The Oklahoma Film Critics Circle, the statewide group of professional film critics of which I am a founding member, has announced its sixth annual list of awards for achievement in cinema, giving top honors to the “The Artist,” a black-and-white, silent film that speaks volumes about movies and the people who make and watch them.
“The Artist” also earned wins for Michel Hazanavicius in the categories of Best Director and Best Screenplay, Original.
Set in the early days of Hollywood’s motion picture industry, “The Artist” celebrates the wonders of film as it explores the hazards of celebrity in the structure of a charming love story. Like another of the group’s Top 10 films of the year, Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo,” it pays tribute to the creative force behind filmmaking while also focusing on the impact the business has on the creative process and product.
This was a close year in our voting,” OFCC President Rod Lott said. “’Drive,’ a film that in many ways is the polar opposite of ‘The Artist,’ came in a close second for best film of 2011. We had to have a tie-breaker vote, our first, for two categories: Best Screenplay, Adaptation and Best Supporting Actress.”
Rounding out the Oklahoma critics’ list of 10 best films of 2011 list are “Drive,” “The Descendants,” “Hugo,” “Shame,” “Moneyball,” “Midnight in Paris,” “Melancholia,” “The Tree of Life” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”
Best Actor honors went to George Clooney in “The Descendants.” His subtle portrayal of a man struggling with core issues of being a good father, husband and steward of a large area of pristine wilderness in Hawaii is funny and moving.
Best Actress honors went to Michelle Williams for her stunning portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in “My Week with Marilyn.”
Octavia Spencer earned the Best Supporting Actress for her role as a maid who finds a new kind of freedom in telling the truth about her life in “The Help,” while Albert Brooks, in a role far different from his usual comedic persona, won Best Supporting Actor for his role as a gangster in “Drive.”
“These performances surprised and impressed,” Lott said. ”While the Clooney, Spencer and Brooks films were major studio releases, Williams won for her big role in a small film. One of our goals is to call attention to those films without large distribution patterns or budgets.”
While 2011 was a year of intelligent and surprising films in all genres, it also was a year of some failures. OFCC members selected “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” as their Obviously Worst Film of the Year. Their nod to the sequel “The Hangover Part II” as the Not-So-Obviously Worst Film of the Year suggests that, sometimes, once is enough.
“As professional moviegoers, we see many more unsuccessful films than successful ones,” Lott said. “The Not-So-Obviously Worst Film category contains films that may have great talent behind them, but somehow add up to less than the sum of their parts.”
A new category was added this year, Best Guilty Pleasure, which was won by the “Fright Night” remake.
OFCC members are Oklahoma-based movie critics who write for print, broadcast and online outlets that publish or post reviews of current film releases. Among the media outlets represented are The Oklahoman, Oklahoma Gazette, Tulsa World, Edmond Life & Leisure, This Land Press and Urban Tulsa. Also represented are television station KOKH FOX 25; radio station KJYO/Clear Channel; and the websites 411mania.com, ionOKmag.com, crosswalk.com, u-out.net and shadowcabaret.com.
Film buffs can find the complete list of awards on the OFCC website, ofccircle.org, as well as frequent postings on film-related items and links to individual reviews.
Not all the films named as award winners opened in Oklahoma before voting took place; studios arranged press screenings and provided DVDs of many of their films so OFCC members could assess and consider them for year-end awards.
“We honor achievements in motion pictures each year both to celebrate film and to continue to draw attention to Oklahoma as a place with a sophisticated audience of people who appreciate movies that challenge and entertain,” Lott said.
OFCC promotes film in Oklahoma and strives to increase the visibility of the state’s film-viewing and filmmaking communities.
See the complete list of OFCC 2011 Film Awards after the break.
Country music star Wynonna Judd and musician boyfriend Cactus Moser, of the award-winning country group Highway 101, got engaged on Dec. 24, her publicist reports. Judd and Moser are presently touring together as Wynonna & The Big Noise.
On Jan. 21, Wynonna Judd & The Big Noise will perform at The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. Tickets start at $35.
Wynonna Judd first gained fame as part of the successful musical duo The Judds. Wynonna recently reunited with her mother, Naomi, for a final Judds tour, “The Last Encore,” in 2010.
From 1983 to 1991, The Judds were country music’s most popular duo, charting 14 No. 1 hits, selling more than 20 million albums worldwide and winning more than 60 awards, including five Grammys.
As a solo artist, Judd has released eight albums that have sold more than 10 million copies. She has charted more than 20 singles, including four No. 1 singles. Those songs are “She Is His Only Need,” “I Saw the Light,” “No One Else on Earth” and “To Be Loved by You.”
In 2005, Judd stepped away from the recording studio and became a New York Times bestselling author with the release of her memoir “Coming Home to Myself.” In January, Judd released her first work of fiction, “Restless Heart.”
Judd’s most recent solo release is 2009’s “Sing: Chapter 1.”
Cactus Moser is a founding member and stylistic drummer of Highway 101, which in the later 80’s charted 16 top 10 hits, five of which went to No. 1. Moser continues to tour with Highway 101 as well as with new fiancée Judd.
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa is located off of Interstate 44 at exit 240. Ticket prices and information on upcoming shows are available online in The Joint section of www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com. The Joint box office is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. All guests must be 21 years of age or older.
The holiday season has gotten an extra measure of joy for popular comedian Jeff Dunham. He just became engaged to Audrey Murdick, who has been his girlfriend for the last two years.
Dunham asked Murdick to marry him on Christmas Day, and she immediately accepted. “We are so happy even the dummies are smiling,” Dunham said in a statement.
As of yet no date for the wedding has been set. Dunham has three daughters from his first marriage, Bree, Ashlyn and Kenna.
The engagement caps yet another banner year for Dunham that included his triumphant third tour of Europe (on which he set a number of venue records), his debut film appearance in the movie “Dinner For Schmucks,” his fourth TV special on Comedy Central, “Controlled Chaos,” which became the most-watched cable show on television the night it debuted in late September, and the recent airing on Bio of this two-hour life story, “Jeff Dunham: Birth of a Dummy,” which was the top-rated show ever on the network. His currently packing major venues across North America on his “Controlled Chaos” tour, and made his engagement public onstage the day after Christmas at an appearance at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
Dunham will bring his “Controlled Chaos” tour to Tulsa for a Feb. 26 show at the BOK Center. For more information, go to www.bokcenter.com.
UPDATED: Kristin Chenoweth to sing National Anthem before tonight’s OKC Thunder-Dallas Mavericks game
UPDATED: Kristin Chenoweth absolutely blew the roof off the Chesapeake Energy Arena Thursday night with her performance of the National Anthem! To watch a video of her belting it out before the Thunder game, click here.
Tony- and Emmy-winning actress/singer Kristin Chenoweth, who hails from Broken Arrow, is back in Oklahoma to sing the National Anthem before tonight’s Oklahoma City Thunder basketball game.
The Thunder take on the NBA’s defending champs, the Dallas Mavericks, who also happen to be the team that bumped OKC out of the playoffs last season, at 7 tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena, 100 W Reno. For more information, go to www.chesapeakearena.com.
“Just landed in dear OKC. THUND ER UP,” Chenoweth posted on Twitter (@KChenoweth) a few hours ago. “I am excited to see the game. Live. In person.”
A Thunder super-fan and the newest member of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, Chenoweth can flat-out sing the National Anthem, as you can see in this fan video from her 2010 performance at the New York Yankee’s home opener:
(For a better but not embed-enabled clip of her Yankees performance, click here.)
Jason Boland & The Stragglers and Turnpike Troubadours to play New Year’s Eve show at Stillwater’s Tumbleweed
STILLWATER – Red dirt stars Jason Boland & The Stragglers and Tahlequah roots rockers Turnpike Troubadours will play a New Year’s Eve show Saturday night at the venerable Tumbleweed Dance Hall, Lakeview and Country Club roads.
Doors will open at 8 p.m. Saturday. The show is for concert-goers ages 18 and older. For more information, go to www.calffry.com.
For Boland, who hails from Harrah, the NYE concert will offer another opportunity for make music while coming home for the holidays. He and The Stragglers annually play Thanksgiving shows in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
“It’s always great, the homecomings and getting to see your family, especially when you travel so much. That’s not just us, that’s anybody who travels, you definitely want to be there and have that safe, home feeling around the holidays,” Boland told me in an interview earlier this year.
This year, The Stragglers are touring in support of their new album, “Rancho Alto,” released back in October. To read more of my interview with Boland about the album, click here.
Along with Saturday’s year-end bash, Boland is playing an acoustic show at 8:30 tonight at Grady’s 66 Pub, 444 W Main St. Doors will open at 7 p.m. For more information, go to www.gradys66.com.
Today’s featured event:
YUKON – Hear red dirt standout and Harrah native Jason Boland play an acoustic show at 8:30 tonight at Grady’s 66 Pub, 444 W Main St.
Doors will open at 7 p.m. Information: 354-8789 or www.gradys66.com.
For more events, go to www.wimgo.com.
Oklahoma native and Country Music Hall of Famer Reba McEntire has made a significant donation to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma after learning about the nonprofit’s Food for Kids program in Kiowa, where she went to school as a youth.
McEntire’s donation will provide more than 200,000 meals for hungry Oklahomans, or feed more than 2,300 families for one week, a food bank spokeswoman told The Oklahoman‘s Food Editor Dave Cathey.
The entertainer didn’t want the amount of her donation disclosed, nor did she have a comment when contacted through her publicist.
A Grammy-winning singer, acclaimed Broadway actress and popular TV star, McEntire was born in McAlester, raised on a ranch in Chockie and graduated from Kiowa High School.
“We are thankful for this generous donation from Reba McEntire,” said Rodney Bivens, executive director of the Regional Food Bank, in the announcement. “No child should ever have to go to bed with the pains of hunger in their stomach.”
One in four children in Oklahoma will struggle with hunger today, according to food bank statistics. The Regional Food Bank serves more than 46,000 children every week through partner agencies and its Food for Kids childhood hunger programs: the Backpack Program, Kids Cafe, and School Pantries.
Through the Regional Food Bank’s Food for Kids Backpack Program, elementary school students receive healthy, kid-friendly meals over the weekends throughout the school year. Kids Café, an afterschool and summer program, provides food, mentoring, tutoring and a variety of other activities to about 900 at-risk children at 16 sites in central and western Oklahoma. The School Pantry program provides pantries full of food at middle and high schools in central and Western Oklahoma.
Children from food insecure households are more likely than their food secure peers to experience higher rates of various forms of educational problems. They are at least 50 percent more likely to miss days of school (1.6 times), nearly twice as likely to be suspended (1.95 times) and almost 50 percent more likely to have to repeat a grade (1.44 times), according to the food bank.
The Regional Food Bank is dedicated to “Fighting Hunger.Feeding Hope.” The organization plans on expanding the program until it is available in every elementary school in its 53 central and Western Oklahoma county service area.
Established in 1980, the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is the largest private hunger-relief organization in the state. In fiscal year 2011, the Food Bank distributed 46.2 million pounds of food and products through a network of more than 825 charitable feeding programs and elementary schools in 53 central and western Oklahoma counties. Each week, the organization provides enough food to feed more than 90,000 hungry Oklahomans.
Through Jan. 31, Chesapeake Energy Corporation will match all tax-deductible donations made to the Regional Food Bank up to $1 million.
For more information or to make a tax-deductible donation, go to www.regionalfoodbank.org.
Oklahoma country music star Blake Shelton is featured on the cover of the Jan. 2 issue of Country Weekly magazine, which has declared 2011 “The Year of Blake!”
The Tishomingo resident was everywhere in 2011, from his high-profile judging stint on NBC’s hit reality show “The Voice” to his marriage to fellow country star Miranda Lambert to his second straight Country Music Association award for Male Vocalist of the Year.
The handsome Ada native was one of several artists who had a powerful influence on country music in 2011. He and others, including his bride, are featured in Country Weekly’s Year in Review cover section. The Jan. 2 issue of Country Weekly is on sale now.
Before embarking on his 2012 headline tour, Shelton will play a sold-out home state show Friday at WinStar World Casino in Thackerville. For more information, go to www.winstarworldcasino.com.
Grammy-nominated Oklahoma country music star Blake Shelton will perform on “NBC’s New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly,” airing at 9 p.m. Saturday on the network home of the hit reality show “The Voice,” on which he serves as a celebrity coach.
Grammy Award-nominated recording artist Drake, British superstar Jessie J, “The Voice” musician coach and Grammy Award-nominated artist Cee Lo Green, NBC’s “Smash” star Megan Hilty, four-time Grammy-winning band The Roots and 15-time Grammy Award winner Tony Bennett will help usher in 2012 on “NBC’s New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly.”
Highlighting a few of the show’s segments will be “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” host Jimmy Fallon doing a special comedy performance from the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, as well as NBC News anchor Brian Williams giving his music review of 2011. Daly also will count down the five top “game-changers” of 2011 — one of which will feature NBC Sports’ Bob Costas. Many NBC stars will be passing along some of their own New Year’s Eve greetings, including Golden Globe Awards host Ricky Gervais.
“There is no better place to be in the world on New Year’s Eve than in Times Square,” said Daly in a news release. “I look forward to this night all year—to ring in the New Year with millions of people across the country— it’s a blast!”
The two-hour special will air live on Saturday, with the countdown to 2012 and the first performances of the New Year. “NBC’s New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly” will broadcast in high definition from the middle of the world’s most famous New Year’s Eve destination — Times Square in New York City.
For the most up-to-date New Year’s Eve and backstage news, Daly will also live tweet the event from @carsonjdaly using the hashtag #NBCNYE.
J.B. Smoove (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and NBC’s “Today” correspondent Amy Robach will help Daly’s coverage of the celebration with live reports from the heart of Times Square among the 1 million spectators.
On New Year’s Eve 2010, 8.8 million viewers tuned in to watch “NBC’s New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly.” The annual special delivered its second-highest ratings since its inception in 2004.
Shelton is the voice of country music. He is CMA’s Male Vocalist of the Year for the second consecutive year, has three Grammy Award nominations, including a nod for Country Album for “Red River Blue,” which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Current Albums chart and Top Country Albums chart with the Associated Press calling the album “the best album of his career,” and Shelton holds the record for the fastest-selling digital platinum single for a male country solo artist for his multi-week, No. 1 smash “Honey Bee.”
Released in November, Drake’s second studio album “Take Care” debuted atop the Billboard Top 200 chart at No. 1 and was the biggest first-week SoundScan tally of Drake’s career, with more than 630,000 units sold. The eagerly anticipated album was the third-highest-selling debut of 2011, clocking in behind Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” (1.1 million sold) and label president and mentor Lil Wayne’s “Tha Carter IV” (964,000), in which Drake also sang. “Take Care” arrived to a chorus of acclaim from critics and consumers alike with Rolling Stone raving that Drake “seamlessly blends those genres (pop, R&B, rap) in fluid, rich tracks,” and the New York Times anointed Drake as “hip-hop’s current center of gravity.”
Since winning the acclaimed BBC Sound Polls of 2010 and Brits’ Critics Choice for 2011, Jessie J has racked up 19 global No. 1 hits, selling more 2 million albums and 5 million singles worldwide. Her Lava/Universal Republic debut album, “Who You Are,” showcases the skills of a gifted lyricist while highlighting an unforgettable journey. In the last few years, Jessie J has penned songs for the such stars as Chris Brown and she also written the smash hit record, “Party in the USA,” sung and performed by Miley Cyrus.
Hilty stars in NBC’s musical drama “Smash,” which premieres at 9 p.m. Feb. 6. Hilty made her Broadway debut as Glinda in “Wicked” and went on to perform the role in both the national tour and in Los Angeles. After receiving rave reviews for her portrayal of Doralee Rhodes in Broadway’s “9 to 5: The Musical,” Hilty was honored with nominations for Lead Actress in a Musical at the Drama Desk Awards, Outer Critics Circle Awards, the Drama League Awards and L.A. Stage Alliance Ovation Awards.
Formed in 1987 in Philadelphia, the legendary Roots have become one of the best-known and most-respected hip-hop acts in the business and have won four Grammys. In 2009, The Roots, named one of the greatest live bands around by both Spin and Rolling Stone, became the official house band on NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” where they currently perform every Monday through Friday. The Roots’ latest musical creation is a conceptually based album titled “undun” (Island Def Jam), which was recently released on December 6.
Bennett, who released one of 2011′s most celebrated CDs, “Duets II,” turned 85 this August and made music history when “Duets II” debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top 200 Album charts, making him the oldest artist to ever achieve the top spot. Nominated for three Grammy Awards, “Duets II” was released to critical acclaim and features Bennett performing his greatest hits with a roster of today’s most successful artists including Checotah native Carrie Underwood, Lady Gaga, Michael Buble, John Mayer and the late Amy Winehouse, whose stunning duet of “Body and Soul” with Bennett was her last recording.
Bennett, a New York native, began his career as a singing waiter in Queens but, as The New York Times once observed of the 15-time Grammy winner, he “has not just bridged the generation gap, he had demolished it.”
Toby Keith will ring in 2012 by performing his smash party anthem “Red Solo Cup” Saturday during the “American Country New Year’s Eve Live,” airing at 10 p.m. on Fox.
The Oklahoma-bred singer, songwriter and entertainer was named Artist of the Decade at this month’s American Country Awards on Fox, capping a big 2011 for the superstar.
Based on monitored radio airplay, the ACA honor recognized the Norman resident for having the most over-the-air performances of any artist over the last 10 years. An analysis by performance rights organization BMI shows that, as an artist, Keith earned more than 50 million performances between 2000 and 2010. Because he is the principal creative force behind his music, his numbers as a writer are close behind at 49 million spins. Based on a three-minute per-song average, according to a news release, that means Toby Keith music was heard on the radio throughout the decade for a grand total of 285 years. Add in Keith’s airplay from the ’90s, and that figure is even more impressive.
Other 2011 milestones for Toby Keith include:
* “Clancy’s Tavern” debuted at No. 1 amid critical acclaim. The album was recently named to Amazon’s 10 Best Country Albums of 2011 list.
* Rocketed to No. 1 with the first single from “Clancy’s Tavern,” “Made In America,” one of the fastest-rising songs of his career.
* Created a viral sensation with the video for “Red Solo Cup,” originally an album track from “Clancy’s Tavern.” The video, which has amassed more than 7 million views, quickly had radio stations pulling and playing the audio. Download sales rapidly roared past the 600,000 mark, making it one of iTunes top downloads for a month running. The song is currently top 20 and climbing on the airplay charts just a few weeks after officially being named a single.
* Closed his 2010 “American Ride Tour,” presented by Ford F-Series, after playing to more than 1 million fans. Opened his standing-room-only “Locked & Loaded Tour,” also presented by Ford F-Series, to packed houses. Toured Europe for three weeks and continues his U.S. tour in 2012.
* Staged his ninth United Service Organization tour and was privileged to be in the company of thousands of servicemen and women as the mission to bring Osama Bid Laden to justice was completed. All in, Keith has performed for 177,000 military personnel during his USO tours.
* Organized his eight annual Toby Keith & Friends Golf Classic, bringing in more than $650,000 for the Toby Keith Foundation. Earlier this month, the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority approved the foundation’s plans to build the $8.5 million OK Kids Korral at NE 8 and Laird, where it will provide lodging for families with children undergoing cancer treatment at nearby facilities such as The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center.
* Opened several more of his I Love This Bar & Grill establishments including new locations in Denver, Boston and Cincinnati. Huffington Post called it one of the “best celebrity-owned restaurants.”
* Was again named the highest-paid country musician by Forbes.
* Launched his own beverage brand, Toby Keith’s Wild Shot Mezcal. The spirit played a huge role in growing the market for mezcal and became the No. 1 premium mezcal in the nation.