Archive for February, 2011

Robert Duvall, I’m so sorry

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Think back to late summer 1971 and you are hanging out in Pompano Beach, Florida spending time with your ailing father (or, at least, that was your story). My family is vacationing at the Lighthouse Cove Resort in Pompano, and I just joined them from spending three months as a foreign exchange student in Peru prior to my senior year in high school.

My mother, Gwen, is about 44 at this time, but still quite good looking. She was the lead baton-twirling majorette at her high school back in Iowa. Apparently, you struck up a conversation one late afternoon with her while in the restaurant at the resort, which also has a bar. You told her about your father and why you were hanging out there, and some of the stories about your acting career. This was probably close to the time you had just been cast to play the part of the consigliore, Tom Hagen, in Francis Ford Coppolas’ classic “The Godfather.”

My mother, besides her beauty, always had the uncanny ability to attract conversations from almost anyone anywhere. She was an open, bright spirit, with major(ette) social skills and an Iowa politeness and innocence. She could even summon great conversations from the usually non talkative. She somehow summoned a lot of conversation from you about your life, your father, and your acting, and later mentioned it to her son (“He’s an actor, Wayne, maybe he can help you with your scriptwriting.” “I doubt it, mom,” the obstinate teenager replied). She wasn’t quite sure who you were, even though we had no doubt seen you in countless television shows from the 60’s such as “The Outer Limits,” “Route 66,” “The Virginian,” and many more. But you weren’t a ‘movie star’ yet.

Cut to nearly 20 years later. I’m living in L.A. working as a screenwriter and my mom and dad, who have been married nearly 40 years at this point, come to visit. I want to take them to all the hip places. Dudley Moore and Tony Bill had recently opened a restaurant down the street from where I lived in Venice called “72 Market Street,” and all their movie star friends liked to hang out there, so I took my parents there to eat.

No sooner have we sat down, when my mom looks over to another table nearby and spots you. She gets very excited. She remembers the conversation you had all those years ago with her in Pompano Beach, but now you are a big movie star. I tell her she should go over and say hello. But my mom is way too shy. My dad is usually even shyer, but at some point he says he’ll go over and say something.

My dad steps over to your table, stands just behind and above you, and, very nervously and tensely starts to say, “You met my wife at a bar in Pompano Beach several years ago …”

And, at this point, it all suddenly dawns on me and I think, “Oh, shit.” Of course. You were an actor hanging out in a local hotel restaurant bar where tourists stay in a town while no doubt being bored in between visits with your father (if that story was true) and you were trying to pick up my mother. God, it was suddenly oh, so obvious.

And here was this six foot-tall stranger stepping up behind you towering over your seat and very tensely saying, “You met my wife in a bar several years ago ….” And I believe I saw your face turn a whiter shade of pale.

Was this guy about to clock you for having an affair with his wife? How could you have had a clue or known otherwise? That must have been one tense moment. I could see it in your expression and in the way you tensed up.

But then my father continued, adding something like, “… and I just wanted to thank you for having such a nice conversation with her that helped make her vacation so much more memorable.”

What????!

I guess at this point you were wondering just what the hell happened, but you’re being thanked by a strange man for having a ‘conversation’ with his wife. Still, you looked visibly relieved. You smiled politely. Looked over to where my mom and I were sitting and nodded politely, and that was it. You weren’t about to die.

But if that moment cost you a few more strands of hair, or a near stroke, or some possible indigestion, I apologize. It was all very innocent.

Unless of course you really WERE trying to pick up my mother that afternoon in Florida; in which case, the apology’s off.

— A. Wayne Carter

Jumping on the overloaded Oscar bandwagon

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Personally, I get fed up very quickly on all the run-up hype to the Academy Awards, along with the exhausting post award coverage, which seem to tie up the covers of Entertainment Weekly and every other entertainment news show or magazine for weeks on end. But, this year I concede, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Here are my predictions for the winners.

Disclaimer: I make no claims for any particular expertise here, but I am about the same age as the mostly-aging voters, worked extensively in the industry, voted regularly in the WGA awards, been on the red carpet, and once won $25,000 picking the top 12 categories correctly in an online contest. None of that means anything, of course. Still, I do accept wagers.

Actor – Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”

The main thing to remember about all acting categories as far as Oscars goes is that the ROLE wins, not the actor. That’s why so many rich showcase roles for disabled, handicapped, or otherwise challenged characters always score big. Think Daniel Day Lewis in “My Left Foot,” Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man,” Cliff Robertson in “Charlie,” Geoffrey Rush in “Shine,” Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump,” and on and on and on. This one’s a lock. Bet the farm on it.

Supporting Actor – Christian Bale in “The Fighter”

Christian Bale is spooky good in whatever he does, and probably certifiably crazy in real life. The word is he’s one of those actors who stays in character during the entire filming process, and goes to unheard of lengths to physically prepare for the role, including losing 50 pounds for “The Machinist,” and probably actually becoming a crack head to pull this role off. The Academy rewards insanity for the sake of art in cinema.

Actress – Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”

Again, the role wins again, not the actress. Annette Bening had a choice role in “The Kids Are Alright,” but she shared the lead with onscreen wife Julianne Moore, whereas Portman gets all the standout moments in her film. Plus, she goes crazy, so the Academy bows in reverence.

Supporting Actress – Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”

At this point, I must confess I haven’t seen “The Fighter” yet, but Leo has been all over the screen in roles she should have been recognized for before, has now been cast in every movie coming out in 2011-12, and was featured on your television screen in HBO’s (barely renewed) series about post-Katrina New Orleans, Treme. An Oscar will be her hey-we-noticed prize. Plus, I hear she’s unhinged in the role. Oscar genuflects.

(Update: Apparently, M. Leo committed a terrible faux paus and took out an ad in a trade paper touting herself for the award and now all the pundits are saying the True Grit girl is the front-runner. Oh, Puh-lease. Self-promotion is now a crime in Hollywood? It’s the very base of existence there. Fuck the hypocrites, I’m sticking with Leo).

Director – David Fincher “The Social Network”

The Director’s Guild already gave this award to “The King’s Speech,” which is usually a dead giveaway to who’s going to win the Oscar, but “The King’s Speech,” to me, is more of a performance showcase and not a director’s showcase. “The Social Network” has a director’s manipulative fingerprints all over, and deserves this, hands down. Plus, it’s a consolation prize for not winning Best Picture. Hooper could still upset here, but my money’s here.

Picture – “The King’s Speech”

I had this for “The Social Network” all the way until many of the critical awards kept dropping for “The King’s Speech,” which tells me that the aging majority of the Academy and critics are still in charge, and they might want to reward good old-fashioned movie star performances and story, and not punk upstarts headlining the Zuckerberg facebook festival. I think “The Social Network” overall is a better picture, but it’s hard to beat the old-fashioned crowd-pleasing triumph of a character struggling to overcome adversity and succeeding, rather than an unsympathetic jerk succeeding beyond his wildest expectations and then being passive-aggressively ambivalent about it.

Animated Feature – “Toy Story 3”

Any other year, “How to Train Your Dragon” might pull this off; it’s a great story and movie, but there’s no way it trumps the emotional power of Pixar’s toy story swan song.

Cinematography – “Inception”

Here’s another consolation prize. Where was Christopher Nolan’s nomination as director for the most original movie of the year, which required a master director pulling off FOUR simultaneous finales at the same time? Plus, am I the only one who is growing cold to digitally shot movies such as “The Social Network” or “Black Swan,” which look so muddy and flat in comparison to film? It’s beginning to reproduce the same argument as compressed digital versus vinyl (which is making a big comeback). Where’s the warmth?

Best Original Screenplay – “The King’s Speech”

Watch me get the writer categories wrong. But this is a pure writer’s script, with two fantastic characters going at it with each other and then ultimately succeeding because of each other. It would have made a fantastic play, and probably still might, but there’s no denying its timeless appeal. “Inception” won the WGA award, so that would be a welcome upset and consolation prize to Nolan, if it wins.

Best Adapted Screenplay – “The Social Network”

There’s no way to overlook the masterful wordplay and structure of this script even though it was probably dictated into a mini-recorder by Aaron Sorkin in a fever dream of cocaine and hookers in a limousine on a bender through Las Vegas. Still, quite a feat.

Okay, that’s all I got. I didn’t see any foreign films, sorry. And where’s “Waiting for Superman” under the best documentary category? Most of these choices are no big stretch, I admit, but please feel free to mock me if I get them wrong, anyway.

And do us all a big favor and stop buying magazines or watching TV shows with non-stop Oscar coverage. You’re only encouraging them.

— A. Wayne Carter

UPDATE (Feburary 28): Final Score 9/10

Not bad, but I miscalculated the Academy would split the Best Director from the Best Picture. That’s unusual and it didn’t happen. Tom Hooper won for “The King’s Speech.” I also didn’t know that Fincher is apparently not loved in Hollywood. Maybe it’s the 100 takes he makes actors go through. And maybe that’s why he usually has young casts. Veteran actors wouldn’t put up with that shit. How good a director ARE YOU REALLY  if you can’t get the performance you want in, say,  the first 20 takes?