Andy Griffith, an American acting and comedy icon, seen here receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2005. (Click here for video of the ceremony)
Film critic Rex Reed pays his annual tribute to the great artists lost in the previous year. Among the great talents who left us in 2012: Whitney Houston, Ernest Borgnine, Phyllis Diller, Andy Griffith and so many more who will never be replaced. Click here to read the tribute article.
Adele will perform her Oscar-nominated theme from Skyfall at this year's Academy Awards on February 24. It will mark the first time she has performed the song in front of a live audience. The theme from Skyfall won the Golden Globe Award for Best Song earlier this month. James Bond fans will anxiously await to see this becomes the first 007 theme to win an Oscar. (Themes from Live and Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only had been nominated previously.) Click here for more
Lovelace, the bio pic of porn legend Linda Lovelace, premiered this week at Sundance. Amanda Seyfried plays the title role of the tortured Lovelace, a woman whose peculiar sexual talent resulted in Deep Throat grossing hundreds of millions of dollars in the 1970s. Lovelace saw none of the profits, however, beyond the paltry sum she was paid to perform in the film. The fame and notoriety did elevate her to a household name and put the debate over government censorship into high gear. Lovelace's personal life was also defined by controversy and destructive relationships. She passed away in 2002 at the age of 53. Click here to watch a clip of Seyfried as Lovelace.
Director David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook deserves praise, if for nothing else, overcoming the seemingly incomprehensible title and becoming a major box-office success. The film is typical of today's "rom-coms" (romantic comedies, for the uninitiated.) Troubled, attractive young guy. Troubled, attractive young woman. Both meet cute. Both have to interact with lovable, eccentric friends and family members before overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles in achieving great goal. Bradley Cooper, progressing very well from low-brow comedies, gives a very fine performance as Pat, a charismatic Philadelphia school teacher who goes bonkers when he discovers his wife getting on in the shower with one of his school colleagues. He goes on a rampage and almost beats the man to death. When we first see him, his mother is checking him out of a psychiatric institution after 8 long months- and against the advice of his doctors. Seems Pat has been bi-polar all along but never knew it, something that strains credibility given the fact that emotionally, he carries more baggage than a cruise ship. (In a completely unbelievable but "cute" plot device, he is sent into a rage every time he hears Steve Wonder singing "My Cherie, Amour"- you know, sort of like that old sketch in which the Three Stooges go ballistic upon hearing "Niagara Falls"). Pat tries to readjust to his dysfunctional family life but it's a rocky road. He is obsessed with winning back his gorgeous wife, who he mistakenly believes is equally determined to revive their marriage. In the process, he has to frequently lock horns with his father (Robert De Niro in very fine form), a reckless gambler and bookmaker who is always only seconds away from financial disaster. The old man is betting the ranch on the outcome of football games in the hopes of fulfilling his dream of opening a small, local restaurant. In the midst of all this chaos, Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a vivacious but equally troubled young widow with a history of mental illness. Before you can say "When Harry Met Sally", the two enter a combative relationship that all -too predictably results in a gradual attraction. All of this leads up to a crisis-filled night in which Pat has promised to be Tiffany's dance partner in a local contest that they have to score well enough on to prevent Pat's dad from losing everything he has and, instead, win the bet that will allow him to open his restaurant.
The script of Silver Linings Playbook contains every cliche except, "Hey kids, we can put the show on in a barn!" Yet, it's a feel-good, crowd-pleaser that is just off-beat enough to rise above the level of most romantic comedies. The scene-stealer is Jennifer Lawrence, who fully deserves her Oscar nomination as the bitchy-but-lovable head case whose emotions run up and down like a roller-coaster. She and Cooper make for a fine on-screen couple and watching them deal with their respective eccentricities is one of the film's delights. Director Russell also makes good use of the suburban Philly locations and the cast (particularly De Niro) is especially convincing at making you believe you are intruding on an actual middle-class family's intimate moments. Still, as the movie nears its climactic dance competition sequence, I found myself praying that the script would refreshingly forgo what was shaping up to the be most predictable of endings. Sadly, Russell (who also wrote the screenplay) goes for the low-hanging fruit and employs every mothballed romantic cliche imaginable, complete with love-crazed young guy running after heartbroken girlfriend down a city street adorned with Christmas decorations. There's enough moss on these story elements to make penicillin.
The film is refreshing in the sense that it's one of the few youth-oriented comedies that doesn't rely on vulgarity and gross-out humor. It's definitely a good date movie, but certainly undeserving of a Best Picture Oscar.