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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Oscars

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.

Continue reading »

Film academy signs 20-year deal to keep Oscar show in Hollywood

May 1, 2012 | 11:20 am

KodakThe Oscars aren't going anywhere. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Tuesday that it had signed a new 20-year deal with CIM Group to keep the annual Academy Awards show at the Hollywood & Highland Center through 2033. Also confirmed is a Dolby Laboratories agreement with the owners of the complex to take over the naming rights to the theater, previously belonging to Kodak, which filed for bankruptcy.

The agreement quells the rumors that the academy's board of governors was going to move its annual telecast downtown to the L.A. Live complex and its Nokia Theatre. 

"The academy's board of governors believes that the home for our awards is in Hollywood," said Tom Sherak, academy president. "We are pleased to have a new agreement with CIM that will continue our longstanding partnership."

The Academy Awards have been held at the theater within the Hollywood & Highland center since 2002,  and the idea of a move downtown was viewed by Hollywood residents as a blow to the local economy and to the center itself, which built the 3,400-seat theater specifically to house the annual show. A move downtown would have offered the academy more room for outdoor activities in addition to a theater with twice the occupancy of its current location.


Oscar show may exit Hollywood

Lineup for Los Angeles Film Festival

Goldstein: Texting in movie theaters: An idea whose time has come?

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: The annual Academy Awards show will stay at the Hollywood & Highland Center, until recently known as the Kodak Theatre and soon to be known as the Dolby Theatre, in Hollywood through 2033, thanks to a new deal. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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

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.

'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 »

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

Week in Review: Billy Crystal, Oscar surprises [video]

March 2, 2012 |  4:15 pm

Since airing last Sunday, the Oscars have been the source of much debate. Did Billy Crystal restore some much-needed showmanship to the proceedings or set the event back with Catskills humor?  Should the telecast's flat rating among adults ages 18 to 49 be cause for alarm at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences or celebrated as a victory of sorts?

And were there indeed any surprises on the podium, what with “The Artist” sweeping the biggest awards?

The Times’ Nicole Sperling and Steven Zeitchik look back at these questions and others from Hollywood’s biggest night.

Oscars 2012: What was Billy Crystal’s lamest joke?

Oscars 2012: Full coverage

'The Artist' is big winner at Academy Awards

Angelina Jolie's right leg and other odd Oscar moments

— Steven Zeitchik



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.


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