Oscar host debate + producers return
Craig Zadan and Neil Meron will return next year as producers of the Academy Awards ceremony, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Hawk Koch announced earlier today. The Oscarcast will air on Sunday, March 2.
Zadan and Meron executive-produced Rob Marshall's 2002 Best Picture winner Chicago, whose cast members – Richard Gere, Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Queen Latifah – were presenters at this year's ceremony. The duo's other movie credits include the relatively recent remakes of the musicals Footloose and Hairspray, and the comedy-drama The Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Additionally, Zadan also produced the original Footloose, starring Kevin Bacon.
“Craig and Neil have the overwhelming support of the Academy's Governors to produce the Oscars again in 2014,” Hawk Koch was quoted as saying in a press release. “In order to establish continuity with this year's enormously successful show, we felt it was important to give these consummate professionals the green light now to begin creating another great evening.”
That's proof positive that poor reviews and widespread criticism notwithstanding, what truly matters when it comes to the Oscarcast – much like any other televised awards show, from the Golden Globes to the MTV Movie Awards – are viewership ratings. In fact, that's why the Hollywood Foreign Press Association brought back Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais the year after he created quite a stir, following pointed jabs directed at Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Hugh Hefner, Charlie Sheen, and Robert Downey Jr, not to mention the HFPA itself, its members, and its nominations for the widely panned Johnny Depp / Angelina Jolie thriller The Tourist.
Oscar 2013 television ratings
Hosted by Seth MacFarlane, the 2013 Oscar ceremony was watched by an average of 40.3 million viewers in the United States. It was the most-watched entertainment telecast on American television in the last 3 years, up 3 percent from 2012, and soaring 11 percent in the coveted 18-49 demographic to its best figures – a 13.0 rating – since 2010. (That's the year James Cameron's Avatar was in the running for Best Picture; Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin were hosts; and Zac Efron, Miley Cyrus, Twilight's Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart, Star Trek's Chris Pine, and The Hangover's Bradley Cooper were among the presenters.)
Additionally, the 2013 Oscars surged 20 percent in the 18-34 demo, reaching its highest viewership figure – an 11.3 rating – since 2007. Overall, it was the Academy Awards second-most-watched telecast since 2005 (this year's Oscar show also trailed the 2010 ceremony), when Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby won Best Picture, and Hilary Swank and Jamie Foxx were named, respectively, Best Actress and Best Actor.
Seth MacFarlane Oscar controversy
Oscar 2013 host and American Dad / Ted / Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane elicited a barrage of criticism, with some (quite possibly with short memories) referring to him as the Worst Oscar Host Ever. MacFarlane also angered some feminists – among them Jamie Lee Curtis and two-time Oscar winner Jane Fonda – who found his ditty “We Saw Your Boobs” a.k.a. “The Boob Song” offensive. (However juvenile and out-of-place, the song was harmless; those who criticized it opted to ignore its obviously self-mocking lyrics, much like some opted to distort MacFarlane's clever jab at George Clooney, insisting it was a tasteless jab at nine-year-old Best Actress nominee Quvenzhané Wallis.)
Oscar controversies & criticisms
There's more: In reference to the repartee between the talking teddy bear Ted and Mark Wahlberg, the Jewish Anti-Defamation League lamented that “it is sad and disheartening that the Oscars awards show sought to use anti-Jewish stereotypes for laughs.” The ADL added, “for the insiders at the Oscars this kind of joke is obviously not taken seriously. But when one considers the global audience of the Oscars of upwards of two billion people [sic], including many who know little or nothing about Hollywood or the falsity of such Jewish stereotypes, there's a much higher potential for the 'Jews control Hollywood' myth to be accepted as fact.”
(Non-Hollywood insiders everywhere should be deeply offended that anyone could think they'd accept as fact the utterances of a talking teddy bear blatantly mocking ignorant bigots.)
And in Time magazine, TV critic James Poniewozik wrote: “In the run-up to Sunday's Oscars, ABC promoted the broadcast as: 'Finally! An Oscars the guys can enjoy!' What did that mean, exactly? … Time for me to turn in my Guy Card, I guess. I'll give ABC credit for taking a chance. But where James Franco and Anne Hathaway were inept two years ago, and Billy Crystal was fine-but-dull a year ago, MacFarlane was uncomfortable, smarmy, unfunny – and not even bad in any memorably creative way.”
Yet, whether or not because of Seth MacFarlane's “uncomfortable, smarmy, unfunny” performance, the “Boob song,” and the ill-informed teddy bear, and/or a desire to see Bella Swan and Harry Potter (for the uninitiated, that's Kristen Stewart and Daniel Radcliffe) join forces to present an award, or to watch Charlize Theron and Channing Tatum attempt to emulate Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, or to check out Barbra Streisand performing at the Oscars for the first time in more than three decades, or to witness non-nominated director Ben Affleck take home the Best Picture Oscar for the political thriller Argo, those television ratings were up. Way up. (Scroll down to check out a few Oscar 2013 images.)
Oscar 2014 host?
Seth MacFarlane has already said he will not be returning as the Oscar 2014 host. As to be expected, there have been the usual online rumors about a whole array of celebrities doing it: Justin Timberlake, for one, or Tina Fey (who co-hosted with Amy Poehler the Golden Globes earlier this year), or U.S. talk-show host Jimmy Fallon – or maybe Justin Bieber, or Oprah Winfrey, or North Korea's Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un. The last one would be quite a coup. We'll find out soon enough if the Academy is that influential.
A couple of things, however, are certain. As per the Academy's press release, Oscar 2014 ceremony producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron “plan to bring back … the Oscar Experience College Search, which allows young filmmakers to assist with bringing the Oscar statuettes on-and-off stage during the show.” Okay, not something to lure a few more million 18-49 TV viewers – unless, of course, those college students have really large extended families – but probably exciting for those taking part in the gig.
Also, the Oscars will be held once again at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in one of the several hearts of Hollywood. In the U.S., the Oscar show will be televised live by ABC; in addition, the telecast will be broadcast live “in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.” (Note: The Academy has gotten its geography right this time around; it used to be “225 countries” when the world actually has at most 206 such political entities.)
What are the Oscars about?
In her anti-Seth MacFarlane piece, Jamie Lee Curtis asks, “I'm sure public executions would get big ratings too, but is that what the Oscars are truly about? Ratings?”
No Oscar given to those who guess the correct answer.
Ben Affleck, Jack Nicholson, George Clooney, Grant Heslov photo: Matt Petit / © A.M.P.A.S. Barbra Streisand, Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron, Daniel Radcliffe and Kristen Stewart photos: Michael Yada / © A.M.P.A.S.
Seth MacFarlane Oscar host photo: Michael Yada / © A.M.P.A.S.
Cannes jury: Most prestigious ever?
Steven Spielberg was named the president of the Cannes Film Festival 2013 jury a few weeks ago. Earlier today, festival organizers announced Spielberg's fellow jury members. It's a star-studded international cast: Asian Film Award nominee and Indian Film Academy winner Vidya Balan (The Dirty Picture), Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix winner Naomi Kawase (The Mourning Forest), Academy Award winner and three-time nominee Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge!, The Hours, Rabbit Hole), and BAFTA winner Lynne Ramsay (Swimmer, We Need to Talk About Kevin).
Also: Cannes Film Festival and two-time César winner Daniel Auteuil (The Eighth Day, Girl on the Bridge, Jean de Florette), two-time Academy Award winner Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi), Cannes' 2007 Palme d'Or and 2012 Best Screenplay winner Cristian Mungiu (4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days; Beyond the Hills), and two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained).
Those listed above will select the winners of the Cannes 2013 Palme d'Or and assorted Official Competition prizes. The Cannes victors will be announced on May 26. As mentioned in a previous piece, veteran Kim Novak (Picnic, Vertigo) will be one of the film world celebrities handing out awards.
Oscar & Cannes connection
A curiosity: the Cannes 2013 jury includes two 2013 Oscar winners: Django Unchained's Christoph Waltz and Life of Pi's Ang Lee. Another curiosity: A 2013 Best Director Oscar nominee for Lincoln, Cannes jury president Spielberg lost the award to Lee.
Cannes 2013 jury photo via the Cannes Film Festival. Top: Lynne Ramsay, Christoph Waltz, Vidya Balan, Steven Spielberg. Bottom: Daniel Auteuil, Nicole Kidman, Ang Lee, Naomi Kawase, Cristian Mungiu.
Cannes Official Competition
Among the Cannes 2013 Official Competition movies are Hirokazu Koreeda's Like Father, Like Son; 2006 Golden Lion winner Jia Zhangke's A Touch of Sin; Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty / La Grande Bellezza, starring Toni Servillo; and Steven Soderbergh's made-for-TV biopic Behind the Candelabra, with Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as his driver, Scott Thorson.
Also: Nicholas Winding Refn's Bangkok-set thriller Only God Forgives, starring Ryan Gosling and Kristin Scott Thomas; Alex van Warmerdam's Borgman, with Jan Bijvoet; Roman Polanski's Venus in Fur, starring Polanski's real-life wife Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric; Joel and Ethan Coen's Inside Llewyn Davis, with Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, and Justin Timberlake; Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi's Un château en Italie (possibly A Castle in Italy, depending on what the word château refers to); and Asghar Farhadi's The Past / Le Passé, with A Prophet's Tahar Rahim and The Artist's Bérénice Bejo.
European Film Awards gets new category: Best European Comedy
Perhaps inspired by the U.S.-based Broadcast Film Critics Association (of the populist Critics' Choice Awards) or perhaps the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (of the populist Golden Globes), the European Film Academy has added a new category to its European Film Awards: Best European Comedy. According to a European Film Academy press release, the awards category addition was decided by the EFA board at its most recent meeting in Berlin; its intent is to “pay tribute to a genre which has proven that it is able to unite and entertain audiences across Europe and beyond.”
The EFA release adds that the 2013 European Film Awards' three nominations for Best European Comedy “will be decided by a special committee.” The winner, however, “will be voted for by the more than 2,800 members of the European Film Academy.” Well, at least by those who actually take the trouble to cast ballots.
To date, the following Best European Film winners have been comedies – or at least comedy-dramas: Ken Loach's Riff-Raff (1991), with Robert Carlyle; Peter Cattaneo's The Full Monty (1997), also with Carlyle; Roberto Benigni's Life Is Beautiful (1998), starring Benigni; Pedro Almodóvar's All About My Mother (1999), with Cecilia Roth and Penélope Cruz; Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amelie (2001), with Audrey Tautou and Mathieu Kassovitz; and – a decade ago – Wolfgang Becker's Good Bye, Lenin! (2003), with Daniel Brühl.
Now, is Best European Family Movie next? If so, here's hoping Pedro Almodóvar and Michael Haneke's movies get some love.
European Film Awards 2013: Best Sound Designer and Best Costume Designer are back
Besides the new category, the European Film Awards 2013 will witness the return of two previously discontinued categories: Best European Sound Designer and Best European Costume Designer. (Apparently still missing in action, at least for the time being, is the Best Non-European Film category, discontinued nearly a decade ago.)
The recipients of the Best European Sound Designer and Best European Costume Designer awards “will be determined by a special 7-member jury.” That's a new addition to the EFA's awarding procedures, and not necessarily a good one – for the simple fact that it's less representative of the EFA's membership.
Seven-member juries – instead of the European Film Academy's full membership – will also decide the winners in the following categories: Best European Cinematographer, Best European Editor, Best European Production Designer, and Best European Composer.
This special seven-person jury will by composed of a director, a cinematographer, an editor, a producer, a festival director, a production designer or costume designer, and a composer or sound designer. No actors or screenwriters allowed, unless they wear multiple hats.
The winners in the Best European Film, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay categories will continue to be selected by the European Film Academy's full membership.
The 2013 European Film Awards will take place in Berlin on December 7.
Daniel Brühl in Good Bye, Lenin! photo: Sony Pictures Classics.
Tribeca Film Festival Nora Ephron Prize goes to first-time filmmaker Meera Menon for 'Farah Goes Bang'
First-time writer/director Meera Menon has received the inaugural Nora Ephron Prize, which includes a $25,000 cash prize, for Farah Goes Bang, playing in the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival's Viewpoints section. The Nora Ephron Prize is handed out to “work and talent that embody the spirit and vision of the legendary filmmaker and writer.” (Image: Meera Menon's Farah Goes Bang.)
As described in the Tribeca festival's press release, Farah Goes Bang “follows an awkward twenty-something who hits the road with her buddies to stump for John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election, hoping the trip will also be her opportunity to finally shed the long-unwanted virginity that still clings to her despite her best—and most uncomfortable—efforts. Crisscrossing the culturally divided nation at this decisive post-9/11 moment, these multicultural girls find themselves and their politics unwelcome in many parts of the country. They take inspiration from their friendship and press on in their campaign, even as Farah's efforts on both political and sexual fronts are continuously thwarted.”
Jane Rosenthal, co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, is quoted as saying, “We were impressed with [Meera Menon's] fresh, witty, and smart take on a coming of age story about girlfriends, passions and politics. Her film captures the spirit and themes of Nora's work.” The Hollywood Reporter, for its part, called Farah Goes Bang “loosely entertaining.”
Co-written by Meera Menon and Laura Goode, Farah Goes Bang features Nikohl Boosheri (as Farah), Kandis Erickson, Kiran Deol, Michael Steger, Samrat Chakrabarti, and Lyman Ward.
Menon was chosen out of eight Tribeca Film Festival filmmakers. The 2013 Tribeca Film Festival runs through April 28.
Nora Ephron, who died in June 2012, wrote and/or directed and/or produced about 20 films. Among Ephron's best-known efforts in any of these capacities are Julie & Julia (2009), starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams; You've Got Mail (1998), with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan; Sleepless in Seattle (1993), also starring Hanks and Ryan; When Harry Met Sally… (1990), with Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal; the semi-autobiographical Heartburn (1986), with Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson; and Silkwood (1983), with Streep, Cher, and Kurt Russell.
Meera Menon's Farah Goes Bang image: Tribeca Film Festival.