With H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw and others, Asquith founded London's Film Society in 1925, and after a filmmaking apprenticeship in Hollywood, returned to England as a director in 1928. Along wi...
I know, that headline is trouble. You're always treading dangerous ground when you insist on defining what makes a good this or the right kind of that, as if there is no room for change or improvement when it comes to classic properties. Of course there is — Jason Segel's 2011 Muppet film approached the concept from an entirely different direction. It didn't hit all of its marks, but it prevailed overall in its conceit: make a movie not about Muppets, but about Muppet fandom. But Muppets Most Wanted, in absence of a clear mission statement and fueled largely by the monetary glimmers of the sequel game (the film's opening number admits this outright), has fewer marks readily available to hit. Landing in the ambiguity between the classic Muppet adventure formula and Segel's post-modern Henson appreciation party, Most Wanted feels like a failure on both counts. It doesn't know which kind of movie it wants to, or should, be. So it doesn't really be anything.
On the one hand, there's the half-cocked "get-the-band-back-together" through line, mimicking but not quite accomplishing the spirit of the 2011 picture. None of the Muppets are particularly likable or charming in this turn, and even fewer of them actually given anything to do. Kermit loses his s**t in the first act after a spat with Piggy and a barrage of insubordination from his troupe (provoked by the nefarious Dominic Badguy, Ricky Gervais), storms off in a huff, and gets swept up in a case of mistaken identity when his criminal doppelganger Constantine pulls the old switcheroo, landing Kermit in a Russian gulag. You'd think this would be a good opportunity for the second tier of Muppet favorites — Piggy, Fozzy, Gonzo, Scooter, Rowlf, et al — to go on a search and rescue... but save for a very brief sequence at the tail end of this achingly long film, none of the other Muppets are giving anything to do. They just hem and haw and perform the occasional "Indoor Running of the Bulls" while Dominic and Constantine scheme, rob banks, and bicker.
Meanwhile, Kermit has some fun in prison — a far more endearing plot that sees him befriending the merry convicts, organizing a penitentiary revue, and even winning the heart of the vicious warden Nadia (Tina Fey). If only we could spend more time with real Kermit and less time with fake Kermit and his second banana Gervais, an effectively boring pair.
On the other hand, though, there's the Muppet shtick that fans of The Great Muppet Caper and Muppet Treasure Island — and yes, The Muppet Show itself — will deem the movie's best material: CIA Agent Sam Eagle and Interpol Agent Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) hot on the trail of Constantine and Dominic. Here, we get a different type of Muppet movie entirely from what Segel and the A-plot in Most Wanted are opting: the old fashioned vaudeville act, with Sam standing as an independent entity from his googly-eyed brethren, on a goofy, musical prowl with Burrell that fuels the film with its best and most consistent chuckles. Their "Interrogation Song" number is outstanding, exemplifying the many talents of Flight of the Conchords' Bret McKenzie, who wrote all the music for this and the previous film.
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Unfortunately, Muppets Most Wanted isn't sure that it wants to be The Great Muppet Caper, beheld so stubbornly to its Segelian roots. There's a palpable compulsion to stick with this agonizingly self-aware, nostalgia-crazy, brimming-beacons-of-the-past-in-a-callous-today theme that doesn't work a fraction as well as it did in the 2011 film. Without a legitimate celebration of any of our favorite characters, how could it? With so much going on in this movie, and such a lengthy runtime at just under two hours, it's a sure sign of failure that we walk away feeling like we spent barely any time with the Muppets.
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The Queen and its star, Helen Mirren, were the big winners at Sunday’s Orange British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs), winning the Best Film and Best Actress awards.
Elsewhere, Forest Whitaker won the Best Actor prize for Last King of Scotland, Little Miss Sunshine star Alan Arkin won Best Supporting Actor and Jennifer Hudson won Best Supporting Actress for her role in Dreamgirls.
The ceremony took place at the Royal Opera House in London's Covent Garden.
The full list of winners is as follows:
The Academy Fellowship: Anne V. Coates
Film: The Queen
The Michael Balcon Award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema: Nick Daubeny
The Alexander Korda Award for the Outstanding British Film of the Year: Last King of Scotland
The Carl Foreman Award for Special Achievement by a British Director, Writer or Producer in Their First Feature Film: Andrea Arnold, Red Road
The David Lean Award for Achievement in Direction: United 93, Paul Greengrass
Original Screenplay: Little Miss Sunshine, Michael Arndt
Adapted Screenplay: Last King of Scotland, Peter Morgan/Jeremy Brock
Film Not in the English Language: Pan's Labyrinth
Animated Feature Film: Happy Feet
Actor in a Leading Role: Forest Whitaker, Last King of Scotland
Actress in a Leading Role: Helen Mirren, The Queen
Actor in a Supporting Role: Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
Actress in a Supporting Role: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
The Anthony Asquith Award for Achievement in Film Music: Babel, Gustavo Santaolalla
Cinematography: Children of Men, Emmanuel Lubezki
Editing: United 93, Clare Douglas/Christopher Rouse/Richard Pearson
Production Design: Children of Men, Jim Clay/Geoffrey Kirkland/Jennifer Williams
Costume Design: Pan's Labyrinth, Lala Huete
Sound: Casino Royale, Chris Munro/Eddy Joseph/Mike Prestwood Smith/Martin Cantwell/Mark Taylor
Achievement in Special Visual Effects: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, John Knoll/Hal Hickel/Charles Gibson/Allen L. Hall
Makeup & Hair: Pan's Labyrinth, Jose Quetglas/Blanca Sanchez
Short Animation Film: Guy 101, Ian Gouldstone
Short Film: Do Not Erase, Asitha Ameresekere
The Orange Rising Star Award: Eva Green
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Brokeback Mountain was the big winner at Sunday's Orange British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs), scooping Best Film, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor gongs.
Taiwanese filmmaker Ang Lee was presented with the David Lean Award For Achievement In Direction, while Jake Gyllenhaal was honored for his performance as gay rodeo cowboy Jack Twist--beating off competition from George Clooney who left empty-handed despite being nominated in four categories.
Gyllenhaal's co-star Heath Ledger was beaten to the Best Actor Award by Capote actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Golden Globe-winner Reese Witherspoon was named Best Actress for her stunning performance in Walk the Line.
Zambian-born star Thandie Newton won the Best Supporting Actress Award for her powerful portrayal of a racially abused woman in Crash, and writer/director
Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco won the Best Original Screenplay Award.
The Constant Gardener scooped a staggering ten nominations last month, but was widely snubbed by the British Academy, winning only the Best Editing Award.
The adaptation of John Le Carre's political thriller was pipped to the Alexander Korda Award for the Outstanding British Film of the Year by Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
Memoirs of a Geisha picked up two awards - Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design--and composer John Williams was honored with the Anthony Asquith Award For Achievement in Film Music for his score for the period epic.
The full list of winners is as follows:
Best Film: Brokeback Mountain
The Alexander Korda Award for the Outstanding British Film of the Year: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
The Carl Foreman Award for Special Achievement by a British Director, Writer or
Producer in Their First Feature Film: Joe Wright (Director) - Pride & Prejudice
The David Lean Award For Achievement In Direction: Brokeback Mountain - Ang Lee
Best Original Screenplay: Crash - Paul Haggis/Bobby Moresco
Best Adapted Screenplay: Brokeback Mountain - Larry McMurtry/Diana Ossana
Best Film Not in the English Language: De Battre Mon Coeur S'est Arrêté (The Beat That My Heart Skipped)
Best Actor in a Leading Role: Philip Seymour Hoffman - Capote
Best Actress in a Leading Role: Reese Witherspoon - Walk the Line
Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Jake Gyllenhaal - Brokeback Mountain
Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Thandie Newton - Crash
The Anthony Asquith Award for Achievement in Film Music: Memoirs of a Geisha - John Williams
Best Cinematography: Memoirs of a Geisha
Best Editing: The Constant Gardener
Best Production Design: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Best Costume Design: Memoirs of a Geisha
Best Sound: Walk the Line
Achievement In Special Visual Effects: King Kong
Best Make Up and Hair: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
Best Short Animation Film: Fallen Art
Best Short Film: Antonio's Breakfast
The Orange Rising Star Award: James McAvoy
Academy Fellowship: David Puttnam
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The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) recognized some of the year’s best films on Sunday. "Gladiator" was chosen best film, and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" took away best foreign-language film honors. Each of these Oscar contenders received four BAFTA awards in total.
Producers Douglas Wick, David Franzoni and Branko Lustig accepted the best film award for "Gladiator," praising director Ridley Scott during their acceptance speech, who lost out on the best director prize to Ang Lee for "Tiger."
Besides best foreign film and best director, "Crouching Tiger" also won for music (Tan Dun) and costume design (Tim Yip). Of BAFTA and the United Kingdom, Lee said: "You've always been great to me. This is like a second home to me now."
“Gladiator” also won the Orange Audience Award for most popular film of 2000. Scott thanked DreamWorks and Universal for their courage in backing a $100 million film in a genre that hadn't been touched for 30 years. "It is especially good to win this on my home turf as I spend so much time in the United States," Scott said during his acceptance speech. "I am absolutely thrilled."
Besides the BAFTA honor for best film, "Gladiator" also picked up awards for cinematography (John Mathieson), production design (Arthur Max) and editing (Pietro Scalia).
British effort "Billy Elliot" won three awards, including best British film, best actor (Jamie Bell) and best supporting actress for Julie Walters.
Julia Roberts was named best actress for her performance in the title role of "Erin Brockovich." Presenter Hugh Grant, and co-star in "Notting Hill," picked up the award for the absentee actress.
Best original screenplay and best sound awards went to Cameron Crowe’s "Almost Famous." Crowe's wife, Nancy Wilson, accepted his award, saying that Crowe was unable to attend the event as a double ear infection prevented him from flying. "He meant this movie as a love letter from his heart to music," Wilson said.
Steven Soderbergh's "Traffic" also won two awards, for adapted screenplay (Stephen Gaghan) and supporting actor (Benicio Del Toro).
Veteran casting director Mary Selway was given the Michael Balcon Award for her outstanding contribution to cinema. Actor Albert Finney was presented with a British Film Academy Fellowship for lifetime achievement, receiving a standing ovation.
The complete list of winners:
THE ACADEMY FELLOWSHIP: Albert Finney
THE MICHAEL BALCON AWARD for outstanding British Contribution to Cinema: Mary Selway
THE ALEXANDER KORDA AWARD for outstanding British Film of the Year: "Billy Elliot"
BEST FILM: "Gladiator"
THE DAVID LEAN AWARD for Achievement in Direction: Ang Lee, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"
SCREENPLAY (Original): Cameron Crowe, "Almost Famous"
SCREENPLAY (Adapted): Stephen Gaghan, "Traffic"
PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS in a leading role: Julia Roberts, "Erin Brockovich"
PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR in a leading role: Jamie Bell, "Billy Elliot"
PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS in a supporting role: Julie Walters, "Billy Elliot"
PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR in a supporting role: Benicio Del Toro, "Traffic"
FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE: "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (Bill Hong/Hsu Li Kong/Ang Lee )
THE ANTHONY ASQUITH AWARD for achievement in Film Music: Tan Dun, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"
THE CARL FOREMAN AWARD for Most Promising Newcomer to British Film: Pawel Pawlikowski
CINEMATOGRAPHY: John Mathieson, "Gladiator"
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Arthur Max, "Gladiator"
COSTUME DESIGN: Tim Yip, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"
EDITING: Pietro Scalia, "Gladiator"
SOUND: Jeff Wexler/D.M. Hemphill/Rick Kline/Paul Massey/Mike Wilhoit, "Almost Famous"
ACHIEVEMENT IN SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS: Stefen Fangmeier/John Frazier/Walt Conti/Habib Zargarpour/Tim Alexander, "The Perfect Storm"
MAKE UP/HAIR: Rick Baker/Kazuhirop Tsuji/Tony G./Gal Ryan/Sylvia Nava, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"
SHORT FILM Gary Holding/Justine Leahy/Tinge Krishnan, "Shadowscan"
SHORT ANIMATION: Claire Jennings/Willem Thijssen/Michael Dudok de Wit, "Father and Daughter"
ORANGE AUDIENCE AWARD: "Gladiator"
First collaboration with Terrence Rattigan, filming his play, "French Without Tears"
Directed ballets starring Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev for British TV in the mid-1950s
Returned to England to assist Sinclair Hall on film, "Boadicea"
Formed International Screenplays with Terrence Rattigan and Anatole de Grunwald
Co-directed (with Geoffrey Barkas) first sound film, "Tell England"
First film as co-director (with A.V. Bramble), "Shooting Stars" (also screenwriter and editor)
Became first president of Association of Cinematographic Technicians
Co-founded Film Society
With H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw and others, Asquith founded London's Film Society in 1925, and after a filmmaking apprenticeship in Hollywood, returned to England as a director in 1928. Along with Alfred Hitchcock, he was considered a major force in the British cinema during the 1930s and 40s. Beginning with his directing debut, "Shooting Stars" (co-directed with A.V. Bramble; 1928) which utilized experimental visual effects and "A Cottage on Dartmoor" (1929), a portrait of British life notable for its use of sound, Asquith became recognized for his tasteful, restrained and civilized quasi-documentary portraits of British life and manners.
With his superb film version of Shaw's "Pygmalion" (1938; co-directed with Leslie Howard), Asquith also began turning out expertly crafted theatrical adaptations, one of the finest of which is the delicious "The Importance of Being Earnest" (1952). From 1938 he began a profitable collaboration with playwright-screenwriter Terrence Rattigan, creating emotional studies of people under stress including, perhaps their finest joint work, "The Way to the Stars" (1945) as well as "The Winslow Boy" (1948), and "The Browning Version" (1950), and continuing through Asquith's last film, "The Yellow Rolls Royce" (1964). Son of liberal prime minister Lord Herbert Asquith.
served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916