Once Upon a Hollywood Time

Who doesn’t love a good story? F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “Draw your chair up close to the edge of the precipice and I’ll tell you a story.” Thanks to this year’s Academy-Award-nominated storytellers, I couldn’t leave my aforementioned chair! Look at where their words have taken us this past cinematic year. We’ve traveled from Hollywood to Iran, visited a Louisiana swampland, set a tragic sail to Canada in a drifting lifeboat, lived through the Civil War and witnessed freedom for all slaves, including, on a different date, one by the name of Django. We’ve walked the Eagles-loving streets of Philadelphia, found true Amour at the end of a long life, took to the sky with an intoxicated pilot and headed toward the dark of night (and found Bin Laden).

While they can’t all collect an award, they can all revel in the well-deserved accolades.

In the category of Original Screenplay, we have Michael Haneke, who wrote about the ultimate test of Amour. Then there’s Quentin Tarantino, whose words gave freedom to Django Unchained. John Gatins’ dialogue took Denzel Washington to a toxic Flight while Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola’s story brought out the stars residing within the Moonrise Kingdom. Finally, Mark Boal created a script that illuminated Zero Dark Thirty. Which story was the most innovative?

In the category of Adapted Screenplay, Chris Terrio found the right blend of Hollywood and politics in Argo, Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin calmed the Beasts of the Southern Wild, David Magee made the Life of Pi sail in a turbulent world as Tony Kushner bequeathed Lincoln with a hard-won legacy. David O. Russell, meanwhile, found the fundamental rules in the Silver Linings Playbook, taking that story beyond the printed page. Who told the best rendition?

The next stop on our storytelling journey will be to the Dolby Theater on February 24th.

Hope you pull up to that imaginative abyss in the comfiest chair!

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Identifiable Movie Lovers

Filmmaker Abel Ferrara once said, “In the film business, it’s basically honor among thieves.”

A thief holds the honor of getting the biggest laughs this week in films, stealing the limelight from zombies, fairy tale creatures and Channing Tatum!

With much of the Northeast experiencing snowy weather, the movie theaters cranked up the heat, ready to serve a dose of cinematic fun (for those not snowed in). The Identity Thief appeared with a purpose, to take the #1 spot at the all –important North American box office, coming away with $36.6 million. The tender-hearted zombies in Warm Bodies have yet to feel the cold, coming in at #2 with $11.5 million. The newly released Steven Soderbergh-directed Side Effects suffered little consequences, coming in at #3 with $10 million. The loved-by-critics-and-audiences alike Silver Linings Playbook continued to play the optimistic field, this time at #4 with $6.9 million. The fairy tale plays on for Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, albeit at a less charming locale, coming in at #5 with $5.8 million.

While many of us are waiting patiently for winter to take its final bow, moviegoers everywhere found the climate to be just right at their local movie theaters. Horror fans felt the heat, romantic comedy worshipers wallowed in the love while those searching for their identities wished they had Melissa McCarthy’s career!

From seaside days to starry nights, hope your week comes with an easily-identifiable happy ending…

Dinner or Dessert, Anyone?

Alfred Hitchcock believed, “A lot of movies are about life, mine are like a slice of cake.” Hmmm…when I look at the latest choice of movies, I can see his point. Last week’s  top two films, Warm Bodies and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, focused on zombies in love and a rebooted fairy tale, respectively; more frothy dessert than thought-provoking slice of life. On the flip side, last week’s #3 film, Silver Linings Playbook, played well for moviegoers looking for more substance, giving special attention to each characters place in the often-messed-up universe (zombies and fairy tale creatures can only be so deep). Meanwhile,  a scary Mama and a Stallone-driven Bullet to the Head strive to keep the popcorn-loving crowd coming as new films look to please the hungry multitudes.

So, what’s been added to the menu this weekend? A satisfying meal or second-rate appetizers? Both, luckily, appear to be the bill of fare at your local movie theater.

From a comedic standpoint, Melissa McCarthy as the Identity Thief has the potential to fill a cinematic plate. Throw in a side dish of Jude Law and Channing Tatum, who are experiencing some major Side Effects, and I’d say we’ve got ourselves a show!

Will these heavy hitters satisfy or suffer nasty consequences (i.e. terminal low-ticket sales?)

From seaside days to starry nights, may your weekend be filled with appetizing, entertaining options…

A Starry Support System

Charles Dickens once said, “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” I think no better description applies to our esteemed list of Academy Award Supporting Actors and Actresses, who, in their own cinematic way, lightened the load of their films’ supposedly bigger stars. In the supporting actress category, there’s Anne Hathaway, whose Fatine in Les Miserable struggled to care for her young daughter as she musically lit up the screen. Who would Lincoln be without Mary Todd? Thanks to Sally Field, the 16th (cinema) President thrived. Helen Hunt gave The Sessions of a lifetime, easing the burdens of a severely disabled poet. Jacki Weaver’s performance in Silver Linings Playbook made the sky shine even brighter while Amy Adams made the life of The Master more spiritual.

Just as impressive are our nominees for this year’s most useful, in a creative way, supporting actors.

Alan Arkin portrayed Argo’s “imaginative” Hollywood producer, making the lights of Tinseltown glow while Robert DeNiro took hold of that light, setting his own rules in the Silver Linings Playbook. Lincoln witnessed a fierce abolitionist in the form of Tommy Lee Jones, who took Congress to a higher, more radical level. Philip Seymour Hoffman was The Master of all as the supreme spirit guide. Christoph Waltz made Django Unchained, and where would that film (or its title) be without him?

Where would each of our films be without this year’s ultimate supporters?

Tune in February 24th to discover which of our faithful film followers gave the most award-winning performances…

Warm Bodies fill Theater Seats

The box office experienced a warm, fuzzy feeling the first weekend in February, when the new release, Warm Bodies, found a cozy home at #1 with $20.0 million. The latest zombies-on-the-loose flick found last week’s head honcho, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, trailing far behind at #2 with $9.2 million. In the redundant but optimistic department, Silver Linings Playbook was seen once again playing the field at #3 with $8.1 million. The nightmare continued for the “children” of Mama, once again, at #4 with $6.7 million. Last week’s action flick Parker got kicked to the curb for Sylvester Stallone’s adventure, A Bullet to the Head, which sadly, took a Hollywood-type hit, producing weak box office numbers in its first weekend out to play, landing at  #5 with $4.5 million.

So, what have we learned from this week’s Box Office Fivers?

Do zombies really have more fun than fairy tale creatures? Can Hollywood Mama’s ever be trusted?

And what is really in that Silver Linings Playbook (certainly not the secret to Sylvester Stallone’s acting choices)?

From seaside days to starry nights, may your week possess action and adventure, fairy tale memories, snug moments spent with your favorite “undead” and a silver lining for every cloud…

February Warms up the Box Office

Ready for a fantastic February at your local movie theater? The horror-with-a-heart Warm Bodies hopes to receive a cozy welcome this weekend alongside the ultimate Stand Up Guys Al Pacino and Christopher Walken. Also House Hunting for a home with the best box office view is Sylvester Stallone, who would rather take a Bullet to the Head than land on the wrong side of the motion-picture tracks. Rising to the entertaining occasion is last week’s competition, who has no intention of going quietly into that good night. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters are on the hunt for a second round at the top, while Mama, in all her motherly terror, plans on keeping her “children” safely in the Top Five. Amidst all this action and horror, a bright light consistently shines on the Silver Linings Playbook, where the rules for box office success, as well as Academy Award attention, are brightly displayed. Following their own set of thrilling rules is the determined crew at Zero Dark Thirty, also admired by the Academy and the movie-going gang in general. Last week’s latest release, Parker, saw significantly fewer followers from his distant number five locale. Will one of our new contenders and their scintillating stories push him to a place with a less scenic view? Ticket sales will soon tell that tale.

From seaside days to starry movie nights, may your weekend have the most entertaining, scenic view…

The Ageless and Unforgettable Among Us

Actress Bette Davis once said, “Evil people you never forget them. And that’s the aim of any actress-never to be forgotten.” Which actress gave the most unforgettable, Academy-Award-winning performance this year? Was it Jessica Chastain, whose CIA agent arrived fresh off a decade-long search for Osama bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty? At the age of nine, first-time nominee Quvenzhane Wallis is the youngest-ever Best Actress Nominee, on hand to tame the Beasts of the Southern Wild while hoping to claim the ultimate Hollywood prize.

How about Emmanuellle Riva, another first-time nominee who, at the age of 85, is the oldest Best Actress contender in Academy history. Her performance in Amour as a former piano instructor deteriorating both mentally and physically won’t soon be forgotten, but will Oscar remember her? Then there’s Jennifer Lawrence, whose Silver Linings Playbook contained memorable moments, but will she play a part as an Academy Award winner? Naomi Watts proved receiving a nomination is not The Impossible task when portraying a mother vacationing in Thailand with her family during the 2004 tsunami. Can she survive surrounded by such impressive competition?

Whoever’s name is announced on February 24th, each actress gave an etched-in-your-mind, age-defying performance. Only one will win. I, for one, can’t wait to find out!