Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ Comes to Life

As one of our favorite modern actor/director relationships, Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese are a patch made in heaven—a very tortured, violent heaven. And after Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, and Shutter Island, the two are back together for Scorsese’s latest black comedy, The Wolf of Wall Street set to premiere this November. We’ve been eagerly anticipating digging deeper into the film since the trailer debuted back in June but today, thanks to Vulture, we get an in-depth look behind the scenes at what might be Scorsese’s best picture in years.

Adapted by Tereence Winter, the film is “based on Jordan ­Belfort’s memoir of the same name. The book chronicles the former stockbroker’s rise and fall as the head of Stratton Oakmont, a brokerage house he founded when he was only in his late twenties. The Long Island–based boiler room bamboozled small investors out of roughly $100 million in the nineties, the heyday of cheap money, junk bonds, and spectacularly ugly ties. In 1998, Belfort was indicted for securities fraud and money laundering, serving 22 months in prison after ­cooperating with the FBI.”
Originally pitched in 2008, The Wolf of Wall Street was hard-pressed to find its funding, leading Scorsese and DiCaprio to go on to make Shutter Island together—certainly not their most profound work, but well-worth it for this Max Richter-scored dream sequence. However, after gaining funding from Red Granite, the film began to see the light of day and with just a few months before its premiere, let’s see what we can gather about the film thus far.
DiCaprio: “When Marty couldn’t do it the first time, I set it up with a few other directors, but I never felt comfortable pulling the trigger. I was fixated on him. There wasn’t anybody else who could bring the rawness and toughness, the music, and particularly the humor required to convey the excitement of these young punks—these robber barons—taking on the Wall Street system.”
Terence Winter: “That’s why I’m glad we kept the voice-over; you need his hilarious asides.” 
DiCaprio: “Marty said to me early on, ‘No matter the genre, no matter what kind of movie, people respond to the honesty in the characters… We weren’t interested in sentimentalizing Jordan. We aren’t painting a portrait of someone we want people to feel sorry for. Later in the film, when his life starts breaking apart, people are going to think he’s making the wrong decisions constantly. That’s not to say that people won’t be rooting for him, because he’s a likable guy.”
Scorsese: “Leo and I share a certain sensibility…temperamental affinity.”
Jonah Hill: “Marty is brilliant at many things, but one of them is showing people doing things that are morally corrupt and still making them enjoyable to watch…You root for them and adore them in some way—it’s cool and exciting to be doing something wrong….Leo and I had numerous conversations while our characters were doing really despicable things. I was disgusted by what I was doing!…There are people who won’t see the darkness of it. Spring Breakers came out while we were making the movie. I’m a big Harmony Korine fan. I saw Kids when I was way too young—probably 11—and I completely disregarded the aids plot; I just wanted to be like those guys. So now I’m 29, and I walked out of Spring Breakers thinking,Gosh, this generation is so screwed. I was really depressed by the movie. But I realized that if I was 14, I’d be like, Oh, let’s go on spring break!”
Scorsese: “It’s an old story, really: People can take their identification with movies and novels to some alarming places…Some people might just zero in on the fun, exhilarating side of it. But if you’re putting a world on film, and you’re going to stay true to that world, as opposed to show it from a distance, you’re going to make it attractive and entertaining—and, by the way, the people are entertaining, and they had a great time until they got caught.”
Hill: “Maybe don’t do bags of ­quaaludes and cocaine every day for four years…Everything is going to feel like a letdown after that kind of sensory overload, you know? It’s like the end of Good­Fellas. Ray Liotta is in witness protection. He orders spaghetti and gets egg noodles and ketchup. The rest of his life he’s going to be eating egg noodles and ketchup. He’s going to live life like a schnook.”
Check out the full article HERE and see the behind the scenes photos below.

About The End Of ‘This Is The End’

I’ll admit it: I enjoyed myself at This Is the End. As my wife said, it would have been insufferable if it hadn’t been so funny. Indeed, I’d give it something like a B or B+, which is pretty good for a fairly lazy comedy starring All Those Dudes. And while Danny McBride can’t not steal a movie, I think I’ve begun to appreciate Jonah Hill? But enough faint praise, let’s get down to spoilers below.

First off, is that really the best-looking heaven they could come up with? Like, a big al fresco disco dance floor with a rollercoaster in the background? And did we really come all this way not to even attempt to resolve the story at hand? Amazing, how this ending makes the rest of the film look brilliantly conceived by comparison, rather than a string of end-times sketches. And are we supposed to feel bad about the people who died without any shot at redemption? It’s understandable if Michael Cera is too much a coke-fueled sexist to be saved, but what did Aziz Ansari ever do?

Now that those questions are out of the way, I have to say something else. At the end of your funny movie, it’s not funny to just have some stuff that’s not funny. You know? It’s incredibly aggravating that the mere presence of good weed in heaven is construed as a joke. Of course there’s good weed in heaven. It’s HEAVEN. Likewise, however righteous the Backstreet Boys were to get the whole band raptured, it’s not comedy to have everyone dance to a Backstreet Boys song. It’s just not! If you want funny dancing, I refer you to the immortal clip below:

Trailer For Fake Sequel to Real Movie Marketing Ploy For Other Movie

Good grief. This is what movie marketing has come to. I mean, yeah, yesterday was April Fool’s Day, you’re gonna try to pull a fast one because branding and it’s funny or something, but it doesn’t show a lot of confidence in your product when you’re trying to get people’s attention with a shoddy sequel to a more beloved movie. But that’s what the team behind upcoming disaster comedy This Is The End did—they decided to make a fake trailer for a fake sequel to James Franco and Seth Rogen’s popular stoner buddy comedy Pineapple Express, in which Danny McBride returns to ask the bros to assassinate Woody Harrelson. Seems legit. 

No really, it seems like it might even be legit for about five seconds, like oh, maybe they’re just trying to cash in on the summer movie craze and make this one about cocaine instead of weed (what a bold new universe!), until you realize that they’re just screwing around with a camera in a basement like a couple of bored suburban high schoolers reenacting Pineapple Express. But then the ruse is revealed, and it’s just a bunch of actor-bros watching the trailer in a basement. This is actually kind of a shame, because regardless of your thoughts on the Apatow/Rogen/Evan Goldberg cabal of comedies, there are some very funny people signed up for This Is The End. In addition to Rogen, Franco, McBride and Jonah Hill, the film has Craig Robinson, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Emma Watson, Aziz Ansari, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna and Michael Cera. Certainly there are other opportunities to entice viewers with a cast like that than to rehash Pineapple Express.

Like, come on, you have Jason Segel, Seth Rogen and James Franco. If you’re going to mess with people, at least play the nostalgia angle and go with a Freaks and Geeks movie as the premise. You might even get a Kickstarter to make it happen for real in the process! 

Quentin Tarantino and His Cast Rewrite History With ‘Django Unchained’

“The way I write, my dialogue, I always kind of fancy it as poetry and they’re the ones that make it poetry when they say it,” says iconic director Quentin Tarantino about his affinity for pulling from his pool of talented and idiosyncratic actors. The follow up to his 2009 Nazi-hunting epic Inglorious Basterds, Tarantino again rewrites history with the much-anticipated Django Unchained. The cinematically daring film tells the tale of a slave named Django and his quest to free himself and rescue his wife, with the aid of German bounty hunter and the takedown of sociopathic slave owner, Calvin Candie.

As his pictures are wont to be, Django is a grand undertaking of a film—with a script that’s both gut-wrenchingly brutal and highly entertaining, all set in the Deep South, featuring an incredible cast of actors that all embody their characters with devotion and panache. This past Sunday, I had the joy of sitting down to watch Tarantino, joined by the cast of his new heroic odyssey-meets spaghetti Western-meets monumental love story for press conference on the film; the result: a fantastic conversation on the nature of portraying slavery on film, undertaking such intense roles, and telling this story of sacred ground.

Slavery as a film subject:
Quentin Tarantino—I always wanted to do a film that deals with the horrific past of slavery, but the way I wanted to deal with it was, as opposed to doing a straight historical movie, I thought it would be better if it was wrapped up in genre. It seems to me, so many westerns that took place actually during slavery times have just bent over backwards to avoid it—as is America’s way, which is interesting because most other countries have been forced to deal with the atrocities that they’ve committed and the world has made them deal with them. But it’s kind of everybody’s fault here in America—white, black—nobody wants to stare at it. And I think there are different types of slave narratives that could have existed in the 245 years during this time; there’s a zillion stories: dramatic adventurous, heartbreaking triumphant stories that could be told. Living in a world now where people say, there are no new stories, there’s a whole bunch of them and they’re all American stories that could be told. So I wanted to be one of the first ones out of the gate.

First impressions when reading the script and being asked to play slaves:
Jamie Foxx—I actually saw that the movie was going forward and someone else was playing Django. I thought, wow, here’s another project I haven’t heard about. My acting hustle was: I don’t care what it is, it’s Quentin Tarantino, and all these people. I feel that the people here can tackle absolutely any subject matter as far as artistic ability. And reading the script, well I’m from Texas, so being from the south, there’s a racial component. So when I read the script, I didn’t knee-jerk to the word "nigger" like someone from maybe New York or LA would because that was something I experienced. But what I did gravitate towards was the love story between Django and Broomhilda. We never get a chance to see the slave fight back and do for himself. 
Kerry Washington—I think a lot of times people in the past may have felt nervous about playing a slave because so many of the narratives told in film and television about slavery are about powerlessness and this is not a film about that. This is a film about a black man who finds his freedom and rescues his wife—he is an agent of his own power, he’s a liberator, he’s a hero. And so there’s nothing shameful about that; it’s really inspiring and hopeful. I was very moved by the love story, especially at a time in our history when black people were not allowed to fall in love and get married because marriage, that kind of connection, got in the way of the selling of human beings. So to have a story between a husband and a wife at a time when black people were not allowed to be husband and wife, was not only educational but again, hopeful. We’ve seen this love story a million times about star-crossed lovers—its just that they don’t come from two different Italian families like Romeo and Juliet, the thing that stands in the way of them being with each other is the institution of slavery. So Django is out to get his woman. I said to Quentin in our first meeting that I want to do this movie for my father because my father grew up in a world where there were no black super heroes and that’s what this movie is.

Jackson on the psychology of his character, Stephen:
Samuel L. Jackson—When Quentin told me about the part of Stephen, I complained about being fifteen years too old to play Django. And when I read the script I called him back and said, “So you want me to be the most despicable negro in cinematic history?” And we both kind of laughed together and said, “Yeah, let’s get on that.” And not only was that a great artistic opportunity to create something that was iconic, but to take something that people know as Uncle Tom and turn it on it’s head in a powerful way. It also gave me the opportunity to do really nasty shit to the person who got the role that I thought I should have—and it was written beautifully that way so I could do that. Stephen is the freest slave in the history of cinema; he has all the powers of the master and is the master during the times that Calvin is off mandingo fighting. Everybody knows him and fears him. We referred to him as the Basil Rathbone of the Antebellum South. But I wanted to play him honestly and wanted everybody to understand that when Django shows up, that’s a negro we’ve never seen.

DiCaprio on being the biggest villain in the film and why he wanted to take on that role:
Leonardo DiCaprio—Well, obviously Mr. Tarantino here was a major factor. There was a sort of buzz about this script for a while, people were talking about the new Tarantino film. And the fact that he tackled this subject matter, like he did with Inglorious Basterds and recreated his own history and something as hardcore as slavery and combined it with the genre of having it be this crazy spaghetti western feel to it with this lead character that obliterates the cankerous rotting south, is completely exciting. He wrote this incredible character and as soon as I read it, I was completely excited. This man, as Quentin put it, he represented everything that was wrong with the South at the time—like a young Louis XIV, sort of a prince that wanted to hold onto his position of privilege at all costs. Even though he was integrated his whole life with black people, brought up by a black man, lived with him his entire life, he had to find a moral justification to treat people this way. And like, the fact that he’s a francophile but he doesn’t speak French, he’s just a walking contradiction. He was brought up by black people and yet he had to regard them as not human. There was absolutely nothing about this man that I could identify with. I hated him and it was one of the most narcissistic, self-indulgent, racist, horrible characters I’ve ever read my entire life. But I had to do it! It was too good a character in that sense. This man writes just incredible characters.

On watching DiCaprio fully immersed in his character:
JF—We were doing the dinner table scene and that whole day people were coming up from the offices, like, “you gotta see Leo do this scene.” He and Sam were just going to work. But what happened was, the shot glass slid over underneath what he was slamming his hand down against and in one take he slammed his hand down and the shot glass goes right through his hand. And now blood is shooting out his hand, and I’m thinking, does everybody else see this? And he just keeps going. But what was amazing was that he was so into his character that when they finally said “cut” he was still this guy. To be honest, I think they almost gave him a standing ovation at that time. So it was amazing to see that and the process from my end of Sam and Leo making it real. 

On reuniting with Tarantino:
Christoph Waltz—There was no reunification, there was no working again; that was just another mushroom of the fungus that was grown subcutaneously. 
QT—I had the same problem with Sam for over a decade. It’s hard not to write for these guys. They say my dialogue so well and just the way I write, my dialogue, I always kind of fancy it as poetry and they’re the ones that make it poetry when they say it. They come out of my pen. It’s just, I have to, I can’t shut it off. I’ve been wanting to do this story for a long time. They was never some German dentist bounty hunter in the story! And next thing I know, I sat down and wrote that opening scene and he just flew right out of the pen.
Don Johnson—As Quentin told me, “You sing in my key.” I looked at Big Daddy as a character who as everybody has mentioned, this was something that was going to go on forever until these two mother fuckers showed up. They messed up everything. But man, it was a joy to work with him. 
SLJ: I remember the first day I got there, I went looking for Quentin, and the slaves were in the field. I was walking down that road through a cotton field and I didn’t realize until I got in the middle of the field that all these extras were out there in their slave gear and they were picking cotton and white dudes were on horses with shot guns. I looked back and Don was on the porch in the big house and I was like, “Oh shit. We’re doing this.” It was almost like a Twilight Zone episode or something. It was crazy. Everything started to help us do this movie.
KW—We were shooting on an actual slave plantation called Evergreen Plantation, so that leant itself to all of us kind of disappearing into the story because you felt like you were making the film on sacred ground. You felt like you were reenacting this behavior where these crimes against humanity were actually committed, so it started to infiltrate everybody’s acting and behavior and choices and relationships.
SLJ—Like when you Kerry got whipped, even the bugs stopped making noise and the birds stopped singing it was kind of like, oh shit is this back?
DJ—My dresser found out that her ancestors were buried in the cemetery on the plantation. That was was a serious day when she came to work and told me that.
KW: And they were German!

Jonah Hill on his role as Bag Head #2:
Jonah Hill—Yeah, I don’t know. I got into this business to work with great filmmakers, so I don’t care if Quentin wants me to be an extra in one of his movies. I don’t even know what the fuck I’m doing up here with these guys. I worked for like two days on the film. It’s kind of an ego stroke that you even want me here. But I think it was the weekend Moneyball had come out and it was like I met with Quentin and he asked me and I was all for it. I was just so excited to do it.

Tarantino on writing the script:
QT—I write these huge scripts that are like novels. They’re not blue prints for a movie, they’re novels. If I had to do this whole thing all over again, I actually would have just published this as a novel and then done an adaptation of that after the fact. 

Tarantino and cast on external sources of inspiration:
QT—I think all of these actors can tell you the feeling they have the first time they walk into my office and they see all the 60s western posters up and the blacksploitation posters up and all this viscera that doesn’t exist anymore in movie posters. Now everything just looks like Vanity Fair photo shoot, every single goddamn movie.  The idea of drawn posters doesn’t happen anymore, and those were the posters! Those were really cool. But that style of viscera— whether it be a spaghetti western album covers, the blacksploitation album covers, the posters—I’m kind of trying to get at that. When my stuff pops off in the big way that it does or the imagery that I’m trying to evoke—like the costumes we employ in the film that always have a bit of a comic book panache—I’m trying to get those kinds of illustrations in life, in my flicks. 
CW—Source is a contradiction in terms and I can only speak for myself, but the source is the script and the script has a source.
DJ—That periods of time is one of my favorite in history because it’s full of deceit and rich in human character or lack there of. So I’ve read a lot on it and there’s a lot of outside material. For me, I like to start with outside information, research, and just start layering it into the ethics of the time, the social graces of the time—did they have indoor toilets? No. How were manners created? So I start from the outside and then slowly start to bring it all inside and emotional. Quentin’s the source and then the character work, for me, I like to know what it’s like on that day, in that time, with that energy running around.

Leo on his career as an actor and his experience working on the film:
LD—I love acting, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do my entire life and I hope to continue this for a long time to come. It’s the greatest job in the world, truly is. We’re all lucky bastards up here, the fact that we get to do what we love for a living every single day. What was great about doing this role was the sense of community and the support mechanism I had every single day. This was my first attempt at playing a character that I had this much distain and this much hatred for. It was an incredibly uncomfortable environment to walk into. I’ve seen racism in my surrounds and in my life growing up but to the degree that I had to treat other people in this film was incredibly disturbing. I think it was disturbing for actors on both ends of the spectrum. Like we were talking about before, one of the pivotal moments for me with this character and going to the places I had to go to, was this initial read through when I brought up the point where like, do we need to go this far at times, do we need to push it this far, does it have to be this violent, do I need to be this atrocious to other human beings? And Sam and Jamie both said, look man if you sugar coat this people are going to resent the hell out of you, you gotta push this guy to the utter extreme because this is not only historically accurate but it went even further than that and by holding the character back you’re going to do an injustice to the film and people are going to feel like you’re not telling the truth

And honestly, that was the thing that sort of ignited me into going the way I do with the character, and once I did do even more research and once I started to watch the documentaries about the sugar plantations, I saw we were just scratching the surface of what happened in our country. It’s a sore subject matter and it’s a film subject that should be looked at more often and not shied away from. I commend Quentin for making a film that combines so many different genres and as daring as it is to actually make the subject matter entertaining for an audience. It’s a daring concept. At the core of it was to have a group of actors that were all mutually there for one another to support and drive each other further.
KW—I felt like we relied on each other because we’d be in these awful places and Quentin would call cut and we’d all be like, “Everybody okay? You okay? You hurt? Okay, let’s do it again.”
JF—Especially Kerry. You took a beating.
QT—For two days straight. There’s the real way to do it and that’s the Kerry way and anything else is bullshit as far as Kerry’s concerned. And I was like man, she’s the real deal. 

Tarantino on the difference between writing the script and shooting it:
QT—It’s one thing to write: Exterior—Greenville, 100 slaves walk through this deep shit mud in chains wearing masks and metal collars, this whole town that’s built over like what’s almost a Black Auschwitz. It’s one thing to write that, it’s another thing to get 100 black folks, put them in chains and march through the mud. And same thing about the cotton and putting an army of black folks in the sun. I started to question: could I do it? I don’t think I’ve ever thought that about anything when it came to my work before. I started thinking, can I be the reason why that’s even happening? And I’d actually came up with an idea of maybe shooting just those sequences alone in like the West Indies or Brazil where they have their own issues of slavery, but because this is an American story there would be a once removed quality of it. My problem was having Americans do that. So I was trying to escape it; how can I do it but get around it so I don’t have to deal with the pain? And I went out to dinner with Sidney Poitier and I just finished the script—he’s kind of like a father figure to me—and I was explaining my little hair-brained scheme of escaping and he listened to me and basically told me I had to man up. He goes, “Quentin, for whatever reason, you were born to tell this story and you need to not be afraid of your own movie. You can’t tell this story if you’re afraid of your own movie. You just need to do it. Everybody knows what time it is, we’re all professionals everyone gets it, just treat them with love and respect and treat them like actors not atmosphere; let them know why they’re there, what they’re doing, and what we’re trying to get across and it will all be good.”
KW—One of the background actors, who was a pastor, one day kind of paused everybody and said, “We have to remember that we are the answer to these people’s prayers. The people who did this work dreamt of a day where you could not be property but own property, where you could read and vote and get married and have a job and get compensated.” And it really, on that sacred ground, forced everybody to shift and man up and own how blessed we are that we get to be here and tell this story and not feel victimized by it, but know that it’s a story of a hero and that’s a profound opportunity. 

Tarantino on telling a linear narrative and editing:
QT—It was a conscious decision from page one not to do my normal narrative tricks. This had to be Django’s journey from beginning to end, it had to be an odyssey. You need to see Django start his journey and complete it in one scenario. As far as the film taking shape in editing, there’s so many different emotions in this movie—there’s the exciting western adventure, there’s the gallows humor like comedy, and there’s the pain of the story, there’s the catharsis, there’s the suspense, and hopefully at the end there’s the cheering. If the audiences aren’t cheering at the end, then I haven’t quite done my job. So balancing all those different emotions so I got that cheer at the end was the biggest issue of editing.

Frankly, when it came to the pain, I could have gone forward; I have more of a tolerance. Part of it was I wanted to show how bad it was, but I also don’t want to traumatize the audience so bad that they can’t enjoy the movie and be where I need them to be in the last reel. The whole hope was that if you leave your house and go to a movie theater and pay a ticket to sit with a bunch of strangers to watch this movie, you’re going to have ultimately by the end of it, a great time at the movies. And I think so far, so good.
SLJ—Quentin always writes movies he wants to see. We watch a lot of the same kind of movies and he generally writes a role in there that I’m going to do because I want to see myself in that kind of movie and I think I represent a lot of movie goers and he represents a lot of fans.
KW: The impetus for all the adventure and action and all of it is love and it’s a complete universal theme, this idea. Everybody wants to be loved so badly that they’re prince would slay the dragon.
SLJ—Oh, that’s some girly shit, like some old west rom com bullet ballet. 


Photo by Getty Images for The Weinstein Company

Against All Odds, Everyone is Loving ’21 Jump Street’

A remake of 21 Jump Street sounds, like all ‘80’s TV show remakes, like a bad idea. Add in foxy bro du jour, Channing Tatum, and it sounds like a problem even Jonah Hill can’t solve. But, despite all logic of the components needed to create a good, nay watchable movie, the flick is a hit with both critics and fans.

It dominated the box office yesterday, taking in $13.1 million on it’s opening and ousting pro-hippie, anti-capitalist agenda pushing (sigh) The Lorax out of number one. Younger moviegoers, who made up 50 percent of the audience, gave 21 Jump Street a glowing A CinemaScore, states the Hollywood Reporter, and critics are bafflingly, loving it.

LA Times: “In a reimagining of the fresh-faced undercover cop series, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are loser dudes who are absolutely winning.”

USA Today: “A vibrant reboot of a rather forgettable ’80s TV series sounds nearly impossible to pull off. And yet ’21 Jump Street’ accomplishes it with a fresh script, flip humor and inspired casting.”

Rolling Stone: “This bracing new take on 21 Jump Street has a playful spark all its own. It’s a blast.”

Shocking! Perhaps Slate got it right, saying: “This spoof of the late-’80s/early ’90s TV series of the same name—to call it a “remake” would imply a more serious relationship to the source material—is earning critical praise chiefly, it seems, because it’s not as abysmally bad as it sounds on paper.”

‘Neighborhood Watch’ Gathers Stiller, Vaughn & Hill to Fight Aliens

In case you’re trying to get this all out of the way ahead of time, Neighborhood Watch will be your brocentric comedy to watch for in 2012. Supporting evidence: It stars Jonah Hill, Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller; it’s written by Superbad‘s Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg; it’s directed by The Lonely Island‘s Akiva Schaffer. What more do you need? This first trailer, which comes to us via the A.V. Club, is kind of sparse, but it does the trick. Because what explains a movie’s ethos more than a bunch of suburbanites riding around to "Still D.R.E."?

If it wasn’t clear enough, it seems to be about some kind of neighborhood watch, but here’s a wrinkle: They’re apparently teaming up to fight aliens, not just snot-nosed teenagers. (What a world.) British comedian Richard Ayoade is the fourth man of the SUV-based posse, so get ready for his U.S. star push soon after the film drops on July 27. 

Afternoon Links: Jonah Hill & James Franco Join Brad Pitt Production, Lil Wayne Gets A Shoe Deal

● Jonah Hill and James Franco have both signed on to the Brad Pitt-produced drama, True Story. Hill will play New York Times journalist Michael Finkel, and Franco his almost too good to be true subject, murderer and identity thief Christian Longo. [Deadline]

● Don Draper was unfortunately not able to help promote the upcoming season of Mad Men because Don Draper is a fictional character. AMC seems to be doing okay without him, though. [NYT]

● Are Natalie Portman and Benjamin Millepied get hitched while we weren’t watching? As Us Weekly points out, the two wore what appear to be sparkly new wedding rings last night. [Us]

● Jan Bernstien, creator of the Berenstain Bears children’s book series, has passed away at the age of 88. [TMZ]

● "It’s not a Nike or Reebok, I can tell you that much," says Lil Wayne of his forthcoming shoe line. And based on his wild footwear past, we believe it. [Billboard]

● Meet the young guns behind the file sharing sites that help keep your iTunes fresh stocked. [TheFader]

2011 Oscar Nominations Go More or Less as Expected

With the speed of a lumbering engine powered by critical hubris and self-importance, the 84th Academy Awards nominations dropped into our newsfeeds this morning with predictable result. Did you know that people liked The Descendants this year, The Artist as well? Brad Pitt and George Clooney scored the requisite Hollywood heartthrob acting votes (they will lose to the no-name French guy who doesn’t talk), while Meryl Streep got her due for sticking around. Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese were also nominated, just like they always are. It’s another Oscar ceremony, y’all!

But not to sound cynical or anything. It’s somewhat surprising, though definitely nice, to see Terrence Malick get official recognition for The Tree of Life, even if there’s almost no way the hype-happy Academy will give their highest awards to a movie with more than a handful of inscrutably artsy scenes. Equally surprising on the other end is the inclusion of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, a movie that no one seemed to like but not for any inscrutably artsy reasons, simply because it’s kind of schmaltzy and not very good. Why not give the spot to something innocuous like Bridesmaids or even the last Harry Potter movie, if they’re trying to go commercial? Madness, it’s all madness. (I won’t even get started on Albert Brooks’ snub for Drive.) You can look at the important nominees below, or go to the Academy’s website for the full list.

Best Picture
The Artist, The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse

Actor in a Leading Role
Demian Bichir – A Better Life, George Clooney – The Descendants, Jean Dujardian – The Artist, Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Brad Pitt – Moneyball

Actress in a Leading Role
Glenn Close – Albert Nobbs, Viola Davis – The Help, Rooney Mara – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady, Michelle Williams – My Week with Marilyn

Michael Hazanavicius – The Artist, Alexander Payne – The Descendants, Martin Scorsese – Hugo, Woody Allen – Midnight in Paris, Terrence Malick – The Tree of Life

Actor in a Supporting Role
Kenneth Branaugh – My Week with Marilyn, Jonah Hill – Moneyball, Nick Nolte – Warrior, Christopher Plummer – Beginners, Max von Sydow – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Actress in a Supporting Role
Berenice Bejo – The Artist, Jessica Chastain – The Help, Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids, Janet McTeer – Albert Nobbs, Octavia Spencer – The Help

Afternoon Links: Ashton Kutcher ‘Swarmed By Girls,’ Vybz Kartel Escaped From Jail

● Ashton Kutcher was "swarmed by girls" when he went out in Iowa City while home for Thanksgiving. Just like you were, when you went out to the local bar the night before Thanksgiving, right? [Us]

● Hugely popular dancehall singer Vybz Kartel is thought to have broken out of the Jamaican jail were he was being held on two murder charges this morning, leaving in his wake a riot, a stolen guard uniform, and one police officer dead from a heart attack. [The Fader]

● David Milch has been tapped by HBO to adapt William Faulkner’s estate — the novels and short stories not yet optioned, at least — for the small screen. [NYT]

● The always on-task Courtney Love says she’s acting as Lindsay Lohan’s sobriety coach. Good luck, ladies. [Celebitchy]

● Hanson, that band of shaggy-haired brothers we all so adored, are looking to expand into the adult beverages industry. “We are soon going to be selling our own beer,” says drummer and youngest brother Zac. “I’m not joking – MMMhop IPA anyone?” [PopDust]

● Everything you ever wanted to know about those Google doodles. [The Daily]

● Of his future as a serious actor, Jonah Hill is sure: “I’m going for it,” he tells the New York Times in a hardly humble interview. “I’m not scared to say that. I think it’s my moment to do that, and I see that clearly.” [NYT]