Tuesday, January 23, 2007

And the winner is . . .

Nominations for the 79th Academy Awards were announced Tuesday, January 23, 2007, by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Sid Ganis and Academy member and past Oscar® nominee Salma Hayek.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2006 will be presented on Sunday, February 25, 2007, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®.

The Oscars® will be televised live by the ABC Television Network at 5 p.m. PST (8 p.m. EST), beginning with a half-hour red carpet arrivals segment, “The Road to the Oscars.” Ellen DeGeneres will host the event.

Here are some of the nominees:

Best Leading Actor
Leonardo DiCaprio - Blood Diamond
Ryan Gosling - Half Nelson
Peter O'Toole - Venus
Will Smith - The Pursuit of Happiness
Forest Whitaker - The Last King of Scotland

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin - Little Miss Sunshine
Jackie Earle Haley - Little Children
Djimon Hounsou - Blood Diamond
Eddie Murphy - Dreamgirls
Mark Wahlberg - The Departed

Best Leading Actress
Penelope Cruz - Volver
Judi Dench - Notes on a Scandal
Helen Mirren - The Queen
Meryl Streep - The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet - Little Children

Best Supporting Actress
Adriana Barraza - Babel
Cate Blanchett - Notes on a Scandal
Abigail Breslin - Little Miss Sunshine
Jennifer Hudson - Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi - Babel

Best Animated Feature
Happy Feet
Monster House

Best Directing
The Departed
Letters from Iwo Jima
The Queen
United 93

Best Original Song
"I Need to Wake Up" - An Inconvenient Truth
"Listen" - Dreamgirls
"Love You I Do" - Dreamgirls
"Our Town" - Cars
"Patience" - Dreamgirls

Best Screenplay - Adapted
Borat Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Children of Men
The Departed
Little Children
Notes on a Scandal

Best Screenplay - Original
Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
Pan's Labyrinth
The Queen

Best Picture
The Departed
Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

Thus far, I've only seen three films from the Oscar ballot: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest; Cars; and The Devil Wears Prada. My favorite of the three was Cars, (great story) followed by The Devil Wears Prada. Meryl Streep was awesome, but when is she not? She made the movie for me. I really enjoyed the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, but was disappointed in the second one. The story was not as engaging as the first one, although Johnny Depp was as hot as a July night in Mississippi.

What are your Oscar picks for the year?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

She Will Be Missed

Yvonne De Carlo 1922 - 2007

From B-movies to feature films to "The Munsters," Yvonne De Carlo brought her captivating beauty and robust acting talent to us all. Peggy Yvonne Middleton was born in Vancouver, British Columbia and encouraged to enter into show business by her mother. They made their way to Hollywood when Peggy was only 15, but it was not yet her time for stardom. They returned to Canada but made their way back to Hollywood three years later. She assumed her middle name and her mother's maiden name as her new professional name and danced in chorus lines for a year and then began to get work in films as an extra. She played bit parts for awhile, some uncredited, until she landed her breakthrough role in Salome, Where She Danced. She continued to get feature films and landed a memorable role in 1956 in The Ten Commandments, playing the wife of Moses.
She will likely be best remembered, however, for her role as Lily Munster in "The Munsters" television show. You can enjoy her performances in this fun horror parody on DVD. Visit
  • amazon.com to purchase copies.

    For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Yvonne De Carlo was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6124 Hollywood Boulevard and a second star at 6715 Hollywood Boulevard for her contribution to television.

    She wrote her autobiography in 1987: Yvonne: An Autobiography.
  • Thursday, January 04, 2007

    Billy Beats

    I was working on a synopsis last week and I found myself returning to one of my favorite books on writing for guidance. If you've not already checked out Billy Mernit's Writing the Romantic Comedy, I highly recommend it. Although the title indicates its application to the romantic comedy (or "romcom" as Billy puts it) subgenre, a quick review of the book will illustrate that the points covered here are pertinent to all forms of the romance genre. I feel that the studies on character and his main points on plotting, or "Billy Beats" as my critique partner Karen and I have been known to call them, can easily apply to all forms of commercial fiction.

    Mernit first stresses the importance of getting to know your characters, indicating that characters create their own stories, and provides some stellar to-the-point questions for attaining that end. He also provides some other helpful exercises throughout the book focusing on various aspects of the storytelling process.

    Mernit has broken down the traditional three-act structure of story into seven beats. The man's done his research and cites many successful romantic comedies in his book. Here are the Billy Beats (and in parentheticals, my analysis of the Billy Beats applied to the film, His Girl Friday):

    1. CHEMICAL EQUATION: SETUP - A scene or sequence that identifies the “what’s wrong with this picture” in a protagonist’s status quo; in romantic comedy, it implies that what’s missing in the protagonist’s life is likely to be fulfilled by a potential mate.

    (Heroine is about to marry a man that has less personality than a formica countertop.)

    2. CUTE MEET: CATALYST - The Hero and Heroine cross paths for the first time, the inciting incident that brings man and woman together and into conflict; an inventive but credible contrivance, often amusing, which in some way sets the tone for the action to come.

    (Heroine verbally spars, exchanging comic banter, with her ex-husband, a man who is obviously still interested in her.)

    3. A SEXY COMPLICATION: TURNING POINT - Traditionally occurring at the end of Act 1, a new development that raises story stakes and clearly defines the protagonist's goal; most successful when it sets man and woman at cross purposes and/or their inner emotions at odds with the goal.

    (Heroine agrees to do one last reporting job for her ex-husband, which temporarily puts the hold on her upcoming wedding.)

    4. THE HOOK: MIDPOINT - A situation that irrvocably binds the protagonist with the antagonist (often while tweaking sexual tensions) and has further implications for the outcome of the relationship.

    (The prisoner Heroine interviewed for her one last story for her ex has just escaped from jail. Without even considering how her actions will affect her fiance, she lets her ex know that she's not leaving town to get married yet. "I'm on the job," she tells him. The audience now understands more about the connection she still has with her ex-husband.)

    5. SWIVEL: SECOND TURNING POINT - Traditionally occurring at the end of Act 2, stakes reach their highest point as the romantic relationship's importance jeopardizes the protagonist's chance to succeed at his/her stated goal - or vice versa - and his/her goal shits.

    (Heroine's mother-in-law-to-be has been kidnapped by the ex-husband's thugs to save the story. Heroine's fiance confronts Heroine - who does not yet know of his mother's abduction - but she continues to work on her last story. Her subconscious goal is to continue her work as a reporter, not escape it by becoming a housewife.)

    6. DARK MOMENT: CRISIS CLIMAX - Within the consequences of the swivel decision yield disaster; generally, the humiliating scene where private motivations are revealed, and either the relationship and/or the protagonist's goal is seemingly lost forever.

    (Heroine realizes that her fiance is gone, taking the last train to Albany. She realizes she could never marry him.)

    7. JOYFUL DEFEAT: RESOLUTION - A reconciliation that reaffirms the primal importance of the relationship; usually a happy ending that implies marriage or a serious commitment, often at the cost of some personal sacrifice to the protagonist.

    (After surviving altercations with a killer and local government officials with her ex-husband, Heroine realizes that she is in sympatico with her ex-husband and agrees to return to work for him. He suggests that they get remarried, and she expresses hope that their next honeymoon won't be interrupted by another news story like their first one was.)

    To read about Mernit's shameful secret of normalcy, visit: http://livingromcom.typepad.com/my_weblog/ Check out his Web page at: http://www.billymernit.com/index.html. To get your own copy of Writing the Romantic Comedy, go to: http://www.amazon.com/Writing-Romantic-Comedy-Billy-Mernit/dp/0060935030/sr=1-1/qid=1167950728/ref=sr_1_1/102-5684295-2234504?ie=UTF8&s=books.

    If I could keep only one book on storytelling, Writing the Romantic Comedy would be the one. The wisdom shared here applies to commercial fiction of all genres (think "protagonist" and "antagonist" rather than "hero" and "heroine"). It also applies to screenwriting of multiple genres.

    What is the one writing book you keep close at hand and why?