Tag Archives: The Artist

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?


Musings on the Golden Globes

First and foremost, those of you who decided to carry the gold (or yellow) theme into your evening wear need to revisit basic black. Ditto on folks with a fondness for forest green, which only works in the forest — or on sports utility vehicles.

Another fashion faux pas — evening gowns with wide clear strips down the center of the torso. Nobody wants to see a dress that reminds them of those weird clear bandages from the local dollar store. Don’t bother being revealing when there’s little to reveal.

If you’ve got to show some skin, try rocking the backless look like Jane Fonda, Jessica Lange and Claire Danes. And call friends ahead of time to color coordinate. More elegant pairings like Tina Fey in strapless raspberry and Jane Lynch in halter-style black would be lovely.

Snaps for Fey and Lynch on another front, by the way. They managed to launch the male body part humor before Ricky Gervais could go there. The self-congratulatory high-five was well deserved, and almost as delicious as Madonna’s retort to Gervais’ vulgar virginity humor.

Steer clear of tomato red lipstick, unless you’re Angelina Jolie — who was half of last night’s classiest-looking couple. Only Jolie could rock those lips while wearing a white gown topped with a similar shade. For the rest of us, playing matchy-matchy with make-up and evening wear is a no-no.

Props to young actors and those who love them. Jodie Foster made sure her two sons got some love from the camera, and the trio of young Modern Family cast members looked amazing as they dashed to the stage together while Sarah Hyland did purple satin proud.

Hooray for films like “Hugo” and “The Adventures of Tintin.” Scorsese and Spielberg remind us all that family entertainment and filmmaking excellence needn’t be mutually exclusive. And that genuine humility leads to gracious speechmaking.

Scorsese took time to honor the fine folks of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for their ongoing commitment to film restoration and preservation, and confessed that “Hugo” came to be after his wife said, “Why don’t you make a film that our daughter can see for once?” Francesca, he shared, is now 10 years old.

It appears that Harvey Weinstein, thrice dubbed something akin to “the punisher” during Sunday’s ceremony, has been promoted. Still, it’s been a while since the Old Testament made its way into a Hollywood awards show.

The cast of “Downton Abbey,” a rather drearily dressed lot in wartime mode, deserves a most tastefully-dressed cast award. Who knew any of them could get away with wearing bright colors? Their speech described the feeling of ‘spotting a promising child and waking up to discover they’ve won an Olympic medal.’

I learned some things during the ceremony that I might not have discovered otherwise — like the fact that Glenn Close wrote lyrics for “Lay Down Your Head,” a nominated song from “Albert Nobbs” that features music by Brian Byrne.

And while I embrace the message delivered by a woman from Turkey — for ‘peace at home and peace in all the world’ — I’m unclear about why she flaunted the peace sign wearing a white chiffon gown that could pass for pajamas.

When an Iranian filmmaker accepted an award for “The Separation,” he ran through a list of all the things could have said, then opted to ‘just say something about my people’– that “they are a truly peace-loving people.”

Politics always seems to find a way into these ceremonies, but this year’s remarks were mellower than most. Not so for the sexual inuendo, or blatant admissions if you consider Seth Rogen’s remarks about his own aroused anatomy when sharing the stage with a glamorous co-presenter.

“The Help” has taken plenty of heat, but award winner Octavia Spencer made her take clear, referring to Martin Luther King, Jr. as she noted that ‘all labor that uplifts humanity has importance.’ Heavy stuff for a speech that opened with “Nuts!” and shared fears of ‘falling off these high-heel shoes.” Way to rock the lavender, by the way.

A French composer for “The Artist” accepted his award using English translations kept on a piece of paper in his pocket until that marvelous microphone moment presented itself. But first he shared this — “Right now if I were to write a song it would be a tap dance.”

Madonna accepted her best original song award soon after, quipping that she couldn’t claim being French as an excuse for struggling with words. “This is a surprise” was followed by “um” times three — something grammar teachers likely overlooked once she changed “who I adore” to “whom I adore.” Can a coffee table early reader be far behind?

Married actors William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman sang a charming ditty ending with “It’s an honor to be nominated. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah” during their reading of the nominees.

Dustin Hoffman, who’s tied with Meryl Streep on my personal best actors list, thanked his wife and agent for getting him the rattling off nominee names gigs. The crowd shared a collective smile as award winner Claire Danes wiped her ruby red lipstick off his cheek before thanking her parents.

“Any fulfillment I have as a person and an actor I owe to you,” said Danes. Apparently she forgot to thank them her first time around, when she was just 15 years old and starring in “My So-Called Life.” Young actors, take note.

I was charmed by those who tried to pass Meryl Streep her eyeglasses after she’d taken to the podium without them. And her remarks as well — which thanked ‘everyone in England who let me come and tromp all over their history’ and noted that ‘we made this for 25 cents in five minutes.” Streep seemed to embrace fellow nominee Viola Davis from the stage, saying “I love you Viola, you’re my girl.”

A couple of gowns had me suspecting the women who donned them shop in Sedona. It’s really the only place one ought to be spotted wearing a purple muslin-esque gown with chunky two-tiered turquoise-colored earrings, or sporting a blue and white tie-dye number. Okay, maybe Malibu too. I’m told the latter gown was chosen by a toddler.

Parenting issues always find their way into acceptance speeches. One winner noted his mother’s insistence that another person would win, thanking mothers everywhere for helping us to be humble.

I loved watching Steven Spielberg offer a simple “Thank you to Kate, I love you” before blowing his bride a kiss. Another winner’s ode to his Kate carried more baggage. And while Snowy stayed home, Uggie was in the house.

I adored watching “The Artist” winner who’s clearly honored to be following in the film footsteps of his father, who passed away nearly two years ago. And seeing Michelle Williams talk about ‘all the bedtime stories that were read for six months in a Marilyn Monroe voice.’

Nicole Kidman gave no-show and award winner Woody Allen a bit of glammed up grief for not making it to the ceremony. Her waist was a no show as well, and I readily admit to having a serious case of hourglass figure envy.

It appears Gervais has a bad bit of talent, charm and good looks envy in the Colin Firth department, which he translated into tacky tales of punching little kittens. Also issues with Johnny Depp, the first dashing presenter, accused by Gervais of ‘wearing whatever Tim Burton tells him to.’

This year’s Golden Globes ceremony was a mostly-classy affair, with largely predictable results and a few real shockers. Now those of us who relish such things can turn our attention to the Academy Awards and Tony Awards. But please, no more jokes about golfing with body parts.

— Lynn

Note: The Academy Awards will be telecast on Feb. 26 and the Tony Awards will be telecast in June. Click here for more information on the Golden Globes.

Coming up: “Godspell” tales

This post has been updated with corrections that reflect that delicate balance of trying to publish on a topic while people still care. 1/16/12

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