Random Factoid #544

23 01 2011

The seriocomedy is probably one of my favorite sub-genres.  Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it to?  The seriocomedy lets you have the sweetness of the icing (comedy) with all the bulk and substance of the cake itself (drama).

But name the last really good one produced inside of the studio system in the last ten years or so.  (“The Kids Are All Right” was independent, so try again.)  It’s hard because so many of them miss the mark.  “Love & Other Drugs” and “How Do You Know” both could have been so good but wound up falling short.

Here’s The Los Angeles Times on what could be a dying genre after “The Dilemma” flopped:

“The seriocomedy has never been easy creative ground for directors. To make a good one you need to be proficient at constructing both laughs and drama, and have the dexterity to switch between them. From a business standpoint it’s even dicier: How, in this age of marketing, do you retail these tweeners?

Movie-making these days seems to have calcified into genres. Dramas are intense and serious, like ‘The Social Network,’ or weepie and inspirational, like ‘The Blind Side’ or ‘Secretariat.’ Comedies are  broader and more gross-out, like the best of Adam Sandler or Apatow.

‘The problem is trailers,’ said James Schamus, the Focus Features chief who released “The Kids Are All Right.” ‘These days with the Internet, it’s more important than ever, and it’s very hard to cut a good trailer for [seriocomedies]. If you go for the laugh you never get the full laugh because the humor is situational, and you can’t play the drama because then you kill the comedy vibe.'”

I think the death is due to two things: the declining quality of studio output and the hyperfocused nature of the American moviegoing audience.  We want straight drama or straight comedy when we go to the movies; a hybrid just doesn’t satisfy much as it often feels like a muddled mess.  That’s partially the fault of filmmakers, but I think that most moviegoers nowadays can’t handle them both together.

So, is the seriocomedy DEAD?  Sound off!

Random Factoid #540

19 01 2011

So, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman.  Time for her to get her sexy on (since she won’t be able to rely on just straight up being naked like in “Love & Other Drugs“).  Guess we just have to trust Christopher Nolan’s casting instinct.

It’s hard being a fan to remind myself that I actually have no say in how movies are made.  I don’t get to write, cast, or direct Hollywood products (yet).  I don’t have control, and we have to remember that a studio wouldn’t give millions of dollars to a director if they didn’t know what they were doing.  And after “Inception,” I dare you to tell Christopher Nolan that he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

A lot of people, particularly us vocal bloggers, have a hard time reminding themselves of these things.  We scream as if there’s actually some way we can change things.  But we really can’t, and it’s only worth writing about if you can joke about acting like you have a say.

What about YOU?  Do you struggle with remembering you don’t run Hollywood?

“Love & Other Drugs” Poll Results

3 01 2011

If these two without clothes on can’t sell, do you need any more proof that the Internet has oversaturated the market?

Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway, two young and attractive starlets, couldn’t power “Love & Other Drugs” to box office success.  The movie will cap off its run in a week or so here with a little over $31 million in the bank.  It cost $30 million to make.  Phew.  Fox can breathe.  (They had “Avatar” to save them last year.)

But the real number to talk about is 49%, its approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  The number was even lower from the top critics, who only deemed it fresh 34% of the time.  Obviously, for a movie to get nominated for Best Picture even in this era, that’s really not going to cut it.  Heck, it didn’t even cut it for the HFPA, who gave Golden Globe nominations to “The Tourist” (10% approval from top critics) and “Burlesque” (27% approval from top critics).  But clearly quality wasn’t very important to them this year.

Gyllenhaal and Hathaway were both nominated for Globes for their performances, and I’d say it wouldn’t be too far-fetched for Gyllenhaal to win.  As for Hathaway, there’s some nobody named Annette Bening who she’s up against that I heard might win.

Back in my Oscar Moment when it was still an outside chance for Best Picture, I asked if “Love & Other Drugs” would go beyond the Golden Globes.  The only voter said no, and kudos to them for having obvious foresight.  But hey, it’s always worth a shot for me with the Oscar Moment column.  God forbid I were to miss a Best Picture nominee in my first full year of forecasting…

REVIEW: Love & Other Drugs

4 12 2010

There’s an interesting commentary on the pharmaceutical industry at the heart of “Love & Other Drugs,” a prevalent enough part of the story to make it into the title.  But it’s the love part of the name that takes control of the movie and ultimately devalues the larger and more relevant message.  Like a pimple, the romance grows and grows until it virtually envelops the face.

Granted, this is an incredibly attractive pimple.  The film’s historical background in dealing with Viagra gives it free reign to go crazy on the sexuality, and director Edward Zwick runs with the opportunity.  It’s practically soft-core porn starring two young, attractive stars in Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal.  But the movie is more than just two constantly and completely naked stars on a bed; it develops the emotional out of the physical.

The nudity isn’t meant to titillate so much as it is to be honest.  It removes the sheets of pretense from the bedfellows, Jamie the womanizing Viagra salesman (Gyllenhaal) and his latest squeeze Maggie, a passionate but insecure lover affected by stage 1 Parkinson’s (Hathaway), and leaves their character naked.  The two nudities complement each other beautifully, and these are two fascinating portraits of people trying to figure out where their lives are heading.

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Oscar Moment: “Love & Other Drugs”

2 11 2010

“Love & Other Drugs” was chosen to open the AFI Fest this week, and I couldn’t think of a better time to discuss this interesting player in the 2010 awards race.

Comedies are always a wild card with the Oscars; sometimes they hit, others they flop.  Over the past decade, there have been eight Best Picture nominees that would fall into the comedic category at the Golden Globes (NOTE: I excluded musicals).  The last comedy to win Best Picture was 1998’s “Shakespeare in Love,” which is a romantic comedy not unlike “Love & Other Drugs.”

On the other hand, that movie was a period piece, an aspect that tickles Academy fancies more than the romantic comedy side.  Since 1998, no romantic comedy has been nominated for Best Picture, so “Love & Other Drugs” does face an uphill battle.  However, because of the expanded field, our only frame of reference with complete relevance to the movie is the 2009 Best Picture race.  Last year, popular romantic comedies “(500) Days of Summer” and “It’s Complicated” received Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture but failed to receive similar acclaim from the Academy.  Replacing them were darkly comedic “A Serious Man” and animated “Up,” ineligible for the award at the Globes.

So are we looking at a movie that has no power to extend its reach beyond the Golden Globes?  Based on initial critical reaction, that may be the scenario.  The Hollywood Reporter‘s Kirk Honeycutt calls it a melodrama and shockingly conventional romance with “ADD like you wouldn’t believe.”  Todd McCarthy of IndieWIRE writes that it’s “an enormously contrived and cloying romantic drama without a moment of believable reality to it.”  Kris Tapley at In Contention wrote the line that I found most discouraging: “it could have been this year’s ‘Up in the Air.’”

The movie is apparently charged with nudity that Variety‘s Justin Chang called “abundant” and sexuality that Honeycutt proclaimed “unusually bold.”  This could be off-putting to some of the older voters; however, it could pique curiosity among younger viewers and make it a box office hit.  If it does become a serious contender, expect much talk on the nudity/sexuality to surround any discussion of the film.

Not all see “Love & Other Drugs” as a lost cause.  Guru Dave Karger of Entertainment Weekly is on the movie’s side, writing back in October that “the Jake Gyllenhaal/Anne Hathaway comedic drama reminds me a lot of Up in the Air and Jerry Maguire (both past Best Picture nominees). And it’s perhaps the sexiest movie I’ve seen in years. It won’t be for everyone, but if most critics go for its blend of titillation and tragedy, then it’s a contender for one of the five ‘B-list slots.’”  Karger also listed it among his 10 best picture predictions (albeit last).

I could see it filling out one of those last slots, although until the film’s release, I won’t be able to say how much a nomination would surprise me.  Something tells me though that we won’t be looking at many other nominations for the movie, though.  Even though Anne Thompson of IndieWIRE wrote “writer-director Zwick has done what I have long wanted him to do—get into the James L. Brooks/Nancy Meyers smart comedy mode,” I have a hard time seeing him finding room in the Best Director field.

As Univarn wrote on my latest predictions, “you have a lot of directors who have been very good for a long time all coming into their own right now.”  Zwick has been directing many seemingly Academy friendly movies like “Glory” and “Blood Diamond” but has never been recognized for his directorial prowess.  (Interestingly enough, he won an Oscar for producing “Shakespeare in Love” and was nominated for producing “Traffic” in 2000.)

Zwick co-wrote the movie as well, but a tight Adapted Screenplay race with such heavyweights as “The Social Network” and “Toy Story 3” may keep his work out there as well.  In my mind, the movie’s best bet is in the acting categories.  It seems to be the one exemplary aspect of the movie that all critics agree on.  Said Honeycutt, “Gyllenhaal and Hathaway are terrific as two sarcastic, sexually hungry young people eager to hop into bed, or go up against the nearest wall for a knee-trembler.”

Both sub-30 actors have been nominated for Oscars before: Gyllenhaal for Supporting Actor in 2005 for “Brokeback Mountain” and Hathaway for Leading Actress in 2008 for “Rachel Getting Married.”  They are reaching the age of anointment quickly, and it’s only a matter of time before the Academy just caves and gives them the trophy.  Whether it will be for “Love & Other Drugs” is the question.

Let’s start with Gyllenhaal, the film’s leading man.  Since his nomination, he has only starred in four movies, three of which were Oscar also-rans and the other a Hollywood swords-and-sandals epic flop.  Gyllenhaal has gotten many raves for his latest role, ranging from Tapley and Thompson calling him the best performance in the film to Hollywood Elsewhere‘s Jeffrey Wells dubbing this “his most winning performance ever – not the deepest or darkest or saddest, perhaps, but 100% likable.”  He’s facing a tough Best Actor field with the likes of Colin Firth, Jeff Bridges, and Robert Duvall as well as fellow Gen-Y actors James Franco, Ryan Gosling, and Jesse Eisenberg.  If his performance is light as Wells alludes to, it may not be anything more than a Golden Globes play.

The more intriguing prospect for the movie is no doubt Anne Hathaway playing Maggie, the Parkinson’s-affected love interest of Gyllenhaal’s slick pharmaceutical salesman.  She has the more dramatically appealing and Academy friendly role, and the difficulty of tackling such a role will surely keep her in discussion all season long.  In the past decade, Academy Award nominees for Best Actress have included drug addicts, Alzheimer’s patients, a depressed writer, a psychotic killer, a paralyzed fighter, and an alcoholic.  Whatever physical condition causes leading women to ail, the Oscars have been there to reward them.

Zwick calls her “in bloom” in “Love & Other Drugs,” and early reviews seem to be in accord.  Chang calls her performance sensitive and understated, also adding that “the actress makes Maggie a vivacious presence, the sheer force of her spirit serving as a rebuke to her physical setbacks.”  Wells calls it her most appealing performance yet, praising Hathaway in writing “you can read every emotional tick and tremor on her face.”  However, the movie’s critical struggle could harm her; Tapley points out  that Hathaway plays a “one-trick, woe is me character who never finds a genuine end to her arc.”

There are plenty of great comedies made every year, many better than some of the dramas that typically make their way into the Best Picture field.  Here’s to hoping that “Love & Other Drugs” has the goods to bring glory to the genre at the Academy Awards.


OTHER POSSIBLE NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay