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Odd moments at Oscars 2012, such as Angelina Jolie's right leg

February 27, 2012 |  6:01 am

JenniferlopezangelinajolieUnlike the Grammys, which all but throws open the doors for weirdness with its medleys and awkward collaborations, the Oscars is a staid affair, planned and managed to the minute.

With host Billy Crystal helming his ninth telecast, the 84th edition of the Hollywood Huzzahs was especially stiff and self-reverent, resembling a wake for an elderly uncle we never knew more than a celebration of film's passionate spirit.

The Oscars still managed to host its fair share of eye-rolling moments, Twitter mini-scandals involving certain body parts and a Big Upset that really wasn't much of a shocker at all. The highlights of the 2012 Uggies — oops, we mean Oscars:

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1. Billy Crystal was brought in as a hasty replacement for Eddie Murphy, who was swept out as part of the Brett Ratner anti-gay slur meltdown of 2011. And although we understand the academy's desire to get someone experienced (read: safe) in there, wouldn't it be great if they had taken just a wee bit more of a risk with the host?

Last year everyone complained James Franco seemed stoned and that Anne Hathaway overcompensated, but at least it wasn't reheated jokes that played better in the Catskills, where the last standing comedy clubs were likely recording this on Beta tape for posterity. An early sketch had Crystal meeting with Justin Bieber to pull in the 18-24 crowd — and that's the last moment this age group or any person younger than 50 was seemingly thought about ever again.

2. Are the movies (all of them, everywhere) dying or going away somewhere? There was an oddly funereal vibe to the recorded segments that had actors recollecting their first cinematic memories or somberly intoning about the magic of cinema in general. With actors talking against a black background, we were just waiting for a procession of bagpipers to announce the Death of Film. By the time we got to the In Memoriam montage, things were so gloomy that Esperanza Spaulding rendered "It's a Wonderful World" dangerously close to a dirge rather than a poignant celebration of life.

3. So desperate for entertainment, some viewers of the Oscars manufactured a fake wardrobe malfunction a la Janet Jackson's flash at the Super Bowl. Shortly after Jennifer Lopez sat down from her presenter duties with Cameron Diaz, Twitter lit afire with rumors that Lopez's left nipple slipped out of her dress while she was turning around onstage. Videos of the supposed moment were quickly cut and posted on YouTube; Daily Beast created a poll, asking viewers if they'd indeed caught a view of JLo's assets; and Gawker wondered if we had a true nip slip on our hands or simply a shadow, perhaps from some clothing tape meant to prevent this kind of mishap from occurring in the first place.

Well, we're here to tell you that we have diligently studied the footage and it is our professional opinion that no such slippage happened at all. Sorry. But we thoroughly applaud the person who started the Twitter account called @JLosNipple.

4. Not to be outdone by anyone's nipple, there was Angelina Jolie's lithesome leg. Wearing a black dress with a slit nearly up to her waistline, Jolie thrust out her right gam and cunningly smiled at the resulting wolf whistles. Some said it was an overcooked attempt to generate steam while others said yowza, who cares?

The pose was so striking that when "Descendants" writer and comedian Jim Rash later came on stage to get his trophy for adapted screenplay, he mimicked the actress but with much more fabric involved (stupid tuxedos). Of course, Jolie's leg also has a Twitter account (@AngiesRightLeg), where it has excitedly tweeted sentiments like "I'm a leg, get a load of me!" Fifteen minutes of fame, meet your new competition: five seconds of Internet chuckles.

5. When the Big Upset of the night is Meryl Streep winning for best actress for playing a character from real life, a world leader mind you, this tells you everything you need to know about the surprise element of the show. The shocker is that one of the most lauded actresses of our time actually won?

Although Streep hasn't nabbed the Oscar in nearly 30 years, she has a record 17 nominations. Sooner or later, she was bound to get another one; the academy certainly wasn't about to stop nominating her. And though she looked genuinely surprised when her name was called, her face soon settled into that regal Streep visage that's about as manufactured as Taylor Swift's surprise face. What's next? A movie about movies wins for best picture? Oh, wait, that happened too.


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— Margaret Wappler

Photos: Jennifer Lopez, with Cameron Diaz. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times. Angelina Jolie thrusts her leg on stage. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Would you help 'The Vow's' Channing Tatum pick his next film?

February 15, 2012 |  1:20 pm

Channing Tatum knows firsthand the power of social media — he has more than 800,000 followers on Twitter and made Facebook videos to promote his recent hit "The Vow."

But in an interview about how those platforms helped make his latest film a hit (for more on that topic, see this story in Wednesday's Times), Tatum said he has bigger ambitions in the world of likes and retweets: He wants fans to help him pick his movies.

"I really, really hope I can be like, 'Guys, what do you want me to do? Option A or Option B?'" he said. "And people can vote and then I can go do that. Then I can get notes on what we did right and wrong."

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The actor, whose next starring role comes in March with "21 Jump Street," sees the approach as part of a larger evolution for the digital world beyond a platform for marketing and audience research.

"Studios — rightfully so because that's the system — try to manipulate [people] into wanting something they might not want," he said. "I don't think that's the right way to go about it. I want to straight up ask them: Should I make a comedy? An action movie? A love story?"

But as much as he values how social media fosters a  conversation with fans, Tatum acknowledged that more operational details elude him. The actor said he "is not a computer person" and, like many other stars, pays someone to manage his Twitter and Facebook accounts.


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— Ben Fritz

Oscar Senti-meter: Demian Bichir leads best actor tweet mentions

February 8, 2012 |  7:15 am


When Oscar nominations were announced, the Twitterverse lit up with messages from movie fans excited about — and upset about — the picks in the best picture, lead actor and lead actress categories. But you might be surprised about which performers and movies got the most tweets — and who had the most positive buzz.

The Oscar Senti-meter — a tool developed by the L.A. Times, IBM and the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab — analyzes opinions about the Academy Awards race shared in millions of public messages on Twitter. The Senti-meter combs through a high volume of tweets daily and uses language-recognition technology, developed in collaboration with USC’s Signal Analysis and Interpretation Lab, to gauge positive, negative and neutral opinions shared in the messages. It also tracks the number of tweets.

Cataloging these tweets over time gives insight into the vox pop surrounding Hollywood’s awards season, and gives a voice to average fans who may endorse — or abhor — the selections made by Tinseltown’s elite.

Using our interactive tool, you can compare the volume and tone of tweets about the lead actor contest between two days, Monday, Jan. 23, the day before the Oscar nominations, and Tuesday, Jan. 24, the day the nominees were announced.

With George Clooney and Brad Pitt landing nominations for “The Descendants” and “Moneyball,” respectively, you might expect that these big names and their Oscar prospects might have garnered the most buzz on nominations day.

Instead, though, it was Demian Bichir, the Mexican-born star of the little-seen “A Better Life,” and his awards prospects that topped the charts with 6,893 messages. That was a 47-fold increase from his tally the day before, when there were just 33 tweets related to Bichir and Hollywood awards.

Some typical messages were “wow!!! Mexican pride!!! This is so awesome! ?@Vacartu: @juanmgc Demian Bichir just got nominated for a Best Actor at the Oscars” and “Congratulations to Mexican actor Demian Bichir, nominated BEST ACTOR for the all Hispanic-cast film A Better Life!” Bichir’s response to his nomination — “I dedicate this nomination to those 11 million human beings who make our lives easier and better in the U.S.,” a reference to undocumented workers like the one he plays in the film — prompted another wave of supportive tweets.

Spanish speakers took to Twitter en masse, sending more than 4,000 tweets about the nomination, such as “Bien! Demian Bichir nominado para Actor in a Leading Role por Better Life #oscars #mexicanpride” but his volume was also upped by messages such as: “Who is Demian Bichir and why is he nominate for best actor. #Oscars2012”

Another foreign-born actor, Jean Dujardin, was nominated for lead actor for his lead role in “The Artist,” but the Frenchman and his awards prospects saw the lowest volume of any nominees on Tuesday — with just 1,388.

Gary Oldman, star of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” was a close second to Bichir, with 6,841 tweets.
As for snubs, Michael Fassbender — who bared it all in “Shame” — was the subject of the most outrage, with 3,513 messages.

Some more sample tweets from Oscar nomination day:

  • Demian Bichir nominado al Oscar? Now I’ve seen everything!!
  • I reeeaaallly want Brad Pitt to take Best Actor at the Oscars. Think “Most Improved,” and he’s absolutely earned it.
  • If Gary Oldman doesn’t win Best Actor In A Leading Role then I don’t want to live anymore. #TeamGaryOldman
  • I love Clooney but I’m not convinced dressing like a schlub, sporting a bad haircut, and turning off the charm makes an Oscar-worthy perf.
  • why do I have a feeling that if Jean Dujardin wins Best Actor, he’ll pull a Roberto Begnini?
  • I have to imagine that Billy Crystal is probably taking Michael Fassbender's Oscar snub far harder than Fassbender is.

Have fun exploring the interactive tool, and keep tweeting. Who knows, your messages might just show up in our sample tweets on a future day.


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— Julie Makinen

Image: Oscar Senti-meter on the day the Oscar nominations were announced. Credit: L.A. Times, IBM and the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab


'Breaking Dawn -- Part 1' lacks bite for many critics

November 18, 2011 |  6:00 am

Breaking Dawn
Just as the "Twilight" series of books and films split fans into two camps (Team Edward and Team Jacob, for the uninitiated), the latest film, "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1" is dividing movie critics: Many find the film lifeless and silly, but some are content to go along for the ride.

The Times' Betsy Sharkey laments, " 'Breaking Dawn' kinda sucks, in the metaphoric rather than the vampiric sense." Although the highly anticipated wedding sequence between vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) and human Bella (Kristen Stewart) is "superb in its execution," Sharkey feels Stewart is underused on the whole. Ultimately, both the film (directed by Bill Condon, who did "Dreamgirls") and the script (by Melissa Rosenberg) fail "to mine all the dramatic potential of the symbolic implications of immortality." In terms of the "Twilight" franchise, Sharkey ranks "Breaking Dawn" squarely in the middle of the pack.

Continue reading »

Young Hollywood: Evan Rachel Wood on the benefits of Twitter

November 14, 2011 | 11:28 am

Evan Rachel Wood talks about why she likes Twitter
On Twitter, plenty of celebrities are bombarded with hateful messages about their films or wardrobe choices. But Evan Rachel Wood has had a different experience on the social networking site: She's been sent an overwhelming number of adoring messages from fans.

"I can be really critical, and you hear the bad stuff more than the good and then all of a sudden, there's all of these people every day who are like, 'I love you, and you're so inspirational,'" the 24-year-old said at the Los Angeles Times' Young Hollywood round table earlier this month, where she sat alongside Anton Yelchin, Armie Hammer and Kirsten Dunst. "It's nice to actually hear some of the good things sometimes."

None of the other young stars at the event has a Twitter account, although Hammer admitted he once attempted to send out a message on his wife's feed.

"In the middle of writing this thing, the letters on the keyboard just stopped working," he explained. "I was like, 'Why is this not typing anymore? 140 characters? That's it? Are you joking me?' It's hard to get a good joke out in 140 characters."

For more on the actors' feelings about tweeting, check out the clip below.


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-- Amy Kaufman


Photo: Evan Rachel Wood poses on the red carpet after the second annual Los Angeles Times Young Hollywood roundtable. Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press

The Rock's 'Faster' becomes a Twitter experiment

November 24, 2010 |  2:34 pm

Movie studios have increasingly been using Twitter in their marketing campaigns. Paramount paid to put "Paranormal Activity" as a Trending Topic so that the movie sat at the top of the hot list of subjects Twitter users were talking about.

Other movies have  used Twitter to conflate fact and fiction. Natalie Portman's Nina Sayers character from  "Black Swan," for instance, has a Twitter account, with updates fashioned out of bits of dialogue and characters points from the story. ("You've got to believe me ... they want to replace me," Ms. Sayers tweeted a few days ago.)

But no movie that we know of has tried what "Faster," this weekend's Dwayne Johnson action-revenge flick, tried Tuesday: paid for a promoted link in the Trending Topics section in the hope that people might confuse it, just a little, with something else.

The movie's more generic title allowed studio CBS Films, with the promoted trending topic, to lasso in those who were simply hash-tagging the word "faster" in the context of Thanksgiving -- tweeters who wished the long weekend would come #Faster, that Black Friday would come #Faster, that airport security lines would move #Faster -- mixed in with those tweeting about the film itself.

In some cases, the simple presence of #faster as a trending topic prompted users to ask what it was, and others to respond with an explanation. But in other instances the studio was hoping that the simple presence of the word out in the Twittersphere will make people more attuned, even subconsciously, to the movie title -- and maybe make them a little more open to choosing it when they went to the multiplex this weekend.

A CBS Films spokesman said the attempt was to turn the challenge -- that multi-meaning title -- into an advantage and "take ownership of the word without the campaign being obtrusive."

We won't know until after the weekend how the unconventional move played. But the campaign has already ensured that "Faster" has its place in social-media history: It's the Twitter era's first-ever subliminal-advertising movie campaign.

--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT (Not a movie title)

Photo: "Faster." Credit: CBS Films

Adam Shankman's (conflicted) Oscar Twitter thoughts

March 10, 2010 |  6:59 pm

Shankman Throughout awards season, this year's Oscars co-producer Adam Shankman kept his nearly 55,000 Twitter followers amused by sharing behind-the-scenes tidbits about working on the telecast, making up with enthusiasm what he lacked in punctuation and spelling.

It began in December: "Had dinner last night with Oscar cohosts steve martin and Alec Baldwin. Laughed so hard I almost passed out. This is gonna b goooood..."

The remark was followed by a number of other show-related Tweets. In many he queried his fans about whom they would most like to see appear on the Oscars. Some responded with tween favorites like Zac Efron and Miley Cyrus, both of whom ended up presenting awards at this year's ceremony.

So it's no surprise that, post-Oscars, Shankman has taken to his Twitter account to take on those -- like the Times' own Mary McNamara -- who criticized the show's pace, montage omissions, and dancing sections.

"did the best i could last night with so many perameters," he tweeted on Monday. "just so everyone knows the horror tribute was linked 2 roger cormans govs oscar."

Earlier today, he took to his page again with a more positive message, thanking a slew of people, including hosts Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, co-producer Bill Mechanic, and set designer David Rockwell.

Continue reading »


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