Friday, February 29, 2008

Monthly Wallpaper - March 2008: Robots

Usually relegated to the sidekick role in sci fi epics, our favorite movie Robots are in the spotlight for this month's Calendar Wallpaper.

Representing both good (Star Wars' C-3PO and R2-D2, The Day the Earth Stood Still's Gort, The Iron Giant, RoboCop, Buck Rogers' Twiki, The Black Hole's V.I.N.Cent, A.I.'s David and Gigolo Joe, Forbidden Planet's Robby, even the Tin Woodsman from The Wizard of Oz) and evil (Blade Runner's Roy Batty, The Terminator, Westworld's Gunslinger, even Austin Powers' Fembots), the collage stretches from the distant past (1927's Metropolis) to the near future (this year's WALL·E).

Just click on the picture above to enlarge it to its 1024 x 768 size, then right click your mouse and select "Set as Background", and you're all set. If you want, you can also save it to your computer and set it up from there, or modify the size in your own photo-editing program if needed.

Out in Film: Bruce Vilanch

Idol worship: Bruce Vilanch, actor/writer.

- A prolific comedy writer, his resume includes such camp classics as The Paul Lynde Halloween Special, The Star Wars Holiday Special and The Brady Bunch Hour, plus numerous awards shows, including several Emmy winning gigs with the Oscars (which he is more then happy to dish about).

- He has written material for such stars as Bette Midler, Diana Ross and Michael Feinstein, and has provided uncredited "script doctoring" on many blockbuster hits, rumored to include Raiders of the Lost Ark and Die Hard 2.

- He made his film debut in Mahogany and has had bit roles in everything from the Richard Gere Breathless (as "Man with Purse") to Circuit; he'll next be seen in Tru Loved, Stewart Wade's follow up to Coffee Date.

- More often then not, he appears onscreen as himself, such as on game shows (Hollywood Squares) and in documentaries (Get Bruce), even in animated films (Queer Duck: The Movie) and gay porn (Michael Lucas' Dangerous Liaisons ... in a "non-sexual role".)

- He was the first actor to attempt Edna Turnblad in the musical Hairspray after Harvey Fierstein, playing the role during the show's first national tour and, eventually, on Broadway.

Film Art: If She Doesn't Scare You ...

From the arcives of Alice Estes Davis, early color model cels of Cruella DeVil by legendary Disney animator Marc Davis (click on image for larger view).

Created during his development of the iconic character for 101 Dalmatians, Davis was the only artist to work exclusively on Cruella throughout the entire film, a first for animation at the Walt Disney Studios (it is now common practice for there to be one supervising animator for each main character). Davis was known for his female characters, most notably (in addition to Cruella, of course) Peter Pan's Tinker Bell and Sleeping Beauty's Maleficent.

101 Dalmatians makes its Platinum Edition DVD debut this Tuesday. Click here to pre-orderfrom Amazon.com.

31 Days of Oscar: Singin' in the Rain

High on the list of "when Oscar gets it wrong" is the almost total snub of this all-time classic musical comedy. Perhaps the Academy was over honoring Gene Kelly, whose (far inferior) An American in Paris swept the year before. Or maybe they were just overall confused in 1952; it was, after all, the year High Noon and The Quiet Man lost to ... The Greatest Show on Earth, generally regarded as the worst Best Picture ever.

Singin' in the Rain did get two Oscar nominations though: one for Jean Hagen (as Best Supporting Actress for her delicious comic villainess Lina Lamont) and one for Scoring of a Musical ... which it lost to the largely forgotten With a Song in My Heart.

Singin' in the Rain will air tomorrow at 11:00 AM EST on Turner Classic Movies.

Rent Boys Go on the Road

Attention, Rent-heads: Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal, the original Mark and Roger in the stage and screen versions of Rent, will return once again to their star-making roles for a national tour beginning in January.

In related news, the long-running Broadway run of Rent will come to an end June 1 (though I expect there will be at least one extension of that date). EW.com has posted "an extended oral history" on the creation of the ground-breaking phenomenon known as Rent.

UPDATE: From the "No Big Surprise" department: Rent has extended its closing date to September 7.

Happy Leap Year

To celebrate leap year this February 29, here are the best leapers in the movies: the fabulous Nicholas Brothers in their show stoppin', aptly named "Jumpin' Jive" dance number from one of my favorite movie musicals of all time, Stormy Weather. They are simply amazing ... you'll see once they get to the stairs.

Click here to buy Stormy Weatheron DVD from Amazon.com.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Latest in Theaters: East Hampton Story

Albert Maysles returns yet again to his most famous subject matter in Grey Gardens: From East Hampton to Broadway. The new documentary will screen this weekend in New York, with Los Angeles scheduled for April. What about the rest of us? Oh, that's right, we get Will Ferrell in Semi-Pro.

Other new movies opening tomorrow:
  • Natalie Portman is Anne and Scarlett Johansson is The Other Boleyn Girl, with Eric Bana's King Henry VIII stuck in the middle.
  • Christina Ricci is Penelope, a pig-snouted princess looking for a prince to break the spell in this modern-day fairy tale. Also stars James McAvoy, Reese Witherspoon, Catherine O'Hara, Richard E. Grant and Peter Dinklage.
  • City of Men, a sort-of sequel to Fernando Meirelles' City of God.
  • As if stars Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates and Joan Allen weren't enough, the road trip dramedy Bonneville also features Christine Baranski and Tom Wopat in a pseudo Cybill reunion.
Visit Fandango - Search movie showtimes and buy tickets.


A Reprieve for Justice

The Justice League of America movie is back on track, according to Variety.

Some casting information has leaked out. As expected, most are, if not totally unknown, at least a little green: The O.C.'s Adam Brody as The Flash, rapper-turned-actor Common as Green Lantern, model-turned-actress Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, D.J. Cotrona as Superman and Armie Hammer as Batman (surely he'll prove himself worthy as "Abercrombie Boy" in the upcoming Spring Breakdown).

News of those last two seems to refute the gossip that Bats and Supes would not be a part of the action. Take all this casting with a grain of salt though; they're all listed as "rumored" on the film's Imdb page.

Time to Play, Clarice

Two tasty morsels for all you fans of the Academy Award-winning The Silence of Lambs:

The Rock is a Fairy

Would you give this man your teeth?

Continuing in the family-friendly vein he's been in lately with The Game Plan and the upcoming Return to Witch Mountain, Dwayne Johnson will next star as the title character in The Tooth Fairy.

31 Days of Oscar: The Letter

Bette Davis, quite possibly the best film actress of all time, was nominated for ten Academy Awards during her lifetime (winning twice), including for this south of the border melodrama.

In this Best Picture nominee, she plays Leslie Crosbie, an adulteress wife of a rubber plantation owner who shoots her lover dead on her front porch (one of the most shocking opening scenes in movie history) and then claims it was all self-defense. That is, until an incriminating letter shows up ...

Nominated for seven Oscars, The Letter airs on Turner Classic Movies tomorrow at 10:00 AM EST.

Statham Beams Up for Another Transporter

Third time's a charm: hunky Jason Statham signs on for Transporter 3.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Women We Love: Bette Midler

Object of our affection: Bette Midler, actress/singer.

- The Divine Miss M has been a woman we love for some time, ever since she started out singing in a New York City bathhouse back in the 70's. She was also in the original Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof, and won a special Tony Award in 1974 for "adding luster to the Broadway season".

- A successful recording career and touring act followed, and she broke through in a big way on the big screen with her first lead film role, in The Rose, earning her an Academy Award nomination and two Golden Globes.

- Her next movie, Jinxed, did just that to her in Hollywood, but she had a major comeback in the late 80's with such crowd-pleasers as Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Ruthless People and Beaches (featuring her hit single "Wind Beneath My Wings", one of her four Grammy Award wins), capped off by her second Oscar nomination for her pet project, For the Boys, in 1991 (which earned her another Golden Globe).

- She has won three Emmy Awards for her variety specials and her appearance on the final episode of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson; she was also nominated for her Mama Rose in the TV version of Gypsy (which earned her yet another Golden Globe).

- Recently, she has returned to live performing, headlining The Showgirl Must Go On for the next two years at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas; she will also be seen, in the role of the Countess, in the remake of The Women, due later this year.

Brick-A-Brack

Apparently, those who are inclined to elaborately recreate their favorite obsessions with LEGO Play Sets fall into two camps: comic book geeks and musical theater geeks. To wit, two examples from each:

Why, Chuck, Why?

Anna Friel, a.k.a. Pushing Daisies' lonely tourist Charlotte Charles, a.k.a. Chuck, has willingly signed on to be romanced by Will Ferrell's paleontologist character in the already derided-able big screen version of the cheesy Saturday morning kid classic Land of the Lost.

Thus continues the disturbing practice of pairing former Saturday Night Live comedians with comely lookers who would never otherwise give them the time of day in real life. Some examples:

- Chevy Chase, not only married to Beverly D'Angelo but also seduced by Christie Brinkley, in National Lampoon's Vacation.
- Adam Sandler with Drew Barrymore -- twice! -- in The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates.
- Mike Myers with every bird in every Austin Powers movie.
- Dan Aykroyd and Kim Basinger in My Stepmother is an Alien (she'd have to be).
- Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally ... (OK, that one worked).

But by far the biggest repeat offender of this forced suspension of belief is Bill Murray. It was bad enough that they asked us to buy him opposite Sigourney Weaver (Ghostbusters), Andie MacDowell (Groundhog Day) and Geena Davis (Quick Change); but when he played a so-called "Don Juan" (named "Don Johnston", for god's sake) who supposedly had romanced Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton and Julie Delpy in Broken Flowers? Now that's even more far-fetched then Will Ferrell as a paleontologist.

31 Days of Oscar: A Man for All Seasons

One of the best Best Pictures you've probably never seen, this riveting historical drama relates the story of Sir Thomas More (Paul Scofield, Academy Award for Best Actor), the devout scholar who stood up against Henry VIII during the whole Boleyn affair (and yes, that is roughly the same time period as this week's The Other Boleyn Girl ... I swear I'm not that film's publicist).

Other Oscar wins for the film included director Fred Zinnemann, cinematography, costume design and the screenplay by Robert Bolt, adapted from his Tony Award-winning play.

A Man for All Seasons will air tomorrow at 8:00 PM EST on Turner Classic Movies.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

MD Poll: Prima Donnas

The latest MD Poll is for all the theater enthusiasts out there, specifically those who appreciate ... nay, worship ... a good diva. Over the years, there has been plenty to choose from, but for the purposes of this ranking, we'll take a look at the most recent Broadway babes to catch our attention ... and applause:
  • Laura Bell Bundy: The original Amber Von Tussle in Hairspray, she was nominated for a Tony as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde - The Musical.
  • Kerry Butler: Another Hairspray alum (where she originated Penny), she has played Belle, Audrey and now Clio/Kira in Xanadu.
  • Kristin Chenoweth: Tony winner as Sally Brown, Tony nominee as Glinda, she is now known as Pushing Daisies star and Oscar show showstopper.
  • Christine Ebersole: Two-time Tony Award winner, for 42nd Street and her tour de force as Little Edie Beale in Grey Gardens.
  • Sutton Foster: As Thoroughly Modern Millie, she was thoroughly Tony winning. Now in Young Frankenstein and next in Shrek The Musical.
  • Patti LuPone: The original Evita (Tony win), star of the hit revivals of Anything Goes and Sweeney Todd, it will soon be her turn as Rose in Gypsy.
  • Idina Menzel: From the bisexual Maureen in Rent to her Tony winning Wicked witch Elphaba to the big screen Enchanted, Idina rocks.
  • Audra McDonald: One of the few actresses to ever win four Tony Awards, she shines in both dramas (A Raisin in the Sun) and musicals (Ragtime).
  • Bernadette Peters: The last Broadway Rose, she was also The Goodbye Girl and the sharp-shootin', Tony winnin' Annie Get Your Gun.
  • Sherie René Scott: Aida's original Amneris, she got Dirty for Rotten Scoundrels and is now under the sea as Ursula in The Little Mermaid.
Vote for your favorite in the poll located in the sidebar to your right, and check back in two weeks to see who will be crowned the biggest Broadway diva.

UPDATE: This poll is now closed. Click here for the results, and click here to vote in the latest MD Poll.

Poster Post: Oh, Henry

Regarding Henry (the VIII, that is) on film, we've come a long way from the days of Charles Laughton: on TV, we have hottie Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the young, randy monarch in The Tudors, and now we have the equally hot Eric Bana as the equally randy, slightly older Henry in The Other Boleyn Girl, opening this Friday (watch the trailer here).

Click here to buy The Other Boleyn Girlposters from Amazon.com.

The Latest on DVD: The Sun'll Come Out ...

Sort of a Where Are They Know?: Broadway Edition, the documentary Life After Tomorrow takes an investigative look into whatever happened to the various girl belters who trod the boards as the irrepressible little orphan Annie.

Former orphans featured include Danielle Brisebois, Alyssa Milano, Molly Ringwald and Sarah Jessica Parker ... gee, whatever happened to her?

Click here for more information and to buy Life After Tomorrowfrom Amazon.com. And for more of the latest on DVD this week, see the Amazon widgets located in the sidebar.

31 Days of Oscar: The Seven Samurai

One of the first foreign language films to win an Academy Award, this classic adventure has inspired everything from The Magnificent Seven to A Bug's Life.

Akira Kurosawa directed this "eastern western", which also received Oscar nominations for art direction and costume design, about a small village that hires this magnificent seven to protect them from a roving band of, well, roving bandits.

The Seven Samurai airs tomorrow night at midnight on Turner Classic Movies.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Heath Ledger: An Advocate Tribute

From the latest issue of The Advocate:

"The death of Heath Ledger meant many things to many people, but thanks to Ledger’s Oscar-nominated role as Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain, the loss resonated with gays and lesbians in a way that other fans may not fully understand ... across the country, we sought each other out for comfort when the news hit."

Click here to continue reading this moving article. And if that doesn't get to you, this will.

Oscars 2007: A Post Mortem

Diablo Cody shows her appreciation

It's the day after the Oscars, so of course everyone is whining about how long it was. News flash, people: it's the Oscars. They are always long. Get over it.

Personally, I was impressed with the evening. Maybe they should wait until the last minute to do the show every year ... last night's telecast had just the right amount of sure things and surprise wins to make it interesting, and Jon Stewart kept the show moving along with just the right amount of mockery.

As for my predictions, I scored exactly 2/3rds correct, with 16 out of 24. I nailed the Tilda Swinton upset, but missed out on Marion Cotillard's (who had a great weekend, also picking up France's César Award). And I grossly underestimated the appeal of The Bourne Ultimatum in the tech categories; the hit movie also scored well at the Motion Picture Sound Editors' Golden Reel Awards the night before. (In related news, it should come as no surprise that a fourth Bourne is in the planning stages now.)

Some random thoughts:
  • With the four wins by two Brits (Swinton, Daniel Day-Lewis), a French beauty (Cotillard) and a Spaniard (Javier Bardem), this was the first time since 1964's Oscars that every acting category went to a non-American.
  • Rob Marshall is a very happy man today: both Bardem and Cotillard are starring in his upcoming film adaptation of the musical Nine.
  • And one last thing about Bardem: if you weren't madly in love with him before, you are now. And he's such a nice son.
  • Poor Amy Adams looked lost on that huge stage without even a choreographed cockroach to interact with during "Happy Working Song" (she looked great later though).
  • As for the other Enchanted numbers: I wonder how long before Disney Theatricals gets the idea to make the movie into a stage musical?
  • Duane "The Rock" Johnson in a tux. 'Nuff said.
  • Uh, why the hell is the Jerry Seinfeld bee here? Bee Movie wasn't even nominated!
  • John Travolta looked like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
  • Where was Brad Renfro in the "In Memoriam" section? Not to mention Alice Ghostley, Michel Serrault and, most glaringly, Charles Lane?
  • Viggo Mortensen: awesome.
  • And finally: loved the gay shout outs from No Country for Old Men's Oscar-winning producer Scott Rudin (maybe he's the head of the gay mafia?) and Freeheld's Cynthia Wade and Vanessa Roth.
So this brings this year's awards season to a close. And just think: only nine more months until it starts all over again ...

UPDATE: Others left out of "In Memoriam": Robert Goulet, Merv Griffin, Marcel Marceau, Tom Poston and Charles Nelson Reilly. And one more thing: do you think the Academy is regretting giving an Oscar to Jennifer Hudson yet? Girl can't even convincingly read a teleprompter ...

First Look: Zac in "Orson"

A peek at Zac Efron in the upcoming period drama Me and Orson Welles, a period drama wherein he plays a teen actor cast in the legendary director's Mercury Theater production of Julius Caesar.

Cinematic Crush: Eric Bana

Crush object: Eric Bana, actor.

- Although he is primarily known stateside for his dramatic and action roles, he started his show biz career in his native Australia as a stand-up comedian; he even had his own short-lived television comedy series, titled The Eric Bana Show.

- His breakthrough role down under was as the real-life criminal/author Mark "Chopper" Read in Chopper (which won him the Best Actor award from the Australian Film Institute); he followed that up with small parts in Black Hawk Down and Finding Nemo.

- Gaining worldwide attention as Bruce Banner in Ang Lee's Hulk, he survived that box office disappointment to show off his gladiator mettle in Troy and headlined Steven Spielberg's Munich.

- He is Henry VIII (he is) in this week's period romantic drama The Other Boleyn Girl, caught between the wiles of Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson (watch the trailer here).

- Later this year, he stars as husband with a problem in the fantasy The Time Traveler's Wife; in 2009, he'll be seen tormenting Captain Kirk and crew as the villainous Romulan Nero in Star Trek.

31 Days of Oscar: Johnny Belinda

Jane Wyman was known for her husky speaking voice, so it is ironic that her one and only Academy Award win was for a performance where she didn't speak a word.

In fact, when accepting the Oscar for her role as the deaf mute Belinda McDonald in Johnny Belinda, her speech was short and sweet: "I won this award by keeping my mouth shut and I think I'll do it again."

Nominated for a total of 12 Academy Awards (including Best Picture), Johnny Belinda will air on Turner Classic Movies tomorrow at 2:00 PM EST.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Oscars 2007: Best Picture

No Country for Old Men:

Producer Scott Rudin: "This is also for my partner John Barlow, without you, honey, this would be hardware. Thank you so much!"

Oscars 2007: Best Director

Ethan Coen and Joel Coen for No Country for Old Men:

Joel: "Ethan and I have been making stories with movie cameras since we were kids. In the late 60's, when Ethan was 11 or 12, he got a suit and a briefcase and we went to the Minneapolis International Airport with a Super 8 camera and made a movie about shuttle diplomacy called Henry Kissinger, Man on the Go. And honestly, what we do now doesn't feel that much different ..."

Oscars 2007: Best Actor

Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood:


"My deepest thanks to the members of the Academy for whacking me with the handsomest bludgeon in town."

Oscars 2007: Best Original Screenplay

Diablo Cody for Juno:

"And most of all, I want to thank my family for loving me exactly the way I am."

Oscars 2007: Best Documentary Feature

Taxi to the Dark Side

Oscars 2007: Best Documentary Short


Director Cynthia Wade: "It was Lieutenant Laurel Hester's dying wish that her fight ... against discrimination would make a difference for all the same sex couples across the country that face discrimination every day."

Producer Vanessa Roth: "And to all our supporters and families who believe that even a 38-minute movie could change minds and lives."

Oscars 2007: Best Original Score

Atonement

Oscars 2007: Best Cinematography

There Will Be Blood

Oscars 2007: Best Original Song

"Falling Slowly" from Once:

Glen Hansard: "Make art."

Marketa Irglova: "This song was written from a perspective of hope, and hope at the end of the day connects us all, no matter how different we are."

Oscars 2007: Best Foreign Language Film

The Counterfeiters
Austria

Oscars 2007: Best Film Editing

The Bourne Ultimatum

Oscars 2007: Best Actress

Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose:

"Thank you life, thank you love, and it is true, there is some angels in this city."

Oscars 2007: Best Sound Mixing

The Bourne Ultimatum

Oscars 2007: Best Sound Editing

The Bourne Ultimatum

Oscars 2007: Best Adapted Screenplay

Ethan Coen and Joel Coen for No Country for Old Men:

Joel: "I think whatever success we've had in this area has been entirely attributable to how selective we are. We've only adapted Homer and Cormac McCarthy ..."

Oscars 2007: Best Supporting Actress

Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton:

"... And George Clooney, you know, the seriousness and the dedication to your art, seeing you climb into that rubber bat suit from Batman and Robin, the one with the nipples, every morning under your costume, on the set, off the set, hanging upside-down at lunch ... you rock, man."

Oscars 2007: Best Animated Short

Peter & the Wolf

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