December 12, 2013 at 3:38 PM
I am firmly of the opinion that movies, like life, are better with cats in them (and suspect that my own cat, Miranda, would echo that sentiment, if she felt like it). “Inside Llewyn Davis,” the new Coen brothers’ movie (opening in Seattle next Friday, the 20th), features a crucial performance by a remarkably calm orange tabby — but, before there’s any awards talk i.e. Uggie in “The Artist,” it should be noted that it’s actually several cats. Originally, says the movie’s cat trainer Dawn Barkan (whose credits include teaching “Mr. Jinx” to use the toilet in “Meet the Parents”) in an interview with Vulture, five rescue cats were cast — two were fired before the cameras rolled due to “temperament issues.” Here’s how the remaining three were used in the film:
Tigger, a female, was the “holding” cat, the one Llewyn Davis carries around everywhere. Jerry was the “action” cat because he proved adept at “patterning” — a series of behaviors rewarded with a treat, like chicken. And Daryl was “the laid-back dude who could be put in hairier situations,” says Barkan. So that’s Jerry in the more sedate subway scenes, and Daryl whenever the subway stations and cars are overcrowded or too thunderous. At one point, Barkan says, even the usually chill Daryl got spooked by the noise and jostling, and clipped Isaac in the face.
Sounds smooth, except for the clipping part, right? (You can read the whole interview here, but beware; it contains a minor spoiler regarding the cat’s name.) Not according to the Coens, in a separate interview:
“You always blithely write [stuff] in and then find out that it’s a pain in the ass to do it,” groaned Joel. “In Inside Llewyn Davis, we very blithely wrote that there was a cat in all of these different scenes. And then we got on the set and had to do it, and you know, cats are a pain in the ass. They’re just an unvarnished pain in the ass, that’s all there is. There’s nothing fun about it.”
And though the Llewyn Davis cat ends up being a scene stealer, the Coens were quick to point out that there’s not a single Uggie-like superstar feline responsible. “You have lots of different cats on set,” said Joel. “‘Oh, that one won’t do the scene? Try this other one, see if he’ll do it.’ And you just sit there until he does it, or until you say, ‘ . . . he ain’t gonna do it,’ and come up with something else.”
December 12, 2013 at 11:01 AM
(A quick note: Everyone I look online, critics seem to be posting their 10 Best of the Year lists. According to my calendar, the year’s not quite over yet — and I’ve still got a few more films to watch — so mine won’t be turning up until the last Sunday of the year. I’ll be interested in hearing about yours as well — once 2013 is truly over.)
Nominations aplenty this week, most notably from the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globes — and let’s give a quick shout-out to Northwest native and Whidbey Island resident Bob Nelson, nominated for a Golden Globe for his wonderful screenplay for “Nebraska.” On to the Oscars, Bob! But let’s talk about the acting nominations here. In terms of Oscar buzz (and that’s the only reason we care about these, right?), the SAGs mean a great deal and the Globes absolutely nothing: the Screen Actors Guild membership has much overlap with the Academy’s acting branch, while the Globe voters have none whatsoever. Also, the Globe membership has demonstrated a tendency to nominate people they’d like to have at their party, and the Globes have goofy categories that don’t match the Oscars . . . anyway, the Globes are a joke, but a pretty fun joke and I always love to watch them, particularly now with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler settled in as hosts. But let’s take a look at the four acting categories . . .
Best Actor in a Leading Role
SAG: Bruce Dern (“Nebraska”), Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave”), Tom Hanks (“Captain Phillips), Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club”), Forest Whitaker (“The Butler”)
GG: Drama: Ejiofor, McConaughey, Hanks, Robert Redford (“All Is Lost”), Idris Elba (“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”)
GG: Comedy/musical: Dern, Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Wolf of Wall Street”), Christian Bale (“American Hustle), Oscar Isaac (“Inside Llewyn Davis”), Joaquin Phoenix (“Her”).
The Globes, by adding a second category, squeeze quite a few more performances in; nice to see some recognition for Joaquin Phoenix’s great work in “Her.” For Oscar, though, I’m thinking Dern, Ejiofor, Hanks, McConaughey, and Redford.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
SAG: Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”), Sandra Bullock (“Gravity”), Judi Dench (“Philomena”), Meryl Streep (“August: Osage County”), Emma Thompson (“Saving Mr. Banks”).
GG: Drama: Blanchett, Bullock, Dench, Thompson, Kate Winslet (“Labor Day”)
Comedy/musical: Streep, Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Enough Said”), Amy Adams (“American Hustle”), Julie Delpy (“Before Midnight”), Greta Gerwig (“Frances Ha”)
Though I’d love to see Louis-Dreyfus get more recognition for her big-screen breakthrough, the writing looks to be on the wall for Oscar night: Blanchett, Bullock, Dench, Streep, Thompson. (The winner? I’d guess Blanchett, but don’t discount a strong sentimental vote for Dench, who’s never won this category.)
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
SAG: Barkhad Abdi (“Captain Phillips”), Daniel Bruhl (“Rush”), Michael Fassbender (“12 Years a Slave”), James Gandolfini (“Enough Said”), Jared Leto (“Dallas Buyers Club”)
GG: Abdi, Bruhl, Fassbender, Leto, Bradley Cooper (“American Hustle”)
Will the Academy be able to resist a posthumous nomination for Gandolfini (although, really, it’s a co-lead role)? Will George Clooney sneak in for “Gravity,” or Tom Hanks for “Saving Mr. Banks,” or — oh, let’s have some fun here — Jake Gyllenhaal in “Prisoners”? Will Forte in “Nebraska”? The cat in “Inside Llewyn Davis”? (I think it’s a male.)
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
SAG: Jennifer Lawrence (“American Hustle”), Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”), Julia Roberts (“August: Osage COunty”), June Squibb (“Nebraska”), Oprah Winfrey (“The Butler”).
GG: Lawrence, Nyong’o, Roberts, Squibb, Sally Hawkins (“Blue Jasmine”)
Roberts’ role is arguably bigger than Streep’s in “August: Osage County,” but I suppose that’s not relevant; she’s certainly very strong in it. These two lists are quite close with Lawrence, Roberts and Nyong’o almost certain to turn up on Oscar’s roster; I’d add Julianne Moore in “What Maisie Knew,” Octavia Spencer in “Fruitvale Station,” and — oh, I’m dreaming here — Helena Bonham Carter in “Great Expectations.”
December 6, 2013 at 10:53 AM
Now, you don’t think a blog called “Popcorn & Prejudice” would ignore this one, do you? “Death Comes to Pemberley,” a BBC miniseries based on P.D. James’s mystery novel (set six years after the events of “Pride and Prejudice,” and involving a mysterious murder), will air in the U.K. during the week after Christmas, and stateside on PBS Masterpiece sometime in 2014. The cast features Matthew Rhys (seen on American TV in “Brothers and Sisters”) as Mr. Darcy, Anna Maxwell Martin (currently seen in “Philomena” as Judi Dench’s daughter, and also part of the cast of the excellent BBC “Bleak House”) as Elizabeth, and Mathew Goode (“Match Point,” “Brideshead Revisited” as George Wickham. Looks like good fun.
And with that, I’m taking a couple of days off. Enjoy these chilly days (and some good yearend movies), and I’ll be back Thursday.
December 5, 2013 at 12:31 PM
I’m seeing an awful lot of . . . well, it’s best characterized as horrified anticipation online today about “The Sound of Music Live!,” an event so super-exciting it apparently needs an exclamation point, airing tonight at 8pm on NBC. (By the way, no matter what that title says, it won’t be live on our coast.) I won’t be watching, because a) I don’t care that this is a live stage show of the stage version of “The Sound of Music” blah blah blah; I still don’t want anyone other than Julie Andrews to ever sing “The Lonely Goatherd,” thanks very much, and b) um, I have to be somewhere else tonight, otherwise I’d probably sneak a peek or two, despite point a). Anyway, this event is being produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, whose numerous credits include being executive producers of “Smash,” which gives me hope that at some point in this three-hour event, Anjelica Huston will show up and throw a drink in someone’s face. Maybe Rolf’s. Anybody planning on watching tonight?
Update: OK, I confess I just watched this video of the great Audra McDonald, who I like to think of as Cousin Audra (no, not really), being forced to sing “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” on some outdoor stage on a very cold night. She looks like she’s freezing, but I will say that she, not surprisingly, really sings the hell out of that song, including those final notes that defeated Peggy Wood in the movie. (” . . . Till you find YOOOOUUUURRRR DREEEEAAAAAMMMM!”) So, OK, maybe that’s a reason to watch tonight.
December 5, 2013 at 10:28 AM
It’s that time in the calendar when a lot of us start thinking about our favorite movies of the year. (Me, I just yesterday went through my comprehensive list of everything I’ve seen this year and marked my very favorites with a star. 19 movies got stars, so my top ten list will require a little work . . .) David Ehrlich, of Film.com, has taken a creative approach and made this quite lovely montage of his 25 favorite movies of the year (plus some extras, in the prologue); whether or not you agree with his choices, it’s well worth a look.
December 4, 2013 at 10:22 AM
Interesting little behind-the-scenes piece today on “Gravity,” one of my favorite films this fall. Visual effects supervisor Tim Webber discusses how, after rejecting the idea of having the actors on wires against a green screen, his team created a “light box” — a giant cube made up of lighting panels that made it appear as if light was moving around the actors.
“It’s like a giant TV on the inside of the box,” Mr. Webber said. “So that gave the actors a sense of the environment around them.” If the scene involved Earth as the source of light, the actors would see a representation of the Earth inside the box.
Check out the pictures here.
December 3, 2013 at 2:37 PM
Narrowing down the finalists in the Best Documentary category, as with several other Oscar categories, is a two-step process: first a short list of 15 is announced, then narrowed down to five at the time of the nominations announcement on January 16. Today the Academy announced that list; here are the titles, along with notes on when/where you can see these movies:
“The Act of Killing” (in theaters last summer; DVD out January 7)
“The Armstrong Lie” (now playing at Sundance Cinemas)
“Blackfish” (currently available on DVD/streaming media)
“The Crash Reel” (opening in theaters this month; no Seattle date set yet)
“Cutie and the Boxer” (in theaters last summer; currently available on Amazon Instant Video)
“Dirty Wars” (currently available on DVD/streaming media)
“First Cousin Once Removed” (available on HBO GO)
“God Loves Uganda” (in theaters last month)
“Life According to Sam” (available at HBO On Demand)
“Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer” (available on HBO GO)
“The Square” (coming Jan. 17 to Sundance Cinemas)
“Stories We Tell” (in theaters last summer, now on DVD/streaming)
“Tim’s Vermeer” (coming to Seattle March 7)
“20 Feet from Stardom” (in theaters last summer; DVD coming January 14)
“Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington” (screening on HBO December 9, also available on HBO GO)
And now, a moment of silence for some of my favorite documentaries this year that didn’t make the cut: “56 Up,” “At Berkeley,” “Good Ol’ Freda,” “A Place at the Table,” “The Waiting Room,” “Deceptive Practices: Ricky Jay.” Any favorites you’d like to name? Of the six finalists I’ve seen (“The Armstrong Lie,” “Blackfish,” “Cutie and the Boxer,” “Stories We Tell,” “Tim’s Vermeer,” and “20 Feet from Stardom”), my vote would have to go to “Stories We Tell”; check it out, and see if you agree with me.
December 3, 2013 at 9:05 AM
The movie-awards season has officially begun, with the IFP Gotham Awards announced last night and the New York Film Critics Circle voting today, announcing their winners as they choose them. (Why not just wait and send out one press release with the entire list? Well . . . you got me.) Most of the NYFCC awards are still to be announced, but one film has already turned up on both lists: Ryan Coogler’s “Fruitvale Station,” named best first film by the NYFCC and best breakthrough director (Coogler) and breakthrough actor (Michael B. Jordan) by the Gothams. None of this means much, particularly as in the next few weeks we’re about to be deluged by countless movie awards, but I wanted to draw a little attention to this because “Fruitvale Station” is a wonderful movie, and the kind that often gets forgotten by year’s end. The based-on-fact story about the last day of a young Bay Area man before he is killed by a transit official, “Fruitvale Station” was briefly in theaters last summer, and impressed me for the honesty of its acting (particularly Jordan and Octavia Spencer) and the confidence of the directing — you would never have guessed that Coogler had never made a feature before. A haunting film, and one which I remember well many months after seeing it — and that’s not true for most of the movies I see. Glad it’s being recognized. If you missed it in theaters and are intrigued, it’ll be out on DVD etc. next month.
December 2, 2013 at 10:12 AM
I’m sure everyone’s heard by now about the tragic death of actor Paul Walker this weekend in a fiery car crash in Santa Clarita County, California. (Details are still emerging, but it appears that Walker was a passenger in the 2005 Porsche Carrera, after attending a charity event.) Walker, who was 40, was on a break from shooting “Fast & Furious 7,” the latest entry in the franchise that made him a worldwide star. He leaves behind a teenage daughter and, based on the outpouring of emotion online since his death, many grieving friends.
The handsome Walker, a California native, had been working in movies and television since his teens, but first was noticed by movie audiences in the late 1990s, in a trio of films: “Pleasantville,” “She’s All That,” and “Varsity Blues.” Back in 1999, I interviewed Walker when he came to Seattle to promote “She’s All That,” a forgettable teen comedy in which Walker was charming in a supporting role. I remember his blue eyes and good looks — but more importantly, I remember how incredibly nice he was to an interviewer who was very new to her job and still figuring it out. There wasn’t a trace of movie-star attitude; quite the opposite, as I remember him writing down and giving me his personal email address. (I’d mentioned some article — I don’t remember what — and he asked if I would mind forwarding it to him.) It’s been many years and many, many actor interviews later; and I don’t think anybody else has ever given me their email address. Just a tiny anecdote, but perhaps a telling one. A good guy, gone too soon.
November 27, 2013 at 1:25 PM
As Thanksgiving weekend approaches (my turkey’s sitting in the fridge getting a dry brine, right this minute; curious if it will work), it’s become a P&P tradition to devote one post to things I’m thankful for — not family and friends (though they would of course top the list), but those within the movie realm. So, a big thank- you-for-existing to . . .
– Cinerama, which I visited just this week (caught “Catching Fire” there with my teenage niece), and whose big screen remains matchless. (The popcorn isn’t bad either.) And that means thanking owner Paul Allen, who in an age of disappearing single-screen cinemas has turned Cinerama into a gem.
– David McRae, about to celebrate his first year as operator of the Ark Lodge Cinemas; and every locally owned, independently run cinema in the area.
– All cinemas, independent or otherwise, that serve Coke products over Pepsi. (Yes, this list is highly personal; your mileage may vary.) And that don’t let the popcorn sit around too long.
– Parents who take their kids to the movies and teach them that seeing a movie on an enormous screen alongside other people requires good behavior — and is absolutely worth the extra trouble, because it’s way more fun than watching a movie on an iPad.
– Moviegoers who turn their cellphones off and let themselves get lost in what’s happening on screen (which is, if you let it, way more fun than texting).
– Cate Blanchett, because I have no idea how she does what she does, but it dazzles me every time. Particularly “Blue Jasmine.”
– Robert Redford, for reminding us this year that he’s a great actor — with almost no words (“All Is Lost”).
– Nicole Holofcener, for making yet another perfect romantic comedy for grown-ups (“Enough Said”). Wouldn’t anybody else like to join her?
– Lupita Nyong’o, Oscar Isaac, Amy Aker, Veerle Baetens, Barkhad Abdi, Liam James, Onata Aprile, Dane DeHaan, and many more — for transforming from name-I-didn’t-recognize to star-I’ll-watch-for, in one mesmerizing performance this year. (Don’t recognize the names? Look them up; check out their movies — all are worth the trouble.)
– All those documentary filmmakers who know they’ll never get rich or famous, but just want to tell a good story. Among my favorites this year: “Stories We Tell,” “56 Up,” “At Berkeley,”"The Waiting Room,” “20 Feet From Stardom.”
- Alfonso Cuaron, for showing that it’s possible to make a gazillion dollars (well, OK, nearly $250 million and counting) with a non-sequel, non-superhero, non-silly adventure. Bravo, “Gravity.”
– Helena Bonham Carter, because she was born to play Miss Havisham, and finally did (in “Great Expectations”; briefly in theaters earlier this month).
– Every dress in “The Great Gatsby.” In my dreams, a trunkful of them arrives at my door, from a Mysterious Admirer.
– Alexander Payne, because his movies always make me laugh and make me cry. “Nebraska” did both.
– Emma Thompson, just because.
– Everyone who reads P&P, especially those who comment or email, or those who just read quietly. (That’s everyone, right?) May your Thanksgiving tables be bountiful, and may your moviegoing experiences this holiday season be filled with joy, laughter, and fabulous popcorn (if that’s your thing). See you next week!