THE ENVELOPE
Hollywood's Awards and Industry Insider
Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank admire the feminism in 'Homesman' western

To which part of calling "The Homesman" a "feminist western" would Tommy Lee Jones, its director, co-writer, co-producer and costar, be more likely to object?

"It's not very meaningful," says Jones wearily. "I know what a western is; it's a movie that's got horses and big hats in it."

"And usually just men," adds costar Hilary Swank.

"The women are usually whores with Technicolor hair and hearts of gold," scoffs Jones, Swank nodding in assent. "There are also those who stand at the stove in their aprons and wring their hands and bring coffee."

Jones prefers to look at the film, adapted from the novel by Glendon Swarthout, as historical fiction. Yes, there are big hats and horses, but it's a rare narrative of America's pioneer days that seriously considers women. Jones has said by looking at the condition of women then, one can see the roots of their condition today.

"I don't think there's a woman" among the readership of this newspaper, says Jones, "who has not at one time been...

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Lisa Kudrow, writer Michael Patrick King nurture 'The Comeback' comeback

They're like parents who are delighted because a grown child they've been estranged from has reentered their lives.

"For years, when we got together, we didn't dare talk about whether this could happen because it meant too much to us; it was too emotional," says Michael Patrick King, the writer-producer and director who co-created the HBO comedy "The Comeback" with its star, Lisa Kudrow. The groundbreaking mock reality show was canceled after a single season in 2005, leaving them heartbroken, they don't mind acknowledging. But posthumously, the series and its take on a Hollywood has-been trying to break back into the business lived on, inspiring a cult-like following on YouTube and social media, leading HBO to take the unusual step of bringing it back: A brand-new season launched earlier this month.

Has the nine-year separation made King and Kudrow over-protective of their offspring, the past-her-prime redheaded sitcom actress Valerie Cherish (played by Kudrow)? Quite the opposite....

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Andy Serkis' ape evolves, and so does motion-capture acting

This isn't about technology. It's about acting. It's about performance.

"We wouldn't be having any of these debates about whether it's acting or not had we been wearing prosthetic makeup," says the nattily dressed Andy Serkis, who has taken the art of performance-capture acting to new levels. "The important thing to remember is that we're not there as reference for animators, to work from later on. These are our performances, authored on the set. It's what will become the cut for months to come before the effects are put in."

Among the actor's iconic portrayals are Gollum, King Kong and now Caesar, the most human of chimpanzees in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and this year's "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes." But Serkis, 50, was a successful stage, television and film actor before bursting onto the international scene as Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy; since then, he has been honored by the Screen Actors Guild, the Golden Globes, the Emmys, the British Academy of Film and...

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Film's golden year, 1939, included 'Gone With the Wind,' 'Wizard of Oz'

Hollywood has arguably never had such a remarkable year as 1939. The studios released some of its most popular and accomplished films, including the best picture Oscar winner "Gone With the Wind," the beloved musical fantasy "The Wizard of Oz" and John Ford's seminal western "Stagecoach," which turned B actor John Wayne into a major player.

Ten films earned Academy Award nominations for that year's best picture. In addition to the three above titles, there were the Bette Davis tear jerker "Dark Victory," the sentimental drama "Goodbye, Mr. Chips," the romantic drama "Love Affair," the romantic comedy "Ninotchka," the tragic "Of Mice and Men," the romantic "Wuthering Heights" and the political drama "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."

"I think what made that such a great year was the depth of it," said film historian and author Joseph McBride ("Searching for John Ford," "Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success"). "It's like a baseball team with a great bench. You have the films that were...

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Ralph Fiennes on nostalgia, heart in Wes Anderson's 'Grand Budapest Hotel'

Will it surprise anyone to learn that British actor Ralph Fiennes, who so delightfully brought to life eccentric concierge M. Gustave in "The Grand Budapest Hotel" this past spring, was once a real-life apprentice in the high-class hospitality trade? "I was the lowest of the low," he recalls ruefully of his time as a young house porter at Brown's Hotel, a five-star establishment in London's Mayfair district. "I was basically a dogsbody for the housekeeping department — my job was to Hoover the corridors, clean the brass, change the shower curtains."

While briefly promoted to hall porter, he got to wear the hotel uniform — brown with snappy gold braid — and interact with guests, which led to a brush with movie stardom: "I carried Jack Palance's cases to his car." A short time later, he quit to attend drama school and, after performing Shakespeare on the London stage, became a screen star himself, in such movies as "Schindler's List," "Quiz Show," "The English Patient" and the "Harry...

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Al Pacino faces actors' nightmares in Philip Roth's 'The Humbling'

On the shaded porch of his Beverly Hills home, Al Pacino is bright-eyed and upbeat, eager to talk about his career, his latest film and even his life in L.A. The 74-year-old actor waves toward the sidewalk in front of his house and takes in how far he's come since beginning his life and career in New York: "Just hearing the footsteps is fun for me because I'm a city boy, and, naturally, there's just no people out here most of the time. Occasionally, a neighbor walks by and waves. It's fine."

The Oscar winner's latest film is "The Humbling," based on Philip Roth's last novel, depicting the life and work of noted actor Simon Axler (Pacino) as he loses control of his world on-stage and off.

"The Humbling," directed by Barry Levinson ("Wag the Dog," "Diner") with a script by Buck Henry ("The Graduate"), will be released Jan. 23 after an Oscar-qualifying run in December. The film gives Pacino the opportunity — and the challenge — of facing several actors' nightmares.

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