Parents of teen and tween girls must have felt somewhat conflicted when Suzanne Collins's young-adult novel The Hunger Games came out. On one hand, it featured Katniss Everdeen, a young female protagonist who, unlike Bella Swan of Twilight, exhibited agency in her life and choices and wasn't particularly interested in either of the boys in her orbit, never mind mooning over them to the exclusion of all other activity. On the other hand, part of the reason Katniss doesn't waste a lot of energy thinking about her future romantic prospects is that she's determined not to bring any children into a dystopia in which teenagers are forced by the state to battle each other to the death until only one is left standing.
It’s been almost six months since I wrote my first column on the 2012 Oscar race, and we’re finally at predictions week. The ballots are in (or will be by tomorrow); the votes are soon to be tabulated; the hopes and dreams of 80 percent of the nominees are currently being ground into a fine powder. And it’s time to put your money where my mouth is. All this week, I’ll be announcing my guesses and doing my best to simulate an actual Oscar telecast, meaning that I will be starting with the stuff you don’t care about, taking immensely long pauses, and making you wait forever for the whole ugly business to end. Join me, won’t you? Imagine that Billy Crystal has already done his shout-outs to Brad and George in the front row, made a Harvey Weinstein reference (cut to reaction shot of Harvey looking amused/anticipatory/terrifying), and made one really funny joke I can’t think of that will end, “ or, as they’re known in Hollywood, The Help!” Hooting! Approving applause!
Voice-over! “Ladies and gentleman, please welcome to the stage two of our brightest stars, Cynthia Nixon and Sean Hayes!” No, wait, that’s the Tonys. “Please welcome to the stage ” Hmmm. Who’s big enough for an Oscar presentation but new enough so that you can stick them with the awards nobody else wants to give? Oh, my God, it’s CHANNING TATUM AND EMMA STONE!
In covering the Oscar race so far, I’ve tried to focus on movies that have already opened. But this week, I’m tossing that approach, because effective immediately, the attention of the Oscar-punditry universe swivels decisively forward. The last eight weekends of 2011 will bring more than two dozen movies with aspirations as modest as a single acting nomination and as grandiose as sweeping the slate from Best Picture to Best Makeup.
So from now until year’s end, the goal of every contender that opened before November 1 is simply survival. Think of the next two months as a tidal wave, and of early hopefuls like Midnight in Paris, The Help, and Moneyball as trees along the shore line. Some of those trees will topple — and a couple of months from now, those still standing may look that much taller. Same goes for the movies in the big wave; some will arrive with obliterating force while others will weaken the closer they get. (Please take the above tortured analogy as my tribute to Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter.) With that in mind, this Oscarmetrics installment is a cheat sheet — a map of the parallel tracks of reality and hype along which the race will now proceed.
Last week, while seeking evidence of how quickly Academy Awards campaign rhetoric can hit bottom, I came across the following Huffington Post headline. I know it’s still early, but we may have already found, in five words, the perfect storm of hysteria, prematurity, and inaccuracy. Here’s the headline:
“Madonna Bombs; Oscar Hopes Dead?”
Let me offer a word-by-word translation, since unless you are dangerously fluent in awards hyperbole, this announcement should be completely incomprehensible to you. “Madonna” is Madonna. She has made — meaning directed, but not starred in — a movie called W.E. “W” stands for Wallis Simpson; “E” stands for King Edward VIII, so in historical terms, this is a movie about the romance that caused the British abdication crisis in 1936; in movie terms, this is a spinoff of The King’s Speech that’s all about Colin Firth’s sneering Nazi-symp asshole brother, except now he’s a good guy. Even though Madonna has enough psychic power to have successfully mind-wiped the world’s population 10 years ago into believing that she is the descendant of a lovely old-money family from Sussex instead of a crabby Italian lady from Michigan, this particular piece of image alteration may be too tall an order.
As the ancient Knight Templar once told Indiana Jones, "You must choose, but choose wisely." With our new weekly trailer roundup, we aim to help you sift through the noise and set realistic expectations for upcoming films, so this doesn't happen to you. Headed to the movie theater this weekend? Here are the new trailers you might miss while waiting in line for popcorn.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Based on John le Carré's novel, TTSS comes off in this new trailer as a twisty, Pakula-esque espionage thriller and a “Who’s Who” of male British thespians. Pre-release buzz points to the film being a contender for end-of-year awards (it’s pretty much guaranteed a bunch of BAFTA nominations). But what’s most exciting is the return of the brooding and slightly twisted Gary Oldman. And for those who can’t wait until next spring for more of the BBC’s brilliant series Sherlock, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy also stars Sherlock himself, Benedict Cumberbatch.
John Le Carré’s brilliant espionage novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is both incredibly English and utterly seventies. So when word spread that a big-budget, big-screen adaptation was coming in 2011, fretting fans had reason to fiddle with their PG Tips. Would the story be updated? Would catchphrases be inserted? Would Hollywood meddle with the casting? Could Taylor Lautner really pull of the accent? They needn’t have worried. After one viewing of the trailer for Swedish director Tomas Alfredson’s film, it’s impossible to imagine anything in the world that could possibly be more English or seventies — or awesome. With Gary Oldman in control as the unexpectedly heroic George Smiley — and a killer supporting cast including Ciaran Hinds, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, and Green Lantern fallout victim Mark Strong — the deck was pretty well stacked from the start. But one can practically smell the rain, the greasy curry takeaways, and the (no doubt well-enunciated) flopsweat in Alfredson’s ugly brown-suit-bedecked images. Here, it would appear, is the spy movie we’ve been waiting for: with a real enemy (the Russkies!), real style, and real reel-to-reel tape recorders. Come September, we’ll be the first into the theater, warm beer in hand, ready to sit back in the comfy stadium seating and think of England.