There were two pressing questions heading into Sunday night's 85th Academy Awards: 1) Will Ben Affleck's Argo really win Best Picture? 2) How nasty will host Seth MacFarlane be? The answers: Argo did get the nod for Best Picture, an award presented by none other than the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. And the Family Guy guy, MacFarlane, got down and dirty enough to give families several reasons to dive for the remote.
MacFarlane sang and danced with the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles as they paid "tribute" to actresses who'd gone topless onscreen in a song called "We Saw Your Boobs." That was followed by the host donning a nun's habit to tell Sally Field how hot he thought she was as Gidget and The Flying Nun. He joked about Lincoln's assassination (a gag that earned gasps from the audience), described Django Unchained as a good date-night movie for Chris Brown and Rihanna (more gasps), quipped about Jews running Hollywood and took a bunch of potshots at other celebs. Industry veteran Nikki Fink live-blogged after the spiel, "You have to excuse me. That show opening was so lousy, I'm still in a state of shock and dismay." Entertainment publicist Angie Meyer told Fox News, "Seth McFarlane spoon-fed sexism and likewise innuendo through song, setting a terrible example for young children watching the show. … The Oscars are supposed to be a celebration of the art of cinema, not a tribute to women who strip down in film."
As for the awards themselves, statuette recipients included the aforementioned Argo (Best Picture), Ang Lee (Best Director, Life of Pi), Daniel Day-Lewis (Best Actor, Lincoln), Jennifer Lawrence (Best Actress, Silver Linings Playbook), Christoph Waltz (Best Supporting Actor, Django Unchained) and Anne Hathaway (Best Supporting Actress, Les Misérables). The Academy dubbed Pixar's Brave the Best Animated Film, Django Unchained the Best Original Screenplay and Argo the Best Adapted Screenplay. [oscar.go.com, 2/24/13; deadline.com, 2/24/13; foxnews.com, 2/25/13]
Actor Alan Arkin landed a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role in Argo, but he doesn't have much problem keeping it in perspective. When asked at a press conference (before the ceremony) whether he thought fellow actor and Argo director Ben Affleck should have been nominated for Best Director, Arkin responded. "I think it's all nonsense. The whole thing's a crapshoot. If I look at the movies that won best movie over the past 50 years, 20 are ridiculous jokes. This year, somebody's going to be in favor. It's like watching the tide go in and out, deciding what's going to be the biggest wave. Nobody knows. In the long run, it's not going to have any effect on his career one way or another." [usatoday.com, 2/24/13]
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 wasn't up for any Oscars this year. But it was up for several Razzie awards. And it has now officially won seven of them, including Worst Picture, at the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation event held the night before the Oscars. [sfgate.com, 2/24/13]
EchoLight Studios is pushing harder than ever to foster talent in Christian cinema, pledging up to $1 million to the winner of this year's 168 Film Project. EchoLight promises to use the money to help produce and distribute the filmmaker's next big work. The studio previously made a $250,000 commitment to the winner of the San Antonio Independent Christian Festival, in addition to a multimillion-dollar deal it has made with Liberty University's Cinematic Arts program. [christiannewswire.com, 2/19/13]
What environmental influences contribute to mass shootings? According to a new report from the National Science Foundation, the answer is a combination of three factors: access to guns, exposure to media violence, and mental health. The NSF, working in conjunction with the Congressional Subcommittee on Youth Violence, published its findings earlier this month in an extensive report, "Youth Violence: What We Need to Know."
With regard to media violence, the study's authors noted, "Public debate on the link between violent media and aggressive and violent behavior can be contentious, especially in the wake of a shooting rampage. Anders Breivik, who murdered 69 youth in Norway, claims he used the video game Modern Warfare 2 as a military simulator to help him practice shooting people. Similarly, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who murdered 13 fellow students in Colorado, claimed they used the violent video game Doom to practice their shooting rampage. Violent video games have also been implicated in other school shootings (e.g., Bethel, Alaska; Paducah, Ky.; Jonesboro, Ark.)."
They went on to say, "It is not possible to know whether playing violent games caused Breivik, Harris and Klebold (or any other killer) to shoot their victims. However, a comprehensive review of more than 381 effects from studies involving more than 130,000 participants around the world shows that violent video games increase aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure), and aggressive behavior. Violent games also decrease helping behavior and feelings of empathy for others. A meta-analysis of 26 studies involving 13,661 participants found that violent media exposure is also significantly linked to violent behavior (e.g. punching, beating, choking others), although the effects are smaller than for aggressive behavior." [http://wolf.house.gov/uploads/Violence_Report_Long_v3.pdf, 2/1/2013 stats, c&e]
How in the world did the heretofore unknown 23-year-old Brooklyn producer Baauer (real name: Harry Rodrigues) end up in the No. 1 slot on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart last week with his song "Harlem Shake"? The answer has to do with changes the venerable music magazine has made to its ranking methodology. Previously, Billboard's formula for the Hot 100 took into account sales (both physical and downloads), terrestrial radio play and on-demand streaming. Now Billboard has added YouTube views into the mix, an indicator of the increasing significance of that Internet outlet's influence when it comes to how consumers interact with music. [billboard.com, 2/22/13; spin.com, 2/21/13]
Billboard's not the only reporting publication making big changes. Nielsen has announced it's now going to incorporate online TV watching into its television ratings. "Consumers are accessing content in new ways that fall outside of our traditional definitions," says Brian Fuhrer, a senior vice president for Nielsen, "and if we don't expand, we could be missing an emerging trend." [AP, 2/21/13]
After years of well-documented struggles with addiction and depression, and about a month after the apparent suicide of her boyfriend (the father of her younger son), 37-year-old country singer Mindy McCready also reportedly killed herself on Feb. 17 in the same spot his body was found. McCready was best known for her 1996 hit "Guys Do It All the Time."
Private investigator Danno Hanks, who worked with and advised the late star, says of McCready's now-viral video for her song "I'll See You Yesterday," "[She] was anxious to get this video posted. … In retrospect, I realize what she was not revealing was that her true reason was that this was her suicide video. She wanted it out there because she knew that the video would get more play after she committed her suicide. She wanted the world at the end to know how she had been treated and mistreated and all the stuff that she had gone through."
In the wake of McCready's death, some observers are pointing fingers at Dr. Drew Pinsky, who counseled the country music singer on the reality show Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew. Five stars who've appeared on the show have now died—catalyst enough for singer Richard Marx to compare Pinsky to Dr. Jack Kevorkian in a tweet. He later apologized for the crack, but insisted, "It is … my opinion that what Dr. D. does is exploitation and his TV track record is not good." Pinsky has not responded directly to those questioning his show (which has since been renamed Rehab With Dr. Drew and now concentrates on non-celebrities). But after McCready's death, he released the following statement: "She is a lovely woman who will be missed by many. Although I have not treated her for a few years, I had reached out to her recently upon hearing about the apparent suicide of her boyfriend and father of her younger [child]. She was devastated. Although she was fearful of stigma and ridicule she agreed with me that she needed to make her health and safety a priority. Unfortunately it seems that Mindy did not sustain her treatment." [cnn.com, 2/19/13; AP, 2/20/13]