Archive | February, 2013

The Oscars: Who’s going to win on Sunday

22 Feb

The only Oscar I'll ever hold is my sister-in-law's dog.

The only Oscar I’ll ever hold is my sister-in-law’s dog.

So, who’s going to take home the big awards on Sunday night? I could use the old cliché that your guess is as good as mine—but is it? Let’s find out. Now while I’ve never been to the Academy Awards in person, or had the pleasure of interviewing ANY of this year’s nominees in the five top categories, I have interviewed some past winners. For example, at Sundance this year, I was even asked to moderate a press conference with Holly Hunter, who won for The Piano in 1993. Kevin Spacey (supporting actor Oscar in 1995 for The Usual Suspects, best actor Oscar in 1999 for American Beauty) granted me a Sundance interview three years ago. Legendary director Frank Capra (winner for It Happened One Night) even spoke a million years ago at my college convocation. So I figure my pedigree of at least having been in the presence of Oscar greatness should count for something.
Still, the image you see here is my sister-in-law’s dog, “Oscar.” I’m not sure I’m allowed to use the real image here, even though this blog has been read in, according to the last count, 93 countries. I’m just one person, a guppy in the big ocean of Movie Fandom, so really, who cares what I think? Okay, I care. So here are my predictions for the Hollywood Hoedown at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday night. Let’s see how close I get.
BEST PICTURE: Probably a two-horse race here between Argo and Lincoln, though Silver Linings Playbook could be a darkhorse. I’m going with ARGO. I think director Ben Affleck did a masterful job with this story and this cast, and created a great film. Since he got dissed by the group that nominates best director finalists, this victory will taste extra sweet for him. Just hope he remembers to thank his wife Jennifer this time.
BEST ACTOR: A no-brainer here—DANIEL DAY-LEWIS for Lincoln. While each of the other four nominees turned in solid performances (hurray for Bradley Cooper’s emergence as a fine dramatic actor in Silver Linings Playbook, by the way), none of them captured the essence of their characters like Day-Lewis did with Honest Abe. This is about as sure a bet as you can get at the Academy Awards.
BEST ACTRESS: Somewhat of a tough call, but for me, I think it will go to JENNIFER LAWRENCE for Silver Linings Playbook. While Jessica Chastain was wonderful in Zero Dark Thirty, and I thought Naomi Watts was strong in The Impossible, neither brought to their characters the depth of performance of Lawrence. Granted, her character was better written as well—much more dialogue, for example—but I thought this young actress, who could win a bevy of Oscars in the years ahead, was a bit more deserving.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: What a great group of actors to choose from, but again, I think it will boil down to either Robert DeNiro for Silver Linings Playbook (loved seeing the emotion he brought to his character) or Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln. Seriously, it’s a toss-up, but I envision hearing TOMMY LEE JONES from the presenters. Every one of these gentlemen deserves the recognition for their work this year.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: ANNE HATHAWAY, without a doubt. The awards community likes her—they really, really like her, for that memorable one-take performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” in Les Miserables. It is the only reason that Sally Field won’t win her third statuette, though she was wonderful in Lincoln. It’s great to see Hathaway, one of Hollywood’s nicest and most down-to-earth actresses, win this honor.
BEST DIRECTOR: Well, Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow both got screwed by those stuck-up Academy voters in this category, which prevented what could have been a very close race. And it’s probably still close between the top three directors of Lincoln, Life of Pi and Silver Linings Playbook. But I’m going with STEVEN SPIELBERG for Lincoln. A wonderfully crafted, very memorable film, one worthy of his third Oscar.
Also, look for Adele and writing partner Paul Epworth to take home the statuette for “Skyfall” for original song. And host Seth MacFarlane should do an adequate job as Oscar host, though he’ll discover as so many fine comedians have before that the Academy Awards might be the toughest gig in Emceeland. He was a good choice for this year’s host.
So, how have I done? Guess we’ll see on Sunday. Regardless, at least I know Oscar (the dog) will still like me, as long as I keep feeding him scraps off my plate at family dinners! So I should win for Best Supporting Enabler.

–Tom Haraldsen

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Alison Brie: Returning to our ‘Community’ February 7th

6 Feb

Actress Alison Brie at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival

Actress Alison Brie at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival

Alison Brie with ON AND BEYOND's Tom Haraldsen

Alison Brie with ON AND BEYOND’s Tom Haraldsen

If you’re a fan of NBC’s “Community” like I am, you probably know the long-awaited start of Season 4 is this Thursday (February 7) at 8 p.m., or 7 p.m. for Central and Mountain time zones. And like all of us fans, you’re probably anxious to know what’s been happening with our favorite students at Greendale Community College since the show went on hiatus last summer.
So is at least one cast member, actress Alison Brie. Because the filming of Season 4’s 13 episodes wrapped last fall, she’s having a hard time remembering exactly what comes next for one of TV’s most talented comic ensembles.
“I’m excited to see them,” Alison told me during our interview at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where she appeared as part of the cast of the new indie film “Toy’s House.” (We’ll be posting a story on that film in the near future as well). “Normally, we get to sort of watch some of the season’s episodes while we’re still shooting. It kind of puts me in the same position as the fans—I’m not quite sure how it’s going to turn out, and by now, I’ve forgotten half the stuff we’ve shot.”
Despite her stardom, Brie is grounded and certainly no diva. She is bright, personable and very accommodating to writers who want to visit with her. As an example, on the day of our interview, she passed up a chance to hang with her fellow “Toy’s House” cast members on a beautiful, sunny Park City afternoon to meet separately with me and just one other interviewer—and she was in no rush to finish either interview.
Alison knows that it’s because of “Community’s” loyal fan base that Season 4 is happening at all. Though the show has been critically acclaimed since its beginning, it’s languished in NBC’s Thursday night slate of great, but unfortunately poorly rated, TV sitcoms (“30 Rock” and “Parks and Recreation,” two other great shows, have suffered the same fate). Twice, “Community” has faced the NBC executive chopping block, and twice, loud and vocal support from both viewers and critics has kept the show alive. This season, the show was slated to return in the late fall, but network executives kept pushing its debut back until this week. It will fill the time slot vacated by “30 Rock,” which aired its series finale on January 31.
Her character on “Community,” sweet and innocent student Annie Edison, is more-or-less the voice of reason amongst a cast of fellow students that include great comic/actors Chevy Chase, Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Donald Glover, Yvette Nicole Brown, Ken Jeong and Jim Rash. That’s not to say Annie isn’t manic at times…with good reason.
“I do love doing our more action-style parodies,” Alison says. “I’ve got to say that the two-part paintball finale in Season 2 was one of my favorites. I had a large part to play in those episodes, and it was really fun to run around and dodge paintballs and play a tough character.”
She also loves the fact that “Community’s” characters constantly change and evolve.
“Just when you think they are going to be almost totally different people, they regress,” she says with a smile. “You never know which way they’re going to go—they’re like two steps forward and three steps backwards! Our crew and our writers are amazing. There’s not as much adlibbing as you might think, but we certainly play it fast and loose in that as actors, we’ve developed our own idiosyncrasies in four years as we’ve been shooting the show. And we’ve tried our damnedest to get them into the shows. So we play these games amongst ourselves that I think add energy to the show.”
Her acting career had already taken flight long before she enrolled at Greendale C.C. Alison started on TV in 2006, playing a novice hairdresser on an episode of “Hannah Montana.” She later was a member of the cast of “Mad Men” that won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in 2009. Alison appeared alongside Jason Segel and Emily Blunt in last year’s theatrical release, “The Five Year Engagement.” “Toy’s House” is her 11th film, and she came to Sundance in 2012 as a co-star of another fan favorite, “Save the Date.”
What is most impressive about Alison is her passion for the craft. Evident by her work in small-budget independent films, she loves the freedom they provide for her as an actor. Though the future of “Community” is obviously uncertain, since its newest season is just beginning, Alison isn’t sure what she’ll be working on next. She just knows she loves acting, including in independent films.
“It’s a much more singular vision,” she says. “Because it’s smaller, it sort of feels like it’s just ‘your part,’ as it is more intimate and special. You have the freedom to tell these stories in new and different ways and kind of push the boundaries of film. You’re really doing it because you like the project—it’s about the work. It’s not about status or money. I’ve always wanted to be successful, but just as importantly, I’ve always loved acting since I was a kid. And working on a small indie allows you the time to find little nuances and variations, and that’s exciting. It brings you back to why you started acting in the first place.”
Armed with that passion, her talent and her focus, it’s certain that we’ll be seeing Alison Brie on both movie and TV screens for many years to come. She’s someone that anyone would love to have as a neighbor or friend in their “Community.”

–Tom Haraldsen