Good Morning, Oscar: October 23

It’s not a good day for honorary Oscar winners: one cancels a show, while another gets branded an untalented pothead.

In this morning’s roundup of Oscar news ‘n’ notes from around the web, it’s not a good day for honorary Oscar winners: one cancels a show, while another gets branded an untalented pothead.

Patrick Goldstein looks at the New York Times’ Magazine’s extensive profile of “Precious” director Lee Daniels and wonders if the guy is so outspoken that he’ll alienate Oscar voters. He certainly could have lost a few votes by telling Hirschberg that he “kind of co-directed” “Monster’s Ball” and gave Halle Berry the line readings for her Oscar-winning performance.  But, you know, the Oscars could use a brash maverick or two in the mix, so maybe they’ll take to this one. Me, I can’t wait to see what the guy has to say next Tuesday when “Precious” kicks off theWrap Screening Series at the Arclight Sherman Oaks. (The Big Picture)

Can I back up for a minute? On Wednesday, I linked to Goldstein’s Big Picture column in which he called the choice of new Oscar producers Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman “a safe pick,” and then complained that if you want a great TV show, you should hire a great TV producer. His first choices: Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme. On Thursday, I got an email from a friend who’s worked on close to 20 Oscars shows, and who just had to comment on Goldstein’s suggestion. “[H]e suggests Sorkin & Schlamme, two great guys who I know, respect and have worked for, but they are not VARIETY TELEVISION PRODUCERS! DOESN’T ANYBODY GET THIS AND UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE???” Point taken. Goldstein’s picks have made wonderful single-camera TV, where you’ve got a week to shoot a show; if your point is that it takes TV people to produce a good TV show, you probably ought to pick the right kind of TV people.

Honorary Oscar winner Ennio Morricone’s show at the Hollywood Bowl has been cancelled. Illness? Lackluster ticket sales? Nobody’s saying. The only good news in this is that 1) if you’re a musician in the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, you now get paid without having to do anything, and 2) if, like me, you think “Once Upon a Time in America” is the greatest film score ever written, but you have tickets for U2 that night, you won’t feel so conflicted. (Variety) (Morricone photo, left: AMPAS)

Richard Schickel reviews the new biography of another recent honorary Oscar winner, Robert Altman. Although it might not be fair to author Mitchell Zuckoff to call Schickel’s piece a review of his book; mostly, Schickel spends 1,000 words complaining about Altman, and then blames Zuckoff for not sharing his opinion that the director was a hack who smoked too much dope. (Los Angeles Times)

Sasha Stone surveys the reviews and writes off “Amelia” as a DOA best-picture contender. In the process, she asks a sensible question: “how do you honor Big Hollywood if the sweeping epics that Oscar used to love can’t get arrested by the chorus of film critics and voices online that hand down a verdict before the public gets a crack at it?” If you’re a studio, I think you just cross your fingers and hope that voters ignore that chorus. That’s how. (Awards Daily)

Not everybody is savaging “Amelia.” Film Threat, for instance, gives it four stars. And Roger Ebert calls it “perfectly sound” – not the highest praise, but in this case the movie will take what it can get.  Because back on the negative side of the ledger, the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis calls it “exasperatingly dull.”  And the L.A. Times’ Betsy Sharkey says “gorgeous but vacuous.”  And Entertaiment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum dubs it “square, still and earthbound.”  (Notice a pattern here? Seems like every publication that has one gave the film to its top female critic.) The score currently stands at 41 (out of 100) at Metacritic and a dismal 16 at Rotten Tomatoes, 17 and 46 points below “The Reader,” which was the lowest-rated best-pic nominee of recent years.  That’s a whole lot of negativity for Oscar voters to ignore.


Gerard Kennedy takes a second look at the visual effects category, and identifies three already-released films that he thinks have a real shot (“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” “Star Trek” and “District 9”), and three upcoming ones that could be in play as well (“2012,” “Avatar” and “The Lovely Bones”). He doesn’t mention one of the keys that makes the category a little hard to predict: the final nominations are made at a “bakeoff” featuring presentations from the effects artists of the seven finalists; assembling an impressive bakeoff reel and knowing how to sell it are crucial if you want to make it to the final three. (In Contention)

The Telegraph talks to the 99-year-old Luise Rainer, who in in the 1930s became the first person to win back-to-back acting Oscars, before turning her back on Hollywood. The petite but feisty Ms. Rainer, who in recent years has returned for the 70th and 75th anniversary shows, is coaxed into name-dropping an astonishing array of friends, colleagues and cohorts: Garbo, Einstein, Spencer Tracy, Louis B. Mayer, Clifford Odets, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Frederico Fellini, George Gershwin … And then she laments, “one’s life-span is so very short.”