In certain respects David O. Russell’s boxing drama The Fighter is a sports movie masquerading as an Oscar grab. It bears many of the hallmarks of awards ponies that are often trotted out this time of year: It’s set in a working-class town (Lowell Massachusetts) in the midst of demographic upheaval; one of its lead actors Christian Bale put his health at risk so that he might realistically portray the corrosive effects of crack addiction; its director took great care to stock it with an abundance of auteurist flourishes; its poster is suitably understated; and its initial theatrical release is extremely limited (only four cities). But underneath The Fighter’s prospecting facade beats the heart of a determined crowd-pleaser -- a triumphant underdog tale of an aging boxer who overcame long odds to reach the pinnacle of his sport -- that cannot be suppressed.
The structure of The Fighter which is based on the true story of doormat-turned-champion “Irish” Micky Ward reflects its director’s conflicting impulses. The film is roughly divided into two parts the first of which is fashioned almost purely as a showcase for Bale who portrays Ward’s half-brother Dicky Eklund a once-promising welterweight who long ago squandered his talent on a drug habit that none of his family members seem willing to acknowledge.
Balding emaciated and nearly toothless Dicky bristles with boundless (and no doubt chemically enhanced) energy strutting through town and boasting incessantly of his exploits -- his 1978 knockdown of Sugar Ray Leonard in particular -- in a voice made raspy by (presumably) vocal chords repeatedly singed by crack smoke. Though officially Micky’s trainer he seems less concerned with his brother’s fight preparation than with promoting his own supposed “comeback ” which he claims an HBO Films crew has been sent to chronicle. In truth they’re making a documentary on crack addiction but Dicky’s delusion is so profound -- and so impervious to reality -- that he fails to recognize it.
Russell is clearly enamored with Bale’s performance -- he all but emblazons the words “For Your Consideration” at the top of the screen during the actor’s scenes -- and as a result he grants his actor too long of a leash. Bale dominates every frame in which he appears but sometimes he overreaches and his scene-stealing antics occasionally verge on clownish. (In a pre-emptive strike against those who might dismiss the performance as a prolonged exercise in scenery chewing Russell includes a documentary clip of the real-life brothers during the film’s closing credits and true to Bale’s portrayal Dicky is an unrepentant attention hound.)
Dicky’s losing battle with crack culminates in a harebrained money-raising scheme hatched straight out of the Tyrone Biggums playbook for which he earns a lengthy penitentiary stay. But just as we begin to suspect The Fighter might morph into a gritty addiction memoir the narrative shifts its focus to Micky who after suffering quietly for years under the misguided tutelage of his junkie brother and their domineering mother/manager Alice (Melissa Leo) finally starts to assert himself. With the help of his new girlfriend Charlene (Amy Adams) a bulldog with a tramp stamp whose foul mouth and stiff upper lip provide the perfect antidote to the machinations of Micky’s mother and seven (!) catty sisters his own (genuine) comeback finally gains momentum.
So does the film. Because of its triumphant second half -- during which Micky ascends through the welterweight ranks in a series of brutal slugfests and eventually upsets a much younger Shea Neary to win his first title -- The Fighter will likely be branded hokey by some but that’s hardly the director’s fault. The story all but demands it. For the most part Russell steers clear of the sentimental tropes seen in films like Cinderella Man and the Rocky saga and he documents every pummeling Micky receives with gruesome buzz-killing detail. But the story’s feel-good aspects like Micky are astoundingly resilient and in the end Russell has no choice but to yield to them.
December 12, 2003 1:06pm EST
Top Story: Jackson's Parents Offer To Adopt Children
In an interview airing today at 10 p.m. EST on ABC's 20/20, Michael Jackson's parents said he is innocent and have offered to adopt his children if they're taken away from him. "Some people are trying to accuse him of being a pedophile, and that is not true," Katherine Jackson. "Hhe said, 'Mother, don't worry, it's not the truth.' But I told him you don't know these wicked people, the people are just mean and wicked." Jackson, who was arrested Nov. 20 on suspicion of molesting a boy at his Neverland Ranch outside Santa Barbara, Calif., has denied the allegations. He was released on $3 million bail the same day and has not yet been charged. When asked whether they would try to adopt the two boys and a girl if that happens, Jackson's father Joe answered, "Well ... they're my grandkids. I have to."
George Clinton Files Innocent Plea
Funk musician George Clinton, who was arrested in Tallahassee, Fla., over the weekend and charged with possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia, filed an innocent plea to drug charges Thursday, The Associated Press reports. No trial date has been set. Police said Clinton was sitting in the passenger side of a car at a gas station when they approached him and told them he had cocaine in his pocket. He was arrested, charged and later released on $2,650 bail. Clinton headed the funk bands Parliament and Funkadelic in the 1970s and 1980s and his 1983 solo album, Atomic Dog, rose to the top of the R&B charts.
It's "Sir" Mick Jagger Now
Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger received Britain's ultimate accolade Friday when he was knighted by heir to the throne Prince Charles in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace, Reuters reports. Jagger, 60, rejected suggestions that he had sold out to the same establishment that he had scoffed at for so long: "I don't really think the establishment as we knew it exists any more," he said, tossing his head slightly. Jagger, who attended the ceremony with his 92-year-old father Joe and two of his daughters, showed his rebellious streak by shunning the traditional top hat and tails and opting instead for a long black leather coat, purple scarf and sports shoes.
Deschanel and Gyllenhaal Host Sundance Awards
Zooey Deschanel and Jake Gyllenhaal, who played discontented discount store employees in last year's The Good Girl, will team up again to co-host the Sundance Film Festival Awards on Jan. 24. Playing at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, which is scheduled for Jan. 15-25, are The Woodsman, starring husband-and-wife team Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, and We Don't Live Here Anymore with Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Peter Krause and Naomi Watts. Another film selection is The Clearing, starring Helen Mirren, Willem Dafoe and Robert Redford, the festival's founder.
Will & Grace Creators Sue NBC Companies
David Kohan and Jason "Max" Mutchnick, creators of the hit NBC comedy Will & Grace, sued the network and its in-house production company, NBC Studios, Thursday, claiming the companies conspired to keep them from their fair share of the show's earnings. According to Reuters, the suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty by the NBC companies. Kohan and Mutchnick say the licensing terms for the show were "insufficient even to cover a reasonable percentage of the series' production costs" and accuse companies of deliberately undervaluing the sitcom in the deal by which the production company licensed the show to its sister network.
Pharrell To Launch Clothing Line
Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes announced Thursday the launch of two new apparel ventures in partnership with Reebok: Ice Cream, a collection of men's and women's footwear, and Billionaire Boys Club, a men's clothing collection. According to MTV.com, the lines will launch next summer and feature a select run of five or six items available only in high-end boutiques and better department stores. Pharrell's Billionaire Boys Club T-shirts made brief appearances his Frontin' video and onstage during recent shows by his band N.E.R.D. The line will offer T-shirts, athletic clothing, jeans and button-down shirts.
Luciano Pavarotti To Wed Longtime Girlfriend
Opera star Luciano Pavarotti will marry longtime partner Nicoletta Mantovani in his hometown Saturday, the AP reports. Guests will include U2 frontman Bono, Sting, fashion designer Donatella Versace and soccer star Alessandro Del Piero. Giorgio Armani is providing the wedding gowns for Mantovani and the couple's year-old daughter Alice. Pavarotti, 68, has three children from his marriage to former manager Adua Veroni.
Sting Honored by MusicCares
Tony Bennett, the Black Eyed Peas, Elvis Costello, Dido, Elton John, Diana Krall, k.d. lang, Dave Matthews, John Mayer and Rufus Wainwright will perform at the 2004 MusiCares Person of the Year gala in honor of Sting, the AP reports. Sting, 52, is set to receive the honor at a special tribute dinner, concert and silent auction Feb. 6 in Los Angeles. The gala is part of a weeklong festival leading up to the Grammy Awards, which will be presented Feb. 8. He was selected for his accomplishments as a musician, humanitarian and environmental activist by MusiCares, which provides assistance to music people in times of need.
Role Call: Haven Draws Bruckner and Cannavale
Blue Car's Agnes Bruckner and
November 08, 2002 10:07am EST
Stuff magazine has compiled a tongue-in-cheek list of 2002's biggest losers and two Hollywood celebs have made the list. New Zealand actor Russell Crowe, who starred in last year's drama A Beautiful Mind, was ranked No. 2 with the recommendation that he should lighten up. Also on the list was The West Wing star Martin Sheen for apparently thinking he really is the president. The top honors went to Steven the Dell Guy, whose real name is Ben Curtis. "The Dell Guy was ubiquitous," Stuff editor in chief Greg Gutfeld told Reuters. "The only reason he's perceived as being successful was because he was ubiquitous." Also on the list: the FBI, for publicly identifying a suspected anthrax mailer who now plans to sue the agency for defamation, and airport security workers, with the citation, "they couldn't spot a real terrorist if they had 'Death to Infidels' tattooed on their foreheads."
Woody Harrelson, Joseph Fiennes and Audrey Tautou (Amelie) were among the celebs attending the opening of 46th annual London Film Festival, which runs until Nov. 21. Gwyneth Paltrow was on the guest list, but was a no-show, The Associated Press reports. The festival will showcase about 200 new films, including 8 Mile, The Quiet American and Dirty Pretty Thing.
Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now was voted the greatest film of the last quarter century by British film experts, Reuters reports. The poll was organized by the British Film Institute's Sight & Sound magazine, which asked a panel of 50 film experts to consider 259 films made between 1978 and now.
A former Lucasfilm employee accused of stealing $450,000 worth of property from the company pleaded innocent Wednesday to four counts of unlawful access to a computer system and nine counts of theft, the AP reports. Shae O'Brien Foley is accused of taking thousands of items from Lucasfilm and providing an early version of the film to movie writer Harry Knowles, who posted the review on his Web site before the film opened in theaters.
Sharon Osbourne has inked a deal with Telepictures Prods. to mount a single-issue talk show set to debut in syndication for fall 2003, Variety reports. The format would be a welcome changed for Osbourne, who told Barbara Walters this week that if the family were to do it over again, they would not have done the MTV show.
Kim Delaney, who costars with David Caruso in the new CBS drama CSI: Miami, is leaving the series after 10 episodes, according to The Hollywood Reporter. According to a statement released Thursday by CBS, the show's producers felt Delaney's character of Megan Donner was becoming less integral to the series as the season progressed. Delaney was not a member of the show's original cast featured in the pilot.
AC/DC, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, The Police and The Clash have been named as 2003 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Reuters reports. The 18th annual induction ceremony will be held in New York on March 10. Former Police bassist and singer Sting said on his Web site, Sting.com: "I am very proud of the legacy of The Police. We were a a damn good band and it still holds up." The trio, which included Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland, broke up in 1985.
Magician David Blaine has a new book out called Mysterious Stranger: A Book of Magic, and if you read it, you could be $100,000 richer. According to Fox News, the book will be peppered with clues that will lead the reader to a 25-karat solid gold orb and Blaine's phone number. Dial it and Blaine will show up with a check for $100,000--and you get to keep the orb.
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., March 19, 2000 - Rene Russo, the actress, didn't win any awards for her head-turning performance in "The Thomas Crown Affair." But tonight here at the Beverly Hilton, Rene Russo, the haircut, did. Welcome to the first-ever Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Awards, where the above-the-title stars take back seats to behind-the-scenes primping professionals.
Yes, it was the beauty folks' turn to make Oscar-like acceptance speeches and bask in the praise of thankful A-list celebrities who they've made look good, "day after day, year after year, facelift after facelift," as host Rita Rudner drolly put it.
"It's the American dream that I've heard so much about. It's happening to me right now," hair stylist Enzo Angileri said, accepting the so-called Georgie award for doing Russo's do in "Thomas Crown," named best contemporary hairstyling work.
Decades ago, hair and make-up people were treated like celebrities themselves. But the list of big names attending the awards ceremony showed that, while movie and TV beauticians may no longer make it into the gossip columns, they nonetheless are held in high esteem by those who do.
"It's an art form," said actor Billy Bob Thornton, an award presenter. As if to prove that point, Thornton showed up in full make-up (complete with oily gray hair) and costume (a Slim Whitman-meets-Colonel Sanders outfit) from "Waking Up In Reno," a film he's now shooting, in which he plays an aging country singer.
"A lot of people don't realize how much time we spend in make-up, how many hours we spend being literally transformed by these artists," he said.
Other name brands handing trophies included: Holly Hunter, Brendan Fraser (greeted by cat-calls from the audience), Ellen Burstyn, Mimi Rogers, and cast members from TV shows like "That 70's Show," "Freaks and Geeks," and "Providence." Before the event, crowds of fans and electronic lined the Beverly Hilton lobby as the stars rolled in.
Tony Curtis presented the lifetime achievement award to makeup artist Monty Westmore, who recently retired after a 50-plus-year career that included more than 100 films, ranging from "The Treasure of Sierra Madre" with Humphrey Bogart to the forthcoming "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" with Jim Carrey.
Unlike the Oscars, which have been plagued by mishaps this year despite 72 years of experience, the Georgies basically survived their first go-round with almost no problems. Ballots were mailed out to the 1,100 members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 706, who voted on the 17 different award categories. And the golden statuettes, which look vaguely Oscar-like, didn't disappear en route to the event.
But note the phrase: Almost no problems. Amid the celebration, two important items were missing: The champagne and sunglasses. The champagne ordered for the ceremonies never arrived, and was believed to have been delivered to another hotel. And the Calvin Klein shades that were to be supplied by the designer label and given out to the presenters, also were no-shows.
When informed of this caper, actress Christina Applegate (of "Jesse" fame) was understandably dejected.
"Was I supposed to get some glasses?" Applegate said. "Darn."
Here's a complete look at the night's winners:
Best Contemporary Makeup (Feature) Toni G and Will Huff "The General's Daughter."
Best Period Makeup (Feature) Leonard Engleman, "Tea With Mussolini."
Best Character Makeup (Feature) Kevin Yagher, Peter Owen, Elizabeth Tag and Paul Gooch, "Sleepy Hollow."
Best Effects Makeup (Feature) Greg Cannom and Wesley Wofford, "Bicentennial Man."
Best Contemporary Hair Styling (Feature) Enzo Angileri "The Thomas Crown Affair."
Best Period Hair Styling (Feature) Vivian McAteer, for Cher in "Tea With Mussolini." Television TELEVISION
Best Contemporary Makeup (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime) James MacKinnon and Stephanie Fowler, "Thank You Providence," "Providence."
Best Period Makeup (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime) Cheri Montesanto-Medcalf, Kevin Westmore and LaVerne Basham, "Triangle," "The X-Files."
Best Character Makeup (Television) Jennifer Aspinall, Felicia Linsky and Ed French, Episode #507, "Mad TV."
Best Makeup Effects (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime) Kenny Myers, Todd A. McIntosh, Robin Beauxchesne, Douglas Noe, and Brigette Myre-Ellis, "Living Conditions," "Buffy The Vampire Slayer."
Best Period Makeup (For a Mini-Series or Movie of the Week) Sue Cabel, Matthew Mungle and Joe Hailey, "And The Beat Goes On: The Sonny and Cher Story."
Best Character Makeup (For a Mini-Series or Movie of the Week) Douglas Noe, for Cicely Tyson in "A Lesson Before Dying."
Best Contemporary Hair Styling (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime) Darrell Fielder, Jonathan Hanousak and Joy Zapata, "The Final Frontier," "Mad About You."
Best Period Hair Styling (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series -- Sitcom, Drama or Daytime) Gabriella Pollino, Deborah Piper, Valerie Scott and Cindy Costello, "Prom Night," "That 70's Show."
Best Character Hair Styling (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime) Josee Normand, Charlotte Parker and Gloria Montemeyor, "Bride of Chaotica," "Star Trek Voyager."
Best Innovative Hair Styling (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime) Josee Normand, Charlotte Parker and Gloria Montemeyor, "Dragon's Teeth," "Star Trek Voyager."
Best Period Hair Styling (For a Mini-Series or Movie of the Week) Marlene Williams and Tim Jones "And The Beat Goes On: The Sonny & Cher Story."