This year's batch of potential Golden Globe winners was announced at the usual ungodly hour of 5 a.m. in Los Angeles this morning, and holy Hamm's beard are there a lot of these things. A few key notes from the film department, to start: The Wolf of Wall Street, Her, and American Hustle are all competing as comedies. (Unless they're musicals.) Hustle and 12 Years a Slave lead in nominations with seven each. Two of the five Best Drama candidates are Ron Howard's little-seen Rush and Stephen Frears's littler-seen Philomena. The Butler is MIA. Martin Scorsese was snubbed in the directing category, but Paul Greengrass and Alexander Payne are in. Pixar, having won Best Animated Feature Film six of the seven years the category has existed, is out of the running for the first time. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is nominated for her lead performances in both Enough Said and HBO's Veep. James Gandolfini, meanwhile, is nowhere to be found. (Ditto for Michael B. Jordan and his Fruitvale Station performance, as well as Woody Allen and his work on Blue Jasmine.)
If so-called “nerd culture” is now considered “culture-culture” in movies (where comic-book heroes reign) and television (where characters named Sheldon and Daenerys do the same), when does the takeover happen in popular music? Is it possible that it has already happened right under our noses? Consider the long-running prog-metal band Dream Theater, which is basically the musical equivalent of a stupidly complicated 27-part Peter Jackson epic about fire-breathing dwarves and lovably plucky dragons. In late September — the same week most of the rock press was preoccupied by albums released by sexy young things like Kings of Leon and Chvrches — Dream Theater quietly released its new self-titled album (the band’s 12th studio release) and subsequently scored its third consecutive top-10 record. That’s right, Dream freaking Theater is one of the most successful rock albums of the past few weeks. It’s like your weird uncle up and won the town’s mayoral election.
It starts with how we still haven't cured ourselves of calling him Opie. At age 59, Ron Howard has directed 30 or so feature films. Some of them — Splash, Apollo 13 — have earned permanent shelf lives in the great American public's esteem. He has won enough awards to teach an octopus to juggle. Yet we life members of the Snotty Critics' Club have remained unmoved. We love to signal how trivial we think he is by referencing his now ancient past as sitcomland's answer to Tom Sawyer.
That's especially true for those of us who grew up with Howard the actor and can't help thinking of him as a quasi-sibling. Because our acquaintance with him predated our ability to form opinions about anything except Gerber, the bond is more or less involuntary, which helps explain the snottiness. All the same, only a crackpot would devote valuable brain cells to hating Ron Howard. So far as we know, he's never been anywhere near that nasty about anything or anyone, making hating him a loser's game by definition.
Anything with a title featuring half of every kid's favorite meal is gonna be hard to beat at the box office. Even if Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 had dropped out of the sky like a rain of Bill Hader–voiced food puns, with no first-movie precedent, it would've won the weekend. Despite earning $35 million compared to the massive summer debuts of Despicable Me 2 ($83.5 million) and Monsters University ($82.4 million), Cloudy was September's fourth-highest opening of all time, dusting Ron Howard's well-received Formula One flick, Rush, by a factor of three.
The latest Ron Howard film, Rush, goes wide in theaters today, and I (along with Grantland poo-bah Bill Simmons — more on that later) definitely recommend it as a fun watch. Don't trust my taste in movies? Well at least trust the people at the ArcLight who applauded as the credits rolled; they must know something. Anyway, enough chitchat. Here's a quick synopsis of the "based on a true story" film:
Chris Hemsworth plays Englishman James Hunt, a suave, blond playboy who lives to race fast cars because he likes living life on the edge. Basically he is the embodiment of One Direction's "Live While We're Young," complete with the booze, the women, and the carefree lifestyle. (I apologize for making that reference but not enough to take it back.) On the opposite side is Daniel Brühl, who plays the surly (funny) dickwad Niki Lauda, an Austrian who was born into privilege but rejected the family fortune when his father refused to support his racing. He says he races because it's the only thing he can do that makes him money — yeah, it doesn't make sense to me either, given his family's standing. The two racers become rivals when they see each other at a Formula 3 race, then again in Formula 1. About 70 percent of the movie are scenes from the racetrack, including a hefty 20 percent of the two staring at each other before and after races, and the remaining 30 percent are scenes of adversity from each of their lives.
So that's it for synopsis. If you've already seen the movie, here are 10 lingering questions you might have (if you haven't seen it yet, tread carefully — spoilers ahead) about the real-life story.
Silver: Rem … It was a veritable Memorial Day barbecue buffet of trailers this week. So if we’re going to make that double feature of Fast & Furious 6 and The Hangover Part III, I think we should make this an (As Close To) One-Sentence Trailer review week. I can’t be late — you know how I need those left aisle seats three-quarters of the way back from the screen. I gots to have them.
Silver: I’ve come back around on Ron Howard. For me, the hyperbolic sentimentality of his films and his overly lavish set pieces always felt like he was trying too hard. I tend to not like films that are so blatantly campaigning for an Oscar, and would rather a film’s innate importance be a tad subtler. But after recently catching Backdraft and Apollo 13 on cable, I went back and rewatched the entire Howard catalogue, and it became clear that my ire against his filmography was a case of a few bad apples spoiling the bunch.
Cinderella Man, The Da Vinci Code, and Angels & Demons are just poorly produced, pedantic movies. But there’s a certain earnestness and genuineness to the vast majority of his other films that, as I went title-by-title, came to be a welcome antidote to the cynicism inherent in so many films released today. Even in the titles some folks might consider to be weaker — The Missing, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and The Paper — ol’ Opie's heart bleeds through every frame.
Yesterday, eight new inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were announced: Rush, Donna Summer, Heart, Randy Newman, Public Enemy, and Albert King, as well as two Ahmet Ertegun Award for Lifetime Achievement inductees in producer/promoter Lou Adler and arranger/producer Quincy Jones. What does this mean? Effectively, not much. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum has been around since 1983, inducting artists and industry shakers since 1986, and it’s been an actual building you can visit in Cleveland, Ohio, since 1993. It’s a fine place, designed by I.M. Pei and everything, but it’s not much more than a shrine to particular artists deemed worthy by a shadow group responsible for the voting. Every year, there's mild consternation over that year’s nominees — all of whom become eligible exactly 25 years since first becoming active — but this is nothing like the Baseball Hall of Fame. There is no Internet community driven mad by a Tim Raines–style fascination with, say, Jethro Tull. Wonderful as it might be, there is no Rock VORP in play though Tull’s Flute-Solo-Per-Song (FSPS) average is Gehrig-esque. To honor and examine this moment, Grantland’s resident music critic Steven Hyden and editor Sean Fennessey, a Rock Hall voter, discussed this year’s lineup, some methodology, and asked: Why do we need this thing?
Last year around this time, for the first time in my life, I got all excited about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination announcement. You see, Guns N' Roses had been nominated, and so the heretofore inconceivable occasion of an Axl-Slash reunification all of the sudden seemed like it was on the table. And as GNR went from nominee to official inductee, we held that flicker of hope — for once, would the Rock Hall be an organ of good, and not irrelevance? It wasn't to be. When it all shook out, Axl skipped the induction ceremony altogether, leaving GNR now and forever fractured and withering.
Joel and Ethan Coen are teaming up with Cedar Rapids' writer Phil Johnson on their first TV project. It's called Harve Karbo, it's an hour-long single-camera comedy about a private detective in L.A. who frequently encounters big Hollywood names while on the job, and it's got a script plus penalty commitment from Fox. The Coen Brother's famed dark humor and subtle sensibilities are going to fit in great with American Dad. Grade: A [HR]
Olivia Munn has joined the cast of Steven Soderbergh’s male stripper epic Magic Mike. In order to prove to the haters once and for all that she’s a talented actress, Munn will play a male stripper. Grade: B+ [Deadline]
John Moore (Max Payne,Behind Enemy Lines) has landed the directing gig on Die Hard 5, rumored to feature John McClane's son in a "passing of the baton" situation. Shia LaBeouf, clear your schedule. Grade: C [HR]
Sorry, Dirk. Tom Cruise is now confirmed to play crime-fighting drifter Jack Reacher in One Shot, Paramount's adaptation of Lee Child's best-selling thriller, to be directed by Usual Suspects writer Christopher McQuarrie. Initial reports of Cruise's possible casting caused an uproar among fans of Child's books last month, since Racher is 6'5" tall and Cruise is only 5'7". Said the author at the time: "Reacher's size in the books is a metaphor for an unstoppable force, which Cruise portrays in his own way." Maybe his performance will be motion-captured. Grade: C+ [Deadline]
Game of Thrones' Sean Bean will play more royalty, this time the king in the family-friendlier, slightly less ridiculous-sounding one of the two competing upcoming Snow White movies. He'll be the dad to Snow White (Lily Cole) and husband to her Oscar-tarnishing apple-poisoning stepmom (Julia Roberts). Grade: B- [HR]