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The State of Hollywood 6: The Metal Gear Movie

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The State of Hollywood 6:

The Reality of the Metal Gear Solid Movie

By: Lawrence Napoli 

 

What could go wrong?

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When the Metal Gear Solid film adaptation was confirmed to be in the works at Konami’s 25th Anniversary of the video game franchise, I was very intrigued at the prospect of bringing one of the most cinematic game sagas to the silver screen.  I was also quite apprehensive of such lofty ambitions for the simple fact that Hollywood has blundered just about every gaming license it has gotten its greasy palms on, and I’d hate to see Kojima’s masterpiece sullied by anyone for any reason.  Just look what they did to Super Mario and he was a fat plumber who curb-stomped turtles to save a princess.  How can Hollywood possibly handle the “nuances, ideology [and] cautionary tales,” (quoting Avi Arad, himself) of global conspiracy by the military industrial complex to control the future of mankind via technology, genetics, economics and violence?  (Wait, isn’t that happening in real life now?)

The answer to that question is that none of the above really matters to Avi Arad or anyone else in Hollywood because there are greenbacks to be made and ravenous fan bases ripe for exploitation.  Hollywood’s goal is producing blockbuster gold in the form of a film that may or may not have something important to say about life, but is really more interested in wooing dollars out of our wallets with explosions. 

In many respects, the meat of Metal Gear’s story contains ideas that average blockbusters wouldn’t normally give a second thought to.  That is until the most recent culmination of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy (who, by the way, is the only director Kojima has mentioned interest in allowing to helm a Metal Gear adaptation).  Unfortunately, there is only one Chris Nolan and he will be too busy promoting the rest of DC’s alphas to Batman’s prominence on film.  Thus, [insert director here] inspires far less confidence in this project’s production which attracts a smaller pool of actors and other talented filmmaking professionals to the cause.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2964:]]Why Metal Gear and why now?

The entertainment industry seems to see Arad’s alliance with Columbia Pictures as a response to Ubisoft using its own production facilities to create an Assassin’s Creed adaptation starring Michael Fassbender.  I see it as Hollywood having sucked just about all the sellable juice from the comic book industry and it needs a new host to leach upon before it goes through a true “dry spell” of projects. 

The big four of the entertainment industry: music, movies, books and DVD’s are averaging between $30-60 billion dollars of annual, global revenue in their respective categories and the video game industry is on par with each of them.  This simply wasn’t the case 15 years ago, but considering the constant evolution of the internet and the increased demand for user interactivity as a result; it stands to reason that gaming continues to be on the rise and more people regardless of age, gender and ethnicity are plugging in.  The best known franchises in gaming have high exposure for various consumer bases around the world, so considering Hollywood’s recent trend on focusing on global numbers (as opposed to [US] domestic profits), it makes perfect sense for more games to be remixed as movies.

Metal Gear, as a franchise, gives Hollywood everything it wants in an adaptation: relevance, popularity, violence and lots of opportunities for special effects.[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2965:]]  Yet history has shown there is no such thing as “a sure thing” so not every gaming icon makes perfect sense to invest in.  As marquee as Mario and Link are in videogames, neither could sell a contemporary blockbuster the way Solid Snake can because they are rooted in Nintendo’s stylized fantasyland which may not be for everyone above the age of 13.  Halo also generates high visibility, but a film adaptation might turn off an audience more interested in action as opposed to being bombarded with too much sci-fi jargon and exposition.  The same goes for Mass Effect and BioShock.  The only other contemporary franchise that might out shine Metal Gear as a potential film would be anything that bears the name of Call of Duty, but please note the similarities between the two: modern day/future warfare, modern day army tactics, modern day violence (with a slight sci-fi edge to Metal Gear).

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2966:]]Dollars, cents and “success”

Let’s just say there really isn’t a lot of success when it comes to movies based on video games (as there isn’t much success in games based on movies).  Hollywood measures its success in cash and despite the ever increasing cost of general admission and conspiratorial gimmicks like double the ticket cost for IMAX and Digital DLP projection, the industry is still not making the money it used to make.  Yes, consumer feedback is most directly reflected in the dollars they spend and when you observe mega-films like Avatar and The Avengers take home multiple billions of dollars worth in global ticket sales, it makes you wonder how Hollywood could ever be struggling.

Hollywood’s problem in general (and game adaptations in particular) is that “success” measured in dollars is a skewed statistic as a result of the aforementioned inflation and tricks.  Only focusing on the green has contributed to the overall decline in Hollywood’s product and whether you agree with that statement or not, the audience is showing disappointment due to its increased absence as the years go by.  When you go to the movies, how often do you sit in theaters that one would consider “full?”  When you talk to your friends about movies how often do complaints like “I’ve seen it all before,” and “they’ve run out of ideas,” come up in the conversation?  It all sounds very circumstantial and unquantifiable, but if we tracked the number of tickets sold (regardless of price) we would begin to see an alarming drop in patronage overall.

Why should any of this be important to Hideo Kojima and his Metal Gear franchise?  Acknowledging the rising cost and decreased business of Hollywood has[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2968:]] placed even more pressure on blockbusters to over perform at the box office and this increased scrutiny demands stricter adherence to the “Hollywood formula”: good writing and plot are sacrificed for big name actors, elaborate set pieces, visual effects and tons of explosions (essentially style over substance).  Even “the formula” cannot be considered foolproof, but no major studio will ever bankroll such a project unless “the formula” is in full effect.  Cue, (Sony) Columbia Pictures which owns 15.5% of movie market share and is 2nd only to Warner Bros. in pure blockbuster production power.  Big money is already behind this Metal Gear project, but accepting it implies the complete submission to whatever Hollywood says the movie will be.  In the words of Amanda Connor regarding the adaptation of her husband’s Jonah Hex: “You don’t handle Hollywood.  Hollywood handles you!”  Sorry Kojima-san, you’ve just been kicked out of the writer’s room.

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Kojima approved” may be irrelevant in the Metal Gear adaptation.

Why it will fail!

Three words: TACTICAL, ESPIONAGE, ACTION!  That is the subtitle for every Metal Gear Solid game and it designates to the player exactly what this fiction is all about in addition to the order of importance of each of these elements have within the story.  Hollywood’s “formula” dictates quite the opposite by forcing the film to be focused on action/effects, rated PG-13 and entirely unconcerned with social commentary.  When the base philosophical difference between the source material and the adaptation is that far apart, how on Earth could Avi Arad speak so smugly about staying true to Metal Gear’s “nuance and ideology?”

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This is a sneaking mission Snake.  The goal here is gathering information, so apply appropriate tactics.

Metal Gear Solidis not about war.  War has changed.  War is the escalating cost of gasoline and energy.  War is hacking databases to steal identities.  War is Chinese banks buying up American debt.  War is corporations over people.  War is the race to do things better, faster and cheaper than the other guy.  War is less about proxy battles fought on foreign soil and more about the concept of human struggle and how interconnected every individual is in our daily toils as we live our lives.  THAT is Metal Gear Solid.  THAT is the story of Solid Snake: a super soldier coming to grips with how his warrior code of honor and discipline is completely at odds with his chain of command and the true authority behind it.  It is a case study in refined, character driven drama where even individuals of immense power still answer to another; slaves to causality; chess pieces playing out their roles.  The trick is they are all discovering this truth and not everyone likes it.

Solid Snake running around for two hours blowing sh*t up has 0% chance of producing a story that approaches any of the above. 

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2971:]]How it might succeed

The right people have to be recruited for the creative positions in this kind of production: writers, actors, crew and F/X.  They must be led by a director that becomes intimate with the source material and creates a vision that he or she will not allow producers or executives to compromise.  [Insert director here] is not well versed in having a spine, let alone creating a vision worth buying into.  This is the reason why there are so many directors you have never heard of and will never hear from again.  Any old person will not do to direct this adaptation.

Mechs must be fully animated, but discipline must be maintained so as not to turn Metal Gear into Transformers.  One easy step in accomplishing this feat is by completely forgetting Michael Bay (or his agent) exists.  The second step is putting serious thought into the final battle which involves Snake vs. Liquid who is piloting the mechanical behemoth, Metal Gear Rex.  As ridiculous as 1 man fighting a robot the size of a house is, planning the action in a way that is not “over the top” is the only way the climax of this film (and Rex specifically) doesn’t come off as stupid.  Of course, that’s assuming the director wants to play out the final confrontation in the same manner as the game.  The answer to this situation becomes a little less daunting so long as “tactical” and “espionage” continue to prevail over “action.”

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My name is Rex, not Grimlock!

Finally, the right actor must be cast for Solid Snake.  Certainly, Metal Gear features one of the most colorful casts in the history of fiction, but the story is very singular in perspective and Solid Snake is the man.  The internet has an interesting list of potential leading men such as Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Sean Bean, Viggo Mortensen and Matt Damon (sorry David Hayter, you are invited to play some role on the film, but you can’t be Snake).  My particular problem with these high profile, A-listers is that just about all of them have already represented iconic characters recently and franchise fatigue is inevitable.  This affects both the actor’s performance as well as the audience’s ability to accept the actor in the role.  I am most intrigued with the mentioning of Josh Holloway who is most remembered for his role on Lost.  I like the fact that he has as much to gain from the role of Solid Snake as the role does from his performance.  He certainly looks the part, but can he act it?  Also, can he completely delete his southern accent?  Both of which are vital to creating a viable, Solid Snake.  I won’t give Josh my official endorsement, but the mitigating circumstances I just mentioned place him higher on the list than anyone else.

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Conclusion

Adapting Metal Gear is not the slam dunk many would make it out to be.  Otherwise, it would have already happened.  It certainly presents a high risk/high reward scenario provided the creators approach this film with the intention of keeping it unique from other war/sci-fi/action films.  It also presents a low yield/heavy backlash scenario if the adaptation simply sucks.  I am not certain Kojima’s ego would survive such an outcome and I’d hate to have him stare that possibility down up close and personal.  And perhaps that is the reason we haven’t seen this game in Hollywood scripts up to now.  However, with the upcoming release of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (developed by Platinum Games) and Kojima’s desire to move into the producer’s chair for future Metal Gear Solid games, it seems he is being less possessive of his brainchild.  Ironically, Snake and Kojima share the same problem of trust as both consider themselves to be true professionals that rely on their own efforts rather than others.  Still, it’s much easier for a man to move mountains with the help of other men.

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The State of Hollywood: 10 Best American Born Actors

The State of Hollywood 5 (b):

10 Best American Born Actors as of 2012

By: Lawrence Napoli 

 

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It was a bit more difficult sorting through the men (Editor’s Note: compared to the women) to come up with a 10 “best,” “current,” and “American born,” Hollywood actor list. Quite frankly, there are more opportunities for men in this business because those who control the means of production (writers, directors, producers) still happen to be men [who are also mostly white].  I’d like to forewarn the reader if he or she happens to be sensitive about their leading men because there will be noticeable absences on this list for the simple fact that obvious additions 10 years ago have somewhat dropped out of the game due to age, a loss of interest or (fill in the blank).  NOT appearing on this list are notables: Hanks, Spacey, Travolta, Pacino, De Niro, Agents K and J, Malkovich and “JACK” Nicholson.  Oh, did I touch a nerve there?  I believe you all know where to send your complaints.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2785:]]10) Jeff Bridges

Born: Los Angeles, California in 1949

Last major feature: True Grit and Tron: Legacy (2010)

Notable awards: 2010 SAG, Golden Globe and Academy Award for best actor in Crazy Heart

Highlights: Iron Man, K-Pax, The Contender, The Big Lebowski, The Fisher King, Tron, Last Picture Show

On a quick side note: if I could nominate the entire cast of The Big Lebowski I would (minus Tara Reid), but alas not everyone in that cast has had an opportunity to truly lead productions (though many have and I’m glad Buscemi is doing well in Boardwalk Empire).  That being said, “The Dude” is every bit as awesome as the nickname that made us forget he’s just another Jeffrey Lebowski.  Toss in the fact he didn’t speak a single discernible word for the entirety of True Grit and still got an Oscar nomination for it shows us that even the Academy can appreciate Jeff’s eccentricity.  The man’s a true Hollywood star and although he had no major releases last year, he’s slated for two in 2013: R.I.P.D. and The Seventh Son.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2786:]]9) Brad Pitt

Born: Shawnee, Oklahoma in 1963

Last major feature: Moneyball (2011)

Notable awards: 2012 NSFC best actor in The Tree of Life and Moneyball and 1996 Golden Globe for best supporting actor in Twelve Monkeys

Highlights: Inglourious Basterds, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Snatch, Fight Club, Se7en, Legends of the Fall

Often maligned for his “pretty boy” status, Pitt continues to show more seasoning as an actor these days as well as some smarter choices for the roles he signs up for.  You kind of have to have more patience and discipline as an individual if you are the father of a family of 20.  Say what you will about his acting ability, but his performances make the films he’s been involved with MUCH more interesting.  Unlike Tom Cruise, Pitt still has a real opportunity to win an Academy Award as an actor because he can sell more than just action flicks.  Until then, he’ll just have to remain envious of his wife’s Oscar.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2787:]]8) Lenardo DiCaprio

Born: Los Angeles, California in 1974

Last major feature: J. Edgar (2011)

Notable awards: 2005 Golden Globe for best actor in The Aviator

Highlights: Inception, Shutter Island, The Departed, Catch Me If You Can, Titanic, Romeo + Juliet

Ah Leo, another pretty boy makes the list, but this one happens to be one I formerly had a serious beef with concerning his status as the male version of Helen of Troy to all young women as a result of his work in Titanic.  Had I been getting as lucky with the ladies as Leo had in general during the late 90s, perhaps I’d feel differently.  However, his filmography speaks for itself as his recent work has definitely made me more of a believer.  As Brad Pitt has shown a deeper commitment to character, so too has DiCaprio as he matures as a professional.  Leo has a few years on Pitt to grab that Oscar, but it’s a toss-up as to which one of them actually lands it first.  His upcoming work for The Great Gatsby should be compelling enough for yet another nomination once it releases.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2788:]]7) Matt Damon

Born: Boston, Massachusetts in 1970

Last major feature: We Bought a Zoo (2011)

Notable awards: 1998 Golden Globe and Academy Award for best screenplay for Good Will Hunting

Highlights: The Adjustment Bureau, True Grit, Invictus, The Bourne Trilogy, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Rounders

Yes, the best he’s managed so far for notable acting recognition is a number of nominations.  The argument could easily be made that Good Will Hunting was such a phenomenal fluke that validated Damon and Affleck’s existence on the Hollywood scene that it should come to no one’s surprise that he hasn’t become the alpha actor he should be.  To that I say Damon still makes this list even if GWH never existed.  Sure, he’d drop a few spots, but his work on the Bourne franchise is quite balanced between the action and drama.  The chemistry he had with Emily Blunt on The Adjustment Bureau was inspiring.  But it was the command he demonstrated throughout Rounders that proved he not only belonged in Hollywood, he could headline it.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2789:]]6) Denzel Washington

Born: Mount Vernon, New York in 1954

Last major feature: Safe House (2012)

Notable awards: 2002 Academy Award for best actor in Training Day, 1990 Golden Globe and Academy Award for best supporting actor in Glory, 2000 Golden Globe for best actor in The Hurricane

Highlights: The Book of Eli, American Gangster, Déjà Vu, Man on Fire, Training Day, Philadelphia, Malcolm X, Glory

Easily the most decorated actor on this list; Denzel has accomplished just about everything a professional actor can aspire to in Hollywood land.  Everything about this man’s acting ability can be summarized in one word: intensity!  The real question is whether age is starting to catch up to him seeing how his last outing with Ryan Reynolds didn’t exactly fire up the critics in a positive way.  I can’t blame an alpha actor like Denzel for doing a paycheck film, but it does hurt his “current” and “relevant” status somewhat; thus his placement at #6. 

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2790:]]5) Philip Seymour Hoffman

Born: Fairport, New York in 1967

Last major feature: The Ides of March (2011)

Notable awards: 2006 SAG, Golden Globe and Academy Award for best actor in Capote

Highlights: Doubt, Capote, Cold Mountain, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Magnolia, The Big Lebowski

No, Mr. Hoffman does not make this list because of some “un-pretty” quota.  He’s a damn fine actor whose work extends well into the indie scene while still getting much deserved respect (and bank) from Hollywood.  Few actors can be so effective in both comedic and serious roles but Philip has this in spades.  His films tend to be a bit more cerebral in nature so his exposure to the average movie-goer may be limited.  Yet, this man is a living, breathing example that performance can transcend looks (and that’s a BIG accomplishment amidst all the plastic of La La Land).  He adds instant credibility to any cast and any production, but the smart choice is always to have him slide into a featured role because he can make the whole thing Oscar worthy.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2791:]]4) Edward Norton

Born: Baltimore, Maryland in 1967

Last major feature: The Bourne Legacy (2012)

Notable awards: 1997 Golden Globe for best supporting actor in Primal Fear

Highlights: The Incredible Hulk, The Illusionist, Death To Smoochy, The Score, Fight Club, American History X, Rounders

Is he a diva incapable of playing well with other marquee actors?  Is his agent a money grubbing troll?  Who knows the real “truth” behind the fact he was not a part of the epic cast of The Avengers because it certainly was NOT the result of poor acting.  He certainly made me forget that Eric Bana practically murdered Marvel’s big green machine in tandem with Ang Lee.  Norton is as skilled as actors come.  He was plain evil in American History X, yet plain loveable in Death To Smoochy.  His skill cannot be questioned, but if he presents chemistry issues for one’s cast, that presents a legitimate concern.  Perhaps Norton is just getting a bad rap as a result of gossip gone wild.  However, if so much gossip is consistent over a period of time, there may be some truth to it.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2792:]]3) Morgan Freeman

Born: Memphis, Tennessee in 1937

Last major feature: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Notable awards: 2005 Academy Award for best supporting actor in Million Dollar Baby, 1990 Golden Globe for best actor in Driving Ms. Daisy

Highlights: The Dark Knight Trilogy, The Bucket List, Along Came a Spider, Se7en, The Shawshank Redemption, Unforgiven, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Glory

As the elder statesman of this list, Morgan Freeman continues to deliver impactful performances as an actor because he finds the roles that compliment his age rather than react against it.  Of course, his iconic voice does much to extend his legacy as a marquee narrator (thus negating any ill effects of being “too old”).  He’s still more than capable of being the single feature to any production, but he’s gravitating towards projects with strong ensemble casts.  He’s won his Oscar so I can’t argue with his approach to further cementing his legacy.  I personally feel he was hosed for being overlooked by the Academy for his work on Shawshank, but then everyone that wasn’t associated with Forrest Gump was overlooked in ’95.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2793:]]2) Robert Downey Jr.

Born: New York City, New York in 1965

Last major feature: The Avengers

Notable awards: 2010 Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy for Sherlock Holmes, 1993 BAFTA for best actor in Chaplin

Highlights: Iron Man Trilogy, Sherlock Holmes, Tropic Thunder, A Scanner Darkly, Wonder Boys, Heart and Souls, Chaplin

(I’m not even going to mention the brilliance of Sherlock Holmes) How much money has this one individual made for Marvel Entertainment?  An exact number would be difficult to come up with, but the fact that he is playing the role he was born to play in Tony Stark has a lot to do with Hollywood’s continued obsession with adapting comic book titles.  Now let’s totally forget his involvement with all things Avengers and look to the fact that he got nominated for best supporting actor for his work in Topic ThunderTropic Thunder!?!?  Don’t get me wrong; it was fairly funny, but he was the only good thing about that goofball comedy AND he got props from the Academy for doing so.  This man has made “quirky” the new “sexy,” yet he isn’t the king of quirk as that title belongs to …

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2794:]]1) Johnny Depp

Born: Owensboro, Kentucky in 1963

Last major feature: Dark Shadows (2012)

Notable awards: 2008 Golden Globe for best performance in a musical for Sweeney Todd and nominated for just about everything else, yet never ultimately winning

Highlights: Pirates of the Caribbean Saga, Public Enemies, Finding Neverland, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, From Hell, Blow, The Ninth Gate, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands

You do of course realize that had Johnny decided to sell out and become the teenie-bopper heart throb he was being groomed for, we would be talking about an actor with an inferior filmography and absolutely zero recognition from any notable authority in the field of acting proficiency.  He’d also not be on this list at all.  Yet, he still hasn’t won one single Oscar despite so many nominations and other performances worthy of nomination.  This reveals the inner quirk of Johnny Depp; a man determined to have his career play out the way he wants it.  Depp has all the skills as he can produce any performance for any role.  The only reason he doesn’t have multiple Oscars is a direct result of the projects he chooses to commit to.  Depp despises the mainstream as evidenced by the soul connection he shared with Hunter S. Thompson (of all people).  There are so many Oscar winning actors, yet few have been as unique as individuals let alone the roles they became famous for as Depp.  Frank Sinatra would be proud that he’s “doing it his way,” but I do see Oscar gold in Johnny’s future.  What’s really interesting is that an Oscar victory would not be seen as vindication for him personally.  His acceptance speech would probably go something like: “Thanks for this, but I have a fresh batch of opium at home with my name on it.  Bye.”  It could possibly be the best acceptance speech in the history of the Oscars for the simple fact it would finish way before the orchestra played him offstage. 

Those are my 10 best leading men and women of today’s Hollywood who actually originate from this country.  I completely understand how Hollywood is always looking for the next “hot, young thing,” but Australia isn’t the only place they should be looking.  I liken Cavill’s role as Superman to that of Patrick Stewart becoming the new captain of The Enterprise.  Stewart rose above the pressure and scrutiny of such ambition because his performances were simply amazing for every episode and every film.  All Cavill has to do is match that type of performance for one money and then maybe Americans will accept a Brit as the one who stands for truth, justice and so on and so forth.

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The 2012 Oscars: Results and Opinions

The State of Hollywood

2012 Oscar Fallout

 

(Editor’s Note: CBN’s movie reviewer, Lawrence Napoli, offers his views and opinions on the movie biz in his column, “The State Of Hollywood.”)

 

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So the 2012 Academy Awards are here to celebrate the previous year’s best examples of filmmaking. You’ll excuse me right now if I’ll just give a nice big yawn for boredom because the cold hard fact is that this past year doesn’t even come close to matching the excellence of 2011’s lineup.  There were so many well made films that year that had such high entertainment value that I was compelled to see every single one of them.  How many of the nominees for this year’s Oscars have I been compelled to see?  NOT every single one of them.  Sure, the summer of 2011 was one heck of an event (generally speaking), but the poignant films that will all be represented this night just didn’t grab me, and with limited time and finances, even I cannot indulge in literally “every” single film. That being said, I’m still very interested in the results of this show as movies maintain their status as my passion in life.

The obligatory video intro that pokes fun of last year’s films with Billy Crystal had a pretty standard array of jokes, but Billy just seemed to make them work better than previous hosts of the past.  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he’s done this 8 times before this year?

Billy’s opening monologue/sing and dance number wasn’t as good as his video intro to the program.  My favorite of all time remains Hugh Jackman’s number.

 

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Best Cinematography – Hugo and Robert Richardson.

Best Art Direction – Hugo and Dante Ferreti   

Best Costume Design – The Artist and Mark Bridges (from Niagara Falls!  Go Western New York!)

Best Makeup – The Iron Lady and Mark Coulier

Best Foreign Language Film – A Separation (Iran)

Best Supporting Actress – The Help and Octavia Spencer w/ Christian Bale (The Dark Knight Rises) as Presenter

 

The first test screen audience spoof starring the cast of Best in Show was kind of funny, but only if you’re into that dry American humor. 

Best Film Editing – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall

Best Sound Editing – Hugo and Philip Stockton  

Best Sound Mixing – Hugo and Tom Flieschman

 

Cirque Du Soleil’s performance – It was pretty neat how they began swinging out into the audience, not so cool how one of them fell down pretty early on in the number, but certainly showcased the awesome art of acrobatics and gymnastics better than most professionals.  I didn’t exactly get how their “dance” was meant to be a homage to “going to the movies,” but whatever.

 

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Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow’s presentation of best documentary was hilarious in that it was 100% Tony Stark ego meeting Pepper Potts’ need to maintain control which made a relatively dull category, a tad more interesting.

Best documentary feature – Undefeated and TJ Martin and co.  A little frat boy nonsensical cursing that was muted out, and the specter of Damon and Afleck still cannot escape the Oscars.

 

Chris Rock loves animation?  He has a nice way of showing it by mocking the fact he gets paid “a million dollars” for doing voice-overs when the fact of the matter that is that most VO actors struggle to make a living (just not Nolan North).  Just because some no-name casting director thought Chris Rock’s geeky, squeaky voice would be perfect for a cartoon doesn’t necessarily meant he had any genuine artistic contribution to any film he simply read lines for.  I get he was trying to make a joke, but he came off like an ignorant knucklehead. 

Best animated feature – Rango and Gore Verbinski

 

Ben Stiller and Emma Stone = great, comedic co-presentation.  Ben still tries to evoke comedy out of playing the straight man and allows his partner to generate all the laughs.  Emma Stone continues to solidify herself as one of my favorite women in all of Hollywood.

Best visual effects – Hugo and Rob Legato

 

Best supporting actor – Beginners, and Christopher Plummer wins his FIRST OSCAR!!!  Way to go Chris!  What a great thank you speech and it’s about time you got recognition for a hall of fame acting career while avoiding the undesirable “lifetime achievement” Oscar. 

 

Billy Crystal’s “I know what everyone is thinking” was pretty funny:

1) Brad Pitt – “This show better not go too late, I’ve got 6 parent-teacher conferences in the morning.”

2) Morgan Freeman – Random quotes from March of the Penguins mixed with The Shawshank Redemption

3) The dog from The Artist – “If I had ‘em, I’d like ‘em.”

4) Nick Nolte – “Blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh.”

 

They paired Penelope Cruz with the one person in the world who has an uglier nose than her: Owen Wilson!  Naturally, they present a best music Oscar.

Best original score – The Artist and Ludvic Bourge

 

Will Ferrell and Zach Galafianakis come marching up from the orchestra pit smashing cymbals and wearing all white tuxedos.  The funniest part was Galafianakis mispronouncing his own last name as they both introduced themselves to the audience.

Best original song – Man or Muppet and Brett Mckenzie

 

Angelina Jolie gives a sexy pose, sticks her leg out from that hot black dress, says “good evening” and the audience responds, but upon closer inspection of Jolie herself, her arms look severely anorexic and I can’t imagine the lack of meat she is hiding beneath the dress.  They say the camera adds 20 pounds?  In her case it subtracted 20 off a frame that had no more than 110 originally.

Best adapted screenplay – The Descendants, and Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon trying to do their best Angelina Jolie impersonation.

Best original screenplay – Midnight in Paris, and Woody Allen was a no show to pick up his Oscar, but he probably gives two sh*ts about the Academy.

 

The cast of Bridesmaids presents the next 3 awards in character.  It was funnier than Ferrell and Galafianakis, but not by much.

Best live action short – The Shore and Terry George

Best documentary feature – Saving Face and Daniel Junge

Best animated short film – The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore and William Joyce and Branden Oldenburg

 

Michael Douglas presents:

Best Director – The Artist’s Michel Hazanavicius

 

Meryl Streep presents the board of governor Oscars to:

Dick Smith (makeup), James Earl Jones, Oprah Winfrey

In memoriam sequence to What a Wonderful World – Clearly, the most difficult part of the evening, and the Academy did the right thing by giving the nod to Whitney Houston.  BUT, what I don’t understand is acknowledging Steve Jobs.  What Hollywood production was he ever associated with?  Aside from making filthy amounts of money on computing and bringing Final Cut Pro to regular consumers (which is significant) I don’t see how he belongs on the Academy’s radar.  Brilliant human being?  No question there, but it’s like the Academy honoring the passing of some amazing scientist, humanitarian, politician, or (insert profession outside of Hollywood here) and I think this move was purely political.

 

Natalie Portman presents:

Best Actor – The Artist’s Jean Dujardin.  Side note: this reminded me of Roberto Benigni winning for Life Is Beautiful (1997), and it took a film that was so unconventional that it literally came out of nowhere to take the Oscars by storm.  Only time will tell Jean, like Roberto before him, never returns to the Oscar stage again.

 

Colin Firth presents:

Best Actress – The Iron Lady’s Meryl Streep.  17 Nominations and this being only her 3rd victory seems a little strange.  She really is the best film actress of America for the past 40 years and no one else comes close to the quality and diversity of her body of work. 

 

Tom Cruise presents:

Best Picture: The Artist is perhaps the most anti-climactic end to an Academy Awards because everyone and their mother knew this was going to happen.  And why not?  It’s all we’ve been hearing about for the past month or so, and although I have no issue with this picture winning over the rest, there is something worth mentioning.  The Academy has shown a propensity for giving props to retro productions.  The most recent was a return to musicals that began with Moulin Rouge! (2001), and although that film did not win best picture that year (because it was especially strange) it certainly opened the door wide open for Chicago to do so the very next year.  The brilliance of a silent film is not the same stuff of a brilliant “talkie,” so in a way, it isn’t exactly fair to be judging all nine of these films in the same category.  Sound in the filmmaking process has become almost as important as producing the images that make the moving picture, and for a film like this to win tosses theoretical mud in the faces of those who won for best sound editing and mixing.  Regardless, I am certain this film was deserving of victory and I intend to see The Artist at my earliest convenience.  You’ll only hear again from me on this matter if what I encounter is a film that was severely hyped and what it actually delivered was a cornucopia of over indulgence.

 

Final thoughts:

All in all, the 84th Academy Awards went off without a hitch, and you can attribute this to the veteran leadership of one Billy Crystal.  He may not have much left in the tank to sell films by himself, but the man knows how to host the Oscars.  In this man’s humble opinion there is Bob Hope, Billy Crystal and no one else that have done this job with class, comedy and calm.  Crystal was quick with the one-liners and in tandem with some fairly entertaining presenters, the overall pace of the show never lagged.  The only other highlight of the evening was how Sash Sacha Baron Cohen (as The Dictator) dumped fake Kim Jong Il ashes all over Ryan Seacrest, and I’m sure that ruined his tux enough to force him into an unexpected costume change.  Anything that knocks out that prissy punk Seacrest gets a thumbs up in my book.  Well done Borat, well done.  Hugo took home the largest number of Oscars, but The Artist was the best. 

The State of Hollywood

2012 Oscar Fallout

 

(Editor’s Note: CBN’s movie reviewer, Lawrence Napoli, offers his views and opinions on the movie biz in his column, “The State Of Hollywood.”)

 

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So the 2012 Academy Awards are here to celebrate the previous year’s best examples of filmmaking. You’ll excuse me right now if I’ll just give a nice big yawn for boredom because the cold hard fact is that this past year doesn’t even come close to matching the excellence of 2011’s lineup.  There were so many well made films that year that had such high entertainment value that I was compelled to see every single one of them.  How many of the nominees for this year’s Oscars have I been compelled to see?  NOT every single one of them.  Sure, the summer of 2011 was one heck of an event (generally speaking), but the poignant films that will all be represented this night just didn’t grab me, and with limited time and finances, even I cannot indulge in literally “every” single film. That being said, I’m still very interested in the results of this show as movies maintain their status as my passion in life.

The obligatory video intro that pokes fun of last year’s films with Billy Crystal had a pretty standard array of jokes, but Billy just seemed to make them work better than previous hosts of the past.  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he’s done this 8 times before this year?

Billy’s opening monologue/sing and dance number wasn’t as good as his video intro to the program.  My favorite of all time remains Hugh Jackman’s number.

 

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Best Cinematography – Hugo and Robert Richardson.

Best Art Direction – Hugo and Dante Ferreti   

Best Costume Design – The Artist and Mark Bridges (from Niagara Falls!  Go Western New York!)

Best Makeup – The Iron Lady and Mark Coulier

Best Foreign Language Film – A Separation (Iran)

Best Supporting Actress – The Help and Octavia Spencer w/ Christian Bale (The Dark Knight Rises) as Presenter

 

The first test screen audience spoof starring the cast of Best in Show was kind of funny, but only if you’re into that dry American humor. 

Best Film Editing – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall

Best Sound Editing – Hugo and Philip Stockton  

Best Sound Mixing – Hugo and Tom Flieschman

 

Cirque Du Soleil’s performance – It was pretty neat how they began swinging out into the audience, not so cool how one of them fell down pretty early on in the number, but certainly showcased the awesome art of acrobatics and gymnastics better than most professionals.  I didn’t exactly get how their “dance” was meant to be a homage to “going to the movies,” but whatever.

 

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Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow’s presentation of best documentary was hilarious in that it was 100% Tony Stark ego meeting Pepper Potts’ need to maintain control which made a relatively dull category, a tad more interesting.

Best documentary feature – Undefeated and TJ Martin and co.  A little frat boy nonsensical cursing that was muted out, and the specter of Damon and Afleck still cannot escape the Oscars.

 

Chris Rock loves animation?  He has a nice way of showing it by mocking the fact he gets paid “a million dollars” for doing voice-overs when the fact of the matter that is that most VO actors struggle to make a living (just not Nolan North).  Just because some no-name casting director thought Chris Rock’s geeky, squeaky voice would be perfect for a cartoon doesn’t necessarily meant he had any genuine artistic contribution to any film he simply read lines for.  I get he was trying to make a joke, but he came off like an ignorant knucklehead. 

Best animated feature – Rango and Gore Verbinski

 

Ben Stiller and Emma Stone = great, comedic co-presentation.  Ben still tries to evoke comedy out of playing the straight man and allows his partner to generate all the laughs.  Emma Stone continues to solidify herself as one of my favorite women in all of Hollywood.

Best visual effects – Hugo and Rob Legato

 

Best supporting actor – Beginners, and Christopher Plummer wins his FIRST OSCAR!!!  Way to go Chris!  What a great thank you speech and it’s about time you got recognition for a hall of fame acting career while avoiding the undesirable “lifetime achievement” Oscar. 

 

Billy Crystal’s “I know what everyone is thinking” was pretty funny:

1) Brad Pitt – “This show better not go too late, I’ve got 6 parent-teacher conferences in the morning.”

2) Morgan Freeman – Random quotes from March of the Penguins mixed with The Shawshank Redemption

3) The dog from The Artist – “If I had ‘em, I’d like ‘em.”

4) Nick Nolte – “Blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh.”

 

They paired Penelope Cruz with the one person in the world who has an uglier nose than her: Owen Wilson!  Naturally, they present a best music Oscar.

Best original score – The Artist and Ludvic Bourge

 

Will Ferrell and Zach Galafianakis come marching up from the orchestra pit smashing cymbals and wearing all white tuxedos.  The funniest part was Galafianakis mispronouncing his own last name as they both introduced themselves to the audience.

Best original song – Man or Muppet and Brett Mckenzie

 

Angelina Jolie gives a sexy pose, sticks her leg out from that hot black dress, says “good evening” and the audience responds, but upon closer inspection of Jolie herself, her arms look severely anorexic and I can’t imagine the lack of meat she is hiding beneath the dress.  They say the camera adds 20 pounds?  In her case it subtracted 20 off a frame that had no more than 110 originally.

Best adapted screenplay – The Descendants, and Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon trying to do their best Angelina Jolie impersonation.

Best original screenplay – Midnight in Paris, and Woody Allen was a no show to pick up his Oscar, but he probably gives two sh*ts about the Academy.

 

The cast of Bridesmaids presents the next 3 awards in character.  It was funnier than Ferrell and Galafianakis, but not by much.

Best live action short – The Shore and Terry George

Best documentary feature – Saving Face and Daniel Junge

Best animated short film – The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore and William Joyce and Branden Oldenburg

 

Michael Douglas presents:

Best Director – The Artist’s Michel Hazanavicius

 

Meryl Streep presents the board of governor Oscars to:

Dick Smith (makeup), James Earl Jones, Oprah Winfrey

In memoriam sequence to What a Wonderful World – Clearly, the most difficult part of the evening, and the Academy did the right thing by giving the nod to Whitney Houston.  BUT, what I don’t understand is acknowledging Steve Jobs.  What Hollywood production was he ever associated with?  Aside from making filthy amounts of money on computing and bringing Final Cut Pro to regular consumers (which is significant) I don’t see how he belongs on the Academy’s radar.  Brilliant human being?  No question there, but it’s like the Academy honoring the passing of some amazing scientist, humanitarian, politician, or (insert profession outside of Hollywood here) and I think this move was purely political.

 

Natalie Portman presents:

Best Actor – The Artist’s Jean Dujardin.  Side note: this reminded me of Roberto Benigni winning for Life Is Beautiful (1997), and it took a film that was so unconventional that it literally came out of nowhere to take the Oscars by storm.  Only time will tell Jean, like Roberto before him, never returns to the Oscar stage again.

 

Colin Firth presents:

Best Actress – The Iron Lady’s Meryl Streep.  17 Nominations and this being only her 3rd victory seems a little strange.  She really is the best film actress of America for the past 40 years and no one else comes close to the quality and diversity of her body of work. 

 

Tom Cruise presents:

Best Picture: The Artist is perhaps the most anti-climactic end to an Academy Awards because everyone and their mother knew this was going to happen.  And why not?  It’s all we’ve been hearing about for the past month or so, and although I have no issue with this picture winning over the rest, there is something worth mentioning.  The Academy has shown a propensity for giving props to retro productions.  The most recent was a return to musicals that began with Moulin Rouge! (2001), and although that film did not win best picture that year (because it was especially strange) it certainly opened the door wide open for Chicago to do so the very next year.  The brilliance of a silent film is not the same stuff of a brilliant “talkie,” so in a way, it isn’t exactly fair to be judging all nine of these films in the same category.  Sound in the filmmaking process has become almost as important as producing the images that make the moving picture, and for a film like this to win tosses theoretical mud in the faces of those who won for best sound editing and mixing.  Regardless, I am certain this film was deserving of victory and I intend to see The Artist at my earliest convenience.  You’ll only hear again from me on this matter if what I encounter is a film that was severely hyped and what it actually delivered was a cornucopia of over indulgence.

 

Final thoughts:

All in all, the 84th Academy Awards went off without a hitch, and you can attribute this to the veteran leadership of one Billy Crystal.  He may not have much left in the tank to sell films by himself, but the man knows how to host the Oscars.  In this man’s humble opinion there is Bob Hope, Billy Crystal and no one else that have done this job with class, comedy and calm.  Crystal was quick with the one-liners and in tandem with some fairly entertaining presenters, the overall pace of the show never lagged.  The only other highlight of the evening was how Sash Sacha Baron Cohen (as The Dictator) dumped fake Kim Jong Il ashes all over Ryan Seacrest, and I’m sure that ruined his tux enough to force him into an unexpected costume change.  Anything that knocks out that prissy punk Seacrest gets a thumbs up in my book.  Well done Borat, well done.  Hugo took home the largest number of Oscars, but The Artist was the best. 

Read More about The 2012 Oscars: Results and Opinions