Post-Oscar career slumps: it could happen to you

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 25th January 2011.

The Oscars are almost upon us. On February 27 at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, the stars will come together for Hollywood’s night of nights. The nominees are yet to be announced, although I’m pretty sure that Natalie Portman and Colin Firth already have their speeches ready. Whilst I’m certain that every actor would love to be called to the podium to receive an Oscar, there isn’t any guarantee that a career will continue to soar after winning arguably the world’s most famous paper weight.

Christoph Waltz burst onto the Hollywood scene in last year’s Inglourious Basterds, winning the Oscar for Best Actor. Although not an overnight success (he has been working in theatre, television and non-Hollywood films for over thirty years), his depiction of the cruel and ruthless Colonel Hans Landa in Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece made audiences take notice. Many cinefiles such as myself couldn’t wait to see what this obviously very talented Austrian would do next.

Disappointingly, he followed up his Oscar winning performance as a villain with a role playing practically the same villain in The Green Hornet which hit screens last week. I’m sorry, but being in 3D doesn’t give a performance extra depth. Coming up next for Waltz is an adaption of The Three Musketeers. I just hope he’s not playing a cruel and ruthless villain.

Cuba Gooding, Jr followed a remarkable turn in Boyz n the Hood (1991) with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Jerry Maguire in 1996. His critically acclaimed performance as footballer Rod Tidwell spawned the catchphrase, “Show me the money.” Unfortunately for Gooding, his Oscar win was for acting, not role selection, and it has been downhill ever since.

How do you follow-up the role of a lifetime? Why not take on the challenging Shakespearian drama of Boat Trip (2002), Norbit and Daddy Day Camp (both 2007)? Gooding’s acting work has been the exclusive domain of direct to TV movies for the past two years. I guess we all have to eat.

After a string of erotic thrillers and action films in the eighties and early nineties, Kim Basinger took out the 1997 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for L.A. Confidential. As femme fetale Lynn Bracken, she was perfectly cast as the Veronica Lake look-alike prostitute. With the exception of a few major releases such as Cellular (2004) and The Sentinel (2006), Basinger has been working on small independent pictures and television since. She also has had the dubious honour of portraying Eminem and Zac Efron’s mother in 8 Mile (2002) and Charlie St Cloud (2010), respectively.

Who can forget Roberto Benigni’s over the top reaction to winning the Best Actor Oscar in 1999 for Life is Beautiful? I think almost everyone would like to forget it. The excitable Benigni climbed over the seats and applauded the audience before making his way to the podium to make a giddy speech. Unfortunately since then, he has directed and starred in Pinocchio (2002), which bombed at the box office, as well as taking roles in epic historical dramas such as Asterix and Obelix vs Caesar (1999).

Unless you’re receiving a lifetime achievement honour at the Academy Awards, the assumption is that the best is yet to come. In the ever changing world of Hollywood, that is not always true despite talent and luck. Still, a win is a win and being an Oscar recipient ensures your name will be in the record books forever. Hollywood history shows that in time, only the good films are remembered. Did I mention that Orson Welles’ final performance was in Transformers: The Movie (1986)?


The Razzies 2010: celebrating the worst in cinema

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 11th January 2011.

It’s that time of the year again. The awards season is soon upon us, and for members of the Golden Raspberry Foundation such as myself, it’s time to review all of those terrible movies from the past twelve months and ensure that they get their well deserved nomination in the 31st Annual Razzie Awards.

It may not be as exclusive as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association with its ninety members voting for the Golden Globes, or the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with their fancy Oscars, but the Golden Raspberry Foundation is still rather difficult to join. You need a Paypal account and a whole thirty five American dollars to become a member. As I’m not eligible to vote for the Logies (you need to be a fourteen year old girl for that), participating in the Razzies is my only way to flex some democratic muscle in the world of showbiz.

Right now, the awards are in the nomination stage so let’s have a look at who gets my vote to be listed on that final ballot paper. I’ll preface my choices by saying that I didn’t deliberately seek out terrible films to waste away my precious time watching but that sometimes I succumb to the marketing ploys of the Hollywood machine and spend my hard earned dollars on garbage thinking “it can’t be that bad.” Unfortunately, it usually is.

A special new category this year is Worst Eye-Gouging Mis-Use of 3D. The obvious choice would be the very realistic ceiling collapse scene at the cinema in Bathurst but I’ll give my nods to the awful rendered into 3D post production disasters that were The Last Airbender and Clash of the Titans. I didn’t get a chance to see Cats and Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty Galore but I’ll nominate that one too. Talk about the sequel that no-one demanded. Just like no-one wants to see Rain Man 2: Qantas Does Crash.

It’s a shame that I can’t nominate Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never 3D in advance. I’m sorry, but if I wanted to see a movie about a cheeky singing and dancing fictional cartoon character, I’d see Yogi Bear 3D. Speaking of which, the voice talents of Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake are not enough to save this flick from my nomination either.

My entire allocation of nominations for the Worst Actress category could be filled with the cast of Sex and the City 2 but that would be too easy. Case 39 stars Renee Zellwegger and was released in Australia two years ago. However, this horror thriller about a demon child (another perfect descriptor of the Bieber fever movie) was so bad it was held back from US release until now. Want to do a perfect Renee Zellwegger impression each and every time? Just imagine a hamster staring at the sun and you’ll never go wrong. Katherine Heigl, who can’t seem to turn down any romantic comedy, and the vacuous Megan Fox will also get my nominations for Killers and Jonah Hex, respectively.

Throw in the bland and expressionless Kristen Stewart (on and off-screen) from Twilight Saga: Eclipse and Miley (Smiley Virus) Cyrus for The Last Song and that’s my set.

Sam Worthington’s Aussie Perseus in Clash of the Titans is certainly worthy of a nomination in the Worst Actor category. Prince of Persia: The Sand of Time saw Jake Gyllenhaal able to reverse time. Unfortunately washboard abs don’t substitute for acting. I think everyone in the audience wished for the power to turn back the clock after watching this 3D turkey. Gerald Butler also can’t say no to a romantic comedy, good or bad, but mostly bad. His dodgy turn in The Bounty Hunter makes his subtle performance in 300 (this is Sparta!!) seem positively Shakespearean.

The Last Airbender is my sole nomination for Worst Picture. It represents everything that is wrong with Hollywood, Bad 3D and M. Night Shyamalan. Famous for his Hitchcockian twists, the twist at the end of this live action cartoon adaption was that there were no refunds.

The official nominations for the 31st Annual Razzie Awards will be announced on Monday 24 January with the official presentation ceremony usually held the night before the Oscars. It’s still not too late to participate in the nomination and voting process. Join now and make a difference (perhaps).

The great Avatar ripoff

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 23rd March 2010.

James Cameron’s Avatar, winner of 3 Oscars at this year’s Academy Awards and now the highest grossing feature of all time, will hit Australian retail shelves on 29th April. Unfortunately for consumers, the blu-ray and DVD editions will consist of the 2D version of the movie only with absolutely no extra features. This sort of release is known in the industry as a “vanilla” edition.

Vanilla editions are extremely common within the film industry, especially for budget releases and older features. A film distributor may not feel that they will sell enough copies to warrant the expense of sourcing or producing extra features. For films produced prior to the eighties and the invention of VHS, there may literally be no existing footage or promotional material surviving. Of course, this is not always the rule, as the recently released deluxe editions of Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz include hours of commentaries, documentaries and featurettes.

In the case of Avatar, the initial release of the film as a vanilla edition is simply a cash grab by 20th Century Fox.  With the movie having only just departed cinemas and the Oscars buzz still around, why not sell as many vanilla editions as possible to an unsuspecting public who are desperate to see the film again?

In their defence, the film company will probably argue that the general public isn’t really interested in extra features and just want the movie. However, with its ground breaking motion capture technology and virtual camera system which may (or may not) change filmmaking forever, surely one of the most interesting aspects of Avatar as a motion picture must be its production.

What Fox may not want you to know is that a reissue of Avatar in 3D in cinemas is in the works for later this year. The reissue may include extra scenes not seen in the initial release. This will be followed by a Deluxe Collector’s Edition on DVD and blu-ray in November, which will be laden with extras.

So far, there has been no mention of a 3D DVD or blu-ray release. The technology is already available for this to occur. Coraline, My Bloody Valentine, The Final Destination and Journey to the Center of the Earth all have received home 3D DVD and blu-ray releases, albeit with anaglyph (red/blue lens) technology. This style of 3D is inferior to the polarized lens system found in cinemas but is the only viable and affordable home option until 3D television hits our shores over the next few years (and it will be very expensive initially).

To be fair, Avatar is a feast for the eyes and a milestone in modern filmmaking. It represented a huge financial risk for James Cameron and 20th Century Fox, and thanks to the huge box office receipts worldwide, will be extremely profitable for all involved. However, the fact that it was incredibly expensive to make does not justify the contempt that is being shown to movie fans with its money grabbing marketing plan.

It most likely doesn’t end with Avatar either. Cinema chains across the UK were recently in dispute with Disney over its plans to decrease the timeframe between Alice in Wonderland’s cinema and DVD release from 17 to 12 weeks. Expect Alice to be on your local retailer shelves by June, hopefully in a Super Mega 3D Limited Double Disc Collector’s Edition.

Published in: on March 23, 2010 at 11:09  Leave a Comment  
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The Oscars: Who will win and who should win?

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 2nd March 2010.

The 82nd Academy Awards will be presented in the US on Sunday 7th March, which means that all of the drama will unfold during the day on Monday 8th March Australian time. The winners of the British Academy Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Golden Globes have already been announced and are said to predict the outcome of the Oscars. However, as last year’s Best Actor category showed, where Mickey Rourke won at the majority of award ceremonies but lost out to Sean Penn for the big one, the winners are not necessarily set in stone. Here are my tips for who will win and who should win an Oscar.

Best Lead Actor Jeff Bridges has been winning acclaim for his role of grizzled country singer “Bad” Blake in Crazy Heart. He also actually performs the songs in the film. I expect him to win this year based on his large and impressive body of work and his previous four nominations. For my money, Colin Firth should win for his portrayal of a college professor planning to suicide after the death of his lover in A Single Man.

Best Lead Actress Sandra Bullock is strangely in the lead to win best actress for The Blind Side as well as worst actress for the bomb All About Steve. As a heartstring tugging sports flick, all tickets to The Blind Side should come with a box of tissues. Bullock is probably the best thing in it, so I’d prefer the award go to Cary Mulligan for her performance as a 1960’s schoolgirl who is swept off her feet by an older man in An Education.

Best Supporting Actor Austrian actor Christolph Waltz will be unstoppable in this category. His remarkable Nazi Colonel Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds is easily the most memorable villain of the year. Expect an acceptance speech where Waltz babbles about how Basterd’s director Quentin Tarantino changed his life.

Best Supporting Actress Comedienne and actress Mo’Nique’s frighteningly gritty performance as neglectful and violent mother Mary in Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (yes, that is actually the full title of the film) has already won several awards. She’ll accept her Oscar with an emotionally charged speech. God is sure to be thanked.

Best Animated Feature Disney’s return to hand drawn features with The Princess and the Frog, and two old school stop motion hits in Coraline and The Fantastic Mr Fox have made 2009 a very memorable year for animation. However, no other film, animated or otherwise, had the heart of Up. The first ten minutes of this Disney-Pixar classic are gut wrenchingly sad and will never leave you.

Best Director James Cameron will win for his motion capture remake of FernGully. His breakthroughs in high tech filmmaking (Terminator 2, The Abyss and Titanic) have shaped the film industry over the past twenty five years. He’ll never win a best screenplay award, but much like The Jazz Singer in 1927 which introduced sound to the cinema, Avatar will be remembered as a turning point in motion pictures. For films set on Earth, I’d love to see James Cameron’s ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow get the nod for The Hurt Locker.

Best Picture Dances with Smurfs will win, no question. This year, to improve TV ratings, the nominee list for best picture has been expanded to ten films. My picks for the silver medal would be South African sci-fi classic District 9 (love the prawns), Iraq-set military thriller The Hurt Locker and Quentin Tarantino’s rewriting of World War 2 history, Inglorious Basterds.

Published in: on March 7, 2010 at 13:06  Leave a Comment  
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And the winner is…Lindsay Lohan

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 19th January 2010.

In the world of cinema, the beginning of the year also marks the start of the awards season. By the time you read this, the Golden Globes, presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), will have been announced. Hosted this year by British funnyman Ricky Gervais, the Globes are widely considered a strong indicator for the results of the Oscars, which will follow on the 7th of March.

What most movie fans don’t realise is that the HFPA is a particularly small organisation, comprising of approximately 95 members. Journalists from publications outside of the USA who cover the motion picture industry are eligible to join, however, generally only one new member a year is admitted, as a strange rule allows any existing member the right to veto the application of a potential new member.

The Oscars, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), represent a body of over 6000 members. Membership is by invitation only, with eligibility earned via a nomination in the Oscars or submission by an existing member. All AMPAS members have made a significant contribution to the filmmaking industry and are largely from the USA but can be from anywhere in the world. This year’s Oscars ceremony, the 82nd, will be co-hosted by Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. They replace Hugh Jackman, who received generally poor reviews for his camp song and dance man act.

Whilst the average movie fan has little opportunity to influence the major film awards, there is one ceremony in Hollywood that is open to voters throughout the world. The Razzies, held at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre in Hollywood on the night before the Oscars, recognise the worst in filmmaking each year.

The Razzies and the Golden Raspberry Foundation were established by US copyrighter and publicist, John Wilson, in 1981. The first ever Golden Raspberry awards were held in Wilson’s living room alcove with 36 people voting the Village People disaster Can’t Stop The Music the worst picture of the year. The event was picked up by the press and the Razzies soon grew to become the major annual alternative awards ceremony.

In 2005, Halle Berry famously appeared in person to accept her worst actress award for Catwoman. Holding her 2001 Oscar for best actress in Monster’s Ball in one hand and her Razzie in the other, Berry proved herself a good sport with a hilarious self-deprecating speech that mimicked her emotion laden Oscars acceptance a few years earlier. A box office and critical bomb, Catwoman would also go on to win worst picture, worst screenplay and worst director.

The Golden Raspberry Award itself, costs US$4.79 each to make, and consists of a golf ball sized raspberry atop a Super 8 film reel, spray painted gold.

Last year’s Razzies were dominated by Eddie Murphy and Lindsay Lohan. The latter’s dual performance in I Know Who Killed Me won worst actress and worst screen couple, with the film also winning worst director, worst screenplay, worst remake or rip-off and worst film. Eddie Murphy’s multiple roles in Norbit earned him worst actor, worst supporting actor and worst supporting actress.

Submissions for the official Razzie nomination ballot in all categories are due very soon, with the finalists to be announced on the 1st of February. Membership is open to all, costs US$25 and is available on the Razzies website.

As a member of the Golden Raspberry Foundation, my nominations are already in and I predict that the 2009 (dis)honours are likely to be bestowed upon Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

Published in: on January 20, 2010 at 13:03  Leave a Comment  
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