Maxwell Caulfield Opens Up About Life, Love and Career

September 20, 2012

Actor, Maxwell Caulfield shot to fame with the 1982 film, “Grease “2 and has sustained a thirty year film career that has seen both highs and lows. He has had a noteworthy presence on Broadway and London’s West End. This writer directed Mr. Caulfield in the feature film, “Midnight Witness” and sat down to chat with him recently at the Pali House Hotel in West Hollywood.

Hollywood Revealed: Maxwell, you are currently starring in the play “Euripides’ Helen” at the Getty Villa where you portray “Menelaos,” a character that has been missing in action for seven years. How do you personally relate to that role?

Maxwell Caulfield: (laughs) Brilliant question. Yeah, that’s absolutely the truth. I play Manelaos, The King of Sparta, and those so called missing years of both the character as well as myself were bloody–but will prove ultimately victorious.

HR: So what have you been up to since we last saw you on TV in the “Colbys?”

MC: I think I’ve racked up a decent body of work. Some pretty good film credits.

HR: Which ones are you especially fond of?

MC: One that comes to mind is “The Real Blond,” Tom DiCillo’s movie with an all-star cast in which I had the best part. “Empire Records” with Renee Zellweger and Liv Tyler has also gone on to become a bit of a cult favorite, and even a couple of my more obscure straight to cable films…

HR: Like our project, “Midnight Witness”.

MC: Well indeed, “Midnight Witness.” A wonderful little movie. Very under estimated. Produced by Menahem Golan and directed by your good self, with the wonderful Jan-Michael Vincent. What a true Hollywood legend.

HR: I agree.

MC: The movies that I am thinking of tended to be shot in Eastern Europe for not a great deal of money. One of them that I was in, “Dragon Storm,” went on to become Sci-Fi’s Channel’s biggest hit at the time. That was a whole lot of fun.

HR: You had tremendous early success with your films as well as your work on stage. Would you say that was a good thing?

MC: No. It was definitely misleading in so far as it set up one’s expectation level to inappropriate heights. While I was considering what my next film at Paramount would be under my three picture contract, they were rush releasing “Grease 2” to a less that stellar opening weekend and my contract suddenly went up in smoke, rather like a James Bond directive.

HR: Ouch. That must’ve hurt.

MC: It did, but I managed to work my way back into the game, specifically with a TV show, ironically again at Paramount, called “The Colbys” which was the spin off of “Dynasty,” but in all honesty, appearing in the sequels to big monster hits is not always the savviest move, particularly if the sequel under performs.

HR: So is there one favorite character you’ve portrayed?

MC: On film?

HR: Yeah.

MC: ‘Cause some of the best roles I’ve gotten to play have been on stage, but on film, there is one project I did that unfortunately didn’t get a theatrical release, even though it was getting a very excited response. It was “The Boys Next Door” with the young Charlie Sheen who just had bud-horns coming out of the top of his head at that point.

HR: What happened?

MC: The production company, New World Pictures, went under at the worst possible moment, so the film ended up, like a lot of my flicks, moving into that cult arena and that doesn’t ultimately serve you too brilliantly in terms of the jockey stakes of movie stardom. But that was a part where I really got to lose myself in the role, because that is what you are ultimately trying to do. Get immersed in the part so that where you leave off and where the part takes over is almost invisible. Considering that I was playing a homicidal maniac it doesn’t speak too highly of my character.

HR: So what advice would you have to the 22 year old Maxwell Caulfield who has just finished starring in “Grease 2?”

MC: (laughs) Don’t believe your own hype is top of the list. Definitely start shooting your second film before the first one comes out. Get out there as quickly as you can to display your versatility. Hollywood is inclined to consign you to a category and it’s up to you to make sure the box is as big as possible so that you can stretch. To quote Noel Coward, it’s imperative to come out of a different hole every time.

HR: And you did with “Boys Next Door.”

MC: Yeah, but it was about a year and a half after being left out in the cold by Paramount.  I was actually hopping mad and used that film as an opportunity to vent.  I did get to work with the wonderful and brilliant Penelope Spheeris on that one.  In fact on “Midnight Witness” you caught me at a pretty opportune time in terms of using a role as an outlet for my own pent up emotions.  I loved playing that guy in your film.  That psycho cop, “Garland.”

HR:  Your movie star status got that film financed.

MC: Wow, that’s a wonderful thing.  Maybe I should have tried to make it a bigger payday.  Just kidding.

HR: You could’ve hit Menahem up for…

MC: Another five grand? (laughs)  Hey, God love him.  He put a lot of us to work.

HR: You’re of course married to the beautiful and talented Juliet Mills, sister of Hayley Mills, daughter of Sir John Mills, who are part of an acting dynasty in the U.K.  What was it like for you, coming from humble beginnings to suddenly find yourself in the midst of British theater and film royalty?  And did your father-in-law give you any career advice?

MC: My father-in-law, the late, great Sir John Mills, chose to let me make my errors.  He did counsel me on occasion but I really should have towed the line a bit more.  I was very enamored of the antics of James Dean and similar rebel heroes of the mid to late fifties who kind of got away with murder on the basis of their talent and their indispensability.  Since then the business has become more corporate as it transitioned into the eighties and nineties.  There was no room for antics or acting out.  I’m not suggesting that I was particularly unprofessional, but Sir John was the height of professionalism and it would have suited me to try and be a consummate pro like he was.

HR: So you’re saying you were you a bad boy in your early days?

MC: It’s not like I was throwing tantrums on the set.  I’m talking about those things that show that you are a thoroughly prepared pro who goes along with the flow. That said, I doubt there are many people who you could talk to in the past two decades who would say that I wasn’t a team player, but at that outset, when I first started out, I admit I was looking for the teen rebel mantle.

HR: And why not?  You were barely out of your teens yourself.

MC: Barely.

HR: And that’s when you met your wife, Juliet.

MC: Yes, Juliet and I met in New York for the first tour of the play, “The Elephant Man” after it had won the Tony Award.  We did a prestigious winter tour of Florida in 1980.  I was playing the title role and she was playing the Victorian actress, Mrs. Kendal, and frankly, it really, truly was love at first sight.  Kind of a beauty and the beast story.

HR: Were you aware of her work?

MC: Yes. I was a fan of hers back in England.  I was very aware of Juliet and her family, but it was the woman I was attracted to, it wasn’t just her beauty and her fame and indeed her money at the time.  We quickly blew through that, by the way–but she was a spectacular woman, and she has made big sacrifices in her own career in support of mine.  That’s one of the reason’s I’m so determined to finally come good.

HR: So what have been some of your favorite on stage experiences?

MC: I’d say on top of the list is obviously “The Elephant Man” because of the great bonus of meeting the woman of my dreams, and “John Merrick” is a marvelous role.  A gift for an actor.  More recently “Billy Flynn” in “Chicago.”  I mean that was crazy.  You spend the show sliding around in a tuxedo with six-foot tall beauties in black lingerie cooing over you, so that was a fantastic role.  I got to do it in London and then a very brief run on Broadway.  “An Inspector Calls” on Broadway was a lot of fun.  Did that for 6 months.  I also toured in a wonderful play called, “Sleuth” with Stacy Keach.

HR:  You’ve actually had a really well-rounded career compared to a lot of actors.  Films, Broadway, television.  What do you think it takes for an actor to make it in today’s market?  ‘Cause things are very different from twenty years ago.

MC: It was definitely a smaller industry then.

HR: You saw the tail end of the star system.

MC: Yeah, I really did.  When I was cast in “Grease 2” I got my break from a genuine, bone-fide star maker, Alan Carr who helped make Ann Margaret a household name.  He was from that school of producers who believed that you cultivate an actor.  He said that Michelle (Pfeiffer) and I were going to become the next Ann Margaret and Elvis Presley.

HR: That must do something to your ego.

MC: Yeah. I think that when you’re young and you are trying to figure out who you are, you try to create an image that you can, (a) live with and (b) you hope will be alluring, particularly if you’re looking to enter this profession.  Anything that is going to give you a high level of self-confidence, ‘cause it’s a big factor in this game.  It’s not only believing in your path but also being very self confident which makes you more or less irresistible to men and women alike.  So for a younger actor, you not only have to have tremendous faith in your abilities but you also have to hone your craft.  You can’t just be lazy about it.  I think that’s critical.

HR: That’s good advice.

MC: I would also add that comedy is king in this town so if you can combine both worlds then you’re really styling, which is why the theater always had such appeal to me.

HR: So what’s next for Maxwell Caulfield?  After this play?

MC: I’m not counting on good old Tinseltown.  It’s been a bit of a jockey stakes for too long now so I’m going to hedge my bets.  Besides a sitcom pilot we’ve developed Juliet and I are combing through scripts at the moment, trying to find a good vehicle for ourselves.  I’m itching to work with her again.

HR: Film or theater?

MC: Theater.  If it’s got film potential and we enjoy success with it, in other words if audiences are touched by the story or amused, or it actually hasn’t been made into a film already, then what we might do is take it either to London or Australia first and then who knows.  Maybe bring it to New York.  It’s so incumbent on you now to generate your own work.

HR: If you could pick three people in Hollywood to sit down with and say, look I started a great career thirty years ago and I’m actually much better now than I was then, who might those three people be?  Who would “get you” right now?

MC: The director I’ve always wanted to work with, but he seems to have just disappeared off the face of the earth,  is Alan Parker but funnily the first person who comes to mind is Sean Penn because he’s an actor director and obviously a contemporary of mine.  There’s a producer I like a lot.  A guy called Laurence Mark who I had a very funny early encounter with at Paramount.  He is shooting a film right now called “Last Vegas” with Robert De Niro and he produced “Julie & Julia,” “As Good as it Gets” and “Jerry Maguire.”  I wouldn’t mind getting a break from him.  I would love to re-team with Tom DiCillo who made the “Real Blond.”  He’s kind of an auteur director and that has been slightly to the detriment of his own career because he’s probably passed on a lot of very good commercial opportunities.  I think when a director wants to work with you again, that’s the greatest compliment, and so it would have to be Penelope Spheeris, Tom DiCillo and Peter Foldy.

HR: Aw, thank you.

MC: It’s true!

HR: So which three actors you haven’t been in films with would you like to work with?

MC: There are so many.  I think I wouldn’t mind going toe to toe with Cate Blanchette.  I hear she’s a firebrand.  I wouldn’t mind being involved in scenes with Philip Seymour Hoffman and… Tom Cruise.  I think Tom is quite an enigmatic fellow.

HR: Good choices.

MC: Oh, and in the veteran acting department it would be a lesson I’m sure to work with Michael Caine.

HR: I’ll leave you with one last question.  Describe what would be your favorite L.A. weekend.

MC: I think it’s always great to catch an open-air concert.  A rock and roll weekend is always fun.  Juliet and I also love going to the racetrack.  It’s wonderful to bump into the same old characters.  Mel Brooks, Dick Van Patten.  They’re just terrific guys.  I’m a mad keen swimmer as you know so any chance to get into the ocean.  I prefer frankly Zuma Beach over Santa Monica bay, just in terms of the water cleanliness.  And obviously good food.  My wife is an awesome cook.

HR: That’s great, Maxwell.  Thanks for chatting.

MC: It’s been a real pleasure, Pete.

Catch Maxwell Caulfield in “Euripides’ Helen” playing Thursday through Saturday at the Getty Villa, closing September 29, 2012.  Showtime is 8:00 p.m. Tickets and further information is available by calling (310) 440-7300 or clicking HERE

Photos by:Peter Foldy

The Numbers Behind the Oscar Nominations

With the Academy Awards fast approaching, Mike Goodridge of Screen Daily Dot Com has compiled key facts and figures behind the Oscar nominations.


1978 The Deer Hunter (supporting)

1979 Kramer Vs Kramer* (supporting)

1981 The French Lieutenant’s Woman

1982 Sophie’s Choice*

1983 Silkwood

1985 Out Of Africa

1987 Ironweed

1988 A Cry In The Dark

1990 Postcards From The Edge

1995 The Bridges Of Madison County

1998 One True Thing

1999 Music Of The Heart

2002 Adaptation (supporting)

2006 The Devil Wears Prada

2008 Doubt


1995 Sense And Sensibility (supporting)

1997 Titanic

2001 Iris (supporting)

2004 Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

2006 Little Children

2008 The Reader


1995 Dead Man Walking

1999 Sweet And Lowdown

2001 I Am Sam

2003 Mystic River*

2008 Milk

* signifies win


13The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

10 Slumdog Millionaire

8The Dark Knight Milk

6 Wall-E

5 Doubt Frost/Nixon The Reader

3 Changeling Revolutionary Road

2 The Duchess, Frozen River, Iron Man, Wanted, The Wrestler


Paramount Pictures/Paramount Vantage 23

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (13), Revolutionary Road (3), The Duchess (2), Iron Man (2), Defiance (1), Kung Fu Panda (1), Tropic Thunder (1)

Warner Bros 21

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (13), The Dark Knight (8)

Universal Pictures/Focus Features 20

Milk (8), Frost/Nixon (5). Changeling (3), Wanted (2), Hellboy II: The Golden Army (1), In Bruges (1)

Disney/Miramax Films 13

Wall-E (6), Doubt (5), Bolt (1), Happy-Go-Lucky (1)

Twentieth Century Fox/Fox Searchlight Pictures 13

Slumdog Millionaire (10), The Wrestler (2), Australia (1)

The Weinstein Company 6

The Reader (5), Vicky Cristina Barcelona (1)

Sony Pictures/Sony Pictures Classics 5

Frozen River (2), Rachel Getting Married (1), The Class (1), Waltz With Bashir (1)

FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM – past nominations by country

The Baader Meinhof Complex is the eighth nomination for Germany since the fall of the Berlin Wall, after The Nasty Girl (1990), Schtonk! (1992), Beyond Silence (1997), Nowhere In Africa (2002)*, Downfall (2004), Sophie Scholl – The Final Days (2005) and The Lives Of Others (2006)*.

Prior to reunification, the Federal Republic of Germany received eight nominations: The Captain Of Kopenick (1956), The Devil Came At Night (1957), Arms And The Man (1958), The Bridge (1959), The Pedestrian (1973), The Glass Cell (1978), The Tin Drum (1979)* and Angry Harvest (1985). Prior to reunification, the German Democratic Republic received one nomination in 1976 for Jacob The Liar.

The Class is the 35th nomination for France – a record in this category. The country has won nine Oscars – for My Uncle (1958), Black Orpheus (1959), Sundays And Cybele (1962), A Man And A Woman (1966), The Discreet Charm Of the Bourgeoisie (1972), Day For Night (1973), Madame Rosa (1977), Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (1978) and Indochine (1992). France also received three special awards prior to the establishment of the foreign-language Oscar for Monsieur Vincent (1948), The Walls Of Malapaga (1950) and Forbidden Games (1952). Other nominations were for Gervaise (1956), Gates Of Paris (1957), La Verite (1960), The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg (1964), Live For Life (1967), Stolen Kisses (1968), My Night At Maud’s (1969), Hoa-Binh (1970), Lacombe Lucien (1974), Cousin Cousine (1976), A Simple Story (1979), The Last Metro (1980), Coup De Torchon (1982), Entre Nous (1983), Three Men And A Cradle (1985), Betty Blue (1986), Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987), Camille Claudel (1989), Cyrano De Bergerac (1990), Ridicule (1996), East/West (1999), The Taste Of Others (2000), Amelie (2001), The Chorus (2004) and Joyeux Noel (2005).

Departures is the twelfth nomination for Japan, following Harp Of Burma (1956), Immortal Love (1961), Twin Sisters Of Kyoto (1963), Woman In The Dunes (1964), Kwaidan (1965), Portrait Of Chieko (1967), Dodeska-Den (1971), Sandakan No 8 (1975), Kagemusha (1980), Muddy River (1981) and The Twilight Samurai (2003). Japan won three special awards prior to the foreign-language Oscar – for Rashomon (1951), Gate Of Hell (1954) and Miyamoto Musashi (1955).

Revanche is the third nomination for Austria after 38 (1986) and The Counterfeiters (2007)*.

Waltz With Bashir is Israel’s eighth nomination after Sallah (1964), The Policeman (1971), I Love You Rosa (1972), The House On Chelouche Street (1973), Operation Thunderbolt (1977), Beyond The Walls (1984) and Beaufort (2007).

* signifies win

Key Nominees by North American Box-Office Gross at Jan 25, 2009
Film (US release date) Gross to date
1 *The Dark Knight (July 18) $531m
2 Iron Man (May 2) $318.4m
3 Wall-E (June 27) $223.8m
4 Wanted (June 27) $134.5m
5 *The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (Dec 25) $111m
6 Tropic Thunder (Aug 13) $110.5m
7 *Slumdog Millionaire (Nov 12) $55.9m
8 Changeling (Oct 24) $35.7m
9 *Doubt (Dec 12) $26.8m
10 *Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Aug 15) $23.1m
11 *Milk (Nov 26) $21.6m
12 The Duchess (Sept 19) $13.8m
13 *Frost/Nixon (Dec 5) $12m
14 *Revolutionary Road (Dec 26) $11.9m
15 *Rachel Getting Married (Oct 3) $11.3m
16 *The Reader (Dec 10) $9.7m
17 *The Wrestler (Dec 17) $9.5m
18 The Visitor (April 11) $9.4m
19 Frozen River (Aug 1) $2.3m
* still on release


Number of nominations includes this year’s nod; number of past wins is in parentheses

Meryl Streep, actor, 15 (2)

Christopher Boyes, sound editing and mixing, 11 (4)

Ben Burtt*, sound editing and mixing, 10 (4)

Thomas Newman, composer, 10 (0)

Greg Cannom, make-up designer, 9 (2)

Roger Deakins, cinematographer, 8 (0)

James Newton Howard, composer, 8 (0)

Michael Semanick, sound mixing, 7 (2)

Albert Wolsky, costume designer, 7 (2)

Kathleen Kennedy, producer, 6 (0)

Mike Leigh, writer and director, 6 (0)

Kate Winslet, actor, 6 (0)

Frank Marshall, producer, 5 (0)

Frank A Montano, sound mixing, 5 (0)

David Parker, sound mixing, 5 (2)

Andrew Stanton, writer and director, 5 (1)

Pete Docter, writer and director, 4 (0)

Danny Elfman, composer, 4 (0)

Brian Grazer, producer and writer, 4 (1)

Daniel P Hanley, editor, 4 (1)

Mike Hill, editor, 4 (1)

Ron Howard, producer and director, 4 (1)

Chris Jenkins, sound mixing, 4 (2)

Catherine Martin, art director and costume designer, 4 (2)

Chris Menges, cinematographer, 4 (2)

Steven Okazaki, documentary director, 4 (1)

Eric Roth, writer, 4 (1)

Wylie Stateman, sound editing, 4 (0)

Stephen Daldry, director, 3 (0)

Eric Fellner, producer, 3 (0)

Philip Seymour Hoffman, actor, 3 (1)

Richard King, sound editing, 3 (1)

John Nelson, visual effects, 3 (1)

Wally Pfister, cinematographer, 3 (0)

AR Rahman, composer, 3 (0)

Ben Snow, visual effects, 3 (0)

Daniel Sudick, visual effects, 3 (0)

Marisa Tomei, actor, 3 (1)

Amy Adams, actor, 2 (0)

Craig Barron, visual effects, 2 (0)

Simon Beaufoy, writer, 2 (0)

John Caglione Jr, make-up designer, 2 (1)

Penelope Cruz, actor, 2 (0)

Bruce Cohen, producer, 2 (1)

Nathan Crowley, art director, 2 (0)

Alexandre Desplat, composer, 2 (0)

Robert Downey Jr, actor, 2 (0)

Gary Fettis, set decorator, 2 (0)

David Hare, writer, 2 (0)

Dan Jinks, producer, 2 (1)

Angelina Jolie, actor, 2 (1)

Ren Klyce, sound editing, 2 (0)

Heath Ledger, actor, 2 (0)

Martin McDonagh, writer/director, 2 (1)

Peter Morgan, writer, 2 (0)

Ed Novick, sound mixing, 2 (0)

Conor O’Sullivan, make-up designer, 2 (0)

Mark Osborne, director, 2 (0)

Brad Pitt, actor, 2 (0)

Gary Rizzo, sound mixing, 2 (0)

John Patrick Shanley, writer, 2 (1)

Lee Smith, editor, 2 (0)

Gus Van Sant, director, 2 (0)

Jacqueline West, costume designer, 2 (0)

Matthew Wood, sound editing, 2 (0)

Kristi Zea, art director, 2 (0)

* Ben Burtt won two special achievement Oscars in 1977 and 1981 before the sound editing category was introduced.

SAG Awards 2009

Meryl Streep and Sean Penn won lead-acting honors at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Streep was named best actress for her role as a Catholic school nun in Doubt, and Penn for his performance as trailblazing gay politician Harvey Milk in the film Milk.  In an emotional speech that was the highlight of the awards, Penn said:

“Something happened to me during the making of this movie. I noticed it tonight that the statues have rather healthy packages … As actors we don’t play gay, straight …we play human beings. (I’m) so appreciative of this acknowledgment. This is a story of equal rights for all human beings.

The prize for overall cast went to the over-rated rags-to-riches saga Slumdog Millionaire.

As expected, Heath Ledger’s villain, the Joker in The Dark Knight earned him the supporting-actor honor, while Kate Winslet was the winner of the supporting-actress award for the Holocaust-themed drama The Reader.

Here is a full list of SAG Award winners:


Cast: “Slumdog Millionaire.”

Actor in a leading role: Sean Penn, “Milk.”

Actress in a leading role: Meryl Streep, “Doubt.”

Supporting actor: Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight.”

Supporting actress: Kate Winslet, “The Reader.”

Stunt ensemble: “The Dark Knight.”


Drama series cast: “Mad Men.”

Actor in a drama series: Hugh Laurie, “House.”

Actress in a drama series: Sally Field, “Brothers & Sisters.”

Comedy series cast: “30 Rock.”

Actor in a comedy series: Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock.”

Actress in a comedy series: Tina Fey, “30 Rock.”

Actor in a movie or miniseries: Paul Giamatti, “John Adams.”

Actress in a movie or miniseries: Laura Linney, “John Adams.”

Stunt ensemble: “Heroes.”

Life Achievement: James Earl Jones.

The Academy Gets It Almost Right

The nominations for the 2009 Academy Awards were announced in Hollywood this morning.

Benjamin Buttons cleaned up with a total of 13 nods. The audience favorite, Slumdog Millionaire got 10 nominations.

Clint Eastwood was snubbed for his latest, Gran Torino.

Some surprises included Melisa Leo as a Best Actress nominee, and Michael Shannon for his brilliant turn in Revolutionary Road which earned him a Best Supporting Actor nod.

Happily the Academy didn’t reward The Dark Knight with any major award nominations with the exception of Heath Ledger for Best Supporting Actor. They also correctly ignored Dev Patel for Slumdog.

Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei can rightfully celebrate their nominations for The Wrestler.  Good to see Milk get the acclaim is deserves, especially Josh Brolin.

Robert Downey Jr. for Tropic Thunder seems like a major blunder but the big loser appears to be Revolutionary Road, which failed to get best actor, best actress, best director or best film recognition. Kate Winslet was recognized as Best Actress for The Reader, when many felt she was only a supporting actress in that motion picture. The Academy over-ruled that notion.

Stay tuned for more reaction.

The Academy Awards will be presented on February 22nd, 2009 at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.

Here is a full list of nominees:

Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Richard Jenkins in “The Visitor”
Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon”
Sean Penn in “Milk”
Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler”

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Josh Brolin in “Milk”
Robert Downey Jr. in “Tropic Thunder”
Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Doubt”
Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight”
Michael Shannon in “Revolutionary Road”

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Anne Hathaway in “Rachel Getting Married”
Angelina Jolie in “Changeling”
Melissa Leo in “Frozen River”
Meryl Streep in “Doubt”
Kate Winslet in “The Reader”

Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams in “Doubt”
Penélope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Viola Davis in “Doubt”
Taraji P. Henson in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Marisa Tomei in “The Wrestler”

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
“Kung Fu Panda”

Achievement in Art Direction
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“The Duchess”
“Revolutionary Road”

Achievement in Cinematography
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“The Reader”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Achievement in Costume Design
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Duchess”
“Revolutionary Road”

Achievement in Directing
David Fincher for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Ron Howard for “Frost/Nixon”
Gus Van Sant for “Milk”
Stephen Daldry for “The Reader”
Danny Boyle for “Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Documentary Feature
“The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)”
“Encounters at the End of the World”
“The Garden”
“Man on Wire”
“Trouble the Water”

Best Documentary Short Subject
“The Conscience of Nhem En”
“The Final Inch”
“Smile Pinki”
“The Witness – From the Balcony of Room 306”

Achievement in Film Editing
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
“The Dark Knight,” Lee Smith
“Frost/Nixon,” Mike Hill and Dan Hanley
“Milk,” Elliot Graham
“Slumdog Millionaire,” Chris Dickens

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year “The Baader Meinhof Complex” – Germany
“The Class” – France
“Departures” – Japan
“Revanche” – Austria
“Waltz with Bashir” – Israel

Achievement in Makeup
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” Greg Cannom
“The Dark Knight,” John Caglione, Jr. and Conor O’Sullivan
“Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” Mike Elizalde and Thom Floutz

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score)
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” Alexandre Desplat
“Defiance,” James Newton Howard
“Milk,” Danny Elfman
“Slumdog Millionaire,” A.R. Rahman
“WALL-E,” (Walt Disney) Thomas Newman

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)
“Down to Earth” from “WALL-E” by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman
“Jai Ho” from “Slumdog Millionaire” Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Gulzar
“O Saya” from “Slumdog Millionaire” Music and Lyric by A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam

Best Motion Picture of the Year
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Reader”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Animated Short Film
“La Maison en Petits Cubes”
“Lavatory – Lovestory”
“This Way Up”

Best Live Action Short Film
“Auf der Strecke (On the Line)”
“Manon on the Asphalt”
“New Boy”
“The Pig”
“Spielzeugland (Toyland)”

Achievement in Sound Editing
“The Dark Knight”
“Iron Man”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Achievement in Sound Mixing
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

Achievement in Visual Effects
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Dark Knight”
“Iron Man”

Adapted Screenplay
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” screenplay by Eric Roth, screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
“Doubt,” by John Patrick Shanley
“Frost/Nixon,” by Peter Morgan
“The Reader,” by David Hare
“Slumdog Millionaire,” by Simon Beaufoy

Original Screenplay
“Frozen River,” by Courtney Hunt
“Happy-Go-Lucky,” by Mike Leigh
“In Bruges,” by Martin McDonagh
“Milk,” by Dustin Lance Black
“WALL-E,” screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon; original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter

Josh Brolin Dissess Russell Crowe

You’ve got to love Josh Brolin.  The actor called Russell Crowe, his co-star in last year’s “American Gangster,” an “A-hole.”  Receiving the Best Supporting Actor for his work in the Gus Van Sant directed feature, “Milk” on Monday night at the New York Film Critics Awards dinner Brolin stole the show with his candor.

After Sean Penn introduced him Brolin said, “Quite an actor, Sean Penn. And not an a-hole like Russell Crowe.” He then repeated: “Like Russell Crowe.”

He didn’t have any nice words for New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley who reviewed him in a performance of Sam Shepard’s “True West.”

“I hate that motherfucker,” says Brolin.  “And I don’t think he’s a good writer.”

Meanwhile the website TMZ has has obtained video showing the arrest of Josh Brolin and Jeffrey Wright last July, and it looks like the actors were victims of police abuse.

It happened in Shreveport, LA in July. Both actors were arrested for allegedly interfering with an officer. The video begins with a passive Brolin as a cop pepper sprays him in the face. Brolin is made to kneel and is handcuffed while Wright gets laid out on the street and repeatedly tasered, as the cellphone camerawoman screams at the cops in protests.

Watch the TMZ video here.

Ironically, all charges by police against the actors were dropped today.

“Milk” is One of Sean Penn’s Finest Performances

For a film about a guy that was assassinated, MILK is actually a joyous ride. Directed by Guy Van Sant and starring the always amazing Sean Penn, MILK tells the story of gay activist Harvey Milk who was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, only to be killed a year later by a disgruntled fellow politician, Dan White.

The film opens with Milk recording a monologue to be played only in the event of his death. This segues into both documentary footage and flashbacks of Milk, on the cusp of his 40th birthday, meeting lover-to-be Scott (James Franco) and deciding to give up his closeted, white-collar lifestyle and move to San Francisco.

We follow Milk through the 60’s and the 70’s, the era brilliantly captured by Van Sant, and through some great writing and great acting, we discover not only a historical account of the rise and fall of a beloved cult hero, but also an intimate character study of a vulnerable, complicated soul.

Penn almost channels Harvey Milk. His performance is nothing short of incredible, to the point that it at times pulls you out of the narrative of the film and you find yourself asking, how does he do that?  Clearly Mr. Penn should should be a given to receive his fifth Academy Award nomination for his perhaps best role to date. James Brolin also shines as assassin, Dan White, with stellar performances from James Franco, Emile Hirsh and Joseph Cross.

MILK couldn’t be more timely, given the controversy surrounding the recent passing of Proposition 8, banning gay marriage in California. You wonder how a perhaps more hateful issue such as Prop. 6 was defeated in the 70’s while Prop. 8 squeaked through in 2008.  Have we really taken a step backwards?  Harvey Milk would have been appalled.

I’m personally seeing limited promotion for MILK and wonder if this will continue to hurt it’s chances for recognition. It was recently snobbed by the Hollywood Foreign Press, which gave only one Golden Globe nomination to Penn, ignoring Gus Van Sant as director, as well some of the great performances.

MILK is a film that needs to be seen. It espouses tolerance, defiance and individuality. It’s a celebration of life and the need to live it openly and honestly.

We give MILK ***** (five stars)