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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: January 2012

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With 'Candy Land,' Adam Sandler pays a visit to Gramma Nutt

January 31, 2012 |  1:01 pm

Adam Sandler

Just when you worried that Hollywood’s fascination with board games was waning, it turns out it hasn’t. A day after Relativity Media decided to revive "Stretch Armstrong," which Universal had passed on, Sony has announced that it is breathing new life into "Candy Land," a different Hasbro property that had been developed but then forsaken at the Comcast-owned studio.

Sony will now make the live-action movie with Adam Sandler, retaining "Enchanted" director Kevin Lima, who was attached when the film was at Universal. (Universal, incidentally, has seen its much-hyped partnership with Hasbro slowly fade away, as my colleague Ben Fritz writes, though not before it brings out its splashy Pete Berg-helmed "Battleship" this spring.)

You could probably see the "Candy Land" movie in your mind’s eye already — Sandler frolics through a sugary paradise with children more mature than him, imparting and learning life lessons along the way. The upside is that a new draft of the script is being written by Robert Smigel (after a previous one was penned by the writers behind "Kung Fu Panda.") Smigel is the man behind Triumph the Insult Comic Dog who also wrote one of the funnier Sandler movies in recent years, “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan.”

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--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Adam Sandler in "Funny People." Credit: Tracy Bennett / Universal Studios


Lizzy Caplan: The restless mind of a Sundance star

January 31, 2012 |  7:00 am

Lizzycaplan-600

As life problems go, you could find yourself in worse pickles than deciding which Sundance house to stay in while you premiere a pair of movies at the country’s preeminent film gathering.

But don't douse the comedic actress Lizzy Caplan in too much hater-ade -- not even as she describes how she was forced to choose between the Park City, Utah, condo hosting the group from the grown-sibling dramedy "Save the Date," in which she plays a commitment-phobe sister, and the crash pad for the raunchy femme romp "Bachelorette," in which she plays a coke-fried bridesmaid opposite Kirsten Dunst and Isla Fisher.

"I spent one night [with the 'Save the Date' crew] and then realized it was too much to go back and forth, so I stayed with the 'Bachelorette' [people]'" Caplan said at the festival last week, describing her temporary housing situation.

At 29, after years of promising but false starts on sputtering television shows, the occasional part in a hit such as "Cloverfield" and very small roles in critically acclaimed movies (quick, who did she play in "127 Hours"?), the Los Angeles-raised actress is again on the cusp of wider fame. Needless to say, it's a position she's found herself in before.

"I did a show called 'The Class' where they took us on a private plane, the creators of the show and Jimmy Burrows, the epic sitcom director," Caplan recalled. "They brought us to Vegas and took us to dinner and took us gambling and gave us a big speech that it's the last time we're going to be able to go out in public. And everybody was like 'Oh my God.' So I said to Jimmy, 'Well, what's your batting average?'" And he said he was right almost every time. He was wrong only one time." She paused. "I was kind of honored to be the second time."

Ebullient and unguarded, Caplan, who is perhaps best known for the cult Starz television comedy "Party Down," has no shortage of fears about fame -- and few compunctions about revealing them. In an era when most actors put on a stoic front about how lucky they feel, Caplan is surprisingly open about the drawbacks and insecurities of a life in front of the camera.

Continue reading »

Prince Fielder's megabucks contract: Is sports the new showbiz?

January 30, 2012 | 10:47 pm

Prince fielder
In the sports world last week, everyone was talking about Prince Fielder, the Incredible Hulk-sized free-agent first baseman who signed a nine-year, $214-million contract with the Detroit Tigers. The deal, the fourth richest in baseball history, is still being noisily debated on baseball blogs and sports talk shows along with an even bigger contract that Albert Pujols signed last month with the Los Angeles Angels.

But the signings put a wholly different question in my head. Why do we live in a time when sports salaries are such a hot topic, but hardly anyone cares anymore what movie stars make? The fact is that sports is the new show business, and the interest (or lack thereof) in salaries is one reflection of that.

Patrickgoldsteinbigpicture2

When “Underworld Awakening” opened earlier this month, the box-office stories were full of info about its budget — $70 million — and the percentage of moviegoers who saw it in 3-D — 59% — but no one bothered to mention how much Kate Beckinsale was paid to star in the film. Even the salaries of the most mega-wattage stars don’t come under that kind of scrutiny anymore. When “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” was released, virtually every story mentioned the film’s budget, but not the fact that Robert Downey Jr. was paid a $15-million upfront salary.

This is a sea change from the go-go days in the mid-1990s, when movie star salaries were a front-burner concern. When then-Columbia Pictures chief Mark Canton paid Jim Carrey an unprecedented $20 million to play the lead in the dark comedy “The Cable Guy,” it was headline-grabbing news, especially because rival studio chiefs were apoplectic, seeing the salary hike as a sign of approaching apocalypse.

In hindsight, the doomsday talk was a tad melodramatic, even though Columbia took a bath on “Cable Guy,” despite Carrey’s presence on the marquee. It took studios at least a full decade to realize that movie stars were, by and large, a lousy bet.

Some in Hollywood see the lack of curiosity in movie star salaries as a sign of the star’s fading relevance in our culture. One studio chief speculated that we live in an era where moviegoers are more interested in characters than the people who play them. “We used to build movies around the stars,” one studio head explained. “But now we develop characters and superheroes — and then figure out which actor best fits the mold.”

If you look at the upcoming aspiring blockbusters, they are largely movie-star-free extravaganzas. With the exception of “Men in Black 3,” which has Will Smith front and center, the films are driven by concept and character, whether it’s Disney’s “John Carter,” Universal’s “Battleship,” Warners’ “The Dark Knight Rises,” Fox’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” Sony’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” or Paramount’s “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.”

With stars no longer at the nexus of the deal-making decisions, their salaries have lost a lot of news-worthy luster. In fact, if there is any one key reason why baseball signings are making news while movie star salary stories have dropped off the charts it’s that baseball salaries are skyrocketing while Hollywood salaries are in decline.

In sports, business is booming because the biggest value in today’s media world is live sports entertainment. The NFL just concluded a new round of billion-dollar TV deals, which in turn will generate higher salaries for football stars. The same goes for the NBA and MLB.

When Frank McCourt bought the Dodgers in 2004, he paid $430 million. Today, with the team being auctioned off to the highest bidder, insiders say the new owner could easily pay $1.5 billion for the team. The Dodgers are worth it because the new owner will reap a bonanza from a rich new TV deal. The TV money is fueling all the salary inflation. The Angels were able to sign a 10-year, $240-million deal with Pujols in December because the team signed a lucrative new TV deal with Fox.

The parallels between the two businesses are striking. Knowing they had tons of cash pouring in from their new TV deal, the Angels used it to buy the biggest star in the business. The same thing happened in the 1990s and early 2000s when the studios, flush with cash from home video and DVD revenues, used the money to chase after big-name talent, prompting a series of bidding wars. Now that star salaries are in decline, the media has turned its attention elsewhere. When it comes to sexy business stories, a XXXL-sized ballplayer getting $214 million has a lot more heat than the news that Tom Cruise, who made $70 million for “MI3,” is getting less than a fifth of that for “MI4.”

When stars make less money, the media’s sources also dry up. CAA was famous for leaking its star salary numbers in the ’90s, and every dazzling new salary breakthrough sent a telling message to stars signed to a rival agency — why isn’t your agent raking in all that moolah for you? When salaries are in decline, as they are now, you rarely see the likes of Kevin Huvane or Ari Emanuel feeding any information to the press, as today’s salary news only offers another instance of the scaling down of A-list actors’ earning power.

Today’s Hollywood is a buttoned-down place, a tiny cog in the showbiz sector of most media conglomerates. It’s the sports team owners who are like the studio moguls of yesteryear — fierce competitors with a burning desire to win. It may be a huge gamble to spend $200 million on a pudgy first baseman. But if it takes the team to the World Series, it’s a wager worth making, one with a lot more sizzle than the safe bets in today’s risk-averse Hollywood.

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--Patrick Goldstein 

Photo: Prince Fielder, who signed a $214-million contract with the Detroit Tigers last week, celebrating after hitting a double against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field last September. Credit: Benny Sieu/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MCT

 


Exclusive: 'Hugo' hound headed to Golden Collar Awards

January 30, 2012 |  4:58 pm

Blackie the Doberman

In a move sure to send shockwaves through Hollywood and cause many to reevaluate their awards-season predictions, Alan Siskind, head of the Golden Collar Awards, told The Times today that Blackie, the canine star of Martin Scorsese's "Hugo," will be granted a late-breaking nomination for best dog in a theatrical film after a massive write-in campaign.

The groundswell of support was sparked by Scorsese's recent op-ed in The Times, in which the director of such iconic films as "Raging Bull" and "Goodfellas" admitted to feeling "severely slighted" when Blackie was not initially nominated. Calling the sleek, imposing Doberman an antihero, Scorsese wrote, "I'm proud of Blackie, who laid it on the line and dared to risk the sympathy of her audience. Let's just say that on the set, she had a fitting nickname: Citizen Canine."

Scorsese's call to action prompted Dog News Daily, the organizer of the awards, to promise Blackie a spot as a sixth nominee if the pooch garnered 500 write-ins on Facebook, a milestone achieved Monday morning.

"Due to the outpouring of love and support from around the world from fans of Mr. Scorsese, his film 'Hugo,' and its canine star Blackie, the write-in campaign … for Blackie has been successful," Siskind said in a prepared statement.

Blackie's nomination pits her squarely against Uggie, the winsome Jack Russell terrier nominated for roles both in "The Artist" and "Water for Elephants" and widely considered the frontrunner. The other nominees are Cosmo from "Beginners," Denver from "50/50" and Hummer from "Young Adult." The winners will be announced Feb. 13.

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— Oliver Gettell

Photo: Sacha Baron Cohen and Blackie the Doberman in "Hugo." Credit: Jaap Buitendijk / Paramount Pictures.


Heat Meter: 'The Help' gets a SAG Awards boost, but is it enough?

January 30, 2012 |  3:20 pm

Help

This post has been corrected. Please see below for details.

The Screen Actors Guild awards on Sunday night gave a huge boost to “The Help,” with the Viola Davis-Octavia Spencer picture scoring three wins, including the coveted prize for best cast.

According to The Times’ Heat Meter rankings, the wins beefed up the movie’s overall score — tallied by all wins or nominations garnered by anyone affiliated with a given film — by a significant margin, taking it from 198 points to 322.

That helps the film go from a distant fourth to a nearly second-place tie with “The Descendants,” which has 325 points. ("The Artist" is solidly in first with 416.)

SAG Awards: Photos | 360° tour | Photo booth | Winners | Stage set-up time lapse | Video

But can “The Help” actually pull off the coup of best picture at the Oscars?

Fans of the Tate Taylor film were quick to point out that in 2006, another movie about race, “Crash,” came out of nowhere to win the big one. And “Crash” also won the SAG cast award over that year’s favorite, “Brokeback Mountain,” before going on to stage its Oscar upset.

But as many pundits pointed out, the “Crash” analogy doesn’t exactly hold. That film won Oscars for writing and editing — categories in which “The Help” hasn’t even been nominated. In fact, the last time a movie won best picture without an editing nom came a long time ago, in 1980, when “Ordinary People” pulled off the feat.

So despite the “Help” surge, “The Artist” remains the front-runner. For now.

[Tuesday, 11:21 am: An earlier version of this post noted that "Crash" won an Oscar for directing; it won for writing.]

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— Steven Zeitchik

http://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Viola Davis, left, and Octavia Spencer in "The Help." Credit: DreamWorks.


Box Office: Liam Neeson climbs to No. 1 again with 'The Grey'

January 30, 2012 |  1:40 pm

The Grey was the No 1 movie at the box office over the weekend
The year got off to a good start for Hollywood, as ticket sales were up every weekend in January compared to the same month in 2011.

Three new films opened at the multiplex this weekend, but it was the Liam Neeson action film "The Grey" that won out with around $20 million. Katherine Heigl's latest comedy thriller "One for the Money" took the runner-up spot with roughly $12 million, while the ensemble cop flick "Man on a Ledge" came in with an underwhelming sum of around $8 million.

As a result of the new openings, ticket sales were up roughly 15% this weekend compared with the same period last year. Overall, receipts have increased about 12% already in 2012 -- welcome news for the movie business, which saw box office decline last year.

For more on the weekend's hits and misses, check out this week's box office video report.

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--Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Liam Neeson stars in "The Grey." Credit: Open Road Films


'The Grey': Winter months birth Liam Neeson cinema

January 30, 2012 | 10:23 am

 

"The Grey," starring Liam Neeson, was the surprise winner at the box office this weekend

At the beginning of 2009, after nearly three decades of making movies, Liam Neeson had exactly one $20-million opening as as a leading man (1999's "The Haunting," in which he shared top billing with Lili Taylor). Since 2009, though, he's done it a remarkable three times.

The latest example came this weekend with a $20-million opening for "The Grey," which follows the success of "Taken" in 2009 and "Unknown" in 2011.

It's hard to know what makes an actor suddenly emerge as a box-office draw after years in the trenches, but Neeson is one of the more interesting case studies out there. Though just a few months away from hitting the big 6-0, the actor has created an unlikely brand as a crusading vigilante. The enemy in his films, of course, doesn't really matter -- shadowy global assassins, Eastern European thugs, wolves. Nor, for that matter, does the cause -- it simply has to be nominally just and involve the survival of him and/or the people he cares about.

It just all has to happen against a film-release backdrop of, well, not much. Try Neesoning in a summer movie and watch your film disappear. But in January and February the actor somehow plays big and believable.

Cinematic historians will look at "The Grey," "Taken" and "Unknown" as a vein for surprisingly rich exploration. (Charles Bronson’s estate may want to have a look too.) The specter of a man raging successfully against a system rigged against him certainly appeals to males, especially older ones, giving cultural and feminist theorists plenty to write about.

It's hard to overlook the special-effects factor. There's something about seeing a middle-aged man pummeling, running and panting in a movie these days, what with CG-driven tent poles offering  well-coiffed manchildren who stand back and let the engineers do all the work.

In fact, if you really want to go for it, you can look at Neesonmania through the prism of the working man and the 99% -- in some ways, a little like Neeson himself, who has been toiling for years and also suffered a humanizing tragedy when his wife died in early 2009, just as his comeback was beginning.

"Fill me with only what I need to fight," Neeson intones in "The Grey." His movies, even to their staunchest defenders, aren't really filled with much more. Yet somehow they leave us more than satisfied.

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--Steven Zeitchik

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Photo: Liam Neeson in "The Grey." Credit: Open Road


Super Bowl ads: Broderick's Ferris Bueller takes day off for Honda

January 30, 2012 |  8:42 am

Bueller

Ferris Bueller has been gone from the big screen for more than a quarter-century, but he receives the perfect homage in an extended cut of a new Super Bowl ad for the Honda CR-V released Monday (check it out below).

Without ever mentioning the names Bueller, Cameron or Principal Rooney, director Todd Phillips and the creative team at the Santa Monica ad agency RPA pay homage to the cinematic truant in a 2½-minute short that is a veritable festival of references for '80s movies geeks. (The material, which continues a Super Bowl advertising trend of referencing modern classics such as "Star Wars" and "Vacation" -- that is, movies thirtysomething and fortysomething consumers grew up with -- will air as a 60-second commercial in the fourth quarter of Sunday's Patriots-Giants game.)

Matthew Broderick begins the spot by calling his agent and feigning illness so he doesn't have to shoot that day. (He's in an L.A. hotel, presumably in town from New York making a film.) Said agent excuses him, annoyedly, from his call time, and the Ferris wheel begins to turn.

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A valet attendant calls out "Broderick, Broderick," in a nod to Ben Stein's monotone as he gives the actor his Honda, which he uses to speed around Los Angeles on his day off. The agent standing in for Rooney misses catching his hooky-playing subject whooping it up on television (this time he's on his cellphone at a high-end restaurant).

There are vanity license-plates ("SOCHOIC" instead of "NRVOUS") museums (Natural History of L.A. instead of Chicago Art) and parades -- only instead of "Twist & Shout" and "Danke Schoen" with marching bands on the streets of Chicago, it's a Mandarin tune with a traditional choir in a Chinese pride gathering.

Broderick even comes out after the spot seems to be over to wonder what we're still doing there. And, for true Bueller geeks, the name of the agent, Walter Linder, is a nod to the name listed under sausage king of Chicago Abe Froman on the restaurant-reservation list in the original film.

Of course, in the original, Broderick tools around in a 1961 Ferrari, not a burgundy Honda CR-V. But as even he might admit, we all need to grow up a little bit.

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-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Matthew Broderick in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Credit: Paramount Pictures


SAG Awards 2012: Six (odd) things we learned

January 30, 2012 |  6:30 am

Sagsix

The 18th Screen Actors Guild Awards were not without their odd revelations. Here's a look at some of the comments and moments that stood out:

1. Sofia Vergara of "Modern Family" fame told E!'s Giuliana Rancic that despite the scuttlebutt, she always wears underwear, no matter where she goes.

2. George Clooney of "The Descendants" is past the "drop trou" point of his career. "I'm 50," Clooney responded when asked if he'd bare all for a movie role. "So it's just trying to get my trou up!"

3. Alec Baldwin is "still scared to speak up [on politics]."

Baldwin, who isn't exactly known for keeping his opinions under wrap, nonetheless said Sunday: "I want Season 7 [of '30 Rock'] really badly. When you do speak out, it does cost you. The people that are the greatest film stars today and have the most potent careers are ones you know nothing about. They're very sanitized. And maybe I should have been more like that."

4. An open bar is still a draw, no matter who is in the crowd.

"This all free," said Kristen Wiig, holding up what looked to be a pint of beer. Joined by her "Bridesmaids" peers Maya Rudolph and Melissa McCarthy, the costars explained that they have devised a drinking game for all their awards-show appearances of late. "You take a drink every time you hear the word 'Scorsese,'" said Rudolph.

5. Octavia Spencer of "The Help" loves "taking men home." The Actor winner -- who, to be fair, was referencing her newly acquired hardware -- didn't shy away from talking about her hopes for a win next month at the Academy Awards.

"I would be lying if I didn't say to you I would love to win an Oscar," Spencer said. "But we have a group of brilliantly talented actresses, and it's not a foregone conclusion that because I've won these [awards] then I'll win [the Oscar]. I would never be that presumptuous. I mean, Melissa McCarthy, Jessica Chastain, Janet McTeer are in that category. Pretty brilliant."

6. Someone else's shop talk is yawn-inducing, even if their jobs are more glamorous. SAG President Ken Howard's mid-show speech announcing the impending merger of the two major acting unions, SAG and AFTRA, probably left most of America shrugging their shoulders.

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-- Patrick Day and Todd Martens

Photos: Clockwise from top left; Octavia Spencer, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Melissa McCarthy;  Sofia Vergara and Alec Baldwin. Credits: Matt Sayles / Associated Press; Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times; Joe Klamar / AFP/Getty Images and Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times


Actor John Goodman does both silent and 'Extremely Loud'

January 30, 2012 |  6:00 am

John Goodman
John Goodman has stolen plenty of scenes with midsize and supporting roles, including memorable turns as the unhinged bowler and Vietnam veteran Walter in “The Big Lebowski,” the everyman father Dan on the TV series “Roseanne” and the lovable blue beast Sulley in the animated film “Monsters Inc.” This year, Goodman pops up in two high-profile Oscar contenders, playing a movie studio boss in the old Hollywood-inspired silent film “The Artist” and a doorman in the 9/11 drama “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.”

Goodman spoke to 24 Frames from London, where he is working on the BBC miniseries “Dancing on the Edge,” about his work in two very different films.

You’re in two movies up for best picture at the Academy Awards. That must be gratifying.
Right now it’s cool. It would be cooler if one of them wins. But it’s just nice to be in successful things.

Let’s start with “The Artist.” How different was it acting in a silent film?
It goes back to the old days where you’d put up a scenario and then improvise your dialogue. The only challenge really was improvising with Jean Dujardin, who doesn’t speak any English — or, he didn’t at the time. He’s learning very rapidly. And I done flunked high school French. But we knew what we were talking about, and we listened very closely to each other, which led to a great ensemble feeling. Everybody knew they were doing something that was a little off, a little different, a little special. It created a great camaraderie in the cast. [But] the acting wasn’t really any different. You just look at each other and pay attention and listen.

Are you a big fan of silent movies?
Yeah. The older I get, the more I appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into what we do. Watching those guys creating, especially like Buster Keaton, [Charlie] Chaplin, I can’t believe that they did the stuff they do. Incredible skills went into it. What I’m learning to appreciate now is like my character [in “The Artist”] — these were really tough. They wanted to entertain people and wanted to put butts in the seats. To do that, they had to wrestle all kinds of stuff but ultimately have a gut feeling about what looked good up there and what people wanted to see.

What was it like working with director Michel Hazanavicius?
He presented me with a scenario for the movie since they couldn’t show me a screenplay, which was a beautiful printed scenario — it had pictures of old Hollywood movies. The way he presented it to me, I said, “Well this guy really knows his onions and he knows what he wants and he obviously has a passion for it.” So he kind of sold me there. And then we met on Wilshire Boulevard and talked about what he wanted to do, and I was ready to go.

You’re also in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” a very different film in terms of tone, story and setting. Do you see any similarities between the two films?
Well, “The Artist” is a story of loss and redemption, and I guess in a way, “Extremely Loud” is as well.

What was it like working with director Stephen Daldry?
Oh, he was great. He’s story-first. He seemed to me like a theater guy, because he set up a  rehearsal space in Brooklyn and we went over the scenes over and over and over again. I just love that. I really like to rehearse, figure out what I’m doing. I actually only wound up working one day on [the film], and they kept asking me if I still wanted to do it, and I said, “Yeah, I’m in.” The screenplay was very moving when I read it, and I wanted to be a part of it. I’ll follow Stephen Daldry off a roof.

It sounds as though there was a lot of improvisation on “The Artist” and more rehearsal on “Extremely Loud.” Do you have a preferred way of working?
I do whatever they tell me to pretty much, but I do like to rehearse to get it down. To me it pays off because I’m a slow learner. I don’t trust myself to improvise. Thank god the microphones were not on [for “The Artist”]. But the more you do it, you get better and better at it.

They say comedy is one of the hardest things to do in show business. As someone who’s done his fair share, do you find that to be true?
It’s difficult, but I don’t think it’s as hard as people say it is. It’s something you feel. You either got it or you ain’t.

You’ve been to the Academy Awards before. Is there anything you’d add to, subtract from or change about the show?
No [laughs]. The show is what it is. I don’t think they should worry about pleasing people. I think that’s been a fault in the past. They worry about trying to get a new audience or whatever — just relax and be the Oscars.

RELATED:

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John Goodman on what the actors say in a silent movie [video]

Directors Roundtable: Daldry, Hazanavicius and others talk shop

— Oliver Gettell

Photo: John Goodman as studio boss Al Zimmer in "The Artist." Credit: The Weinstein Co.


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