It was Johnny Depp time on the Lido today. Hordes of screaming fans descended to watch the veteran (I guess we should call him that now he’s in his 50s) star walk the red carpet for Black Mass, a gangster film touted as his return to form following a long barren run. It wasn’t just the chance to see whether he can revive a career long in the doldrums, at least in terms of decent films. The comb-over he wears for his role as Boston kingpin James ‘Whitey’ Bulger has drawn much comment. Alas, he chose not to arrive in character, instead looking disappointingly like the heartthrob he is.
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Ok, so the title in this first diary entry from the 72nd Venice Film Festival, the oldest surviving of its kind, is slightly misleading. As I didn’t arrive on the Lido until day 2, you’ll find no update on opening day shenanigans. I can tell you that disaster epic Everest provided the initial glamour, and that Jake Gyllenhaal looked rather fetching in a dishevelled way, staring down from the massive billboards littering the area surrounding the Sala Grande, Venice’s main screen. From early reports, it doesn’t sound like I missed too much either. A serviceable, if hardly spectacular opener, it seems unlikely to follow in the footsteps of recent years which saw the likes of Black Swan, Gravity and Birdman get things underway.
The Artist, a black and white silent movie enveloped in old Hollywood mythos, won Best Picture (the first to do so since Wings at the original Academy ceremony back in 1929). 17 time nominee Meryl Streep pulled the upset of the evening, walking away with the Best Actress statue that many believed was destined for Viola Davis. Christopher Plummer became the oldest man ever to win the coveted award (though there are arguments over the status of Charlie Chaplin and his honorary acknowledgement) and Woody Allen, who earned his first Oscar way back in 1978, took home another (his fourth) for Midnight in Paris. If it weren’t for newcomers Octavia Spencer (Best Supporting), Michel Hazanavicius (Best Director) and Jean Dujardin (Best Actor), the 84th Annual Academy Awards would have played like a complete flashback to Tinseltown’s past - even stalwart host Billy Crystal was there to guide it all.
There were other symbols that the movie industry isn’t completely and utterly lost, however. Alexander Payne and his script collaborators Nat Faxon and Jim Rash were acknowledged for their work on The Descendants, while Gore Verbinski and his delightful cartoon satire on the spaghetti western, Rango, took home the Best Animated Feature award. Flight of the Concords’ Bret McKenzie and the Muppets bested a tune from Rio to win Best Song, while Hugo‘s creative invention walked away a five time winner. Still, after the fiasco of the last few months, with original show producer Brett Ratner resigning over some homophobic comments (and taking his buddy and original host Eddie Murphy with him) and the questions over numbers and nods (Only two tunes were nominated? Only nine films???), Oscar needed a night like this. Sure, they still look out of touch, but at least tradition wasn’t trumped…at least, not totally.
It’s that time again, folks. On Wednesday night, the year’s biggest pop culture event, Comic-Con International in San Diego, gets started for another four days of movies, TV, video games, anime, and yes, comic books. The run-up to this year’s convention has been marked by technical difficulties in selling tickets and controversy over big movie studios not bothering to attend this year.
Comic-Con’s ticket-selling snafus were mostly under the radar, unless you were one of the thousands of people attempting to buy a pass for the convention. Unless you were lucky enough to attend Comic-Con 2010 and bought a ticket for this year’s convention at that show, you were probably involved in the nightmare of Comic-Con 2011’s online ticket purchasing nightmare. The convention’s ticket-selling partner, TicketLeap, crashed repeatedly, forcing the online purchasing date to be rescheduled multiple times before finally selling out all available tickets in minutes. While Comic-Con’s attendance has been capped at approximately 125,000 people for the past several years, demand for the tickets keeps going up. To be fair, those tickets would’ve sold out quickly anyway, but the delays pushed the demand to a boiling point that left many fans feeling screwed over.
Oscar had a chance last night, and the naked gold statue blew it. Blew it big time. It had a chance to redeem itself, to stop playing final flaccid groan-inducer to an entire month of preprogrammed “excitement”. Whenever anyone questions why the Academy Awards are more or less irrelevant to the entire nu-media film process, the one salient sad fact is never mentioned: like every election, the polling (i.e., the various other award shows) and the prognosticating (even some ten-year-old swat on FOX News had an opinion on the winners) makes the actually process pointless. It’s the viewer version of voter apathy.
Would we have been reeling had something like 127 Hours had walked away with the Best Picture award? Absolutely - but it’s the reason ‘why’ that’s more important. The choice would have been fine (it’s a damn good movie), but when the tide has been rolling one way for six weeks, watching it suddenly shift consensus current in that way would be a wonder to behold. Of course, when it does happen, the results can be even more ridiculous than before—right, Saving Private Ryan?
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