Tag Archives: Emma Stone

Little gold men

"The Artist" (2012 best picture) and "Hugo" each earned five of these babies

Talk of “little green men” was all the rage when I was growing up during the ’60s, as early space exploration fueled American curiosity about possible extra-terrestrial life. But fascination with little gold men, those lovely statuettes presented to Academy Award of Merit winners, has been going strong since 1929.

Despite the proliferation of award-based television fare, I’m a big believer in the trinity of Academy, Tony and Grammy Awards — and last night’s Academy Awards ceremony felt especially grand. I underappreciated host Billy Crystal in my youth, but nowadays find his humor delightfully disarming.

The 84th Annual Academy Awards felt more tasteful than tacky, but there were moments that felt unmatched to its many marvels. A dictator get-up on the red carpet. On-stage drinking games and references to little men of a whole other order. A big diss for little dog Uggie. And umpteen nods to Tom Cruise. I was hardly amused.

But never mind all that. Moments like Octavia Spencer’s acceptance speech, preceded by a nervous bit of wobbling up stairs that must feel to winners like the narrow path to the top of a very steep mountain, make Oscar night magical. As does the marvelous mix among winners of relative newcomers and longtime legends.

I loved the vignettes with actors sharing memories of their earliest encounters with the cinema, which reminded me 0f childhood movie theater experiences — and a bit of nagging undertaken with my daughter Lizabeth, our family’s best lover of all things stage and screen.

I encouraged her many years ago to see the 1979 film “Kramer vs. Kramer,” starring Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman, hoping she’d share my enthusiasm for their command of the craft. I feel rather vindicated this morning after watching Meryl Streep, whose take on Maggie Thatcher in “The Iron Lady” is unflinching, take home yet another little gold man.

Both Lizabeth and Jennifer have long appreciated the stuff of early cinema, often sparring over who gets which part of the couch for viewings of old black and white films. In a day and age when self-reverence is sickeningly common, the film industry did an especially lovely job this year of elevating their art.

The black and white “In Memorium” homage to big screen professionals lost since last year’s Academy Awards ceremony felt especially moving this year as “Hugo” and “The Artist,” the year’s best picture, lit or rekindled a passion for the early days of filmmaking within us all. The musical accompaniment was beautiful but breeched in some ways by quotes I’d have appreciated more in a separate segment.

Good taste was in good supply at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. Fashions were exceedingly elegant, though I hated seeing that giant red bow distract from hometown girl Emma Stone’s beauty. I’ve already had my fill of Spring’s newest offering — a sad mix of teal and seafoam green. Self-titled “Bossypants” Tina Fey rocked both evening gown and updo.

I loved seeing musicians playing drums, strings and keyboard in loge sections of the Kodak Theatre. Some have interpreted the performance of “What a Wonderful World” by Esmeralda Spalding and the Southern California Children’s Chorus as a tribute to the late Whitney Houston. But it was something more — a glorious goodbye to everyone memorialized at this year’s Academy Awards, including Elizabeth Taylor. Perhaps one of its songwriters, George Davis Weiss, as well.

There was just a touch of politics at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, mostly free of the meanspiritedness oozing from other outlets these days  — though the “blues” surely liked Crystal’s “Super Tuesday” joke more than their “red” counterparts. Two statements honored those fighting for everyday justice in the Middle East.

The only downside for viewers of this year’s Academy Awards ceremony was Ellen DeGeneres. Spots for JC Penney, who stood by DeGeneres despite a ruckus of anti-gay hatemongering, made refrigerator runs during commercial breaks impossible. Who doesn’t love to see a woman successfully returning an ancient toga because it’s only got one arm?

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, including its many education and outreach programs. Click here for a complete list of winners.

Coming up: What’s so great about Gatsby?

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Musings on the SAG awards

Check out the SAG Foundation auction taking place through Feb. 2

How lovely to finally enjoy an awards ceremony where the acting craft is supreme. No need for pyrotechnics or parades of pop stars. Just simple respect for the work and gratitude for a life that includes it. While the whole affair was a class act, I admit to having a few favorite moments…

  • Christopher Plummer reminding us all that acting is the world’s second oldest profession  — something we should share with all those politicians who see themselves as job creators but fail to sufficiently support the arts.
  • Octavia Spencer dedicating her award to the “downtrodden, underserved, underprivileged and overtaxed — whether emotionally, physically or financially.”
  • Betty White patting her “actor” on the back side while cooing “Oh, I remember you sweetheart.”
  • Presenters answering that burning question about how best to prepare for the acting life. Seems Sofia Vergara studied pre-dentistry, while Julie Bowen studied the Italian Renaissance. Edie Falco once did parties dressed as Cookie Monster, Tina Fey wrote for the school newspaper and Betty White sang.
  • Viola Davis describing how Cecily Tyson and Meryl Streep have touched her life — and encouraging kids in her Rhode Island hometown to “Dream big and dream fierce!”
  • Michael C. Hall sporting the red beard and Mary Tyler Moore rocking the black irridescent suit.
  • Alec Baldwin hailing both reading and writing — remarking that nothing good happens on television without great writers and pitching the SAG Foundation’s BookPALS literacy program.
  • Ken Howard reminding us all that acting is “a collaborative art’ while sharing news that both SAG and AFTRA boards have approved a merger so members can move forward with voting.
  • Jean Dujardin confessing that he was a very bad student, didn’t listen in class and was always dreaming.
  • Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Emma Stone sharing three messages from “The Help” — change is possible, every person has a voice and we can all make a difference if given the chance.

I’m happy to report that you can find acceptance speech video and transcripts on the Screen Actors Guild website, so you needn’t rely on others to give you the scoop. And you can click here to learn about the Screen Actors Guild Foundation.

The SAG Foundation is presenting an online auction through Feb. 2 to benefit BookPALS (Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools) and Storyline Online — where you and your children can enjoy classic books read by famous folks from Melissa Gilbert to James Earl Jones. The auction supports other SAG programs too.

Auction items include signed scripts, photos, props and such. Also set visits, vacations, sports memorabelia and much more. There’s something for “Glee” fans, “Dexter” fans, “Boardwalk Empire” fans, “Modern Family” fans and plenty of other fans too. Click here to learn more.

— Lynn

Coming up: Advocating for arts education

2012 movie musings

Sometimes childhood memories shared with our own children come back to haunt us. I once told daughter Lizabeth about racing home after school to watch the vampire soap series “Dark Shadows.” Now that Johnny Depp is starring in a “Dark Shadows” film (May) that’ll fast forward Barnabas and clan to the 1970s, I’ll never hear the end of it.

Only rumors that Depp raced home to do the same thing will temper those wounds. Folks with a taste for vampire lore can also look forward to “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2” (Nov) and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” (June).  I haven’t read the “Twilight” series, so I’m a bit conflicted about what color to expect for the nursery.

Lizabeth likes the Lincoln meets vampire vibe, but I’m holding out for Spielberg’s “Lincoln” (Dec) starring Daniel Day Lewis. Lincoln’s life was bloody enough. I’d like to leave it at that. I’ll also be watching for “Hotel Transylvania” (Sept) with a cast that includes two comedic Adams and one crooning Miley.

Musical theater morphs into movies at least twice this year with “Rock of Ages” (June) starring Tom Cruise (watch for tidy widy jokes) and “Les Miserables” (Dec) featuring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter and lots of other big names. I’d give you the rest of the list but it’d only leave you wishing I’d stopped after Jackman.

We’ll also enjoy a pair of films starring Harry Potter alums this season — “The Woman in Black” (Feb) with Daniel Radcliffe (whose performance Lizabeth loved in “How to Succeed…” on Broadway) and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (Fall) with Emma Watson. I was perfectly happy with the other films featuring a wallflower in black named “Snape.”

Two actresses who first performed right here in the Valley will be seen on the big screen this year. First, Emma Stone in “Movie 43” (April) and “The Amazing Spiderman” (July) — which will show her acting alongside greats like Sally Field and Richard Gere. Also Jordin Sparks in “Sparkle” (Aug), alongside Whitney Houston. Best I just let that one be for the time being.

In the classic lit department, there’s “The Great Gatsby” (Dec) starring Leonardo DiCaprio — assuming he survives the 3-D version of James Cameron’s “Titanic” (April). Also “Anna Karenina” and “Great Expectations” — both slotted for fall release. Start reading now if you want to revisit the books before these babies hit your local movie theater. Folks who favor new lit can look forward to “The Hunger Games” (March) and “Life of Pi” (Dec).

Girlpower gets its due with “Brave” (June) — Pixar’s 13th film and their first to feature a female heroine. Mean girls are headed our way with two variations on the Snow White tale. First, “Mirror Mirror” (March) starring Julia Roberts as the Queen and Lily Collins as Snow White. Then “Snow White and the Huntsmen” (June), starring Charlize Theron as the Queen and Kristen Stewart as Snow White.

For more twisted fairy tale fare, check out “Jack the Giant Killer” (June) — which Lizabeth only entertained seeing after learning it’s from the same fine fellow who brought us “X-Men: First Class.” Those of you waiting on “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” need to aim your crystal balls at the year 2013. In the interim, try “The Avengers” (May).

It’s a big year for sequels, including family fare like “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” (June), “Ice Age 4: Continental Drift” (July) and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” (Aug). Also “Men in Black” (May), “The Dark Knight Rises” (July) and “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” (Dec). Lizabeth and I could never make it past the first few pages of “The Hobbit,” so I’m not holding out much hope for this one.

She’s more excited about “The Secret Adventures of Arrietty” (Feb), a Disney film based on a novel called “The Borrowers” — while I’m looking forward to “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” (March), from the folks who made “Despicable Me.” Other family fare includes a whale of a tale called “Big Miracle” (Feb) and “Disneynature: Chimpanzee” (April).

Watch for “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” (May), a film about five couples expecting babies that was inspired by the famous prenatal parenting book. I’m only willing to revisit those memories because the cast includes Matthew Morrison of “Glee.” Don’t mistake “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” (March) for an animated film about your toddler’s playdates.

My potpourri pile’s got some other films I’m still investigating — so stay tuned for a second installment. And drop a line to let me know what films you’re most excited about seeing.

— Lynn

Note: Film release dates are subject to change. Visit the websites for your favorite films/studios to follow their developments.

Coming up: Broadway meets community theater

My own little movie list

Lizabeth called the other night as she was preparing to fly home from college for the holidays, sharing that she had just one final decision to make before getting on the plane — which movies to purchase for the five-hour flight.

Turns out she chose three of them, including one on my short list of “must see” movies for families who like to do films with friends and family members visiting during the holidays. It’s “Dolphin Tale,” a 2011 film still playing at just a few Valley theaters.

“Dolphin Tale” is based on a true story. It recounts the adventures of a wounded dolphin named Winter and a wounded veteran, follows the developing friendship of two tweens and offers a touching glimpse into the heart of a mother learning to let go as her son pursues his rather unconventional dreams.

I have my own little list of movies to watch during the holidays, including one my grown son loved enough to see twice when it was in theaters. It’s “Up!,” a 2009 computer-animated film featuring Ed Asner voicing a grumpy old widower whose house floats away as a young boy he’s just met stands helpless on the front porch.

When I’m feeling nostalgic, I’ll revisit the 2011 “Winnie the Pooh” film. It’s a lovely homage to literature, and reminds me of all the Pooh paraphernalia that filled Christopher’s room when he was young. Also “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” a 1982 film I first saw with my mom without knowing I’d lose to cancer the following decade.

Lizabeth is already planning to watch the final “Harry Potter” movie with me while she’s home. I somehow managed to miss the movie theater run, so it’ll be my first experience with 2011 movie “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.” We’ve been watching these movies together since she was ten years old.

I’m also determined to finally see “The Help,” a 2011 film that’s still showing in a small number of Valley theaters. It stars one of my favorite actresses, Viola Davis — and actress Emma Stone, who once performed at Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix.

I’ve got a whole other list for new movies. It’s topped by two Spielberg titles — “The Advenures of Tin Tin” (opening today, Dec. 21) and “War Horse” (opening Sun, Dec. 25) — but also includes “Carnage” and “The Artist” (both films open Fri, Dec. 23). Two of the four are based on Broadway plays, which doubles the fun factor.

If you’ve got a new or classic movie to recommend for families who like to share films this time of year, please comment below to let our readers know.

— Lynn

Note: If you share my fondness for Winnie the Pooh, you’ll be happy to know that Valley Youth Theatre is performing “A Winnie The Pooh Christmas Tail” at VYT in Phoenix through Fri, Dec. 23. Click here for details.

Coming up: Musings on 2012 movie fare

National Youth Theatre Awards

The Vally Youth Theatre production of Alice in Wonderland is nominated for several National Youth Theatre Awards

The Western regional ceremony of the National Youth Theatre Awards takes place this Sun, Aug 21, at the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix.

Participating theaters include several who are also eligible for AriZoni Awards, as well as some who don’t participate in the AriZonis — including Valley Youth Theatre of Phoenix.

Valley Youth Theatre is nominated in several categories, including outstanding production (“Grease”) and outstanding ensemble (“Alice in Wonderland” and “Grease”).

I’m partial to the ensemble category because I’m big on recognizing the collective work of youth, and felt proud last year when my daughter Lizabeth was part of the cast honored for their performance of “The Laramie Project” with Greasepaint Youtheatre and QSpeak.

In addition to VYT, ensemble nominees this year are Starlight Community Theatre, Desert Stages Theatre, East Valley Children’s Theatre, Actor’s Youth Theatre, Creative Stages Youth Theatre, Desert Foothills Theater, Spotlight Youth Theatre and Greasepaint Youtheatre. (Musical Theatre of Anthem is an outstanding ensemble nominee in the junior division.)

The Starlight Community Theater production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is one of several outstanding ensemble nominees

Also Mesa High School (“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”) and Xavier/Brophy Theatre (“Fiddler on the Roof”). Mesa High School is also nominated for outstanding set design (also for “Joseph”) and Xavier/Brophy for outstanding lead actor in a musical (also for “Fiddler”).

Other Valley schools nominated for a 2010-2011 National Youth Theatre Award are Horizon High School and Sandra Day O’Connor High School. Schools and theater companies from other Western states, including Arkansas, Colorado and Texas, are nominated for awards as well.

The awarding organization recently changed its name and focus — from National Youth Theatre Awards to National Youth Arts — and reports plans to honor youth music, dance, film and writing as well.

The Western regional ceremony this weekend will also honor achievements in outstanding youth orchestra and y0uth choral performance.

The Musical Theatre of Anthem production of Honk! is also a National Youth Theatre Awards nominee (Photo by Olga Smirnoff)

Creative Stages Youth Theatre, soon to open its third season, is the sole orchestra nominee — for “Merry Christmas Frankenstein.” Choral performance nominees include Horizon High School for “Phantom of the Opera Medley” performed at their “Broadway Under the Stars 2010” event and Valley Youth Theatre for “Imagine” performed at their “The Most VYTal Event of the Season 2010” event.

Valley Youth Theatre’s “Most VYTal Event 2011” takes place Sat, Aug 20 at the Herberger Theater Center — making this an especially busy weekend for VYT, which is also performing “Hairspray” at the Herberger Theater Center through Aug 28.

The Valley Youth Theatre production of Grease is also nominated for several National Youth Theatre Awards

Valley Youth Theatre has another reason to celebrate this week as Emma Stone — who performed with VYT before launching her movie career —  stars in a newly-released (though long publicized) movie called “The Help.” Lizabeth and I are eager to see the film, which also stars Tony Award winner Viola Davis.

Appearing with Tony Award winners in lovely, but I’m eager for the day when Valley youth start bringing home their own Tony Awards. In the meantime, it’s a thrill to watch them participate in ceremonies for the National Youth Theatre Awards and the AriZoni Awards.

— Lynn

Note: Congratulations to 21st annual Business in the Arts Awards winners –Rural Metro/Southwest Ambulance (large business), Changing Hands Bookstore (small business), Vern Mathen (advocate), Zelda Faigen (board member) and Elizabeth Berkshire (volunteer).

Coming up: Lynn and Liz explore the Lied Discovery Children’s Museum in Las Vegas, “Stage Mom” reviews “The Help,” From childhood crush to CloPet

Update: Click here to see a list of winners and here to see a list of additional nominees

Alice (and Phoebe) in Wonderland

Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix presents "Alice in Wonderland" in downtown Phoenix

Lizabeth came downstairs one morning after watching a movie she’d rented online. She was eager to tell me about this tale of a family living with a young girl who is “different” — and who becomes involved with the world of theater.

The film, a 2008 ThinkFilm production, is titled “Phoebe in Wonderland.” It’s made the film festival rounds and earned accolades including a Heartland “Truly Moving Picture Award.”

It reminded me that our own Valley Youth Theatre, whose alumni include Emma Stone (recent nominee for a “best actress” Golden Globe Award), will perform “Alice in Wonderland” Feb 4-20 at the VYT theater in downtown Phoenix. Update: Show extended through Feb 27.

I was delighted to see familiar youth on the cast list, including Nathan Naimark (Footman/Executioner) — whose mom Dana Wolfe Naimark was the subject of a recent “Stage Mom” post.

While the young Naimark is readying for opening night, his mother — the head of Children’s Action Alliance — is contending with budget cuts that impact Arizona children in all sorts of ways.

I suspect she’ll be experiencing a few of her own “Tweedledee” and “Tweedledum” moments in the coming weeks and months.

But back to the fabulous cast of VYT’s “Alice in Wonderland” — which includes Maddy Rathbun (Alice), Alex Acosta (Mad Hatter), and Lindsey Brown (Queen of Hearts).

Couple VYT's non-musical "Alice in Wonderland" with a tea party, arts & crafts or puppet play

Were my girls a decade or so younger, I’d be working to put together an “Alice in Wonderland” weekend of sorts — having friends over to explore the Lewis Carroll tale via movies, books, puppet theater and the live VYT performance (which is a non-musical).

Kids can get some serious arts and crafts projects out of “Alice in Wonderland” characters and themes — objects changing size, roses painted different colors, playing cards that come to life.

Even a tea party at home, in the park or a charming Valley venue — such as the Teeter House at Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix — would be fun.

I suspect that the sets and costumes for VYT’s “Alice in Wonderland” will inspire hours of imaginative play. And who knows, your own son or daughter might discover that live theater is most wonderful wonderland of all.

— Lynn

Note: Heartland Truly Moving Movies is a non-profit organization whose work includes an annual film competition for works by high school students. Entries for the 2011 Heartland High School Film Competition are being accepted through June 1, 2011. Those who enter before April 15 pay no submission fee, and will be considered for a scholarship to attend “Prodigy Camp.”

Coming up: Other youth theater works coming to Valley stages, Arizona Girlchoir offerings, Musings on art and rock ‘n’ roll, Nuclear weapons take center stage, Summer camp meets glee club

VYT alumna stars in new movie

By Joe DiGiovanni, Guest Blogger

Guest blogger Joe DiGiovanni of Scottsdale

I had the privilege of seeing an early screening of the new movie “Easy A” starring the Valley’s own Emma Stone.

It is about a girl in high school who is a good student and kind of goes under the radar at school. In other words, she isn’t really noticed much!

She is in a situation where she feels that she needs to tell a little lie, which in turn…turns to one lie after the other.

This one lie snowballs into more lies, which never ends up well. It also hurts a lot of people. Lies usually do!

This movie is about her journey through these lies and the consequences of them all.

The different characters portrayed throughout the movie show a wide range of all kinds of people and how they are perceived in our society.

It is very funny, but at the same time tells the story about how lying never quite turns out the way you would like it to!

Emma Stone was extremely funny and witty. This movie truly shows how talented this young actress from Arizona really is.

I would recommend seeing this movie, not only to support our local actress but because it really was a good story and I laughed throughout.

This movie is for pre-teen and up.

Joe DiGiovanni is an 11-year-old student from Scottsdale who has performed with Valley Youth Theatre. DiGiovanni is in the 6th grade at Arizona Conservatory for Arts and Academics in Phoenix. Watch for him in the upcoming VYT production of “Pinkalicious.” “I love to play the drums,” writes DiGiovanni, “and LOVE to see as many movies as I can!!!!”

Note: Click here to learn more about “Easy A” and here to learn more about Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix. Check out the photos below to enjoy a glimpse of VYT’s current production of “Grease” — playing through Sept 5. Tickets were sold out when Lizabeth and I decided to hit a matinee this weekend, so don’t delay if you want to see this lively musical (you might just see the Valley’s next Emma Stone in action).

Coming up: Storytelling for young and old; Valley schools for the arts mount musicals and more