Dispatch: A Bevy of Blockbusters

December 18, 2012 | by —JEFFREY SLONIM | Homepage

Taylor Swift performing at Z100's Jingle Ball 2012

Dispatches felt like a kid on Christmas morning last week, as Z100 hosted its annual Jingle Ball and studios rushed to debut their big-gun Oscar contenders for 2012.

The holiday jingle-jangle began on Friday, December 7, when Aeropostale sponsored Z100’s crazy-starry Jingle Ball 2012. This is the third year my 11-year-old son, Declan, begged me to drag him along. With tickets in row B allegedly selling for $12,000 each, headliners included Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber. Who spends that kind of money on a concert ticket? Successful banker dads trying to make up for many missed soccer games and dance recitals in one fell swoop.

“I want snow to come,” the young pop star Olly Murs told Dispatches moments before hitting the stage. “And I need more boxer shorts,” he added when asked what he wants for Christmas.  

FYI, don’t smell Jason Mraz’s old hats. He wears them out and “they get smelly,” he said. David Lauren and Lauren Bush Lauren swooned arm in arm as Mraz sang. And for New Year's, Ne-Yo said he’d like to buss Nicki Minaj. Onstage, Taylor Swift wore red lips that matched her shiny mic. Her legs are endless. Not to be outdone, Bieber ended with a real showstopper. He threw off his shirt in the final encore, and several tweens offered to marry him in tweets that ran across a giant LED display. The shrieking of young girls was deafening. It was about the cutest thing since The Beatles’ bowl cut. 

On Sunday, Cinema Society, Bally, and Chrysler screened Stand Up Guys at MoMA, with an afterfête at the classic Oak Room at The Plaza Hotel (my favorite venue). The film stars Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, and Al Pacino as aging tough guys. Director Fisher Stevens has my Oscar vote for best casting. “It was very daunting at first,” Stevens said of working with the exalted actors, “but you have to man up,” he added. “They want direction, too. But sometimes I’d get so lost into a scene, I’d forget to yell 'Cut.'”

Glee’s Courtney Galiano dances with Pacino onscreen. And she apparently went to Pacino’s house to work with the choreographer. “He knows how to handle a woman, for sure,” Galiano said of Pacino’s moves. “He loves to spin and dip, and he gave me French coffee that he made himself.”

“They were giving me theater shows every night,” indicated Julianna Margulies of working with the legends. “They would recite Shakespeare. It was like taking a master's class.”

Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried at the premiere of Les Miserables 

On Monday, director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) screened his blockbuster adaptation of Les Misérables. “Hugh Jackman calls making a musical 'the Mount Everest of filmmaking,'” Hooper mentioned at the Ziegfeld Theater. But to me, the project felt more like a climb of the even more difficult K2 than Everest. And not all of the cast made it to the summit. Though Hooper claimed that Russell Crowe, who plays Javert, had cut his teeth in musical theater, his voice seemed to have suffered along the road of life. And while Jackman’s acting was superb, his range didn’t appear to match the score. Amanda Seyfried’s voice, however, was beyond beautiful, putting lesser leads to shame. 

Anne Hathaway, who looked angelic in person, told Dispatches she was wearing Tom Ford at the theater. And she had on Ford’s kooky S&M boots. Unfortunately, Hathaway had a wardrobe malfunction while getting out of her car and the paparazzo rushed in for the shot. Matt Lauer later brought up the incident in a Today show interview with the actress, suggestively saying, “We’ve seen a lot of you lately.” Shame on him. Meanwhile, Hathaway really brings it onscreen, although it was difficult to watch this sweet actress being treated so badly when Fantine, her character, falls from grace.

On Tuesday, the Cinema Society screened Django Unchained with The Hollywood Reporter and Samsung Galaxy. The idea of Quentin Tarantino, one of the most outrageous directors of all time, handling the touchy subject of slavery in the old south made Dispatches nervous. But this film is an uproarious hit. Yes, as in most Tarantino films, blood spills in the most theatrical manner, but the director and the cast earn it with humor and bravado. The scene depicting the Klan may be one of the funniest made since Blazing Saddles. “When we went to these plantations,” Tarantino suggested on the red carpet, “it was the real thing. It really kind of rocked our world a little bit, and we captured that on film.” The stars of the film, too, were impacted by the project. “It’s a humbling experience, doing your art with all these great people, riding horses, spinning guns, having a good time,” offered Jamie Foxx. On his “disreputable, horrendous, narcissistic character,” Leonardo DiCaprio gave kudos to Tarantino: “[He] really writes the best villains ever."  

Understandably, humor was not a part of the equation on Thursday when Calvin Klein sponsored the screening of The Impossible. The film is director Juan Antonio Bayona's realistic portrayal of one vacationing family’s plight during the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. And not only is Naomi Watts’ character abused by the megawave, for the rest of the film, she realistically moans and shrieks like a character in Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers. “Water is always difficult,” said Watts. “I swore I would never do anything as demanding after King Kong . . . I guess you forget.”

“We tried to use real water as much as possible,” said Bayona. “We didn’t use CGI to portray the enormous areas destroyed by the water.” He also mentioned that Petra Nemcova, who recently saw the film, indicated that she was standing 20 meters from the main character in the film when the wave actually hit. Nemcova, creator of the Happy Hearts Fund, attended the screening and pointed out that she’d never heard the word "tsunami" before experiencing one firsthand. She likened the natural disaster to witnessing the end of the world.

FROM LEFT: Kirsten Dunst and Kristen Stewart at the On the Road premiere; Sam Riley and Garrett Hedlund at the premiere's afterparty

And on Thursday, as if I hadn't already seen enough Oscar-quality performances for one year, Grey Goose Vodka sponsored the New York premiere of On the Road. Three-quarters of the benzedrine-fueled road trip from the classic 1951 Beat novel by Jack Kerouac is a romp, but for all the sexy styling, wild sex, and insanely hot cast members, the frenetic pace of the partying on screen eventually loses impact.   

In keeping with Marylou, her wild character in the film, Kristen Stewart wore Erdem to the premiere. The dress had a sheer overlay that went see-through when the photogs flashed. She said that she had felt “fueled” by the book when she first read it in high school.

“I’m a free-spirited person, for sure,” noted Kirsten Dunst, who also plays a character decimated by the wanderlust of the Beat generation. “I’m a good person to have on a road trip.”

“To shoot the film, we traveled 60,000 miles in North America—the U.S., Canada, and Mexico," said director Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries).

“And when we were in the middle of Argentina, really in the middle of nowhere, suddenly there were 200 kids screaming, ‘Bella, Bella,’" indicated British actor Sam Riley.

During the afterfête at Top of the Standard—where the lobster rolls and burgers (but no benzedrine) just kept coming—Stewart was far less noticeable, sitting on a stool wearing a hoodie and chatting with a few pals.  

For more entertainment and society news, visit jeffreyslonim.com or follow @JeffreyJSlo on Twitter 

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