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Chris Pratt might be best known as the dumb, goofy, accident-prone Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation, but pratfalls and ad-libs aren’t the only skills he possesses as an actor. You see, Pratt has a very specific gift. It’s an ability that only a few, rare souls in Hollywood have, though all of them secretly crave: he has the power to earn his films a Best Picture Academy Award nomination simply by appearing in them.
Okay, so he doesn’t have the magic touch with all of his films – although, really, did anyone think that What’s Your Number? would ever come anywhere near the Oscar conversation? – but for three consecutive years, Pratt has appeared in a Best Picture nominee. Shortly after popping up in a prestigious film, that film inevitably lands on the Academy’s list. In fact, Pratt actually has a better Best Picture record than Meryl Streep, who hasn't appeared in a film nominated for the top prize since 2002.
But for those who aren’t ready to bombard Pratt with scripts in the hopes of getting an Oscar nomination, let’s examine this phenomenon bit. It all began back in 2011, when Pratt won the role of Scott Hatteberg in Moneyball, and proved that he could do more than just make people laugh by running into things. Sure, Jonah Hill got most of the praise (and the Best Supporting Actor nod), but reviews everywhere made a note of Pratt’s performance and ability to play against type, which was likely the extra push the Academy needed to name it one of the best movies of the year. You could argue that Brad Pitt might have had a lot more to do with it, but did Brad Pitt lose 30 pounds? No he did not. And what does the Academy love more than drastic weight loss? Absolutely nothing.
Then, he followed that up by playing a NAVY Seal in Zero Dark Thirty and transformed his chubby, slouchy Andy Dwyer-physique into the ripped, toned body befitting of one of the most elite soldiers in the world. (You’ve probably seen the picture, it’s been shown off in every interview Pratt’s done in the last three years.) His character might not have been the most prominent, but he was the one that required the biggest transformation, and as we’ve previously established, the Oscars love to award dramatic physical changes. “But wait,” you’re probably saying, “just dropping a ton of weight and gaining an impressive set of abs isn’t enough to guarantee a nomination.” You would be right, except that his ZDT character Justin is as far from the dumb but lovable good guy as Pratt has gotten over the years. If the McConaissance proved anything, it’s that the only thing the Oscars love to reward more than weight loss is a comedic actor’s ability to completely change pace and play a dramatic role. Add that to the fact that both Jessica Chastain and Katheryn Bigelow were familiar faces and that it’s a political drama about war, and you’ve got yourself a guaranteed contender.
And then, of course, there’s Her. Unlike Moneyball and Zero Dark Thirty, Pratt didn’t need to do anything drastic to prepare for the role of Paul... although we’re sure the stylish moustache helped. All he needed to do was turn on the easygoing, laid-back charm that has become his signature and adjust it for a more serious film. Think back to when you first watched Her, and the sheer delight you felt when Theodore revealed that he was dating an OS, and Paul immediately decided to invite them to Catalina. Most of the joy you probably experienced while watching that movie likely came from Paul’s effortless acceptance of his friend’s girlfriend and his desire to spread happiness wherever he went. Look, the love story is nice and all, but without that spark of pure, unadulterated joy, that movie would not have been nearly as effective.
Which leads us to 2014, and the two films that Pratt has starred in this year. The most obvious, of course, is Guardians of the Galaxy, which is likely going to certify its lead as the talented, goofy, well-meaning movie star that it was obvious he could be the instant Bert Macklin appeared on our screens. Pratt’s ability to guarantee a Best Picture nomination as a leading man is still without scientific backing, but if we’re honest, there is one other film that might be better suited to the nomination this year: The Lego Movie.
It’s got the drastic physical transformation that Pratt usually makes for his Oscar-nominated films. Yes, he’s transformed into a Lego person, but it’s still very different from what he looks like normally. It’s got critical acclaim, humor, drama, an underlying message about individuality, creative expression and the corrupting nature of big business, and an appearance from Morgan Freeman. But most importantly, it has Pratt, playing a lovable, slightly dim good guy who just so happens to have a lot more lurking underneath the surface. It was practically designed to appeal to the Academy, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see The Lego Movie on the list of nominees come Oscar season.
Even if it doesn’t get a nod, don’t be surprised if Pratt starts becoming as much of a fixture on the awards circuit as Streep herself. After all, he does seem to have the better luck with these things.
20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection
Nearly 10 years after meeting on the set of 2005's romantic spy thriller Mr. and Ms. Smith, Hollywood's foremost power couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are set to team up once again. The duo is set to appear in a film written by Jolie herself, though it is still unkown whether she will also be directing the project. Jolie has written the war drama In the Land of Blood and Honey, and recently helmmed the WWII drama Unbroken, which is scheduled to be released this year.
While Brangelina is still the most prolific coupling in Hollywood, there's steady competition ready to take their crown. Other married Hollywood couples have proved to be just a successful over the years. So which romantic duo has had the most post-nuptial success, and which couples should have steered clear from the altar for the sake of their careers?
Brad Pitt and Angelina JolieTogether Since: 2005Post-Marriage Success: While they were successful apart, the union of these two Hollywood heavyweights has bolstered both of their careers. Since getting together with Jolie, Pitt silenced doubters with staring roles in Inglorious Basterds, The Assassination of Jesse James, Moneyball and the zombie blockbuster World War Z, and capped off the casino caper trilogy Ocean's Thirteen. Additionally, he has produced the Academy Award winner 12 Years a Slave. Jolie has also had a prosperous career since marriage, starring in films like Salt, Changeling, Kung Fu Panda, and the upcoming Maleficent.
Jennifer Garner and Ben AffleckTogether Since: 2005Post-Marriage Success: After about a decade of jeering due to a string of failures like Gigli and Daredevil, Ben Affleck has had nothing short of a career renaissance, showing his true skills lay in directing. Affleck directed a trio of well-received thrillers, Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo, that won heaps of critical praise, netting the director his first Oscar for directing. Jennifer Garner, on the other hand, has cooled off career-wise since her marriage to Ben, starring in forgettable fodder like Ghosts of Girlfriend's Past, The Invention of Lying, and Arthur. She did have a prominent role in Dallas Buyers Club that won her critical praise and very mild awards buzz.
Ryan Reynolds and Blake LivelyTogether Since: 2012Post-Marriage Success: Despite his charm and leading man looks, Ryan's career struggles have followed him into married life. The actor has floundered in gargantuan summertime flops like The Change-up and Green Lantern, with last year's R.I.P.D. being his latest blockbuster misfire. Blake Lively has been mostly quiet since getting hitched. She starred in the forgettable crime-film, Savages and her star-making television show, Gossip Girl, wrapped up it's run.
Javier Bardem and Penelope CruzTogether Since: 2010Post-Marriage Success: Post-marriage and post No Country for Old Men, life has been good for Bardem. The actor won raves for his role in Biutiful, and played the best Bond villain in recent memory in Skyfall. Penelope Cruz has been no slouch either. The actress reunited with Woody Allen in To Rome with Love, and co-starred with her husband in The Counselor, though were still not sure what to think of Ridley Scott's latest.
Daniel Craig and Rachel WeiszTogether Since: 2011Post-Marriage Success: Craig's star power is as strong as ever. The actor's brutish and vulnerable version of Agent 007 continues to give the Bond saga a renewed sense of urgency. Beyond spying, Craig also put in great work into David Fincher's Girl with the Dragon Tatoo. Rachel Weisz on the other hand, has had a mixed couple of years since 2011. she starred in the acclaimed spy mini-series Page Eight, but also in the largely forgettable Borne quasi-reboot, The Borne Legacy. She was also in Disney's Oz the Great and Powerful, a film that failed to capture the magic of the original.
Chris Pratt and Anna FarisTogether Since: 2009Post-Marriage Success: It's hard to think of anyone in Hollywood that's had a more diverse couple of years than Chris Pratt. The actor went from playing schlubby goof ball Andy Dwyer on NBC's Parks and Recreation to playing a fit baseball player in Moneyball and a gung-ho Navy Seal in Zero Dark Thirty. He also appeared in Spike Jonze's fantastic Her and had the starring role in The Lego Movie. Finally, the actor is set to star in the upcoming blockbusters Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World. Wife, Anna Faris hasn't enjoyed the same insane career trajectory, but who can blame her. Since 2009, she has stared in The Dictator, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-SmithTogether Since: 1997Post-Marriage Success: Smith's reign as the king of summer was still in full effect in back in 1997. The actor closed out the 90's with films like Men in Black, Enemy of the State, and Wild Wild West, all Box-office hits. Since then however, the actor has been pretty hit or miss. For every Bad Boys II or Hitch, we'd get a Seven Pounds or Hancock. As strange as it is to say, Jada arguably had a better 2000's than her husband. She starred in the two Matrix sequels, the Madagascar films, and the Tom Cruise actioner, Collateral. Recently however, both seem more interested in creating careers for their children, rather than improving the state of their own careers.
"I'm a skinny guy naturally. My body wants to be about 170-180 pounds, so to get to 200 pounds, I have to eat a lot... just eating, eating eating. It sounds pleasant, but it's not pizza and doughnuts, it's just bland chicken... You always feel bloated and uncomfortable." Chris Evans hates gaining weight to become superhero Captain America.
Bradley Cooper will be gaining 35 pounds (16 kilograms) to play late Navy SEAL sniper, Chris Kyle, who was murdered in Texas earlier this month (Feb14), in an upcoming biopic. The actor tells Ellen DeGeneres, "I have to be someone in the same vein as him. He was a very big guy."
Sony Pictures via Everett Collection
There is a certain level of enjoyment you are guaranteed when signing on for a movie that boasts a cast of George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, and Bill Murray. And that's the precise level of enjoyment you'll get from The Monuments Men — that bare minimum smirk factor inherent the idea that your favorite stars are getting to play together. In FDR-era army helmets, no less. But what we also get from the film is an aura of smug self-confidence from project captain Clooney, who seems all too ready to take for granted that we're perfectly satisfied peering into his backyard clubhouse.
So assured is the director/co-writer that we're happy to be in on the game that there doesn't seem to be any effort taken to refine the product for the benefit of a viewing audience. An introductory speech from art historian Frank Stokes (Clooney) sets up the premise straight away: the Nazis are stealing and destroying all of Europe's paintings and sculptures, and by gum we need to stop them! The concept doesn't complicate from there, save for a batting back and forth of the throughline question about whether the preservation of these pieces is "really worth it." Stokes rallies his own Ocean's Seven on a fine arts rescue mission, instigating an old fashioned go-get-'em-boys montage where we learn everything we need to know about the band mates in question: Damon has a wife, Goodman has gumption, Murray doesn't smile, Bob Balaban is uppity, and Jean Dujardin is French.
The closest thing to a character in The Monuments Men comes in the form of Hugh Bonneville, a recovering alcoholic whose motivation to take on the dangerous mission is planted in a festering desire to absolve himself of a lifetime of f**king up. When we're away from Bonneville, the weight disspears, as does most of the joy. Without identifiable characters, even master funnymen like Goodman, Murray, and Balaban don't have much to offer... especially since the movie's jokes feel like first draft placeholders born on a tired night.
Sony Pictures via Everett Collection
But wait a minute, is this even supposed to be a comedy? After all, it's about World War II. And no matter what Alexandre Desplat's impossibly merry score would have you believe (coupled with The Lego Movie, this opening weekend might be responsible for more musical jubilance than any other since the days of "Make 'Em Laugh!"), warfare, genocide, and desecration of international culture all make for some pretty heavy material. But The Monuments Men's drama is just as fatigued as its humor, clumsily piecing together a collection of mini missions wherein the stakes, somehow, never seem to jump. We're dragged through military bases, battered towns, and salt mines by Clooney and the gang — occasionally jumping over to France to watch Damon work his least effective magic in years on an uptight Cate Blanchett, who holds the key to the scruffy American's mission but doesn't quite trust him... until, for no apparent reason, she suddenly does. We never feel like any of these people matter, not even to each other, so we never really feel like their adventures do.
The Monuments Men doesn't have much of a challenge ahead of it. Its heroes are movie stars, its bad guys are Nazis, and its message is one that nobody's going to refute: art is important — a maxim it pounds home with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, through countless scenes of men staring in awe at the works of Michelangelo and Rembrandt. And in this easy endeavor, Clooney decides to coast. How could it possibly go wrong? Just grab hold of the fellas, toss 'em in the trenches, and let the laughs and danger write themselves. "This is what they came to see," Monuments Men insists. "Just us guys havin' a ball." But we never feel in on the game, and it isn't one that looks like that much fun anyhow.
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Here are some of this week's highlights from Flavorwire, VH1, Celebuzz, and Hollywood.com.
Celebrate the year in male shirtlessness. And, man, was it a good year. Though we could have done with a little less Justin Bieber. Check out the top shirtless moments of 2013 at VH1.
Chris Pine didn't hold back in his interview with The Hollywood Reporter. He had a lot to say about the paparazzi and Lindsay Lohan, and it wasn't very nice. Check out the highlights at Celebuzz.
Find out what the Flavorwire staff's New Year's resolutions are. And it isn't to lose five pounds. Instead, the staff told us their cultural resolutions, whether to watch more films or see more opera. If you're still stymied resolution-wise, Flavorwire has some great ideas.
Beat the January blues with some comfort films. We at Hollywood.com are feeling it already. Luckily, here's a list of some feel-good flicks to cure January depression.
New Line Cinema via Everett Collection
The mid-aughts comedy Just Friends has become a staple on Comedy Central's holiday schedule. Still, it's never reached the level of respect it deserves as a reliable Christmas classic. Most of its marketing may have centered around former Sexiest Man Alive Ryan Reynolds donning a fatsuit, but I promise, that's not the end of its appeal.
Reynolds plays Chris Brander, a former fat kid who escaped New Jersey for LA, lost a few hundred pounds, and reinvented himself as a skinny and suave record exec. ("This town's full of losers and I'm pullin' out to win!") While flying to Paris with unhinged pop star Samantha James (Anna Faris, brilliant), the plane makes an emergency landing in his hometown. Chris is back at the same bar, sleeping in his same room, and crushing on the same girl -- his former best friend Jamie (Amy Smart) -- who still makes him feel totally awkward. Also, it's Christmas!
Just Friends fills the first and foremost criteria for a holiday classic: it passes the rewatch test. Clever lines like "You're Chris Brander. You're Hollywood, you date models. He's Jersey, he skis in his jeans." just improve over time. Faris commits to the part of a Britney Spears-style pop tart who's careening towards the eventual breakdown with total relish. Reynolds could always play a convincing loser, even with those looks. And his mom is the mom from What About Bob?, so what else is there to know? ("Be yourself! Be yourself!")
Plus, anyone who has ever felt desperately uncool can identify with Chris's instant regression. We never truly leave high school, so we better just get comfortable there and make it our own.
Actor Chris Noth wasn't the only star forced to slim down for his role on Sex And The City - his onscreen love rival John Corbett was also asked to lose weight for the hit TV series. The Law & Order star recently revealed that he had been asked by show creator Michael Patrick King to shed a few extra pounds before reprising his character Mr. Big in the film adaptations of the programme, and now producer Amy B. Harris confesses Noth wasn't alone.
But it wasn't his leading lady Sarah Jessica Parker who was asked to watch her weight - it was her other love interest Aiden, played by Corbett.
Harris admits TV executives wanted Corbett's character to make a return to the TV version after his initial split from Parker's Carrie Bradshaw looking sexier than ever, so he had to embark on a strict diet plan.
She tells Eonline.com, "We told Corbett to lose weight between seasons three and four. When we talked about whether or not we wanted to see John come back, we basically said we want him to come back so hot that she cannot believe it. Like, he looks so much better after she left him. And we made him lose weight. And then we made Chris lose weight for the movie."
And Harris still finds it funny how the male stars were the only ones placed under pressure to watch their figures: "It's hilarious. The women were, like, perfection, and no one ever mentioned anything about their weight ever. It was just the two guys! I think the women were just predisposed to be lucky and didn't have to worry."
Actor Chris Noth has revealed he was forced to lose weight prior to shooting the big screen version of popular U.S. TV series Sex And The City. The actor, who played Mr. Big - the longtime love interest and eventual husband of Sarah Jessica Parker's leading lady Carrie Bradshaw, agreed to return to the iconic role in 2008, four years after he had said goodbye to his alter-ego on television.
But creator Michael Patrick King had one requirement for Noth before he reprised the role on the big screen - he had to lose the extra pounds and return to a leaner frame.
Noth tells HuffPost Live, "He came up to me and said, 'Listen, dude, we're not calling you Mr. Big because of the size of your stomach, so go lose that before we start shooting.'"
British TV star Amanda Holden needed therapy to help her deal with her heartbreak following the loss of her second child in 2011. The actress was seven months into her second pregnancy when her baby boy with husband Chris Hughes was stillborn in February, 2011, and now she has opened up about her grieving process.
She tells Good Housekeeping magazine, "I only very recently felt like I needed to see a therapist. I saw somebody five or six times. To know your baby might not be born alive is incomprehensible. We called him Theo. He was nearly three pounds - bigger than some babies in the prem (premature) ward...
"Chris and I were very private and we grieved at night. We went to bed and we talked and talked. Chris never cried. I did all the crying."
Holden, 42, has since welcomed a little girl named Hollie, now 18 months, and admits she would like to add another child to her brood, which also includes her seven-year-old daughter Lexi.
She adds, "Probably - but only if I knew for sure there would be a successful outcome. I know everyone loves their children, but Hollie is the most loving thing. I tell everyone to have a baby. Forget your career - you can do it at the same time."