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Category: Oscars 2012

Oscars: Live from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood?

March 29, 2012 |  6:44 pm

Could the theater formerly known as Kodak be closer to a new name?

Audio and video corporation Dolby Laboratories has entered talks with CIM, the theater’s landlord, for naming rights to the Oscars venue, Bloomberg News reported Thursday.

The 3,300-seat venue, located inside Los Angeles’ Hollywood & Highland’s complex, has hosted the Oscars for the past decade. But it was left without a name when a judge voided the naming-rights contract in February in the wake of Kodak’s bankruptcy filing. The theater was referred to as the “Hollywood & Highland Center” at this year’s Oscars.

Bloomberg reported that a new naming deal may not be imminent, with CIM likely to test the waters with other bidders. Kodak paid about $72 million for a 20-year deal back in 2000.

Based in San Francisco, Dolby began in the mid-1960s by licensing audio and video technologies to consumer electronics companies, and has recently expanded into digital entertainment offerings; it created Dolby 3D, a system for projecting 3-D movies in digital cinemas.

Spokespeople for the academy, Dolby and CIM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Kodak was built in the early 2000s expressly for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences’ annual event, and has since come to host other performances, such as Cirque de Soleil’s salute to Hollywood called “Iris.” It serves as an anchor of the Hollywood shopping and entertainment complex.

The voiding of naming-rights deals has become a hot topic since the economic recession began in 2008. Some critics, for instance, have called for the renaming of Citi Field, the New York Mets ballpark, given the financial crisis and the team’s troubled financial picture.

Complicating the naming question at the Hollywood & Highland complex is that the academy is entering the last year of its lease with the CIM facility. Earlier this year the academy initiated preliminary talks with AEG to move the Oscars downtown to the Nokia Theatre beginning in 2014. The space is roughly double the size of the Hollywood & Highland space, though it’s unclear how serious the academy is about severing its relationship with its current home.


Oscars show may exit Hollywood

Kodak name to disappear from Oscars theatre

--Steven Zeitchik


 Photo: Preparations for the 2006 Oscars outside the Kodak Theatre. Credit: Al Seib /Los Angeles Times

'Chico & Rita': A sexy animated film for grown-ups

March 8, 2012 |  6:00 am

Chico & Rita

In one sultry scene in “Chico & Rita,” Rita, a zaftig Cuban singer, ambles nude across a modest Havana flat to join Chico, a talented young jazz player, at his piano. Soon professional opportunity and political circumstance will drive the lovers apart, but for the moment they enjoy a potent musical connection and a passionate tryst.

A mostly Spanish-language drama that opens in Los Angeles on Friday, “Chico & Rita” tackles mature subjects like sex, ambition and regret in a format Hollywood studios reserve for kid-friendly fare: animation.

“I always thought about it like a movie for grown-up people,” said Fernando Trueba, who co-directed “Chico & Rita” with the artist Javier Mariscal and Marsical’s brother, Tono Errando. “It’s a melodrama, it’s a movie about jazz, about Cuban music with some political reference even. It’s not for children.”

In a surprise, both to its filmmakers and to the animation industry, the $13-million, primarily hand-drawn “Chico & Rita” beat out big-budget films like Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin” and Pixar’s “Cars 2” to secure an Academy Award nomination for animated feature this year. “Chico & Rita” ultimately lost to Gore Verbinski’s talking lizard western, “Rango,” but thanks to the nomination, the unusual movie may have a better opportunity to find an audience.

“Many grown-ups go and see animation only when they have children, so that’s really a risk,” Trueba said in an interview last month at the Beverly Hills offices of Egeda, a nonprofit organization that facilitates relationships between the U.S. film industry and those of Spain and Latin America. “I like risk. I never run in my movies after the audience. You have to run after making the best movie you can and then the audience, they come sometimes, sometimes not.”

The Madrid-born director, whose bedroom farce “Belle Époque” won the foreign-language film Oscar in 1994, conceived of his first animated project as a way to join two of his passions: the colorful, expressive artwork of Mariscal, and the sensual rhythms of Latin jazz. Trueba had enlisted Mariscal to create posters for his 2000 documentary about Latin jazz, “Calle 54,” and was taken with the artist’s detailed, chromatic drawings of Havana.

Continue reading »

'Undefeated': Betsy Sharkey's film pick of the week

March 7, 2012 |  6:43 pm

If you’re in the mood for some football and some inspiration, heavily seasoned by the South, catch “Undefeated.” This documentary is a classic story of an underdog team trying to overcome the odds. It  just won the Oscar for best doc a few weeks ago, and given its fundamental appreciation of flawed humanity and the possibilities for change, it's easy to see why.

Filmmakers Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin, who shared directing and many other duties, spent a season with the Manassas Tigers, a seriously underfunded team filled with African American teens on the margins. Manassas is a North Memphis, Tenn., high school with a legacy of losing seasons and a history of poverty. Into that mix throw determined volunteer coach Bill Courtney, whose team meetings sound a lot like tent revivals, with cursing and praying used as motivation in equal measure.

It’s a combustible mix of kids with the focus on three: talented, smart and troubled O.C., "Money" and Chavis respectively. The filmmakers do a good job of balancing between coach and players as life lessons emerge from the winning and losing.

The victories are sweet, the losses heartbreaking. And then there's the football -- great high school football.

Game on.


The art of entertaining documentaries

'Undefeated' wins feature documentary Oscar

'Undefeated' is a provocative look at race and class in sports

–- Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times film critic

Oscars 2012: 20,000+ tweets per minute, Meryl Streep on top

March 5, 2012 | 11:00 am

Meryl streep oscars 2012

The 2007 Academy Awards were the first Oscars to be chronicled on Twitter in real time, by the Hollywood gossip blog Defamer. At the time, Twitter was a rather unknown novelty, but today it boasts millions of users and is an ever-updating reflection of the vox populi.

So many Twitter users have expressed opinions about this year’s Academy Awards race that it would be virtually impossible for someone to find and digest them all. That’s why The Times, IBM and the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab created the Oscar Senti-meter, an online tool that can catalog a large number of Oscar-related tweets each day and uses language-recognition technology to analyze positive, negative and neutral opinions. It also counts the number of tweets.

Tweets captured by the Senti-meter on Feb. 26, the day of the awards ceremony, showed a massive increase in volume, as huge numbers of people took to Twitter to share their opinions about the show in real time. Check out this chart:


The volume of Oscar-related tweets first spiked at 5:41 p.m., coinciding with the first award of the night, cinematography, which went to “Hugo.” The win, an upset over “The Tree of Life,” sparked chatter on Twitter at a rate approaching 10,000 tweets per minute. In the two months leading up to the Oscars, the film “Hugo” averaged just over 2,500 tweets per day.

One Twitter user wrote, “Best Cinematography goes to HUGO! Over Tree of Life -- very interesting #oscars.”

By the end of the night, “Hugo” would take home five awards and rack up 107,041 total tweets.
The 6-o’clock hour broke the barrier of 10,000 tweets per minute twice, peaking at 6:58 p.m., when Christopher Plummer won the award for supporting actor for his role in “Beginners.” The award capped a season sweep for Plummer, who also won BAFTA, SAG and Golden Globe awards for his performance.

One Twitter user’s reaction: “Glad Plummer won. Beginners was better then some of the Best Picture nominees I saw. Looking at you Tree of Life & Moneyball. #Oscars.”

The highest spike of the night, and the only moment to break the barrier of 20,000 tweets per minute, was just after 8:24 p.m., when Meryl Streep won a lead-actress statuette for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.” Many people had expected Viola Davis, of the Southern drama “The Help,” to win.

Twitter users reacted to Streep’s win with a mix of approval and disappointment. One user wrote, “I am so excited that Meryl Streep won Best Actress! I can't believe she only won 3 out of 17 times. She deserved so many more.”

Another user felt differently: “Streep is great; an icon; but her performance over Viola Davis in The Help? Really?”

According to the Senti-meter’s analysis, tweets about Davis were more likely to be positive than those about Streep.

All told, Streep was mentioned in 146,470 tweets on Feb. 26, more than 40 times her daily average in the two months leading up to the show, and Davis was mentioned in 27,036 tweets, more than the previous two months combined.

Overall, “The Help” and best-picture winner “The Artist” had the most positive sentiment among all movies.

One thing you can count on every year at the Oscars, no matter who wins, is that they’ll get people talking. Check out theinteractive Senti-meter tool, and read sample tweets, and track tweet volume for the entire awards season by clicking here.   


Oscar Senti-meter: A BAFTA bounce for Dujardin, Oldman, Streep

Oscar Senti-meter: Russell Crowe and Miley Cyrus pump up the volume 

Oscars 2012: Meryl Streep and George Clooney top the Twitter charts, volume-wise

-- Oliver Gettell

Photo: Lead-actress winner Meryl Streep with her husband Don Gummer, outside the Governors Ball, following the 84th annual Academy Awards, at the Hollywood & Highland Center. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Oscars 2012: ‘The Artist’ producer tops final Heat Meter rankings

February 29, 2012 |  2:25 pm

Tom Cruise and Thomas Langmann: Click for full Oscars coverage

Sure, “The Artist” won best picture at the Oscars on Sunday. But who was the hottest personality during the entirety of the award season just ended?

According to Heat Meter, The Times’ data desk's analysis of the race that used a sophisticated point system to rank contenders, it was "The Artist" producer Thomas Langmann, who topped all other personalities, including his own director, Michel Hazanavicius (who came in second). Langmann had 235 points to Hazanavicius’ 231.

The hottest non-“Artist” personality was Meryl Streep ("The Iron Lady"), who with 207 points landed in third place and set a personal best, topping even the two previous seasons in which she also won Oscars. Alexander Payne, who at the Academy Awards picked up an adapted screenplay win and a director nomination, edged out Jean Dujardin for fourth place.
On the film side, "The Artist" trounced the competition with 715 points. Coming in a distant second was "The Descendants" with 409 points, followed by "The Help" with 370 points.

Not surprisingly , Weinstein Co. won the race for hottest studio. But more dramatic was the race for fourth place, which saw Paramount edge out its former corporate sibling, DreamWorks, by just one point, 355-354.

You can see the top five personalities, films and studios after the jump.

Continue reading »

Oscars 2012: Could this idea make the academy more diverse?

February 29, 2012 | 11:09 am

Christopher Plummer
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, responding to a study by the Los Angeles Times, said it wants to diversify its ranks. But it won’t be easy.

The Times study, which identified more than 5,100 active, voting academy members, found that they  are 94% white, 77% male and have a median age of 62. Only 2% of the members are younger than 40, while more than half are 60 and older.

Times columnist Patrick Goldstein suggested on Tuesday that giving veteran Oscar members a different, non-voting status might help skew the academy’s demographics younger. He wrote:

For example, if you haven't had a credit in 25 years, you'd become an emeritus member, which would entitle you to all the perks the academy offers, minus the voting. Currently, approximately 5% of the voting membership is over age 85. If they were put on emeritus status, that would presumably open up the membership rolls to a younger, more vital constituency.

We tested the hypothesis, assuming that the academy would take its diversity pledge to an extreme. 

Times database wizard Doug Smith pulled up the paper’s Oscar voter rolls and followed Goldstein’s suggestion, removing all voters 85 and older, about 300 members. Smith then replaced them with imaginary non-white women aged 50 -- the median age of all new members invited to join the academy since 2004 (that's the year the academy started publicly announcing its invitees). 

Such a switch would leave the academy looking like this: 83% white, about 73% male and with a median age of 61. If the emeritus status began at age 80-- a change that would take away the voting rights of this year's best supporting actor winner Christopher Plummer, age 82--the voters would be 82% white, 68% male and have a median age of 59.

Some Oscar nominees said Sunday the academy needs to change and not just chalk things up to a lack of homogeneity in the film industry.

Asked if the academy is only as diverse as the industry, "The Help's" lead actress nominee Viola Davis said, “I don't think that that's what Hollywood is. I think that's probably just something the academy says.”

George Clooney, nominated for lead actor from “The Descendants,” said he was hopeful that the organization would become more diverse.  “That'd be a good idea, don't ya think?” he joked. “You can look at the Senate and it's roughly the same thing. I don't think to diversify is ever a bad idea.”

But how is that going to happen? “It's a tricky thing, because you actually have to open it up to more,” Clooney said, “as opposed to trying to keep people out, instead of taking their cards away.”


The Oscar voters: Meet the members at large

Who's Who in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences

Unmasking the academy: Oscar voters overwhelmingly white, male

Unmasking the academy: Oscar voters aren't always who you might think

--John Horn and Amy Kaufman

Photo: Christopher Plummer at the 84th Academy Awards. Credit: Matt Sayles/Associated Press

Oscars 2012: How would you overhaul the show? [poll]

February 28, 2012 | 11:26 am

Oscars 2012: Click for more photos

The ratings for Sunday’s 84th Academy Awards were up slightly from a year ago — more than 39 million people tuned in, compared with 2011’s audience of nearly 38 million. But very few people seemed that excited about the ceremony itself, and the Oscars were seen by fewer people than this year’s Grammys.

Many critics trashed host Billy Crystal, some detractors blamed the soulless acceptance speeches, while a handful of commentators found fault with the movies themselves. Only one best picture nominee, “The Help,” is a legitimate box-office hit, and “The Artist” may turn out to be the second lowest-grossing best picture winner (beating only “The Hurt Locker”) in the last 35 years.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences says it enjoys little leeway in overhauling the broadcast. Like a three-hour football game in which the ball is in play only for a dozen minutes, there’s just 30 minutes or so in the Oscar show for anything original — all the other time is taken up by the presentation of the trophies. And the academy consistently has refused to consider moving awards such as sound mixing and art direction into a non-televised ceremony.

Some academy officials believe the show ain’t broke. "This is the best show we've ever had. Nothing has come close to this," the Wall Street Journal quoted Hawk Koch -- a candidate to be the academy's next president -- as telling Oscar producer Brian Grazer.

If you disagree, check out our poll. Assume you have unlimited power to renovate the Oscars. What would you do to make it more exciting?


Oscars 2012: Full coverage

'The Artist' is big winner at Academy Awards

Oscars 2012: What was Billy Crystal's lamest joke? [Poll]

Photo: Billy Crystal hosting the 84th Academy Awards. Credit: Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press.

Oscars winners: 'A Separation's' triumph raises hopes for Iran

February 27, 2012 |  8:37 pm

Sussan Deyhim still worries that saber-rattling rhetoric could escalate into war between Iran and Israel or the United States.

"There are enough crazy people out there ... that this actually could happen," said the Tehran-born singer-composer, whose film music credits include "The Kite Runner" and "The Stoning of Soraya M."

But Deyhim hopes the success of the Iranian domestic drama "A Separation," which won the best foreign language Oscar on Sunday, and its director's carefully-worded acceptance speech could help ease rising tensions and alter Western perceptions of her homeland.

PHOTOS: Best & Worst | Quotes | Red carpet arrivals | During the show | Backstage

In receiving his Oscar, director Asghar Farhadi offered a plea that "At the time when talk of war, intimidation and aggression is exchanged between politicians, the name of their country, Iran, is spoken here through her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics.

"I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, the people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment," he added.

Said Deyhim, "He was making it very clear that as people we are very pacifist."

Across Southern California, home to one of the world's largest Persian expatriate communities, other artists voiced similar sentiments. "I think once Americans, they see that and they relate and they understand there is no need for wars and guns," said Andy Madadian, an Armenian Iranian pop singer who has lived in Los Angeles for decades.

A number of Iranian and foreign news reports Monday quoted Iranians voicing pride at their country's first Oscar win. Some Iranian authorities also expressed satisfaction that "A Separation" beat the Israeli film "Footnote," about father-son Talmudic scholars.

But at least for a moment, art may have spoken more loudly than political spin, suggested Aryana Farshad, L.A.-based director of the documentary film "Mystic Iran."

"Every time there is the threat of war, intellectuals, artists, filmmakers always come to the rescue," Farshad said. "The Iranian filmmakers, they're my heroes."


Oscars 2012: Full coverage

'The Artist' is big winner at Academy Awards

'Separation' director says Iranians care about the Oscars

-- Reed Johnson

Photo: "A Separation" director Asghar Farhadi (Iran) holds aloft the Oscar for foreign language film. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times.

Oscars 2012: The lobby bar, the show's 'Star Wars' cantina

February 27, 2012 |  8:13 pm

On Sunday night, while some bold-faced names inside the Academy Awards ceremony waited to hear their names called, other bold-faced names decided they needed a drink.
And so it was that, as Billy Crystal presided over the best in this year’s (and many other years’) films,  an assortment of stars and Hollywood power players found themselves standing at two plush bars in the carpeted lobby outside the main theater. It was a place to be approached by someone random, to act silly, to take a breath before re-entering the pressure cooker inside.

On one side stood Michelle Williams, flanked by galpal Busy Phillips and Jonah Hill, the three of them kidding around, throwing  arms around each other and taking photos, prom-style.

PHOTOS: Best & Worst | Quotes | Red carpet arrivals | During the show | Backstage

On the other end of the room was Paramount chief Brad Grey, standing by himself. A Chinese publicist soon walked over to him. “This is Li Bing Bing,” said the woman, introducing the studio executive to the Chinese A-lister, who has been trying to gain traction in Hollywood. “She’s a big movie star in China.”

“I know who you are,” Grey said. The publicist told the actress that Grey ran Paramount.  “I have a job at Paramount,” Grey said.

At the smaller of the two bars, through a partially enclosed archway, the Oscars played on a television, the sound pumped up over the din of the drinkers.  Jason Segel watched a good chunk of the show at that bar, his gangly frame perched on a marble shelf, munching on popcorn handed out by women who were outfitted to look like flight attendants in the ABC series “Pan Am.”

Earlier, Emma Stone had taken a seat on the same shelf, pulling herself up to give her feet a break. Jonah Hill walked up to her and performed, with apparent success, some kind of comedy routine for her. (Hill spent a lot of time in the lobby.)

The side bar got fuller and more animated as the final awards were being handed out. The announcement of Meryl Streep as best actress got some of the biggest gasps, and best-picture winner “The Artist” the loudest cheers, perhaps none louder than Segel's. It was like the Oscar-viewing party you’d have with your friends, if you were friends with some really famous actors.

A little bit earlier, Anna Faris and husband Chris Pratt, who stars as a misfit baseball player in "Moneyball," were sipping their cocktails when the nominees for sound mixing were called out on the television above them. When the nominees from "Moneyball" were read off, Faris let out a loud shout and clapped, startling a few of the hobnobbers nearby.
As the envelope was opened, Faris and Pratt kept their eyes fixed on the screen, their hands clenched together as though watching an extra-inning baseball game. (If that seemed like an intense reaction for a below-the-line award, they're apparently an enthusiastic couple. Plus "Moneyball" wasn't favored in too many categories.)
When "Hugo" was called for the win, Faris' face fell, and she exhaled disappointedly. Pratt made a small gesture with his hand as if to say "that's OK, they were the better team today." Their shoulders sagging, the couple put down their glasses and shuffled out of the bar.


Oscars 2012: Full coverage

'The Artist' is big winner at Academy Awards

Angelina Jolie's right leg and other odd Oscar moments

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Jonah Hill arriving at the Oscars. Credit: Joel Ryan/Associated Press


Oscars 2012: What was Billy Crystal's lamest joke? [Poll]

February 27, 2012 |  9:45 am


Billy CrystalThe reviews of pinch-hit Oscar host Billy Crystal, who replaced Eddie Murphy when he bolted with producer Brett Ratner, were mixed. Detractors said a little Borscht Belt schtick went a long way, while supporters thought Crystal brought some sharp wit to the proceedings.

As The Times' Greg Braxton reported, the evening had its share of uncomfortable moments and instances of what appeared to be cultural insensitivity. And Crystal quickly came under fire in social media for a couple of his bits.

Among them:

Crystal appeared in blackface as Sammy Davis Jr. during the show’s opening film montage. Crystal as Davis Jr. — a throwback to his days on “Saturday Night Live” — parodied Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris" with Justin Bieber.

Crystal joked shortly after Octavia Spencer's supporting actress win for “The Help” that he loved the film so much he came out of the theater wanting to hug the first black woman he saw. “Which, from Beverly Hills," he quipped, "is about a 45-minute drive.”

PHOTOS: Red carpet arrivals | Quotes | Winners | Best & Worst

Whatever your view, there were any number of Crystal jokes that landed with a thud. What was his biggest miss? Vote in our poll:


Oscars 2012: Full coverage

'The Artist' is big winner at Academy Awards

Angelina Jolie's right leg and other odd Oscar moments

Photo: Billy Crystal hosting the 84th annual Academy Awards. Credit: Associated Press / Mark J. Terrill.


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