Darth Vader and the “Clockwork Orange” Guy Do Facebook Updates (Video)

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While you kind of feel badly for them, James Earl Jones and Malcolm McDowell manage to still look classy in the new Sprint commercials, in which they emote on a phone call and, in another, on Facebook updates for someone named Jenna.

“I think I see you. Nope, wasn’t you,” booms Jones, who has most memorably been the voice of Darth Vader in the “Star Wars” films, among other big roles.

“Now, I’m by the tools … now, I’m by the linens,” responds McDowell, who once starred as Alex in the movie classic, “A Clockwork Orange.”

Ah, well:

Conjuring a fright: what makes a great horror movie? | Tom Shone

For today’s sophisticated audience, it’s not all about jump scares – the best horror movies keep playing even if you shut your eyes

There’s nothing like genre junkies to cut to the chase. The glory days of drive-in-theatre critic Joe Bob Briggs may be past (“No dead bodies. One hundred seventeen breasts. Multiple aardvarking. Lap dancing. Cage dancing. Lesbo Fu. Pool cue-fu… Joe Bob says check it out”), but his spirit lives on. While movie critics have been going into raptures over The Conjuring – comparing its director James Wan to David Lynch, calling his direction “rhapsodic”, finding his film “a metaphor for moviegoing itself” – horror afficionados have been getting down to basics: how many jump scares does it have? And: are they the right sort?

You know jump scares. The moment in a horror film when the protagonist wipes the steam from a bathroom mirror and sees the psycho standing behind them. The hand coming out of the grave at the end of Carrie. The axe in the back of Scatman Crothers in The Shining. The bed-swallowing in Nightmare on Elm Street. According to The Verge:

“A well-done jump scare breaks down the same way Michael Caine describes illusions in The Prestige, with three distinct steps. First there’s the pledge: a character is introduced into a situation where danger is present. They hear a rattling in the kitchen, or voices when they’re home alone. Then comes the turn, where the character finds a reasonable explanation, or the immediate threat is somehow removed.

Everything seems all right, and the audience lets its guard down. That’s when the filmmakers execute the prestige, hitting an unsuspecting audience with the actual scare – usually accompanied by a shrieking music cue or sound effect.”

The only trouble being that finding an unsuspecting audience these days is like looking for a virgin at summer camp. We’re so well versed in the shot rhythm of the jump scare that audiences get them ahead of the beat: all you need do is cut to a closeup of your heroine, and the audience is tensing it’s abdominals in preparation.

“Deafening noises, bursts of music, faces materializing from nowhere can make the heart skip, send popcorn flying from tubs and reduce one to watching a screen through woven fingers, but after going home and surviving the night, all the just-a-cat moments and demon faces and gore slip from the mind,” said Jake Cole at Film.com. While admitting that “some jump scares are so ingeniously executed they take on a life of their own,” the fact remains: “Jump scares don’t cause nightmares.”

Nicely said. Early word was that The Conjuring, James Wan loving homage to the days of The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror, was full of them. “We’ve seen swarms of birds, levitating furniture and chaotic third-act exorcisms before, even down to its very last shot, The Conjuring demonstrates a scary – and welcome – amount of care,” said William Goss at Film.com. The movie was choc-a-block with jump scares, but they punched their weight. “Each of the scares are actually pretty creative in their jump,” said Ain’t it Cool. This was music to the ears of all the horror fans out there, their senses dulled by too many it-was-just-a-cat and oh-it’s-the-caretaker. The debate over jump scares goes back to Hitchcock’s famous definition between shock and suspense, delivered to Francois Truffaut in 1962:

“We are now having a very innocent little chat. Let’s suppose that there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, “Boom!” There is an explosion. The public is surprised, but prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequence.

Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware the bomb is going to explode at one o’clock and there is a clock in the decor. The public can see that it is a quarter to one. In these conditions, the same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: “You shouldn’t be talking about such trivial matters. There is a bomb beneath you and it is about to explode!”

In the first case we have given the public fifteen seconds of surprise at the moment of the explosion. In the second we have provided them with fifteen minutes of suspense. The conclusion is that whenever possible the public must be informed.”

Hitchcock didn’t stick to his own rule, of course, delivering some of the most famous jump scares of all in Psycho: the shower scene, the knife attack on Arbogast, the revelation of Mrs Bates in the basement. It’s the main reason Psycho, of all his films, hasn’t worn so well: shock dates, but suspense does not.

The best horror movies keep playing even if you shut your eyes – they beat on the backs of your eyelids, like ideas that can’t be shut away. Very little of The Shining takes place during the night and the maze in which Nicholson freezes over at the end – Kubrick’s invention, not King’s – could be an allegory for a man trapped in his own mind. A very Kubrickian nightmare, to be sure – shutting yourself in with the maniac – but also a reminder that there are no exteriors in the best horror movies, only interiors, no bogeyman worse than a stray thought. Cole’s top 10 of atmospheric shockers is excellent. Here is mine:

Don’t Look Now by Nicolas Roeg (1973)

Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978)

Cat People (Jacques Tourneur, 1958)

Nosferatu (FW Murnau, 1922)

The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965)

Let The Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman, 1978)

Jacob’s Ladder (Adrian Lyne, 1990)

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch, 1992)

Oscars predictions: Argo to win – and Amour to provide the poundage | Tom Shone

Ben Affleck’s nifty caper will win best picture, and Day-Lewis best actor – and I’m predicting a big night for Michael Haneke

History be damned. A pox on precedent. A poke in gravitas’s eye. This year it looks very much as if Argo, the nifty Iranian caper conjured up by Ben Affleck and George Clooney, will speed off with best picture, making it the first film to do so without a best director nomination since Driving Miss Daisy in 1989.

To those who say this riderless horse lacks the poundage of a typical best picture winner, just look at the light lifting the academy has preferred to do of late: The King’s Speech, The Artist, and now Argo, just one letter away from an inert gas. In a year of passionate favorites and flash-fire controversies, Affleck’s film has emerged as the clear consensus winner – the film that rubs the least number of people up the wrong way.

You’ll soon know which way the evening is headed by that old bellwether, best editing, and best adapted screenplay. Lincoln’s Tony Kushner has been the frontrunner in the latter category all season, but he stubbed his toe at the Writers’ Guild Awards last weekend, where Argo’s Chris Terrio walked away with the prize. Expect Terrio to do the same at the Dolby Theatre. The Academy will be looking to big up their best picture champ any way they can.

Only a fool would bet against Daniel Day-Lewis to lift his third best actor statuette, but Emmanuelle Riva’s win at the Baftas has re-energised the best actress race. Jennifer Lawrence has been the frontrunner all season, but Riva wasn’t nominated by SAG, nor for a Globe, so Lawrence has only won in Riva-less races. Lawrence is only 23, and – the reasoning goes – has many more nominations to look forward to. On the other hand, Riva, who will turn 86 on the night of the awards, has become the de rigueur choice for those in Hollywood who wish to signal their discernment, even if they hadn’t heard of the actress before last Tuesday. All the conditions for a possible upset. If you want to pick up compliments for your daring, pick Riva. Otherwise, Lawrence.

I think it will turn out to be a big night for Amour, which could win not just best foreign film (which is expected), but best original screenplay as well. Most have that award as a two-way tussle between Quentin Tarantino (who won at the Globes and the Baftas) and Mark Boal (who won the WGA equivalent) but Boal’s unyielding, clich -disdaining script faced an uphill climb with the Academy even before the whole torture controversy blew up, and Tarantino remains something of an Oscar anomaly, to my way of thinking. Inglourious Basterds proved lucky for Christoph Waltz in 2010, but only because it stood downwind of the Academy’s obsession with the Holocaust. I think Haneke could just sneak it from both men, particularly with Argo triumphant. The Austrian auteur would give the evening some much-needed weight.

Anna Hathaway has been a lock for best supporting actress ever since the trailer for Les Mis rables, long before Sally Field gave Tommy Lee Jones that dressing down in Lincoln (was there some earlier version of the script in which Thaddeus Stevens was the bad guy?). The best supporting actor race, on the other hand, is wide open. Every nominee has won before so it’s nobody’s “turn”. And none have so far come face to face in the precursors: the Globe went to Tommy Lee Jones, while the Bafta went for Christoph Waltz but Harvey Weinstein has been tirelessly waging the same campaign he ran for Meryl Streep last year – it’s been 32 years since he won! Poor man is wasting away!

I must admit to bias here: I thought De Niro’s performance the best by a very long mile, technically precise and unusually heartfelt, where Waltz was merely self-pleasuring and Jones on auto-grump. But then they said the same thing about Nicholson. To find oneself in possession of an actual aesthetic preference is a dangerous thing at the Oscars; such things rarely go unpunished.

The other big nail-biter is best director, which with Affleck out of the race, it boils down to a two-man race between Spielberg and Ang Lee. And that boils down to one question: how many points did Spielberg earn with the acting branch – the biggest voting bloc of the academy – for shaping Lincoln as a vehicle for Day-Lewis’s talents rather than his own? No Spielberg film has ever won for acting before. Did the director go too far in the opposite direction, and sacrifice too much of himself? Then we have Lee’s dazzling, if flawed, transformation of Yann Martel’s ‘unfilmable’ novel into a 3D blockbuster that has now made well over half a billion dollars around the world. Spielberg strikes the nobler pose, but Lee wins on pizzazz.

Life of Pi will probably be the evening’s biggest winner, at least in terms of its Oscar haul, which could end up something like this: Life of Pi (5), Les Mis rables (3), Argo (2), Amour (2), Silver Linings Playbook (1), Lincoln (1). In which case, the biggest losers would be the same three films – Lincoln, Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty – that most excited commentators about the movies’ ability to drive the national conversation and which showed Hollywood, in the words of New York magazine’s Frank Rich, delving into “the domestic and foreign conflicts that roil Americans: gun violence, government dysfunction, and the dark side of the national-security state, along with the hardy perennial of race.”

Nope. It’ll be the one about the fake movie and the Mullahs from the cute producers in beards.

BEST PICTURE

Will win: Argo
Could win: Lincoln
Should win: Amour

BEST DIRECTOR

Will win: Ang Lee
Could win: Steven Spielberg
Should win: Michael Haneke

BEST ACTOR

Will win: Daniel Day-Lewis
Could win: surely you jest
Should win: Daniel Day-Lewis

BEST ACTRESS

Will win: Jennifer Lawrence
Could win: Emmanuelle Riva
Should win: Jennifer Lawrence

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Will win: Robert De Niro
Could win: Tommy Lee Jones
Should win: Robert De Niro

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Will win: Anne Hathaway
Could win: Sally Field
Should win: Anne Hathaway

BEST EDITING

Will win: Argo
Could win: Zero Dark Thirty
Should win: Silver Linings Playbook

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Will win: Life of Pi
Could win: Skyfall
Should win: Life of Pi

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Will win: Amour
Could win: Django Unchained
Should win: Amour

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Will win: Argo
Could win: Lincoln
Should win: Silver Linings Playbook

BEST SCORE

Will win: Life of Pi
Could win: Lincoln
Should win: Lincoln

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Will win: Anna Karenina
Could win: Les Mis rables
Should win: Mirror, Mirror

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIR

Will win: Les Mis rables
Could win: The Hobbit
Should win: The Hobbit

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Will win: Life of Pi
Could win: Les Mis rables
Should win: Lincoln

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Will win: Life of Pi
Could win: The Hobbit
Should win: Life of Pi

BEST FOREIGN FILM

Will Win: Amour
Could Win: A Royal Affair
Should win: Amour

BEST SONG

Will Win: Adele
Could Win: Les Miserables
Should Win: Ted

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Will Win: Wreck-it Ralph
Could Win: Frankenweenie
Should Win: Wreck-It Ralph

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Will Win: Searching for Sugarman
Could Win: The Gatekeepers
Should Win: Searching for Sugarman

BEST SOUND EDITING

Will Win: Life of Pi
Could Win: Skyfall
Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty

BEST SOUND MIXING

Will Win: Les Mis rables
Could Win: Skyfall
Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty

BEST ANIMATED SHORT

Will Win: Paperman
Could Win: Adam and Dog
Should Win: Paperman

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

Will Win: Open Heart
Could Win: Mondays At Racine
Should Win: Inocente

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT

Will Win: Curfew
Could Win: Buzkashi Boys
Should Win: Buzkashi Boys

Bradley Cooper meets Joe Biden to support US mental health act

Silver Linings Playbook’s Bradley Cooper and David O Russell meet with US vice president Joe Biden to show Hollywood’s support for mental health care reform

Bradley Cooper and David O Russell, the star and director of Silver Linings Playbook, have visited US vice president Joe Biden to help introduce a new mental health act to Congress.

The meeting, first reported on the Politico website, was documented by a photo released by Biden’s office. The star and director of Silver Linings Playbook are shown with Biden, discussing the Excellence in Mental Health Act, a bi-partisan bill that aims to improve access to mental health services in the US. It is part of a package of legislation Biden has recommended in response to the Newtown shootings, which saw 27 people – 22 of whom were under ten years old – killed by gunman Adam Lanza in December last year.

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The pair’s visit follows a press conference in Washington in which a number of celebrities, including Chris Rock, singer Tony Bennett and actor Amanda Peet, gave their support to the Obama administration’s plans to tighten gun control and improve awareness and treatment of mental health issues. “Even with improvements to our mental health system a troubled few will slip through the cracks,” said Peet. “But what’s the alternative? Doing nothing will fail. Doing nothing has failed.”

Since the shootings the entertainment industry has been debating what role – if any – film and video game depictions of guns have to play in tragedies like Newtown. Last month film industry groups including the Motion Picture Association of America, the Directors Guild of America and the National Association of Theatre Owners, pledged to help confront “the challenge of gun violence in America”. “This industry has a longstanding commitment to provide parents the tools necessary to make the right viewing decisions for their families,” said the association in a statement. “We welcome the opportunity to share that history and look forward to doing our part to seek meaningful solutions.”

Silver Linings Playbook, which sees Cooper play a former high school teacher with bipolar disorder, is nominated for eight Oscars, including a best actor nod for its lead. The film has been challenged by some critics for its simplistic depiction of mental health issues, although Russell – who wrote the screenplay based on a book by novelist Matthew Quick – drew on his own experiences of living with his bipolar son for the story.