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Oscar and Me

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“Mom, I’m on the red carpet at the Oscars!” whispered a man behind me
excitedly into his mobile and I knew I wasn’t the only one overwhelmed
to be at the most glamorous event in the world.

I boldly pulled out my camera and quickly snapped a shot of the gigantic
Oscar beside me. It’s not cool but who cares, no-one can be cool at the
starriest party on earth.

I’ve attended a few major movie events now but the Oscars carpet has a
magic of its own.

The BAFTAs may have come a long way in the glamour stakes in recent
years. And Cannes, despite passé sequins and visible bra straps, may have the
beaches and sunshine but nothing can top Hollywood’s biggest night of
the year.

Yes, we’re talking The Academy Awards. That’s Oscar to you and me. It’s
the glitziest party of the year.

But first problem? How do you ever get an invite without a nomination or
a blood tie to Mr Spielberg?

It was a question that plagued me often as I sat at home in front of the
television each year watching the parade of gorgeous gowns and tear
sodden acceptance speeches.

What would it be like, I dreamed, to be in the midst of all that
glamour, all that glitz, all that silicone…?

Then lady-luck brought me a friend who had ‘connections.’ A few pleading
calls suggesting he sell his first born to get me a pass and hey presto!
Quicker than you can say ‘blackmail’ ‘threat’ or ‘I’ve got the
photographs’, I had it.

One minute I was in cold, grey London, the next I was strolling up the
red carpet alongside the good the great and the beautiful seeing first
hand why they call this business ‘show’.

The Oscars is the one night of the year when every actor looks every
inch a movie star.

It all starts in the middle of the afternoon but has the feel of a dream
throughout. You see more superstars than you can shake a designer clutch
bag at.

Heck, you can’t move for tripping over a megastar.

Virtually everyone you’ve ever seen up on the silver screen in your life
flashes before your eyes as you make your way up the carpet.

Quite honestly, where is a girl to look

If you turn to the left and see Julia, you’ll miss Mr Hanks who is
passing on your right and you almost certainly won’t be able to swear
that it was indeed George who brushed past you and not just one of his
minders. There’s Reese over there, Harrison over here, Di Caprio’s head
just visible beyond the cameras and oh my God, Clint Eastwood coming
right at you!

The first bit of unreality hits even before you enter the carpet area.
The row of impossibly long limousines starts somewhere near the border
with Mexico. Then you get into a queue of your own for the security
checks and who knows who might be having their bag prodded right next to
you.

I felt someone stepping on the hem of my dress. I turned round and there
was Catherine Zeta Jones, looking very elegant, very Ava Gardener and
unfortunately very overdone.

Sorry Cathy but you really don’t need all that stage slap, you’re
beautiful enough without it. I was tempted to remind the poor girl of
the first rule of makeup – blend, blend and BLEND! But I settled for a
timid “excuse me, you’re standing on my dress.”

Catherine, is healthy looking but most of the actresses, though much
prettier in the flesh than on screen, are frighteningly skinny and
surprisingly tiny. Although practically obese as a British size 8, being
petite is probably another reason why security didnt escort me off as an
imposter. They probably just assumed I was the wife/ girlfriend of a
powerful movie executive – who (gasp) still eats.

The women are all beautiful but there is a real dearth of good-looking
men. Ben Affleck is handsome but he has zero charisma and so his fine
chiselled looks quickly become bland.

Any men out there who are halfway decent looking and heterosexual,
should, I suggest, make a beeline for Hollywood on a night like this. I
guarantee you’d be mobbed!

There’s no doubt there is a way of working the red carpet and you either
have it or you don’t.

As I watched the stars doing the rounds of interviews with the scores of
journalists from around the world I began to understand why some make it
big and others don’t despite greater talent or better looks. The
superstars have an almost visible aura around them that cannot be
diminished by a bad outfit or a flop film.

After the red carpet, the awards are something of a chore, unless you
win one. The show goes on for longer than Lord of the Rings, parts 1,2
and 3 with maybe two instalments of the The Hobbit thrown in for good
measure.

After the awards come the parties. Dozens are held across the city.
Everyone in Hollywood is either ‘in the business,’ or desperately trying
to get into it. So, even a get together of some friends with a few
packets of potato chips turns into ‘an Oscar party.’

The big ones of course are the ones the biggest stars attend. Unless
you’re carrying an Oscar or on the arm of someone who is, it’s pretty
impossible to get into one of these. Security is tighter than a gnat’s
you what. Rottweilers masquerading as PR girls are on the desks where
you have to ‘register’ and provide practically your entire life history
in order to get in for a quick canapé and a gawp at Penelope Cruz.

My friend and I managed to get into a few, including Elton John’s bash
(dull guests and sticky beer all over the floor – we left after 10
minutes).

It was more entertaining to go outside and watch some very big
celebrities being refused entry to the Vanity Fair party because they
could not convince the PR dragons at the door that they really were who
they claimed to be!

By this stage the night gets even more star studded, so much so that you
find yourself getting blasé. Television stars, supermodels? Pah! Who
cares. Where are the bona fide movie stars?
And boy do they come at you from all angles as they skip from the
Governor’s ball to the Vanity Fair bash to the triumphant studio
celebrations.

This is the best part of the night. You can either strike it lucky and
meet a chatty A lister or end up with the desperate, stick thin, cookie
cutter blonde ‘actress’ who tells you with a huge smile that people
can’t believe she’s done so much and is still only 26. I mostly couldn’t
believe it either. I would have bet my life savings that said 26 year
old was at least 47.
Largely though, I struck lucky. I ended up sharing travel tips with
Annette Bening and Warren Beatty and chatting about foot and mouth
disease with Dustin Hoffman ( it’s a long story)!

By 5am though it’s best to call it a day and head home as it becomes
clear that many of your new best friends have been indulging in illegal
substances. The conversations get more and more bizarre and some people
have difficulty standing up straight and focusing.

And, well, it’s best to leave before you start naming names!
All in all the Oscars live is the most surreal experience, I’ve had.
Ironically it seems much more real on television!

Awards News

Black Panther Aiming For Best Picture, Not Best Popular, According To Chadwick Boseman

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It’s Hollywood’s worst-kept secret; Marvel Studios’ chief Kevin Feige wants an Oscar. And not just a technical Oscar either. Following in the footsteps of Walt Disney, Feige’s ultimate goal is for one of his movies to win Best Picture. With Black Panther being a cultural juggernaut, the producer-extraordinaire sees it as his best chance yet and has reportedly hired veteran award strategist Cynthia Schwartz’s company – Strategy PR – to push for the nomination.

However, The Academy themselves threw a spanner in the works last month, when they announced the introduction of a brand new category at next year’s awards ceremony: Best Achievement in Popular Film. With Black Panther presently the highest-grossing film of the year domestically, and the second-highest internationally, it’s the clear favourite to win in the new category (at least, to the best of everyone’s knowledge – The Academy have, frustratingly, refused to define the new award). However according to King T’Challa himself, Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman, that’s not the goal.

“We don’t know what [Best Popular] is, so I don’t know whether to be happy about it or not,” Boseman told The Hollywood Reporter, “What I can say is that there’s no campaign for Popular Film; like, if there’s a campaign, it’s for Best Picture, and that’s all there is to it.”

“A good movie is a good movie,” the Get On Up star continued, “and clearly it doesn’t matter how much money a movie makes in order for it to be ‘a good movie’ because if [it did], the movies that get nominated and win [predominantly low-grossing, highly-praised art-house fare] wouldn’t get nominated; and if it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter on both sides. For my money, the only thing that matters is the level of difficulty.”

“What we did was very difficult. We created a world, we created a culture … we had to create a religion, a spirituality, a politics; we had to create an accent; we had to pull from different cultures to create clothing styles and hair styles. It’s very much like a period piece. … So, as far as that’s concerned, I dare any movie to try to compare to the difficulty of this one. And the fact that so many people liked it — if you just say it’s [only] popular, that’s elitist.”

Chadwick has a point – the gross of a film has never, and should not, affect a film’s chances at winning Best Picture. However, whilst The Academy has made clear that a film can be nominated for both Best Film and Best Popular (frustrating many members who have then rightfully asked what the point is), they have somewhat written themselves into a corner when it comes to Black Panther. See, through a very specific sequence of events, The Academy have manufactured a situation where the most likely events to play out on the night will be Damien Chazelle’s buzzy First Man, a movie with an all-white cast and crew, winning Best Picture… whilst the all-black cast and crew of Black Panther accept the new ‘separate but equal’ award for Best Achievement in Popular Film. Yikes.

Black Panther is available on Digital, DVD, Blu-Ray and 4K now, and is rated 12A.

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Awards News

Danny DeVito To Receive Lifetime Achievement Award At The San Sebastian Film Festival

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Batman Returns star Danny DeVito is set to receive the coveted Donostia Award, honouring him for his career achievements, at the sixty-sixth annual San Sebastian Film Festival this September.

“The award recognizes a career of almost five decades related to acting in theatre, film and television, telling stories as an actor, producer and director,” the Spanish festival’s organisers said in a statement, “The Golden Globe and Emmy Award winner is known for his roles in television series Taxi and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and movies such as One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Terms of Endearment, Romancing The Stone, Twins, Ruthless People, and Tin Men.”

“He has also directed – and starred in – hugely emblematic films, including The War of the Roses (1989), Hoffa (1992), Death to Smoochy (2002), Throw Momma From the Train (1987), Curmudgeons (2016), Duplex (2003), The Ratings Game (1984), and The World’s Greatest Lover (1977).”

The San Sebastian Film Festival will run from the 21st to the 29th of September. Danny DeVito can next be heard in animated children’s flick Smallfoot, which will premiere on the 23rd at the Festival.

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Oscars 2018

THE BURDEN OF OSCAR: POLITICS AND FILM.

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2017 was not overly kind to Hollywood. A drop in cinema audiences. Dismal summer box office. Increasing competition from the rise of Netflix and compelling television shows. Decreasing ratings for movie awards shows. Justice League.
And please, nobody even mention Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey.

In short it all went a bit Pete Tong for La La Land last year.
In fact the La La Land /Moonlight mix up at the Oscars in February now seems a rare bright spot in the 2017 tinsel town calendar. Reading out the wrong best picture winner? Light relief! Oh, how we can laugh now at a ‘wrong envelope mishap’ in the wake of #metoo and #sheknew

So, where and when did the rot start?
I’d suggest November 2016. On 8th November to be precise. Hollywood was tux and gown ready to celebrate the presidential victory of the woman whose campaign many A listers had funded to the tune of millions. However, 60 million Americans had a different plan. Enter the Donald!
The rest is outrage history.

Hollywood has since used Twitter, late night chat shows the press and most of all, awards shows to bash Trump……….and by association the 60 million who voted for him. 60 million potential movie fans.

Some love the political content of awards shows. Some are infuriated by it. But for many the politics has just got old really quickly. All they want from their movie and tv stars is entertainment. Yet the one industry that has the power to bring polarised communities together isn’t managing it. Nor does the entertainment media help.

The dumbest question on the movie red carpet in 2017 was one that was repeated the most, earnestly each time as if it was something unbelievably profound: what do you think will Trump voters make of your film?
Alexander Payne when asked it at the Venice film festival was one of the few who refused to be baited. He said he hoped that he made films for everybody. Unfortunately for him, his film Downsizing didn’t exactly please everybody but at least he recognised that his role is as a filmmaker not political campaigner. Similarly, while other stars have lost fans due to their relentless political tirades, Frances McDormand has been gaining them by being funny, entertaining and making it clear that her politics are her private business. But Payne and McDormand are rare. Too many stars and filmmakers take the media bait or can’t resist lecturing the world on the cause du jour when it isn’t the time and place to do so.

That is the issue. There is a time and place to make earnest speeches, to berate, to demand change, to highlight injustice. The Oscars podium isn’t it.

I’ve been lucky enough to go to the Oscars. It was a terrific experience. It was everything I’d imagined the Oscars to be; glamorous, fun, starry and an escape from the norm. The dresses were colourful and gorgeous. The jokes were funny. Everyone was out to party!
Was it frivolous, unreal and superficial. Yep. And it was all the more wonderful for that because I’d come to the event from conducting a 15 day case in the High court about a paedophile ring. So I know about the real world, thank you. And so do the millions who watch the Oscars on television around the world. The Oscars is their escape from the real world, as it was mine.

Yes, the Oscars has always been political to a degree; Marlon Brando sending a Native American woman to collect his Oscar for The Godfather, Michael Moore leading the charge against President Bush and the Iraq war, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon highlighting Haiti and many more issues. But those were moments in a lengthy ceremony. The rest of the show remained light and fun. The atmosphere overall wasn’t somber, even funereal. In the last 3-4 years the politics has completely overshadowed the films and the film stars.

The Oscars now seems to be first about race, sexuality, political affiliation, hashtag movements with the actual work second.

The #oscarssowhite in 2016 campaign was the first year that I can remember when a cause dominated the coverage, pushing the films and actors in contention for the awards out of the limelight. But it has continued. Last year the subject was President Trump. This year it’s #metoo and #TimesUp.
Around Oscar time I get asked 3 main questions: which of the nominated films do I recommend? Who do I think will win? Who had the best dress?

The first suggests that being nominated/winning really does help a film’s box office. And since the Oscars is essentially an industry event at which the film business shows off its wares, that’s a good thing. The second shows that humans are a competitive lot at heart. It’s why we love sport. No one truly likes ‘participation prizes’. We want there to be a ‘best’ so we can endlessly argue about it for evermore afterwards.
And yes, the third question is every bit as legitimate as the first two. Hollywood is the epitome of glamour. Fashion is big business that employs many people. The Oscars brings the two together on a world stage. And yes, women get asked about their dresses because it’s what many people tune in to see. The men’s tuxedos are the same each year. They aren’t the draw.
Funnily, the questions that don’t crop up are ‘what does Chris Hemsworth think about Brexit’ or ‘ What are Rebel Wilson’s views on the fiscal crisis’.
Maybe, just maybe, people don’t really care.

As I write this, some media outlets are reporting that Jennifer Lawrence and Jodie Foster will present the best actress award this year instead of Casey Affleck. He withdrew recently from the tradition of the previous best actor winner presenting the new best actress winner with her gong, most likely, because he didn’t want or need the media coverage that would have dogged him in respect of allegations of sexual misconduct which were subject to an agreement between him and two women. None of the trio are legally allowed to speak publicly about the agreement. No one outside their respective close circles and legal advisers knows what the terms of the agreement were. Affleck could have agreed terms because he’s guilty as hell and didn’t want a court trial to prove it. The women could have been lying through their teeth and didn’t want a court trial to prove it.

Or, you know, the truth could lie somewhere in the middle. As it often does. Point is, we will never know.

That, of course didn’t stop hysterical speculation last year on social media of what Casey Affleck was ‘definitely, absolutely, 100% guilty of” – because – wait for it- he always plays creepy guys on screen! And it wouldn’t have stopped it this year, specially in the wake of #metoo. So Affleck stepped aside.

If it’s true that Lawrence and Foster will replace him, has the Academy really thought it through? What’s the message here:

That it takes two women to replace one man?

That there are no men left in Hollywood who can even safely present a woman with an award?

That only women can present an award to a woman because gender segregation is where we’re at in 2018??!!

See, this is what happens when you add politics to the mix. You may think you’re doing something right but it can come out all wrong.

On Oscar night on Sunday, armed police and security guards will protect stars who will go on stage and speak passionately against guns. Actresses who cheered and gave standing ovations to convicted child rapist Roman Polanski will now speak passionately against sexual predators. The list is endless of hypocrisies Hollywood can be called out for, so the wise thing to do might be to leave politics outside the door and, you know, entertain on the biggest night of the glamour industry.

However, I’m not betting on it.

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