House Logo
Explore categories +

The Town (#110 of 7)

Oscar Prospects: Argo

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar Prospects: Argo
Oscar Prospects: Argo

Ben Affleck’s Argo emerged from the Toronto Film Festival as virtually every pundit’s Best Picture frontrunner, its grand reception topping off a heap of baity ingredients. This particular bit of groupthink is particularly disheartening, as those ingredients are, collectively, something Argo itself is never able to soar above. You know the mouthwatering pitch: Based on the impossible true story, this white-knuckle political thriller recounts the daring escape of six American diplomats during the Iran hostage crisis. Produced by Academy Award winner George Clooney and Oscar nominee Grant Heslov, and directed by Academy Award winner Ben Affleck, who also stars, Argo is both a topical drama and a rousing crowd-pleaser. Which, of course, says nothing of the movie’s juicy Hollywood ties, doubling as an offbeat slice of film-biz history wherein a C.I.A. specialist uses a faux sci-fi production as his rescue ruse. On paper, Argo reads like a dream project, and it certainly helps that Affleck stocks his cast with a fine mix of Oscar favorites and of-the-moment faces (alongside Alan Arkin are Bryan Cranston, Kyle Chandler, and Chris Messina). This is a movie that drums up sight-unseen support, specifically for Affleck, who’s been soldiering forth as a filmmaker and has finally made a film about something. It’s a shame that what he’s made also plays like a thin and shameless Oscar box-checker, and if it were to take the big prize, it’d only amplify the bemused awards-watcher’s cynicism.

Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions Supporting Actor

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor
Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor

Not sure there’s much more to say here than I did two years back ago when I called this for Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight except that this is probably one of two categories where The King’s Speech most deserves to win. Christian Bale, for eating, regurgitating, then shooting up The Fighter’s scenery, has lapped up nearly every supporting actor accolade since the start of the awards season. Oscar loves a showboater, and unlike his co-star Melissa Leo, Bale seems to have kept the drama on screen. I’m not sure the momentum he’s mustered can be toppled, even by some slightly unhinged awards speeches that suggest playing Dicky Eklund wasn’t exactly a stretch for the actor—though we knew that already from the way Bale talks to his mother. I know, it’s been less than a month since industry awards revealed that The Social Network was probably never our Best Picture frontrunner, but even then the only honor Geoffrey Rush has wrestled from an unkempt Bale’s twitchy fingers, not counting SAG’s ensemble award, was a prize from the Central Ohio Film Critics Association. Oscar loves a saint, but in the supporting categories at least, they love losers even more.

Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Picture

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Picture
Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Picture

Even though AMPAS’s decision last year to widen the Best Picture field to 10 nominees was an obvious publicity stunt, a means of boosting the Oscar telecast’s ratings share by ensuring that more than one box office cash cow would compete for Oscar’s top prize, we were optimistic that a few legitimately off-the-beaten-path treasures would somehow manage to enter the race. But we know how that turned out, and though we doubt things will pan out differently in this more middlebrow-embracing year, at least we’re going to be spared the endless chatter about how so-and-so film can’t win the Oscar because of its poor box office. And to give you just one example of how much money means to the corrupt Oscar race: By Tuesday morning, the bulk of the dozen or so films with a legitimate shot at a Best Picture nomination will have made in excess of $75 million each. To give you another: The only ones among those dozen or so films that anyone is even talking about possibly not making the cut (127 Hours, The Kids Are All Right, and Winter’s Bone) are the ones that will never make that much money even after you’ve added together their domestic and foreign box office and video receipts.

Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Actor in a Supporting Role

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Actor in a Supporting Role
Oscar 2011 Nomination Predictions: Actor in a Supporting Role

Javier Bardem, Heath Ledger, Christoph Waltz. Though the template for winning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar these days seems to require leaving a body count inversely proportional to the average age of a typical Best Actress winner, this year’s slate of contenders indicates voters are ready to see the men behind the monsters. The prime case in point: Andrew Garfield’s turn as The Social Network’s spurned and spat-upon baby entrepreneur Eduardo Saverin, which has glided past Justin Timberlake’s showier antics as Napster-teer Sean Parker and Armie Hammer’s equally compelling double dip as the Winklevii twins to emerge as the sole boy from his film’s well-tanked fraternity to contend here—especially on the strength of his Golden Globe nod. Okay, he does pull a sick, Joker-worthy stunt on a chicken, but off screen. Otherwise, David Fincher devotes most of Garfield’s screen time to chopping onions under his big, brown puppy-dog eyes. (Never mind reports that the man he represents on screen is reportedly nearly as misrepresented as Mark Zuckerberg, in the precise opposite direction.)

Understanding Screenwriting #59: The Town, Easy A, Going the Distance, & More

Comments Comments (...)

Understanding Screenwriting #59: <em>The Town</em>, <em>Easy A</em>, <em>Going the Distance</em>, & More
Understanding Screenwriting #59: <em>The Town</em>, <em>Easy A</em>, <em>Going the Distance</em>, & More

Coming Up In This Column: The Town, Easy A, Going the Distance, Something’s Gonna Live, Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff, Hollywood: A Third Memoir (book), California Dreamin’, Captain Horatio Hornblower, White Collar, Nikita, Mad Men, but first…

Stop the Presses: On the front page of the September 13-19, 2010, issue of Weekly Variety, Jeffrey (EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE IN 3-D NOW AND FOREVER!) Katzenberg was quoted as saying, “Consumers are more and more cautious. The lure of 3D is not panning out.”

Fan Mail: “AStrayn” took exception to my notion that “The Suitcase” episode of Mad Men would work as a stand-alone episode and felt I was saying that viewers who did not have a history with the show would “understand everything.” I never claimed they would “understand everything.” In any stand-alone episode of a serialized show, obviously people who already know the show will get the most out of it. But in a good stand-alone, which I think “The Suitcase” is, knowing all the backstory of the characters and the situations is not as crucial as it is for other episodes. That’s one of the reasons shows do them—so Emmy voters who may not watch the show on a regular basis can still appreciate them.

I agree with David E. that Lord Love a Duck (1966) is one of Lola Albright’s great performances, but I have to admit that the last time I saw the film, I did not like it as much as I had the first time. The big problem with the script is that Barbara Anne’s friend and mentor Alan is so obviously her gay best friend that it is completely unbelievable when he turns out to be straight and in love with her. Well, it was 1966, after all.

Toronto International Film Festival 2010: The Town, Biutiful, & Film Socialism

Comments Comments (...)

Toronto International Film Festival 2010: <em>The Town</em>, <em>Biutiful</em>, & <em>Film Socialism</em>
Toronto International Film Festival 2010: <em>The Town</em>, <em>Biutiful</em>, & <em>Film Socialism</em>

The Town: On-screen titles note the high number of carjacking and robbery cases in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood, but Ben Affleck’s sophomore directorial outing is less intrigued by how the city that pioneered the Independence could have become the nation’s capital of blue-collar crime than it is determined to stitch a cops n’ robbers yarn out of Michael Mann’s least interesting standbys. Casting himself as the center of a gridlock of heists and familial vendettas that Jon Hamm’s F.B.I. agent describes as “fucking Townie hopscotch,” he plays the incongruously sensitive organizer of a motley crew of outlaws, torn between loyalty toward his volatile partner in crime (Jeremy Renner, bursting with Cagneyisms) and love for the bank manager he took hostage (Rebecca Hall). The action is shot with heat and a feeling for taut, battered, tattooed flesh, but the film lacks the specific sense of locale and human-sized menace that Affleck’s debut, Gone Baby Gone, exuded. One can imagine the James Gray of Two Lovers gravitating toward Hall’s affectingly confused character; unfortunately, with Affleck behind and in front of the camera, you’re left with a fatuous star vehicle that leaves little doubt about who gets the most soulful close-ups.