Friday, February 25, 2011

Oscar® Performers and TV Show Revamp


James Franco
Anne Hathaway


According to The Hollywood Reporter, the nominated songs will be performed again this year. Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer, the producers of the 83rd Academy Awards® have announced some of the things to expect during Sunday's broadcast.

For instance, did anyone notice they were not performed last year? I did, and I did not like the omission.

Randy Newman will perform his "We Belong Together" from Toy Story 3. Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi, who sang the duet "I See the Light" on the Tangled soundtrack, will re-team with composer Alan Menken. Gwyneth Paltrow will sing "Coming Home," which she sang in Country Strong. The English singer known as Dido, who was nominated with Rollo Armstrong and A.R. Rahman for the song, "If I Rise" from 127 Hours, is not available. Florence Welch from Florence + the Machine will perform with Rahman.

Co-hosts Anne Hathaway, 28, and James Franco, 32,  will make double history at the broadcast. Not only are they two of the youngest hosts at the Oscars, there has never been a male/female duo carry the hosting duties together for the entire broadcast.

There will be no more presenter testimonials to the actors and actresses, and no more movie montages. Good riddance to both.

They are getting a bit cutie. For instance, some of the mothers and Franco's grandmother will tweet on their Twitter accounts during the show. Also, the producers have chosen an elementary school chorus, mostly 10-year-old students from P.S. 22 on Staten Island, N.Y., to sing "Over the Rainbow." Why? I have no earthly idea. We shall see.

The stage set will not be set. It will be projected, capable of constantly changing. This is very new. It should be interesting, but will it prove distracting?

Also, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ President Tom Sherak and Anne Sweeney, President of the Disney/ABC Television Group, announced yesterday that the ABC Television Network’s contract to carry the annual Academy Awards presentations has been extended for six more years, through 2020.

The 83rd Academy Awards, which will air live on Sunday, February 27, will be the 36th consecutive ceremony to air on ABC. Check local listings.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

You are Invited to Oscar® Gala with an All Access Pass

Get the All Access Pass for the Oscars®
Movie fans, your “All Access” pass for Oscar Night® is now available on Oscar.com (www.oscar.com/all-access), the official online home of the 83rd Academy Awards®.  This new interactive feature will provide an experience to the online audience during the live Oscar® show never before available.

Beginning at 3:30 p.m. PT, 6:30 ET, Sunday, February 27, all Oscar.com visitors will experience Oscar’s red carpet through multiple camera positions capturing celebrity arrivals, glamorous fashions, and press activity.  During the telecast, users may visit the show’s control truck, check out the backstage “Thank You Cam” at which winners continue their acceptance remarks, and watch and listen as the winners take questions from the world’s press in the interview room.

For a premium Oscar Night experience, users may register ($4.99) for additional, exclusive viewing opportunities.  Multiple “360 cams,” a groundbreaking technology that users control with the click/drag functionality of the computer mouse, will be positioned throughout the red carpet, the Kodak Theatre and the Governors Ball, the Academy’s celebration immediately following Academy Awards.

On the red carpet, users will be able to watch Oscar nominees and presenters mixing and mingling as they enjoy the pre-ceremony champagne reception. Inside the Kodak Theatre, viewers will see the presenters’ hair and makeup area, watch the guests interact during commercial breaks and see the Academy’s official winner portrait area.

The access continues at the Governors Ball, where users will be able see Oscar winners arriving at the party and having their statuettes being affixed with nameplates. Designed to be perfect companion to the Oscar telecast, over the course of the evening, “All Access” users will have the ability to choose from more than 24 strategically placed cameras throughout the venue.

iPad, iPhone and iPod touch users can also get their own ultimate insider’s view with the new Oscar Backstage Pass App.  Available for download at the App Store  for $0.99, the Oscar Backstage Pass app includes the same features as “All Access” without the “360 cam” technology. (www.itunes.com/appstore)

Click the title of this post for all the details. 

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2010 will be presented on Sunday, February 27, 2011, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood and Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network beginning at 5 p.m. PT, 8 p.m. ET.  The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Final Oscar® Ballot Return Deadline Looms


Completed final ballots for the 83rd Academy Awards® must be returned to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) by 5 p.m., Tuesday, February 22. Ballots received after the deadline will not be counted.

Listed on the ballots are nominees in 19 Awards categories. Separate ballots for five categories (Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, Foreign Language Film, Animated Short Film and Live Action Short Film) are also due.

Following the tabulation of the votes at PwC, the winners’ names will be placed in sealed envelopes to be opened at the awards gala, Sunday, February 28, 2011.

The Academy's new interactive Web site is now fully open, and those who subscribe to special Oscar access will be able to view the gala on their PC, and do more with their smart phones. This is not limited to Academy members only. It is available to everyone who subscribes. Click the title of this post to access the site and learn more.

The gala will be televised live by the ABC Television Network beginning at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Roger Ebert and I Pick Some Oscar® Winners


Firth and Carter
Mr. Roger Ebert made his Oscar® predictions for the 83rd Academy Awards® on his blog a couple of days ago. I made some of mine (best picture and acting awards) a couple of weeks ago, and posted them here on the second post down. I repeat those here with more explanation, and add some more because every year I do this competition with Ebert, but he doesn't know I do it. I can never enter an Oscar picking contest, because I can never pick the lesser categories, but I fare pretty well in the major ones.

Okay, I'm rolling up my sleeves, confirming my previous picks, and announcing some additional ones. Ebert writes his preference for Best Feature Motion Picture of 2010 would be THE SOCIAL NETWORK, if he were a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science. However, he believes THE KING'S SPEECH will win because, “A British historical drama about a brave man struggling to overcome a disability, and then leading his people into World War II, looks better to the Academy than a cutting-edge portrait of hyperactive nerds.”

I, too, choose THE KING'S SPEECH for Best Feature Motion Picture. I choose it because I think it is as near to a perfect a movie as one can make. Normal viewers and Academy members appreciate a film they can enjoy without constantly being distracted by flaws here and there, especially in writing, directing, cinematography, film editing, sound editing, and an overpowering music score.

THE KING'S SPEECH is based upon the life of King George VI and his wife, later known as the Queen Mum of Britain. At this time in history, they are the parents of two young Princesses Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth II, and her late younger sister, Margaret.

The movie's focus is on Colin Firth's character, known to his family as Bertie, who becomes King George VI of England when the older brother Edward abdicates the throne to marry a divorcee, Mrs. Simpson. Young Bertie is confronted with the prospect of World War II looming on the horizon even before he becomes king.

As King of England, Birdie will need to address the nation over the new "fangeled" radio. No longer can a king wave from a car or a balcony. He must speak. However, Birdie has a debilitating stutter. What to do?

Firth's portrayal is not only about the mechanics of stuttering, but the anguish in the eyes of the young prince because he despises his inadequacy, which he cannot help but might overcome. Plus, the Screen Actor's Guild (SAG) honored Firth for best performance of a male actor. As I often point out, 80% of SAG's nominees go on to win an Oscar. I, like Ebert, think Firth will win Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. In my judgment, his performance is above fantastic.

I saw a poll where people who viewed THE KING'S SPEECH gave it a 97% enjoyment rating. TRUE GRIT was next with 88% followed by THE FIGHTER at 80. No other movie in the poll but THE KING'S SPEECH was higher than 88%.

Geoffrey Rush may well win Best Supporting Actor on his own merit portraying the king's speech therapist and eventual friend, as Ebert predicts. I feel the role limited Rush's acting, but he could win due to the "coattail" effect from the movie.

However, SAG gave their award to Christian Bale, who in THE FIGHTER depicts the ne're-do-well, drug-ravaged older half-brother boxer, Dickey Ecklund. Dickey's younger half-brother Mickey Ward, portrayed by Mark Wahlberg, also boxes but defers to his mother's support of Dickey to go for the title, rather than seeking the title himself.

This movie, as is THE KING'S SPEECH, is based on a true story. Some of the family are still living, especially the brothers. Bale in THE FIGHTER, like Firth, disappears into the character of Dickey. I choose Bale.

Ebert goes with Hailee Steinfeld, TRUE GRIT, for Best Supporting Actress. Although, he points out, she was really an actress in a leading role. I do not dispute that. However, she is just "out of the gate" as an actress, so she was nominated in the supporting category. I do not think she will win anything, not that she doesn't deserve it. Again, as with Bale, I am going with SAG who honored Melissa Leo (THE FIGHTER). See my second post down about the SAG Awards.

Natalie Portman
For Actress in a Leading Role, beautiful Natalie Portman (BLACK SWAN) was born in Israel, received an Oscar nomination for THE CLOSER (2001), seems to be the favorite, and has all the chops to win. I should choose her to win, as did Ebert. I am  not doing so. I am swallowing hard and choosing someone else.

There are extenuating situations concerning Annette Bening, also nominated in the category for THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, which compel me to go against the popular assumption and choose her:

(1) Besides the current movie, Bening has previously been nominated three times for an Oscar for acting, two for best actress, BEING JULIA (2004) and AMERICAN BEAUTY (1999), and one for supporting actress for THE GRIFFTERS (1990). (2) THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT received three nominations for 2010, for best motion picture, screenplay, and Bening. Obviously, she has support from her peers for an acting Oscar.

(3) Also, both Bening and her husband, Warren Beatty, are well respected by Academy members, and her interpretation of the "male" in the movie's Lesbian relationship is superb. (4) Bening is now slightly over 50,  has made 28 movies as an actress, is still beautiful, and she has no Oscar for her efforts.

(5) Natalie Portman is young, turning 30 this year, and was nominated for an Oscar in 2001 for CLOSER. She still has time to hone her acting, and I do not think she has reached her acting potential yet. Remember, SAG winners receive an Oscar 80%, not 100%, of the time, and I think this may be one of the times their nominee does not win. I know it is a long shot, but I am taking it.

I believe the Best Director will be Tom Hooper, THE KING'S SPEECH. H received the Directors Guild of America award. Again, unlike with THE SOCIAL NETWORK, I became so engrossed in the movie, I never noticed the camera. That is the way it should be. If anyone has ever directed on stage or screen they watch the blocking in a production. I have, and the blocking was excellent. For those that do not know what blocking is, it is the placement of the actors in a scene.

I agree with Ebert that Aaron Sorkin's adapted screenplay for THE SOCIAL NETWORK will be the topper. The movie is based on the novel, The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich.

Ebert believes Mike Leigh's original screenplay for ANOTHER YEAR is the best original screenplay of the year, but he thinks David Seidler will win for THE KING'S SPEECH. So do I. It won the Writers Guild Award for best original screenplay.

I agree with Ebert that TOY STORY3 will win the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar hands down. It is the most popular animated movie of the year, grossed over $400 million, and is also nominated for Best Feature Motion Picture. I would say it has a big edge over the other two nominated movies in the animated feature film category.

I also agree with Ebert about BIUTIFUL (Mexico), directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, who also co-wrote the screenplay.  I hope it will win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film because it deserves to win. Iñárritu received a directing Oscar nomination for BABEL in 2006.

BIUTIFUL'S star is the Spanish Oscar winner (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN), Javier Bardem. He and his Spanish wife Penelope Cruz have a new son, and many Academy members like that because they also like both Bardem and Cruz. He is nominated for Best Actor for his performance in this movie as the dying father, a performance that is, "magnifico!" 

Hans Zimmer won the Hollywood Music in Media Award in November for his original score for INCEPTION, and Ebert liked the score for THE SOCIAL NETWORK, but he believes, as do I, that the Oscar will go to Alexandre Desplat for THE KING'S SPEECH. For me, the score was like the camera, I hardly noticed it was there, but when I listened during transitions, I liked what I heard. As Ebert says, THE KING'S SPEECH will sweep some of the awards with it, i.e., that "coattail effect" again, and the score may be one.

For Achievement in Music, Original Song, I must go with A.R. Rahman's "If I Rise" from 127 HOURS. Actually, Rahman's score for 127 HOURS may fool us all and win the Oscar for the score as well.

Two more to go. One for Outstanding Cinematography, and the other for Outstanding Film Editing. I agree with Ebert that the cinematography of  Roger Deakins, nominated for TRUE GRIT is outstanding. According to Ebert, Deakins has been nominated nine times and has not won one. Ebert thinks this might be his year, however, he goes with THE KING'S SPEECH and Denny Cohen. True, Cohen could benefit from the "coattail effect" but I am going with Deakins and TRUE GRIT, because I think he deserves it.

For Outstanding Film Editing, I go with THE SOCIAL NETWORK (TSN) since INCEPTION did not get a nomination in this category. The editing by Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter for TSN obviously was a complex challenge, and I think they met it. I do not fault the editing for THE KING'S SPEECH, but I think its complexity does not match that of TSN.

And that is as far as I go with my predictions now. Ebert has more choices on his blog, and you can read those by clicking the title of this post. Do you think you can outguess Ebert's picks? Click the title of this post and scroll down to find the $100,000 contest information. Can you outguess me? Sorry, if so, no money.

Here's a big tip in picking Best Motion Picture. Early on in the ceremony watch and note which film wins for: directing, cinematography, film editing, sound editing, writing, and it helps if it scores a win for best actor or actress. The film that wins at least the first five of these will, almost without exception, be the winner in the category. You can make book on it.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The Oscars® . There is an App for That!


If you have an iPad, iPhone and/or and iPod touch, you are invited to download and/or update your official Oscars® App. Do not have the application? Read on to see what you can do with it.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has unveiled the latest version of its Academy Awards® application, which reflects this year’s nominations, allows users to broadcast their own Oscar® picks, and will provide real-time Oscar Night® results.  More than half a million users downloaded the app following its debut prior to last year’s show.

Designed for the Academy by the Los Angeles-based creative shop Omelet, the app connects users to a comprehensive nominees list, trailers for the 10 Best Picture-nominated films, and an interactive ballot to predict winners in each of the 24 Academy Awards categories. Users’ predictions are saved to a database that enables sharing with friends via social media such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as by e-mail and SMS.

The app will also be active beyond Oscars Night, allowing users to be a part of the Academy’s year-round public events – screenings, tributes, exhibitions – in Los Angeles, New York and the San Francisco Bay Area. Users may also access the organization’s extensive Academy Awards database, which is the official record of all Oscar winners and nominees.

The Oscars App is available for free from the App Store on iPhone and iPod touch devices or at www.itunes.com/appstore/.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2010 will be presented on Sunday, February 27, 2011, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood and  Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network beginning at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET.  The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.


Saturday, February 05, 2011

Oscar® Acting Nominations Compared to Screen Actors Guild Awards


The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) was chartered 62 years ago. Since 1962, the Guild bestowed a number of luminaries with Life Achievement Awards, in both movies and television, but had never produced a televised awards ceremony with various "outstanding performance" categories until 1995.

In his book All About Oscar, Emanuel Levy notes the influence SAG award winners have at the Academy Awards. SAG's 61-year-history has shown that with 4,200 member actors representing 24 percent of voting Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members -- the largest voting block in the Academy -- 80 percent of SAG winners go on to win an Oscar. See More.

Remember when Sandra Bullock won Best Actress in a Lead Role for The Blind Side? Many scoffed. They thought SAG was off its rocker. It wasn't.

This year SAG members celebrated the 17th Annual Televised Screen Actors Guild Awards Gala. They now, too, award a heavy gold statuette of a male nude, or is it androgynous?


Their statuette holds a gold theatrical mask in each hand. The raised left hand holds the comedy mask, and close to his/it's shoulder, the right hand holds the drama mask. This year's Awards Gala was held Sunday, January 30, 2011, and was broadcast coast to-coast on TNT and TBS.

All these winners are also nominated for an Oscar. And, the winners are:

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture: The King's Speech;

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role: Colin Firth (King George VI) The King's Speech;

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role: Natalie Portman (Nina Sayers) Black Swan;

Outstanding Performance by a  Male Actor in a Supporting Role: Christian Bale (Dicky Eklund) The Fighter;

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role: Melissa Leo (Alice Ward) The Fighter.

I like their designations of female and male actor, but I am always in favor of removing gender biases. Why are we still using actor and actress in the 21st Century? They all act. Therefore, they are actors. 


So, will the above list repeat itself at the 83rd Academy Awards? The recipients were exactly the same for The Golden Globes, except there was no Best Cast Globe Award. The Globes are considered another reliable Oscar predictor.

For more on the 17th SAG Awards, and to see all the nominees and winners, click the title of this post.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Final Oscar® Ballots are in the Mail.


I remember that I wrote my next post would be: "Oscar® Acting Nominations Compared to Screen Actors Guild Awards." Of course, the order of posts depend upon what communications I get from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Today I received one.

But first, I want to report that I have now seen all but one of the movies nominated for Best Motion Picture of 2010, that one being '127 Hours.' After seeing 'The Kings Speech', I can unequivocally say that, of all the movies I have seen this past year, 'The King's Speech' comes the closest to being the most perfect film of them all - - acting, directing, writing and technical.

I wish I could now hear the score by Alexandre Desplat because I was hardly aware of the music while viewing the film, and that is how a perfect film score should be. I was in awe of how Colin Firth seemed to actually have a speech defect. Talk about perfection. But, more about the acting in, hopefully the next post.

Final ballots for the 83rd Academy Awards® were mailed today (February 2nd) to the 5,755 voting members of the Academy. Completed ballots must be returned to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) by 5 p.m., PT, Tuesday, February 22nd.  Ballots received at PwC after the deadline will not be counted. Trust me, they mean it.

I remember when I was at PwC, actor Richard Crenna called me in a panic. He claimed his secretary had failed to send the ballot to arrive the day before, and he wanted to messenger his ballot over to me at once. My answer was, of course, "Sorry, Dick. Not possible." He was a fellow Trojan, and I often thought about calling him to see if he fired his secretary, but I didn't.

Listed on the final Oscar ballots mailed today are nominees in 19 Awards categories. Separate ballots for five categories (Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, Foreign Language Film, Animated Short Film and Live Action Short Film) will be distributed after verification of mandatory member attendance at screenings.

Following the tabulation of the votes, the winners’ names will be placed in sealed envelopes to be opened on Oscar Night®, Sunday, February 27th. On that night, Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2010 will be presented at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network beginning at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET.  The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.