24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: 2010-2011 Awards Season

'The Hunger Games' footage: forest, fireballs and braids [video]

August 29, 2011 |  1:39 pm


In the future, there is Gore-Tex. And also trees. That’s what we learned from the scant 45 seconds of “The Hunger Games” footage Lionsgate revealed during MTV’s Video Music Awards Sunday.

In the teaser, Jennifer Lawrence gallops through a dense forest as 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, one of 24 kids forced to fight to the death in an outdoor arena game. Lawrence, who has already demonstrated action heroine potential by gutting a squirrel in “Winter’s Bone” and pumping iron in “X-Men: First Class,” delivers on Katniss’ scrappy athleticism--she dodges fireballs, leaps over a fallen tree and releases an arrow with a fierce glint in her eye. Over the action, the voice of Katniss’ hometown pal, Gale (Liam Hemsworth), hints at one of the relationships that drives her character. “You’re stronger than they are,” Gale says. “You are. They just want a good show, that’s all they want. You know how to hunt. Show ’em how good you are.”


“The Hunger Games,” directed by Gary Ross, is the first in a planned series based on a trilogy of dystopian young adult novels by Suzanne Collins. The teaser footage, which Lawrence introduced from the movie’s North Carolina set, reveals little of the visual ambition of the books' science-fiction setting. There is no sign of District 12—the bleak, coal mining region from which Katniss hails—nor the sleek Capitol District, where the stylish and powerful reside. Also absent are the series's fantastical fashions, such as Katniss’ “girl on fire” dress, and mutant creatures, like the arena’s deadly “tracker jacker wasps.” The movie’s hairdressers have delivered Katniss’ distinctive side braid—this may replace Princess Leia’s buns as a new generation’s Comic-Con coiffure of choice—but her wardrobe suggests the future looks a lot like a Lands’ End catalog.

Though minimal, the footage contained a hint to find more visual detail about the movie. A Twitter hashtag in the teaser, #whatsmydistrict, points users towards a viral website, with a blurred, black image, some discordant electronic beeps and a note in the corner prompting "citizens” to identify themselves via Twitter. After a few hours of people tweeting the site's address, the image appeared to begin forming into the seal of the Capitol District. (Here Lionsgate is taking a page from the viral campaign for “Dark Knight Rises”—as more people Tweeted the phrase “The Fire Rises” in May, a blurry image clarified into a mosaic photo of Tom Hardy as the "Batman" villain Bane.)

"The Hunger Games" also stars Josh Hutcherson as Katniss' arena partner, Peeta Mellark; Woody Harrelson as her booze-addled mentor, Haymitch Abernathy; Elizabeth Banks as her airhead escort to the Capitol, Effie Trinket; and Lenny Kravitz as her faithful stylist, Cinna.

"The Hunger Games" opens March 2012.



'Hunger Games' sequel 'Catching Fire' due nearly two years later

'The Hunger Games': Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth complete the love triangle

'The Hunger Games': is Jennifer Lawrence the new Katniss?


--Rebecca Keegan



Photo: Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games." Credit: Murray Close/Lionsgate

Is James Franco honest or tiring?

July 11, 2011 |  8:40 am

We're closer to the next award season than to the last one. But James Franco still has the Oscars on his mind. He's not happy about some of the things producers put him through earlier this year. And he continues to be willing to share that unhappiness with seemingly any passing media outlet.

In the new issue of Playboy, the actor-cum-host had a few things to say about his recent hosting gig and why he felt he was as much the victim as, well, many of us in the viewing audience.

Pointing the finger at writers for why many of his bits fell flat, Franco said: "There were a lot of cooks who shouldn't have been cooking but were allowed to," adding, "there were some cooks my manager tried to bring in, like Judd Apatow, who wrote some very funny stuff that wasn't used."

Franco said he was up-front with producers Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer about the issues as he saw them but found his comments falling on deaf ears. "In the last week, when we really started focusing on the script for the live show and did a run-through, I said to the producer, 'I don't know why you hired me, because you haven't given me anything. I just don't think this stuff's going to be good.'"

Franco had previously taken a shot at Anne Hathaway, telling David Letterman she was the Tasmanian Devil. The actor didn't call her any names in this interview, but did point to his co-host as the reason he came off as detached. "As far as having low energy or seeming as though I wasn't into it or was too cool for it, I thought, 'OK, Anne is going the enthusiastic route.' I've been trained as an actor to respond to circumstances, to the people I'm working with, and not force anything. So I thought I would be the straight man and she could be the other, and that's how I was trying to do those lines."

He added: "I felt kind of trapped in that material. I felt, "This is not my boat. I'm just a passenger, but I'm going down and there's no way out." The biggest issue, in his mind? The ill-fated drag routine that had him dressing up as Marilyn Monroe. "I was so pissed about that," he said.

All of this comes after Franco's little battle with writer Bruce Vilanch in which Vilanch essentially dissed the host as someone who wouldn't knew comedy if it walked up and bit him.

As is often the case with Franco's post-Oscar comments, it's hard to decide if they are a form of refreshing candor or tedious buck-passing. Actually, by this point, listening to the actor explain why his hosting gig didn't work isn't really either. It just calls attention to a bad performance, something Franco, as an actor, might be best off avoiding.


James Franco versus Bruce Vilanch: Will this continue until next year's Oscars?

Oscar writer Bruce Vilanch speaks out on James Franco

Is James Franco good for the Oscars, or vice versa?

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: James Franco in "Howl." Credit: Oscilloscope Pictures

Los Angeles Film Festival: As buzz builds for 'Drive,' Ryan Gosling and Nicolas Refn contemplate a different genre

June 18, 2011 |  7:30 pm

Ryan Gosling and Danish auteur Nicolas Winding Refn team up for "Drive," a new love story/heist saga/violent thriller/character study that rode out of Cannes on a crescendo of buzz before holding its U.S. premiere at the  Los Angeles Film Festival on Friday night.

The two are also set to reunite on a remake of "Logan's Run." (More on both of those soon.) But the duo -- whose "Drive" co-stars Albert Brooks in a show-stealing, against-type performance as a murderous mob man -- may have another film up their sleeve. And it's not exactly in line with their other collaborations.

"We're doing a comedy, and Albert Brooks promised he'd write the screenplay," Refn told 24 Frames on Friday afternoon, a few hours before his movie premiered in Los Angeles. "Well, that's not exactly true. But print it and we'll make it true."

Gosling chimed in with a slight clarification. "We're definitely going to do a comedy, and we're trying desperately to get [Brooks] to write it."

And what comedic genre could Gosling and Refn -- known respectively for their dramas and dark thrillers -- possibly have in mind? "It's a romantic comedy set in New York, which seems like a great place to start," Refn said. 

Expect a lot more in the coming months on Brooks, who is already set up nicely for an Oscar run, as well as "Drive," which marries Scandinavian-flavored genre filmmaking with American actors at the top of their game, as it prepares to come out Sept. 16. The Friday night premiere for the movie, which is based on James Sallis' novel and also stars Carey Mulligan and Bryan Cranston, was very warmly received by the LAFF crowd (among other things, it makes effective and diverse use of Los Angeles locales), and the film is already starting to garner attention among both the genre and art-house crowds.

If Brooks indeed joins Gosling and Refn on their new comedy, it could spell an offbeat reunion. In "Drive," the normally gregarious Gosling  gives a laconic performance as a Hollywood stuntman-cum-getaway driver. And Brooks' for one, wasn't convinced.

"On set, he'd have this running commentary on why I'm not talking in the film," Gosling told 24 Frames. He goes into a Brooks imitation: " 'It's clearly not working. What are you doing? You've tried it. You've done it, but this is starting to get weird.' And then after a while he just said, 'OK, you keep doing that. I'll do the acting for both of us.' "


With Ryan Gosling's Drive, a different Dane gets his moment

Danish director Nicolas Refn describes date with Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling again takes the plunge in Blue Valentine

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Ryan Gosling in "Drive." Credit: FilmDistrict


Oscar best picture field will play like an accordion. What does it mean for fans?

June 15, 2011 |  2:15 am


The group that hands out the Oscars announced late Tuesday night that it was revamping its best picture system to allow for between five to 10 nominees, a change from the flat 10 contenders of the last two years.

You can read all about the reasons for and implications of the decision by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on our sister Awards Tracker blog. But the upshot of the change for film fans is that we won't automatically get the expanded field that has allowed for some less obvious best picture nominees -- "The Blind Side," cough cough -- to make the list these last two years.

Instead, films beyond the top five will have to get a critical mass of at least 5% of votes to be given one of the added slots. Which means that we'll now not only get arguments about what does or doesn't deserve to be nominated, but which films are strong enough to merit expanding the field in the first place.

In a statement, the academy said that it wanted to add "a new element of surprise to its annual nominations announcement." It's done that -- along with a new element of debate as well.


Awards Tracker: Academy will nominate between five and 10 best picture candidates

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Oscar statues are kept covered before the 2010 telecast. Credit: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times

Decoding the Oscars: Five show moments that make (a little) more sense in context

March 1, 2011 |  7:59 am

OK, so it's been 36 hours, but before we can fully put this year's Oscars and His Hostness James Franco to bed, we thought we'd go back and examine some of the more eye-catching, and head-scratching, moments from the ceremony. Below, five of those moments/subjects, with a little more background and reporting on why they happened the way they did.

Charles Ferguson's angry speech: To many viewers, Ferguson provided the most honest, and perhaps startling, moment of an otherwise predictable night when he accepted his Oscar for "Inside Job" as best documentary with the line, "Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after our horrific financial crisis caused by financial fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that's wrong." It might have seemed out of left field amid all the backslapping and forced patter. But the documentarian actually has been saying these kinds of things about the financial crisis ever since his movie premiered at Cannes last year. In the fall, he told 24 Frames of those who perpetrated the financial crisis that "the degree of their dishonety and their shamelessness is extreme." Ferguson said he had an even more scabrous version of his documentary -- which is bloodboiling enough as it is -- but decided to adjust it in an effort to reach the broadest audience possible. 

The shorts winner with the  Sideshow Bob hair: It seemed as if Luke Matheny, the winner of the shorts prize, was simply winging a speech when he ran up from the back of the Kodak Theatre after "God of Love" was called as the surprise winner for live short. Matheny tells 24 Frames he in fact had written out most of the speech -- not because he expected to win but because academy officials told everyone to prepare no matter what. "I actually had written it all out, but I was so excited it probably seemed more spontaneous than it was," he said. Except, of course, for his haircut joke. "I kind of came up with that a few minutes before." Matheny, who's back in New York to work on a new feature ("Ron Quixote" -- he wouldn't say what it's about) before moving out to Los Angeles next month, had an interesting end to the evening. After the Governors Ball, he and his collaborators headed to Mel's Drive-In, where "some drunk guys tried to hold the Oscar." He also got locked out of the apartment he was staying in and had his rental car towed. It was probably worth it, though.

Those cute kids in the T-shirts: Everybody loves kids, even kids from Staten Island, especially when they seem genuinely happy to be there (unlike, say, some presenters). How did the little bundles of joy from PS 22 end up on the Kodak stage? The fifth-grade choir --which has become a YouTube sensation for their choral covers of pop hits -- was invited by Hathaway herself after Oscars producer Bruce Cohen was made aware of them by actress Elizabeth Banks. But some questions about the heartfelt moment remain unanswerable. Why did they turn up only at the end of the show, and wearing T-shirts instead of dress shirts, as though they had just come from a bake sale? And who on God's green earth decided they should sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" instead of a song that kids in the last 50 years might actually be inclined to sing?

Continue reading »

Oscars: What's next for the winners?

February 28, 2011 |  5:00 pm

Yourhighness They might have stood on the most prestigious stage in Hollywood on Sunday night. But this year’s Academy Award winners won’t necessarily be in Oscar mode when they next pop up on a movie screen.

Because they took jobs before the awards angel landed on their shoulders — or because they simply want to perform in  diverse roles — many of the winners will star in more commercial films than the ones that netted them their statuettes.

In April, Natalie Portman will appear in the (not exactly Oscar-like) stoner comedy “Your Highness" (and opposite Oscar co-host James Franco). Just a month later, she’ll star as a scientist in a Marvel superhero movie, "Thor," the new take on the Norse god. (She'll also appear in a supporting role in the independent drama “Hesher,” which is expected to get a limited release.)

After that? It could be a while before we see the pregnant actress on screen again; Portman said backstage at the Oscars on Sunday that she had no idea how impending motherhood would affect the roles she takes. “One of the exciting things about becoming pregnant is that I’m expecting a complete unknown,” she said.

PHOTO GALLERY: Candid quotes from the red carpet and beyond

Melissa Leo, the “Fighter” costar who provided the, er, most colorful moment of the Oscars during her acceptance speech for supporting actress, will next make more niche appearances on the big screen. She’ll play a gun-toting member of a homophobic cult in Kevin Smith’s “Red State,” which the filmmaker is self-distributing in October, and she’ll star in an independent golf dramedy titled “Seven Days in Utopia,” which does not yet have a theatrical distributor. (She also has a recurring role on HBO’s post-Katrina New Orleans-set series “Treme.”)

After years of romantic comedy roles leading up to his turn as George VI in “The King’s Speech,” lead actor winner Colin Firth is skewing a little bit more commercial than the film that landed him his statuette — but only a little bit.

The English actor will next be seen in the adaptation of John le Carré’s “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” a film he was shooting while promoting “The King’s Speech” this season. He plays a British intelligence officer (code name Tailor) suspected of being a Russian mole. The espionage drama, whose rights have just been acquired by Universal Pictures, does not yet have a release date.

 Firth this summer also aims to shoot Park Chan-Wook’s “Stoker,” a mystery drama that will put him in a film with another 2011 award-season personality, Nicole Kidman.

PHOTO GALLERY: Behind the scenes of the 2011 Academy Awards

And Christian Bale? He's spent the last part of his Oscar campaign in an artistically rigorous place: in China shooting a part as a heroic priest in the Asian period piece “The 13 Women of Nanjing." But blockbusters aren’t too far from the actor’s mind; Bale will reprise his superhero role in “The Dark Knight Rises,” which is scheduled for the summer of 2012.

“When I finish the movie in China,” he told reporters Sunday, “it’s straight to Batman. Much more Batman.”

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Natalie Portman, Danny McBride, center, and James Franco in "Your Highness." Credit: Universal


Oscars: Franco, Hathaway, let's get this party started

February 27, 2011 |  5:28 pm

OK, folks, I've got my Red Bull within reach and my Red Vines in a pile next to the computer, and the show -- that would be the 83rd Academy Awards hosted by James Franco and Anne Hathaway -- is about to commence. Can't wait. Or, to steal a line, "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night." ("All About Eve," Bette Davis, 1950, yes I'm saying "night" not "ride." Are you going to be like that all "night"?)

At least we should hope for bumpy. Like the Super Bowl, you don't want the game to be over before things even start. And, yes, I know the favorites are ... well, frankly, if you can't fill in the blanks at this point, stop reading and go pay attention to your TV set.

Actually, go watch TV, at least for a little. I'll be here for the duration. Check in any time.

--Betsy Sharkey

Photo: Oscar co-host Anne Hathaway arrives at the ceremony with designer Valentino. Credit: Associated Press

Oscars: Live blogging on the Academy Awards starts at 4 p.m. PST

February 27, 2011 |  3:23 pm


We understand you're probably at an Oscar-viewing party tonight. But in case you're stuck watching the Oscars at home or at a party with some really lame guests, please join us as we offer live commentary on this year's Academy Awards ceremony. Los Angeles Times reporters Steven Zeitchik, Deborah Vankin and Patrick Kevin Day will be with you through the night, with Zeitchik on the scene at the Kodak Theatre.

Live blogging begins at 4 p.m. PST right here.

We're happy to be your Oscar buddies. And you're not even in an Oscar pool with us, so there'll be no weird pride issues or tension when your bad foreign language film pick totally costs you money.

-- Patrick Kevin Day

Photo: Oscar stands guard outside the Kodak Theatre on Oscar Sunday. Credit: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

Around Town: Revival houses honor Leslie Nielsen, the Oscar nominees and sex on the big screen

February 24, 2011 |  5:00 am

The American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre is paying homage to Leslie Nielsen, who died in November at the age of 84. A serious dramatic actor for many years, he became much more widely known for his comedic persona after his turn in the 1980 hit "Airplane!" He rarely appeared on a talk show or showed up for an in-person interview without his whoopee cushion.

Screening Friday is the 1956 sci-fi classic "Forbidden Planet," in which Nielsen plays the captain of a spaceship searching for missing members of an expedition. David Zucker, one of the directors of "Airplane!" as well as the successful "Naked Gun" comedies, will be on hand Saturday to reminisce about Nielsen and screen "Airplane!," as well as 1988's "The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!"

A number of special Oscar screenings and seminars are happening around town over the next few days leading up to the 83rd Academy Awards on Sunday. On Friday, the nominees in the live action and animated shorts categories will screen at the Egyptian's intimate Spielberg Theater.

Continue reading »

Tom Hooper could direct Les Miserables musical, could have directed 'Iron Man 3'

February 23, 2011 |  5:15 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Of all the filmmakers to see their stock boosted this Oscar season, none has enjoyed the Google-like jump of Tom Hooper. Like any director with an Oscar nomination and a $100-million hit on his hands,  "The King's Speech" helmer has been wooed by numerous studios in town.

Perhaps the most interesting offer that we've heard about? It comes from Marvel and involves some shiny gizmos. According to a person who has worked closely with Hooper but who asked not to be identified because the director did not authorize this person to speak on his behalf, the Brit was offered the director's chair on "Iron Man 3," the latest installment in the Robert Downey Jr. franchise. He turned it down, and "Lethal Weapon" writer Shane Black wound up landing the job several weeks ago.

While Hooper won't be steering Stark Industries, another person who has worked closely with him said he was weighing an offer to direct "Les Miserables," a new version of the classic novel and Broadway musical set in 19th-century France. The movie, which is being developed by "Atonement" producer Working Title, is conceived as a big-budget musical.

A "Les Mis" movie would mark a return to the big screen for the story of Jean Valjean after a 1998 non-musical version (which, coincidentally, starred "King's Speech" star Geoffrey Rush as the villainous Inspector Javert). If Hooper accepted the gig, it would continue a European trend for the director: His "The Damned United" was also across the pond.

Hooper has not taken a new job since "Speech" wrapped shooting about a year ago.

When we interviewed him earlier this season, Hooper said he wouldn't mind continuing the "Speech" pattern and directing another historical or period story. "I'm certainly on the lookout" for something like that, he told 24 Frames.

A representative at Hooper's agency International Creative Management did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the two projects.

The "Iron Man" offer is reminiscent of last year's bid by Sony for "The Hurt Locker" director Kathryn Bigelow -- another filmmaker who saw her fortunes polished by Oscar season  -- to direct its reboot of "Spider-Man."  She turned it down to make "Triple Frontier," an action-movie passion project.

--Steven Zeitchik and Nicole Sperling


Photo: Tom Hooper at the Berlin Film Festival. Credit: Johannes Eisele / AFP/Getty Images




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