She was born LaDonna Adrian Gaines in Boston, Massachusetts, but the world came to know her as Donna Summer. Summer would become a pop culture icon in the 1970s as an innovator of the then-prevalent form of dance music called disco. Summer died today after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Summer was working as a session musician and stage actress in Europe when she met producer Giorgio Moroder. In 1975, she worked with Moroder to produce the controversial ”Love to Love You Baby.” The song, which featured minutes of Summer groaning orgasmically set to music, garnered a lot of plays in discotheques across America and rose to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. This started her on the path of stardom, which led to 11 Gold albums, three triple-platinum albums, and five Grammy awards. She became one of the most popular acts of the 1970s and an icon of the Disco era.
In 1978, at the apex of her musical success, Summer co-starred in Thank God It’s Friday. The film, co-produced by the movie arm of her record label, Casablanca Records, told the story of a number of young people whose lives intersect one Friday night at their local discotheque. Summer played Nicole, and aspiring disco singer who performs at the club. While the film was a flop, the song Summer’s character sings, “Last Dance,” became one of her biggest hits.
While her career on screen as an actress was stillborn, her iconic music played an indelible part in the world of film. Her music provided a backdrop for Diane Keaton’s dangerous game of club hopping in Looking For Mr. Goodbar. When filmmakers of works such as Frost/Nixon and Roll Bounce wanted to capture the decade the films took place in, they used Summer’s music to set the stage. Her song, ”Bad Girls,” has been used in films such as Picture Perfect to help symbolize a female’s character’s turn to somewhat naughty behavior and her “She Works Hard For Her Money” has been used to help tell the story of a put upon woman in the workplace in Ugly Betty and other films and TV shows.
1. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (Sony/ Screen Gems, 2,942 Theaters, 93 Minutes, Rated R): It’s not often that you have an actor with two films hitting wide release in the same day. It’s even rarer still when it’s two films as diametrically opposed as Michaels Sheen’s two films this week. His portray of David Frost in Frost/Nixon opens in wider release this week, and he reprises his role as Lucien in this third installment of the Underworld franchise. Don’t try to take both in on the same day or your head might explode.
Yes, the franchise returns. Gone are Kate Beckinsale and her leather pantsuit (but we get fellow Brit Rhona Mitra as a replacement, if you are interested in that sort of thing). But what we get is the origin of the vampire/werewolf war which was the driving force in the film series to this point.
It appears that the vampires play were aristocrats who treated the werewolves, a.k.a. Lycans, as slaves until one day the Lycans decided to revolt. That process is on display in this film. This might be of interest to fans of the franchise, but will anybody else want to see this?
2. Inkheart (Warner Brothers (New Line), 2,655 Theaters, 106 Minutes, Rated PG): Yet another kid-friendly book being adapted for the big screen. Times have been tough for these types of movies but this film has more going for it than the other did.
First off, the adaptation was done by David Lindsay-Abaire. He is a relative screenwriting novice–Robots, this film, and a take on Spider-Man 4 are his only credits. But he’s a stunningly brilliant playwright, known for plays such as Fuddy Meers, Wonder of the World, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Rabbit Hole.
And you can’t discount a cast that features Helen Mirren, Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly. The plot revolves around a man who can make characters from novels come true. Chaos ensues when he releases some evil characters. Now, he and his family must collect the bad guys before they do any permanent damage in the real world.
Opening in wider release:
1. Frost/Nixon (Universal, 1,097 Theaters, 122 Minutes, Rated R): This excellent film hits a wider release. If it is coming to a theater near you, make sure you make an effort to go see it.
We reviewed this film, which you can read here, but let’s briefly tell you what you need to know.
Adapted from the West End and Broadway play, this film is set up more like a boxing film than a bio pic, and it absolutely excells with that structure. The acting is great from top to bottom. Sheen and Langella reprise their stage roles as the titular characters, and are given able support by Oliver Platt, Sam Rockwell, and especially Kevin Bacon.
Again, well worth your film going money, if it is opening near you.
2. Revolutionary Road (Paramount/ Vantage, 1,058 Theaters, 119 Minutes, Rated R): This film got a lot of attention being that it was the first time Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet reunited since Titanic. But anybody expecting a romantic reunion is bound to be disappointed, because, if the preview is any indication, they spend most of the movie shouting at each other.
They play a young couple with common interests and dreams of Paris who fall in love and get married. Paris is replaced by suburbia, the dreams by obligations, and their share interests are soon forgotten in the monotony of a 9 to 5 life. The fact that their lives turn out to be not what they intended cause them to grow distant, and affairs and discord soon follow.
This film is rumored to score poorly in test screenings, but can any film by Sam Mendes and with this cast be all that bad? That being said, two hours of Leo screaming at Kate and vice versa could be too much to bear.
3. Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight, 1,411 Theaters, 120 Minutes, Rated R): It might not be completely accurate to call this film this year’s feel-good flick, because the film shows in brutal detail the caste system in Mumbai (a.k.a. Bombay), India. But it definitely holds the title of the little indie film that could.
The film, adapted from a short story by Vikas Swarup, deal with a boy from the slums of Mumbai who goes on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” and gets one question away from the million dollars. This rises questions with the producers and the authorities as to how a poor, uneducated slum-dwelling teenager can know answers even educated higher class citizens cannot. Suspected of cheating, he must go through how he learned the answers or else face serious trouble.
This film has been a critical darling and won many major awards, including the Golden Globe.
Earlier this week, we here at FilmBuffOnline handicapped the Oscar race as we saw it. As we all know, the nominations have just been released. How did we do? Well, let’s find out. And the nominees are…
Performance by an actor in a leading role-
Richard Jenkins in The Visitor
Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn in Milk
Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler
Number of Nominations We “Called”:4 out of 5
The One We Didn’t:Do we get any credit for saying the academy might snub Leonardo DiCaprio? No, because Richard Jenkins should have been a no brainer. His performance was one of the most critically acclaimed of the year. This is what Jenkins had to say about the nomination:
“This nomination is such an unexpected honor and I am grateful to the Academy for the recognition. I’ve been awed by the work of my fellow nominees this year and am truly humbled to be in their company. Having been an actor for many years now, I am moved by the fact that something like this can happen at this point in my career, particularly for a film that has meant so much to me.”
Richard Jenkins, THE VISITOR
Performance by an actor in a supporting role-
Josh Brolin in Milk
Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt
Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road
Number of Nominations We “Called”: 4 out of 5.
The One We Didn’t: Nobody from Frost/Nixon got the call. Strangely, this was the only acting nod Revolutionary Road received. Shannon got good notices for his role, but was he the most deserving of the cast?
Performance by an actress in a leading role-
Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie in Changeling
Melissa Leo in Frozen River
Meryl Streep in Doubt
Kate Winslet in The Reader
Number of Nominations We “Called”:3.5 out of 5
The One Point Five We Didn’t: We are taking partial credit for Kate Winslet. We predicted she would be nominated and that her role in The Reader should be lead. I think that should be good enough for a .5. Leo, like Jenkins, was an early year, yet still worthy performance that we goofed on not including. Althought ignoring Sally Hawkins was a major snub.
This is what Kate Winslet said on her nomination for The Reader:
“I’m extremely happy to have been nominated. And very fortunate. Playing Hanna Schmitz will always remain one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever been blessed with. I’m genuinely thrilled not just for myself but for the wonderful Stephen Daldry and David Hare. These nominations are a testament to their unwavering commitment to this film. And I’m also very happy for all the people in Germany whose hard work on THE READER, has been rewarded by these nominations. Surely Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack are smiling down on us today!”
- Kate Winslet, Oscar nominee for Best Lead Actress in THE READER
Performance by an actress in a supporting role-
Amy Adams in Doubt
Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis in Doubt
Taraji P. Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler
Number of Nominations We “Called”:4 out of 5
The One We Didn’t: We were going to list Henson, but the Oscar’s not following the Golden Globes’ lead on putting Winslet in this category through us off. Yeah, yeah, that’s what happened.
Achievement in directing-
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, David Fincher
Frost/Nixon, Ron Howard
Milk, Gus Van Sant
The Reader, Stephen Daldry
Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle
Number of Nominations We “Called”:5 out of 5
Woo Hoo!!!: Yes, we did think that Mike Leigh was “Almost Certain” to get a nod for Happy-Go-Lucky. But I guess the Academy didn’t like that film as much as the rest of the world did. But we said that all the nomininated directors had a shot. So, we are calling that a victory.
Best motion picture of the year-
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Number of Nominations We “Called”:4 out of 5
The One We Didn’t: In what is becoming a rare occurance, the Best Picture nominations match up with the Best Director nominations. This means that The Reader gets the nod over Revolutionary Road. And, yes, The Dark Knight and Wall-E too. But the Best Animated Film was created so the “real film” don’t have to mingle with the animated riff raff. And, really. A comic book movie? For Best Picture?
Stay tuned to FilmBuffOnline, because, as we get closer to the ceremony, the staff will bring you our Oscar picks.
It’s that time of year again. This Thursday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce the nominees for the 81st Annual Academy Awards.
Every year there are snubs and surprises, thrills and controversies. There is no way of knowing who will be nominated, but we here at FilmBuffOnLine, who believe the day nominations are announced should be a National holiday, are going to try and handicap the process for you.
We will try to tell you who we think are Almost Certain to get a nomination, who Definite May Be nominated, and whose nomination is a Outside Shot in the major categories (the four acting categories, Best Director, and Best Picture). We are trying to cover all bases, but don’t come to us if you lose money on your Oscar Nomination pool.
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler; Sean Penn, Milk
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon; Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road; Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Colin Farrell, In Bruges; Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino
It seems that this year, if Mickey Rourke didn’t win a Best Actor award, Sean Penn won it. Both men seem to be all but a lock for a nomination. Benjamin Button seems to be role that screams “nominate me,” so Pitt has a good chance. Langella won a Tony for originating the role of Nixon on Broadway, so it seem logical that he’d at least get a nod. The Academy might have something against DiCaprio, since he has been snubbed more than once in the past. That could work against him here. Farrell won the Golden Globe for this role, which gives him a chance. And the Academy might want to reward Eastwood for what could be his last acting role with a nomination.
About half way through the Frost/Nixon, Nixon aide Jack Brennan (Kevin Bacon) compares David Frost (Michael Sheen) to a boxer who trained for months to face off against the champion-in this case former President Richard Nixon (Frank Langella)-and found that all that training was for naught, that he was hopelessly outmatched.
History would prove different, but this line of dialogue confirms what structure the film is trying to follow. Based on the historic 1977 set of interviews between the two men, Frost/Nixon is akin to a classic boxing movie. You have two former champions with one last chance at retaining their former glory. And the only way either can succeed is if the other one loses.
It is no secret that in recent years, studios have embraced the internet as a way to promote their movies. (We’ll put aside the fact that they also excoriate the internet when information about their films leaks early or digital copies of films are available for download before they’re even in theaters.)
But potential ticket-buying audiences aren’t the sole online target of the studios. They’re also using the web to promote their films as potential Academy Award nominees to those in the business who are members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and who get to vote on such things.
The last couple of years have seen a sharp rise in studios with specific websites touting their films for Oscar gold. While most of these sites are simply variations of the “For Your Consideration” advertisments that have appeared in print publications for decades, there is a boon for those film fans who like to read screenplays. Rather than go to the expense of printing up hundreds of copies of the scripts they hope to get nominated for the Academy Awards’ two screenplay categories, many studios have taken to posting them on line as downloadable PDF files, available for anyone who wants a copy.
Here is a breakdown of what you can find to read where-
Fornearly a year up until its release this past summer, the screenplay for Christopher Nolan’s epic comic book adaptation The Dark Knight was the unobtainable Holy Grail among script traders. But now, Warner Brothers has posted it on their Oscar promotion site. Warners is also promoting the upcoming Clint Eastwood vehicle Gran Torino for Academy Award consideration, but probably are withholding from posting the screenplay until after the movie is released in December.
Meanwhile, Paramount Vantage has placed the screenplays for two of their three nomination hopefuls The Duchess, Defiance and Revolutionary Road on line. Unfortunately, the studio has decided against posting them as downloadable PDF files, instead opting to make them readable only on the site. Currently only the scripts for The Duchess and Defiance are available to read, with Revolutionary Road‘s screenplay is being held back until after the film’s theatrical release. I guess no one at Paramount Vantage realizes that anyone who has ever traded a script at the IMDb already has a copy of it.
Walt Disney is promoting five contenders for Oscar gold, three of which – Bolt, High School Musical 3 and WALL-E – the studio hopes will make the Best Screenplay shortlists. However, only the WALL-E screenplay is available to read at this time.
Although Paramount Studios is pimping The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, Kung Fu Panda, Tropic Thunder and Madagascar: Back 2 Africa for nominations in several categories, including the screenplay categories, the studio has not posted any of the screenplays they would like Academy voters to consider on their site this year. Other studios that have posted screenplays in the past, but have not done so as of yet include Lionsgate, Miramax, Fox Searchlight and Focus Features.
The specter of the Watergate scandal didn’t disappear with the resignation of President Richard Nixon on August 9, 1974. It hung over the American cultural landscape, waiting to be exorcised. That cleansing came, in part, through a series of extraordinary interviews the ex-President gave to British journalist David Frost in 1977. The machinations that culminated in that interview were adapted for stage in 2006 by Peter Morgan and now director Ron Howard is bringing the story to the big screen with Frost/Nixon on December 5. The film will star Michael Sheen and Frank Langella in the titular roles they played in both the show’s London and Broadway runs.
The first international trailer for Ron Howard’s upcoming adaptation of the stage play Nixon/Frost has hit the internet. The play and film tells the behind the scenes story of a series of interviews former President Richard Nixon did with British talk show host David Frost following Nixon’s resignation over the Wtaergate scandal. The film carries over the original stage production’s casting of Michael Sheen as Frost and Frank Langella as Nixon. Interestingly, while Langella doesn’t much resemble Nixon, he does have many of his mannerisms down. It should be an interesting performance to watch. We’ll all get to watch it when it comes out on December 5.