Know Your Nominees: “The Kids Are All Right”

7 02 2011

The Oscars are a great cultural conversation for all to participate in, but it’s all too easy to only have surface knowledge of the nominees.  It’s all too easy to know “Black Swan” as the ballet movie, “The Fighter” as the boxing movie, and “The Social Network” as the Facebook movie.  But don’t you want to know more and stun your friends with your knowledge of the movies in the weeks leading up to the awards and ultimately during the broadcast itself?

That’s what my KNOW YOUR NOMINEES series hopes to do.  Every three days, I’ll feature ten interesting facts about the ten Best Picture nominees of 2010 that would be fascinating to pepper into any conversation.  My hope is that you will come away with an enhanced appreciation of the movies but also enjoy learning strange and interesting things about them.

So, as we proceed in alphabetical order, our next stop on the tour is “The Kids Are All Right.”

“The Kids Are All Right” is set in Los Angeles, fairly obviously although not entirely prominently.  But according to writer/director Lisa Choldenko, the movie was originally set in New York.  The availability of Annette Bening, however, was contingent on moving production to Los Angeles.  Cholodenko decided to rewrite the script with the setting changing coasts, and she claims that it helped bring the characters more to life.

Cholodenko also claims that the movie is slightly autobiographical, mainly at the beginning as she and her partner in real life were looking to be impregnated by a sperm donor.  In walks co-writer Stuart Blumberg, who was a sperm donor himself.  He wondered what children he brought into the world, and the two of them came up with what we now know as “The Kids Are All Right.”  In 2006, the movie was nearly greenlit for production – but Cholodenko became pregnant and shelved the project for family matters.

The revision process was also grueling.  The initial draft took a month to write, and as we know, nothing is perfect the first time.  So Cholodenko and Blumberg re-wrote every character, scene, and line at least 10 times.

Who was the first actor onto the project?  Several years before production began on “The Kids Are All Right,” Julianne Moore met Cholodenko and expressed her admiration for the director’s work.  The two kept in touch, and Cholodenko sent Moore the script for her next movie around 2004, which the high-profile actress was attached to for many years.

When Annette Bening came aboard the project later, Cholodenko has stated the she retouched the script to make the character fit Bening better.  The character Nic that we see in the movie better serves a vessel for her voice.

Mark Ruffalo received his first Academy Award nomination for his role in “The Kids Are All Right,” but it might interest you to know that he intially turned down the role.  He was cast sequentially after Moore and Bening, and he was approved from a list that Cholodenko had made for potential actors to play the character.  After his initial refusal, Moore used her personal relationship with Ruffalo, who she starred with in “Blindness,” to reel the actor in, even texting his wife.

How did the kids come aboard?  Cholodenko chose Mia Wasikowska after seeing her work in HBO’s “In Treatment.” On the other hand, her on-screen sibling didn’t have it quite so easy.  Josh Hutcherson received got the script and auditioned for the role.  I guess “Zathura” wasn’t quite convincing enough…

Indie movies are, by their nature, independently financed.  But for the quality of filmmaking you get from “The Kids Are All Right,” you’d be surprised how rushed the schedule was.  The entire movie was filmed in 23 days. And as for the budget, the movie was made on $5 million; according to Ruffalo, the stars made almost no money just like virtually any indie movie.  Oh, and they only had five days to rehearse.

Unlike “The Social Network,” which was shot word-for-word for Aaron Sorkin’s script, “The Kids Are All Right” underwent some metamorphosis during the filming process.  Two scenes were added during the shoot, and the last line of the movie that appears in the final version wasn’t written until pre-production.

Ok, and what about the movie’s politics?  Lisa Cholodenko acknowledges that the political climate in which “The Kids Are All Right” is being released in makes most people believe that it has an agenda.  But in numerous interviews, she has stated that she did not see this as a gay movie.  What she wanted to get at with the movie was something more universal.  It’s a movie about family in any way, shape, or form.  All the stars said they didn’t need to do any research on same-sex parenting because they approached it like any family movie.

Check back on February 10 as the KNOW YOUR NOMINEES series continues with “The King’s Speech.”

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“The Kids Are All Right” Poll Results

31 07 2010

As “The Kids Are All Right” rolls into over 800 theaters this weekend, including many that are very much in the mainstream, it seems as good a time as ever to check out the results of the poll I ran along with the Oscar Moment on the movie.

The poll was a little bit different than any other one I’ve run before (at least with an Oscar Moment).  Rather than answer a simple “yes/no” question, I asked readers to pick ALL the contenders from Lisa Cholodenko’s film that they expected to wind up nominated at the big dance.

So there might have been some confusion, and I apologize for that.  The results seem normal now, but at first, they didn’t seem … well, all right.

There was a clear favorite candidate: Annette Bening.  With six votes, readers clearly think she is going to be a major threat in the Best Actress race.  (Although I will say, after having seen the movie, I think Bening should be supporting and Moore should be lead.)

Then things got a little more interesting.  Four people think that the movie will be nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.  That’s a nice number, but it shows that not everyone is convinced this is the real deal.  Only one person thinks Lisa Cholodenko will receive a nomination for Best Director, which isn’t too shocking given that the movie isn’t the type where the director gets a lot of credit.  But in 2007, Jason Reitman sneaked in for “Juno” when no one expected it, so you never know.

Among other actors, Julianne Moore received the next highest votes of confidence with four.  In my review, I singled her out as my favorite, and I sincerely hope she wins.  Hopefully no category fraud issues spell her doom.

Surprisingly, Mia Wasikowska wound up with more votes than the elder statesman Mark Ruffalo – two to one, in fact.  Many people consider Ruffalo very overdue for a nomination, particularly after being snubbed for 2000’s “You Can Count on Me.”  But if the field is weak enough, Wasikowska could sneak in if love for the movie is strong.  It wouldn’t be the first time that two actresses from the same movie were nominated in the category; it’s happened the past two years.

Also worth a mention, Josh Hutcherson received a vote, which I sure liked to see.  Represent 17-year-olds!  (Fun fact: he’s two days older than I am.)





REVIEW: The Kids Are All Right

18 07 2010

Lisa Choldenko’s “The Kids Are All Right” may not have everything right, but it’s most certainly better than just alright. Her witty and insightful script is enormously entertaining, finding that perfect median between comedy and drama that so many filmmakers struggle to achieve.

Perhaps the most impressive facet of the film is how effortlessly it nails family dynamics. Nic and Jules (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) are a married lesbian couple with two children, Joni and Laser (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson), whom they have raised to success in academics and athletics, respectively. No matter what your take is on Proposition 8, you have to admire how much this family can be any family. They hug, they kiss, they laugh, they banter, they bicker, they argue, and they love just like any other family. And it’s also incredible how Cholodenko manages to tranquilize any sort of awkwardness that might ensue from the whole “two moms” situation.

For reasons that are never quite fully explained, Laser and Joni decided to make contact with their biological father, the ungrounded Paul (Mark Ruffalo). He’s more put together than the trainwreck Ruffalo played in “You Can Count On Me” but not by much. A college drop-out who gave his seed to the sperm bank mainly for the money, he’s coasted by on casual relationships to get by. When the kids enter his life, he feels a sort of connection that taps into a longing for something more significant in life. At first, Paul meets the kids in secret, just coming to the reality that his own seed could produce something living. But looking to forge something deeper, he finds that there’s just no way around meeting Nic and Jules. He becomes a presence in the life of the family, not always welcome, and definitely causing dramatic changes for everyone.

Read the rest of this entry »





Random Factoid #351

14 07 2010

I have a new addiction courtesy of iPhone 4 (which works FINE with a case, all you Apple haters).

Thanks to multitasking, I have begun to love listening to the arts & life segments from NPR.  Thanks to Apple’s innovations, I can listen to NPR while checking Facebook, writing an email, sending a text message, or blogging.  A lot of times I will leave it on while cleaning my room or just casually walking around the house.

I’ve heard some really fascinating segments recently.  I’ve listened to plenty of movie reviews, and some very interesting editorials, including one on the declining impact of box office draws.  But what I’ve enjoyed most are the interviews.  I heard a great one with Steve Carell, and I have a 25-minute interview with “The Kids Are All Right” director Lisa Cholodenko saved in my queue.  I plan on listening to it now that I’ve seen the movie.

By far the most fascinating was an interview with Mark Ruffalo around the release of the aforementioned movie.  I don’t know how to embed the audio, but click here to be taken to the article and listen.  You will find out a whole lot you didn’t know.