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Category: Awards

Did Billy Crystal get a fair shake at the 2012 Oscars?

June 13, 2012 |  3:59 pm



The reviews weren’t exactly kind to Billy Crystal after he hosted the Oscars  for the ninth time this past February.

 The Hollywood Reporter called the telecast a “safe, unfunny, retro-disaster.” A Variety critic wrote that “the whole introductory sequence [including a Crystal-sung medley about nominated movies] felt like a pallid sequel, a ghost of Oscars past.” The Times’ Mary McNamara noted that the Oscars “wound up seeming much more bittersweet and, yes, boring, than retro-cool.”

But a key writer on the show said Crystal didn’t get a fair shake.

“It was frustrating because for the 10 years that Billy was away, every review for every host came with ‘Bring back Billy. Where’s Billy? Where’s the opening song and movie?’” said Dave Boone, a writer on the 2012 (and many previous) Oscars and head writer for the Tony Awards on Sunday. “It’s a tough situation, and it’s tougher on the host.”

Boone added, “You’re always going to find people who the next day say, ‘Same old, same old.’ But those are the same people who were writing for 10 years to bring him back.”

The medley was a particular bone of contention for some critics. Crystal turned it into a trademark when he hosted in the 1990s and early 2000s, but some reviewers felt it harked back to a comedy that has gone out of fashion.

But Boone said the decision to include it -- after much internal debate -- was a direct response to fan interest.

“Billy would be in Gelson’s and people would come up to him and say, ‘I hope you do the medley,'” Boone said. “So we felt we owed it to the people who wanted to see it.”

 The motion picture academy likely won’t choose the 2013 producer and host until later this summer, after a new president is elected. It’s unclear what direction it will  go in — ratings were up in 2012, if slightly, over the previous year.

Boone said he hoped to be collaborating with Crystal on the telecast next year but also believes there's a creative reason to take time off. “You get to the point where you try to capture lightning in a bottle if you try to do things the same each year," he said.


Oscars 2012: The show celebrates its past

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Billy Crystal with Oscar statues. Credit: Getty Images

Why can't Oscars be more like Tonys (and Neil Patrick Harris)?

June 11, 2012 | 12:05 pm

Like many people who work in or cover the movie business, I've been part of countless conversations over the years -- in the months leading up to the telecast and in the halls where they take place -- about what's wrong with the Oscars. Or, in more charitable but not-fooling-anyone terms, how they can be "improved."

If you follow award season, you know the refrain. In its (understandably difficult) attempt to strike a balance between the industry types in the room and the  movie fans in their living rooms, the Oscars often fall prey to bloatedness, self-seriousness, out of touch-ness, and lack of YouTube-ableness. Those pesky sagging ratings that pundits often focus on? They're merely a symptom.

But until entering the Beacon Theatre in New York for the Neil Patrick Harris-hosted Tony Awards, which I did as a reporter Sunday night, I didn't realize just how myriad the Oscars problems were. Nor had I ever seen firsthand the mechanics of a well-done award show or how enjoyable that show  could be -- yes, even one that had to balance the needs of the room with the desires of the TV viewer.

TIMELINE: Academy Awards through the years

The host is, of course, a big part of that. But more on that in a minute.

There are, first, some very simple fixes the Oscars could look to. The Academy Awards often get criticized for including too many technical kudos that most home viewers don't care about. Producers and the Motion Picture Academy say they need to make sure everyone feels included -- it is, after all, a night to honor the entire industry -- which leaves it larding up the show with less prominent prizes.

But the Tonys have come up with an elegant solution. They indeed give out many below-the-line awards during the three hours of the telecast -- they just don't televise them. Presenters present and winners accept during the commercial breaks. It's a win-win. Nominees still get the satisfaction and thrill of hearing thousands of their peers applauding them on the industry's biggest night, and often sandwiched between the biggest prizes. But the casual viewer at home doesn't see any of it.

Instead, he or she is treated to a leaner show filled with things he or she cares about. This approach also gives the ceremony more energy, since people in the theater are less likely to get up and wander to the bar or bathroom during the commercial breaks.

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Coming soon: Stage versions of Oscar favorites?

June 5, 2012 |  4:06 pm



Upbeat Hollywood blockbusters like "The Lion King" and "Ghost" have been making their way to the musical stage for a while now. But the Broadway success this season of "Once" -- a microscopically small Sundance and award-season movie released in 2007 about a pair of drifter musicians -- has some people thinking of film-to-stage adaptations that are less intuitive.

The theater actress Kelli O'Hara, nominated for a Tony Award for her lead performance in the new Prohibition-era musical "Nice Work If You Can Get It," is preparing to star in two unlikely film-to-stage tuners. She's tackling lead parts in a a musical adaptation of Todd Haynes' 2002 period drama "Far From Heaven," which scored four Academy Award nominations, as well as a new singing version of Clint Eastwood’s 1995 romantic weepie "The Bridges of Madison County," which was nominated for one.

At a pre-Tonys interview at the Empire State Building on Tuesday, O'Hara, who at 36 has already landed her fourth Tony nomination, said she saw films in general as a potent new vein of material.

"'Once’ made you realize how it could be done," she said. "It was a small film and people like my husband [musician Greg Naughton] didn't think they’d like it. But it took an idea and just exploded it." She added: "I think the same can be done with other movies.”

The movie version of "Once" scored an Oscar win for original song -- which musicians and stars Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova performed at the ceremony -- as well as an audience prize at Sundance. The theater version of "Once," starring Steve Kazee and Crisitn Milioti, has led all Tony-nominated productions this season with eleven noms. (It will seek to pick up some hardware at the theater world's biggest night on Sunday.)

In her new roles, O'Hara will be tackling parts played by two giants of the screen. She'll inhabit the role of Julianne Moore's housewife-in-crisis from "Far From Heaven," a part that garnered Moore a best actress Oscar nomination. The show will be workshopped this summer at the Williamstown Theatre Festival before moving to off-Broadway next year. Asked how writers (Tony nominees Richard Greenberg, Scott Frankel and Michael Korie) will create book, music and lyrics for the dark and uncomfortable tale, O’Hara just smiled and said, “You’ll see."

O’Hara has also been cast as another lovelorn wife, signing on for the lead part in a development workshop of "Madison County." She'll take the part of Meryl Streep for a show that will inject tunefulness into a blindingly serious story about an Iowa housewife's torrid affair with a wandering stranger, reuniting with her "South Pacific" director Bartlett Sher.

O'Hara said she knew that with "Madison County" she was assuming a part people associated with a screen icon. But, she added with a smirk, "Meryl Streep didn't have to sing."


Movie 'Once' makes transition to Broadway

Tony Nominations 2012: No sure thing

Oscars 2012: Is this Meryl Streep's best year ever?

-- Steven Zeitchik


 Photo: Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood in "The Bridges of Madison County." Credit: Warner Bros.

MTV Movie Awards 2012: 'The Dark Knight Rises' makes its case

June 3, 2012 |  9:39 pm

The summer movie that needed the MTV Movie Awards the least got the biggest boost when the annual telecast aired live from the Gibson Amphitheatre on Sunday night.

The principals from "The Dark Knight Rises," a near-certain blockbuster when it hits U.S. theaters on July 20, made the franchise's first appearance at the cable network's annual movie-marketing bazaar.

Though the shrill show was something of an odd fit for the serious superhero film -- director Christopher Nolan intoned that "every great story demands a great ending" while star Christian Bale teared up over the death of Heath Ledger -- the presentation of new footage from the Batman picture scored hugely positive reactions in the room and on social media.

PHOTOS: MTV Movie Awards 2012 red carpet arrivals

The awards handed out by the cable network are generally seen as little more than a coronation of what's popular; indeed, "The Hunger Games" and "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2" were among the big winners Sunday. But the reaction to the many pitches, both at the show and during commercial breaks, can be a useful barometer for the coming months at the multiplex, while the pitches themselves are an important tool for movies seeking an edge in a crowded summer marketplace.

Besides "Dark Knight," the movie perhaps getting the biggest boost was "Magic Mike," the Channing Tatum-Matthew McConaughey exotic-dancer story that will be released June 29. The two stars garnered a huge reaction from the room when they turned out to present the award for "Best Transformation," with the decibel level only rising when costar Joe Manganiello came out and did a striptease in which he simulated a sex act with an ax.

Not every movie was so blessed.

A bit featuring Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg and Leighton Meester for their June 15 R-rated arrested-development comedy "That's My Boy" fell flat, raising questions about a movie that is already perceived as freighted with commercial challenges.

And though buzz is running high for "Ted," Seth MacFarlane's June 29 stuffed-animal comedy, stars Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis didn't  do the movie any favors with an awkward segment near the top of the show.

Mentions or appearances from stars of "Prometheus," "Rock of Ages" and "The Amazing Spider-Man" -- which hits U.S. theaters Friday, June 15 and July 3, respectively -- seemed to do little harm to the films but failed to significantly elevate or transform their profiles, either.

MTV heavily touted a new trailer for "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," the high-school dramedy starring Logan Lerman and Emma Watson. Though  Watson was ubiquitous at the show, the movie did not seem to emerge with a lot more awareness than it had coming in.

The awards were also marked by who wasn't there: some of the biggest stars and winners, including "The Hunger Games" pinup Jennifer Lawrence, "Harry Potter" heartthrob Daniel Radcliffe and "Twilight" megastar Rob Pattinson, prompting  Kristen Stewart to (attempt to) make out with herself while accepting a "Best Kiss" prize.

Sometimes. though, less can be more at the MTV Movie Awards.

 Katy Perry wasn't visible at the show, perhaps not surprising as her ex, Russell Brand, emceed from the stage. But a stream of commercials for the singer's July 5 documentary, "Katy Perry: Part of Me," combined with an awkward-landing Brand joke about his seeking a new wife, seemed only to boost the stock of the pop star and her upcoming movie.


Will Nolan's 'The Dark Knight Rises' occupy Wall Street?

Stale-looking 'That's My Boy' is a raunch risk for Adam Sandler

'Snow White's' Kristen Stewart still wants 'East of Eden' pic

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Christian Bale, left, and Christopher Nolan of "The Dark Knight Rises" at the MTV Movie Awards podium. Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Cannes 2012: Festival offers only small hints of Oscar season

May 28, 2012 |  5:00 am

Michael Haneke's "Amour" is one of the films that emerged from the Cannes Film Festival with Oscar heat

This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.

CANNES, France -- As the world's most prestigious film festival drew to a close Sunday, the 2012 awards picture remains nearly as much of a mystery as it was when Cannes began.

In contrast to 2011, when films such as "The Artist" and "The Tree of Life" established themselves as best-picture contenders on the Croisette, this year's edition of the festival offered only small hints of the season to come.

Gaining the biggest foothold -- and offering the most intriguing questions -- was "Amour," Michael Haneke's examination of an elderly man who must care for his wife after she becomes the victim of a stroke.

PHOTOS: Cannes 2012

Sony Pictures Classics plans to release the movie this year and would be justified in holding hopes for major Oscar consideration. The French-language film garnered critical raves and standing ovations here, and on Sunday capped off its magic run by winning the Palme d'Or, Cannes' top prize. The movie tells a universally human story and centers on older people, which some pundits believe is an advantage with Oscar voters.

But a place in the best-picture hunt is far from a sure thing. Foreign-language titles are a tough sell to the entirety of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which votes on the top prize. Indeed, Haneke's last film, the German-language period drama "The White Ribbon," won the Palme d’Or as well but was only nominated in the Oscar foreign-language category and didn’t win.

"Amour" could well score acting nominations for its two leads, the octogenarians Jean-Louis Tringitgnant and Emanuelle Riva. Holding almost iconic status in France, the elderly actors return to the screen for the first time in years, giving raved-about performances and offering a compelling back story that rivals anything in "The Artist" (and just as many spelling challenges).

A number of other actors established themselves as contenders at Cannes. The events of the last 12 days made it clear we should probably keep an eye out for Garrett Hedlund, who plays Dean Moriarty in "On the Road," as he takes a significant leap from his "Tron" days. "No" star Gael Garcia Bernal could also be in the conversation as an advertising executive called on to run a political campaign against Augusto Pinochet in 1980s Chile (the Spanish-language film also has a strong shot at a foreign-language Oscar nomination).

The X factor on the actor side is Matthew McConaughey, who dazzled as an enigmatic homeless man in Jeff Nichols' well-received "Mud." But the film will need to score a U.S. distribution deal first.

The festival was useful at helping awards watchers cross a few movies off their list -- at least in pencil. Although it's very early and things could yet turn around, the kind of talk garnered by "Lawless," the John Hillcoat bootlegging drama starring Shia LaBeouf that the Weinstein Co. will open at the end of August, doesn't at this point suggest a major Oscar run, though if any executive could reverse that, it's Harvey Weinstein.

And anyone banking on a Lee Daniels return to the Oscar podium will probably want to shelve those thoughts. The director’s follow-up to "Precious" drew a large number of negative reviews and reactions, as did fellow English-language pic "Cosmopolis." Neither film comes out of the festival with much momentum.

Meanwhile, Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" could seek to take a page from the playbook of "Midnight in Paris," which was nominated for a best-picture Oscar and a bevy of other awards. Like that film, "Moonrise" opened Cannes and represents a director's feel-good switch. But to get that kind of attention, it would probably have to start approaching "Midnight"-level box office.

Finally, there's Brad Pitt's "Killing Them Softly." The Andrew Dominik-directed hit-man picture garnered respectable reviews and comes after two Oscar nominations for the actor's and director's previous collaboration, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." Will the genre picture have a shot? It could at least be a factor on the performance side, with Scoop McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn joining Pitt in drawing acclaim.

For the Record, 3:21 a.m. May 29: An earlier version of this post suggested that "Cosmopolis" did not have U.S. distribution. It has landed a deal from eOne.


Cannes 2012: "Amour" captures festival's top prize

Cannes 2012: "Amour" director Haneke says he hasn't mellowed

Cannes 2012: A festival filled with wild (and divisive) experiments

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: A scene from "Amour." Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Awards season comes early: Directors Guild OKs movie screeners

May 7, 2012 |  1:08 pm

Michel Hazanavicius

Hollywood's award season might not kick off for another few months, but when it does, campaigners will have some new names to add to their movie screener mailing list: The Directors Guild of America has reversed a long-standing policy that prohibited its members from watching on screeners films in contention for the organization's annual awards.

The DGA will follow the actions of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, the Screen Actors Guild and other industry organizations, which allow their voting members to watch eligible films on DVD or online screeners.

"There's nothing better than watching a movie on the big screen, exactly as the director intended," DGA President Taylor Hackford said in a statement. "But it's not always possible for our members to get to the theater to see every film in awards contention. For that reason, the national board has decided to allow members to receive 'for your consideration' screeners."

The DGA was the last holdout in allowing members to view screeners (though, in truth, a certain percentage of its members, those who belong to other guilds or the film academy, likely had already been receiving the DVDs in the mail). The group crafted the policy to counter any potential bias in favor of larger studio films with more marketing means, fearing those movies would have an advantage over smaller, independently made films unable to spend the funds necessary to distribute DVDs.

The guild said it changed course to appease its membership, both those living outside metropolitan areas and others unable to attend theatrical screenings.

The DGA's national board made the decision at its meeting Saturday.

The guild said it would continue to operate its theatrical screening program in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, London and Washington, D.C.


Fox to put awards screeners on iTunes for SAG members

Weighing the success of SAG's iTunes screener experiment

--Nicole Sperling

 Photo: "The Artist's" Michel Hazanavicius won the DGA's top prize at the body's 2012 awards ceremony. Credit: Chris Pizello /Associated Press.

MTV Movie Awards wants to tap next Christopher Nolan

April 27, 2012 |  7:00 am

NEW YORK -- Over its 20-year history, the MTV Movie Awards haven't exactly been the Oscars, or even the People's Choice Awards.

But the telecast known for handing out prizes for such Brando-esque acting feats as “Best Kiss” while playing clips from countless summer movies wants to get more serious.

Well, slightly.

"We want the show to be a little more of  a celebration of why we love movies," MTV President Stephen Friedman said in an interview at his offices this week, noting that he felt the program, for all its fan enthusiasm, was sometimes too irreverent toward the filmmaking process, undercutting the point of a movie-awards show in the first place. "We want people to feel the same sense of awe watching our show like they did the first time they saw 'Harry Potter' or ‘Hunger Games' on the big screen."

(Oddly, the tack follows a similar shift at the Oscars, which under the hand of producer Brian Grazer and host Billy Crystal this year went in a more magic-of-Hollywood direction, to mixed reviews.)

For its 20012 edition, the MTV Movie Awards have brought on Jesse Ignjatovic, the reality/live-event producer who has been shepherding the network's Video Music Awards. We’ll see his handiwork fairly soon — this year's show airs live on June 3 from the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City.

The awards have long endured the criticism that they are little more than a commercial for studios’ summer movies, whose clips come fast and furious. Friedman  said that he could imagine that this year's show will feature fewer plugs for upcoming films by making sure that those that were featured were “really special” pieces of material that viewers couldn’t see anywhere else.

And though the Movie Awards added a few new categories this year, including “best on-screen dirtbag” (now there’s something Brando-esque), they also will hand out a breakthrough performance prize. Unlike the show's many viewer-voted categories, however, this one will be chosen by a panel of filmmakers, ensuring that (for now, at least) Kristen Stewart will not win her 1,325th MTV Movie Award.

Friedman said that the larger mission is to restore a sense of relevance and tastemaking to the program.

“If you look back, this show was among the first places to tell you about Christopher Nolan when he had ‘Memento,’ just as MTV is the first place to tell viewers about a new band that they need to know,” Friedman said. “We really want to go back to doing that.”


Photo Gallery: Best and Worst at the MTV Movie Awards

Awards Tracker: MTV Movie Awards: Some jaw-dropping awards results

Do any summer releases actually get a boost from the MTV Movie Awards?

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Lindsay Lohan, Verne Troyer and Sean Combs at the 2008 MTV Movie Awards. Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Adam Sandler comedy 'Jack and Jill' sweeps the Razzies

April 1, 2012 |  7:30 pm

Adam Sandler's 'Jack and Jill' sweeps Razzies

Adam Sandler's critically lambasted cross-dressing comedy "Jack and Jill" made history of sorts Sunday at Magicopolis in Santa Monica: It became the first film ever to sweep every category at the 32nd annual Razzie Awards, which honor the year's worst cinematic achievements.

"Jack and Jill" won for worst film of 2011 and worst actor and actress — with both awards going to Sandler. It took the prize in all seven other categories too, including for Al Pacino as worst supporting actor, David Spade as worst supporting actress and Dennis Dugan as worst director.

The directing award for Dugan and the acting award for Sandler also recognized their work on another 2011 comedy, "Just Go With It."

Going into the tongue-in-cheek awards, Sandler had scored a record 11 nominations for himself as an actor, actress, writer and producer.

"Jack and Jill" stars Sandler as both a successful commercial director and his own whiny twin sister. Zaniness ensues when Jill arrives for a Thanksgiving visit with the family that turns into an extended stay. In "Just Go With It," Sandler plays a plastic surgeon who poses as an unhappily married man to woo single women. 

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Genesis Awards go to the 'Apes'

March 24, 2012 | 10:00 pm

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" was named best feature film of 2011 at the 26th Genesis Awards "for examining the ethics of using chimpanzees in medical research."

The best feature documentary award also had a simian angle, as "Born to be Wild 3D" was honored "for its celebration of the people rehabilitating baby elephants and orangutans orphaned by poaching and habitat encroachment."

The Genesis Awards were presented Saturday night in Beverly Hills by the Humane Society of the United States in recognition of media presentations that raise awareness of animal issues.

For the second year in a row, Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" won the comedy award for what the Humane Society described as "a satirical twist on the whaling issue and a Utah legislator's proposal to kill feral dogs and cats."

Among the 19 other winners were CBS' "Hawaii Five-0," PBS' "Sid the Science Kid," Nickelodeon's "Nick News With Linda Ellerbee," ABC's "20/20," NBC's "Today" and the syndicated "The Ellen Degeneres Show."

The real winners "are the animals themselves," said Beverly Kaskey, senior director of the Humane Society's Hollywood Outreach program, "who rely on these invaluable voices to speak for them."


Review of "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"

'Luck' raises stakes on animals' use in filming

 --Lee Margulies

Photo: "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." Credit: WETA Digital / Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.

Oscars 2013: Academy moves up nominations, not Oscars

March 14, 2012 | 10:54 am

Academy Awards
The Oscar nominations are moving up a tad in the calendar in 2013. The Academy Award ceremony itself, not so much.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which has been trying to shorten the awards season so that audiences aren’t burned out by the time the Academy Awards roll around, announced Wednesday that next year’s Oscar timetable had been shifted slightly.

Instead of announcing nominations toward the end of January, as has been the case in recent years, selections for the 85th Oscars will take place Jan. 15. But the awards ceremony will still come on the last weekend of February, with 2013’s event now set for Feb. 24. This year’s awards, in which “The Artist” was named best picture, were handed out Feb. 26.

The nominations will fall before the Screen Actors Guild awards, the Directors Guild Awards and the Producers Guild Awards as usual. But they will not coincide with the Sundance Film Festival, as they have in recent years.

The academy has been trying to implement on-line balloting to expedite its nominations and voting for winners, but has been worried about the security of electronic tallies.


Oscars 2012: Full coverage

TIMELINE: Eight decades of Oscars history

'The Artist' is big winner at Academy Awards

 -- John Horn

Photo: Jean Dujardin and Uggie at the 84th Academy Awards. Credit: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times.


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