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Category: Oscars 2011

'Rush Hour' director Brett Ratner to produce the Oscars (really)

August 4, 2011 |  6:05 pm

Brett Ratner

In a surprise move, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has chosen Brett Ratner, director of popcorn films including "Rush Hour" and "X-Men: The Last Stand," to produce the 2012 Oscar telecast, along with veteran show producer Don Mischer, academy President Tom Sherak announced Thursday. 

Ratner, 42, is a filmmaker whose youthful movies are often hits at the box office and misses with critics. He produced the R-rated summer comedy "Horrible Bosses" and will see his next directoral effort, the Ben Stiller movie "Tower Heist," hit theaters in November. In choosing him, the academy has made a sharp break from previous producers, including last year's co-helmer, producer Bruce Cohen, who took home a best picture Oscar for "American Beauty" and was nominated for "Milk." 

Ratner, who's never been nominated for an Oscar, seemed stunned by the move. "One of my dreams was just to be a member of the academy. I was shocked when they let me in after 'Rush Hour,' "  he said during a joint phone call with Mischer. "And now I sit on the  -- what's it called? -- the executive council of the directors' branch, or committee, and we are the ones who vote on which directors get to come in. That's unbelievable. I just love film and wanted to be a filmmaker, but this went beyond my dreams."

Ratner said he was first approached about the job by Sherak a few weeks ago but spent some time mulling it over, and meeting with Mischer, before accepting.The two were scheduled to sit for 45 minutes at the Beverly Glen deli getting to know each other and wound up spending three hours together throwing out ideas.

Ratner said he was comforted that Mischer, who has long experience in live television, would be by his side. "Don's experience and his knowledge of the process and how to execute something like this" is imporant, said Ratner. "I'm sure if it was just me, they'd be even more doubtful then they already are, saying what the hell does he know about a 3-hour live telecast. Having Don here gives me a lot of confidence and as you know I already have a little bit of that."

Ratner has never directed live television but has helmed features, documentaries and music videos, qualifications Mischer believes make him a good partner for the job. "Brett's a risk-taker and loves a challenge. Ideas just flow from him. He's going to make it fun."

For years, the academy has been seeking ways to bolster the sagging ratings for the Oscar telecast, choosing two young stars, Anne Hathaway and James Franco to host the show this past February.

But the show was largely panned by critics and rounded up just 37.6 million total viewers, slumping 10% compared with 2010, according to the Nielsen Co., although those numbers were above the 2008 and 2009 telecast. Worse, the 2011 show also tumbled in the key category of adults ages 18 to 49.

The Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012.


Oprah Winfrey and James Earl Jones to receive honorary Oscars

Oscar pundits in our forums back 'Ides of March' and 'War Horse'

An honorary Oscar for Oprah: Did April 1 come twice this year?

--Nicole Sperling

Photo: Director Brett Ratner on the set of the movie "Red Dragon." Credit: Universal.

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

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

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

March 21, 2011 |  6:48 pm

Remember the time — ironically, before Twitter — when a performer hosted an awards show and everyone forgot about it the morning after?

Those days are apparently over. It may be the era of the instant reaction, but the post-game analysis and trash talk — even from the players themselves — continues long after the show is over.

Entertainment types and media (including yours truly) dined out for days on Ricky Gervais and his foot-in-mouth performance at the Golden Globes. Now James Franco keeps creeping back into the news, for the opposite charge of not going far enough during his Oscars hosting gig.

The latest round kicked up when longtime Oscars writer Bruce Vilanch gave an interview to Vulture in which he says Franco was essentially not up to the job.  According to the site, via our colleagues at Awards Tracker, Vilanch said of Franco that “I thought maybe it was a performance-art prank, and then I realized he sincerely wanted to do it. But it's outside of those guys' comfort zones. The only people who know how to host those shows are people who get up onstage every night and say, 'Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. A funny thing happened ..."

Franco, still evidently smarting even though he's comfortably back in school, fired back today with a tweet saying "Bruce, he let me down" and then a bathroom-mirror graffiti insult basically dissing Vilanch as someone who wouldn't know a good joke if he was stuck in the elevator with it.

"Trust me, I know comedy. I mean, come on, I write for Bette Midler," Franco wrote, assuming Vilanch's imagined voice and alluding to the writer's work for the diva's Vegas show. (You can see the image here; note it contains an explicit word we couldn't put in a family blog.)

We have no idea how long this can possibly go on. But here's an idea: Next year they should have the fight before the Oscars. Then if they want the show to be more entertaining than it's recently been, they can just air that instead.

—Steven Zeitchik



What does Bruce Vilanch think of James Franco's Oscar performance?

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

Did Ricky Gervais go too far at the Golden Globes?

Photo: James Franco and Anne Hathaway hosting the Oscars. Credit: Michael Yada/EPA.

Pierce Brosnan will collaborate with Oscar winner Susanne Bier

March 3, 2011 |  7:08 pm

EXCLUSIVE: It's been a while since we've seen Pierce Brosnan in a romantic comedy -- nearly three years, in fact, since he vied for Meryl Streep's attentions in the romantic musical comedy "Mamma Mia!" In the time since. Brosnan has dabbled in a lot of other genres: political thriller ("The Ghost Writer"), widower drama ("The Greatest"), religion-themed thriller (the upcoming "Salvation Boulevard.")

But Brosnan will now return to  one of his wheelhouses: He's signed on for a lead role in "All You Need Is Love," the first post-Oscar project for Susanne Bier, who took a statuette for her youth-violence drama "In a Better World" on Sunday. The movie, which Bier wrote with Brosnan in mind, shoots in Amalfi this spring.

Although Bier is known mainly for melodrama -- she also directed Danish war weepie "Brothers" and the broken-family picture "Things We Lost in the Fire," her English-language debut -- the filmmaker revealed this week that her new movie is a romance with a more buoyant feel.  “It’s a tender story with a much lighter atmosphere than my previous works: Enough with conflicts,” she told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.  (Her 2006 Oscar-nominated "After the Wedding," though a drama, did have a few comedic moments.)

The paper also said "Love" would center on a Danish family, although given that Brosnan doesn't speak Danish, we're imagining said family will speak English, or the movie will at least be bilingual.

Brosnan called the new project a "delightful love story" that mixes the serious and humorous. "It's a comedy -- a love story which has punch and deals with loss and a great love."

Pierce Brosnan leaves the Bond role behind

 New movie widens Susanne Bier's world

A modern Scandinavian takes on Bergman

 --Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Pierce Brosnan in Los Angeles last March. Credit: Mel Melcon/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 »

Oscar speeches: navel-gazing or proper thanks?

February 28, 2011 |  2:08 pm

Every year, Oscar nominees are admonished: If you win, make your acceptance speech memorable. Few, though, seem to be listening.

At the luncheon for Academy Award nominees held annually a few weeks before the show, the broadcast’s producers deliver the message. You’re facing a global audience of millions, they advise, so think very carefully about what you want to say. Don’t recite a list of people no one outside of Hollywood has heard of.

"Reading a long list of names only shows us your bald spot," Tom Hanks said in a video filled with bad speeches shown at this year’s luncheon. Oscar producer Don Mischer even cautioned that whenever a winner unfurls a piece of paper, hundreds of thousands of viewers tune out of the show.

PHOTO GALLERY: Candid quotes from the red carpet and beyond

Colleen Atwood, who won the costume design Oscar for “Alice in Wonderland,” was at the luncheon, but didn’t seem to heed the warning Sunday night, pulling out a long roster of people to thank.

A number of winners acknowledged parents, children and significant others. But the 2011 broadcast was also notable for how many people thanked their agents, managers and publicists — who of course are paid richly to promote their clients’ careers. 

PHOTO GALLERY: Best and Worst of the 2011 Academy Awards

Some may blame hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway for the show’s ratings, which according to early projections were off 7% from a year ago. But perhaps there’s another reason: No one in America knows — or cares — who an actor’s agent is.

Some excerpts of the inside-Hollywood thank-yous from Sunday’s winners:

Natalie Portman, lead actress for “Black Swan”: “…I want to thank my team who works with me every day. Aleen Keshishian, my manager, for 18 years and my agents Kevin Huvane and everyone at CAA. Bryna and Tamar at ID, my friends who are everything to me no matter what's going on in my career.”

Aaron Sorkin, adapted screenplay for “The Social Network”: “There are a lot of people who've worked hard in my corner for a long time, it seems like the right moment to thank them. My assistant Lauren Lohman, my researcher, Ian Reichbach, my long suffering press rep, Joy Fehily, and all the women of Prime, Rich Heller, Bill Tanner, Andy Forshay, my agents Ari Emanuel and Jason Spitz who never blow my cover and reveal that I would happily do this for free….”

Christian Bale, supporting actor for “The Fighter”: “…My team, led by Patrick and Boomer and Carlos and Jen and Anna and Julie, thank you so much for everything that you do.”

--John Horn

Photo of Natalie Portman at the 83rd Academy Awards. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times


The British are coming? Decoding the 'King's Speech' win

February 28, 2011 |  7:10 am


If you were watching the Oscars on Sunday night, the narrative of "The King's Speech" beating "The Social Network" played out on several levels. The Tom Hooper film won in four major categories -- best picture, director and actor, as well as in one of the two screenplay categories -- the first time since "American Beauty" 11 years ago that a single movie walked away with that quartet of prizes.

If you were a follower of Hollywood politics, that kind of haul had a David-toppling-Goliath feel. This was a small film with a director whose lone previous feature grossed less than $1 million, and that starred the second lead from "Bridget Jones's Diary," triumphing over a movie made by a major studio, directed by the filmmaker behind "Seven" and penned by the creator of "The West Wing."

But it was also hard to avoid a more cultural subplot in Sunday's events: the British-ness of Oscar's biggest prize.

The motion picture academy is sometimes perceived as favoring movies with a British tilt. But it doesn't, in fact, show them that much love. Productions from across the pond can win at the Oscars, but despite a history of paying them respect, it hasn't happened much in recent decades. Before "Slumdog Millionaire" in 2009, you actually have to go back to 1987 ("The Last Emperor") to find a best picture winner with mainly Britain-based producers. (One of the three "King's Speech" producers is Australian-born but is based in London.)

"The King's Speech" was also the first best picture winner in more than a decade to be set in England. ("Shakespeare in Love" last did it in 1999.)

And the "King's Speech" win on Sunday night marked the first time the academy chose for its best picture a movie that also won best British film at the BAFTAs (essentially the British Oscars) in the modern history of that organization.

But maybe more important than any of these statistical landmarks were the themes of "The King's Speech." Though universal subjects such as loyalty and responsibility ran through the film, there was also an unmistakable British hue to the movie, what with its exploration of an evolving monarchy and its view of an British empire as the best bulwark against Nazism. (The point was highlighted backstage when an English journalist asked the producers if they were in fact monarchists; the question elicited an elaborate answer whose nuances were lost on many of the American journos in the room, this one included.)

This was, in the end, a season when movies with a distinctly American tone shone brightly for audiences. "The Fighter" and "Black Swan" took place in highly particular stateside settings and explored quintessentially American themes (the role of the underdog and the price of over-achievement). And that epitome of American stories, the redemption Western, was one of the season's biggest hits. ("True Grit" tallied nearly $170 million in box office.) Yet the combined Oscar count for those movies was exactly three.

On top of that, of course, came "The Social Network" losing out in its bid for best picture, a category in which a period movie about kings and prime ministers bested a story of Silicon Valley ambition.

There's been much made in recent months about the rise of British actors in blockbusters, with performers from across the pond, such as Andrew Garfield and Henry Cavill, being cast as American superheroes. True, Sunday night was mainly about one film. But when it comes to heralding the arrival of things British, the academy is back to riding that horse.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Red carpet photos

Oscar scorecard

Complete coverage: The Oscars

Photo: From left, 'King's Speech' producers Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin and Iain Canning. Credit: Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty Images

Oscars: Colin Firth doesn't like new 'King's Speech' cut

February 27, 2011 | 10:24 pm


The new PG-13 cut of "The King's Speech" is meant to open the film to a wider audience. But the star of the film sees little noble about studio Weinstein Co.'s decision to tweak the best picture winner.
Saying he'd yet to see the new cut of the film -- which mutes out the f-word in a key scene uttered by Firth's Duke of York to Geoffrey Rush's Lionel Logue -- Firth nonetheless said he was irked by the decision.

"I don’t support it," he said. "I think the film has its integrity as it stands. I think that scene belongs where it is. I think it serves a purpose."

Speaking to reporters backstage after he won the statuette for lead actor at the Oscars, Firth went on to explain that he's normally very careful about the use of obscenity, citing his parental sensitivity to profanity. "I’m not somebody who takes that kind of language casually. I take my kids to soccer games. I hate hearing that language around them."

But he added that the scene served an artistic purpose. "The language in the film is about a man trying to free himself through the use of forbidden words," said the British actor. "And he’s so coy about it. I haven’t met a person who has been offended by it."

Firth echoed the sentiments of director Tom Hooper, who similarly opposed the cut. The f-word became an unlikely subject of interest at the Oscars, when Melissa Leo let one slip while accepting the prize for supporting actress. She later apologized backstage.

-- Steven Zeitchik



Red carpet photos

Oscar scorecard

Complete coverage: The Oscars

Photo: Colin Firth in "The King's Speech." Credit: Weinstein Co.

Oscars: Natalie Portman on pregnancy, baby names and life changes (and her movie)

February 27, 2011 |  9:52 pm

Natalie Natalie Portman may have just won her first Oscar, but most reporters who had the chance to interview her had one subject on their minds: her pregnancy.

Journalists lobbed numerous questions at the "Black Swan" actress about said life change when she came backstage after her lead actress win.

One reporter started out by asking if she and fiance Benjamin Millipied would name their baby Oscar. "That's probably — definitely — out of the question," Portman responded.

Then, to "what was the baby doing during the show?" the actress said, "The baby was definitely kicking during the song portion of the show. A little dancer."

And on how her imminent motherhood might change the roles she'd take, Portman said, "I have no idea. One of the exciting things about becoming pregnant is that I'm expecting a complete unknown, a complete miracle."

Portman did make the rare move of interpreting her film, particularly its (spoiler alert) ambiguous ending, in which Portman's Nina Sayers appears to kill herself.

"I don't necessarily see it as a death at the end as many people do," she said. "I really see it as this young woman's coming of age that she becomes a woman. She starts out a girl and becomes a woman by killing the child version of herself."

— Steven Zeitchik



Red carpet photos

Oscar scorecard

Complete coverage: The Oscars

Photo: Natalie Portman. Credit: Associated Press.


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