24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Inglourious Basterds

Universal Pictures salute showcases century of crowd-pleasing fare

May 3, 2012 |  8:00 am


Hollywood's golden age saw MGM celebrated for its glamour, Warner Bros. for its grit and social conscience and Paramount for its easy sophistication, but Universal was known for ... what exactly? The studio that today is synonymous with tours and theme parks did not have a signature house style or genre (unless you count horror films like “Dracula” and “Frankenstein,” which are more of a presence in retrospect than they were at the time).

Those looking for an answer, or just looking for a good time, are directed toward “Universal Pictures: Celebrating 100 Years,” a fascinating UCLA Film & Television Archive series starting Friday at the Hammer Museum's Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood that offers a glimpse into that crowd-pleasing catalog.

Universal, unlike entities like MGM and Paramount, did not own a nationwide theater chain. Without guaranteed screens, the studio had to concentrate on making each film as accessible as possible and not worry about prestige or awards. Seen in that light, the studio's move to theme parks was perhaps inevitable.

As its title indicates, this massive 36-film series, scheduled to run through the end of June, is being put on to celebrate what UCLA describes as “the oldest continuously operating film producer and distributor in the United States.”

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Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Django Unchained': Are you ready to see him play a bad guy?

June 8, 2011 |  6:23 pm


It's no surprise that Leonardo DiCaprio would sign on for a role in a Quentin Tarantino movie. The filmmaker is one of the few big-name directors with whom the 36-year old actor hasn't already worked -- he's previously collaborated, of course, with Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg and Christopher Nolan, and he will next partner up with Aussie director Baz Luhrmann in "The Great Gatsby."

What is surprising is that DiCaprio is in talks for a supporting role in Tarantino's slavery revenge tale, "Django Unchained," a really, really despicable role. The part, according to press reports, is for Calvin Candie, the plantation owner and slave proprietor who gets his jollies out of watching slaves fight to the death and has no problem beating his own when they don't follow orders.

DiCaprio can clearly do wonders with character -- his Howard Hughes in "The Aviator" and Billy Costigan in "The Departed" were plenty tormented and conflicted -- but he's before never portrayed a truly evil man. Although the role of Candie in "Django Unchained" would be a complete about-face for DiCaprio, do audiences really want to see the heartthrob tackle a nasty, heartless character?

Time will tell. "Django Unchained" is supposed to begin filming at the end of the year. No word still on who will play the hero of the film, though Will Smith is supposedly considering the part. It would be a remarkable feat if Tarantino could land both actors to go mano-a-mano in a project that's destined to generate as least as much controversy as the director's most recent movie, "Inglourious Basterds."

--Nicole Sperling

Photo: Leonardo DiCaprio in"The 11th Hour." Credit: Chuck Castleberry / Eleventeen Productions

Jason Statham doesn't play it safe

May 6, 2010 | 12:51 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Few things gets women filmgoers going like watching Jason Statham tear it up on the big screen.

Stat Now it looks like they'll have yet another chance -- with a twist.  In a project that has to be one of the more unusual marriages in the history of film collaborations, Statham is joining with producer Lawrence Bender and the  auteur Boaz Yakin for a new thriller called "Safe."

Yakin has been responsible for a number of commercial movies -- like "Remember the Titans," which he directed, and the upcoming Jake Gyllenhaal action epic "The Prince of Persia," which he co-wrote. But he's also dabbled in artier fare, like an edgy Sundance movie called "Death in Love" from a few years back.

Bender is best known as the longtime producer of Quentin Tarantino, most recently producing his "Inglourious Basterds." All of which makes a collaboration with Statham, who again plays the action card in the upcoming "The Expendables" all the more notable, weird and interesting.

Statham has to be the hardest-working actor, action or otherwise, out there right now -- it the last few years alone he's starred in movies in the Crank and Transporter franchises and one-offs like "Death Race" and "The Bank Job." He'll also be in upcoming action tales "Blitz" and "The Killer Elite."

"Safe" is one of the projects that international film sales and financing company IM Global, which announced this morning that it is receiving a significant investment from Reliance Big Entertainment, will be taking to the Cannes market. It will be a busy time for IM Global, which will also sell John Cusack's thriller "The Factory" and a Kevin Costner passion project with echoes of "Inglourious Basterds" at the festival. The company should see plenty of interest on those, as well as on "Safe." Foreign distributors go almost as crazy for Statham as the women do.

--Steven Zeitchik

(Follow me on Twitter.)

Photo: Jason Statham at "The Bank Job" premiere in Sydney. Credit: Rick Rycroft / AP

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Oscar video: Who will win best picture, best original screenplay and other tight races?

March 7, 2010 |  7:00 am

With the Oscars just hours away, it's anyone's guess who will win...well, some of the awards. Best actor, best director and both supporting actor categories seem like slam dunks. But best actress, best picture and best original screenplay are still a bigger tossup than an NCAA jump ball. The Times' John Horn and Steven Zeitchik bat the rock around.

"Avatar," "Locker," "Basterds": The state of the race

In Hollywood, female film directors are still the exception

Bullock campaigns, Streep takes the 5th

As Oscar ceremony approaches, the picture is unclear

Stars may be aligned for improved Oscar ratings

Predicting Oscar: Best bets for best picture

March 5, 2010 |  7:00 am

GraphicMuch like erratic swings in the stock market, the fates and fortunes of films in the Oscar race rise and fall with each passing awards show and critic's top 10 list.

A closer look at the winners from the film awards handed out so far this season would seem to indicate a clear favorite for best picture at the Academy Awards on Sunday: "The Hurt Locker."

The Kathryn Bigelow-directed film has been nominated by each of eight major industry guilds and critics groups that we looked at for the chart at left -- and it won half of the top honors.

The next closest competitor: "Up in the Air," with two wins and nominations from all but one group.

"Precious," "Inglourious Basterds" and "Avatar," ranked by number of nominations by the eight groups, round out the top five in the newly expanded field of 10 best picture nominees.

Down at the bottom of the list, with no nods among the eight groups: "The Blind Side," starring acting nominee Sandra Bullock. But just like the whims of the financial markets, you can never count a movie out until the final bell sounds.

-- Brady MacDonald


L.A. Times reviews of the 10 best picture nominees:

* The Hurt Locker
* Up in the Air
* Precious
* Inglourious Basterds
* Avatar
* An Education
* A Serious Man
* Up
* District 9
* The Blind Side

L.A. Times award show coverage:
* Critics' Choice
* Producers Guild
* National Board of Review
* Golden Globes
* Directors Guild
* Writers Guild
* Screen Actors Guild
* American Film Institute

Envelope Directors Roundtable: The importance of the audition

February 9, 2010 |  8:00 am

So how important is the auditioning process in the making of a film? It depends on whom you ask. James Cameron certainly has a different approach than Lee Daniels, for instance.

Directors Roundtable RELATED VIDEOS:

Envelope Directors Roundtable: The challenges of marketing a film
Envelope Directors Roundtable: Sequels and board games vs. original work
Envelope Directors Roundtable: 'The scene I had to cut'
Envelope Roundtable: 'The moment I became a director'
James Cameron (and friends) on 'Avatar's' box office domination

And the winner for the best acceptance speech goes to ... Christoph Waltz

February 8, 2010 |  5:36 pm

If you are among the vast constituency who believes what almost every guru of gold within reach of a laptop has been proclaiming since last summer, then you know: “Inglourious Basterds’ ” Christoph Waltz has the supporting actor statuette all but locked up.

Cw With almost mind-numbing constancy, the Austrian actor has been heralded as a front-runner after bursting into consciousness as sadistic Nazi Col. Hans Landa -- “the Jew hunter” in Quentin Tarantino’s history-rewriting Spaghetti western-cum-World War II drama.

Presuming Waltz’s win is a foregone conclusion, his Oscar appearance on March 7 leaves only one X-factor: What will the notoriously magniloquent actor say at the podium?

Waltz -- who speaks fluent English and French in addition to his native German -- has been on an awards tear since May, walking away with trophies at the Cannes Film Festival and various film critics association accolades as well as a Hollywood Film Award, among others. Moreover, he has elevated the quotidian task of delivering an acceptance speech into a kind of baroque performance art -- delivered with the same kind of Teutonic eye-twinkle that makes his Landa such a charming sociopath.

In Waltz's most memorable appearances, he can be relied upon to take some operating principle of the award he’s being given and then craft an oratory around a central metaphor – extending the metaphor beyond any reasonable expectation, wringing every last bit of poetry from it and leaving no cliché unspoken.

To wit: For his Golden Globes win, Waltz seized upon a motif of celestial inter-connectivity and outer space imagery that would have made Darth Vader blush.

“A year and a half ago, I was exposed to the gravitational forces of Quentin Tarantino,” Waltz said at the Globes podium in January. “He took my modest little world -- my globe -- and with the power of his talent and his words and his vision, he flung it into his orbit -- a dizzying experience.”

Waltz capped off the speech by calling “Basterds” a “big bang of a movie,” adding: “I wouldn’t have dared to dream that my little world, my globe, would be part of that constellation. And now you’ve made it golden.” [Emphasis added by 24 Frames.]

Collecting his Screen Actors Guild Award for supporting actor last month, meanwhile, Waltz leaned heavily on certain presumed distinctions between movie stars and stage-worthy thespians -- all while giving a shout-out to an unsung hero of the projected entertainment medium.

“A stage actor acts on a stage,” Waltz said. “But a screen actor doesn’t act on the screen. The stage actor just walks on by himself, but the screen actor is put on there by a projectionist.

“We work towards what can only be hoped for in utmost secrecy. This is what I was granted by working with Quentin Tarantino on ‘Inglourious Basterds.’ For this I’m indebted and grateful to all of you, for this as well.”

Waltz paused before bringing the velvet hammer down on his chosen leitmotif. “To all of you including the projectionist.”

And at this year's Critics Choice Awards, Waltz sadistically tortured the notion of choice-making in his acceptance speech.

"When Quentin invited me to join the cast, my choice assumed a completely different dimension," the actor said. "Did I want to be an actor or not? This Critics Choice Award is an approval of all the choices prior to this."

The Academy Awards will no doubt present Waltz with a number of tantalizing metaphorical possibilities. Rest assured his acceptance speech will likely be downright academic.

-- Chris Lee

[Updated: 2/10/10]

Photo: Christoph Waltz. Credit: Los Angeles Times.


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