Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hall of Fame Spotlight: Katharine Hepburn

At our very first Cosmique Movie Awards in 2001, we chose to make every category a lifetime achievement award, with nominees available from any year. Three of those categories were intended to be Hall of Fame Awards, with new inductees added each year. We've already mentioned that The Wizard of Oz was inducted as the very first Best Films of All Time Hall of Famer.

The very first inductee into the Best Actresses of All Time Hall of Fame was the indomitable Katharine Hepburn. At the time, she had achieved more Academy Award nominations (twelve) than any other actress, a milestone subsequently surpassed by future Hall of Famer Meryl Streep.

At the first awards, Katharine was also nominated for Best Individual Performance by an Actress of All Time for her portrayal of Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter, but lost to Rosalind Russell for her titular performance in Auntie Mame. The Lion in Winter was also nominated for Best One Liner or Camp Quote in Movie History for a line she utters: "Of course he has a knife - we all have knives. It's the twelfth century and we're all barbarians!"

Perhaps another sign of the Cosmo's love of Katharine can be gleaned from the 2004 supporting actress win by Cate Blanchett for her spot-on portrayal of Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator. Blanchett also won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for the performance.

In her lifetime and even afterwards, Katharine Hepburn is one of the most celebrated actresses of all time. She's won four Academy Awards (twelve nominations), two BAFTA Awards (five nominations), an Emmy Award (five nominations), four Golden Globe nominations, the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, two Golden Laurel Awards (four nominations), two People's Choice Awards, an American Comedy Lifetime Achievement Award, and was named Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year in 1958.

Movie Reviews: Clash of the Titans (2010)

Between gods and men, the clash begins.

Directed by: Louis Letterrier

Written by: Travis Beacham, Phil Hay, and Matt Manfredi (2010 screenplay); Beverley Cross (1981 screenplay)

Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Feinnes, Jason Flemyng, Gemma Arterton, Alexa Davalos

After surviving being cast to sea as an infant only to watch his adoptive father be killed by Hades, the demigod Perseus, son of Zeus, embarks on a quest to rescue Andromeda from the Kraken and avenge the death of his family. The tale loosely -- very loosely -- intermingles many different stories from Greek mythology.

The 2010 remake of the somewhat more campy 1981 film of the same name follows the general outline of the original, but with significant plot differences that will keep it fresh for fans of the original. That said, "fresh" doesn't always mean "better" or even "good." The film suffers from a lack of character development, a horrible score, and especially from a surprisingly weak script.

I've never quibbled (over-much, at least) with the liberties that either script took with the Greek myths it lifts from. Perseus is indeed cast into the sea, but (as is common in Greek mythology), it was due to fears of a prophesy rather than jealousy. Perseus does, indeed, slay the Medusa in order to save Andromeda from a sea creature after receiving advice from three Gray Sisters (misnamed the Norns in the film) who share one eye. But other elements come from other myths. The scorpions are lifted from the myth of Orion. The winged horse Pegasus is only ridden in Bellerophon's myth and only makes a cameo in Perseus' story (it is born from Medusa's blood when Perseus slays her). Perseus instead flies with the aid of Hermes' winged sandals. Io (who in her own myth is turned into a cow by Zeus to hide her from Hera's wrath) never appears in Perseus' tale. And two elements never appear in any Greek myths. Calibos is a pure invention that may draw from Shakespeare's Caliban from "The Tempest." And while Andromeda is beset by a sea creature, it is named Cetus; the name for the Kraken comes from Scandinavian mythology.

But none of these changes are that material. It's an original tale that draws loosely from multiple mythological tales and can be enjoyed in that light. Where it suffers is from its failure to make the audience truly care about most of the characters. Sam Worthington (perhaps best remembered as the hero in Avatar) gives some life and humanity to Perseus, but even his characterization is a little too stilted to make us care that much about his fate. And as a special effects film, there's nothing truly epic film that makes it stand out from predecessors in its genres. The effects are nice but not particularly innovative, and there's nothing in the film that will make it go down as a classic. Fun summer popcorn film, but ultimately rentable.

My grade: B-

Movie Reviews: Toy Story 3

No toy gets left behind.

Directed by: Lee Unkrich

Written by: John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton & Lee Unkrich (story); Michael Arndt (screenplay)

Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Estelle Harris, John Morris, Jodi Benson, Laurie Metcalf

When the toys are accidentally donated to a day care center as Andy is about to leave for college, it's up to Woody to convince the other toys to escape and try to return.

It's been 15 years since the original "Toy Story" and 11 since its only other sequel ... but it was well worth the wait for "Toy Story 3."

"Toy Story 3" retains the freshness and innovation that has been Pixar's hallmark since their very first film, the first "Toy Story." Some of the older toys are now gone (like Bo Peep, originally voiced by Annie Potts), but most of the remaining cast are back, including Tom Hanks as Woody, Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear, and even John Morris, the original Andy, as now-17-year-old Andy.

Like many successful children's films, the writing has layers of nuance that will allow adults to enjoy it in ways that children won't catch. That makes it a great cross-over film. When I went, at least half of the audience were adults without children in tow. But while it's a great film for adults, it's a bit dark and scary for young children. I might hesitate to bring a child under the age of 7 to see this. And yes, I cried. Twice.

My grade: A

Monday, July 26, 2010

The ultimate movie of 2010?

We're halfway through the summer of 2010. What's shaping up to be the ultimate movie?

The folks at Screen Rant have their own take on it with this mash-up trailer blending bits and pieces from the trailers of this year's summer releases:

I stumbled across this simply because I felt someone had to have done something like it. Sure enough, someone had -- in fact, many people have. Here's someone else's take on the same idea:

What's your favorite film of the summer so far?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Movie Reviews: Alice in Wonderland (2010)

You have a very important date.

Directed by: Tim Burton

Written by: Linda Woolverton (screenplay); Lewis Carroll (books)

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Alan Rickman

In this latest collaboration between director Tim Burton, his muse Johnny Depp, and his wife Helena Bonham Carter, Alice is now a 19-year old woman who stumbles back into Wonderland and is thrust into a war between the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and the White Queen (Anne Hathaway).

There are many things about this latest Tim Burton film that are brilliant. The film is truly a visual feast, sumptuous to the eyes, and had it been released ten years ago it would have been hailed as a masterpiece.

But visual effects are no longer enough to sustain a film for audiences already exposed to films like "The Lord of the Rings" and "Avatar," and the movie sadly falls short in other key elements. The script does provide a much-need plot and structure absent from Lewis Carroll's original "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass" stories, which were part of a genre called literary nonsense in which characters traipsed from adventure to adventure without rhyme or reason. But while the plot -- the conflict between the White Queen deposed by her sister, the Red Queen -- is engaging, it is nevertheless overly long and sags a bit. Johnny Depp, a perennial favorite among Cosmo voters, doesn't bring enough "newness" to the role of the Mad Hatter to sufficiently distinguish it from many of his other wacky roles. Anne Hathaway, an actress we've adored in "Ella Enchanted" and "Brokeback Mountain," is delightful as the White Queen, but her deliberately overly-theatrical mannerisms eventually become a little annoying.

The other actors are all fine (Alan Rickman's voice could seduce me simply reading the phone book), but two stood out for me. The first is Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat. Oh, sure, I've always had a fondness for that character, but there was something indescribable about Fry's portrayal that was so delightful. (And it's not because I love Fry, which I do; I didn't recognize his voice and had to look up the credits on IMDB afterwards.) And the second, and most important, was Helena Bonham Carter, who was spot-on brilliant as the Red Queen. She will certainly make my list for Best Villain of 2010, and quite possibly make my list for other acting categories as well.

My grade: B

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Most popular Cosmo actor is ... Ian Somerhalder?

The most popular actor on the Cosmique Movie Awards website, based on keywords bringing people to the site and the most trafficked pages, isn't Hall of Fame winners like Katharine Hepburn or Cary Grant. It isn't frequent nominees like Cate Blanchett or Ian McKellan.

The most popular actor on the Cosmo site is Ian Somerhalder, nominated in 2002 for Actor's Character You Would Most Like to be Intimate With for his performance in The Rules of Attraction.

The film was a bit of a sleeper; the Cosmos only nominated it for one other award (Best Cinematography or Art Direction, no doubt for the split-screen scene that included James Van der Beek on the toilet). And it was Ian's sole nomination ever for the Cosmo Awards.

But now, following his short-lived role on Lost and his teen-favorite role on TV's The Vampire Diaries, he's riding a new wave of popularity that driving folks to our website, no doubt amongst many others.

For the record, Natalie Portman and Halle Barry are also very popular.

One more photo of Ian Somerhalder, this time from The Rules of Attraction:

The Wizard of Oz

As we introduce new readers to the Cosmique Movie Awards, we want to profile some of the big winners from the past.

Our first awards in 2001 we all Lifetime Achievement awards, and the top award for Best Film of All Time was also inducted into our Best Films Hall of Fame. The first winner, and inductee, went to The Wizard of Oz, the 1939 classic musical starring Judy Garland. Its success probably speaks volumes about the Cosmo voters.

The Wizard of Oz beat out a number of other great films, including All About Eve, Chinatown, A Letter to Three Wives, and Nashville. It was also nominated for three other lifetime achievement awards, winning all of them, including:

The Best Movie Musical award was shared with Singin' in the Rain, while Best Film Villain was shared with both Glenn Close for Dangerous Liaisons and Anthony Hopkins for Silence of the Lambs.

Welcome to the Cosmique Movie Awards blog!

In 2001, a bunch of friends -- many who were part of the Cosmique Krewe of Colour, a private Mardi Gras krewe in the San Francisco Bay Area -- decided at an Academy Awards party to have our own movie awards. Ballots were handed out for attendees to vote on their favorite movies, performances, performers, characters, and movie scenes. As this was the inaugural year for the awards, we decided that a fair amount of catching up was needed, so the nominations that first year were open to films of all time, rather than those released that calendar year.

Categories ranged from the serious (like Best Movie of All Time) to the rediculous (like Most Surprising Performance by an Actor or Actress That You Never Thought Was Very Good, but They Really Surprised You With This Particularly Good Performance). We likened it to blending the gravitas of the Academy Awards with the irreverence of the MTV Movie Awards.

Subsequent years have focused on films released the previous calendar year (with the exception of a few lifetime achievement awards each year).

Since the first year, membership has grown to scores of members. The membership list is kept confidential and admission is by invitation only. Members of the Academy come from all walks of life, but share a certain sensibility. Most of the members (but not all) are in San Francisco. They are disproportionately (but by no means exclusively) gay, lesbian, or bisexual. They are primarily (though not completely) disassociated with the film industry, except as fans. Membership is restricted, but there are no membership fees. Members are not expected to see all of the potential or actual nominees, though many make a point of doing so. The Cosmos operate under the philosophy that what we choose to honor is as much about what draws us to the cinemas as it is about what we liked when we got there.

Each year, the Cosmique Movie Academy's Board of Governors selects the categories that will be used that year. This may include creating new categories or, in rare instances, retiring others. Each year, another film, actor, and actress is inducted into the Hall of Fame. In some years, additional lifetime achievement categories may also be offered from time to time, usually as a special one-time-only award. But most of the awards are dedicated to films and performances from the previous calendar year.

After the awards celebrating films from 2006, the awards went dormant for a time. We're back! We're ready to celebrate the films of 2010, so head out to the theater and keep notes! And we're hoping to recruit more like-minded voters.