Archive for February, 2015

“Leviathan” a tragedy Chekov would recognize

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Until now just one foreign language Academy Award nominee has played locally – the Oscar winning “Ida.” The language was Polish and the settings unique to the story being told, but it touched on universally human ideas and had contemporary political parallels. And so too does fellow nominee and Golden Globe winner “Leviathan,” opening Friday, while remaining uniquely Russian.

It’s a slow building tale of fighting City Hall, Russian style where scowling photos of Putin are reminders the corrupt power of the state – hand in hand with the Orthodox church – to crush the little guy, as occurs here in grim and blunt fashion.

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Marquette alum, “Community” grad Pudi films NBC pilot

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Danny Pudi, an alum of Marquette University and cast member on “Community” is filming a series pilot for his old network NBC, according to a report on TVLine.  The pilot is called “Strange Calls.”

Pudi plays a cop transferred to a sleepy coastal town “right out of ‘Northern Exposure’ “that is home to “bizarre paranormal activity.” “Strange Calls” is by “Cougar Town” writer Blake McCormack.

Pudi is also still a cast member of “Community” which was cancelled by NBC after five seasons, but was  picked up by Yahoo Screen where it will premiere March 17.

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WITI wins 10 p.m. sweeps, WTMJ falls to fourth

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The .2 rating that separated the 10 p.m. newscast at three local stations in November suggested churn was occurring in the marketplace as viewers sampled alternatives.

During the February sweeps – whose results were released Thursday – that slim lead, by WITI-TV (Channel 6), was widened to give the station’s 10 p.m. newscast a clear win.

When the ratings period ended at 2 a.m. Thursday morning, WITI earned a 6.7 rating. WISN-TV (Channel 12) was  1.1 points behind in second with a 5.6 and WDJT was in third with a 5.1.

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Oscar ratings dip slightly, but steady all night

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Perhaps because many of the films – including the best picture winner “Birdman” – were unknown quantities to much of the audience, local Oscar ratings were down a rating point from the 2014 awards.

The three hour and 38 minute broadcast on ABC averaged a 25.19 rating on WISN-TV (Channel 12).

In 2014, the broadcast earned an overnight rating of 27.1. The ratings showed remarkable consistency throughout the entire broadcast hosted by veteran awards show emcee Neil Patrick Harris, starting with a 24 rating, ending with a 23 rating and peaking at the midway point with a 26.3.

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Brookfield native wins Oscar for “Budapest Hotel”

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Brookfield native Adam Stockhausen won the Oscar for production design for “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Stockhausen, a Marquette University alum, was nominated last year for “12 Years A Slave,” for which Mequon native John Ridley won an Oscar for best screenplay.

In his speech Stockhausen thanked the director Wes Anderson. He also thanked “my family, my teachers and” fellow production designer Mark Friedberg.”

Both worked on Anderson’s “The Darjeeling Limited.”

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A short history of Wisconsin Oscar connections

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In recent years Oscar nominees with Wisconsin connections have had much success.

Kenosha native and visual effects artist Jim Rygiel won three Oscars for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. And last year Mequon native John Ridley won the Oscar for best screenplay for “12 Years A Slave.”

This year four Oscar nominees have peripheral connections to the Badger state.

But over the long haul the record is not great. There may be nominees in the many technical categories over the years with local ties. But in the acting and directing categories the list is pretty slim.

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Axford predicts “Boyhood,” “Birdman” will “split the difference”

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Last year former Milwaukee Brewer John Axford pitched a perfect game – he went 18 for 18 in his Oscar picks. This despite not having seen all the nominees. Last year he made his picks on Twitter.

This year Axford, writing on a website called The Players Tribune (fixed link) ups his game by trying to pick a winner in all 24 categories. It’s a formidable task.

“Now,” he writes, “you’re probably asking: Is this dude qualified, or just lucky? Well, I graduated with BA in Film and Television from Notre Dame, and have been a sponsor of the Milwaukee Film Festival since 2011. I also know how to pronounce Alejandro G. Iñárritu with the appropriate Spanish flair.”

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Watch for these Wisconsin Oscar nominees

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When you live in Wisconsin, you take your local Oscar connections where you can find them, no matter how tangential. This year’s Oscars feature four nominees with local – more or less – ties.

They include:

West Bend native Curt Enderle is art director for the Oscar nominated stop motion animated feature film nominee “The Boxtrolls.”

Read my interview with him here.

Kenosha native Mark Ruffalo, was nominated as supporting actor for “Foxcatcher.” In another local connection; Ruffalo played Dave Schultz, a former wrestling coach at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. This is his second nomination. Read my “Foxcatcher” review here. 

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WTMJ tops January radio ratings; Saga finally reports

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Big tent sports-talk-news WTMJ-AM (620) finally reached the top spot on the Nielsen radio ratings for January, after playing second fiddle to country station WMIL-FM (106.1). WTMJ jumped 1.1 points to a 10.9 share, WMIL jumped a full point to a 9.8 share. WRIT-FM, which topped the holiday ratings book when it switched to all Christmas music, dropped 5.2 points back to its usual third spot with a 7 share.

The January book also marks the first appearance of Saga owned stations here – WHQG-FM (102.9) in eight place, WKLH-FM (96.5) in ninth, eleventh for WJMR-FM (98.3), and WNRG-FM (106.9) in fifteenth place.

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Why your favorite Oscar nominee will win. And lose.

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Oscar nominations are like a grade school competition where everyone gets a certificate of merit. Thanks for playing.  It’s the awards themselves that separate the wheat from the chaff.

The deadline for voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences ballots has passed. But until the ceremony Sunday on ABC  nominees inhabit that crack in time where the future is undecided and they too may be a winner.

Which means it’s that time of the year and day of the week when tea leaf readers come out of the woodwork to proclaim and explain why a film or performance will win. Of course no one knows, and your guess is as good as theirs or mine. So guess along with me. Though one or two films might be considered frontrunners here’s why each nominated film could win best picture.

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