February 24, 2012
THE ACADEMY Award favorites this year - "Hugo" and "The Artist" - are movies about the wonder of movies, the sort that do well at Oscar time. "The Artist" is a love letter to cinema's adaptive power; "Hugo" a celebration of pioneer Georges Melies, an early effects wizard and audience-wowing showman. But here's a question: If Melies were alive today, what movie would he be watching? "Hugo" or that other backward-looking piece of nostalgia, "The Artist"? I think Melies would be scratching his head, wondering why the latter is not even tinted.
February 10, 2012
'TIS NEARLY Valentine's Day, fellas, when you're expected to sit down with your gal to see "The Vow," or something like it. Something very dangerous to your relationship, your self-esteem. Starring someone like Channing Tatum - bigger, better-looking, unafraid of commitment, supplied by screenwriters with an endless supply of cute things to say and do. In "The Vow" Tatum asks his girlfriend to move in with him by spelling out the question in the blueberries he places next to the pancakes he's just made for her. See what I mean?
January 25, 2012
YESTERDAY'S OSCAR nominations set the stage for an Oscar season marked by arguments that may get incredibly loud, and a race that will be incredibly close. Right now, Martin Scorsese's "Hugo" is the nominal favorite with 11 nominations, just ahead of the neo-silent movie "The Artist," with 10. Dig into the actor/actress/writing/directing categories, though, and you'll see a voting body with its collective mind going in a million directions. There were nine nominations for best picture, and you can usually look for the eventual best-picture winner among the best-director category, where the five nominees are Terrence Malick ("Tree of Life")
January 20, 2012
TERRENCE HOWARD didn't do much research for his role in "Red Tails. " Didn't have to. The movie's story, of the World War II Tuskegee Airmen, was one that he knew by heart. "I'd written reports about them in 1974, 1975. For my dad. That's how my daddy would discipline us," said Howard. "My dad was big on education, so I grew up knowing about the black pilots who shot down Nazi jets, and flew the P-51 Mustang. For me, the Mustang was always the airplane, not the car. " Howard admitted he needed the discipline of his dad's informal home schooling.
December 28, 2011
THE DECEMBER release of "The Artist" is a fitting cap to 2011, a year to remind us that movies, like children, should be seen and not heard. Case in point: A couple of readers called to ask me, earlier in the year, if Takeshi Miike's samurai smackdown "13 Assassins" was dubbed in English. The technical answer is no - it was subtitled - but the essential answer is: What difference does it make? The movie is so visually succinct and powerful that words were beside the point; the subtitles were redundant.
December 23, 2011
CAMERON Crowe's dual loves of music and movies are intertwined and inseparable. He made a mix tape to persuade Matt Damon to star in "We Bought a Zoo," played carefully selected songs to get the cast of "Singles" into the proper mood for a scene. Many of his defining screen moments as a director combine the union of the two forms - John Cusack's Peter Gabriel/"In Your Eyes" scene in "Say Anthing," the use of Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" in "Almost Famous. " Crowe's been at the intersection of movies and pop music long enough to see them heading in different directions.
December 19, 2011
THE BOX-OFFICE record for a movie directed by a woman stands at $663 million. Can you name the director? If you guessed Nancy Meyers or Nora Ephron, you can be congratulated for knowing the name of a commercially successful female director. But you are incorrect. You are also incorrect if you guessed Catherine Hardwicke, of "Twilight" fame ($392 million), or Betty Thomas, whose "Alvin and the Chipmunks" sequel grossed $443 million. You'd be very well informed, but still wrong, if you guessed Phyllida Lloyd, the British lass who directed the movie version of "Mamma Mia" ($609 million)
November 18, 2011
THE BEST documentarians, to my mind, build a bond of trust with an audience by making us feel as though we are on a journey of discovery right along with them. No preaching, no preconceived agenda. One of the best working today is Werner Herzog, whose docs are far too weird and singular ("Encounters at the End of the World," "Grizzly Man") to be designed around any sort of agenda. That's true of his latest - "Into the Abyss" - which wanders around the edges of capital punishment, but ends up going off in typically (for Herzog)
November 4, 2011
"HAROLD AND Kumar Go to White Castle" didn't look like a cultural game-changer when it opened in 2004, but its influence has been quietly substantial. Starring Kal Penn and John Cho as a kind of Asian-American Hope and Crosby, the movie made a nice pile of money - foremost by being funny, but also by quietly acknowledging our country's changing racial makeup. Its two regular guy leads - red-blooded, pot-smoking, burger-craving American males - were Korean and Indian. Penn, who describes himself as "a normal American kid who grew up in New Jersey, watching the same stuff that everybody else was watching," said that growing up he couldn't help but notice a shortage of Asian-American characters.
October 28, 2011
ELIZABETH OLSEN takes issue with older actresses who say there are no good roles for them. As a New York University student (she's still enrolled) poring over books and plays and scripts, scouring them for interesting characters, Olsen was under the impression that ALL the good roles were for older women. "There are just all these roles that I'm just too young to play, these women who are so complex and rich. I remember thinking, 'I can't wait till I'm 40 because there are so many moms I want to play.' " Olsen is 20, and for the moment best known as the younger sister of Mary Kate and Ashley.