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angelina jolie

Favorite Books and Movies of 2014

Happy Friday! How was your first full week of 2015?

I returned from vacation a few days ago and really enjoyed being off grid. Now I have to find my cell phone and remember my social-media passwords.

I might be a little late but wanted to post my list of favorite books and movies from 2014 before I start discussing new releases. Click on the links to read my full reviews.

Favorite movies

The first two are for pure entertainment value because I enjoyed the heck out of them, and the last two are gut-wrenching films—coincidentally both about war and its effects—that haunt me still.

maleficent-stills-24Maleficent

Edge of Tomorrow

Last Days in Vietnam

American Sniper

 

Favorite Books

big little liesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Closed Doors by Lisa O’Donnell

The Intern’s Handbook by Shane Kuhn

Love Story, with Murders by Harry Bingham

North of Boston by Elisabeth Elo

Malice by Keigo Higashino

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta

Watching You by Michael Robotham

Which movies and books did you enjoy from last year? Which are you looking forward to in the next few weeks and months?

 

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Movie Review: UNBROKEN

unbroken jack oconnell running

Much of the interest in Unbroken (out Dec. 25) comes from people wondering whether or not Angelina Jolie is a good director, so I’ll start by saying she acquits herself well, especially with a production that involves a lot of shooting on water. The film adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s book is sweeping and epic, with impressive cinematography by Roger Deakins, but there’s an earnestness that prevents the film from being great.

It opens with a WWII gun battle in the sky, an excitingly shot and sharply edited sequence that puts viewers right inside the bomber with the film’s subject, Louis Zamperini, and his fellow airmen. Then the movie flashes back to when Zamperini was a boy growing up in Southern California, stealing, drinking, and smoking by the time he was nine.

Seeing how fast Zamperini can run away from police, his brother Pete encourages him to run track. Zamperini makes it to the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where he runs the final lap in the 5000-meter in 56 seconds.

unbroken-raftCut back to Zamperini in the US Army Air Corps and a search mission that leads him to crash into the Pacific Ocean and drift for 47 days with, initially, two other men. They endure exposure and hunger and thirst and hopelessness before being “rescued” by Japanese soldiers, who then throw them into a POW camp and submit them to sadistic treatment for two years until the end of the war.

The story is incredible and Zamperini an astonishing and inspiring figure, but it seems as if Jolie fell in love with the real man a bit too deeply and ended up smoothing his edges too much. He was a rascal as a child, and I’ve read the man, who died this past July at 97, was a flirt.

But in the movie, as soon as Zamperini starts channeling his energy into running, he becomes a straight-up hero. If he’d been allowed to be portrayed by the able Jack O’Connell (with fabulous hair) as a bit more mischievous or a likable scoundrel, he would’ve come across more full bodied on screen.

O’Connell spoke at the screening I attended (Jolie was also scheduled to appear but was sidelined by chicken pox) and he seems to have that combination of rough edges and mischief that Jolie probably saw when she cast him. The movie Louie could’ve used more of those qualities.

unbroken miyaviJapanese singer Miyavi, in his acting debut, leaves an impression as The Bird, the head torturer of Zamperini and other captured American soldiers. Miyavi’s performance conveys the sense of The Bird’s overcompensation for his shortcomings as a man and a soldier, how he must try to break those he perceives as stronger.

The beatings are hard to watch, but thankfully Jolie isn’t gratuitous about the violence. It’s necessary to show what Zamperini and the other prisoners endured, but Jolie does so by pulling back and shooting from afar and in shadows, or allowing only sounds to imply the horrors being suffered.

Overall, Unbroken is a bit safe from a director known for taking risks in her acting, but it contains potent moments and the powerful message that even in the darkest times, we can win the battle against despair.

Nerd verdict: Strong but shows weakness in places

Photos: Universal Pictures

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Movie Review: MALEFICENT

maleficent-stills-24

Every once in a while, a role comes along that’s so perfectly embodied by an actor that you can’t imagine anyone else playing that character. Such is the case with Angelina Jolie in the titular role of Disney’s Maleficent, which provides back story for the villainess from the animated classic Sleeping Beauty. The casting is a bit obvious because we know Jolie can play dark and edgy characters, but what’s surprising is that she’s also funny in this movie.

The retelling of the well-known fairy tale also contains a few other surprising updates (which I’ll be vague about to avoid spoiling). We start with Maleficent as a young fairy with big powerful wings who guards the moors, a place that’s home to all kinds of magical creatures. Her heart is bright and she falls in love with an orphan boy who declares someday he’ll live in the castle in the land adjacent to the moors.

Fast forward to Jolie as the adult Maleficent, who leads her people into battle against the king of the neighboring land who’s looking to expand his kingdom. The outcome of the battle leads to Maleficent being horribly betrayed by the boy she thought was her true love. Enter the angry, vengeful fairy.

The story then treads familiar territory with the cursing of the infant princess Aurora, who shall prick her finger on a spindle on her sixteenth birthday and fall into a death-like sleep and can only be awoken by true love’s kiss. Maleficent is being snarky there because she no longer believes true love exists.

But while the story still contains the classic elements—the fire-breathing dragon, a young prince, the three pixies who raise Aurora in the woods—it also takes off in new directions. It redefines true love and showcases female empowerment. This is the second Disney movie in a row I’ve seen (after Frozen) where the women are in control and don’t need saving by some guy. In light of the misogyny in recent news, this is a welcome thing.

maleficentThe main reason to see Maleficent, though, is Jolie. She commands the screen whether she’s being big and powerful, vulnerable, or funny. An actor with less screen presence might’ve been swallowed up by the dramatic costumes and horns and awesome wings, but Jolie wears them, not the other way around.

The movie veers into kiddie land with technicolor magical creatures flitting about while the teenage Aurora (Elle Fanning) looks on in wonder, and some plot points are underdeveloped, but Jolie will keep the adults entertained.

Nerd verdict: Jolie is a magnificent Maleficent

Photos: Walt Disney Pictures

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Golden Globes 2011 Fashion Roundup

When I first tuned in to the red carpet arrivals, I saw a lot of stars wearing black and thought it was going to be a boring night for fashion. I mean, I like and own lots of black but it’s just too safe for the red carpet. Celebs should dazzle viewers, not put us to sleep by wearing something we can buy at the mall.

But then a few actresses started showing up in different colored gowns, pink and green and red and even mustard, and I realized there would be beautiful gowns to ogle after all. Some highlights:

Best overall—Dianna Agron

I usually don’t like nude gowns but in this one, Agron looks like a dream. Her hair, makeup, jewelry—everything is perfection.

Favorite dress—Lea Michele

Michele bugs me but I really like her dress. It’s funny because I’ve been told I’m kinda boyish (that’s better than mannish, right?) but I can look at a girly pink dress with ruffles and swoon.

Best green—Catherine Zeta-Jones

I can’t wear green because it makes my skin turn a Hep-C shade of yellow, but CZ-J looks divine. Love how these two are looking at each other.


Best homage to the bride of Frankenstein—Scarlett Johansson

She’s so beautiful but what is going on with that hair? It wasn’t THAT windy out.

Disturbing comeback trend—1980s Dynasty-style shoulder pads

Oh, please, no. Just no. I really don’t want to look like Joan Collins.

Julianne Moore decided she didn’t need two big shoulders and just went for one GIANT one. Yikes. She also won the award for most wrinkled.

Even more disturbing trend—bordello-style dresses

They’re gorgeous and I’m a big fan of all, but don’t these actresses look like they work in a saloon or brothel? A very high-priced one, with Tina being the madam?

Wackiest getup I kinda liked—Helena Bonham Carter

This is goofy from head to toe but it says, “I’m having more gun than you are” and Bonham Carter’s confidence somehow makes it work.

Dress I’m most on the fence about—Natalie Portman

From some angles, I thought this looked sweet. From others, it looked cheap and polyester-y.


Best dressed male overall—

Three-way tie between (from L.) Matthew Bomer, Alex Pettyfer and Chris Colfer. Yes, the fashion is all about the ladies but these guys did a pretty good job pulling themselves together.

Who were the fashion winners and losers for you? Which outfit confused you the most? For my recap on best & worst moments in the show, click here.

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Highlights and Lowlights of Golden Globes 2011

Gervais having a laugh

I look forward to the Globes every year because they are decidedly nutty—weird nominations, random presenters (Alicia Keys?) and drunk acceptance speeches. This year was no exception, starting with Helena Bonham Carter’s wacky dress and mismatched shoes on the red carpet (more on that in the fashion recap here).

That’s not to say the show didn’t have its dull, awkward moments. There were no surprises in the movie categories, with Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, Melissa Leo, Christian Bale, David Fincher, Aaron Sorkin and The Social Network winning Globes as predicted and pretty much guaranteed Oscars. Also, host Ricky Gervais’s material was surprisingly more low-brow than sharp.

For a complete list of winners, click here. Read on for my reactions to some of the other stuff that went down.

Biggest gasp in the room: When Gervais said in his opening remarks regarding I Love You, Phillip Morris, which stars Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor, “Two heterosexual actors pretending to be gay. So, the complete opposite of some famous Scientologists, then.” It’s not a new joke but perhaps the A-list audience had never had someone say it to their face.

Grossest Visuals: When Gervais advised Hugh Hefner’s 24-year-old fiancé to not “look at it when you touch it,” referring to Hefner’s, ah, plaything. He then mimed what she would have to do in the bedroom. I also didn’t need the bit about Gervais having to help the Hollywood Foreign Press’s president, Philip Berk, get off the toilet and pop in his teeth. I’m all for irreverent but it has to be funny, not just disgusting.

That's Ramirez in the back

Biggest who’s-that-guy?! moment: When Carlos won for best TV miniseries and star Édgar Ramírez went up on stage, I paused with a handful of Raisinets halfway to my mouth and said, “Hellooo there, más Ramírez, por favor.” The actor didn’t speak because producer Daniel Leconte accepted the award but Ramírez sure got me interested in checking out Carlos. Heh.

Most adorable acceptance speech opening: Chris Colfer saying, “I think I just dropped my heart between Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore so if anyone sees it, please give it back to me.” I think fans dropped their hearts right at his feet when he said that.

Colfer's triumphant moment

Most defiant acceptance speech closing: Addressing all the kids who are bullied or told “no” or aren’t allowed to be who they are or have what they want because of it, Colfer says, “Screw that, kids” while brandishing his brand-new shiny Globe.

Seat filler with most screen time: Whoever was sitting in Julia Stiles’s seat. When the actress’s name was called as a nominee for best TV supporting actress in Dexter, the camera showed a much older woman who was obviously not Julia Stiles. I kept thinking director Louis J. Horovitz would figure out the mistake and cut away but no, the shot stayed on this mysterious woman, who seemed to really enjoy her close-up.

Funniest self-assessment: Jane Lynch saying “I am nothing if not falsely humble” upon winning best supporting TV actress. Now that I think about it, she may have just described everyone in the room.

Pretty in pink Portman

Cutest TMI: Natalie Portman referring to fiancé Benjamin Millepied’s performance in Black Swan as a fellow dancer who said he had no desire to sleep with her character: “He’s the best actor. It’s not true. He TOTALLY wants to sleep with me!” This isn’t news since she’s pregnant with his child, but Portman always seems so reserved that the uninhibited moment was unexpected.

Most under-the-radar A-list winner: Mark Wahlberg, for being a producer of Boardwalk Empire, which won best TV drama series. Did you know he produced that? I didn’t, but then again, I don’t watch that show.

Best shout-out to people who truly deserve thanks: When Glee won best comedy TV series, one of the writers, Ian Brennan, said: “Thank you to public school teachers. You don’t get paid like it but you’re doing the most important work in America.” How about passing around a hat among the cast and creative team to start a collection for public schools, then?

Most likely to have skipped rehearsal: Andrew Garfield, who repeatedly stumbled while reading the intro for The Social Network. Maybe he should switch to Twitter since tweets are much shorter.

Firth, with his Harley substitute

Most timely win: Colin Firth’s. Referring to a possible mid-life crisis since he just turned 50, the actor said: “Right now, this [award] is all that stands between me and a Harley-Davidson.” I also liked how he called Speech director Tom Hooper and co-star Geoffrey Rush “my two other sides of a surprisingly robust triangle of man love.” Is it wrong to say I want to be part of any geometric shape that includes Firth giving away man love?

Best joke about an illness: After Michael Douglas got the audience on its feet when he made a surprise appearance to announce best motion picture drama, he quipped: “There’s got to be an easier way to get a standing ovation.” It’s good to see him survive his cancer treatment with his sense of humor intact.

Saddest coincidence: Laura Linney won for best TV comedy actress for The Big C, about a woman who has cancer. But she didn’t attend because her father, playwright Romulus Linney, died Saturday of…cancer.

Worst joke about a dead person: David Fincher calling himself JonBenét Rudin, which was just stupid. I guess he was saying producer Scott Rudin has been parading him around to the different award shows and he felt like a beauty pageant puppet but then Rudin would have to be Patsy Ramsey and she’s dead, too.

Dullest acceptance speech: Diane Warren’s, after she won for best original song. You know what’s more boring than reading a bunch of names from a sheet of paper? When you can’t even read your own handwriting and have to stop to figure out what it says.

What were some of your favorite moments? Were the winners deserving? Did you hear that Ryan Murphy confirmed backstage that Anne Hathaway is coming to Glee?

Photos: NBC/Getty

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Awards Are Coming! Awards Are Coming!

I’m a little behind but want to cover Golden Globe nominations and winners from some major critics’ groups.

First, GG noms in the big movie categories, with a few brief observations:

Best Motion Picture–Drama

Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The King’s Speech
The Social Network

It’s a toss-up between Inception and The King’s Speech for me. Both are remarkable but in completely different ways.

Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical

Alice in Wonderland
Burlesque
The Kids Are All Right
Red
The Tourist

Burlesque? Seriously? Kids is the obvious choice here.

Best Director – Motion Picture

Darren Aronofsky–Black Swan
David Fincher–The Social Network
Tom Hooper–The King’s Speech
Christopher Nolan–Inception
David O. Russell–The Fighter

Again, it’d be between Nolan and Hooper, but I’m surprised Danny Boyle didn’t make the cut. He turned what people said was an unfilmable book into an exhilarating and intensely moving motion picture.

Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama

Jesse Eisenberg–The Social Network
Colin Firth–The King’s Speech
James Franco–127 Hours
Ryan Gosling–Blue Valentine
Mark Wahlberg–The Fighter

Firth is tops for me, with Franco a close second and Gosling a very close third.

Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama

Halle Berry–Frankie and Alice
Nicole Kidman–Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence–Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman–Black Swan
Michelle Williams–Blue Valentine

Portman would get my vote, but Williams’s performance also got under my skin. Huge omission: Lesley Manville’s raw portrayal of a woman in denial slowly falling apart in Another Year.

Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Comedy

Johnny Depp–Alice in Wonderland
Johnny Depp–The Tourist
Paul Giamatti–Barney’s Version
Jake Gyllenhaal–Love and Other Drugs
Kevin Spacey–Casino Jack

Haven’t seen all these perfs so not sure about this one.

Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Comedy

Anne Hathaway–Love and Other Drugs
Julianne Moore–The Kids Are All Right
Annette Bening–The Kids Are All Right
Emma Stone–Easy A
Angelina Jolie–The Tourist

Tough to pick between the Kids leads but I’d go with Moore for her insecure, vulnerable, conflicted, lovely turn.

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture

Christian Bale–The Fighter
Michael Douglas–Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Andrew Garfield–The Social Network
Jeremy Renner–The Town
Geoffrey Rush–The King’s Speech

Bale is the clear winner but Renner and Rush are very strong. I’m disappointed John Hawkes didn’t get recognized for his creepy turn as Teardrop in Winter’s Bone.

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture

Amy Adams–The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter–The King’s Speech
Mila Kunis–Black Swan
Melissa Leo–The Fighter
Jacki Weaver–Animal Kingdom

Haven’t seen Weaver’s performance. Between the other four, I’d go with Leo for her brassy, trashy mama.

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture

127 Hours
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
Inception

Tough call between Inception, 127 Hours and King’s Speech, all complex and smart. Good thing Oscars distinguish between original and adapted screenplays. For originality, Inception should get it. For adapted, I’d go with Hours since it was probably more difficult to rework the mostly internal story into something cinematic.

In the last couple days, film critics associations have also been doling out awards, with most naming The Social Network and David Fincher as best picture and best director. I strongly disagree but here are partial lists from some of the more prominent groups. (Click on links to see full lists.)

New York Film Critics Circle:

Best Film:
The Social Network

Best Director:
David Fincher, The Social Network

Best Screenplay:
The Kids Are All Right

Best Actress
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right

Best Actor
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

Best Supporting Actress
Melissa Leo, The Fighter

Best Supporting Actor
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right

Best Cinematography
Matthew Libatique, Black Swan

Best Animated Film
The Illusionist

Boston Society of Film Critics:

Best Picture
The Social Network

Best Actor
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network

Best Actress
Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Fighter

Best Supporting Actress
Juliette Lewis, Conviction

Best Director
David Fincher, The Social Network

Best Screenplay
Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network

Best Cinematography
Roger Deakins, True Grit

Best Animated Film
Toy Story 3

Best Film Editing (awarded in memory of Karen Schmeer)
Andrew Weisblum, Black Swan

Best Ensemble Cast

The Fighter

I like how the L.A. Film Critics Association threw in a few surprises:

Best Picture
The Social Network

Best Director
Olivier Assayas (Carlos) and David Fincher (The Social Network)—tie.

Best Actor
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

Best Actress
Kim Hye-ja, Mother

Best Supporting Actor
Niels Arestrup, A Prophet

Best Supporting Actress
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

Best Screenplay
Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network

Best Cinematography
Black Swan

Best Foreign Language Film
Carlos

Best Music/Score
The Ghost Writer (Alexandre Desplat) and The Social Network (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross)

If you’re still with me, here are links to winners from the Toronto Film Critics, D.C. Film Critics, Southeastern Film Critics and AFI’s top 10 movies of the year.

Do you agree The Social Network is this year’s best movie? Any others you’re rooting for? What about favorite-but-overlooked performances?

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THE TOURIST Trailer

The Tourist is one of the movies I’m most looking forward to this year. It stars Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie and was shot in Venice, Italy. It could be about accountants and I’d watch it. I like how even though it’s supposed to be a thriller, Depp is bringing a little bit of goofy to it. And Jolie’s character’s name is Elise!

Anybody else excited about this movie?

Photo: Peter Mountain

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Best Pre-SALT Female Action Heroes

My parents are in town so I probably won’t get a chance to see Salt this weekend, but I’ve been reading about how amazing Angelina Jolie is in the movie. I’m a big fan of her in action mode, but some articles make it sound as if a woman has never convincingly played an action hero. So, I thought I’d pop out this quick reminder list of some of the most bad-ass female performances in the last 25 years.

  1. Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. When I saw her in that movie, every ounce in my 98-lb. body wanted to be as strong as she. I kept thinking, How do I get arms like that?? Arnold may have had bigger muscles but to me, Hamilton was the most powerful presence on screen. (UPDATE: Chuck producers announced today that Hamilton will be Chuck’s mom this coming season! That’s nine kinds of awesome because she was our first choice when my husband and I were armchair-casting the role.)
  2. Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in Aliens. She was so fierce protecting Newt, the alien had nothing on her.
  3. Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity in The Matrix. She wasn’t all shades and black vinyl; she had the butt-kicking skill to back up her ‘tude.
  4. Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series. Besides her formidable slayer-ness,  she was armed with a valuable weapon—her quick wit.
  5. Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She looks like a waif but bad guys learned the painful way not to mess with her. In The Girl Who Played with Fire, Lisbeth experiences things which would destroy the average person, but her fierce resilience proves she’s the Girl Who Won’t Stay Down.
  6. Anne Parillaud as Nikita in La Femme Nikita. There have been two other Nikitas (Bridget Fonda and Peta Wilson) and Maggie Q is about to debut as the third incarnation on CW but Parillaud remains the best and most convincing as the reluctant assassin.
  7. Geena Davis as Samantha/Charly in The Long Kiss Goodnight. At first, her character can’t remember her past, believing she’s a housewife. But from the moment she throws that kitchen knife across the room with deadly accuracy, you know her dangerous side is taking over and she doesn’t disappoint.
  8. Michelle Yeoh in Supercop or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Tomorrow Never Dies. I can’t pick just one when Yeoh is one of the most incredible stunt actresses out there. It was almost insulting when she was cast as a Bond girl because it was clear she would save his ass in a fight, not the other way around.
  9. Zhang Ziyi as Xiao Mei in House of Flying Daggers. The movie has gorgeously choreographed and photographed fight scenes—the ones in the bamboo forest and in the field stand out—all elevated by Zhang’s agility and grace.
  10. Jennifer Garner as Sydney Bristow in Alias. She kicked butt with such ferocity and conviction, she made us believe that sweet dimpled college girl was a lethal spy.

Who would be on your list?

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Backstage Oscars Scoop!

After the ceremony, I received a call from a source who attended the show and had lots of scoop to share. Here’s our conversation: [She also took the photo below]

PCN: Spill! Tell me your favorite moments.

A: I’m so overwhelmed that the Slumdog kids won, and by the grand symbolism of the acting awards, just the way the new winners were welcomed into the club by previous winners, some who are legends. That feeling must have been like, Wow.

PCN: That was really cool how they had 5 winners come out for each acting award. I gasped when Eva Marie Saint came out to present Best Supporting Actress.

A: Me, too! I actually walked up to her and told her how starstruck I was by her. She won an Oscar for On the Waterfront

PCN: Who else were you starstruck by?

A: Sophia Loren. They just don’t make ’em like her anymore.  And Daniel Craig. He usually looks kinda weathered on screen but he walked by me a couple times and was very debonair, the epitome of a British gentleman. 

PCN: I need to shove you down the stairs, I’m so envious. I loooove him. Did you ask him if you could take a photo of him holding up a sign saying he loved me back?

A: Yeah, right.

PCN:  OK, let’s go back to the way the acting awards were presented. When the first group of five came out, that was a nice surprise. But then I caught on. I’d seen Kevin Kline walk the red carpet so I thought, “A ha! I’ll bet he’s one of the five presenting Best Supporting Actor!” They also kept cutting to reaction shots of Sir Anthony Hopkins and Sir Ben Kingsley so I figured those were two Best Actor presenters right there.

A: That makes me mad! Did they really show them on TV before they presented?

PCN:  Yes. In closeups. 

A: That makes me mad, because the coordinators worked so hard to keep everyone a secret by having them not walk the red carpet, going in through the back entrance, seated far away from the front row. Joel Grey was practically in the mezzanine so that you couldn’t see him. That’s really sh*tty that you could see them from home before we could reveal them.

PCN:  Well, I never saw Christopher Walken or Robert DeNiro so those were nice surprises for me. Speaking of being seated far from the front row, where were all those adorable little Slumdog babies placed?

A: In the mezzanine. But that’s standard for non-nominated cast members who are in nominated films.

PCN:  What were they like?

A: I don’t even know how to describe them. It’s very touching because it’s been such a long road for them to be at the show. The Oscars, for me, were heightened by the joy they exuded. I’ve never been as excited for a bunch of people I don’t know to win an award as I was for these children. They were glowing, on top of the world, overjoyed. It was pure. And the littlest Salim [Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail] was asked to carry the Oscar all night. It was so cute.

fr12

PCN:  All right, I have to ask because people want to know. Was someone assigned to keep Brad & Angelina and Jennifer Aniston apart?

A: Not that I know of, but there was a close call. Brad and Angelina had left during a commercial break. They went out to the lobby, they were just hanging out, having wine when Jennifer came walking towards them from the other direction. People gasped and freaked out, “Oh no! What’s gonna happen? What’s gonna happen?!” But then Jennifer just turned and went backstage before she got to them. I don’t know if she saw them or someone warned her but she was only a few feet away from them.

PCN:  It probably would’ve been okay. I think the whole Jen vs. Angie thing is stupid. They probably all moved on years ago.

A: Jennifer was a social butterfly. She was very cute. At one point, when she was coming out of the bathroom, she saw Sophia Loren and was like, “Hi!” but then her dress got caught in the bathroom door. She was, like, “This is not a good time for my dress to be caught in the door.” It was a very Rachel moment. 

At another moment, my jaw just dropped because in this one small room, Jennifer, Reese Witherspoon, Sophia Loren, Halle Berry, Marion Cotillard and Nicole Kidman were all getting their makeup done. I just could not handle it. 

PCN: That’s really something. Now, I know things look different on TV so who was best dressed in person? 

A: Miley Cyrus. 

PCN:  What?! Ugh.

A: You don’t like her?

PCN: She kept telling everyone on the red carpet she hopes to be back at the Oscars next year and get something for The Hannah Montana Movie. I mean, Dream on, honey. 

A: That is gross.

PCN: So, who else looked good?

A: Marion Cotillard looked really good. Diane Lane—I love her. Nicole Kidman and Penelope were very “them,” wearing what we normally expect of them so there were no fashion risks. Robert Downey Jr. looked like he did in The Pick-Up Artist [his 1987 comedy with Molly Ringwald].

PCN:  He did look like he aged backwards! How about worst dressed?

A: Shirley MacLaine. What was that?! For males, Mickey Rourke and Adrien Brody. 

PCN:  Adrien Brody could’ve done the Joaquin impersonation with that beard instead of Ben Stiller. 

A: Really.

PCN:  Overall, did everything go as planned?

A: I would say so. I thought it went really well. 

 

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2009 Oscars Fashion Round-Up

There were a lot of beautiful dresses tonight so it’s hard to pick a best. Even the “bad” ones weren’t horrible. But Nerdies need to be given out so here goes:

Best Dressed—Female: (Tie) Anne Hathaway and Marisa Tomei. I usually don’t like “no-color” dresses like beige or silver but these two dresses were magnificent.

Hathaway’s Armani Prive’ looked like a fluid, light-emitting column of tiny mirrors, making Hathaway the fairest of them all.

Actress Anne Hathaway arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awards

I’d never seen such intricate pleating like on the skirt and train of Tomei’s Versace gown.

m-tomei

Best Color: Natalie Portman’s pink dress. The color was so soft yet striking in a theater full of neutral colors. Alicia Keys’ dress was of a similar color and style but I liked Portman’s just a little more because it had more interesting tucking and details in the bodice.

n-portman1

Best Dressed Male: Daniel Craig. He ain’t just Bond on screen. He looked lethal-weapon sharp on the red carpet, too.

Actor Daniel Craig (R) and Satsuki Mitchell arrives at the 81st

Most Improved from Previous Award Shows This Year: Robert Downey Jr. He looked like a bum at the SAG Awards, chewing gum, sporting sneakers and dirty hair. Look at him here. Damn! Somebody got a facial and full makeover.

Actor Robert Downey Jr. and guest arrive at the 81st Annual Acad

Oldest Gown: Penelope Cruz. Her 60-year-old vintage Balmain was older than most people there. It’s held up remarkably well, though, and makes Cruz look like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.

Actress Penelope Cruz arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awards

Best Jewelry: Angelina Jolie. I couldn’t take my eyes off her green dangling earrings and ginormous cocktail ring. I don’t know why she looks so pissed here, though.

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Most Resembling a Bridesmaid Dress: Amanda Seyfried. C’mon, doesn’t this look like it escaped from 27 Dresses?

Actress Amanda Seyfried arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Award

Most Unfortunate Bow Placement: Tilda Swinton. The top half’s draping is pretty, but look where the giant ruffle is on her skirt. Unless you’re Cher circa 1987, you should never wear a gown that calls attention to your crotch to the Oscars.

Actress Tilda Swinton arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awards

Most Age-Inappropriate Dress: Sophia Loren. She’s still hot but what’s with all the ruffles? Twenty-four-year-old Freida Pinto may have been able to pull it off but it’s all wrong for Ms. Loren. She should take style lessons from Helen Mirren on how to look sophisticated and hot.

Actress Sophia Loren arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awards h

Baggiest Mess: Jessica Biel. She looks like someone draped a towel down the front of her dress. She could hide a couple of the Slumdog kids under there.Actress Jessica Biel arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awards h

Who were your favorites? Who looked like they made their own clothes? Discuss!

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81st Oscar Nominations are Here! My Predictions and Reactions

I can’t believe I woke up at 5:30 a.m. to hear them announced live. I haven’t seen this side of morning since…never. Here are nominees in some of the major categories (winners will be announced Feb. 22):

Best Picture

Best Actor

  • Richard Jenkins—The Visitor
  • Frank Langella—Frost/Nixon
  • Sean Penn—Milk
  • Brad Pitt—The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Mickey Rourke—The Wrestler

Best Actress

Best Supporting Actor

  • Josh Brolin—Milk
  • Robert Downey Jr.—Tropic Thunder
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman—Doubt
  • Heath Ledger—The Dark Knight
  • Michael Shannon—Revolutionary Road

Best Supporting Actress

  • Amy Adams—Doubt
  • Penelope Cruz—Vicky Christina Barcelona
  • Viola Davis—Doubt
  • Taraji P. Henson—The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Marisa Tomei—The Wrestler

Best Director

  • David Fincher—The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Ron Howard—Frost/Nixon
  • Gus Van Sant—Milk
  • Stephen Daldry—The Reader
  • Danny Boyle—Slumdog Millionaire

You can see the complete list of nominees here.

Didn’t expect Kate Winslet to be nominated for Best Actress for The Reader, though it only reinforces my belief she’ll win this category.

Revolutionary RoadOverall, I agreed with most of the nominations. LOVED that Michael Shannon got a nod for Revolutionary Road. He was exceptional. The Supporting Actor category is ridiculously jampacked with really strong contenders. Last December, I picked Josh Brolin and I’m holding on to that for now, but Shannon just made this category impossible to handicap, Heath Ledger aside.

2008_tropic_thunder_034I also loved Robert Downey Jr.’s performance so I refuse to consider it a “surprise” nomination (the live audience at the announcements ceremony gasped loudly then chuckled). There’s precedence for a great comedic performance to be nominated in this category: Kevin Kline for A Fish Called Wanda and he won. RDJ’s feat as “the dude who played the dude who played a black man” in Tropic Thunder was astounding. He completely transformed himself into two different characters—even in the brief moments when he wasn’t “black” in the movie, he was a platinum blond, blue-eyed Australian guy and there wasn’t a hint of RDJ in either guise.

Loved that In Bruges got a Best Original Screenplay nomination for Martin McDonagh. I’ll stop shoving that movie down your throats now.

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Loved that WALL•E was nominated for Best Animated Picture though it could well contend for Best Picture, period. Then again, it’s sure to win in the animated category. It also received a Best Original Screenplay nod for Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon and Pete Docter and I wouldn’t count them out but I think Dustin Lance Black will take it for Milk.

Other categories I’m calling (I already predicted acting winners last month): Best Director—Danny Boyle, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture—Slumdog Millionaire. I also think the film’s A.R. Rahman will take Best Score and one of the Best Songs, and Anthony Dod Mantle will win for Slumdog‘s cinematography. When Mantle talked about shooting in Mumbai among the crush of people, running after children, trying to keep everyone from looking at the cameras, I’m amazed he managed to pull it off.

E!’s movie critic Ben Lyons, who annoys me because he can’t even get titles right (at the Globes, he said “Welcome to the Golden Globe” at one point and then called Meryl Streep’s next movie Julia & Julie when it’s actually Julie & Julia), said right before the announcements that he thought Clint Eastwood would get a Best Actor nom for Gran Torino. I was vigorously shaking my head because I couldn’t disagree more. Eastwood squinted and growled like a junkyard dog throughout the movie and I thought it was ridiculous. I kept thinking, “I get it, you’re a tough guy, stop with the overly indicating.” I’m glad Richard Jenkins got nominated instead for his funny, sweet performance but was disappointed to see Michael Sheen omitted from this category for Frost/Nixon. He was just as good as Langella.

What did you think of the noms? Any mentions really excited you? Any egregious omissions? Leave me a comment. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts but right now, it’s roughly 6:30 and I’m amazed my brain is even functioning at all.

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CHANGELING Script Required No Changes

Over the years, many movies have been made that were “based on a true story.” At the beginning of Changeling, I noticed something different: A title card read simply “A True Story.”

The movie’s writer, J. Michael Straczynski, who was present at the Variety screening I attended, explained, “Ninety-five percent of the dialogue was taken directly from trial transcripts, newspaper clippings and other documents. I had to annotate my script and submit it with clippings.”

The clippings he was talking about are about the real-life case Changeling depicts. On Saturday, March 10, 1928, Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) came home from work to find her son missing. Four months later, the LAPD returned a boy2008_changeling_002 whom Collins instantly declared was not her son. Despite the boy being shorter and having different teeth from the real Walter Collins, corrupt Captain J. J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) pressured her into taking the boy into her home and even sent out a doctor to “officially” determine the boy was Collins’s son. When Collins kept insisting the child was not Walter, Captain Jones threw her into a mental hospital (or in his words, “She wasn’t thrown. She was escorted.”).

A fluke tip eventually led the police to an isolated farm where they found a boy, Sanford Clark, who confessed that his cousin had kidnapped and killed as many as twenty boys, including Walter Collins. Clark had been forced by his cousin, Gordon Northcott (Jason Butler Harner), to act as an accomplice to lure the children into the man’s truck.

Once the police validated this claim (though Walter’s remains were never found), Collins was released from the psychiatric hospital then sued the city and the LAPD. She became an unexpected heroine when the trial resulted in Jones’ suspension, the forced resignation of Chief of Police James Davis (Colm Feore) and a law that required a warrant in order to commit a person to a mental institution.

2008_changeling_008Portraying a woman who went through so much grief, Jolie took the understated route and came through beautifully. She’s famous for her lips but in Changeling, it’s her eyes that are striking. They registered panic, sorrow, compassion and hope without Jolie saying a word sometimes. She suppressed her contemporary, kick-ass persona to convincingly play a woman with modest 1920s manners.

The movie has many other standout performances, especially Harner, who was creepiest when smiling, and Eddie Alderson as Clark. I wondered what Alderson could’ve possibly tapped into in his young life in order to portray such devastation during his confession scene.

The film is slightly too long at 2.5 hours, making me wonder at times if we were going to follow Christine Collins for the rest of her short life (Straczynski said her heart gave out and she died sometime in the 1940s). This may be because it was shot, incredibly, from the first draft of Straczynski’s first movie script and no rewrites were made. “When [the first draft of] your first script is directed by Clint Eastwood, produced by Ron Howard and starring Angelina Jolie, you might as well shoot yourself ’cause it’s all downhill from here,” Straczynski said.

2008_changeling_004Other interesting tidbits he shared: Sanford Clark, after some time in jail, became a minister and had a family.  At one point in the movie, Collins told police the boy returned to her was three inches shorter than her son. In another scene, during the trial, Collins testified that the boy was four inches shorter. When asked, Straczynski readily admitted the discrepancy was a typo but he wasn’t allowed to fix it because the movie was shot during the writers’ strike. (I’ve seen the version of the script being circulated for Oscar consideration and the typo has been corrected to read four inches throughout.)

 

 

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