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February 22, 2009

Heath Ledger makes history


Just because it wasn't a surprise doesn't make it any less historic or emotional. 

Heath Ledger has become only the second actor to receive a posthumous Oscar, for his daring performance as the sociopathic arch-villain The Joker in "The Dark Knight."

His family -- father, mother and sister -- accepted the best supporting actor trophy "on behalf of his beautiful Matilda," his 3-year-old daughter with former love Michelle Williams. Matilda will inherit the Little Gold Man when she turns 18.

"It would've humbly validated Heath's quiet determination to be accepted by all you here, his peers, in an industry he so loved," said his dad, Kim Ledger.

And as a reminder to a room full of Hollywood stars and perhaps a lot of viewers tearing up, Ledger's mother said, "We are choosing to celebrate and be happy for what he has achieved." In other words, this isn't a funeral, it's a wake.

Lovely. Simply lovely.

Joaquin Phoenix doppelgangers


Two awards shows in as many days, and two rumpled, shaggy-haired, unintelligible Joaquin Phoenix doppelgangers. Not sure who that was yesterday behind the scraggly beard and sunglasses at the Spirit Awards (getting screamed at by "Christian Bale" in a Bat suit), but today at the Oscars it's Ben Stiller.

Some of our Gold Rush readers have recently weighed in on the Phoenix debacle, sprung wide open on the "Late Show with David Letterman" recently. They mostly said they're concerned and sad about his erratic behavior and near-comatose public appearances.

They see it less as a ruse and more as a cry for help.

Who knew that Gold Rush commenters were missing the cynical gene?

We'd called bullsh** on Phoenix's claim that he has quit acting for a hip hop career. Everybody has. We consider it all a big joke perpetuated by a spoiled, self-important actor who's filming the whole "transformation" for a documentary. It seems so self indulgent and bratty.

But what if he's seriously in trouble, something our readers nudged us to really consider? What if he's going the route of his late brother? If that turns out to be the case, making fun of him on live TV could turn out to be a move of incredibly tasteless proportions.

'WALL-E' gets its due


Never bet against Pixar. Isn't that the rule? Isn't that what Jack Black just said?

One of our absolute favorite films of 2008, "WALL-E" just took the animated feature Oscar (with director and co-writer Andrew Stanton picking it up), as most everyone expected, but the Pixar-created short "Presto" has messed up our perfect batting average.

What did win in the animated short category? "La Maison en Petits Cubes," with its adorable director, Kunio Kato, making a Mr. Roboto reference in his acceptance speech. In this case, we learned that we should've bet against Pixar and that we really want to party with Mr. Kato.

Black, Beaufoy take writing Oscars

84979506 Two-for-two over here at Gold Rush, and we couldn't be happier about this win for Dustin Lance Black for his original screenplay for "Milk," even though he's collected a number of Important Awards this season.

This was the biggest. And this gave him the most extensive platform yet to inject some politics into the proceedings.

Black, after thanking the cast of "Milk," Harvey Milk's protege/film consultant Cleve Jones and others, talked about his conservative Mormon upbringing, as he's done repeatedly along the campaign trail, and how badly he needed Harvey Milk as an influence in his life.

And he spoke directly to the young gays and lesbians, saying: "You are beautiful, wonderful creatures with value. And God does love you. Very soon, you will have equal rights federally across this great nation of ours."

Absolutely touching and absolutely deserved.

Simon Beaufoy, despite the steamroller routine that "Slumdog Millionaire" has done this season, said he didn't expect to be standing there winning for his adapted screenplay (nor did he ever imagine standing on the moon, the South Pole or the Miss World podium).

Thus begins what'll likely be a "Slumdog" romp.

Penelope Cruz needs smelling salts

84979491 "Has anyone ever fainted up here before?"

We'd have to research that one, Penelope Cruz, but we think that would've made the top 10 Oscar trivia lists, and there'd be video if it happened since the advent of the YouTubes.

So the new way of presenting awards, if they're all to happen the way best supporting actress did, was more meaningful, or maybe the script was just better. But having previous winners like Whoopi Goldberg and Goldie Hawn made this come alive.

Congrats, Penelope, the first win of the night, and let's hope this means we're on a roll.

The opening: kitsch and wink


Stars went for the empathy chic instead of the ostentatious bling on the red carpet, and producers of the 81st Annual Academy Awards put the opening number together with cardboard, crayons and duct tape, all in deference to the Economic Armageddon this country finds itself in.

It worked. It really worked, from the paper Oscar statues to the intentionally goofy dancers.

Don't recall an opening bit that got a standing ovation (big whoops from the local crowd here, too).

It deserved it, and so did host Hugh Jackman, who sang that he hasn't gotten around to seeing "The Reader" yet, like most of those people watching at home, and admits he's still stinging that "The Dark Knight" was snubbed, again, like most of the folks out there in TV-land.

Good on producers Larry Mark and Bill Condon for the kitsch and wink of that opening, and on Jackman for delivering it.


Tuning up for Oscar

Kodak scene 

Welcome to Oscar afternoon, for those of us on the West Coast, and Gold Rush's live and semi-coherent coverage of the show from a secret location.

Actually, it's a joint called Busby's East and it's just about as close to the Kodak Theater as the "backstage" press room we sat in last year. And it's a whole damn lot warmer. 

We're looking forward to an entire awards show where we will not have to hear the following question, "Who are you wearing, head to toe?" until our ears start bleeding. Oh fashion press, we won't miss you at all.

This is watching the Oscars, Version Regular Joe. We've ensconced ourselves in a group of about 60 such Joes, or as regular as is possible in this town, the entertainment apex. It's a bunch of movie lovers and the people who put up with them, with some really taking this seriously -- we know that because they're wearing gowns and tuxes. Others are much more interested in the chicken wing buffet. (Mmmmm, chicken wings).

See our predictions here, and keep coming back for some musings on the revamped show, the winners, the happs, etc.

'Love Guru,' Uwe Boll, Paris Hilton top Razzies


It takes a healthy sense of humor, specifically, the ability to laugh at oneself, and a heaping helping of confidence to accept a Razzie Award in the flesh.

That's why so few of Hollywood's dishonored have ever done it. (Exceptions: Paul Verhoeven for "Showgirls," Tom Green for five "Freddy Got Fingered" Razzies, and most famously, Halle Berry for "Catwoman," clutching her Razzie in one hand and her "Monster's Ball" Oscar in the other).

Saturday night added a new chapter, kind of, when Worst Career Achievement winner Uwe Boll sent a video clip of himself, insulting the cheeky awards and saying his wins have driven him into exile in Darfur. He even showed a little hut he's living in there.

"Thank you for destroying my life," he said.

Was that supposed to be funny? It's impossible to tell with this guy. Anyway, you're welcome. Now just stop making movies.

Hottie_and_the_nottie Boll, whose Rotten Tomato reviews average 96.5% negative, won not only the Career Achievement Award, taken out of mothballs for the first time in more than 20 years just for him, but he also was named worst director for a triple play of crap from '08 -- "Postal," "1968: Tunnel Rats," and "In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale."

Completely unrepentant, Boll also said on the video that Razzie voters should give "Postal" another go. "You'll realize you were wrong."

Not likely.

Among the other big winners (none present) were the "misbegotten, far-from-mystical 'comedy'," "The Love Guru," with worst picture, worst screenplay and worst actor (Mike Myers). Paris Hilton won three sprayed-gold trophies (that's a tie, with Eddie Murphy, for the most "honors" in a single Razzie ceremony) for "The Hottie and the Nottie. She won worst actress, worst screen couple and worst supporting actress (for "Repo: The Genetic Opera").

Pierce Brosnan took it on the chin for attempting to make music in "Mamma Mia!," and "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" was named worst prequel, remake, rip-off or sequel.

Go here for all things Razzie, and take a look at what we might be voting on this time next year. Judging from a clip that ended last night's show, the competition between "Alvin and the Chipmunks 2," "Bride Wars," "Pink Panther 2" and Lindsay Lohan's upcoming "Labor Pains" could be fierce.


Oscar picks, the final version


Oscar nominees are supposed to be gracious and self-deprecating, never letting on even if they think they have the win all sewn up. At least, that's what their publicists tell them to do.

Now here we have the flip side, with Melissa Leo at yesterday's Spirit Awards saying, "I have no chance," because she thinks it'll be either Meryl Streep or Kate Winslet taking home the best actress honor. Leo did win the Spirit Award for her riveting single-mom-on-the-skids role in "Frozen River."

84968897 Anne Hathaway at the same event: "I'm not winning."

And if we had a nickel for every time we'd heard the veteran actor Richard Jenkins assess his odds at slim to none in the best actor race, we could buy a venti latte by now.

We loved all those performances but, alas, it's true. They probably can't win, and modesty becomes them. So what will take home The Little Gold Man at the "81st Annual Academy Awards" in a few hours?

Here are our picks:

Best picture: "Slumdog Millionaire"

Best actor: Sean Penn, "Milk"

Best actress: Kate Winslet, "The Reader"

Best director: Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire"

Best supporting actor: Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight"

Best supporting actress: Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"

Best original screenplay: Dustin Lance Black, "Milk"

Best adapted screenplay: Simon Beaufoy, "Slumdog Millionaire"

Best foreign language picture: "Waltz with Bashir"

Animated picture: "WALL-E"

Original song: "Jai Ho"

Musical score: A. R. Rahman, "Slumdog Millionaire"

Documentary feature: "Man on Wire"

Documentary short subject: "The Witness"

Animated short film: "Presto"

Live action short: "The Pig"

Art direction: Donald Graham Burt, Victor J. Zolfo, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle, "Slumdog Millionaire"

Costume design: Michael O'Connor, "The Duchess"

Film editing: "Slumdog Millionaire"

Makeup: Greg Cannom, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

Sound mixing: "The Dark Knight"

Sound editing: "The Dark Knight"

Visual effects: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

We have a good feeling about this -- really, much better than our hit-and-miss-but-mostly-miss Emmy choices!

Winning, Rourke style

And the crowd went wild. Not that there hadn't been a lot of love and respect shown for veteran actor Richard Jenkins -- because there had -- and the other best actor nominees at yesterday's Spirit Awards, but it was clear that the audience was fully behind winner Mickey Rourke.

For his part, he took advantage of the cable TV televised event and its "swear words encouraged" attitude to let loose (so this clip is NSFW) but not without spreading the goodwill that he's gathered by winning a number of high profile awards this season for his role in "The Wrestler."

Namely, he gave a shout out to Eric Roberts and said the actor "deserves a second chance," like the one he's now riding. He stumped for work for his talented, formerly troubled friend and, in the process, earned even more points on the likable scale. Though he quickly added, "Eric will probably be arrested by the end of the day."

Now that's a pal.

Rourke thanked his co-star, Marisa Tomei, whose name he nearly botched, for doing a hell of a job "bare assed." "Not many girls can climb the pole, you know what I'm saying? She climbed the pole, and she did it well."

Vintage Mickey, complete with thanking Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment and stumping for the next project for "The Wrestler's" producer Scott Franklin, "who's broke."

If he pulls an upset tonight, can't wait to hear what he'll come up with. Censors, prepare yourselves.

About this blog

Oscar Contenders

  • So "The Dark Knight" didn't make it into the final five after all, never mind that critical and popular support. Let's just call the comic-inspired mega-hit "The Biggest Snubee."

    Here are the best picture contenders in a race that, two weeks away from the Oscars, seems to be a foregone conclusion ("Slumdog") unless there's a come-from-behind possibility ("The Reader" anyone?)

    "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett; the politically timely "Milk;" rags-to-riches fairy tale, "Slumdog Millionaire," Holocaust best-seller-based drama "The Reader," and Watergate-era biopic "Frost/Nixon."

    Could "Button" and "Slumdog" split the vote, allowing another film to take the prize? Doesn't seem likely. After having clung to "Button" for months as what we thought would be the Academy voters' top vhoice, our money's now on "Slumdog." Momentum can't be ignored.

    Watch this blog for updates, ephemera and all manner of postulating.

Picture this

  • Mmmmm, chocolate Oscar. Not every star will walk away from the 81st annual Academy Awards with a trophy, but if they hit the high-profile Governor's Ball they can have pastry chef Sherry Yard's gold-dusted candy version. Also on the menu from celeb chef Wolfgang Puck is tuna tartare in sesame miso cones, chopped Chino Farms vegetable salad with ginger soy vinaigrette, Maine lobster and caviar. Serve it up! (Getty Images)

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