Almost Famous was a treasure trove of feel-good triumphalism, but it's got a sad little footnote attached to it: For some reason, Cameron Crowe has never quite been able to bring the hot sauce since. I mean, I'll go to bat for Vanilla Sky any day of the week (that crazy twist ending?! With the thing?!), but critical consensus isn't quite as warm, and after that we're talking Elizabethtown and, gah, We Bought a Zoo. And then there's the post-AF career of Patrick Fugit, who you know better as Rolling Stone’s most adorable cub reporter, William Miller. While he's been popping up in stuff steadily since — Saved!, Wristcutters: A Love Story, this MadTVAlmost Famous parody that I'm just finding out about now and is totally incredible — without ever getting another juicy leading role. It wasn't the most surprising thing that his career didn't shoot off into the stratosphere: A large part of Fugit's charm in Almost Famous was his blankness, and blankness is probably not the most desired tool in the actor's arsenal. But, considering how hard he slayed in Almost Famous, it was still a bit of a drag. Anyway, you can dry your tears now. The kid from Almost Famous just got a TV show.
With few exceptions, such as Friday's wide release of Best Picture nominee Zero Dark Thirty, the two-month period between the New Year and the Oscars is Hollywood's wasteland, a long stretch of bad cinematic road where it casts out its unloved misfires, its low-achieving genre fare, and, occasionally, its hidden, wolf-punching gems. We call this time "Dumpuary," and from now until the Academy's final statuette is handed out, our Dumpuary Movie Club will shine a light on the soon-to-be-forgotten films cruelly languishing in the shadow of awards season. This week: Gangster Squad.
Mark Lisanti: Let's start at the beginning. Or maybe the end. What did we just see? Because I honestly don't know. Was it The Untouchables? Was it Dick Tracy? Was it Sin City with 1929 gangsters and a full color palette? It's probably a little unfair to come right out of the gate trying to compare it to other things, but it seemed to jam its arm elbow-deep into that grab bag of influences and run with whatever it pulled out before any given scene. It wasn't bad enough to be bad-fun, and it wasn't good enough to be good-fun. It was a confusing thing that happened to a couple dozen people in a theater in downtown L.A. on an early Friday afternoon.
You can be honest. When Seth MacFarlane and Emma Stone announced the Oscar nominations this morning, you were nervous they were going to go all Baseball Writers' Association of America and say, "This year there are no nominees." Of course, if you're Ben Affleck or Kathryn Bigelow or even Tom Hooper and Quentin Tarantino, isn't that kind of what happened? 2012 was a strong movie year, and that's pretty much demonstrated by the dozen or so legitimate candidates for the five directing slots, two of which, at least, seemed preordained for Affleck, who made Argo, and Bigelow, who made Zero Dark Thirty. But when the names of Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild) and Michael Haneke (Amour) and David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) were called alongside Steven Spielberg (Lincoln) and Ang Lee (Life of Pi), somebody in my one-person living room turned into the Retta Twitter feed and said, "Oh, no they didn't!" But they did. And what did they do?
Bethenny Frankel & Jason Hoppy's Split: Lunching with a friend in New York, Frankel and a friend "shared a plate of octopus, spaghetti, and a solemn conversation." How does one share a plate of octopus? Four tentacles each? Bethenny "wasn't smiling or laughing. She looked serious." Not to mention, her wedding ring was off. "So much for Frankel's happily ever after." Hoppy is still wearing his wedding band, and "feels used — like she just wanted him for a baby." He plans to fight her over custody of their daughter in court. Despite constant fights, Hoppy "was hoping she was just going through a phase." Friends claim he is wearing his ring as a plot to garner public sympathy. "It's definitely an image thing. He knows he's getting photographed. He's a smart guy." Frankel wants him to move out ASAP but he has been taking his time. "He's just not sure where he wants to go." Hoppy is angry, and "feels like he gave up his career for her. He basically stopped working to support her and wants to be compensated for it."
The couple got together in 2008 after meeting at a New York club. Sources say Frankel's no-holds-barred ambition is to blame for the union's downfall. "She got obsessive about her career." Bethenny's empire of Skinnygirl products had netted her at least a hundred million, but she still wants more. She also apparently "has high expectations that no man could ever live up to." With a new talk show rolling out soon expect to hear plenty more about the split, and possibly for it to get ugly.
Scarlett Johansson Is Depressed: "She was totally out of control in Moscow recently" at a champagne brand's promo event. "She was drinking nonstop and barely slept. It was obvious that she was trying to numb her feelings." She's sad about her breakup with ad exec Nate Naylor. "She's not used to going home alone — it's a shock to her system. The fact that Ryan Reynolds is happily married while she's single again has done a number on her. And the drinking is taking its toll — she's been crying because she feels so fat." She got a lucky horseshoe tattooed on her ribcage "because she's feeling a bit unlucky." A rebound with ex-boyfriend Jared Leto quickly went south. "She thought a fling with Jared would make her feel better, but since it was only a hookup, it only made things worse." Time for Lost in Translation 2? I know I'd pay good money to watch Scarlett be sad in Russia.
How you feel about this reboot of Marvel's superhero franchise probably depends a great deal on how much you liked Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3. Since I hated Spider-Man 2 so much that I never saw its sequel — guys, it just made no sense for Doc Ock to attack Peter Parker in the middle of the movie if he didn't know he was also Spider-Man!!! — I thought The Amazing Spider-Man was all right.
Working in The Amazing Spider-Man's favor is, above all, its casting. In the title role, Andrew Garfield may be a bit too cool to be totally believable as a high school pariah — even though, yes, I know, he wears glasses. But you do buy it when his new powers leave him first flummoxed and scared, and then delighted by the possibilities, particularly as they may help him to avenge the death of a loved one. As Gwen, his love interest, Emma Stone is as charming as always. Rhys Ifans — whom I sat next to at my neighborhood Starbucks in New York during filming, no big deal — makes a compelling villain, even if he suffers a bit from the contemporary vogue of making the bad guy too empathetic (not every movie antagonist has to be King Kong). And though the film was quite long in the cinema, it might not feel so sluggish at home if you can read a magazine during the dull parts.
Up next for Bradley Cooper is the Oscar campaign for Silver Linings Playbook, which is being toted as a lock for a Best Picture nomination and might actually nab Cooper himself a nom in Best Actor. (Wait, the guy who has sex with Michael Ian Black in Wet Hot American Summer might get an Oscar? Yes, the guy who has sex with Michael Ian Black in Wet Hot American Summer might get an Oscar.) But Coop stays grinding: He's currently in talks for his next project, a lead role in Cameron Crowe's new flick.
In a late-week, holiday-hangover episode of the Hollywood Prospectus Podcast, Andy Greenwald and I get together to talk about how we spent our (brief) summer vacations. I went to see The Amazing Spider-Man (2:40), along with most of America, while Andy checked out a special screening of the '90s indie cult classic Kicking and Screaming (12:00) (not the Will Ferrell soccer one). Both of these cinematic experiences are discussed in depth, with much mirth and reverie.
We then checked the pulse on Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom (20:20), wondering whether Alison Pill has ever been drunk in real life or if Dev Patel could have ever imagined things could have gotten worse after The Last Airbender. We also discussed the world of music (and what a world it is), praising the holy verses of Pusha T and Kanye West on the new G.O.O.D. Music track, "New God Flow," (29:20) and taking in Frank Ocean's personal revelations (36:26). There was also a bit of talk about Andy's excellent Fourth of July Spotify playlist and the role '90s indie rock band Velocity Girl played in my brief stint as a high school film auteur. Ask about me.
We wrapped it all up with some Double Down Book Club. This week's author is British spy-novel-master John le Carré (45:40); we heaped praise on his masterpiece Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy as well as some lesser-known works, The Tailor of Panama and Absolute Friends. Check it out: The podcast fireworks have only just begun.
Why would Spider-Man get a reboot — this time, with Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker — only five years after the Tobey Maguire–led franchise churned out its last installment? Because of $$$$$. THR is reporting that the new Spidey movie, The Amazing Spider-Man, is tracking extremely well with all kinds of audience demographics, "suggesting a six-day opening of $125 million or more, the best showing of any summer film outside of box office goliath The Avengers." Well then!
A long, long time ago, Ryan Gosling left the comforts of his native Canada, came to Hollywood, and stawted tawkin' like dis. It's been wonderful to witness. The only thing is, sometimes the accent makes more sense than others. As a blue-collar screw-up with heart in Blue Valentine? Yes, absolutely. As a mysterious, doomed loner that knows his way around a face-stomp in Drive? Sure, sure. As a whiz-kid political campaign aide in Ides of March? Ehh, not so much.
It’s a special edition of the podcast as Chris Ryan and I invite Mark Harris, Grantland’s esteemed Oscarmetrician, into the studio to postmortem Sunday night’s DOA ceremony. Mark shared his insight into behind-the-scenes award horsetrading, the enduring power of Harvey Weinstein, the canned uplift of The Artist, and why it’s never a bad thing to give a statue to Meryl Streep. He also answered big- (motion) picture questions about whether cinema has ceded its cultural primacy to the meth-cooking savages of television and which actor is a shoo-in for gold in 2012. (Hint: One of the stars of 21 Jump Street should probably clear some space on the mantle.)
After 30 minutes, Mark fled to a deserted island that doesn’t allow Blu-ray players. In his absence Chris and I talked Emma Stone, the great new NBC series Awake and Chris’ upcoming move across the country and inevitable transformation into a Hollywood insider. Enjoy!
Worst Actress is traditionally the most difficult Razzie category to predict, because the performances are the most widely varied. Will nominations go to Oscar nominees slumming it (as when Diane Keaton was nominated for 2007’s Because I Said So)? Or will it go to the forgettable female “lead” in an action movie (as in Megan Fox’s nominations the past two years, for Jonah Hex and Transformers 2)? Or will a single nomination go to a whole group of ladies (the casts of Sex and the City 2, The Women, and Bratz: The Movie) in a manner that doesn’t at all suggest that the Razzies find all women and movies about women interchangeable and icky?
In keeping with Hollywood's plan to cast her in pretty much everything (of which we completely approve!), Emma Stone is negotiating to join Ruben Fleischer's Tales From the Gangster Squad as a "a sharp-tongued siren" in a love triangle" with police officer Ryan Gosling and mobster Sean Penn, who is 50. Grade: B- [Variety]
When Marc Webb was announced as the director of The Amazing Spider-Man, the long overdue reboot of a franchise left sadly rudderless since the first year of the Obama campaign, certain assumptions were made. That Webb just might have the perfect kicky-cool visual style — not to mention last name — to reinvigorate the most pop of popular superheroes. That a greater emphasis would be placed on the story’s sweet-natured romance between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, his doomed (in the comics at least) blonde love. That even if Spidey didn’t tussle with the Vulture he at least might dance with him to some early-eighties Yacht Rock in a totally non-ironic way.