Friday, February 27, 2009

Mystery: Back To Basics

We like the new-fangled CSI, Bones-y stuff as much as the next person but Tom Selleck solves mysteries the old-fashioned way in his Jesse Stone movies. Mary McNamara knows about writing the mystery novel (Oscar Season: A Novel for your Kindle here) and the Jesse Stone movies on CBS are based on the famous Robert B. Parker works. See the review by Mary in the Los Angeles Times.
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Thursday, February 26, 2009

In A World...

As was pointed out over at Huffington Post, Gene Siskel the movie critic was in the "In Memoriam" montage at the Oscars the year he died (or as it was called at the Oscar Party I attended, "Here come the dead people!"; but where was the voice of nearly every movie trailer you have ever seen or heard?! You know the voice..."In A World..." Well, In Memoriam Don. Thank you.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Oscars Returning To Roots? Or Where Are They Taking The Seats From The Kodak Theater?

We heard from a very good source that the seats from the main floor (I guess that would be the orchestra seating according to the floor plan) in the Kodak Theater are being removed. One guess might be a really large area for Hugh Jackman to do a rollerskate Starlight Express number; but more the speculation centers on a possible return to the 1929 format for nominees and their guests: TABLES! Yes, perhaps economics are not the only coincidence this year with the original awards ceremony at the Blosom Room of the Roosevelt Hotel in 1929 (just across the street you know).
Well, they keep promising big changes.
--from The Webmaster
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Friday, February 20, 2009

Let's See If They Took Our Advice

Back in December Mary put together a list of ten things the Oscar producers could do to make this Sunday's telecast more "watchable." It all starts with Tina Fey.

1. Tina Fey. If you need a main host, she's your gal. She's one of the hottest entertainment stars working right how; she had a movie out this year, so she actually qualifies as a movie star; but she also knows the power, and vagaries, of television. And after demolishing the McCain-Palin candidacy, she should view the Oscars as a walk in the park. (But no dancing, Tina. Seriously. We saw the Vanity Fair promo video. No dancing.)

2. Ricky Gervais. He single-handedly saved the Emmy telecast; he's said he'll do it if Steve Carell, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert help; he has that nice, dry English delivery and insider/outsider viewpoint; and he starred in his first feature film, " Ghost Town," this year, which did "meh" enough to be good for some jokes. If the accent's a problem, ABC can run subtitles.

3. Steve Carell, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Jon knows the ropes, but he was never a huge hit, so maybe he and Tina can co-host, you know, like Sonny and Cher. Carell, another TV/movie star, helped Gervais resuscitate the Emmys, has the straightest face in the business and looks great in a tux. Colbert, well, anyone who can get Willie Nelson to bring pot to the Baby Jesus and put Elvis Costello in a nutcracker suit as he did on his Christmas special deserves a shot at the Oscars.

4. Robert Downey Jr. Not all movie stars are dead weight when they go live. Downey is King of the Mountain right now, he's capable of speaking in full (and hilarious) paragraphs and his brain neither stops nor slows. Bring him up there with Russell Crowe, whom he parodied in "Tropic Thunder" -- who wouldn't tune in for that?

5. Jack Black. "Tropic Thunder," "Kung Fu Panda" -- the guy has the best silhouette since Hitchcock, the best eyebrows since Nicholson. And, not that this matters in
the least, the young people love him.

6. The rest of the "Tropic Thunder" guys. Here's a big movie skewering Hollywood, full of comedians. But use them only if they are totally into it, otherwise it will totally wreck the show. Bonus points, though, if you can get Tom Cruise to do the fat-suit dance.

7. Eddie Izzard. Rumor has it he wants to make a movie based on the (canceled) TV show "The Riches." What better way to curry favor, Eddie, than by saving the Oscars? Though, could you throw on some eyeliner? I know you don't want to be typecast, but I think you could have saved "The Riches" if you had made Wayne one of your signature action transvestites.

8. David Letterman. Now wait, wait, I know, I was there, I remember, but Letterman . . . well, the road to the White House did indeed go through him. I'm not saying he should host -- certainly not -- but wouldn't it be nice to just see him back on that stage?

9. Chris Rock. The only member of the Hollywood firmament to not only host the Oscars but also play a first African-American president, Rock seems like a natural. He got a lukewarm reception as host but he got the problem with the Oscars better than any host in history -- "White Chicks" did do better box office than most of the nominees. In fact, why not bring back . . .

10. All the former hosts. In the plot to save Oscar, the biggest question will be: Who gets to wear the sexy " Valkyrie-esque" eye patch? (My money is on Whoopi.)
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Taking Chance

We interrupt our Oscar coverage to tell you (as Mary McNamara did today in the Los Angeles Times) about the HBO film Taking Chance starring Kevin Bacon.
As Mary said, "If you want to understand the over-cited concept of the electronic hearth or see proof of the power and significance of television as a medium, then you must watch “Taking Chance,” which debuts tonight on HBO."
Bacon apparently gives a major performance in an important film which is a great news for this talented actor. He has had to struggle with the "six-degrees of Kevin Bacon" and the Madoff theft but he always has Kyra and his talent. Lucky dog.
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Oscar Set Designs Revealed

David Rockwell who designed The Kodak Theatre is also doing the set design for the 2009 ceremony. They sketches of the sets were released today.
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Thursday, February 19, 2009

How To Win Your Oscar Pool

We thought we would pass this along (since Oscar Season does not want to appear to condone GAMBLING) but Richard Lawson of Gawker has a brilliant article on what will bring home the big bucks on Oscar Party night and make you the envy of your fellow WATCHMEN.

We might disagree that Best Picture is ever a lock but we do agree with his thesis that those who spend some time in the "little" category forest will end up in the money tree.

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It's Oscar Season In The UK Too

It's Oscar Season in the UK too and although the British have their BAFTAS (shorter, somewhat funnier and with no singing or dancing) they pay attention to the Academy Awards as well.

Oscar Season: A Novel gets a nice review and thoughtful comments in The Telegraph by Davd Gritten. Recently published in the UK let's hope all there enjoy a good mystery, a look at the how the sausage gets made in Hollywood and a preview of this weekend's show. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bill O'Reilly Oscar Scoop! Jack Will Not Be Back?!

Note From The Webmaster:

We were not sure we heard this right-- because we were just passing through a room with the TV on --but we thought we heard Bill O'Reilly say he was at a Lakers game last night and he asked Jack (who is ALWAYS at the Laker game) if he was going to the Oscars? The Fox talker claims Jack says he isn't going.

Say it ain't so Jack!

Of course, we do not believe this for one second. Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Fun With Oscar

Mary McNamara has been around the Oscars for a couple of years now and even wrote a murder mystery about what people might do to win an Oscar. Well in honor of this year's Oscars and the publication of Mary's OSCAR SEASON: A NOVEL in paperback, we will be hosting several special events to go along with your Oscar experience.

First click the official ballot above to be taken to the official downloadable ballot. You must have one!

Second, in the next few days Mary will be posting her official "Mary" Oscar picks. Send along your picks in the comments section and the first three comments with more winners than Mary (if you can) will get a free copy of paperback edition of Oscar Season.

Third, Mary has a new column in the Los Angeles Times in the Envelope on Wednesdays called Oscar Confidential. We will be reprinting here and will do everything in our power to get her to scoop and blind item the dish RIGHT HERE!

So get your ballot and stay tuned for the most interesting and satisfying Oscar Season ever. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, February 13, 2009

Now The Bad News; They Are Still Going To Show It On TV

We kid. But it is not funny to hear that Dollhouse (Joss Whedon's new television series) is not a whimsy like the good doctor or an angel like Buffy. Drat. Mary's review in today's LA Times.

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Capt. Sully Versus Octo-Mom: Action Adventure In The News Cycle

In today's Los Angeles Times, Mary explores what happens to the morning news shows when they can't choose between the mother who birthed eight babies and the closest America has come to Captain America in a long time.
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Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Slumdog Backlash, Poverty Porn And A Dickens Of A Production

The two-part Masterpiece Classic which begins this Sunday is the original story of a slumdog. Mary McNamara's review, in the Los Angeles Times.
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Real Housewives: Real Desperation

What would Updike, Salinger or Cheever say about the Real Housewives of Orange County? The hit Bravo show examined in a "literary" way by Oscar Season author and television critic of the Los Angeles Times Mary McNamara. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Behind The Scenes At The Oscars Is The Place To Be

The real party is always in the kitchen and what goes on behind the scenes is almost always more interesting. That is one of the things the reviewers got about Oscar Season (now in paperback). The people who dress the stars, serve them in the hotels and move them from here to there know the real story and they are "star" characters in Mary McNamara's novel Oscar Season.

More little people press today from CNN which reports that a dress designer can get 25 million dollars in free publicity if their dress is worn by a major star down the red carpet.

Our question was: is that at the old rates or the new rates? Sphere: Related Content

Monday, February 9, 2009

Moving Moment At Yesterday's BAFTA Awards

The Orange British Academy Awards last night were as good as it gets. Funny, raunchy and poignant without being maudlin and where else is Terry Gilliam going to get a lifetime acheivement award?

Here is the award for the late Heath Ledger for his role as The Joker in The Dark Knight.

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

BAFTA Awards Continue Slumdog Millionaire's Cinderella Story

The British Academy Of Film And Televison Arts (BAFTA) today continued to herald Slumdog Millionaire as the sleeper movie of the year if not the decade.

Awards to Kate Winslet for The Reader and Slumdog's rocket to the top of this year's awarded films almost seems a throwing down of a gauntlet to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Oscars.

Mickey Rourke received his lifetime comeback award for Best Actor in The Wrestler. Interestingly the Best Original Screenplay went to In Bruges another film with a solid fan base. Sphere: Related Content

WGA Awards Tag Milk, Slumdog Millionaire

There was a ton of quality at the Writers Guild Of America last night in both Los Angeles and New York. Best Adapted went to Slumdog Millionaire which is having an Obama-like swell throughout the awards season. Best Original Screenplay to Milk and of course 30 Rock won --and it is no surprise to the webmaster who thinks it is the best thing regularly on television.

Host Neil Patrick Harris appeared as himself.

Complete awards here at Variety and here at the WGA website.
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Friday, February 6, 2009

Did You Ever Wonder How The Oscar Voting System Works?

We have wondered how the balloting for Oscar works. All we have ever seen is the metal briefcase they trot on stage on Oscar Night which is handcuffed to some delightful rolly-polly accountant.

If you must know, the Wall Street Journal has the in depth explanation which make the Iowa Caucuses look easy. So grab your favorite headache medication and click through to the link at WSJ.
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What Does Kate Winslet Need To Do To Win An Oscar?

Mary McNamara author of Oscar Season untangles the bad luck and Academy gestalt that may deny Kate Winslet, one of the finest actors of her generation, an Oscar for the sixth time.

In today's Envelope in the LA Times (think of it as a "Carpetbagger" post on steroids) Mary tries to explain why the winner of the Golden Globe for Revolutionary Road will likely be the bridesmaid once again.
CNN entertainment section speculates that a BAFTA win could help Winslet at the Oscar's but as Mary points out in her Envelope piece, she is nominated in the wrong category for a win.
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Blame It On The Writers!

If this year's Oscars don't command a huge audience--or at least a huge increase over last year's-- you will know who to blame: of course it must be the WRITERS. The Super Bowl had a huge number and the teams represented St. Louis and Phoenix (well, Arizona) and this year the Oscars have no excuse.

Sometimes writers (your webmaster included) get bumped from a show where they intended to prattle on about their book but what if you spent a couple of years writing a murder mystery set around the Oscars and then it looked like the show might not go on?

Mary McNamara examined the blame game that went on last year regarding the writer's strike and the Oscar telecast and most IMPORTANTLY what it is like when Oscar Season is put on hold:

A year after its cessation, the writer’s strike continues to get a lot of ink, mainly because it’s being used as an excuse for just about everything. Last year’s low Oscar ratings, certainly, but also the yanking of shows like “Pushing Daisies” and “Dirty Sexy Money,” the dwindling audience for big hits like “Grey’s Anatomy,” NBC’s decision to put Jay Leno on at 10 o’clock Every Night, even the recent firing of the head SAG negotiator (we can’t afford Another strike.) In fact, I’m fairly certain that the reason the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court fumbled President Obama’s swearing in had something to do with the writer’s strike.

And yet strangely, no one ever mentions my book. When I sold it, everyone agreed it was a publicist’s dream--a murder mystery set during Oscar season by a person who knew the Oscars inside and out. Certainly in the weeks leading up to the ceremony I’d be chatting with Regis and the ladies of the View.

Then the writers went on strike. I, like everyone else in this town, worried about all the people thrown almost out of work—writers yes, but also all the below-the-line workers, the crew that had no say and nothing to gain from a strike.

But as the weeks wore on, it hit me. My book! My book was going to come out during the one single solitary year that everyone feared the Oscars wouldn’t take place. The one single solitary year when the papers and magazines and morning shows weren’t filled to the brim with Oscar buzz and Oscar gossip, the one single solitary year when anyone with the most remote connection to the ceremony wasn’t given some sort of televised platform to dish and speculate.

Not that I’m bitter or anything.

I’m not actually. “Oscar Season” did get a lot of press thanks to the tireless efforts of Simon and Schuster, and many reviewers rather kindly mentioned that it was good we had the book since we didn’t really have the season. Still, it was a fine and just reminder of the old axiom that if you want to make God laugh, tell him/her your plans.
Or just put him/her in touch with your publicist.
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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

How To Throw An Authentic Oscar Party

Mary McNamara, who has attended a few Academy Awards as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, drops us a note about throwing a real, an authentic, a true to life Oscar party. Eat, drink and be merry does not apply. Get down like the nominees do:

If you want to have an Oscar party that captures the experience of actually going to the Oscars, it is actually quite cheap and easy. For one thing, forget about providing beverages. Although there are free drinks on the ground floor of the Kodak, that’s reserved for nominees and other fabulous folk. The great majority of attendees are relegated to the upper floors of the theater where it is strictly a cash bar, darling. (You might want to tell your guests that exact change is appreciated.)

Likewise, you won’t need to make any food because, with the exception of free mints in the bathrooms, there are very few edibles to be found at the cocktail party preceding the ceremony. The poor waiters rarely make it past the elevator doors when they arrive on with their trays of canap├ęs. A few years ago, the Kodak began selling sandwiches and salads at the bar but honestly only journalists are crass enough to regularly avail themselves.

And don’t worry about the lack of movie stars at your gala. Most people at the Oscars get only paritial-backside views (as they are hustled down the non-movie-star side of the red carpet) and the tops of famous heads (from the balcony seating.) You have a much better view of your favorite stars from your living room. Where, presumably, there are places to sit, as opposed to the bar and lounge areas of the Kodak.

If you really want your guests to feel like they are at the Oscars, require them to overdress, park at least one mile away from your house, wear uncomfortable but fabulous looking shoes and arrive at least two hours before the ceremony starts during which time they can look in vain for anyone remotely famous and stand around calling their friends on their cellphones to say “guess where I am? The Oscars!” Which is actually the best part of the experience!

Then serve up the hot wings and the spring rolls and pause for a moment to be grateful you’re someplace where you can not only see Brad and Angelina from the front side but you can go to the bathroom whenever you want (as opposed to only during commercial breaks).

Because no matter where you are, it’s a long show.
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Monday, February 2, 2009

Oscar Rumors: The Usual Suspects?

We LOVE to know what goes on behind the scenes at the Oscars. It's mysterious. It's mystical. It is our cinematic Super Bowl. The articles are already coming fast and furious including a new one in today's New York Times about rumors of what "special" things one might see if you glue yourself to the big screen (or a little one) and watch the Oscars this year.

It is one of the reasons Mary McNamara wrote Oscar Season but let's let her explain:

It’s that time of year again, when the folks who cover Hollywood begin to speculate on what the producers of this year’s Oscars will do to improve ratings when, once again, the Academy has nominated a bunch of films most Americans have not seen. (My theory? Academy members are still so chapped from when they had to hand Peter Jackson and Co. the whole party platter, they decided that if a movie has made money, it doesn’t deserve a statue.)

Today Michael Cieply reports on the standard vague rumors of change that rise from the Kodak every year (though no one seems to question why, amidst all this alleged change, Oscar-writer-for-life Bruce Vilanch is still around.)
This year, newbie producers Bill Condon and Laurence Mark have already shaken things up by announcing a non-comedian, non-American (Hugh Jackman) as host and if Vilanch is to be believed, that’s just the beginning! I feel for these guys, I really do. It’s not enough that they have to put on a three-hour live television show shot in front of a highly auspicious and uncomfortably clad audience, they have to somehow make it appeal to large numbers of people who wouldn’t know a Benjamin Button from a Slumdog.

This dilemma is precisely the seed from which “Oscar Season” sprung. After a year or two of writing similar stories, I started to get a little punchy. If producers really wanted people to watch, I though to myself, they’d have the nominees eat spiders on stage or put an obstacle course on the red carpet. They’d tape the nominees diet and work out regimens like on “The Biggest Loser” and air that instead of all those boring montages. They’d let Harvey Weinstein just arm wrestle all the other producers. In the nude.

Or if they really wanted good ratings, they’d take a look at “CSI” and “Law and Order” and just stage a high-profile murder or two. That would certainly get the town talking and the viewers tuning in.

But Team Jackman and Vilanch is, of course, another way to go.
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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Do You Always Win With Your Oscar Party Picks?

Only one thing is better than watching the Oscars and that is having an Oscar Party and comparing your picks in the Oscar Party Pool!

Well, the Los Angeles Times television critic and longtime Oscar and entertainment reporter Mary McNamara has just sent us her picks (and they are pretty good we must say) but can she beat your nearly perfect record?

Post your picks before Oscar Night in the comments below (just the categories Mary has picked) and if you beat her, we will send the first three victors a copy of Mary's bestselling behind-the-scenes novel OSCAR SEASON.

Here are Mary's Picks:

Will win:

Best Picture: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Despite tepid box office and love it or hate it reviews, “Button” has too good a pedigree—F. Scott FitzGerald! Brad Pitt! Really great CG enhancement!—to ignore. And the whole nursing home milieu will no doubt appeal to the rapidly graying Academy.

Best Director: Danny Boyle, “Slumdog Millionaire.” If they can’t bring themselves to give the U.K./India/U.S. hybrid Best Picture, they can reward the director of the year’s most intriguing and beguiling film.

Best Actress: Kate Winslet, “The Reader.” In these times of uncertainty, some group has to prove the existence of God, and she’s deserved it for so long.

Best Actor: Mickey Rourke is The Wrestler and is the feel good favorite.

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, “Doubt.” She’s a brand-newcomer, she held her own with La Streep and she let her nose run on camera. What more do you need to know?

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight.” No brainer. Brilliant performance by a brilliant actor whose untimely death the audience can acknowledge with a tearful standing ovation.

Should win:

Best Picture: “Slumdog Millionaire.” As global an effort an effort you’re going to see in Hollywood, it’s funny, tragic, touching and political. An epic for the Obama era.

Best Director: Danny Boyle, for same reason.

Best Actress: Kate Winslet, “The Reader.” In terms of actual performance, she and Meryl Streep are a draw but Winslet deserves the win and it takes more guts to play an unrepentant Nazi than icy New England nun, even with the bonnet.

Best Actor: Sean Penn, “Milk.” By turns sweet and steely, arrogant and adorable—who knew Bad Boy Penn had that in him?

Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” It was a silly movie but she was simply delicious in it. Sphere: Related Content

Your 2009 Oscar Primer

Well the pretty super Super Bowl is over and it is time to get down the really big show: The 2009 Academy Awards. This year is especially interesting for its new host, interesting films, great stars and wide-open races.

Haven't seen all the movies yet? Click these links from Mary McNamara's articles in the Los Angeles Times on the run-up to the Oscars. Mary, television critic for the Los Angeles Times, will be writing a Wednesday column (Oscar Confidential) in the terrific Envelope section of the Times.

Mary is a longtime Oscar reporter and knows the non-fiction and the fiction of the Oscars (see Mary's Oscar Season: A Novel now in paperback!).
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Oscar Season Now In Trade Paperback $14.00

The classic mystery novel and today’s paparazzi coincide in this engaging, insider’s look at Hollywood in the weeks leading up to the Academy Awards.

She is one of the very few reporters allowed to witness pre-telecast rehearsals and for years has covered Oscar night from the celebrity side of the red carpet and backstage during the show.

A recent recipient of an L.A. Press Club and American Association of Features Editors Awards for her industry coverage, she has interviewed innumerable stars and directors, and used her experience to craft this deliciously entertaining whodunit.

Wide audience: This novel will fascinate the many readers captivated by Hollywood and the celebrity lifestyle, while also appealing to mystery devotees and fans of smart, entertaining women’s fiction. It’s equal parts Jackie Collins, Michael Tolkin, and Sue Grafton.