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Category: June 2010

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LAFF 2010: Dispatches from the land of Rob Pattinson and the 'Twilight: Eclipse' premiere

June 24, 2010 | 10:45 pm

Downtown Los Angeles saw some of the same fan pandemonium tonight as it did last Thursday -- only there wasn't a Lakers player in sight. (Well, except for Ron Artest.)

He and hundreds of screaming fans turned out to see the world premiere of "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" and greet the cast of the film, the fans shouting an uncomplicated "Rob! Rob! Rob!" as they waited for Rob Pattinson -- Edward Cullen, of course, in the franchise -- to make his way to the theater.

Indeed, all of the vamps and werewolves (including Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Kellan Lutz, Ashley Greene and almost everyone else from the cast) walked the red carpet as the electric (read: camping-out-for-days) fans stood by at the premiere that's playing as part of -- or is it adjacent to? -- the Los Angeles Film Festival. The fans wore their hearts on their sleeves, as well as on their shirts, caps and posters (sample messages: "I want to play 'Pat the Pattinson,' " "My heart goes nutz for Lutz" and the cut-to-the-chase "Taylor take off your shirt now!"). Meanwhile, a host of celebs walked the red carpet, including Artest, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Love Hewitt and various "Dancing With the Stars" alumni.

It wasn't exactly the kind of fanfare typical of the films screened at the festival (which is sponsored by the Los Angeles Times). The very fact of the premiere, indeed, has raised some questions. Though the screening of the Summit film brings in scores of celebrities and press attention, it also runs the risk of alienating the festival's core clientele of indie-film fans.

The Twi-hards at the premiere, however, weren't paying much mind to that -- they were too busy juggling markers, books and cameras. And as Pattinson made his way down the carpet in a sleek maroon suit, they jumped and screamed with excitement -- something that Pattinson acknowledged makes him a bit anxious.

"It's still such a struggle in the car on the way here," Pattinson confessed to us on the red carpet. "I'm like, 'I can't breathe. I can't breathe.' "

-- Yvonne Villarreal

Photo: Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in the "Twilight" franchise. Credit: Summit Entertainment [For the Record: An earlier version of this caption incorrectly identified Robert Pattinson as Taylor Lautner.]


Twilight fans camp out at Nokia Plaza for a chance to see 'Eclipse' stars

'Eclipse' is a bloodbath for the Cullens

'Twilight' writer Melissa Rosenberg talks Kristen Stewart, Bill Condon and Breaking Dawn

The Cheat Sheet: Eclipse

LAFF 2010: Sylvester Stallone on 'The Expendables,' flirting with fans and his worst role ever

June 24, 2010 |  4:29 pm

Few film festivals do a better job than LAFF in offering up more populist fare to its patrons, and Wednesday night's event with Sylvester Stallone again proved the broad appeal of their programming philosophy.

Stallone In conversation lasting a little over an hour that was engaging, freewheeling and candid, Stallone charmed the sold-out crowd on such topics as his writing habits, working with John Huston, directing Mickey Rourke in the upcoming "The Expendables," how to flirt with a lady, and the making of "Rhinestone," which he declared his worst movie.

A brief career highlight reel for the writer/director/actor opened with the theme song from "Rocky" and the audience went wild with cheers. When moderator Elvis Mitchell entered the theater from a side door, he waved the audience up out of their seats and they duly obliged as Stallone entered to the first of three standing ovations he would receive through the night.

Mitchell began with two slightly oddball questions, perhaps throwing Stallone a bit off-balance and setting the surprisingly off-the-cuff tone for their interview. The first was about the time a pre-"Rocky" Stallone was chastised for improvising on the set of a Neil Simon-scripted film. (He had added a slang-y "man" at the end of a line.) The other was regarding his failed audition for a part in "The Godfather."

"I couldn't even be an extra at the wedding, that's how far down the food chain I was," Stallone said.

Two short clips were shown from the mercenaries action-adventure "The Expendables," which opens in August, but the focus of the night was squarely on the bigger arc of Stallone's stardom, moving from the dual-edge of optimism and pessimism represented by Rocky and Rambo to other characters of his career. While discussing how the first "Rocky" film came to be made, Stallone referenced "The Studio," John Gregory Dunne's seminal book on Hollywood -- "You didn't think I was that smart, did you?" he joked. 

A brief question-and-answer period with the audience simply underscored how meaningful a figure like Stallone -- so easy for some cinephiles to ridicule or dismiss -- is to his faithful fans. That this was not a typical festival crowd of industry tastemakers, intelligentsia and aspiring filmmakers became apparent from the first question: "In your personal life, how do you overcome adversity?" (Short answer: "You've got to stay in the game.") Two separate questions concerned the heartfelt speech from a father to a son in the recent "Rocky Balboa." In one of his responses, Stallone, who turns 64 next month, acknowledged, "I now, at my age, approach every film like this could be the last one."

At the end of the evening, LAFF Director Rebecca Yeldham presented Stallone with a small statuette honoring him as a special guest of the festival. "I don't do this very often," Stallone said, accepting the award. He then addressed the audience directly: "No man is an island. I've realized as long as I'm in touch with people like you then I can always be able to write stories about people like you. So I want to thank you very much, because as much as you got from me, I got from you."

-- Mark Olsen

Photo of Sylvester Stallone by Carlos Alvarez / Getty Images.

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Is Hollywood headed to mars?

June 24, 2010 | 12:40 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Humans fled Earth to colonize a distant planet in "Avatar," and now they could be do it again in "The Martian Chronicles."

Martia Sources say that John Davis, the Fox-based producer behind such science-fiction hits as "Alien vs. Predator" and "I, Robot," has optioned film rights to the Ray Bradbury classic, in which humans land on Mars after a cataclysmic disaster and interact/clash with the natives in a series of interlinked adventures.

Bradbury's 1950 short-story collection has made it to the screen before, in a 1980 television miniseries that starred Rock Hudson and Bernadette Peters. But 30 years later, there's plenty more that technology (and 3-D?) could bring to the tales.

There's certainly ample narrative material in the book, which chronicle much of the action from humans' point of view, with some philosophical inquiry layered atop the pulp stories. One thing that may need to change, however, is the timing: Bradbury's original book set a chunk of the stories in the distant future -- in 2000 and 2005.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "The Martian Chronicles." Credit: Doubleday Dell


Hollywood hopes for a game-changer in 'Avatar'

Searching for Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury brings his dark carnival to Santa Monica

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Kenneth Turan's film picks of the week: 'Oklahoma!' and 'The Leopard'

June 24, 2010 |  8:15 am


Saturday is going to be a great day for lovers of really big movies on really big screens, not to mention vintage movie theaters, as two great films play. Traffic willing, you could see them both.

It starts at 2 p.m. (with a repeat show at 8 p.m.) at the venerable Alex Theatre in Glendale with a 35 mm Cinemascope showing of Rodgers and Hammerstein's swell musical "Oklahoma!" The Broadway version ran a then-record 2,212 performances over five years, and the film features Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae marveling at corn that's as high as an elephant's eye.

Then it just takes a leisurely drive across town to make a 6 p.m. screening at the Orpheum on Broadway in downtown Los Angeles of the stunning digital restoration of the Burt Lancaster-starring "The Leopard."  This is the complete three-hour-and-five-minute version of the magisterial Luchino Visconti epic, also starring Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon, that justifiably wowed audiences at Cannes.

Either way, you can't go wrong.

-- Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times film critic

Photo: Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale in "The Leopard," which is screening as part of the Los Angeles Film Festival. Credit: Los Angeles Times file photo

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With De Niro's Lombardi movie, winning isn't everything, but whose thing will it be?

June 23, 2010 |  8:03 pm

The specter of Robert De Niro playing Vince Lombardi -- which he will, in a movie about the coach's pro football coaching career that's being developed by ESPN FIlms -- is already a juicy enough prospect for both "Casino" fans and football fans.

But the question of who will direct the actor -- who'll be the Lombardi, perhaps, to his Bart Starr -- is one of the more interesting ones in moviedom. That's in part because directing a legend in a film about a legend is always appealing, and also because, really, who doesn't like a good football movie? It's  un-American.

The names of several potential signal-callers have surfaced in Hollywood over the past few weeks, but one has particularly caught our eye: Jay Roach. Yes, Jay Roach, the director known mainly for comedy, he who directed "Meet the Parents" and "Meet the Fockers" (also starring De Niro, of course) and the upcoming "Dinner for Schmucks." Roach is said to be interested in taking the director's chair and has met with principals on the film about it.

Would Roach make a smart choice?  Despite the genre switch, it's not entirely crazy: Roach and DeNiro collaborated closely on the first two "Fockers" movies, in which Roach got a lot out of the actor as the perfectionist taskmaster, something that could also be applied to Lombardi as he turns around the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s (the core thrust of the film). And Roach did take on more serious material with HBO's "Recount," stepping in for Sydney Pollack when he fell ill.

Still, Roach is known for his broad but heartfelt comedy, and there aren't a lot of adjectives in that sentence that apply to the exacting coach. But then, to direct a film about Lombardi, who already looms so large in the public consciousness, is to make a movie with a very high bar, and to invite the potential for dry reverence. A little humor may be exactly what the movie needs.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Vince Lombardi receiving a letter of congratulations from President Kennedy in 1962.


Lombardi, and the NFL, will be heading to Broadway this fall

Bruce Springsteen, Robert De Niro among Kennedy Center honorees

The U is the latest film from ESPN

Universal moves Fockers to Christmas

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Betsy Sharkey's film pick of the week: 'I Am Love'

June 23, 2010 |  5:15 pm


It is always such a treat to see the excellent Tilda Swinton, one of our finest contemporary actresses, with countless awards and an Oscar for her intensely drawn attorney in "Michael Clayton." Rare, though, that a movie is tailor-made to showcase her many talents, but that's exactly what director Luca Guadagnino has done with the sumptuous "I Am Love."

Set in Italy at the beginning of the 21st century, the film serves up a feast of emotions, issues and choices for Swinton -- and she digs into all of them. As Emma, an upper-class wife and mother of a wealthy Milan textile merchant with three grown children, she's trying to figure out the rest of her life. To complicate things a bit more, she's a Russian emigre, which leaves Swinton speaking Italian with a slight Russian accent, no mean feat.

There to help her is a passionate and inventive young chef, Antonio, portrayed by Edoardo Gabbriellini,  who proves he is more than up to the task of playing off the great force field of Swinton. He teases her taste buds with his exotic dishes, tempts her heart with his searing soul and makes the case that love should never be denied.

Suffering from an empty nest and very much at loose ends with her life, Emma's journey of self-rediscovery is filled with joy, passion, empathy and pain. It's a performance to savor in a film to remember. And it's expanding beyond just a handful of art houses to the multiplex this weekend to make the pleasure of consuming it all that much easier.

-- Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times film critic

Photo: Edoardo Gabbriellini and Tilda Swinton in a scene from "I Am Love." Credit: AP / Magnolia Pictures

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.

Oscars producer: This year's show won't move to January (but could well feature Betty White)

June 23, 2010 |  4:24 pm

It may still be early for newly anointed Oscars director-producer Don Mischer to know exactly what kind of show he and fellow producer Bruce Cohen will stage.

But one thing Mischer knows for certain -- contrary to reports, the Oscars definitely will not move from Feb. 27 to January this year. And Betty White likely will be involved in the telecast (but perhaps not as host).

Earlier today, we caught up with Mischer, who as a producer of a live television event has a job akin to rustling a giant herd of unpredictable cattle (while 20 or 30 million people watch your every lasso).

You've produced so many big events that in some ways this must just feel like another assignment. Does it feel different to you?

When you work overseas, as I have sometimes, you understand how the Oscars are a world event, and that increases the expectations. The Oscars is one of the few shows that are appointment television. It’s also a marriage of film and television, so the expectations are higher because of that. And there’s a lot to consider. First and foremost we have to honor the standards of the academy. We also have to do something that expands the interest of viewers, but without jeopardizing the first thing. There’s a tradition you need to uphold. A show like the Oscars cannot be entirely ratings-driven.

There’s always talk about how the formula can be changed. What kind of changes are you looking at?

It’s still a little early for that. I’m taking a stack of shows home this weekend. I’m going to do a content analysis of what’s worked and what hasn’t the past 10 years, how you can expand and make it all more appealing. There are a lot of things you hear from the people in the business. You hear things like "ratings fall off when songs are sung." We hear the same about dance numbers. But we want to see if that’s true. And we have the benefit of going back and studying minute-by-minute ratings, which we’re going to do.

Oscar producers are usually treated as the primary factor in a show's popularity. But so many things are out of your control. How much do you feel you can do to influence ratings?

The two things that make a show successful is how familiar your nominees are, and what people say if they're fortunate enough to win. And neither of those things you can control. But there are things we can control. We can broaden the motion pictures and include the work of films that haven't been nominated. And when you do a show like this you have historical elements, and so you have the opportunity to do great things with the films from the past.

There have been some reports that the board of governors is considering a move to January for this year. Is that something you’ve been apprised of?

When I read that in Nikki Finke’s column I was completely surprised. I do know that it would not be happening for the show we’re doing. If you want to make that kind of change you have to plan for that a year and a half in advance. I understand why the academy might want to consider it. But it’s not going to change anything this year.

Some people would look at this job and say it’s just too much pressure, and the only time anyone notices you is when something goes wrong. What’s the appeal for you?

There’s no question we feel the pressure, Some people say we’re addicted, or we’re stress junkies. Maybe we are. There’s nothing like that feeling that the clock is ticking down and you’re sitting in the truck, and then suddenly it’s time, and everybody gets quiet. That’s when I get calm. I’m much more uptight two weeks ahead of time when I feel we’re not on top of everything, when a major presenter can drop out or a piece of film isn’t ready.

Do you ever have nightmares about all the things that could go wrong at an event you’re producing?

Right before the Prince halftime show (at the 2009 Super Bowl) we were dreading rain, and I was terribly afraid. I had dreams the night before that it would rain, and his two dancers, called the Twinz, in their 8-inch-high heels would fall over. Would we cut to a wide shot? Bring out a stretcher? You worry about all that. You worry about everything. You worry about earthquakes.

Probably the most scrutiny Oscar producers get is over host. How much thought have you given to that aspect?

It's the No. 1 priority. We're going to start discussions on Monday. All options are open. And I'm sure we’ll get a big push for Betty White. I can feel it coming.

Would you take her?

"I think she'd be great in some capacity. [Laughs.] I don't know if she'd want to host the whole show."

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Betty White at the MTV Movie Awards, with Bradley Cooper looking on. Credit: Christopher Polk / Getty Images


With Cohen and Mischer, a new kind of Oscars producing team

Oscars show has no sense of timing

Event television scores again with Oscar ratings

LAFF 2010: Laurel Nakadate's risky 'The Wolf Knife'

June 23, 2010 |  3:12 pm

The_wolf_knife_director_headshotOne of the buzziest films at this year's Los Angeles Film Festival is a coming-of-age drama  called "The Wolf Knife." Laurel Nakadate's film had its world premiere as part of the narrative competition Sunday and screens again Wednesday night.

The storyline, such as it is, concerns two teenage female friends in Florida. One persuades the other to take a road trip together to Nashville under dodgy pretenses. What the film proves to be more concerned with than straight-ahead narrative, however, is the woozy uncertainty of the moments when adolescence gives way to adulthood.

Nakadate's previous feature, "Stay The Same, Never Change," premiered at the 2009 Sundance film festival. She is best known, however, as a maker of photographs and video works. Her art pieces are provocative, using an odd combination of passivity and confrontation to unnerve and disorient viewers. (In a notorious turn, she created a series of videos in which she goes back to the apartments of older men she has just met and undresses.)

That same sense of danger and predatory creepiness infuses "The Wolf Knife."

"I think I'm still speaking about similar things," Nakadate, 34, said during an interview Friday in Los Angeles. "I'm always speaking about desire, lies, disconnection and the hope that things will go right even when no one can connect. I like to believe the photographs I make, the videos I make and the films I make are all trying to tell some sort of truth in that way."

She added, "In my video work sometimes I'm in the middle of nowhere in my swimsuit teetering on the edge of the Grand Canyon, and I spent 10 years of my life on the floor of the Unabomber's single-occupancy hotel room in Nebraska. I risk myself in that way so much, to just write, shoot, edit, direct and produce is somehow easy."

For "The Wolf Knife," Nakadate had a crew that consisted solely of two student interns. She said that she thought it essential that the two lead actresses and her crew be able to all fit into the borrowed car that they drove from Florida to Nashville.

Nakadate, with her photographer's eye, creates some of the shots in "The Wolf Knife" as a kind of highly composed tableau, while others seem purposefully artless and almost arbitrary, as if someone had accidentally bumped the camera just before the scene began. For Nakadate, the distinction is deliberate.

"I like to push the audience off-balance at times," she said. "There's nothing worse than when an entire film is so composed it becomes like an interior decorating ad."

Nakadate has already written another script, one that this time she hopes to make in a more conventional manner, with a bigger budget and proper crew. And it's even about adults. "I feel all set with adolescent drama," she said.

-- Mark Olsen

Photo: Laurel Nakadate. Credit: The Los Angeles Film Festival


LAFF 2010: 'Cold Weather' brews a welcome storm

LAFF 2010: Ben Affleck hits 'The Town'

With Cohen and Mischer, a new kind of Oscars producing team -- Updated

June 22, 2010 |  7:10 pm


The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences is marrying two distinct strands of producer for this year's Oscar telecast: veteran film producer Bruce Cohen and live-event television guru Don Mischer.

The academy said today that the pair has been hired to produce the 83rd Oscars, which ABC will air on Feb. 27. The hiring marks the first time in recent memory that a TV producer will shape one of the country’s most-watched telecasts.

Mischer has produced numerous half-time events as well as a broadcast of the Barack Obama inauguration, and is regarded as one of the preeminent producers of live-event television.

In bringing on Cohen, meanwhile, the Academy continues its tradition of retaining a savvy veteran of both the film world and the Oscars – a move regarded as essential in placating the powerful and at times demanding constituencies that attend the awards show.

Cohen himself has also stood on the Oscar podium as a best picture winner (for “American Beauty,” in 2000), an experience he says he hopes to draw from as a producer. "The electricity that courses through your body when you sit in the room as a nominee, not to mention when you win, is one of the key things we want to convey to the audience at home," Cohen said in an interview.

In making the choice, the academy continues a relationship it had been developing with the pair, which it hired last year to produce the (far lower-profile) Governor Awards, which are held in November.

Producers for the Oscar generally dictate the tone of the telecast, although the pressure has been lifted somewhat since ratings bounced back at the 2009 show under producers Bill Condon and Laurence Mark.

[UPDATED -- 7:32 PM Still, many will look to Cohen and Mischer for clues as to how this year’s telecast will unfold. On Tuesday, Cohen said he expects to continue some of the recent traditions – such as using previous acting winners to present the new winners – and also doesn’t want to shy away from 82 years of Oscar history. “We want to work with that mythology and the treasure trove of the show,” he said.

But he also added that he and Mischer -- the latter of whom will also direct the telecast -- will  strive to satisfy many different types of film fans, which has been something of a battle cry among more populist critics of the Oscars. “The idea is to create a show that will appeal to movie lovers of all kinds – something for the drama people, something for the musical people, something for the tentpole people,” he said.

Fueled by the presence of hit movies like “Avatar” and “The Blind Side,” last year’s Oscars telecast was seen by an estimated 41.3 million people, the highest number in five years. Cohen said that he expects there to again be 10 best picture nominees this year, which he said will help notch high ratings. ““The more there is to celebrate, the more you can broaden the audience.”]

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Steve Martin, Kathryn Bigelow and Alec Baldwin at the 2009 Oscars. Credit: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times


Oscars show has no sense of timing

Event television scores again with Oscars 2010

The Best & Worst of Oscars 2010

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LAFF 2010: Ben Affleck hits 'The Town'

June 22, 2010 |  6:13 pm


The Los Angeles Film Festival is a good place to find the hidden indie gem, but it can also bring out some boldfaced names. On Monday, one of those names, Ben Affleck, took to the stage to talk about his career and his upcoming effort as director, actor and co-writer, the crime drama "The Town."

In an intimate room at the Grammy Museum, Entertainment Weekly's L.A. bureau chief Sean Smith volleyed with Affleck, who seemed comfortable and confident throughout the talk, getting out in front of anything from his career that might now be seen as a sore spot. He acknowledged Matt Damon's recent mega-success when he noted that early in his career, "I had a friend I went to school with" followed by a perfectly timed clearing of the throat. (He would also later say, "I don't worry about Matt's career any more than I worry about Nicholson's career.")

While discussing the making of "School Ties," his first film role, Affleck noted that many of the members of the cast auditioned for director Martin Brest's "Scent of a Woman" and that "Marty, of course, I would later work with," as a way of talking past the crushing bomb that was "Gigli."

The presentation also included a first look at the trailer for "The Town," which costars Jeremy Renner,  Rebecca Hall, Chris Cooper and Blake Lively, as well as three clips from the film. (The trailer will be released to theaters in July for the September film; also shown was an impressive car-chase scene that saw characters through tight alleyways and heavy traffic.)

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