Memo To: Peter Bart
From: Jason Bailey
Hope you don’t mind me adopting the format of your incoherent and inexplicable “Memo to Jon Stewart” from the March 26 issue of Variety, but it seems another round of what you call, rather politely, “unsolicited advice” might be in order. You see, Mr. Bart, there’s a whole lot to unpack in your piece, which begs Mr. Stewart to abandon his three-month sabbatical from The Daily Show, during which he will write and direct his first feature film. It’s full of oddball assumptions, boxed-in thinking, and smug condescension. But first, and most distressingly, it’s just plain wrong about basic film history.
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Movie stars aren’t the only ones who help hand out Academy Awards: each year, they’re joined by a cast of presenters who help distribute the statuettes to winners. Previously, these presenters have been gorgeous, skinny model types, but the producers of this year’s show wanted to switch it up: they asked aspiring film students around the country to submit a 30-second video clip explaining how they would contribute to the future of film, then selected six winners from over 1,000 entries. In an interview with the AP, co-producer Neil Meron explained, “This tradition of the buxom babe that comes out and brings the trophy to the presenter to give to the winner seemed to be very antiquated and kind of sexist, too… Why can’t we have people who actually care about film and are the future of film be the trophy presenters?” Flavorwire reached out to contest winner and Oscar presenter Jennifer Brofer, a Marine Corps vet who currently studies at the University of Texas at Austin, to ask about her work and what it was like to take part in the biggest award ceremony of the year.
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Argo, Ben Affleck’s third feature film, is looking more and more like a lock for the Best Picture prize at Sunday’s Oscars, and even if the man himself didn’t get a Best Director nomination, it’s still a remarkable culmination of one of the most fascinating second acts in Hollywood. The actor-turned-director seemed shockingly confident and assured in his first feature, 2007’s marvelous Gone Baby Gone, but as The Playlist reminded us this week, his first film (pre-Good Will Hunting, even) was a 1993 short inventively titled I Killed My Lesbian Wife, Ηung Ηer on a Μeathook & Νow I Have a Three-Picture Deal with Disney. It is, as is often the case with these things, not very good, and (to his credit) Affleck is the first one to admit it: “It’s horrible. It’s atrocious. I knew I wanted to be a director, and I did a couple of short films, and this is the only one that haunts me. I’m not proud of it. It looks like it was made by someone who has no prospects, no promise.” But Affleck can take comfort in the fact that he’s not the only filmmaker with a cinematic skeleton in his closet: we found eight auteurs who rose to the Best Director Oscar from rather humble cinematic beginnings.
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Argo, Ben Affleck’s true story of American hostage extraction by way of Hollywood fakery, hits DVD and Blu-ray today on its way to a possible Best Picture prize at Sunday night’s Oscars. But as with its fellow nominees Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln, Argo has been the object of some concern over historical accuracy, culminating in yesterday’s proclamation by Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir that “Argo doesn’t deserve the Oscar” because it “uses its basis in history and its mode of detailed realism to create something that is entirely mythological.” While Affleck’s film is certainly not our favorite of the Best Picture nominees, we’d have a hard time arguing that a film’s fast/loose play with the facts should be a disqualifying factor. In fact, plenty of pictures we’ve been rather fond of weren’t exactly slavish to historical accuracy; we’ll take a look at Argo and its “true-ish story” brethren after the jump.
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If there’s one thing you hear a lot in the run-up to the Academy Award nominations, it’s that they’re predictable — that the industry’s “Oscar bait” films are clearly labeled and marketed as such. So maybe it’s just because there was such an embarrassment of cinematic riches in 2012 that there were so many genuine surprises and shocking snubs when Seth MacFarlane and Emma Stone announced the Academy Award nominees yesterday… Read More
As the inevitable “Year’s Best Films” lists pour forth (and ours will join them soon enough) — that while a great movie is an accumulation of first-rate writing, directing, and performance, plenty of films that didn’t make that final cut did offer us the pleasure of a perfect scene. Here, we present our carefully cultivated picks for ten of the best moments from this year’s… Read More
As a general rule, we try to steer clear of “Oscar blogging” this far ahead of the game — it’s a subset of online film writing that too often amounts to announcing that any fall release that generates a fair amount of early-screening praise is suddenly an awards contender that is totally, unexpectedly changing the game. It’s become a pretty silly ritual that we all go through every fall, particularly as more moviegoers and writers come to realize that the Oscars are an essentially meaningless horserace that seldom if ever genuinely reflects what is actually the best of the current cinema.
But gauging trends among the fall prestige pictures — the best foot that Hollywood puts forward every year — can be valuable; it gives us an opportunity to read the tea leaves a bit, to see what studios are hoping to accomplish, and what they would at least like our perception of them to be. And that’s maybe why this year’s Oscar pre-nomination race has become so interesting: because it’s so dominated by big studio releases.
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If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many (for the love of all that is holy, so damn many) Christmas movies, the answer is the same as for most of what happens in Hollywood: Money. Holiday movies are money lying on the ground, to be picked up every single December; a good Christmas movie that becomes a tradition can generate more continuing revenue than even the most beloved of catalogue releases. But there’s the rub — it also has to be a movie people actually want to revisit year after year. Making a good Christmas movie is harder than it looks; the delicate balance of humor, warmth, and schmaltz has to be just right, and for every Christmas Story or Christmas Vacation, we usually end up with three or four Santa Claus: The Movies. After the jump, a few would-be holiday “classics” to keep the hell off your Netflix queues and cable boxes; add your own cautionary tales in the comments.
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It was called “The Hollywood option” inside the Agency, and it went like this: Six American consulate workers had barely escaped the 1979 takeover of the US embassy in Tehran, hiding in the home of the Canadian ambassador. In order to rescue them, the CIA needed to send in an operative (or “exfiltration” specialist) with a viable, believable cover story that could get them out. What he came up with was, in the words of his boss, “the best bad idea we have” — that the six Americans were a Canadian film crew, scouting locations for an upcoming science-fiction/adventure film in the Star Wars mold. It was titled Argo, which is also the title of Ben Affleck’s terrific new film about the operation.
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In a career that’s spanned over four decades, Terrence Malick has only released six films. So it’s kind of a big deal that his seventh, To the Wonder, has already debuted to festival audiences in Venice and Toronto, just a year after The Tree of Life dazzled (and baffled) viewers around the world. … Read More