24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Comedy

SAG Awards: Does 'Bridesmaids' love up comedy's Oscar chances?

December 14, 2011 |  7:15 am

"Bridesmaids" producer Judd Apatow started banging the drum for an Oscar comedy category months ago, hoping the film could get some recognition beyond the populist love for it and its impressive box office gross. Perhaps with Wednesday's nomination of the film in SAG's best ensemble category, he can stop pushing so hard.

While the winner of the SAG ensemble has always coincided with an Oscar nomination for best picture, with the exception of "The Birdcage" in 1996, the nominations don't always line up as neatly. Still, Wednesday's nomination bodes well for this summer's R-rated comedy hit. (The nod to actress Melissa McCarthy in the best female supporting category doesn't hurt either.)

Photos: SAG Awards top nominees

The 2,100 actors who make up SAG's nominating committee have often been spot-on with their picks reflecting the Academy's best picture choices. Last year, the actors picked "The Social Network," "The King's Speech," "Black Swan," "The Kids are All Right" and "The Fighter" -- five films that made it into the 10-picture Academy race. Back in 2008, it chose "Slumdog Millionaire," "Benjamin Button," "Doubt," "Frost/Nixon," and "Milk" as its top five -- all Oscar nominees in the top race.

Other years there's been less overlap in the nominees, with SAG nominating films for its awards that didn't land Academy nominations for best picture, such as  "Nine" in 2009, "Hairspray" in 2007 and "Bobby" in 2006.

What may differentiate "Bridesmaids" from the outliers of the previous years, though, is the Kristen Wiig-starrer resonated with both critics and audiences and was regarded as a game-changer for   women in the industry, demonstrating that women can be as funny as men and lure a big audience. Whether that's enough to get the Academy's attention remains to be seen. But getting the support of the actors' branch -- which makes up the largest voting bloc of the Academy -- is a significant start.


SAG Awards: The full nominations list

'Bridesmaids': Judd Apatow wants an Oscar comedy category

SAG Awards: 'The Help,' 'Bridesmaids' among outstanding cast nominees

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Kirsten Wiig in "Bridesmaids." Credit: Universal Pictures

'Bridesmaids': Maya Rudolph, filmmakers on the art of the improv

November 19, 2011 | 11:45 am

It's a dream come true for a comedic actress when she's asked to come to rehearsal ready to improvise. Maya Rudolph, costar of the summer blockbuster "Bridesmaids," was just the lucky lady who got to play with her close friend Kristen Wiig and a cast of talented comedic friends. The result was the "comic gold" that you get to see in the diner scene when the two pals are rehashing Wiig's character Annie's tragic love life.

In this snippet from the Envelope Screening Series, check out Rudolph discussing the improv process, what director Paul Feig got to work with and how producer Judd Apatow reminds audiences that improv only really works when you've got a strong script to serve as your road map.


'Bridesmaids': How they orchestrated the bridal shop scene

'Bridesmaids' filmmakers: Who says actresses aren't funny?

— Nicole Sperling

'Bridesmaids': Judd Apatow wants an Oscar comedy category

November 18, 2011 |  2:01 pm

According to "Bridesmaids" producer Judd Apatow, a comedy has won at the Oscars only five times in "a zillion years." He might be exaggerating a touch, but his point is apt that comedies are rarely thought of in the same category as the prestige dramas that usually rack up awards from the motion picture academy.

Apatow has a solution. He suggests the kind folks at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences consider establishing a comedy category in similar fashion to the animation category that began in 2001.

Check out this snippet from our Envelope screening series in which Apatow rants about the lack of respect given to today's Hollywood comedies.


'Bridesmaids': Who says women aren't funny?

'Bridesmaids': How they orchestrated the bridal shop scene

— Nicole Sperling

'What's Your Number?' writers on sex, comedy and slacker heroines

September 30, 2011 |  6:25 pm

In “What’s Your Number?,” which opens today, Ally Darling (Anna Faris) embarks on a quest for her best ex after reading a magazine article warning that women who have had 20 or more lovers have lost their chance at finding a husband. Screenwriters Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden, who adapted their screenplay from the book “20 Times a Lady” by Karyn Bosnak, come from the world of TV, where Allan has been a writer on “Scrubs” and Crittenden on “Seinfeld,” “The Simpsons” and “Arrested Development.” Allan and Crittenden talked with 24 Frames writer Rebecca Keegan about their slacker heroine, the gender politics of humor and the best country in which to be a slut.

Question: This movie raises the question of whether there is an acceptable number of people to have sex with. Why did you use that question as a vehicle to tell a story?

Allan: It’s a great conversation starter. I personally don’t think there’s an acceptable number. In some of the research we did, in certain parts of the world, it’s ridiculous that you even discuss it. In the case of Ally, who is a character, you can pause and take stock of how many people and what that means and why you’re sleeping with certain people. You might come to the conclusion that you’re having a good time and there’s nothing wrong… or you might come to the conclusion that maybe I should slow down, and I’m jumping into bed with these people for the wrong reason.

Q: Where were the places where no one cared?

Continue reading »

The week in film: '50/50,' 'Margaret' and 'What's Your Number?' (video)

September 30, 2011 |  4:02 pm


The new cancer comedy "50/50" from Summit Entertainment has required the distributor to walk a fine line when it comes to communicating the fairly sober plot of the film -- which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the inspired-by-life story of screenwriter Will Reiser, who was diagnosed the disease at a young age -- with its uplifting spirit. Indie movie specialist Fox Searchlight has faced an arguably more fraught situation with the release of "Margaret," a film from the Oscar-nominated Kenneth Lonergan that's taken six years to debut. Fox enters the box-office fray this weekend with "What's Your Number?" a more conventional romantic comedy starring Anna Faris and "Captain America's" Chris Evans; will the success of the summer's breakout hit "Bridesmaids" bolster its commercial prospects?

Watch Los Angeles Times reporters Rebecca Keegan and Nicole Sperling discuss the latest happenings in Hollywood.


Joseph Gordon-Levitt: "50/50" is a great movie title

After six years "Margaret" finally arrives in theaters

The "Bridesmaids" ripple effect: female filmmakers are swearing by the film's success

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Writer Will Reiser and actor Seth Rogen on the set of "50/50" Credit: Chris Helcermanas-Benge / Summit Entertainment


Joseph Gordon-Levitt: '50/50' is a great movie title

September 29, 2011 | 10:47 am


"50/50" is a buddy comedy about cancer, but you wouldn't know it from the title. And that's on purpose. The executives at Summit Entertainment changed the original title of Will Reiser's script "I'm With Cancer" in an effort to not alienate audiences from the film's tough subject matter.

In fact, if you didn't know ahead of time that the film was a cancer movie, you might not be more informed after taking a look at the poster. Sure, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is shaving his head, but it's not exactly clear why. And the tag line "It takes a pair to beat the odds" conjures up ideas of gambling. Add in Seth Rogen in the background, and you'd think Gordon-Levitt lost a bet--not that he's shaving his head in preparation for this upcoming chemotherapy treatment.

The studio grappled with other titles for the comedy, which is generating positive reviews ahead of its release on Friday. "Get Well Soon" was discussed as one possible alternative. But "50/50," according to star Gordon-Levitt, is a perfect title. Said the 30-year old actor, "I like the title '50/50' so much better then 'I’m With Cancer.'

"Before the movie was titled that, my mind kept coming back to the idea of what if someone told me I had a 50% chance of dying," the actor said during a recent interview at the Toronto International Film Festival. "I would be thinking about coin flips all the time. I also like it because the phrase '50/50' invokes a relationship and that’s what the movie is really about, much more so than cancer.

He continued: "Yes, the story is about a guy who has cancer but it’s really about the relationships he has in his life: his friend, his mom, how he’s dealing with women. That’s really the heart and soul of the movie."

To hear more from Gordon-Levitt, read this interview with the actor, who's currently at work filming Christopher Nolan's upcoming Batman sequel, "The Dark Knight Rises."


Toronto 2011: Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns emcee

Will Reiser and writing about what you know: getting cancer

--Nicole Sperling

Photo: Anna Kendrick, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen in "50/50." Credit: Ed Araquel/Summit Entertainment


Cantinflas tribute at the Million Dollar Theater

August 3, 2011 |  2:58 pm

Cantinflas2Cantinflas, the great Mexican comic actor, was a master of idiotic double-speak, spouting utter gibberish as if he were uttering pearls of wisdom. Remarkably, he never even served in the U.S. Congress.

On Aug. 12, he'll be honored by the L.A.-based Cervantes Center of Arts and Letters at the Million Dollar Theater in dowtown L.A. with a 7:30 p.m. screening of one of his best early films, "The Circus" (El Circo), a 1943 comedy, shown in Spanish with English supertitles.


The evening also will include a "digital image presentation" titled "Cantinflas in Los Angeles." It's billed as an exploration of the work and public appearances in the City of Angels by the actor, who was born Mario Moreno in Mexico City 100 years ago, in 1911, and died in 1993. Some of Moreno's old acquaintances will be on hand at the event to share their reminiscences.

According to the event's promoters, Moreno was very appreciative of his L.A. fans and sometimes made personal appearances at L.A. movie theaters where his films were premiered, including the historic Million Dollar. There's more information about the event here. For a sample of Cantinflas' gift for gab, go here.


 Cantinflas Lives Up to His Name

 From culture to culture and reel to reel

Cantinflas: Hollywood Star Walk

— Reed Johnson

Photo: Cantinflas, right, and Bing Crosby in a scene from the 1960 film "Pepe," the comedian's last Hollywood movie. Credit: Associated Press.


'The Change-Up’: Take our body-swap film quiz

August 3, 2011 |  2:34 pm


In the new comedy “The Change-Up,” Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds play two childhood friends who’ve grown into very different adults — one’s a successful lawyer and father, the other is a devil-may-care, struggling actor who enjoys playing the field. After a night of drinking they experience a freak accident at a fountain in a park and end up switching bodies.

Such swaps are a time-honored trope in Hollywood, with the ’80s seeing a particular surge. Can you name these four films from that era in which characters ended up in each other’s skin? (Answers appear below each photo)

1. In this 1984 film directed by Carl Reiner and starring Steve Martin, Lily Tomlin and Victoria Tennant, the wealthy spinster Edwina Cutwater (Tomlin) has arranged to have her soul migrate into the body of a young beauty (Tennant) but a mishap sends it instead into that of unhappy attorney Roger Cobb (Martin). Martin and Tennant married two years after the film came out.


Answer: “All of Me”

2. In this 1987 movie, Dudley Moore plays Dr. Jack Hammond, a heart surgeon, who swaps brains with his likable but not super-smart teenage son, Chris (Kirk Cameron).


Answer: “Like Father, Like Son”

3. In this 1988 film, George Burns ends up in the body of his 18-year-old grandson (Charlie Schlatter).


Answer: “18 Again!”

4. In this 1989 movie, Jason Robards plays Coleman Ettinger, who’s hoping to enter a dream state so that he and his wife, Gena (Piper Laurie), can live forever. They embark on some “transcendental” exercises on their front lawn, and just then 16-year-old Bobby (Corey Feldman) happens by, colliding with the bike-riding Lainie (Meredith Salenger), the most gorgeous girl in his school. Both are knocked momentarily unconscious; when they come to, the spirits of Coleman and Gena have entered their bodies.


Answer: “Dream a Little Dream”


'The Change-Up': Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman mix it up

-- Susan King and Julie Makinen

Photos, from top: Jason Bateman, left, and Ryan Reynolds in "The Change-Up"; Lily Tomlin and Steve Martin in "All of Me"; Dudley Moore and Kirk Cameron in "Like Father, Like Son"; George Burns and Anita Morris in "18 Again"; Meredith Salenger and Corey Feldman in "Dream a Little Dream." Credits: Richard Cartwright / Universal Pictures; Los Angeles Library; file; New World Pictures; Vestron Pictures

Rusty Griswold prepares to take another 'Vacation'

July 20, 2011 |  6:52 pm

There are few potential reboots that get people as worked up as National Lampoon’s "Vacation.” The original was a comedy classic, and the idea of trying it again in the  21st century is either a welcome return to a golden era or Hollywood’s latest bit of blasphemous tinkering.

We may not have to wait long to know which reaction is justified. The writers on the film (also the writers, incidentally, on “Horrible Bosses”) have finished a second draft of the script, and studio New Line is eager to get moving on the reboot, according to a person briefed on the project who was not authorized to talk about it publicly.

The company is reaching out to potential directors, said the person, including Pete Segal, the director of "50 First Dates," who has some experience with reviving classic comedies, having directed the remakes of "The Longest Yard" and "Get Smart."

What would the new helmer be making? For one thing, the film (called “Vacation," sans National Lampoon) centers on the grown-up character of Rusty Griswold, Anthony Michael Hall's sandy-haired boy from the 1983 original who was in the backseat while parents Clark (Chevy Chase) and Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo) piloted the Wagon Queen Family Truckster.

The writers, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, said that they aimed to give Rusty a populist appeal.

"He's a kind of an everyman, goodhearted, maybe a little bit of a doofus," Goldstein told 24 Frames. Daley added, "The thing that made the first film so successful was Chevy Chase and just how likable Clark was, and Rusty will have a lot of similarities to him."

The pair said they weren't worried that they'd have to follow the details of the original Rusty. "He wasn't particularly well-drawn in the original, just a kid, really, so we're free to a develop the character." The hope is for Chase and D' Angelo to reprise their roles from the original franchise too (they of course starred in several sequels as well), likely at the end of the film, the pair said, when Rusty runs into his parents.

The writers understand why fans might be hesitant about a new "Vacation." "There's a trend to remake movies that shouldn't be remade, at least not yet," Goldstein said. "If this were a straight remake, we'd be hesitant. But we think this is fair game. It's characters people like. We're just advancing the story."


Horrible Bosses: the Freaks & Geeks connection

National Lampoon's documentary vacation

Chevy Chase in the spotlight

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: National Lampoon's "Vacation." Credit: New Line

Comedy: How deep will the R-rated renaissance run?

July 11, 2011 | 10:48 am

There have been very few surprise hits in this year of modest box office and relentless sequels. Topping the short list is "Bridesmaids," which has stormed its way to nearly $160 million in domestic receipts. While not nearly the same sort of phenomenon, "Bad Teacher" has been a sleeper in its own right, garnering $79 million to date. And this weekend, "Horrible Bosses" got off to a solid start, taking in a higher-than-expected $28 million to beat out Kevin James' "Zookeeper" as the weekend's biggest new release.

What these three films have in common is not only that they're comedies but that they also are, of course, bawdy and R-rated.  If "Bosses"  is able to hits the $75-million mark, it will make 2011 the first year ever that at least four R-rated comedies have topped that number (joining "The Hangover: Part 2").

All three of 2011's racy originals, it should be said, were jump-started and greenlighted after "The Hangover" became the most successful R-rated comedy of all time in 2009, and all three are, in a sense, the first fruits of the post-"Hangover" boom.

My colleague Ben Fritz wrote recently about the changing economics for Hollywood comedies. Studios are less willing to greenlight comedies at bigger budgets, he wrote -- a function, in part, of the growing power of the international box office, where American comedies typically don't play as well. But  this globalization may paradoxically be helping R-rated comedies. Movies in this genre are often made for a price and seen as a more niche play so don't need the same kind of worldwide receipts; it's the bigger budget, all-ages comedies that are taking a beating.

There's also an argument to be made that R-rated comedies are where much of the filmmaking talent has now gravitated. From a quality standpoint, "Bridesmaids," "Bad Teacher" and "Bosses" more than hold their own against the high-profile PG-13 comedies of 2011, "Just Go With It" and "Arthur" (although the R-rated comedy camp will have to live with "Hall Pass" and "Your Highness").

But if this trio of summer originals is born of the "The Hangover," what will these movies in turn generate in the next few years? Success tends to attract a crowd, which sometimes means pale knockoffs. "I think the quality will go down for a little while, because studios will be jumping all over these things, and that may just mean going as dirty as possible without actually making it original or comedic," "Horrible Bosses" co-writer Jonathan Goldstein told 24 Frames.

When you look at the history of the genre, he may have a point. The modern R-rated comedy was essentially born in 1978 with National Lampoon's "Animal House." John Landis' frat-house film became the second highest-grossing movie of that year and yielded a fertile period. In the four years that followed, we got a slew of R-rated classics: "Porky's," "Caddyshack," "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

But the period proved to be short-lived. Hollywood did turn out "Revenge of the Nerds" in 1984, but the R-rated comedy soon got bogged down in sequels and poor imitations like "Spring Break." The category then went into a lull before being reborn with "American Pie" more than a decade later (and then nearly disappeared again before the Apatow boom of the latter 2000s).

This all may seem like the normal cycle of the movie business, but R-rated comedies tend to move in periods of sharper boom and bust: filmmakers figure out how to break a taboo, then that gets tired, so they need to wait a few years for new taboos, and new ways to break them.

This year has seen new elements, such as the workplace and women, tossed into the mix, and it's given the R-rated comedy a certain freshness. We may yet see a few more movies cleverly riffing off these ideas. (Even before the release, there had already been some discussions of a "Horrible Bosses" sequel, Goldstein said.) And then, like any dirty prank, we may find that it just gets a little  old.


Box office: Newcomers Horrible Bosses and Zookeeper hold their own

Studio comedies are a tough sell in Hollywood

Horrible Bosses: The Freaks and Geeks connection

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Horrible Bosses." Credit: Warner Bros.


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