Saturday, February 28, 2009

Monthly Wallpaper - March 2009: Biopics

For the month of March, the Movie Dearest Calendar Wallpaper celebrates life on film ... biopics, that is.

From the Queen of England to the Queen of Country Music, this month has it all: a mad millionaire, a schizophrenic math genius, a bisexual artist, a gorilla expert, a couple of gay authors, a feisty legal clerk, a pair or WWII heroes and several icons from the world of music. Oh, and let's not forget Gandhi.

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.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Out in Film: Rupert Everett

Idol worship: Rupert Everett, actor.

- His screen debut was in the Academy Award-winning short film A Shocking Accident, followed by roles in such television productions as Princess Daisy, The Far Pavilions and Arthur the King.

- He burst onto the international scene with his acclaimed performance of Guy Bennett, an openly gay English public school student, in the stage and screen versions of Another Country. A string of smaller films — Dance with a Stranger, Duet for One, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, The Comfort of Strangers, Inside Monkey Zetterland — followed, capped off by the Bob Dylan flop Hearts of Fire.

- After supporting roles in Prêt-à-Porter (a.k.a. Ready to Wear) and The Madness of King George, he received Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for his witty portrayal of Julia Roberts' gay pal George in My Best Friend's Wedding. He next played Christopher Marlowe in Shakespeare in Love and got another Globe nod for An Ideal Husband.

- Other film roles include Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream, the villain in Inspector Gadget, Madonna's baby daddy in The Next Best Thing, Algy Moncrieff in The Importance of Being Earnest and King Charles II in Stage Beauty on film and Valmont in Les Liaisons Dangereuses and the title sleuth in Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking on television. He has also lent his vocal talents to the animated films The Wild Thornberrys Movie, Shrek 2 and Shrek the Third, as well as voicing the fox in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

- Returning to the stage, he makes his Broadway debut this week in the revival of the classic Noël Coward comedy Blithe Spirit. His next film project will be the action comedy Wild Target.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

From Screen to Stage: Spidey, Shrek, Slumdog and More

A certain wall-crawler's Broadway bow leads off the latest round of all things From Screen to Stage:

- Spider-Man, Turn Off the Dark is the official title (really) of the comic page to stage adaptation that will spin its first web on the Great White Way starting February 18, 2010.

- The next month will see the Big Apple premiere of The Addams Family musical as well, with performances starting March 5, 2010.

- Damn Yankees is returning to the silver screen, with Jim Carrey as Applegate (a.k.a. the devil) and Jake Gyllenhaal (!) as Shoeless Joe (from Hannibal, MO). Now who will play Lola? We say Catherine Zeta-Jones.

- The screen adaptation of the Tony Award winning musical Nine (which now features six Academy Award winners following Penélope Cruz's victory on Sunday) now has an official opening date: November 25.

- The original Broadway cast recording of Shrek the Musical, which will be released on March 24, is now available for pre-orderfrom

- Universal Studios wants Billy Elliot to dance back on the big screen as a movie musical.

- Having won every film award in site, Slumdog Millionaire is now setting its sites on the stage. Another recent Oscar winner, A.R. Rahman, will pen more songs for the potential new tuner.

- And finally: it looks like our idea for a sequel to Mamma Mia! may actually happen.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reverend's Reviews: Putting on The Ring in LA

Glowing hands and eyeballs, neon sabers, a giant overcoat that would suit a pimp and, oh yeah, the music of Richard Wagner have taken over the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. LA Opera's and Achim Freyer's adventurous staging of Das Rheingold (now playing through March 15), the first chapter of Wagner's famed Der Ring des Nibelungen, may upset purists but truly shouldn't be missed.

Freyer brings a decidedly avant-garde sensibility to the work. One may be tempted to term it futuristic, especially with the incorporation of Star Wars-esque weaponry, but the production can't be classified so easily.

The Ring saga kicks off here with the Nibelung (a race of dwarves) Alberich's theft of a stash of cursed gold from the Rhine River's protective maidens. Alberich (well played and sung by Gordon Hawkins, despite the challenges of an oversized mask and a raked stage) is quickly consumed by a lust for power and gifted with magical abilities courtesy of the Rhinegold.

This puts Alberich and the Nibelungen in opposition to Wotan, king of the gods, and his family. Wotan is having the final touches put on his dream palace, Valhalla, which has been constructed by giants who have been promised Wotan's beautiful sister-in-law, Freia, as payment. Of course, Fricka, Wotan's wife, isn't happy with this arrangement.

Wotan convinces the giants to accept a payment of Rhinegold instead. With the help of the conniving fire god, Loge, and the aforementioned pimp coat (complete with oversized fedora), Wotan sets out to steal the gold from Alberich and the Nibelungen.

Musically and vocally, LA Opera's Das Rheingold is assured and, even with the orchestra concealed by Freyer, a powerful testament to Wagner's classic composition. Vitalij Kowaljow sings the role of Wotan beautifully, with Arnold Bezuyen (as Loge), Michelle DeYoung (as Fricka) and Ellie Dehn (as Freia) also excellent.

But it is the visuals that make this production most noteworthy. Imaginative and often hallucinatory, Freyer's designs (with an assist by his daughter, Amanda) will likely remain in viewers' minds — and perhaps their dreams — long after his Ring cycle for Los Angeles closes in 2010.

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

Women We Love: Keri Russell

Object of our affection: Keri Russell, actress.

- She got her start (along with a few other famous names) on the 90's version of The Mickey Mouse Club. Other early works include the Disney movie Honey, I Blew Up the Kid (her big screen debut), the primetime soap Malibu Shores and the TV movie The Babysitter's Seduction.

- It was her angsty performance as the title character in Felicity that shot her to stardom and won her a Golden Globe.

- During the run of Felicity, she also appeared in the films Eight Days a Week, The Curve, Mad About Mambo and We Were Soldiers.

- Post-Felicity, she has starred in the films The Upside of Anger, Mission: Impossible III, Waitress, August Rush, Bedtime Stories and the television mini-series Into the West.

- Next week, she'll be heard as the voice of Wonder Woman in a new DVDmovie. Her future projects include the crime thriller Leaves of Grass and the based-on-a-true story drama Crowley.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Awards Watch: Oscars Post Mortem and the 2008 Yearly Round Up

Now that all the (gold) dust has settled on this year's Oscars, it's time to take one last look at the movie award season just past. But before we get to our yearly round up of what movies won the most prizes overall, there's one more bit of 2008 business to attend to: how about that show the other night?

Having watched every single Academy Award ceremony since at least 1977, I have to say that this year's was by far the best. As expected, Hugh Jackman was as charming and classy a host as we have seen in a long time, and his marathon musical numbers proved to the world that he is not just Wolverine. I especially enjoyed his mega-movie musical salute (staged by Moulin Rouge! director Baz Luhrmann) with Dreamgirl Beyoncé Knowles, High School Musical cuties Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens and Mamma Mia! lovebirds Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper.

Further kudos go out to the ceremony's producers, Laurence Marks and Bill Condon, who took some chances with the format and succeeded in shaking things up in a positive way. From the grandiose yet intimate set to the unique presentation of the acting awards, the show finally did what it is supposed to do: celebrate the year in film (and not just those chosen few that were nominated too). Here's my vote that this dream team reunites for next year's Oscars.

All right, onto our annual look at the top award winners. As I stated last year, I have tallied up the total trophies handed out by the top 26 organizations, critics groups and industry guilds so as to get a clearer picture of what is indeed the Best Picture (et al) of the year; the results can sometimes be surprising. (Only categories with at least two wins are included.)

Picture of the Year: Slumdog Millionaire, 7 wins.
Actor of the Year: Sean Penn in Milk, 6 wins.
Actress of the Year: Sally Hawkins in Happy-Go-Lucky, 5 wins.
Supporting Actor of the Year: Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, 7 wins.
Supporting Actress of the Year: Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, 6 wins.
Director of the Year: Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire, 7 wins.
Adapted Screenplay of the Year: Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire, 6 wins.
Original Screenplay of the Year: Dustin Lance Black for Milk, 3 wins.
Cinematography of the Year: Slumdog Millionaire, 5 wins.
Art Direction of the Year: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 3 wins.
Costume Design of the Year: The Duchess, 4 wins. Original Score of the Year: Slumdog Millionaire, 6 wins.
Original Song of the Year: "The Wrestler" from The Wrestler, 2 wins.
Film Editing of the Year: Slumdog Millionaire, 3 wins.
Sound Mixing & Editing of the Year: The Dark Knight and Slumdog Millionaire, 4 wins each.
Visual Effects of the Year: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 6 wins.
Makeup Design of the Year: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2 wins.
Animated Feature of the Year: WALL-E, 9 wins.
Foreign Film of the Year: Waltz with Bashir, 2 wins.
Documentary Feature of the Year: Man on Wire, 10 wins.
New Director of the Year: Courtney Hunt for Frozen River and Steve McQueen for Hunger, 2 wins each.

The top winner was (no big surprise) Slumdog Millionaire, with wins in 7 categories, while the documentary Man on Wire won the most awards in any category, with 10 total. It is also worth noting that Kate Winslet won a total of 5 awards for her performance in The Reader, 2 for Best Actress and 3 for Best Supporting Actress.

See the comments section below for the list of the 26 groups tracked.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Cinematic Crush: Matthew Goode

Crush object: Matthew Goode, actor.

- Following his screen debut in Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, he appeared in such UK television productions as The Inspector Lynley Mysteries and He Knew He Was Right.

- His breakthrough role was as Mandy Moore's love interest in the romantic comedy Chasing Liberty.

- He has also co-starred in Match Point, Imagine Me & You, Copying Beethoven and The Lookout.

- Last year, he starred as Charles Ryder in the big screen remake of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, and his highest profile role to date will be as the enigmatic Ozymandias in next week's superhero epic Watchmen.

- Future films include A Single Man, directed by Tom Ford from the Christopher Isherwood novel, and Leap Year, opposite Amy Adams.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oscars 2008: Best Picture

Slumdog Millionaire

Oscars 2008: Best Actor

Sean Penn in Milk

Oscars 2008: Best Actress

Kate Winslet in The Reader

Oscars 2008: Best Director

Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire

Oscars 2008: Best Foreign Language Film


Oscars 2008: Best Original Song

"Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire

Oscars 2008: Best Original Score

Slumdog Millionaire

Oscars 2008: Best Film Editing

Slumdog Millionaire

Oscars 2008: Best Sound Mixing

Slumdog Millionaire

Oscars 2008: Best Sound Editing

The Dark Knight

Oscars 2008: Best Visual Effects

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Oscars 2008: Best Documentary Short

Smile Pinki

Oscars 2008: Best Documentary Feature

Man on Wire

Oscars 2008: Best Supporting Actor

Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight

Oscars 2008: Best Live Action Short

Spielzeugland (Toyland)

Oscars 2008: Best Cinematography

Slumdog Millionaire

Oscars 2008: Best Makeup

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Oscars 2008: Best Costume Design

The Duchess

Oscars 2008: Best Art Direction

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Oscars 2008: Best Animated Short

La Maison en Petits Cubes

Oscars 2008: Best Animated Feature


Oscars 2008: Best Adapted Screenplay

Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire

Oscars 2008: Best Original Screenplay

Dustin Lance Black for Milk

Oscars 2008: Best Supporting Actress

Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Awards Watch: "Love" Stinks

On the eve of Hollywood's biggest salute to the best in film 2008, the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation singled out the worst of the worst of the year with their 29th Annual Razzie Awards. And it was not a good night for Mike Myers, Paris Hilton or Uwe Boll.

Myers' critically maligned box office bomb The Love Guru was named Worst Picture, while Myers himself was awarded for both his acting and writing on the would-be comedy. Hilton swept the actress "honors", as Worst Actress for The Hottie and the Nottie and Worst Supporting Actress for Repo! The Genetic Opera, plus a third Razzie as part of the Worst Screen Couple for Hottie. And Boll was not only singled out as Worst Director (duh) for his trash trifecta of In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, 1968: Tunnel Rats and Postal, but he was also "honored" with a Worst Career Achievement citation.

But it wasn't just flops that were Razzie'ed. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was named Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel, and poor tone deaf Pierce Brosnan "won" Worst Supporting Actor for Mamma Mia!

Awards Watch: Sound and Fury '08

The last of the pre-Oscar award groups have spoken in two separate ceremonies last night:

The Visual Effects Society showed some love — in the form of four trophies — to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, while The Dark Knight and WALL-E nabbed three each. Changeling also picked up two prizes, but the big news is that Iron Man, which had the most nominations going in, went home empty-handed.

Elsewhere, the Motion Picture Sound Editors bestowed two of its Golden Reel Awards upon The Dark Knight. Button and WALL-E also won, as well as Mamma Mia! and Slumdog Millionaire.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Movie Dearest's Fearless Oscar Predictions - 2008

At first, it seemed that this award season was going to be a little more exciting and unpredictable than usual, what with a masked superhero and a cartoon robot unexpectedly in the mix. But, as you know, that didn't happen. Then a feel good sleeper about abject poverty, child prostitution and drug dealers snuck in under the radar and won every award in sight.

And that's not hyperbole, Slumdog Millionaire really has won every award in sight, some dubiously so (again, costume design ... really?). (Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Slumdog, but I have a feeling once it hits DVD, there is going to be a lot of "is that it?" chatter.) Needless to say, Slumdog is poised to take the lion's share of tomorrow night's trophies, including Best Picture, Director (Danny Boyle), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing and Original Score. For the rest of Movie Dearest's Fearless Oscar Predictions, see below.

Actor: This race would be a lot closer if Sean Penn (Milk) hadn't won it just five years ago. But he did, so comeback kid Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler) will win.
Actress: Kate Winslet (The Reader) is long overdue.
Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight) is the surest bet of the evening, and rightly so.
Supporting Actress: This category is always good for a surprise, and I have a hunch that Viola Davis (Doubt) will upset front runner Penélope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona).
Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black's script is Milk's best chance at a win.
Art Direction, Visual Effects and Makeup: With a leading 13 nominations, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button should triumph in these so-called "lesser" categories.
Costume Design: Opulence is the key here, and The Duchess has the prize all but sewn up.
Original Song: Slumdog's "Jai Ho" could dance off with the prize, but I'm sticking with my original prediction for WALL-E's "Down to Earth".
Sound Mixing: Another possibility for a Slumdog sweep, but I expect the bombastic The Dark Knight to be triumphant here, leaving ...
Sound Editing: ... to Animated Feature victor WALL-E.
Foreign Language Film: This one is between Israel's Waltz with Bashir and France's The Class, with the latter, more traditional film winning.
Documentary Feature: Man on Wire seems unbeatable.
Animated Short and Live Action Short: Will turn to Chris' picks on these two — La Maison en Petits Cubes and Spielzeugland (Toyland), respectively.
Documentary Short: The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306 (about the MLK assassination) seems to be the consensus.

Well, there they are ... we'll see how well we do tomorrow night. Don't forget, Movie Dearest will be live blogging all the Oscar winners as they happen. See you then!

UPDATE: Movie Dearest scored about what we usually do, with 17 out of 24 correct predictions. The categories we missed: Actor, Supporting Actress, Foreign Language Film, Original Song, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Documentary Short.

Indie Spirit Awards '08: Best Feature

The Wrestler

Indie Spirit Awards '08: Best Director

Tom McCarthy for The Visitor

Indie Spirit Awards '08: Best Male Lead

Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler

Indie Spirit Awards '08: Robert Altman Award

Synecdoche, New York

Indie Spirit Awards '08: Best Cinematography

Maryse Alberti for The Wrestler

Indie Spirit Awards '08: Best Foreign Film

The Class