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Category: Brett Ratner

Ratnergate: Where do the Oscars go from here?

November 8, 2011 |  7:56 pm

Ratners

Of all the scenarios the Oscars could have drawn up, the one it's currently in — losing a producer and, possibly, a host 15 weeks before the show — has to be near the bottom of the list, just ahead of the Kodak Theatre roof caving in.

On Tuesday, Brett Ratner resigned from the gig because of a gay slur (he noted in a post-screening question-and-answer session that "rehearsal is for fags"). Host Eddie Murphy's status, meanwhile, remains a question mark. He could remain on board, though Ratner, who collaborated with the actor on "Tower Heist," was a big reason Murphy was involved in the first place. (Don Mischer, the live-event veteran who was producing with Ratner, is staying, but it would be highly unusual not to pair him with a veteran filmmaker.)

So where does the academy of motion picture arts and sciences go from here?

The question is one of philosophy as much as personality. The academy brought on Ratner to shake things up. “ 'You love comedy. You love to laugh, and we want to bring entertainment value and comedy to this show,' " is what the academy's Tom Sherak told Ratner when he was coming aboard, according to the director. But shaking up is not what any group normally does after a scandal like this, let alone a conservative group like the academy.

But they also can't retreat too far. New academy chief Dawn Hudson has a mandate, and an intention, to spiff up the telecast. And there's the ever-present pressure to boost the ratings, which have been sag-sag-saggy in recent years. Conservative won't fly.

Back in the day, this might have been about the time that someone in the academy’s offices said to ring Gil Cates, the veteran producer who captained 14 telecasts. Cates, sadly, died last week.

If Murphy does bow out, there are options. Billy Crystal, always a sentimental favorite, has said he’s available. And if ever there was a time to call on Neil Patrick Harris, this is it. As Tony and Emmy viewers know, he’s the most capable award-show host who's never been offered the Oscar gig.

As for producers, wags and pundits were tossing out names as events unfolded Tuesday: Ryan Murphy, Brian Grazer (who's worked with Eddie Murphy before), Laurence Mark, Mark Burnett, Judd Apatow (hey, if it's comedy they want).

But there's an even peskier question: Who's to say that these producers, or any others, would want the job? Producing the Oscars is hard work, oft-scrutinized, rarely praised. And you'd be coming in after a scandal, and with just a few months to prepare.

In that regard, at least, Ratner may be right: There won't be a lot of time for rehearsal.

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— Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Brett Ratner. Credit: Fred Prouser / Reuters.


Brett Ratner resigns as Oscar producer after gay slur

November 8, 2011 |  4:34 pm

Brett Ratner

Director Brett Ratner submitted his resignation as a producer of the 84th Annual Academy Awards Tuesday after coming under fire for making a gay slur.

"He did the right thing for the academy and for himself," Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak said Tuesday afternoon. "Words have meaning, and they have consequences. Brett is a good person, but his comments were unacceptable. We all hope this will be an opportunity to raise awareness about the harm that is caused by reckless and insensitive remarks, regardless of the intent."

In a Q&A session last weekend after a screening of his new film, “Tower Heist,” Ratner said, “rehearsal is for fags." He then went on Howard Stern's Sirius XM show and talked about masturbation, cunnilingus, pubic hair, the size of his testicles, his sexual encounter with Lindsay Lohan.

Ratner apologized Monday and Sherak seemed to accept his apology, but the drumbeat of criticism continued Tuesday, culminating in Ratner's resignation. It was not immediately clear whether Ratner's handpicked host, Eddie Murphy, would also leave the show, scheduled for late February. Ratner and Murphy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ratner's resignation letter read:

An Open Letter to the Entertainment Industry from Brett Ratner

Dear Colleagues,


Over the last few days, I’ve gotten a well-deserved earful from many of the people I admire most
in this industry expressing their outrage and disappointment over the hurtful and stupid things I
said in a number of recent media appearances. To them, and to everyone I’ve hurt and
offended, I’d like to apologize publicly and unreservedly.


As difficult as the last few days have been for me, they cannot compare to the experience of any
young man or woman who has been the target of offensive slurs or derogatory comments. And
they pale in comparison to what any gay, lesbian, or transgender individual must deal with as
they confront the many inequalities that continue to plague our world.

So many artists and craftspeople in our business are members of the LGBT community, and it
pains me deeply that I may have hurt them. I should have known this all along, but at least I
know it now: words do matter. Having love in your heart doesn’t count for much if what comes
out of your mouth is ugly and bigoted. With this in mind, and to all those who understandably
feel that apologies are not enough, please know that I will be taking real action over the coming
weeks and months in an effort to do everything I can both professionally and personally to help
stamp out the kind of thoughtless bigotry I’ve so foolishly perpetuated.


As a first step, I called Tom Sherak this morning and resigned as a producer of the 84th
Academy Awards telecast. Being asked to help put on the Oscar show was the proudest
moment of my career. But as painful as this may be for me, it would be worse if my association
with the show were to be a distraction from the Academy and the high ideals it represents.


I am grateful to GLAAD for engaging me in a dialogue about what we can do together to
increase awareness of the important and troubling issues this episode has raised and I look
forward to working with them. I am incredibly lucky to have a career in this business that I love
with all of my heart and to be able to work alongside so many of my heroes. I deeply regret my
actions and I am determined to learn from this experience.


Sincerely,
Brett Ratner

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-- Nicole Sperling and John Horn

Photo credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times



Is Brett Ratner out of his Academy Awards producing gig?

November 8, 2011 |  3:58 pm

Brett-ratner2
The fallout from Brett Ratner's gay slur continues as sources say many gay members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences are putting pressure on president Tom Sherak and chief executive Dawn Hudson to fire the director from his producing duties for the upcoming Academy Awards.

One person close to the academy, who asked not to be identified by name, said the writers' meetings for the show that were scheduled for today and Wednesday had been postponed. The academy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ratner's boorish behavior has been a significant part of his character for years.  Last weekend, during a Q&A session promoting his new movie, "Tower Heist," he said, "Rehearsal is for fags." Ratner later apologized, and Sherak accepted his apology, saying: "This won't and can't happen again. This won't happen again." But that seems to have not quelled the outrage of the membership.

RELATED:

Brett Ratner's gay slur: Can the academy really be surprised?

New crop of writers for Oscars indicates a sharp focus on comedy

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo:  Brett Ratner. Credit: Chris Pizzello / AP


Brett Ratner's gay slur: Can the academy really be surprised?

November 8, 2011 |  2:48 pm

Brett ratner
If the cloistered elders at the motion picture academy were shocked, surprised, appalled or dismayed to discover that Brett Ratner said that “rehearsal is for fags” in a Q&A session after a screening of his new film, “Tower Heist,” well, it just goes to show how little due diligence they did before they hired Ratner to produce next year's Oscars.

Ratner's remark, made in response to a question about his creative process, was actually, in terms of self-inflicted wounds, a two-for-one deal. Ratner not only embarrassed the academy by insulting legions of gay people (who are perhaps the Oscars’ last remaining loyal demographic), but he also made himself look like even more of an artistic featherweight by making it clear that he views the hard work and preparation that most filmmakers put into their craft -- i.e. rehearsal time -- as being for chumps, not fast-talking smoothies like himself.

Of course, this is standard operating procedure for Ratner. The same day he apologized, he went on Howard Stern's Sirius XM show -- another knuckleheaded move in itself -- and embarrassed himself further by discussing all sorts of topics you don't get to hear about during an Oscar telecast. These included masturbation, cunnilingus, pubic hair, the size of his testicles, his sexual encounter with Lindsay Lohan and, just to be extra classy, how he sends women to his doctor to make sure they don't have any sexually transmitted diseases “before I go all the way” with them.

Patrickgoldsteinbigpicture2

If I didn't know academy President Tom Sherak well enough to know that when he's commuting to work he's listening to sports talk, not Stern, I probably would've called him to make sure he hadn't run his car into a divider on the 101.

My point: It's hardly a news flash that Ratner is a crass hustler who's spent his entire career in a Sammy Glick-like rush to get ahead, often behaving with all of the grace and elan of a character out of “Entourage.” Ratner is loyal to his friends and a big contributor to charity, but he often acts like an over-entitled bar-mitzvah boy, running amok at his afterparty.

If the academy had done any homework at all, it would've learned that when a woman reporter from the Jewish Journal interviewed Ratner for a cover story a few years ago, he managed to make a fool out of himself by repeatedly hitting on her, something she found so immature that she put it right in the lead of the story.

So what should the academy do? Ratner has profusely apologized and Sherak has equally profusely accepted the apology. Sherak made it clear that Ratner will be on a tight leash, saying: “This won't and can't happen again. It will not happen again.” In other words, don't expect to see any more Ratner interviews any time soon -- the muzzle is on. That puts the academy in something of a bind, since it now has an Oscar producer who won't be allowed to talk anymore and an Oscar host, Eddie Murphy, who gives print interviews about as often as the Cubs go to the World Series.

Mark Harris, the author of “Pictures at a Revolution” and a frequent Oscar pundit, recently posted a scathing indictment of Ratner on the website Grantland, mocking his apology and saying: “There's not really a long, nuanced debate to be had about this. If he had used an equivalent racial or religious slur, the discussion would go something like, 'You're fired.' Apology or not. The same rule applies here. You don't get a mulligan on homophobia.”

But sadly, performers do. It was all of five months ago that “30 Rock” costar Tracy Morgan, doing a stand-up routine in Nashville, made a series of inflammatory remarks about gay people, saying that if his son were gay, he would “pull out a knife and stab” him. Like Ratner, Morgan apologized. And like Sherak, who said Ratner has “many friends” in the gay and lesbian community, Tina Fey said that the Tracy Morgan she knew “is not a hateful man and would never hurt another person.”

And that was that. No suspension. No firing. No more fuss. We've all gone back to laughing at Morgan's less-scandalous “30 Rock” antics. I spoke to several old Oscar hands who said that, as long as Ratner stays out of more trouble, he'll keep his Oscar gig. From a pragmatic perspective, the academy would be in a huge bind if it had to replace him this late in the game, less than four months before the late February show.

That doesn't mean that Ratner is in the clear. Whatever goodwill he might have had for assuming the thankless job of producing the Oscars is now long gone. If things go wrong on Oscar night, the press customarily blames the host. This time, thanks to his oafishness, it will be Ratner who gets the blame.

When Herman Cain was first embroiled in his sexual harassment scandal, he described it as a media witch hunt, saying, “I told you this bull's-eye on my back has gotten bigger.” Well, Herman, meet Brett. When it comes to having a huge target on your back, you've got company.

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-- Patrick Goldstein  

Photo: Brian Grazer, left, with Brett Ratner at the premiere of "J. Edgar" at the AFI Fest 2011.

Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press


New crop of writers for Oscars indicates a sharp focus on comedy

November 6, 2011 |  4:52 pm

 

Ratnermurphy
Exclusive: Oscar producers Brett Ratner and Don Mischer are exhibiting an intense focus on comedy for the 84th Academy Awards presentation in February. The duo has hired a crop of veteran screenwriters to bring the funny to the show. The scribes boast credits for shows including "Saturday Night Live" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and will be attempting to breathe new life into a program that in the last few years has fallen flat.

Many of the writers have a history of working with either Ratner or his Oscar host, Eddie Murphy, and will work primarily with Murphy. They will write bits for the actor-comedian ahead of time and will be backstage in the writers room the night of the event.

The team includes two of the three writers who currently work on Larry David's "Curb" -- Alec Berg (who also wrote for the 68th Academy Awards) and David Mandel. The third member of that team, Jeff Schaffer, was unavailable but may come in on a part-time basis to help.

Ratner's longtime collaborator, Jeff Nathanson, who wrote the director's new film, "Tower Heist," and worked on his last two "Rush Hour" movies, has also come aboard, in addition to fellow "Heist" scribe Ted Griffin, who penned "Ocean's Eleven," among other films.

“I’m new to this and I wanted to feel comfortable, since I have to drive this whole thing. So I brought in guys that I have a personal relationship with and I’ve worked with before," Ratner said Sunday from the Beverly Hills Hotel, where he was about to sit down to breakfast after hearing the news that "Tower Heist" had opened to $25 million this weekend.

Also on board are Barry Blaustein and David Sheffield, two veteran writers who worked with Murphy on the "Nutty Professor" series and "Saturday Night Live."

The one truly veteran Academy Awards scribe on the case appears to be Jon Macks, who in addition to writing for the last 14 Oscar shows has also penned bits for the Emmys, the Country Music Awards and "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno."

Ratner said he will bring other writers in part-time to work on specific parts of the show, including writer-director Cameron Crowe.

The new crop of writers, who seem to tend toward the irreverent and absurd, could breathe some life into a show that is inherently tough to change.

Ratner said he's confident that Murphy’s stand-up style, which he describes as more about story-telling than joke-telling, is going to bring a fresh perspective. Ratner pointed to Murphy’s ice cream skit from his “Delirious” album and his impersonations as the kind of humor he hopes to bring to the Oscars.

The director said he was pleased with Murphy’s round of appearances on late night talk shows as part of his promotion for “Tower Heist,” calling it proof that the 50-year-old comedian is still on top of his game despite the years he’s been off both the stand-up circuit and SNL.

“Go watch him on Jimmy Fallon and you tell me,” said Ratner. “It’s incredible. He’s funny, smart, irreverant, everything you want in a host. And he wants to win.”  

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-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Brett Ratner and Eddie Murphy with the cast of "Tower Heist." Universal Pictures


Word of Mouth: Eddie Murphy's 'Heist' gets a rewrite [Video]

November 3, 2011 |  5:33 pm

  Murphy
Eddie Murphy’s original idea for what would become “Tower Heist” -- an all-black “Ocean’s Eleven” -- changed a lot on the way to theaters this weekend. While the basic parameters of the story remained intact, the cast and the villain changed materially from when Murphy first came up with the idea six years ago. In this week’s Word of Mouth column, staff writer John Horn looks at the film’s development, and what’s at stake not only for Murphy but also the film’s director, Brett Ratner.

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Photo: Ben Stiller, left, Matthew Broderick, Michael Pena, Casey Affleck and Eddie Murphy in "Tower Heist." Credit: David Lee / Universal Pictures

Photo: Ben Stiller, left, Matthew Broderick, Michael Pena, Casey Affleck and Eddie Murphy in "Tower Heist." Credit: David Lee / Universal Pictures


Universal on 'Tower Heist': Never mind

October 12, 2011 | 12:15 pm

Towest

If you were were wondering whether to fork out $60 to see Eddie Murphy from the comfort of your home, you can stop tossing and turning.

Universal has released a statement that it won't make the Murphy and Ben Stiller comedy "Tower Heist" available three weeks after its theatrical release in select markets after all.

"In response to a request from theater owners, [we have] decided to delay [the movie's] planned premium home video on demand experiment," the studio said in a statement. The trial balloon has basically been punctured: when you delay an experiment that's all about moving things up, you've essentially canceled it.

The news comes after Cinemark, National Amusements and other theater owners said they wouldn't play the Brett Ratner-directed movie at all if Universal moved ahead with a plan to make it available on Comcast systems in Portland and Atlanta. (The theater owners, of course, were concerned that releasing the movie so soon, rather than waiting the usual three months, would cut into ticket sales.)

In other words: Universal and the theater owners got into a staring contest, and the studio blinked.

The company tried to leave the door open down the line -- "Universal continues to believe that the theater experience and a PVOD window are business models that can coincide and thrive and we look forward to working with our partners in exhibition to find a way to experiment in this area in the future."

But after the backtrack, it's reasonable to ask how soon they or any studio would try it again, and raises a question about the fate of the PVOD movement, which until now had been gaining momentum.

Then again, the studios could come out with some added leverage: If the movie doesn't do well now, it could fall on theaters to explain why they pushed so hard against a new revenue stream.

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Would you pay $60 to watch Eddie Murphy from home?

--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: "Tower Heist." Credit: Universal Pictures


Brett Ratner says Eddie Murphy as Oscar host was meant to be

September 6, 2011 |  5:51 pm

Tower 
Director-producer Brett Ratner of "Rush Hour" fame, who is producing the 84th Academy Awards with Don Mischer, said that it was beshert -- the Yiddish word for "meant to be" -- getting Eddie Murphy to host the ceremony on Feb. 26 on ABC.

"When I was asked to produce the Oscars, I analyzed what was done in the past and I realized I wanted to go back to a single host," said Ratner over the phone from New York late Tuesday afternoon. "I knew before Eddie's name was in the pot, I needed a single comedian. Then I kind of casually mentioned it to Eddie and he thought it was a great idea. That is a hard thing [for a producer] to walk away from."

Rumors that Murphy was in contention as Oscar host swirled over Labor Day weekend, becoming a reality on Tuesday morning when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the 50-year-old Murphy's selection.

Murphy, who hasn't been seen on the big screen since his 2009 flop "Imagine That," also happens to be in Ratner's new film, "Tower Heist," opening Nov. 4. Ratner said choosing Murphy wasn't a publicity stunt for the movie. He noted that the media-shy Murphy agreed to host the awards because the two have a good rapport. "I am hoping I can do my next few movies with him because he is really a comedic genius," Ratner said.

Mischer said he and other awards producers have tried for years to get Murphy, who began his career as a stand-up comedian more than three decades ago, to host. So he was rather surprised and thrilled when the actor agreed.

"I have tried to book Eddie Murphy because we all have such respect for him," Mischer said. "Anytime he's on stage, he hits it out of the park. He never agreed to do anything of this kind before, and when Brett first said to me, 'I just talked to Eddie and he didn't say no,' I said, 'No way he's going to do this ... ."

Ratner said Murphy also agreed because he has "so much love for the academy. He is not only a legend in the business, at least in my eyes, he is also a student of the business. He knows every movie ever made."

Over the decades, many comedians have hosted the Oscars, including Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis, Johnny Carson, Chevy Chase, Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, Steve Martin, David Letterman, Jon Stewart and Chris Rock. This last ceremony, the academy courted young views with actors James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Critics were not impressed.

Mischer said they may go back to two hosts at another time, but both he and Ratner wanted a quicker pace for the Oscars.  "From the beginning, Brett shared the vision I had of really letting the show take  off and flying," he said. "It is just much better to do that with one host, especially a host who has got the comedic chops Eddie Murphy has. It really felt right to go with Eddie by himself."

And here is a little Oscar trivia -- Murphy made his debut on the Academy Awards in 1983 as a presenter with Elizabeth McGovern of the visual effects Oscar, which went to "E.T." The hosts were Walter Matthau, Liza Minnelli, Dudley Moore and comedian Richard Pryor.

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Eddie Murphy: From mean to clean

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Eddie Murphy named host of 84th Academy Awards

-- Susan King

Photo: Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy in Brett Ratner's "Tower Heist." Credit: David Lee / Universal Pictures


Eddie Murphy named host of 84th Academy Awards

September 6, 2011 | 12:23 pm

Eddie Murphy
 
The rumors became a reality Tuesday: Eddie Murphy will host the 84th Academy Awards, which will be telecast Feb. 26 on ABC, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced.

Buzz started circulating over Labor Day weekend that the 50-year-old comedian-actor was being considered for the host job. In some ways, it's no surprise, since Murphy is starring in the upcoming film "Tower Heist," which was directed by Brett Ratner --  who is also producing the Academy Awards show with Don Mischer. "Tower Heist" is set to open in November.

By selecting Murphy, the academy is returning to its comedic host roots. The academy attempted to court younger viewers, hiring James Franco and Anne Hathaway to host the 83rd Academy Awards in February. Franco, who in addition to hosting was nominated for a lead actor Oscar for "127 Hours," was roundly trounced by critics for his lackluster performance; reviews were kinder toward Hathaway.

Photos: Eddie Murphy's comedy from mean to clean

Over the years, comics including Bob Burns, Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis, Johnny Carson, Chevy Chase, Billy Crystal, David Letterman, Chris Rock, Steve Martin, Whoopi Goldberg and Jon Stewart have hosted the awards. Crystal even admitted recently that he was available to host if the academy wanted him.

"Eddie is a comedic genius, one of the greatest and most influential live performers ever," Ratner said in a statement Tuesday. "With his love of movies, history of crafting unforgettable characters and his iconic performances -- especially onstage -- I know he will bring an excitement, spontaneity and tremendous heart to the show Don and I want to produce in February."

 Murphy, who earned a supporting actor Oscar nomination for his dramatic turn in 2006's "Dreamgirls," hasn't been seen on the screen since the 2009 flop "Imagine That," which made just $16.1 million domestically. In fact, another Murphy film, "A Thousand Words," which is now set to open in January, has been on the shelf for more than three years.

However, Murphy has been heard as the wisecracking Donkey in the popular animated "Shrek" franchise.

First coming to fame as a stand-up comedian, he joined NBC's "Saturday Night Live"  in 1980 while still a teenager, performing such characters as Buckwheat and Gumby. Murphy made his film debut opposite Nick Nolte in Walter Hill's 1982 buddy action comedy, "48 Hrs.," followed by such hits as 1983's "Trading Places," 1984's "Beverly Hills Cop" and 1988's "Coming to America. " He made his film debut as a director with 1989's "Harlem Nights."

Murphy was named best actor by the National Socitey of Film Critics for his multiple roles in 1996's "The Nutty Professor." Other hits in the 1990s included 1998's "Doctor Dolittle" and 1999's "Life" and "Bowfinger."  Save for "Dreamgirls," most of the films he's made recently haven been critically lambasted, including 2003's "The Haunted Mansion," 2007's "Norbit" and 2008's "Meet Dave," which made only $11.9 million.

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Photo: Eddie Murphy Credit: Bruce McBroom/Paramount Pictures


Six ways Brett Ratner's resume could shape the Oscars

August 5, 2011 |  3:18 pm

Codename
Brett Ratner says he wants to change the Oscars, inject a dose of energy and comedy into what can sometimes be a stuffy telecast. But the filmmaker doesn't have to look far afield -- or even to partner Don Mischer, a veteran of live-television events-- for cues on how to shake up the show. Over the course of his filmmaking career, Ratner  has directed and produced a number of movies that could be useful in helping him craft an Oscar telecast.

Here are six of those films, and how they might assist him:

"Rush Hour:" We couldn't get enough of Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan on the big screen. Why not have them host the Oscars, at least until a convoluted plan involving counterfeiters and hostage takers threatens to steal millions from people we don't know anything about? Tucker and Chan could fight good-naturedly, and with borderline racial sensitivity, just off the stage for three hours, before the show ends with a moment of cross-cultural bonding, preferably involving song.

"Code Name: The Cleaner:" In this 2007 critics' darling, Cedric the Entertainer wakes up in a room next to an unfamiliar creature and wonders what exactly just happened, and why his life has come to this. Ratner can replicate this feeling for the people in the Kodak Theater by having  Melissa Leo give a speech to them.

"Red Dragon:" Ratner's adaptation of Thomas Harris' novel looked at how victims of a serial killer met their end. Here's hoping the filmmaker doesn’t get any ideas for spicing up the In Memoriam section.

"The Family Man:" In the 2000 fantasy-tinged drama, Nicolas Cage comes to the realization that his life is hollow, spent in the empty pursuit of shiny pleasures that he's always believed he wanted but never stopped to ask why. This parable can be described to a room full of Oscar hopefuls with the aim of seeing how many make the connection.

 "X-Men: The Last Stand:" By now it's becoming clear that that the Oscars want at least a small piece of the fan boy demographic. Maybe best not to remind those fan boys, then, that  Ratner directed "X-Men: The Last Stand." And if they do figure it out and the ratings are weak, ABC could just reboot the show five years  later and pretend the original never happened.

 "Santa's Slay:” in this 2005 holiday classic, Santa Claus is revealed to be a man with no great regard for bettering the world around him, but as someone who simply got stuck with the noble mission because he lost a bet. Any parallels to real-world Oscar producers are strictly in the eye of the beholder.

Related:

Tower Heist: A clue to this year's Oscars?

Brett Ratner: Oscar fan who recognizes his outsider status

Rush Hour director to produce the Oscars

--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: A scene in "Code Name: The Cleaner." Credit: New Line


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