Posted by Danielle Berrin
When Sid Ganis hired Hollywood filmmakers Bill Condon and Laurence Mark to produce this year’s Academy Awards, Mark says Ganis was “open to new ideas.” But uninterrupted speeches? No cheesy opening monologue? A nightclub atmosphere? And a celebration of all 2008 movies, even the bad ones? That’s the kind of Oscar show revolution Condon and Mark have in mind. They’re flying by the seat of their pants, they say, and they’re willing to challenge the ultimate establishment in all of Hollywood.
Susan Wloszczyna from USA Today writes:
“The only thing you must do is give all the awards out live onstage,” Mark says. “You have to respect that. But there are many ways to do that, mind you.” What is in the works:
•The host from Oz. The producers were out to make a statement when they selected X-Men star Hugh Jackman after a string of comedians such as Jon Stewart and Ellen DeGeneres.
Yes, Wolverine has animal magnetism galore. But the Australian actor, who previously handled the Tony Awards with aplomb, also has some considerable musical chops after starring in The Boy From Oz and Oklahoma! on stage.
“He can sing, dance and looks great in a tuxedo,” Condon says. At some point in the evening, Jackman will perform in a production number that was conceived by his Australia director, Baz Luhrmann.
•A cozier atmosphere. Condon doesn’t just want a ceremony. He wants to throw a party.
If that means dismantling the Kodak Theatre to better encourage a sense of community among the attendees, so be it. “You don’t have to have large columns or a big staircase or 20-foot-tall Oscars on stage,” he says. “That’s not in the bylaws.”
They have hired David Rockwell, who designed the theater, to make adjustments and create sets.
•Room for spontaneity. Both producers believe the show has relied on too much pre-recorded material.
“That tradition started a few years ago, when they tried to avoid mistakes,” Condon says. “But we have decided that mistakes are our friends. Out of more live segments will hopefully spring more spontaneity.”
•Mystery presenters. When it was announced that the identity of the awards presenters would be kept secret, more than a few Oscar watchers questioned the move. Why not publicize who will appear?
“Do you actually think anyone tunes in to see someone present an award?” Mark says. “They suddenly hear so-and-so is presenting, and young males will watch? Well, no.”
One switch: Instead of lining up last year’s winners and stars with upcoming movies to tout, Condon and Mark are reaching out to those names associated with a 2008 movie. And there will be a few blasts from Hollywood’s past, too.
•Three-hour show, not three-hour speeches. Both vow to adhere to the three-hour mark. “We have done exercises to see what we can better speed along and streamline,” Condon says.
As for having the orchestra play off long-winded speechmakers, it’s a situation they would rather avoid.
“It’s so ungracious,” Condon says. “We will do everything we can not to have to do it. We will still put a little fear into the winners not to go on.” However, the 45-second rule still stands. Mark’s suggestion: “Don’t thank your laundress.”
•Jack Nicholson — probably. One connection Mark will try to capitalize on is his long association with the epitome of Oscar cool, whose mischievous leer is always welcome, even if he didn’t appear in a movie this year.
“He does embody Oscar,” says Mark, who was involved with Terms of Endearment and As Good as It Gets, for which Nicholson won two of his three Academy Awards.
“The show went way out of fashion in the ‘60s and ‘70s,” Condon says of the man behind the shades. “He singlehandedly brought it back when he was nominated for Easy Rider.”
•Applause-free “In Memoriam” tribute. Regular Oscar watchers often cringe when homage is paid to those in the movie business who died in the past year. That is because the audience can’t help but clap harder for better-known names, essentially turning the solemn segment into a popularity contest.
Not this year. “We can’t control the applause,” Condon says, “but we can control what you hear on TV.”
If Condon and Mark can manage to channel the spirit and drive they usually invest into what they do and put it into the Oscar show, it probably can’t help but make some sort of difference.
“It is fun putting on a show,” Condon says.
“Yeah,” Mark says. “He’s Judy Garland. I’m Mickey Rooney.”
Intermission is over. Back to work. “We have to dash and beg someone to present foreign film,” Mark says. “We are hoping for Hillary Clinton.”
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January 30, 2009 | 4:38 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Last time we saw Jason Segel, he was pathetically stripped to his skivvies—OK, fine—absolutely threadbare, and desperately humiliating himself for love of a girl. That was the reckless and comic, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” which Segel wrote and Judd Apatow produced, and qualifies as a brand of movie-making that has earned a cult following and re-defined slacker syndrome for the 21st century. Which makes it all the more interesting that Segel is in talks to star in “Gulliver’s Travels” the classic epic satire by Jonathan Swift. More expectantly perhaps, is that this “modern re-imagining” will star Jack Black as Gulliver, in what can only be a surefire spoof, and Segel as Horatio, his Lilliputian sidekick. Emily Blunt, the sassy brunette from “The Devil Wears Prada” will spice things up as Horatio’s love interest.
The move to literary adaptation may require more sophisticated humor from Segel and will likely expand his fan pool, but I wonder if it’s a far enough break from his usual style to illuminate a deeper talent—that is, if there is one.
From The Hollywood Reporter:
Jason Segel is in negotiations and Emily Blunt has been offered to sign up for “Gulliver’s Travels,” Fox’s Jack Black-starring modern re-imagining of Jonathan Swift’s classic tale.
Rob Letterman is directing the story of free-spirited travel writer Lemuel Gulliver (Black), who on an assignment to the Bermuda Triangle washes ashore on the hidden island of Lilliput, home to a population of industrious yet tiny people.
Blunt would play the island’s princess and the love interest of Horatio, Segel’s character, a Lilliputian who befriends Gulliver.
Nicholas Stoller, who directed Segel in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” wrote the screenplay with Joe Stillman.
Segel, one of the stars of CBS’ “How I Met Your Mother,” next appears on the big screen with Paul Rudd in John Hamburg’s “I Love You Man.” He is repped by Endeavor and Abrams Entertainment.
January 29, 2009 | 5:40 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Sharon Waxman makes no secret of her disillusionment with print journalism. So like everybody else, the former New York Times Hollywood correspondent is running to the net. On the homepage of her new entertainment website, The Wrap, that launched this past Monday and for which she is editor-in-chief, Waxman posted her internet-only raison d’etre.
“A year ago I left The New York Times with a sinking feeling about what was happening to professional journalism,” she wrote. “Today we launch with great optimism what I hope will become an exciting new space to cover Hollywood in the digital age.”
In a paidcontent.org message posted at The Washington Post, The Wrap’s ambitions are made clear:
TheWrap.com, the entertainment news site founded by former NYT Hollywood correspondent Sharon Waxman, is now live. The launch is backed by an undisclosed amount of funding from Seattle-based Maveron; Waxman picked up $500,000 in seed funding last August from private investors.
The site aims to take on established publications like The Hollywood Reporter and Variety with news and commentary; it also aims to take on the other high profile indie journalist Nikki Finke, whose DeadlineHollywoodDaily has remained solo till now, though works loosely with LA Weekly. Entertainment trade pub vets make up the masthead: interim COO Kevin Davis held the same title at Hollywood.com, Managing Editor Tim Doyle is formerly of Variety, and Deputy Editor Maria Russo joins from the LAT.
TheWrap.com is also following HuffPo’s lead by bringing in both journalists and industry vets as contributors; there’s even a prominent call-to-action for guest bloggers via a “Tell Us Something” link on the homepage. And while this may not be the most opportune time to launch an ad-supported operation, Waxman told MarketWatch that TheWrap.com will profit from filling the gaps in entertainment coverage left by larger publications (particularly newspapers) as they cut back across the board. The site secured British Airways and the Four Seasons Hotel Beverly Hills as launch sponsors.
Waxman is certainly setting her sights high by challenging the most widely read media resources in the industry. And yet, her exclusive video of SAG President Alan Rosenberg singing a ditty made waves this morning, and was immediately picked up by Variety.
In the rapidly changing media, Waxman demonstrates the foresight to catch up with progress. Now, we’ll see if The Wrap can catch up with her.
TheWrap seeks to use the myriad tools of the web to marry top quality journalism – breaking news, trends, features, interviews – with the input of the talented and sophisticated community that creates the world’s popular culture.
The time is fortuitous. As our lead story today indicates, the entertainment and media industries are at a fateful crossroads. TheWrap will be a resource for anyone who is interested in understanding the changes in our popular culture, and navigating what has become a global industry.
We need your help to do it. TheWrap seeks to build the best, most dynamic, most discerning community of entertainment professionals and enthusiasts around the world. We seek to be both authoritative and entertaining – yes, it can be done – and know that our content will be enriched by our readers as they comment on our stories, contribute their own blogs and connect to one another.
We believe entertainment matters. It matters because popular culture is a multi-billion dollar industry, American’s number one export, and a source of connection, employment, passion and aspiration for millions of people across the globe. Movies, television, music, games, media – these represent the common language that unites us as human beings. Entertainment reflects our world, and it shapes it.
So that’s why we built TheWrap. We believe it’s time for a substantive, independent and intelligent voice to write about the business of entertainment. And we believe that voice should be at home on the web.
Please consider this a conversation. A dialogue. We will make mistakes, and you will point them out. We will ruffle feathers, as that’s part of an honest conversation. But we hope most of all that you will participate. Write. Comment. Share. And join us in the digital age.
January 29, 2009 | 3:17 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Is this the emblem incarnate of sheer desperation? Reality entertainment? Tragicomedy?
And the lyrics, thanks to Sharon Waxman and her new site The Wrap:
We don’t care about the future, we only care about us.
and if you don’t earn what I think I can earn,
I will throw you underneath a bus.
I sure do love my Union, it gave me my pension and my health,
but don’t expect me to stand up for nobody
till I’ve had a chance to accumulate some wealth.
I’ll stand up strong so that we might be weak
I insist you take that deal without even a tweak! (You bastards)
Al and Doug and Doug Allen?, they stand up way too hard.
If they keep fighting for my compensation,
I will bury them right in my own backyard.
Just tell my bosses that I’ll take what they’re willing to give,
‘cause I’m just so grateful that they even let me live!
I don’t care about nobody, I only care about me.
Lay down your weapons and stop all that nasty fighting,
don’t you know you should be glad to work for free!
I’ll stand up strong so that we might be weak,
I demand you take that deal without even a tweak.
Tell old CBS that I’ll take what they’re willing to give,
cause I’m just so grateful that they even let us live!
I don’t care about nobody.
No, I only care about me.
Lay down your weapons and stop all that nasty fighting,
don’t you know you should be glad to work,
shouldn’t even be mad to work,
sometimes you should prefer to work for free!
Sometimes as long as it ain’t me!
Meanwhile, come see me on TV!
January 28, 2009 | 8:20 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
It had come eerily close to an Oscar nomination just a week ago, but then it flopped. “Blessed is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh” had the scent of promise emanating from every end: its heroic feminist narrative, a Holocaust-era backdrop and an all-female production team that included once superstar television producer Marta Kauffman, creator of “Friends,” who staked a career-changing turn in this documentary.
As most who follow the ups and downs of the industry know, Hollywood is predictably fickle, and this was never intended to be a film that made money. But art-for-Academy-Awards-sake is not quite noble enough, and the The New York Times is apparently a much tougher critic than Hollywood. It did not have a nice thing to say about the little Hannah Senesh doc that (almost) could, but didn’t.
From the review:
An opaque blend of interviews, archival film and tasteful re-enactments, Roberta Grossman’s “Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh” documents courage, but steers clear of character.
But as Todd Boekelheide’s lugubrious score groans in the background and animated arrows forge across maps, Ms. Senesh’s former cellmates and fellow kibbutz members hint intriguingly at an aloof, lonely young woman whose poem “Blessed Is the Match” suggests a hyper-idealized view of her destiny.
“I didn’t like her; I admired her,” a fellow parachutist says dryly. But the director ignores this and every opportunity to excavate the heroine from the heroism, opting instead for a tribute that leaves Ms. Senesh ’s personality as vague in the final frame as in the first.
January 28, 2009 | 7:45 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
I still haven’t forgiven Courtney Love for even being suspected of driving her husband insane, but still, there’s something I like about her. Her edge. Her brusqueness. Her scabrous profile. You have to at least admire, beyond the cursing and vulgarity and troubled psychology, that there is an utter honesty about her, a candor often overlooked and underappreciated. This blithe openness is on full display in her latest interview with Heeb. It’s engendered the usual Courtney controversy, in particular, because of this comment she made about Jews and money: “Every time you buy a Nirvana record, part of that money is not going to Kurt’s child, or to me, it’s going to a handful of Jew loan officers, Jew private banks, its going to lawyers who are also bankers, its going to sixty PAs.”
The woman is a natural born provocateur. So while it’s unwise to accept much of what she says as credible, it’s still fun to hear her say it. There’s a cadence, a rhythm, a poetry to her ramble. Call me crazy but I find sober, sarcastic and reflective Courtney Love way more interesting and intelligent than high-on-heroin, down-on-life Courtney Love. She seems all grown up and cool. And frankly, after eight years of being led by a deceitful and secretive administration, the American psyche so accustomed to phoniness and concealed truth, listening to Love talk about herself is a breath of fresh air. Whouda thought?
On her Jewish grandmother:
She said in The New York Times Magazine that she didn’t like the way I used language. I’m a lyricist. Call it whatever the fuck you want, but don’t talk about how I use language because how I use language is my bread and butter.
On why women musicians aren’t as good as men:
This all-girl fantasy I’ve had my whole life, of you know. . .I’m going to show those Beatles, we’re going to be huge! Well, it’s not going to happen, right now, for my generation, for me. You know what I mean? Like, there are fucking riot grrrls sitting there banging on pots and pans and talking about their vaginas, and that’s all really lovely, and like the writing is great, but the music blows. I mean you have to fucking sit in your room and practice. You have to fucking learn how to play guitar, you have to learn how to play bass, you have to learn how to fucking play drums. You have to go get Zeppelin one through four, and you have to fucking sit in a fucking little room off Hollywood Blvd. for two hundred dollars a fucking month, and you have to play those goddamn drums. And for whatever reason, women just haven’t seemed to want to do that.
I’m a really, really good mother, and the proof is in the pudding. She’s had some bad breaks when I was on drugs, but she never saw me on drugs. I would go to New York, or I would go to a hotel, so she never saw me in that condition.
I realized this the other day: I don’t have any pictures of myself. Other than a few snapshots, like with my band. I have a picture that’s on the fridge of us just getting off of the stage. I have a picture of me and Brett Ratner. I kind of don’t have pictures of Kurt around much or any images of myself. And a lot of celebrities do. I went to take my band to Paris [Hilton’s]’ house. There were images of her everywhere. I mean everywhere. And I like Paris. She’s funny. Is it the fall of civilization that Paris is famous for being famous? Not my job to speculate. I’m not a culture vulture, I’ll let Ariana Huffington fucking talk about that shit. But what’s weird is that Paris had so many pictures of herself everywhere. I mean, she has not only got a grand piano with—I swear to God—maybe a thousand pictures of herself, but I was in the bathroom, and there were, pictures of her everywhere! Everywhere! I’m just trying to pee and there’s just fucking. . .Paris.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I can be bought. I mean, wait: Versace, offered me $180,000. Yeah, $180,000 to go to a fashion show once, back in the day, and I thought: “This is stupid now. I could give my friend her start-up money to start a bakery, you know, I can walk down the Spanish steps, and you know, have all the supermodels climb me, and tell my daughter, you know, that I was hot enough to wear a see-through mauve caftan, right?” So, I said yes, and I did it. . . . And, you know, it really makes you think, do you have a price? And if so, what is it?
On being Jewish:
What’s funny about the Jewish thing is that I did this Barbara Walters special, and I had to watch that thing on TV, and that’s the last time I ever did drugs when I was watching that thing. Cause it Freaked. Me. Out. And, you know, I never watched Barbara Walters before. But, I remember telling her that I was Jewish, and I was really into it. . .and, she looked at me funny, and I remember she looked at me funny in the moment, and . . . being in Britain about half the year, I tend to spend about half the year there, because I really like it there, um, you know, the way that the people who are Jewish, you know, in L.A.? …I don’t know what the fuck I am. I am definitely an underdog though, so that puts me in the Tribe.
On re-entering the spotlight:
This guy interviewed me for the Advocate before Kurt died, and I was reading it, and I was like, oh my God, I was like so fearlessly hysterical. You know, I wonder if I’m the same way. . .or I’ve been scarred, or if I’ve been damaged, or deformed, or you know. . .deformed I mean like a tree that grows up gnarly, you know what I mean? Like, I wonder if all this death and tragedy and shit has really fucked with me. I can’t say I know. You know? Why do you think I have two shrinks?. . .See, my heeb side is coming out.
January 27, 2009 | 6:11 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Okay so it’s old news: Jeremy Piven abruptly left the Broadway run of David Mamet’s “Speed-the-Plow” last December provoking a wave of suspicious criticism. As he tells it, he developed very high levels of mercury due to overconsumption of sushi and was advised by his doctor to quit his job “immediately.” Yet, as anyone who keeps kosher—and is therefore restricted to sushi-only secular dining—could tell you, if that were true, a substantial portion of L.A.‘s Jewish population would be chronically out of work.
My interest in this minor little mishap was reignited this morning when I read Ben Brantley’s updated review of “Plow” under the headline, “With Piven Gone, ‘Plow’ Speeds Apace.” Ouch. Nothing like your Broadway show getting rave reviews after you’ve left the cast. Of course Piven also had to endure the sting from Diane Sawyer, who, while interviewing him on “Good Morning America,” questioned why he was well enough to cavort around New York City nightclubs. I’m thinking that’s part of the problem…
January 26, 2009 | 6:45 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
I’m sick of hearing the gripe, “There are no good roles for women in Hollywood!” Even though it happens to be true. So just imagine the unadulterated thrill coursing through my veins upon hearing that two saucy femmes and their subversive self-expression were getting buzz at Sundance.
One of those gals is Stella Schnabel, daughter of artist/filmmaker Julian Schnabel and star of “You Won’t Miss Me,” about an aspiring actress who finds herself the inpatient of a psych ward.
Karina Longworth writes on SpoutBlog:
By immersing us in the world of 23 year-old aspiring actress/recent mental patient Shelly Brown, and burying the point of view so deep within the character that Shelly’s social imbalance sometimes feels contagious, writer/director Russo-Young and co-writer/star Stella Schnabel remind us how rare it is to see a film about the inner life of a beautiful, troubled young lady without the objectifying filter of the male gaze, without the beauty and the trouble fusing into a fantasy cipher of a postmodern damsel in distress.
Also subverting the gaze is porn star Sasha Grey, with some 150 adult films under her belt, making her work-in-progress debut as the lead character of Steven Soderbergh’s latest innovation, “The Girlfriend Experience.” In it, Grey plays a $10,000-a-night call girl, who treats sex work as a lucrative business practice. When she’s not enjoying the fruits of her labor, or fighting with her live-in boyfriend, she skillfully runs her own website. The film sounds eerily reminiscent of the dysfunctional relationship lore that made “Sex, Lies and Videotape” an indie sensation twenty years ago(!). Only this time, sexed-up, fetishizing James Spader is replaced by real-life, female porn star.
The L.A. Times writes:
Soderbergh seems interested in exploring, as one character puts it, the “transactional,” the exchange that occurs between people at all levels of interaction—in business, in love, in everyday life. Everybody wants something.
One question from the audience was about Soderbergh’s decision to cast an actress who has starred in more than 150 porn films as the lead in his movie. “Even though the film’s not very explicit,” Soderbergh said of Sasha Grey, “there’s a comfort level she obviously has from making all of those films that I think is difficult to fake. There’s a kind of attitude.”
Apart from Grey, no one onscreen has appeared in a film before. Soderbergh said he cast them for their proximity to the characters he wanted. He explained that a journalist character in the film—“intrusive,” is what Grey says of him—is played by Mark Jacobson, who wrote an expose of an escort ring for New York magazine.
“It’s really fun as a director to watch,” Soderbergh said of working with non-actors. “I really like the idea of people speaking in their own words, really speaking for themselves. Everybody in there, that’s them. It’s kind of fun to watch. I mean, when you’re making it.”
As long as roles like these continue to get play at Sundance, we can rest assured that the nation’s seminal indie film fest still has its edge.