Thursday, September 18, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Monday, February 3, 2014, 3:04 PM
Philip Seymour Hoffman on Jan.19 at Sundance. (Photo: Victoria Will/Invision/AP)

'Not Philip Seymour Hoffman!" read the post from a friend that popped up on Facebook.

Found dead on Sunday from an apparent drug overdose in a Greenwich Village apartment, Hoffman was 46. Last month he was front and center at the Sundance Film Festival, premiering a pair of pictures - God's Pocket, based on the Pete Dexter novel, and A Most Wanted Man, an adaptation of the John le Carré spy thriller. Both will be released this year - with the word posthumous certain to show up in the reviews.

There's always been something a little dangerous about Hoffman, whether in small roles or large. He's played his share of weirdos and outcasts, bad guys and tyrants, gay men and straight, loners, lovers, losers, clowns. He could do self-loathing, he could inhabit rage, he could be cool. But invariably, whoever and whatever he was, Hoffman brought intensity, intelligence, a lack of vanity, and a deep sense of craft to his work.

POSTED: Wednesday, January 29, 2014, 4:55 PM

There are only 28 days in February, but that isn’t stopping Turner Classic Movies from launching its annual “31 Days of Oscar” festival. Starting Saturday and running through March 3 (the day after the Academy Awards, Sunday, March 2) , TCM will be reeling through best picture nominees, best actor nominees, actresses, screenplay, cinematography, art direction , special effects – focusing on especially bountiful years for the movies and their makers.

Try Saturday’s inaugural lineup:  all ten best picture nominees  from arguably the greatest year in Hollywood history, 1939. Beginning at 6am and running to almost 6am Sunday, the films are: Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Of Mice and Men, Ninotchka, Wuthering Heights, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Dark Victory and Love Affair. (Gone With the Wind took home the statuette-- but how ridiculous is that year?)

Or consider Feb. 4th’s Foreign Language Film Nominee and Winner Marathon: Fellini’s La Strada (1954),  Kon Ichikawa’s The Burmese Harp (’56) , Bergman’s The Virgin Spring (’60), Jiri Menzel’s Closely Watched Trains (’67), Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers (’66), Costa-Gavras’ Z  (’69)  and Gabriel Axel’s Babette’s Feast (’87).

POSTED: Wednesday, January 22, 2014, 4:34 PM
Jennifer Lopez, J-Lo, is not in "American Hustle," despite what David O. Russel's text message may have said.

Christian Bale, nominated for a best actor Oscar for his role as the toupee-topped con-artist Irving Rosenfeld in the rollicking, Polyester Era American Hustle, is good friends with his director, David O. Russell. They collaborated on The Fighter. They live down the road from each other in L.A. And when Russell began putting the pieces together for his Abscam scandal movie, he would text Russell with ideas.

Amy Adams, also a Fighter alum, was suggested as Russell’s first choice for Sydney, Bale’s character’s soulmate in scammery, both director and star agreed. But then, what about the role of Rosalyn, Irving’s unhappy and nutty wife?

 “David texts a lot,” Bale, in an interview in December, recalls. “So he texts me, and he’s been saying, `You know, I’ve got somebody in mind for Rosalyn.’ I said, `Who is it?’ He said, `I don’t want to tell you.’ I said, `Get the eff out of here.’ He said, `OK, but you have to promise not to tell anybody.’ And so he sends me — and I think the auto-correct has changed things, because it comes out `J-LA ,' right? And I look at that and I think it must have changed the O to an A. He means J-Lo! Jennifer Lopez! And I think, J-Lo? I just can’t picture that. That’s a real surprise. I never would have imagined J-Lo. So, I text him back, `J-Lo?’

POSTED: Wednesday, January 15, 2014, 4:51 PM
Stallone takes aim -- at Razzie glory.

There’s no arguing that 2013 was an exceptionally good year for the movies. (Oh, OK, go ahead and argue if you want.) But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t an exceptionally bad year, too. The folks who hand out the Razzies – the annual prize for Worst Picture, Worst Actor, Worst Actress, etcetera -- announced their choices Wednesday, one day before the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences comes out with its hotly anticipated Oscar nominations. Local luminaries are well represented: M. Night Shyamalan’s sci-fi Will Smith/Jaden Smith debacle After Earth and Rocky boy Sylvester Stallone are in the race for Razzie glory..  

Here’s the list of the 34th annual Razzie nominations, giving Hollywood one big fat sloppy raspberry.

Worst Picture:

POSTED: Tuesday, December 31, 2013, 3:42 PM
Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep sit down with stealth Scotsman Ewan McGregor, who plays Roberts' American-as-apple-pie philandering spouse in August: Osage County.

Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County, opening in Philadelphia January 10 -- and already playing in a few theaters in New York and Los Angeles – is set in the American heartland, exactly where its title says: Osage County, Oklahoma. So when it became time, a year or so back, to consider casting the film adaptation of the Pulitzer- and Tony-winning dysfunctional family free-for-all, Letts met with the famously hands-on film mogul, Harvey Weinstein, to discuss the matter. And one thing Letts made perfectly clear: No Brits, please.

“All these English men and these Irish men, I think they’re great,” says Letts, “but I do think American actors are getting short shrift.  There’s a kind of loose-limbed quality to American acting, and I think we’re starting to lose it a little bit.”

At his first meeting with Weinstein, Letts said as much.

POSTED: Tuesday, December 24, 2013, 10:23 AM
Brian Fantana, Ron Burgundy, Champ Kind and Brick Tamland strut their stuff in "Anchorman 2."

Nothing establishes a time and place and mood like the right song, and when you’re trying to recreate those halcyon, polyester days of yore – like the cusp of 1980, when disco was king – the music is everything. In David O. Russell’s American Hustle, the rollicking free-for-all  starring Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, the soundtrack is full of  ‘70s hits that say something about the respective characters and their mindsets, like  Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love”, The Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” and Paul McCartney & Wings’ 007 theme song, “Live and Let Die,” which J-Law belts out in one particularly impassioned scene.

In Anchroman 2: The Legend Continues, Ron Burgundy and crew relocate to New York to go to work for the first 24 hour news channel. It’s 1980, and the songs in the Will Ferrell farce include Kenny Loggins’ “This Is It,” John Waite’s “Change” and Hot Chocolate’s “Every 1’s a Winner.”

American Hustle’s Russell and Anchorman 2’s director and co-writer, Adam McKay, are good friends, and knew they’d be vying for the same, or similar tunes. But they also knew that a lot of the great songs were already gone.

POSTED: Wednesday, December 18, 2013, 5:14 PM
Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson are heading to Center City's Roxy Theater. Their "Saving Mr. Banks" opens the theater Friday. (� Disney)

The Roxy is back. After extensive, and expensive renovations (including a Kickstarter campaign to pay for new seats), the Rittenhouse Square-area two-screen house is set to open Friday, Dec. 20, with the Disney release Saving Mr. Banks, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson. And next week, it’ll add The Wolf of Wall Street, the high-profile Martin Scorsese Paramount title with Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey and Jonah Hill. The Philadelphia Film Society, which took over the Roxy after its closure last fall, plans to program the theater in  much the same way as it programs the annual Philadelphia Film Festival: a  balance, says PFS executive director Andrew Greenblatt,  of `prestige’ studio titles with a mix of foreign language, American independent, documentary and experimental films, “with some repertory sprinkled in,” he reports.

Additional plans include a monthly Filmadelphia screening series, a free showcase for student and local filmmakers, and a return of the Children’s International  Film Festival (this year’s fest was screened at the Roxy, a kind of "soft" opening for kids and families, in mid-November). For info on all the Roxy’s programming, its site will be up and runniing tomorrow, when news of the reopening is official.

POSTED: Wednesday, December 11, 2013, 10:11 AM
Sandra Bullock considers the gravity of the situation.

The Screen Actors Guild, whose members make up the largest block of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voters, announced its 2013 nominations this morning. A traditional bellwether for the Oscars, this year’s list is full of veteran winners and nominees, and also absent one conspicuous name: Robert Redford. Already the recipient of best actor kudos in several critics polls for his remarkable solo outing in All Is Lost, Redford didn’t make the final five in the lead-role group. (Nor did Joaquin Phoenix, another contender in an almost solo outing, Her.) James Gandolfini, who died in June, received a best supporting actor nomination for his work in Enough Said. The “Outstanding Performance by a Cast” nods, sort of SAG’s equivalent of the best picture nominations, were for 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, August: Osage County, Dallas Buyers Club and Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Here’s the complete list of film nominations (SAG also announced nominees in television categories):


Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

About this blog

Steven Rea has been an Inquirer movie critic since 1992. He was born in London, raised in New York City, and has lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Iowa City, Iowa. His column, "On Movies," appears Sundays in Arts & Entertainment, his reviews appear in the Weekend section on Fridays, and his blog, On Movies Online, can be found here. He is a member of the National Society of Film Critics.

Steven Rea's previous blog posts can be found here. Read his most recent columns and reviews, here. He is the author of the book “Hollywood Rides a Bike,” and also curates the movie stars and bicycling photo blog, Rides A Bike.

Reach Steven at

Steven Rea Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
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