Archive for movies
The good news about Seth MacFarlane as the host of the Oscars telecast is that the producers can save a ton of money.
MacFarlane, he of many voices and characters, isn’t just one man. He’s his own talent pool. He’s an R-rated Mel Blanc.
It was announced Monday that MacFarlane, creator of the popular animated TV series “Family Guy,” and the source for many of the show’s voices, will host the 2013 Oscars telecast.
Who needs Steve Martin or Billy Crystal? They’re one trick ponies (or, one pony each, anyway), while MacFarlane will never run out of voices and characters, not even during Oscar’s sometimes interminable telecasts.
MacFarlane doesn’t just do voices. He does TV shows—as in he produces them. Besides “Family Guy,” MacFarlane has his fingers in the pies of “American Dad!” and “The Cleveland Show” (all animated).
The hiring of MacFarlane signals an attempt by Oscars producers to go after a younger, more hip demographic. MacFarlane, who recently hosted “Saturday Night Live,” can be seen on occasion on Comedy Central’s celebrity roasts—and he’s pretty funny. His humor is edgy and pushes the proverbial envelope on occasion.
And he appreciates the gig.
MacFarlane calls the Oscars hosting opportunity “the greatest call that I could have gotten in show business.” He was a presenter in 2012.
If you’re tilting your head and looking at the screen sideways, like a confused dog, Oscars co-producer Neil Meron feels you. He called MacFarlane “the most unbelievable, consummate host choice we could think of.”
Well, as far as unbelievable, maybe the ill-chosen Anne Hathaway and James Franco pairing of 2011 takes that cake.
It’s hard to say if the MacFarlane we will see on Oscar night will be a watered down version. Despite the seeming boldness of the pick, you never know if the producers will “chicken out” a little as the telecast grows nearer, and present a MacFarlane that is more suitable for audiences of all ages.
The Oscar audience, on TV, is still heavily populated with the 50+ crowd (might want to add a few pluses, actually), and MacFarlane and his shows are not necessarily an older person’s cup of tea.
That’s why Crystal was so popular; he played well with the older crowd. Steve Martin was transitional. Seth MacFarlane is an extreme.
Will it work? Well, the worst that can happen is that they don’t ask him back.
Actually, that’s not the worst that can happen. The producers ought not to ponder the worst. That could be a little scary.
The Greatest Actor Alive Today has played an effeminate pirate; John Dillinger; an undercover Fed trying to bust the mob; a young man with scissors for fingers; the Mad Hatter; and that’s just for starters.
What he hasn’t done, despite all that range and the sometimes cartoon-like qualities of the characters he’s portrayed, is sparked a whole lot of controversy.
Johnny Depp, The Greatest Actor Alive Today, will be appearing as Tonto in a new Disney movie about the Lone Ranger. It’s a Jerry Bruckheimer project. And while that has many Deppophiles licking their chops, it has one group a little on edge.
Those would be the Native Americans, a segment of whom have been a little queasy ever since Bruckheimer Tweeted a photo of Depp in his Tonto garb, complete with face paint, feathers, the whole shot.
“The moment it hit my Facebook newsfeed, the updates from my friends went nutso,” wrote Natanya Ann Pulley, a doctorate student at University of Utah, in an essay for the online magazine McSweeney’s.
According to the Associated Press, for Pulley and her friends, the portrayal of Native Americans in Western movies is getting old.
“I’m worried about the Tonto figure becoming a parody or a commercialized figure that doesn’t have any dimension or depth. Or consideration for contemporary context of Native Americans,” she said.
What’s funny is that Depp has played so many different characters in so much scene-chewing glory but has never really brought the ire of any particular group.
Just because some Native Americans have a problem with Tonto’s return to the big screen, that doesn’t mean Bruckheimer and Depp have alienate the entire brethren.
According to the AP, in New Mexico, where some of the movie was filmed, the Navajo presented Depp, his co-star Armie Hammer, director Gore Verbinski and Bruckheimer with Pendleton blankets to welcome them to their land. Elsewhere, the Comanche people of Oklahoma made Depp, one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars, an honorary member.
“In my niece’s mind, I met Jack Sparrow,” said Emerald Dahozy, spokeswoman for Navajo President Ben Shelly and a member of the Navajo group who met with Depp. “My personal view, I like him playing in a character which he can embody well.”
There’s also the matter of Depp being perhaps the most likable big box office star in recent memory—maybe ever.
Depp as Tonto in the 2013 Disney version of “The Lone Ranger”; Armie Hammer is the Lone Ranger
Stories abound of his generosity, with everyone from autograph seekers to curious kids who’ve commiserated with him on movie sets. He has sent them gifts, appeared at their school functions, and been just an all-around nice guy.
So maybe Depp’s nice guy image off screen will soften any indignation or blowback from his portrayal of Tonto—if there’s any necessary to begin with. Those who decry the film may change their mind once they actually see it.
The AP reports that Depp has said the film will be a “sort of rock ‘n’ roll version of the Lone Ranger” with his Tonto offering a different take from the 1950s show.
That would appear to be a step in the right direction, right there—for those worried of any over-the-top stereotyping.
The film is slated for a 2013 release, and the cost is already at $200 million—before all the marketing costs.
Gyasi Ross, a member of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana who lives and has family in the Suquamish Tribe, outside Seattle, said, “I’m not sure how much redefining I’m going to expect, not sure how much of the movie will be something I can show my son.”
Maybe he’ll be pleasantly surprised.
(in honor of the passing of actor Ernest Borgnine the other day at age 95, here is a piece I wrote about him on October 14, 2010)
The Importance of Being Ernest
Ernie Borgnine was never an attractive man, unless you’re one of those who like creatures that are so ugly that they’re cute, like a koala bear.
Yet here Borgnine is, 93 and still we see his mug on the big screen.
Borgnine is one of those actors who was always old. “McHale’s Navy” debuted almost 50 years ago and Ernie looked old then.
It’s been 55 years since Borgnine made his mark in the film “Marty,” in which he played the title character, a warm-hearted butcher who was also a shameless mama’s boy. The film was an adaptation of the great teleplay by Paddy Chayefsky and earned Borgnine the Academy Award for Best Actor—beating out the likes of Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Cagney and Spencer Tracy, no less.
From then, Borgnine made a living in film playing rough-and-tumble characters in movies like “The Dirty Dozen,” “Ice Station Zebra,” “The Flight of the Phoenix,” and “The Vikings.”
Never more rough-and-tumble was he than in Sam Peckinpah’s “The Wild Bunch” in 1969, where he famously played Dutch, one of the bunch.
Kids of my generation were likely introduced to Borgnine by watching “McHale’s Navy,” a TV comedy (1962-66) that featured an all-star ensemble cast, with Borgnine playing gruff Lt. Commander Quinton McHale. The role earned Borgnine an Emmy nomination.
Fun fact: “McHale’s Navy” started as a one-hour serious episode called “Seven Against the Sea” for the “Alcoa Premiere.”
Borgnine also played legendary football coach Vince Lombardi in a TV movie, and Ernie was likely the only actor available who didn’t require makeup artists to recreate Lombardi’s gapped front teeth.
Borgnine was also married VERY briefly—we’re talking about one month—to singer Ethel Merman, which I didn’t know until I looked it up.
Why all the love for Ernie Borgnine today? Two reasons.
Number one, Borgnine is in the new film “RED,” starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and the still stunning Helen Mirren. The movie opens on October 15.
Second, the Screen Actors Guild announced in August that it will be honoring Ernie on January 30, 2011 during the Academy Awards Show with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
I’d say he’s due. After all, as recently as 2009 Borgnine was still earning award nominations; he was recognized for a guest appearance on “ER” with an Emmy nomination. He was 92.
Borgnine is still feisty. Tired of being asked about the key to his longevity, Borgnine said during a TV interview recently that he stays young by masturbating twice daily. You heard me.
“I answered that question one time on Fox News,” Borgnine told WENN. “This fella kept bothering me all morning: ‘What do you do to keep yourself so worked up?’ Finally, I got sick and got tired and I forgot that I was miked. I reached over and replied, ‘I masturbate a lot!’
“I’ll tell ya, everybody dropped on the floor. They couldn’t believe it: ‘At 93, what the hell?’ Listen, hey who cares?”
But seriously, folks, Borgnine does have a secret, sort of, for still doing it seven years shy of 100.
“I keep active but I’m the laziest man in the world,” he says. “If I don’t have to move I don’t move. I also gave up meat about 35 years ago.”
Ernie Borgnine, a national treasure who’ll finally get his props in January.
I know I’ll be watching.
The trick to Nora Ephron’s work was that it was written from a woman’s perspective but it didn’t make fools of the men.
Ephron, the screenwriter/director/producer who passed away on Tuesday (age 71) after a bout with leukemia, wrote some of the best romantic comedies of her generation. She wrote them as a woman, for women, but the male characters were some of the best on screen as well.
An Ephron film, at its best, drew gobs of men to the theater, and not just as polite dates.
But for all of Ephron’s notoriety as a master of the rom-com, it was a decidedly different type of story that opened up doors for her.
That would be Silkwood (1983), the adaptation of the true story of Karen Silkwood, the whistle-blowing worker for a plutonium plant who died in a mysterious car accident. Ephron wrote the screenplay and turned the directing over to no less than Mike Nichols. A writer could do worse.
After the success of Silkwood, things got less serious and more funny in Ephron’s words and screen direction.
There was 1986′s Heartburn, which, like Silkwood, starred Meryl Streep, who paired with Jack Nicholson. Again, Ephron wrote and Nichols directed.
But Ephron will probably forever be tied to When Harry Met Sally.., a smash hit starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. The pairing of Crystal and Ryan, who had on-screen chemistry to the nth degree, plus Ephron’s writing and Rob Reiner’s direction, was a lethal box office combination.
Among the most famous scenes in cinematic history has Ryan faking an orgasm in a diner, after which an older woman (Reiner’s mother in real life) deadpans to her waiter, “I’ll have what she’s having.”
One of the funniest lines ever, right? But someone had to write it. That would be Nora Ephron.
Ryan popped up in another Ephron vehicle (this one she directed as well), Sleepless in Seattle, in which Ryan shared billing, but precious little screen time, with Tom Hanks.
That lack of shared screen time would be more than rectified in 1998′s You’ve Got Mail, among one of the first movies to acknowledge the power of the burgeoning Internet. Ryan and Hanks demonstrated the same sparks together as Ryan and Crystal did nine years earlier in Harry.
Ephron, by this time, was done being just a writer; she was now producing and directing everything she wrote, and thus became one of the few female filmmakers who wielded some genuine power in Hollywood.
Nora Ephron: 1941-2012
Her most recent work was 2009′s Julie and Julia, a foodie rom-com in which the Julia in the title was famed chef Julia Child.
But the common thread that ran through her romantic comedies, and I can’t emphasize this enough, was Ephron’s ability, as both writer and director, to prop up women without downgrading men. Yes, there were some muted villains in some of Ephron’s films (Old man Fox in You’ve Got Mail, who revels in putting other bookstores out of business), but for the most part, the men in her movies weren’t dunderheads with bubbles coming out of the seat of their pants.
She wrote and directed movies that got both sexes to the theater willingly and with something for both genders. An Ephron film could be laughed at by the women without making their male dates squirm with shame.
Ephron once wrote a six-word biography for herself thusly, “Secret to life: marry an Italian.”
But on a more serious level, she made no secret of her support for the female cause.
“Maybe young women don’t wonder whether they can have it all any longer,” she once said, “but in case any of you are wondering, of course you can have it all.”
Takes one to know one.
As much as I would have liked to have seen Eddie Murphy do a turn, there’s something wonderfully comfortable about having Billy Crystal to fall back on.
I’m referring to the Academy Awards, which take place this Sunday. Crystal, the actor/comedian/director, will host, as he’s done so many times before.
But Billy wasn’t the first choice this time.
The Academy wanted to go with Murphy as a first-time host, but not long after inking him, the show’s producer, Brett Ratner—a chum of Eddie’s who was instrumental in getting him the Oscar gig—quit, and a day after that, so did Murphy.
I was totally on board with the notion of Murphy escorting us through the sometimes interminable broadcast, but like I said—Crystal isn’t a bad second choice.
Oh, how many funny moments Crystal has given us as Oscar host—some of them occurring in the show’s opening montage.
Crystal, with the best co-star he’s ever had not named Jack Palance
But one that sticks out is when the Academy honored longtime silent movie producer/director Hal Roach, 100 years young, in 1992.
Crystal pointed Roach out in the crowd, and the centenarian stood and started to speak. Unfortunately, the theater’s sound system didn’t pick up his words for broadcast.
Without missing a beat, and displaying his God-given ability at comedic timing, Crystal deadpanned, “I think that’s fitting, after all — Mr. Roach started in silent film…”
It was one of Oscar’s funniest moments. You can see it here.
There have been many more bouts of laughter, with Crystal at the helm, and no doubt there will be even more added to the list this Sunday.
So it’s not a bad thing that Eddie Murphy isn’t going to make his Oscar hosting debut—not when you have an old pro like Crystal ready to yuk it up.
Billy Crystal, who never really found his footing as a film star in any movie without “City Slickers” in the title, is clearly much better poking fun at the industry than he is at being in it.
We can’t be good at everything, after all. Crystal has his niche, and that’s more than a lot of his brethren can say.