Forget all this Lord of the Rings, Gangs of New York, Catch Me If You Can stuff. The big news of the movie season is that Julie Taymor's Frida has just passed the $20 million mark at the American box office.
Frida, the story of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and her husband, artist Diego Rivera, only cost $12 million to make. Factoring in marketing costs, Frida is now not only profitable but could possibly make money in foreign releases and DVD/video sales and rentals.
Last week Frida took in an astonishing half-million dollars, even though it's playing in only a handful of theatres compared with many Christmas releases.
Of course, Frida is a movie with a history. At Miramax there was a public tug of war over how to edit it and which material should stay or go. Luckily it was decided in the end to keep the section in which Geoffrey Rush plays expatriated Russian Leon Trotsky.
Frida is up for a couple of Golden Globe awards on Jan. 19, including Best Drama, Actress (Salma Hayek) and Score (Elliot Goldenthal). If it can win one, that will keep it in theatres at least until Feb. 11, when Oscar nominations come out.
That's when I think Hayek will shine, finishing in the final five with front-runner Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, Meryl Streep, and Julianne Moore. Much as Diane Lane is liked by the Hollywood community, I have a feeling that her movie, Unfaithful, was too insignificant in the long run to pull her through.
Frida, on the other hand, is a project that Hayek has worked on personally for years. "The Academy" is no doubt aware of that — it likes to reward actors who've put their heart and soul into making a quality project.
And let's not forget Alfred Molina, whose Diego Rivera is so important to the balance of Frida. He manages to make a man who is basically a pig into someone sympathetic and likeable. That's no small feat.
And Goldenthal's score is just lovely. I actually bought the CD soundtrack over the weekend, and it's been in the play mode ever since along with Elmer Bernstein's score for Far from Heaven.
One aspect of Frida that hasn't been discussed is that four writers are listed as having worked on it, but in the end none of them actually wrote the finished screenplay. That distinction went to actor Edward Norton, who is Hayek's beau. He wrote the final shooting draft but due to Writers Guild rules was denied any credit.
It's that time of the year again. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences may have already decided, or are in the process of deciding, who should get honorary Oscars.
Somewhere out there is a group that campaigns annually for Doris Day. The 77-year-old animal-rights activist was a better jazz singer than she was an actress, but Day has a loyal following and has done a lot for charity. She's also someone everyone remembers positively. She's a prime candidate. Of course, the only problem is that she doesn't care one way or the other.
My choice this year, as it was last, is Richard Widmark. Nominated only once in 1948 for his famous first role, as Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death, the 88-year-old Widmark has a long list of terrific performances in key movies.
Among his many hits were Pickup on South Street, Judgment at Nuremberg, Panic in the Streets and Cheyenne Autumn. His last movie was 1991's True Colors.
It's been a gross oversight that Widmark hasn't gotten recognition from the Academy. Maybe this year will be different.
I'm also starting to think there should be a special citation for the all the actors who were blacklisted in the 1950s. Most of them lost their careers during a crucial time and never regained the momentum once their names were cleared.
Recently one blacklisted actor, Jeff Corey, passed away. But there are plenty who are still alive, including Lee Grant (who was nominated for Oscars subsequently) and John Randolph. I wish someone at the Academy would take this up before it's too late.