Director Kathryn Bigelow and co-screenwriter Mark Boal's follow-up to The Hurt Locker — an Oscar winner in the categories of Best Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture, among others — is, depending on your interpretation, a gritty, almost journalistic dramatization of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, or a propagandistic endorsement of torturing detainees. One thing is for sure: Zero Dark Thirty is the only movie newly available On Demand this week to have elicited criticism from actual lawmakers. (Better luck next time, Bilbo.)
Liam Hemsworth & January Jones: Miley Cyrus's fiancé was spotted leaving a pre-Oscars party at the Chateau Marmont with January Jones. Betty Draper Francis! "Liam got January's coat and helped her put it on, then they headed outside. They made sure to leave a few seconds apart, so they wouldn't attract too much attention. Then they jumped into a waiting car and took off." But, of course, paparazzi caught them. Miley went to Elton John's party the next night and was "all over the place." She was spotted at fashion week in New York "flirting with every guy and girl in sight. Especially the models!" The couple haven't been spotted together in a week. "January, meanwhile, has a reputation for romancing unavailable men." OOH, THEY WENT THERE. "In addition to high-profile exes Ashton Kutcher, Josh Groban and Jason Sudeikis, she has reportedly been linked to married celebrity chef Bobby Flay and supermodel Claudia Sciffer's [sic] husband, producer Matthew Vaughn." But apparently it's not January's fault, because "Miley is not the girl Liam fell in love with. She's turned into an embarrassment." Because she cut her hair short? Pfffffttttt.
There's always an element of fatalism with making Oscar predictions. You actually hope you're wrong. You want to be right because people conflate educated awards-guessing with expertise. But when you have to sit and watch more than 190 minutes of the Academy Awards, you really don't want a predicted outcome. You want to be wrong about who the majority of 6,000 or so people will say was the best supporting actor of 2013. You want to go in with a little conventional wisdom and know that Tommy Lee Jones will win so that when Octavia Spencer opens her envelope and says Christoph Waltz's name, you can stare at the television and just say, "Wow."
Waltz was a surprise in a season of surprises. This was the year voters decided to pee into millions of Oscar pools. It was the year that everything started to seem refreshingly upside down: no Tarantino or Paul Thomas Anderson or Kathryn Bigelow or Wes Anderson up for Best Director, but Benh Zeitlin?
Buuuuuuurn. Patrick Carney of The Black Keys dissed Grammy-snubbed Justin Bieber, saying that "he's making a lot of money. He should be happy." You know what's better than a million dollars? A billion dollars. You know what's better than a billion dollars? A billion dollars and a Grammy. You know what's better than a billion dollars and a Grammy? The artistic freedom to Instagram pictures of yourself all sweat-drippy in a lace bra, otherwise known as being Madonna. In other Grammy drama news, here is Adele disapproving of Chris Brown.
The first time you heard the name "Megan Ellison," most likely, was when she saved The Master. Paul Thomas Anderson's then-untitled project was on the ropes, Universal having dropped it after cringing at its $35 million budget. And then, wham, Ellison — the now 27-year-old daughter of Oracle founder Larry Ellison, the third richest man in America — swooped in, cut the check, and made Joaquin Phoenix's quivering-arm-on-hip move a national phenomenon (OK, no, not really. But there's still time!) And quickly, a rep was born: Ellison was flush with cash and willing to spend it, straight up, on stuff she liked, thorny projects from prestige names that just weren't getting the studio money they used to. That mentality has translated into a couple of solid flicks (Killing Them Softly, Lawless) and one big screaming winner: Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty, which bears Ellison's Annapurna Pictures imprint. Now, with ZDT barging into the Oscars, Vanity Fair has gone ahead and profiled the young Ms. Ellison. And while she didn't actually sit down to talk about herself, luckily, lots of other people did. So what'd we learn?
On Sunday night, the Screen Actors Guild gathered its members at L.A.'s Shrine Auditorium for its annual celebration of their shared craft, a delightful ceremony free of the annoying focus-pulling that plagues awards shows that insist on handing out statuettes to the unwashed masses who scratch out a living on the wrong side of the camera. Unfortunately, not every SAG Awards nominee gets to take home the coveted Actor, the highest honor thespians can receive from their brothers- and sisters-in-arms; for every five stars receiving the validation of a nomination, four will find themselves confronted with the challenge of making gritted teeth seem like a smile, and white-hot jealousy like warm magnanimity as the cameras mercilessly probe their reactions for any sign of disappointment. And so here we are, the morning after the Saggies (they don't call them the Saggies, but they should), to relive last night's victories through the faces of the defeated. When you're this good at your job, you can make misery look a lot like triumph. Well, most of the time.
Surprise, surprise: Very few people said the words "I simply must go see the disgraced former governor of California palling around with a dude who used to get his nuts Tasered on a regular basis" this weekend. In other words: The Last Stand, Arnold's big post– politics and secret-love-child-with-nanny return to the multiplex, flopped at the box office, managing only $6.3 million and a 10th-place finish. My opinion? Johnny Knoxville should have been wearing a dumber hat.
Kate Middleton Is Pregnant: "Royal-watchers all around the globe had been on tenterhooks for months." THAT SOUNDS UNCOMFORTABLE. "At long last, Will and Kate are expecting a little prince or princess!" While they were hoping to keep the story under wraps until Kate was 12 weeks along, and release the news on Christmas Day, it came out early when Middleton was admitted to a hospital for morning sickness. Nevertheless, "William and Kate are elated." They started trying in September, "once their Malaria medication has run its course" after their "royal tour of Southeast Asia." The holy "VIP baby leapfrogs Harry to become third in line for the throne behind William and his father." A nursery "is in the early stages" as the couple continue with their move into Kensington Palace. Get ready to hear all about the future royal baby for months from weirdo superfans.
Prince Harry Is Out of Control: En route to Las Vegas the ginger prince "had two things in his sights: vodka and women." And I'm all out of bubble gum. "The trip was like The Hangover, only without the monkey." That's The Hangover II; The Hangover had a tiger. "He was naked for a long time at the party. He kept spilling his drinks and dancing. He didn't seem to care what he did." But after photos leaked online, the British monarchy expressed their extreme disapproval. "Harry was pressured to delete his secret Facebook account, on which 'Spike Wells' could post ginger jokes on himself and interact with pals." Spike Wells LOLs. The party binge started on Necker Island for Richard Branson's son Sam's 27th birthday. "The plan was just to sunbathe, swim and get drunk. With the booze flowing, Harry lived up to his wild kid-brother rep, doling out kisses and sloppy hugs." A friend says, "Harry's a funny drunk, but he always seems a bit vulnerable." Perhaps he's been thinking about his mother Princess Diana, as it comes up on her death's 15th anniversary. "Dirty Harry" has had a trail of scandals, including brawls with photographers, reports of using racist epithets, and his famous 2005 Nazi Halloween costume. Harry may have been trying to "force the queen's hand all along" with his recent nude billiards antics. "Harry has been making a case for a redeployment to Afghanistan, which he worried the palace would deem too dangerous. He's definitely going now. The royal family will want to redeem his image. This sort of move is very clever. Clever like a ginger fox."
If I were feeling less generous and more cynical on this holiest of all Oscar-calendar mornings, I might say that to decipher this year’s Academy Awards contest, we need only look for inspiration to the GOP presidential race. The Artist is Mitt Romney — desperate to please, doesn’t stand for anything in particular, not especially popular with the general public, will eventually keep most of its money offshore, and, though dinged up and trash-talked, will probably cross the finish line first by default. The Descendants is Newt Gingrich (emotionally unsteady, hard on wives, doing better than expected, but probably can’t go all the way). Hugo is Rick Santorum (a little slow, doesn’t really like anything that changed in the culture in the last 80 years). And The Tree of Life is Jon Huntsman (believes in evolution, probably a little too classy for this field).
With 1,183 members, the actors branch is the largest single voting bloc of the Academy — and also the most susceptible to sentimentality. I don’t mean on-screen tearjerking (although God knows they go for that); I mean that more than any other branch, actors like to root around for the narrative beneath the nomination — the weary veteran finally getting his moment, the shiny-eyed newcomer who emerged out of nowhere, the funny guy who surprised everyone by being serious, the pretty actress who let herself be ugly. This should make for a grotesque and unfair roster of nominations, and sometimes it does, but happily, there are narratives available for any number of great performances. To wit:
Jessica Chastain is in talks to join The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow's hunt-for-Bin Laden movie, along with Mark Strong and Edgar Ramirez. Already cast are Joel Edgerton and Chris Pratt; Hurt Locker writer Mark Boal is on board as well. Also: “Reports today assert that the Pentagon will investigate charges made by Rep. Peter King that Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker tandem Bigelow and Boal somehow got inside information about the mission from the Obama Administration in preparing the script.” Whatttt?!!! That is insanely awesome. Has Peter King been covertly hired by this movie’s marketing team? Grade: A [Deadline]
RazzieWatch Important Editorial Note! John Wilson has contacted RazzieWatch worried that casual readers might believe that RazzieWatch speaks with the authoritative voice of the Golden Raspberry organization! When we finished picking our jaws off the floor -- the Head RAZZberry emailed us!!! -- we of course agreed to his requests that we make it clear that RazzieWatch DOES NOT represent the Razzies administration -- we're just covering the awards, not giving them out!
Twenty-one years ago, the future Oscar-nominated director Sofia Coppola won the Golden Raspberry award for Worst Supporting Actress for her truly terrible performance in The Godfather Part III. That feat makes her one of a select few in Razzie history.
No, we don’t mean that she’s special because she’s been nominated for an Oscar and a Razzie — way too many people fall into that category to count. We mean that Coppola is one of the few actors to be nominated for a Razzie for doing a lousy job in a good movie. (Sure, Godfather III is no Godfather II, but it’s still a not-bad gangster film, nominated for seven Oscars.) The Razzies often ignore bad actors in good movies — voters, it seems, would much rather pile on to a stinker than recognize a performance, no matter how bad, in an otherwise good film.
Justin Timberlake will star in Spinning Gold, a biopic on record producer Neil Bogart, who ran Casablanca Records in the 1970s and had a hand in the careers of KISS, Parliament, Donna Summer, and the Village People. So JT, former beloved pop star, is now making a movie about music that will in no way feature him singing or performing? Okay, now he’s just messing with us. Grade: B- [Deadline]
Real Hollywood screenwriter Josh Olson (A History of Violence) is writing a screenplay called Tabloid both based on an idea from Mick Jagger and being developed as a potential starring vehicle for Mick Jagger. The movie revolves around a shady global media mogul and the young journalist who gets sucked into his world. This is not going to make Keith Richards happy. Grade: C+ [Deadline]
Whitney Houston is attached to a remake of the 1976 movie Sparkle, which would be her first role since 1996’s The Preacher’s Wife. Set in sixties Detroit, the flick will trace the trajectory of three sisters who go from singing in their church choir to girl-group stardom, and the damage the rise does to the family’s relationships. Jordin Sparks, in her cinematic debut, will play the group’s titular front woman. On the off chance Jordin’s musical commitments pull her away from the project, though, the producers have already booked a suitable backup: Spark’s fellow Idol winner, Taylor Hicks. Grade: B+ [Variety]
Highlander’s getting remade, with Spanish director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (best known around these parts for 28 Weeks Later) taking the reins. The original, from 1986, told the tale of an immortal swordsman from Scotland battling dudes to the death. Details of the new version are sparse, but our source on the inside has heavily hinted that this time the Highlander will be even more totally badass. Grade: B+ [HR]