Oscar bosses scared of 'Dictator' 0
Sasha Baron Cohen in the movie "The Dictator" (Handout)
The weather in southern California is now spectacular and will be right through Sunday for the red carpet celebrity walk-ins at the 84th Academy Awards. Last year, a rocky snow and hailstorm in the nearby Hollywood Hills cast an odd chill, although sunshine finally took over and the weather was nice enough around the event itself.
With the upturn in temperature and sunshine this year, attention now goes to the fuss and fascination surrounding Sasha Baron Cohen. He is known for public antics, including wearing a lime-green string bikini on Cannes beaches when he introduced Borat to the world. Cohen is not Oscar-nominated himself, but has been invited to the Oscars as a member of Martin Scorsese's Hugo contingent. He plays the station inspector in Hugo, which leads the nominations race with 11.
Organizers are worried that Cohen will generate his own black cloud over the red carpet by promoting his next movie, The Dictator, while in costume. He will play a freaky fascist dictator in the movie and the garish outfit he wears on-screen might be deemed too offensive for the glamour of the Oscars. Especially if Cohen stays in character and both poses and talks as if he really is the totalitarian nutcase he plays.
Rumours earlier this week even suggested that Cohen might be banned from the Oscars over these concerns. Instead, organizers denied that they have gotten that extreme with the eccentric actor. But they admitted that they are quietly trying to ensure Cohen will not pull a publicity stunt that might embarrass them.
Much more reliable are the presenters, of course. And they add a star lustre to the proceedings. On Wednesday, the Academy named the four acting category winners from last year to the list of presenters for this year. That means Colin Firth, Christian Bale, Natalie Portman and Melisso Leo get prime time spots in the program.
Their names were added to a roster that includes a host of established and emerging stars, among them several past winners: Halle Berry, Bradley Cooper, Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Michael Douglas, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Zach Galifianakis, Tom Hanks, Angelina Jolie, Milla Jovovich, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, Emma Stone and the peerless Meryl Streep. She holds the Oscar record in acting categories with 17 nominations, including one this year for The Iron Lady.
In addition, six co-stars from the surprise hit Bridesmaids will present: Rose Byrne, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig. McCarthy -- who was feeling ill this past week -- is nominated as best supporting actress, while Wiig (along with Annie Mumolo), finds herself up against Woody Allen as a nominee in the best original screenplay category.
Among performers who will join host Billy Crystal on the Oscar show, Canada's Cirque du Soleil has been conscripted to do a creative homage to Oscar's big night.
OH CANADA: Behind the scenes, few Canadians are expecting to win Oscars on Sunday -- with the notable exception of Christopher Plummer from Beginners. At 82, the revered veteran of stage and screen is expected to become the oldest Oscar winner in an acting category when he walks off with the statue for best supporting actor.
Philippe Falardeau, however, has made no secret that he knows his best foreign language film nominee, Monsieur Lazhar, is an underdog. His co-producers, however, think the movie is already a winner for the wonderful reception it has generated in Canada, Switzerland and now at the Oscars.
"You know what, it's been amazing," says Luc Dery. He says that Falardeau's school drama is doing "super-well" at the boxoffice in English Canada and in Switzerland.
Meanwhile, sales are terrific for other future releases in up to 30 countries, says co-producer Kim McGraw. "It's really nice for a Canadian movie with a small budget. We have the chance in Canada because the government is helping us to do the movie. It is good for culture."
For Dery and McGraw, their wild ride started a year ago when another Quebec film they co-produced, Denis Villeneuve's Incendies, also competed as the best foreign language film. "Just knowing that we are the producers of Incendies, people are now more interested in Canadian cinema," Dery says. And that, he says, is good for business as well as culture. "Absolutely!"