Tag Archives: Oscars

The Dark and Dangerous Descent of Actors

Pacific Coast News
Pacific Coast News

Please email Stephen all of your movie, TV, and random entertainment questions: stephenthescoop@hotmail.com


All actors are not created equal, no matter what you read about actors describing their “process” for preparing for a movie and how they get into character.  Sure, most actors put in months of research in preparation to play a role that might entail shooting a gun, playing a cop, or playing an instrument.  The majority of the time, studios will pair an actor with an expert on the profession they are attempting to portray, so some of the more subtle things see natural.

Warner Bros
Warner Bros

For instance, when Matt Damon was preparing to play Police Officer Colin Sullivan in The Departed, he spent time with a Massachusetts State Police unit where he learned how to properly do a pat down, he went on a raid, and rode along with various officers on patrol.  All of that is good preparation, but that is what separates a solid actor like Matt Damon from other actors who rolecan win an Oscar every single time they appear in a movie.

The list of actors and actresses who can pull that off is smaller than you might think, and what separates them from the rest of the pack is that they are so methodical in their acting and preparation that it can be borderline dangerous.  When I think of the people who have a legitimate chance of winning an Academy Award with each movie, it is a fairly small list in relation to the volume of working actors in Hollywood right now.


Here is a version of what I think that list could look like:

Daniel Day Lewis (DDL is the reigning GOAT and only actor to win 3 Best Actor Oscars.)

Leonardo DiCaprio (This is the hardest sell since he’s never won, but I honestly believe Leo is one of the best around.)

Tom Hanks (He has 2 wins and 5 nominations, but he’s starting to slow down)

Meryl Streep (I think it’s easy for her to get nominated because of her name, but winning isn’t the same.  15 nominations and 2 wins is still impressive.)

Cate Blanchett (She’s the best working actress in Hollywood and it is not close.)

mirror.uk
mirror.uk

Christian Bale (I am much more surprised by this than you are, trust me. I was never a fan of his early on.)

Sean Penn (The former Mr. Madonna has 2 wins and 5 nominations.)

Kate Winslet (Kate has notched 6 nominations and just 1 win.)

You could possibly make the case for Hillary Swank or Joaquin Phoenix, but those are hard sells to me.  I think Phoenix is one of the most talented actors in Hollywood, but he is also a legit crazy person which keeps him from being nominated more than he has.


So that is the entire list: eight total people who have a legit chance of WINNING an Oscar each and every time they appear on screen.  So what separates them from everyone else?  What puts them in the category of award-winning caliber and also box office successes?

The answer for me is fairly simple; it is the way they descend into a character to sometimes scary levels, and voluntarily transform their body in sometimes scary ways.  I want to call this the Heath Ledger Corollary, but I’m not sure he is the best example. He’s the most well-known example, which is different, but it is also a great place to start.

pintrest
pintrest

Ledger was on the rise as someone who could make the category above, but when he was cast as The Joker, the wheels fell off so much that he could never recover.  There were numerous reports that he locked himself in an apartment for a month prior and after shooting, and never broke character the entire time.  There were also reports that he would show up to set on his days off, in character, to watch creepily from the back in a way that seriously disturbed everyone on set.  We all know how that ended, but what we don’t know is how much of that was mental stress that he brought on himself because of his commitment, and how much of it was him taking drugs and falling off of the rails.  The answer probably lies somewhere between the two.  The reason I have been thinking about this is that there are already reports from the set of Suicide Squad that Jared Leto, a renowned method actor, has sent gifts to his costars in the forms of a live rat in a black box, bullets, and a dead hog with a video of him in character.  Is Leto heading down the same path as Ledger did?  Is there something about method actors and The Joker that makes it too hard to shake?  I’m sure there isn’t, and I don’t want to practice overreacting to certain things like that, because that is serious subject matter and I’m not one to make light of that topic.

imgur
imgur

What I am sure of is that The Joker is unique to any other character, especially any other villain, in any form, from any movie.  As someone who has read 1000s of Batman comics, I can say without pause that The Joker is the scariest villain you could ever imagine.  He is completely insane, but also has a split personality, and can go from “over the top” scary to “having a quiet conversation in a car with a dead person that he killed” subtle-scary in a second.  To take that on as a method actor could absolutely be overwhelming, but I’m sure Leto will be fine and shake it off eventually.  I am not comparing the two actors; just the menacing psychosis that I’m sure would infect anyone who pretended to be that for months at a time.

I’m not the only one who thinks that, because this time with The Joker around, the filmmakers have what they are calling a “Life Coach” on set at all times because of the very dark subject matter that will be in this movie. There aren’t any reports of any talks he has had with anyone, but when Leto dives into a character, he goes deep, and I’m curious to see him on the other side of that evil coin once filming has ended.  What I expect to see is an actor who is on his way to the “every time” Oscar category we touched on earlier, and someone who can get any role he wants.

That is how he breaks into the categor,y and is also what separates the category from the rest of the field.  If you look at that group, all of them are fully capable of disappearing into a role and not coming out until they are done filming.  Daniel Day Lewis might be the best example since he is the acting GOAT of a generation, and the only 3-time Oscar winner for Best Actor.

reddit
reddit

This is a man who takes very few roles, but please don’t try to argue that anyone else is better than him at acting or preparation for a role.  Your kneejerk reaction is say that Tom Hanks is the best actor of his generation, and he is a terrific actor and an American treasure, but he is not better than D. DayLewis has won 3 Oscars to Hanks’ 2, but Lewis has taken on 28 acting roles to get that and Hanks has taken on 76.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is what they call killing it!  DDL sinks so far into roles that when he played Christy Brown in My Left Foot, he refused to get out of his wheelchair for the duration of the role, and not only that, he refused to even sit up straight so as to not break character.  That commitment is what got him the Oscar, but it also got him 2 broken ribs from the stress and over a year of physical therapy to recover.

reddit
reddit

That is incredible to me! When you read stories of Christian Bale dropping down to 120 pounds to play a role, and then turning around and gaining 90 pounds to play Batman eight months later, it seems like a good story, and it is, but it is also incredibly dangerous.  Those types of physical transformations take their toll on a body and mind, and it’s something that these type of actors do on a regular basis, which I think is taken for granted.  That is why I worry when I see a method actor taking on a role like The Joker or when I read that actors are struggling with drug abuse.

There have been some tragic examples of this, with the likes of Heath Ledger and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but that is where this corollary shouldn’t be a surprise, and one that we should be on the lookout for.  These people do this for their craft, they do it for us, but they also leave behind families, so keep that in mind the next time you see someone lose weight or you hear a rumor about drug abuse.  These people are better at their jobs than we are at ours, and it is something that I think about when I can forget that someone is award-winning famous for two hours and just be impressed by the performance.  It’s an amazing transformation!


Stephen Balding is the Entertainment Badass for The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenB_41.

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Oscar Best Odds and Bets

huffpost.uk
huffpost.uk

Please email Stephen all of your movie, TV, and random entertainment questions: stephenthescoop@hotmail.com.


Have I mentioned that award season is one of my favorite seasons of the year?  I love the competition, the discussions, and especially the politics involved with each movie trying to trash the other.  Nothing is more fun to me than smear campaigns that are absolutely worthless to 98% of the world.  It’s fascinating to think about someone having a conversation that might entail two old white guys saying, “Oh man, you really aren’t thinking about voting for Cumberbatch are you?  Sure he did a great job in the movie, but his face is just way too long to win best actor!  I mean come on, ole chap!” (Rings buzzer for secretary.) “Jenny will you send in my morning whores please?”

What is the one thing that could make this frivolous activity even better?  Gambling!!!  Did you know that you can gamble on most of the major categories?  If I’ve learned one thing from years and years of gambling (bad gambling, I repeat I’m a terrible gambler), it’s that nothing makes a random event more fun than wagering money on the outcome.

With this news, I’m here to help you out with the odds and the best bets.  I know that I’m a terrible gambler, but there are few things that I am more tuned in to than movies.  I correctly picked 8 out of the 11 major Golden Globe categories earlier this month and with that hot streak going, I’m going to double down for the Oscars.

We are going to run through the 6 major categories for the upcoming Academy Awards, the listed odds, and the best bets.  The reason we are only picking 6 categories, is that the majority of sportsbooks only have these categories, but if you can find one that has Best Animated Feature, then you can try to place a bet on The LEGO Movie to make yourself feel better about it not being nominated.


 

Best Director:

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tumblr

The odds –

  • Richard Linklater – 1 to 6
  • Alejandro Inarritu – 7 to 1
  • Morten Tyiden – 18 to 1
  • Wes Anderson – 22 to 1
  • Bennett Miller – 45 to 1

Linklater is obviously the heavy favorite here, but this is really a two person race.  Inarritu is going to get a late push with his outstanding work for Birdman, and I fully expect the odds to get closer as the awards get closer, but make no mistake, Linklater is winning this category going away.  There won’t be a miracle comeback like the one Seattle made last weekend (sorry, Green Bay fans).  The best bet to make money in this category is Inarritu closing the odds pushing Linklater closer to even.

Prop bet: You should definitely place $100 on Wes Anderson crying and riding away juggling hacky sacks on a unicycle after losing.


Best Supporting Actress:

guardian.uk
guardian.uk

The odds –

  • Patricia Arquette – 1 to 7
  • Emma Stone – 12 to 1
  • Meryl Streep – 15 to 1
  • Kiera Knightley – 25 to 1
  • Laura Dern – 28 to 1

You are going to notice a trend here with Birdman and Boyhood having the best odds over all of the other pictures.  They received the most nominations and are wildly considered the best two pictures of the year, but in this acting category, Boyhood has a distinct advantage.  I’m personally excited to see Patricia Arquette win the award; she is such a genuine person and someone who is easy to root for.  Nobody else in the category really has the juice to take her down, even after the surprise of Laura Dern getting nominated.  I would personally vote for Laura Dern every year if she would only wear the khaki mom shorts from the first Jurassic Park.  Those things are next-level, high-waisted greatness.  Bet on Patricia Arquette here, but if you’re going to take a flyer on the best odds and a long shot, Kiera Knightley has a chance at a late push for the upset.  A very long shot, but hey what do you expect with 25 to 1 odds?  You never know what goes through the minds of voters.

Prop bet: Wager all of your money on Meryl Streep losing and then beheading the winner and sucking out her soul.  There can be only one!


Best Supporting Actor:

tublr
tumblr

The odds –

  • JK Simmons – 1 to 5
  • Edward Norton – 10 to 1
  • Ethan Hawke – 12 to 1
  • Mark Ruffalo – 14 to 1
  • Robert Duvall – 30 to 1

JK Simmons might not have the smallest odds to win the category compared to other categories, but there is absolutely no way he loses it either.  His performance is terrifyingly perfect.  He not only gave the best performance of his already outstanding career, but if this was an actual sports team, JK is the 1998 Bulls and everyone else is this year’s 76er’s.  That is saying a lot because the other men in the category all turned in fantastic performances. Well, except for Duvall; he was just mailing it in and got the nomination because he’s Robert DuvallSimmons might as well be a 1 to 1 million favorite here, with everyone loving his role from critics to fellow actors to musicians who thought the movie was spot on.  He’s winning; don’t bother betting on anyone else.

Prop bets: Ruffalo loses this award, Hulks out on the crowd, and Robert Downey Jr. has to break out the Hulkbuster armor to make sure Dame Judy Dench doesn’t get hurt.  Nobody hurts Dame Judy; she is a saint, dammit!


Best Actress:

memegenerator.net
memegenerator.net

The odds –

  • Julianne Moore – 1 to 9
  • Reese Witherspoon – 8 to 1
  • Rosamund Pike – 25 to 1
  • Felicity Jones – 40 to 1
  • Marion Cotillard – 60 to 1

This category seems hollow to me when it has been such a solid category the past few years.  How can we have a best actress category without Amy Adams or Jennifer Lawrence or MERYL EFFING STREEP.  I’m such a fan of Julianne Moore who has put together a remarkable career, but I want to see her win the Oscar in a year where she can put to rest the notion that she is in a second tier of actresses.  If you haven’t seen Still Alice, then take make the time to find this movie and watch it.  It is rare to find someone who can convey so much with her eyes, and the way Moore plays this character is heartbreaking.  She deserves this award and is getting it.  I don’t even want to talk about anyone else in this category; I don’t want to jinx it.

Prop bet: Marion Cotillard loses the award, hops on a flight to DFW, and knocks on my door for support.  Someone please inform her that her soul mate lives in Arlington Texas.


Best Actor:

funnyordie
funnyordie

The odds –

  • Michael Keaton – 5 to 6
  • Eddie Redmayne – 11 to 10
  • Benedict Cumberbatch – 20 to 1
  • Steve Carell – 30 to 1
  • Bradley Cooper – 75 to 1

Here is the category that you have the best chance to sneak in some real cash on a long shot.  For someone who should be the runaway favorite for a category, Keaton has some really small odds.  There is a reason, though, and it’s one that might rear its ugly head this year.  For Academy voters, as we touched on earlier, it is all about politics, and that is something Keaton notoriously refuses to take part in.  If that happens this year, then it’s going to leave the door open for someone to sneak in and take the award amidst controversy.  So at 11 to 10 it’s going to be Eddie Redmayne, right? Right?

I don’t think so, and I’ll tell you why.  Box office returns never equal Oscar success, so American Sniper isn’t going to win Best Picture (more on that in a moment), and Academy voters are going to be split on Keaton and Redmayne.  So, if Keaton doesn’t win, then I’m calling for a groundswell of support for Bradley Cooper to take home the award.  He’s just the kind of guy that old rich white dudes love.  He’s handsome, a good actor, and says all of the right things you would expect from a young movie star.  If you are going to bet on someone, then take him and make sure to get the odds now before they drop.  I’m really, really pulling for Keaton here, but if there is a going to be a shock of the night, it’s going to be Cooper winning this award.

Prop bet: Keaton might legitimately lose his shit on live TV if he loses.  I’m not sure what the bet is, but he has the type of personality that is going to lead to great TV.  In all fairness he may keep it in check for a few minutes, but if he snaps, then we might have our first Academy Awards Kanye moment.


Best Picture:

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tumblr

The odds –

  • Boyhood – 2 to 5
  • The Imitation Game – 7 to 1
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel – 9 to 1
  • Birdman – 18 to 1
  • Selma – 20 to 1
  • The Theory of Everything – 30 to 1
  • Whiplash – 60 to 1
  • American Sniper – 75 to 1

I’m sure that everyone reading this is thinking American Sniper is a sure thing to win, but you’re looking at the odds and wondering why it is such a long shot.  I know you had a good time at the movies last weekend, but American Sniper isn’t winning the Oscar.  I’ll give you a minute to yell and tell me that I’m wrong, trust me I won’t take it personally.  It’s not just that I don’t think it is the best picture of the year (it’s not), but history is not on its side.  Only two movies in the history of the awards have won Best Picture without having the director being nominated for Best Director.  The most recent was Argo, but that was a gross oversight, and Batfleck celebrated anyway by taking down the top prize.  The other thing holding it back is the press it is getting, both good and bad, for the subject matter.  I’m not here to get into that, but it ended badly for Zero Dark Thirty very recently, and this year is going to have the same result.

This year, Boyhood is the front-runner and I’m not sure anything else is going to chase it down.  Birdman is such a brilliant film, but nothing like Boyhood has ever been seen before.  It’s such a unique narrative that Linklater was able to pull off by casting the right people who shared a vision and trusted him to execute it.  Take Boyhood; it’s the safest and surest bet.

Prop bet: Richard Linklater, a true pioneer and someone who loves the history of film, will give a great speech and then proceed to drink all of the alcohol in California with his fellow Texas pal and Dazed and Confused muse Matthew McConaughey.  Alright, alright, alright!

Hey Richie Links, do you have an Oscar man?

gramercy pictures
gramercy pictures

Stephen Balding is the Entertainment Badass for The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenB_41.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Presents: The Stephen’s

guardian.uk
guardian.uk

Please email Stephen all of your movie, TV, and random entertainment questions: stephenthescoop@hotmail.com.


One of my favorite times of the year as a movie lover is awards season, but I’m not sure that there are many other people who share my same outlook.  I look at awards season the same way a sports fan looks back on past champions as a way to define what the era was and who defined the year/decade as the best in the business.  The sports parallels are everywhere, then and now, and being a life-long sports and movie fan, that competition means something to me when it’s carried over to other realms of my life.

The same way that sports competition and vernacular has carried into my life, movie awards and categories have crept in there as well.  Woman in Football UniformFor instance, when I’m talking about someone that I want to see romantically, the analogy of “She has the potential to be the face of my franchise” has become interchangeable with “She is definitely leading lady material”.

**Note: I am aware of how horrible this sounds and even though it is never intended as malicious, I won’t attempt to justify it.   I’m sorry, ladies, on behalf of men everywhere.  You are right, we are mostly terrible people.

This type of vernacular is something that is most likely specific to men, though. and outside of normal conversation, I constantly find myself creating award categories to entertain myself.  So in honor of the 87th annual Academy Award Nominations, we(me) here at The Scoop would like to present to you for the first time ever…….The Stephen’s!! (Cue applause)

These categories have a strenuous screening and approval process, which entails, I made them up and I am nominating everything myself.  There is one exception this week however; I recruited my buddy Todd, who is the living embodiment of Movie Yoda for a category.  As always, he came through with one that I wasn’t thinking about.  If you can’t count on Movie Yoda, then who the hell can you count on?


Worst Supporting Facial Hair in a Major Motion Picture

The Nominees:

20th century fox
20th century fox

Matt DillonThere’s Something About Mary

This is more a nod to his willingness to put himself out there in a ridiculous way, but there was never any chance of him winning this category, especially since this was a comedic choice and never intended to be serious. But when I can see this picture and still laugh today, you have earned this nomination.  Well done, Matt, well done indeed.

intrepid pictures
intrepid pictures

John CusackThe Raven

Here is a great example of an actor really mailing in an acting performance.  I’m convinced that 90% of the time a respected actor has some bad facial hair, it is strictly because he plans on leaning heavily on it for his “performance.”  The Raven is a perfect example of Cusack growing (and dying) this thing on his face as the perfect distraction from him not caring about this role in the least.  The other dead giveaway is his half-committed mumbling through the line “her innocence was the first part of her soul to die.

united artists
united artists

The Ring Announcer GuyRocky III

Yes, I am fully aware that this guy has a name, and no, I am not going to look it up…ever.  He may even be dead for all I know, but I want to picture him like this forever. This guy was, is, and forever will be crazy mustache guy from Rocky III.  He is my favorite part of the movie because he has so much confidence in the mustache that you know he got hired for the role with it.  This was part of his real life, and we can only dream to have his swagger one day.

miramax
miramax

Titus WelliverGone Baby Gone

Bravo, Mr. Welliver, this is a tour de force performance of bad facial hair.  As a great character actor for the past 25 years, you have probably seen him in several things, but this role sticks out to me, and it is obvious why it does.  This is a next-level mustache and the perfect combination of crazy hair choice paired with a good performance.  Titus is great in this movie and that almost takes away from that ferret growing on his lip…almost.

The Winner

millenium films
millenium films

John TravoltaKilling Season

It is really difficult to narrow down a Travolta hair performance, which has taken on a life of its own, but this is my narrow favorite.  (Coming in a close second is that speck of weird hair he rocks on his chin in Swordfish.)  Killing Season takes home the award because he gives a performance that I think was intended to be good.  On paper, everything about this movie should have worked, but picturing DeNiro in his trailer after a take, on the verge of murder tears, just gives me endless amounts of joy.


Movie That Would Make You the Most Uncomfortable if You Watch it With a Parent

This category is great on so many levels, and one that made me think for hours.  Movie Yoda sent me this category earlier in the week and it sparked so many questions.  Actual pornographic movies couldn’t be included on this list, because that defeats the purpose.  Obviously, nobody would want to participate in watching porn with your parent.  Does it have to be a specific parent?  I believe so.  I wouldn’t have felt awkward watching a movie with my dad, since he was laid back and we are both men.  However, watching any of these with my mom would break the awkward meter beyond repair.

The nominees:

pretty bird studios

pretty bird studios

mandalay

mandalay

MGM

MGM

Iron Horse

Iron Horse

All of these movies are self-explanatory and range from “I’ll cut my eyes out before watching this with my mom,” to “murder/suiciding half of my family before turning that on my TV,” and all for different reasons.  If I ever saw my mom gawking at Channing Tatum and reaching in her purse for dollars instead of a Werther’s Original, then I swear I’m jumping out of a plate glass window jugular-first.

On the flip side of that, if Original Sin was on after Thanksgiving dinner, and that long and elaborate sex scene came on with my mom in the room, I would feel just as awkward. I don’t want to be anywhere near the same room as my mom when that is on the television.  Just having to type this out makes me want to smash my hand with a hammer.

Side note: I am convinced that scene is the reason Angelina Jolie got divorced from William Robert “Billy Bob” Thornton.  I know that CGI and special effects are all part of the movie magic process, but there are no effects to that scene.  They are straight up having sex and I will go to my grave believing that.

The winner of this category, however, is a movie that you aren’t thinking of, but there is a good reason you aren’t thinking of it.  The following anecdote didn’t happen to you.

And the winner is…

Crowvision
Crowvision

I get my love of movies from my mom, and we have seen movies together my entire life.  To this day, my mom watches more new releases in the theaters then the majority of my friends…and she is 66.  She has a real sense of the movies that she likes, and a history of movies at her disposal that I can always turn to if I have a question about something before my time.  As a former teacher and principal, she is not only the smartest woman I know, but she is also wealth of historically cultural information, and never fails to deliver exactly what I am looking for in an answer.  So after all of these years, I can tell if my mom will enjoy a movie or not when I see it.

If there is violence, it has to be Man of Fire violence, not Kill Bill violence (she rolls deep with Denzel).  If there is too much cursing, then she is 100% out.  She doesn’t see the need for the language to be bad to tell a story. If it has Tom Hanks in it, then she might go see the midnight showing.  She really does have excellent taste in movies, and just know that when you read an article of mine that involves several curse words or a fight between Oprah and Nic Cage that results in them making a baby that ends the world, it very much disappoints my mom.  She certainly raised me better than that, but I can’t control myself sometimes.

So, on this fateful day in May 1994, we were trying to decide what we would both enjoy seeing.  We had narrowed down the choices to With Honors (in hindsight the best choice), Clean Slate (The Dana Carvey vehicle), and The Crow.  I was 14 at the time, and the only thing I really knew about it was that it was Bruce Lee’s kid playing the title role, and that it sounded like something out of a comic book.  That was all I needed, so I really pushed to see it, but little did I know what was going to happen next.

I’m going to make a confession. I’ve never seen the rest of The Crow because it brings back awkward memories, but all that I know is there was a mom doing drugs, some crazy asshole named Funboy, and a scene with more exposed breasts than I ever wanted to see with my mom next to me.  To top it off, Ernie Hudson wasn’t even busting ghosts.

It will go down in my personal history as the only movie that I ever walked out of in my life…well, besides Grease on a date once, but that is for another reason and another time (it doesn’t end well).


Good luck to all of the Oscar nominees, and let’s hope that none of them ever end up on this list.

Stephen Balding is the Entertainment Badass for The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenB_41.