24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Helen Mirren

Ben Stiller, Warren Beatty, others toasted at saucy, sincere Britannia Awards

December 1, 2011 |  2:02 pm

Ben Stiller at the Britannia Awards

Movie stars are shuttled to so many glamorous red-carpet events during awards season it can be a challenge to remember the significance of each boozy get-together.

Just ask Ben Stiller. On Wednesday night at the Britannia Awards in Beverly Hills, the actor was honored by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, whose Los Angeles branch gave him the Charlie Chaplin award for excellence in comedy. He was one of five entertainment world fixtures to receive prizes at the ceremony, which also feted Warren Beatty, Helena Bonham Carter, Pixar chief John Lasseter and director David Yates.

Stiller -- who was introduced by his “Tropic Thunder” costar Robert Downey Jr. -- spent most of his acceptance speech making jabs at BAFTA and its relative obscurity stateside. When he heard he’d won a prize from the organization, he joked, he wondered if BAFTA stood for “Black Astronauts Flight Training Association.”

“Then they told me, ‘Ben, it’s an awards show, and it’s going to be broadcast on the TV Guide Channel,’” he said, meaning to refer to the TV Guide Network, which will televise the ceremony on Sunday. “And I said, ‘Say no more. You had me at broadcast. You really had me at TV Guide Channel. I’ve been looking to break into half the TV screen for a long time.’”

Though the Britannias are held by BAFTA, they honor performers and executives from any country -- just so long “as they can speak English like a normal person,” kidded the evening’s emcee, Alan Cumming.

The event, held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, had a casual vibe, with both presenters and honorees interspersing their speeches with expletives. Helen Mirren, who gave Bonham Carter the prize for British artist of the year, called her the goddess of “couldn’t give a [expletive]-dom” before complimenting her outlandish fashion sense and "bird’s nest" hairstyle.

But others were more earnest on stage, like Yates -- who received a special video message from absent “Harry Potter” stars Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint.

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'The Debt': Betsy Sharkey's film pick of the week

September 7, 2011 |  4:30 pm

  Jessica Chastain and Sam Worthington in The Debt, Betsy Sharkey's critic's pick film

Though “The Debt” has only just landed in theaters, director John Madden’s spine-tingling spy thriller is one of those intelligent dramas likely to be pushed aside all too quickly in the fall crush.

There are many reasons not to miss this bristling tale of Mossad agents then — Nazi hunting in post-World War II East Berlin — and now in Tel Aviv. The story is being sold on the back of Oscar winner Helen Mirren, who plays Rachel, a long-retired agent pulled back into the fray to finish the job that shaped her life.

But the performance to go for is Jessica Chastain, who plays Rachel in her earlier defining moments. She is riveting as a young woman bound by her cause, her values tested, her love torn between other young firebrands played by the excellent Marton Csokas and Sam Worthington. And Jesper Christensen is bone-chilling evil incarnate as the Nazi surgeon being tracked.

Meanwhile, Madden has woven in a series of tightly coiled action sequences that make “The Debt” as breathless and bloody as it is brainy.

— Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times film critic

Photo: Jessica Chastain and Sam Worthington star as young Mossad agents on the hunt in East Berlin in the spy thriller "The Debt." Credit: Laurie Sparham/Focus Features.

Helen Mirren, a rising Baryshnikov [video]

April 7, 2011 |  2:10 pm

In the past few years, Helen Mirren has sat on the throne of England, fired automatic weaponry at bad guys  and married Leo Tolstoy. This weekend, she plays Russell Brand's nanny. Seems the only thing she doesn't do is dance.

Actually, it turns out she does that too. In one of the "Saturday Night Live" promos seen below (she hosts the show this weekend), the actress is seen rocking some kind of funky-chicken with Fred Armisen. And, really, what's an Academy Award after you've done that?

-- Steven Zeitchik



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