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Global Showbiz Briefs: Tom Jones To Star In ‘Under Milk Wood’; Marco Frazier Upped To SVP At AMC/Sundance Channel Global

By | Thursday April 17, 2014 @ 10:00pm PDT

Tom Jones, Sian Phillips & Michael Sheen Join ‘Under Milk Wood’ Cast
tom-jonesTom Jones, Sian Phillips and Michael Sheen have joined the cast of Under Milk Wood, BBC Wales TV’s adaptation of Dylan Thomas’ “play for voices.” Jones stars as the blind and tormented Captain Cat, with Sheen among several actors playing First Voice and Second Voice, including Matthew Rhys and John Rhys Davies. The cast also includes Jonathan Pryce, Ioan Gruffudd and opera star Bryn Terfel. Since its debut on radio 60 years ago, the tale of the residents of the fictional Welsh village of Llareggub has been adapted as a stage play, an opera, and a 1972 starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Read More »

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HAMMOND: ‘Bridesmaids’, ‘Artist’, ‘Paris’ Try To Buck Oscar’s Prejudice Against Comedy; HFPA Says ‘The Help’ Is Not Funny

Pete Hammond

Dying is easy, comedy is hard. Someone said that, right?

Judging by the paltry number of “pure” comedies that have won Best Picture Oscars in the past, apparently the Academy doesn’t think it’s hard at all. But could this actually be the year comedy will once again get its due in the Best Picture race? Will we ever see another genuine laugher taken seriously? “It’s crazy when you see what these great comedy people do,” says Bridesmaids producer Judd Apatow. His film was a huge surprise summer hit and has one of the highest critics ratings on Rotten Tomatoes with 90% fresh reviews. That’s a lot better than many dramatic contenders that pundits take more seriously as true Oscar pictures. Broad, hit-’em-in-the-gut comedy is almost always dismissed.

Apatow told me he was really surprised when Bridesmaids started to become part of the awards conversation this year but now believes they have a shot, at least in some categories — although not daring to dream of Best Picture yet. “We’re very hopeful about Melissa McCarthy in supporting. (Co-writer and star) Kristen Wiig  should get recognition  too. It’s very hard to do what she does,” Apatow said, adding that he thought Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover (which Apatow did not produce) should have been recognized a couple of years ago for the “perfect supporting part” but was obviously overlooked.

Further proving disrespect for comedy in the Acad, Apatow himself was dissed even to become an Academy member until finally getting the invite in 2008. Considering the Academy’s usual reluctance to reward the genre, Wiig is shocked they are even in the hunt, but Bridesmaids is the only movie Universal is significantly campaigning this year. “It’s nuts,” she said. “Recently we were looking at our original draft and thinking the fact people are even talking about it in this way is very strange. But I think ultimately it’s about the story and characters. You have to care about them or you’re not going to care about the movie whether it is comedy or drama.”

Bridesmaids is also hoping for recognition as a Best Picture Comedy or Musical nominee in the Golden Globes, where it actually does have a realistic chance of making the cut (The Hangover actually won). Many have called for the Academy to institute separate categories to honor comedy, like the Globes have always done, but it has never flown.

It is not hard to see why.

Often there’s a very gray line between what constitutes a comedy in the first place.  The Hollywood Foreign Press lets studios determine which categories they want to be in but has final say. In other words, if a studio tries to squeeze J. Edgar into comedy because there is less competition, forget it. This year, there has been lots of discussion among distributors about what constitutes a comedy. Fox Searchlight initially debated whether to enter its George Clooney starrer The Descendants in the Comedy or Musical category because there are definite laughs, but the dramatic elements ruled the day and it is submitted as a drama. Same with Sony’s Moneyball, which had some TV ads with quotes calling it “hilarious.” In the end, it wasn’t that hilarious — it’s in drama.

On the other hand, DreamWorks officially submitted The Help in comedy or musical even though it has some very heavy dramatic moments. On Monday, an HFPA committee rejected it in comedy and determined it would compete as a drama, where it will go head-to-head with Disney/DreamWorks’ other big hopeful, War Horse (assuming both get nominated, as seems likely). It’s not surprising: At a recent event I attended, a lot of HFPA members were voicing concerns about having to judge The Help as a comedy. The film was indeed initially sold by Disney and DreamWorks with an emphasis on its lighter elements, and past Globe winners in the category such as Driving Miss Daisy were similar in tone. Still, that would have meant Viola Davis would compete in the Best Actress-Comedy or Musical category, and no matter how you slice it, her character — a civil rights-era maid — just wasn’t that funny. Other entries that remain in the category that border comedy and drama are Focus Features’ Beginners and Summit’s 50/50, both dealing with main characters with cancer; Paramount’s Young Adult; and The Weinstein Company’s My Week With Marilyn. But the placement seems logical, and their chances against stiff competition in the drama categories would be considerably lessened. Last year, Focus entered the dramedy The Kids Are All Right in the comedy categories and bagged Globes for both the picture and Annette Bening. Read More »

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R.I.P. Diane Cilento

By | Friday October 7, 2011 @ 3:31am PDT

Diane Cilento, the Australian actress once married to Sean Connery and who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1963 for Tom Jones, has died aged 78. Cilento was reckoned to be one of the best actresses of her generation in the early 60s, but she had the misfortune to appear on the scene at a time when roles for young women in British cinema mostly consisted of either nurses or well-brought-up gals. Movie producers did not know how to use her lubricious sexuality, which director Tony Richardson caught when she played Molly, the sexy gamekeeper’s daughter Tom Jones. Hollywood tried to push her as a sex symbol opposite Charlton Heston in The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965) and Paul Newman in Hombre (1967). But it was her marriage to Sean Connery during the 60s — then at the peak of his Bond fame — which took up most of her energy. They had one son together, Jason — who became an actor himself – and divorced in 1973. Cilento became increasingly involved with Gurdijeff spiritualism and mostly abandoned acting, apart from The Wicker Man (1973). She subsequently remarried Anthony Shaffer, screenwriter of Sleuth and The Wicker Man, and moved back to Australia, where she founded an experimental theatre in northern Queensland. The actress was classically trained at RADA and appeared on stage in a variety of Shakespearian roles as well as opposite Michael Redgrave in the play … Read More »

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