


With the Oscars just 10 days away, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is kicking off its annual panels featuring nominees in several categories including shorts, documentaries and animation. Kenneth Branagh will host "Shorts! The 2010 Animated and Live Action Short Film Nominees," Tuesday evening at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. All the Oscar-nominated shorts will be screened, and there will be a discussion between Branagh and the filmmakers, schedules permitting. The evening is sold out but there will be a cancellation line.

On Wednesday, director Michael Apted will host "Docs!," which will feature the documentary nominees and a panel discussion with the filmmakers, schedules permitting. http://www.oscars.org

The American Cinematheque's Aero Theatre will screen the Oscar-nominated drama "The Fighter" Friday evening. On hand will be the film's Academy Award-nominated director David O. Russell and star Amy Adams. Oscar winner Anjelica Huston visits the Aero Saturday evening to discuss her career and her illustrious family. The theater will screen two films she made with her father John Huston: 1985's "Prizzi's Honor," for which she won the supporting actress Oscar, and 1987's "The Dead," her father's cinematic swan song.

Continue reading »

Around Town: Oscar hopefuls, Charlie Chaplin and fine French cinema

February 3, 2011 |  5:00 am


With the Academy Awards just 3 1/2 weeks away, the various nominees are making their last big push for the Oscar. Take "The Fighter" director David O. Russell. Friday at the Cinefamily's Silent Movie Theatre, Russell and Alexander Payne will do a Q&A after a screening of Russell's 1996 comedy "Flirting with Disaster." Afterward, Payne's film "Citizen Ruth" will screen. On Saturday, Russell will appear at the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre for a screening of "The Fighter," which is nominated for seven Academy Awards, including best picture and director. Russell will discuss the film with actor Mark Wahlberg.

Meanwhile, writer-director Christopher Nolan, whose "Inception" is nominated for eight Academy Awards, including best picture and original screenplay, will be on hand at the Egyptian on Friday evening for a screening of his first film, the edgy innovative 2001 noir "Memento," starring Guy Pearce.

Late in the afternoon on Saturday at the Egyptian, the Cinematheque will offer a free Oscar music composing seminar featuring contemporary musicians and others who will talk about music in film. http://www.cinefamily.org; http://www.americancinematheque.com

Continue reading »

'The Social Network' is the Oscar front-runner. Now what?

January 17, 2011 |  3:40 pm

For fans of "The Social Network," the strong showing at the Golden Globes Sunday night was heartening. The Globes, after all, are a harbinger of the Oscars. So when the big show happens on Feb. 27, it should mean big things for the Facebook film.

Or should it?

Over at sister blog Awards Tracker, The Times' repository of all things award season, my colleagues Nicole Sperling and Tom O'Neil offer their savvy takes on the prospects for this and other films in the wake of the Globes announcements.

The consensus is that "Network" is now the movie to beat. Of the top four candidates this award season -- "The King's Speech," "Black Swan" and "The Fighter" are the other three -- it looks increasingly likely that the ways of honoring them will fall outside the best picture/best director axis. "Black Swan" looks all but certain to get a win for Natalie Portman in the lead actress category. "Speech" is poised to get a lead actor for Colin Firth. "The Fighter" could well get its due via supporting actor categories.

But there are some wrinkles to this new award order. O'Neil notes that despite the historical symmetry between the top prizes at the Globes and Oscars, they don't line up that way recently. Blame the backlash-loving blogosphere, but only once in the past six years did the winner of picture-drama go on to win the top prize at the Oscars ("Slumdog Millionaire" did two years ago).

And as Sperling points out, "Social Network" lacks characters to whom voters might respond at a gut level. "It's a modern and edgy story, but there's relatively little emotional connection with the characters," she writes. " 'The King's Speech,' on the other hand, has audiences rooting for Colin Firth's King George VI and winds up on  an emotional high note, a tone often embraced by academy voters."

There are other indicators that could prove heartening for those associated with movies not named "The Social Network." In recent years the film that won the Oscar best picture were at least as concerned with actual violence as they were emotional violence (see under: "The Departed," "No Country for Old Men," "The Hurt Locker"). That could be an ominous sign for "Network" (and would put "Fighter" and "Swan" back in the mix).

And take this for what it's worth, but since the academy decided in 2003 to move up the Oscars and shorten the so-called season, only one movie ("The Departed") that came out in September or October has won the Oscar ("Social Network" was released in early October). Winners tend to be late-season entrants like "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" or "Million Dollar Baby," or spring releases that get a second life this time of year, a la "The Hurt Locker" or "Crash." [Updated: A previous version of this post implied that "The Departed" came out in November.]

It's only six weeks before the Oscars hand out the year's top movie prizes. That's more than enough time for a backlash to start, quiet down and start again.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg in "The Social Network." Credit: Sony Pictures


Awards Tracker: What does it mean for Oscar?

Awards Tracker: Golden Globes versus Oscar: How often do they agree?

Golden Globes show love to 'The Social Network'




Natalie Portman's 'Other' movie, now on screen

January 3, 2011 | 11:44 am


It's been a busy few months for Natalie Portman. First there is the awards campaign for her performance in "Black Swan," for which she is considered by many to be the front-runner for the Oscar for best actress. Then there was the recent one-two announcement that she is engaged to her "Black Swan" choreographer, Benjamin Millepied, and the couple is expecting a child. Next is a full slate of upcoming releases, starting with the rom-com "No Strings Attached," the comic-book adaptation "Thor" and the action-comedy "Your Highness." That's not to mention "Hesher," which premiered at Sundance in 2010, and in which Portman costars and has her first credit as producer. (And what have you been up to lately?)

Add to that pile "The Other Woman," which has reemerged with the release of a poster and trailer that appeared online and the sudden announcement that it would be available on video on demand starting Jan. 1 before hitting theaters Feb. 4. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2009, where it was shown under the title "Love and Other Impossible Pursuits," after the Ayelet Waldman novel from which it is adapted.

Anyone looking to chart how Portman arrived at her performance in "Black Swan" would be interested to give "The Other Woman" a look. In the film, Portman plays a young woman dealing with the grief of losing a newborn while struggling to fit in with her husband (Scott Cohen), dodging the scorn of his first wife (Lisa Kudrow) and learning the ropes with her new stepson (Charlie Tahan). In many ways, a more accurate re-titling might have been "The Second Wife," as the film explores the emotional minefield of moving from being an awkwardly tolerated outsider to part of an actual working family unit.

"The Other Woman" also marks something of a departure for director and screenwriter Don Roos, as adapting someone else's work for the first time seems to have tempered his tendency toward acidic camp as seen in "The Opposite of Sex" and "Happy Endings." Prior to the film's premiere in Toronto, Roos introduced the movie by perhaps inadvertently pointing the way forward in Portman's career trajectory and "Black Swan" when he told the audience, "I hope you like challenging women."

-- Mark Olsen

Photo: Natalie Portman and Charlie Tahan in "The Other Woman." Credit: IFC Films

What's the most overrated movie of 2010? (Part 1)

December 23, 2010 |  4:44 pm

You've been in the situation before. You hear about a movie for weeks on end from your friends and family. Then you finally have a chance to see it, and your first reaction is: "That's what all the fuss is about?"

Below, six movies from the past year that inspired just such a reaction among a number of our colleagues here at The Times. We offer up a synopsis of fans' belief in their greatness, and our colleagues' case for why they didn't live up to the hype. Write in and tell us which of these films (or another movie entirely) you think deserves the title of most overrated movie of 2010.

"The Town"
The buzz: Ben Affleck has crafted an exciting story filled with class tension.
The case against it: We've seen the working-class Boston setting before. The chase scenes are tired. And accents and outfits can't substitute for character depth.

"Winter's Bone"
The buzz: A gritty story with great atmosphere and a powerful central performance.
The case against it: Slow pacing, a contrived world and unearned bleakness make this the emperor's new clothes of the indie world.

"The Social Network"
The buzz: A timely story with crackling dialogue and great performances.
The case against it: A movie that's not nearly as much about sociological trends as it claims to be, and that derives power from truth when it's mostly truthiness.

"The Kids Are All Right"
The buzz: A funny and tender story of a uniquely 21st century family that breaks both social taboos and new dramatic ground.
The case against it: The novelty of the setup can't camouflage a dysfunctional-family dramedy we've seen before.

"Black Swan"
The buzz: A movie with style, scares and sizzling Sapphism.
The case against it: As subtle as a pit bull, it's camp disguised as art.

The buzz: A brilliant exploration of the subconscious and virtual reality, "2001" for a new generation.
The case against it: It might have seemed like a good idea in Christopher Nolan's teenage mind. But complicated doesn't mean brilliant, and the expositional sections are less fun than a freshman calculus class.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Jon Hamm in "The Town." Credit: Warner Bros.


Film critic Kenneth Turan's 10 overlooked films of 2010

Film critic Betsy Sharkey's 10 overlooked films of 2010

What's the most under-appreciated movie of 2010? (Part 1)

What's the most under-appreciated movie of 2010? (Part 2)


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