Posts Tagged ‘Brokeback Mountain’

Showbiz Kids: The Oscars, Charlton Heston and Steely Dan

February 3, 2010

Before we begin, there are two important things to remember about the Oscars. The first is the Charlton Heston Rule. That rule is that the Academy is made up of a lot of people like the late Charlton Heston—old fogeys with traditional tastes. Wonder why Crash beat out Brokeback Mountain or There Will Be Blood didn’t take best picture in 2008? It’s not a hard or fast rule, but think about what your grandmother might vote for. There are a lot of retired actors and techies out there who have a say in what wins.

The second rule has been inaugurated this year. It’s the Steely Dan Rule. What do the ‘70s jazz-funk duo have to do with the Academy Awards? You might remember in 2001, their disc Two Against Nature beat out stiff competition from Radiohead’s Kid A. The reason commonly given was that the producers, engineers and other tech-heads who made up the Recording Academy wanted to recognize the painstaking approach Fagen and Becker took in the studio. Two Against Nature didn’t win because it was filled with great tunes like “Do It Again.” It won because, to a group of voters who use their ears for a living, it sounded great.

It’s this latter rule which makes me think that James Cameron is going to have a good night. Avatar is pretty much a turkey as far as movies go and a staggering display of kitsch. There’s no denying, however, that legions of effects people have spent a lot of time making it look good. That effort will, Squally thinks, be honored by the Academy. Cameron also gets the credit for marshalling that effort. Say what you want about Avatar. Like Titanic it took a guy with a genuine Napoleon complex to put it on screen. The Hurt Locker may be the better movie, but it’s still a more modest achievement—especially in terms of box office. At least Kathryn Bigelow gets a chance to work again, which nobody was expecting after The Weight of Water Avatar’s victory, though, is somewhat bittersweet. That the movie should be honored with a best picture nod when wiser heads understood that its acting and script were somewhere around the level of that Tucker Max flick is a pop culture crime of the highest order.

So now onto the rest …

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Taking Woodstock: This Film is Not Yet Rated

March 26, 2009

Credit to Ang Lee–the man does not make the same movie twice. He’s gone from The Ice Storm to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to Brokeback Mountain to Lust, Caution. And don’t forget Hulk, probably the best of the comic movie boom. The Taiwan-born director’s latest is Taking Woodstock, based on the true story of a young Catskills hotelier who helped promoters put on the famed festival in 1969.

Lee never seems to let much of himself show through his movies, although they always feel sincere. Many of his films are written by producing partner James Schamus, who also penned the Taking Woodstock adaptation. Lee uses actors in interesting ways–just dig the gymnastics of Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Tang Wei in Lust, Caution–and they reward him with memorable performances. (Brokeback Mountain made Heath Ledger‘s legend.) The married director frequently deals in gay themes, and Woodstock‘s tale is no exception. Elliot Tiber’s memoir is also about how he hides his sexuality from his parents, who own the impoverished resort he helps run.
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Anne Hathaway Gets Happy as Judy Garland

March 24, 2009

Oscars ArrivalsOne of the incidental pleasures of this year’s Oscar ceremony was learning that Anne Hathaway can sing. Now it looks like the rising star will have a chance to show off both her acting chops and powerful set of lungs. Cinematical reports that Hathaway will star in both a film and possible stage show about the life of Judy Garland.

The announcement came after The Weinstein Co. purchased the stage and screen rights to Gerald Clarke’s biography Get Happy! The Life of Judy Garland. Garland is infamous for her “I’m only smiling on the outside” life. Groomed as a star from childhood, she found fame with Mickey Rooney in the Andy Hardy movies, was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, then became a by-word for tragedy through a very public disintegration. Hooked on diet drugs and booze, she made occasional phoenix-like comebacks in stage shows. She also became one of the first modern gay icons … Her death is often given as an indirect cause of the 1969 Stonewall riots.
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