Posted by Danielle Berrin
Talk about a turnaround.
When “The Social Network” first hit theaters last September, with its unflattering portrait of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg front and center, the media went wild speculating about the potential damage to Zuckerberg’s young-genius-billionaire image. But that’s all changed. What began as a negative PR blitz on Zuckerberg and his haughty conquer-the-world attitude has transformed into the most celebratory and useful publicity both Zuckerberg and his company have seen since Facebook’s founding. And to think, all it took was a little Oscar buzz.
Okay, a lot of Oscar buzz. The past few months of award-winning and Oscar campaigning have not only cemented Aaron Sorkin’s genius, but proven that Zuckerberg isn’t the socially inept anti-hero of the movie but a benevolent titan of the digital age. Of course, that $100-million gift to the Newark public school system helped—but try arguing that even that gesture wasn’t strategically timed to coincide with the film’s release. For his part, even Sorkin offered a kind of mea culpa to Zuckerberg during his acceptance speech at the Golden Globes: “I want to say to Mark Zuckerberg tonight,” Sorkin began earlier this month, “Rooney Mara’s character makes a prediction at the beginning of the movie. She was wrong. You turned out to be a great entrepreneur, a visionary and an incredible altruist.”
Below is Zuckerberg’s much talked about surprise cameo on Saturday Night Live, when he shared the stage with alter-ego and “Social Network” star Jesse Eisenberg: (The video streaming below is pretty slow and NBC has blocked embed codes on YouTube but I did find a link to a better version of the video here)
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January 28, 2011 | 1:28 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Vanity Fair contributor David Margolick had spent a month doing round-the-clock reporting on the ongoing Motion Picture Home saga when VF editor Graydon Carter pulled the plug on the piece.
“I think there just wasn’t enough room for it, as far as I can tell,” Margolick said by phone from New York. “That’s what I was told.”
Margolick’s 5,000-word story was set to run in VF’s annual Hollywood Issue, a sumptuous dispatch on the industry, timed to coincide with the Oscars. A report at TheWrap.com speculated that the story might have been too “contentious” for Carter’s taste, noting that “in recent years [he] has abandoned hard-hitting reporting about the movie industry in favor of softer interviews and gauzy retrospectives.”
But TheWrap’s Editor in Chief, Sharon Waxman, has her own bone to pick with Vanity Fair. The magazine also reportedly cut a story about Waxman and her competitors—Deadline.com’s Nikki Finke and the Hollywood Reporter’s new head, Janice Min. Apparently, fierce grabs to dominate industry reporting are too gauzy.
Regarding the omission of the Motion Picture Home report, Margolick was not provocative, but practical: “There are a lot of stories vying to get in [to the Hollywood Issue] and this didn’t make it,” he said.
The fiery controversy surrounding the pending closure of long term care at The Motion Picture Home’s Wasserman Campus has tested the strength and resolve of many—from the home’s enfeebled residents and their courageous advocates, to the Hollywood power brokers presiding over the Motion Picture and Television Fund (MPTF), and yes, even the reporters who attempt to tell the story.
Margolick would not address whether there had been intimidation tactics used to discourage VF’s editors from running his piece, but a spokesperson for the magazine said, “There was absolutely no pressure brought upon Vanity Fair.” (As someone who has also reported on the MPTF, I can attest to the fact that the fund can be extremely resistant to cooperating with press, because they did, in fact, make it difficult for me to proceed on several occasions). For his part, Margolick dismissed the idea that the fund could threaten the prestigious Conde Nast publication: “I think that when Vanity Fair comes to write about something like this, the parties have to deal with it. They have to grapple with it. I think that everybody was candid and comprehensive maybe in a way they hadn’t been before.”
He insisted there was little reason for the MPTF to be oppositional.
“My story was not a screed,” he said judiciously. “And it’s not a polemic against one side or another. This is a complicated issue and I spent a lot of time listening to both sides very intensely; it was a very research-intensive and interview-intensive story and I think it raises very important issues.”
In TheWrap’s coverage of the VF issue, Waxman was quick to point out Margolick had learned of the Motion Picture Home controversy from her news site. But that was only the tip of a very large iceberg, Margolick explained, and the paucity of scrupulous coverage in the mainstream press impelled him to dig deeper.
“In media there’s a premium on immediacy and immediacy is given preference over in-depth reporting,” he said. “There’s much more of a premium on breaking stories than digging in.”
“I’m not surprised that The Wrap didn’t do the long take on this story because that’s not what they do,” he added. “But I am a little surprised that more mainstream media didn’t do it. I think it’s interesting that the best story to date on this was in The Jewish Journal, and it’s puzzling that it wouldn’t have appeared somewhere else because this story raises all kinds of important issues as well as implicates some of the most important people in Hollywood.”
January 25, 2011 | 4:04 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
I lament that Jim Carrey abandoned his unmitigated zaniness for serious acting because he is so friggin’ brilliant when he’s comic. Actually it’s more like crack comic because his impulses are so severe and compulsive they seem to extend from his own inner demons. I’ve always thought him to be monstrously talented, underrated, and a true entertainer in a industry where celebrity often trumps true grit.
Plus, this pretty much encapsulates my impression of the film it’s mocking. Enjoy.
January 25, 2011 | 9:31 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
It’s the year of the Jew as the 2011 Oscar nominations definitively proved.
Read the nominations breakdown, by category, with live links to original stories with the stars of the 2011 Oscars.
ACTING: As expected, Jesse Eisenberg and Natalie Portman get top nods for starring in the most talked about movies of the year. Eisenberg, for his fictional portrayal of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network” and Portman for playing the self-mutilating, psychologically unhinged ballerina in “Black Swan”. James Franco, whose mother is Jewish, is nominated (also for being self-mutilating but in a life-preserving way) for the outdoor adventure film “127 Hours”. And in the supporting category, 14-year old Hailee Steinfeld nabs a nod for her portrayal of Mattie Ross, out to avenge her father’s murder in “True Grit”.
Read our cover story on Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”; a 2002 profile with Jerusalem-born actress Natalie Portman; and the crazy antics of James Franco as performance artist; also actress nominee Helena Bonham Carter (“The King’s Speech”) on what it was like to play a Jewish mother
DIRECTING: Darren Aronofsky gets his first nod for the balletic melodrama “Black Swan” and Joel and Ethan Coen—aka the Coen Brothers—nab a nom for “True Grit”, their most commercially successful movie yet. David O’Russell, the son of a Jewish father and Italian-American mother also achieves in the directing category for the boxing drama “The Fighter”.
; plus Naomi Pfefferman on Aronofsky’s breakout hit “Pi”
SCREENWRITING: Continuing with his sweep of writing awards, Aaron Sorkin is nominated in the adapted screenplay catergory for “The Social Network” and The Coen Brothers are also nominated in this category for “True Grit” for their faithful adaptation of the 1968 novel by Charles Portis. Writer/director Debra Granik nabs a nod for the chilling Midwestern thriller “Winter’s Bone”. In the original screenplay category, Mike Leigh is nominated for “Another Year” a glimpse into mid-life crises among the British middle class. Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg are honored for their portrait of a lesbian couple and their family in the “The Kids Are Alright” and David Seidler gets a first nod for the sharp and witty “The King’s Speech”.
Read about Sorkin’s treatment of Jewish women in “The Social Network” script; a profile of first-time nominee David Seidler and “The King’s Speech”; and a 1998 profile of Lisa Cholodenko on her first film “High Art”
BEST PICTURE: Producer Mike Medavoy is nominated for “Black Swan” and bigtime Jewish producer Scott Rudin is nominated for “The Social Network”, as are The Coen Brothers for “True Grit”.
THE RED CARPET
What’s an Oscar ceremony without Joan Rivers? It was the good old days when “No Star Was Safe”
**Special thanks to JJ arts and entertainment editor Naomi Pfefferman for her contribution of archival interviews to this report!
January 24, 2011 | 2:07 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
UPDATE: “Like Crazy” takes home the Grand Jury Prize from the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
The thrills of vicarious romance used to be one of the crowning glories of cinema. There isn’t enough of it anymore, since studios have taken to producing mass marketable potboilers (the current rom-com ‘No Strings Attached’ comes to mind) in lieu of deeper, more penetrating fare (would the ‘The Way We Were’ ever get made today?).
But I’m a romantic so I’m biased.
My expectations for cinematic love stories are unfairly high, because I believe in the triumph of romantic love, in all its many forms. Which is why Drake Doremus’s “Like Crazy” sounds so enticing. The film premiered at Sundance this past weekend and was promptly sold to Paramount and Indian Paintbrush for $4 million, according to TheWrap.com (It had been the highest sale of the festival until The Weinstein Company and backer Ron Burkle paid $6 million for the Paul Rudd comedy “My Idiot Brother”). The film’s star, Anton Yelchin, of Russian-Jewish descent and last seen in J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” and the Armageddon film “Terminator Salvation” will test the depths of his talent for the first time, trading the explosions of battle for the expressions of the heart.
The film stars a soulful Anton Yelchin as Jacob and the diaphanous Felicity Jones as Anna, two lovers who meet and fall in love as students in Los Angeles and separated by U.S. Immigration policy.
When Anna overstays her visa, she is barred from reentering the country and retreats to London. But the potency of a fierce connection keep drawing them back together, even as the demands of daily life (and immigration bureaucracy) keep them an ocean apart.
The romance is authentic and uplifting, a reminder that certain kinds of love are entirely unique. Even as the lovers go on with their lives, finding jobs and replacement relationships (including one with Jennifer Lawrence), it’s clear that they are pale stand-ins for what Anna and Jacob have when they are together.
A friend of mine recently said, “Intimacy comes in many forms,” an idea I resisted, before realizing its truth. The notion that intimacy has kaleidoscopic shades is acutely seen in movies—it may even be the reason we go. The romance that develops between Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in “Lost in Translation”, for example, is one of my favorites; a testament to the fact that unrealized love is love nonetheless. If we’ve become accustomed to the happy ending in movies, there comes another to remind us that in life, not every love gets to blossom.
In the dark of a movie theater (or in the pages of a book), there’s nothing to do but feel. And there’s holiness in that catharsis, the chance to express that which is repressed within us, to dream what is possible for ourselves, to experience what in life we cannot know. It’s a time to go ‘crazy’ or get ‘lost’ inside the magic of our own imaginations. Because outside in the world, oceans can divide us, and love that trumps sense and convention – even if remote, even if unseen – needs a place to live.
Stars Anton Yelchin, 21, and Felicity Jones, 27 tell MTV about getting emotionally ‘naked’ for their roles:
January 21, 2011 | 11:25 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
For obvious reasons (and in the interest of full disclosure) I won’t add much to the news that my friend Emma’s upcoming memoir “Your Voice In My Head” has been optioned for film.
What I will do is excerpt from the Deadline.com report by Tim Adler, and say that I’ve read the memoir and it’s brilliant and beautifully written. As mentioned in the headline of this post, it details Emma’s decade-ago suicide attempt, the New York Jewish shrink who rehabilitated her and the relationship with a Hollywood star that threatened her delicate balance. Emma certainly has her critics (whom you’ll encounter in the Deadline.com comments section) who insist that she’s using someone else’s celebrity to advance her career. That is utter rubbish. Emma has always been the kind of writer who draws from a deep well of lived experience and parlays those truths into art. I dare her critics to excoriate her not for having had a love affair with someone famous, but for the fact that her book is either poorly written (it’s not), insipidly boring (it’s not) or uninspired (it’s not). In my opinion, Emma should be praised for her talent and pitied for the immense pain she suffered in order to unleash it.
Ruby Films, the British production company behind Jane Eyre and Tamara Drewe, has optioned Your Voice In My Head, a memoir by Los Angeles-based screenwriter Emma Forrest. Then aged 22, Forrest tried to kill herself before being saved by a New York–based psychiatrist who was secretly dying of cancer. It’s Good Will Hunting meets Girl, Interrupted and “it will make a brilliant film,” Ruby Films boss Alison Owen tells me. But the elephant in the room is that Your Voice In My Head is also about Forrest’s ex-lover, actor Colin Farrell. Never named in the book (he’s referred to only as “GH” - ‘Gypsy Husband’’, she and Farrell were together when she was writing it. She warned him there was going to be a lot of Brit tabloid interest in her book and offered Farrell the chance to read it before publication. He declined. It’s not clear if he now knows the book is being made into a film. It’s not the first time she’s used Farrell for subject matter. Following the break-up of their year-long relationship, she wrote Liars (A-E) about him and other actor boyfriends. It focuses on a woman who’s so swept up by President Obama’s supposedly perfect marriage that she travels across America to the inauguration and stops off along the way asking old boyfriends why they broke up with her. Scott Rudin and the old Miramax bought the script for Richard Linklater to direct, and now Forrest says Rudin wants the project back.
The Other Press is due to publish Your Voice In My Head in the U.S. on May 1st.
January 19, 2011 | 2:34 pm
Posted by Tom Tugend
Israel’s three-year streak of reaching the five finalists lists in the Oscar race for foreign-language films ended Wednesday (1/19), when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released its shortlist of nine semi-finalists.
The Israeli film industry seemed tantalizingly close to its first Oscar win when its entries were picked among the final five in 2010 (“Ajami”), 2009 (“Waltz with Bashir”) and 2008 (“Beaufort”). However, this year’s Israeli contender, “The Human Resources Manager,” found few supporters among Academy and earlier Golden Globe voters.
The selection committee for foreign films seemed in a somber mood, shortlisting the following nine movies dealing mainly with wars, diseases and dysfunctional families.
Algeria: “Hors la Loi” (Outside the Law) – Three brothers fight French colonial rule.
Canada: “Incendies” (Scorched) – Greek tragedy set in Middle East turmoil.
Denmark: “In a Better World” – Two fathers deal with problem sons.
Greece: “Dogtooth” – Children deal with domineering father.
Japan: “Confessions” – School teacher gets even with student bullies.
Mexico: “Biutiful” – Worker faces family trouble and death.
South Africa: “Life, Above All” – Girl supports family beset by AIDS and alcoholism.
Spain: “Tambien la Lluvia” (Even the Rain) – Director films in strife-wracked Bolivia.
Sweden: “Simple Simon” – Man with Asperger’s syndrome helps depressed brother.
List of the five final nominees will be announced Jan. 25 and the winner will be crowned at the Feb. 27 award ceremonies.
January 17, 2011 | 10:37 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
1. Ricky Gervais kicks off the night by introducing Scarlett Johansson as “beautiful, talented and Jewish, apparently,” a declaration that came with a deeply quizzical look, as if to say, ‘She’s too pretty to be Jewish!’ Then again, consider his source: “Mel Gibson told me that – he’s obsessed.”
2. Legendary songwriter Diane Warren (who grew up Jewish in Van Nuys, according to Wikipedia) dedicates her Golden Globe for Best Original Song to slain publicist Ronni Chasen. “This is for her,” Warren said upon accepting the award for the Cher-crooned ballad “You Haven’t Seen The Last Of Me” from the movie “Burlesque”. The movie premiered the night of Chasen’s murder and was the last place she was seen alive. “I loved Ronni,” Warren told the press backstage, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “The saddest thing about this is that she’s not here to celebrate this with me.” Warren, a longtime client of Chasen’s, is responsible for such hits as “Because You Loved Me” and “Un-Break My Heart”. From the podium, she also singled out Chasen’s former business partner, Jeff Sanderson, who is running the PR firm Chasen and Co. solo: “You’re doing great,” Warren said, encouragingly.
3. Sony Pictures Entertainment chief Amy Pascal is caught chewing gum during an audience close-up. The studio head, otherwise elegant in a glittery black evening gown was seated next to “Social Network” star Jesse Eisenberg and the film’s screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.
4. Aaron Sorkin continues with his sweep of screenwriting awards for “The Social Network,” the controversial fiction about the founding of Facebook, with an earnest message for the real Mark Zuckerberg: “I want to say to Mark Zuckerberg tonight,” Sorkin began, “Rooney Mara’s character makes a prediction at the beginning of the movie. She was wrong. You turned out to be a great entrepreneur, a visionary and an incredible altruist.” Sorkin also spoke directly to his daughter, saying, “I want to thank all the fellow nominees tonight for helping demonstrate to my daughter that ‘elite’ is not a bad word, it’s an aspirational one. Honey, look around, smart girls have more fun—and you’re one of them. I love you.” (This was particularly amusing considering all the flack Sorkin got for “Social Network’s” implicit misogyny.)
5. Paul Giamatti triumphs on behalf of schlubby, curmudgeonly Jewish men who only dream of three trips to the chupah. “I had three wives in this movie—a trifecta,” Giamatti declared. Giamatti won for his portrayal of the title character Barney Panovsky in the film “Barney’s Version” based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Canadian-Jewish author Mordecai Richler. In the film, Giamatti indeed marries thrice, though he finds his Jewish wives unbearable and instead falls in love with a Grace Kelly type (played by Rosamund Pike). During a recent Q-and-A at the Museum of Tolerance, Giamatti said of his character: “I suppose the thing that was useful for me—was the sense of him seeming like an outsider, a kind of observer, a guy who can’t participate—he’s shut out from things. That sort of notion can be ascribed to Jewishness, I suppose. Other than that, it was just great fun to be a Jew.”
6. And last but certainly not least: a beautiful and pregnant Natalie Portman is awarded Best Actress for her role in “Black Swan” (so it wasn’t my favorite movie of the year, she still deserves it). And being such a nice Jewish gal, she thanks her parents and grandmother first, before addressing her fiancé, Benjamin Millepied.
“I want to say hi to my grandmother Berniece—I hope you’re having a drink Grandma, I thank you for bringing my Mom into the world…and thank you to Benjamin, who is helping me continue this creation of creating more life,” Portman said, before revealing a wee little insecurity: “Benjamin choreographed the film, and also you might remember him in the movie as the guy when they ask, ‘Would you sleep with that girl?’ And he’s like, ‘Pffsh, no.’ He’s the best actor. It’s not true: He totally wants to sleep with me!”
Portman’s acceptance speech: