Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hub ready for its Oscar close-up:

Boston films take center stage at Academy Awards
By Tenley Woodman

They were choosing sides at Old Sully’s on Union Street in Charlestown, and the debate grew heated. After all, the Oscars are serious business.

“I liked ‘The Fighter’ better,” said bartender Brian Feeney.

“(Jeremy) Renner (‘The Town’) was the best Townie ever,” countered a patron.

The Academy Awards are personal this year, as several locally shot films are up for trophies tonight: the Lowell-based boxer biopic, “The Fighter;” gritty Charlestown-shot crime drama, “The Town;” and Harvard-set story of Facebook, “The Social Network.”

Locals won’t be watching the red carpet for celebs — not while there are friends and family rubbing elbows with the A-listers. Take Micky Ward, the Lowell boxer whose life is depicted in “The Fighter.” He’ll be at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles with half-brother Dicky Eklund.

“It’s incredible. Whoever thought when the movie was being talked about that there would be any Academy Award talk or mention?” Ward told the Herald. “It’s surreal.”

Christian Bale is nominated for Best Supporting Actor for portraying Eklund. Melissa Leo and Amy Adams are also nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category for their roles as Ward’s mother Alice and girlfriend Charlene, respectively. The film is also nominated for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Director.

The crowd at Old Sully’s has a stake in Hollywood’s big night as well. Scenes in “The Town” were shot there — just check out the photos of bar owner Joe Sullivan and director and Cambridge native Ben Affleck hanging on the wall. The film’s only nomination is in the Best Supporting Actor category for Renner, who won an Oscar last year for “The Hurt Locker.”

“A lot of people compared (‘The Fighter’ to ‘The Town’),” said patron Kieran Lennon, discussing the films over beers with friends. “You have south of 128 and north of 128. It’s a whole different world.”

Sullivan said he watched “The Town” and “The Fighter” with a critical eye.
“With ‘The Town,’ I was looking for people I knew and locations I knew,” he said. “(‘The Fighter’) was better than I thought it would be. They did a great job with the local scenes.”

Both movies put the cities in the forefront.

“In ‘The Fighter,’ it was intentionally done so the town would become a character of its own,” said Rockport resident Melissa McMeekin, who played little Alice, one of Ward’s sisters, in the film. Lowell landmarks such as the West End Gym, Buck’s Bar & Grill and East Merrimack Street featured prominently in the film. Affleck took full advantage of Boston’s iconic imagery. Fenway Park [map] and the nooks and crannies of Charlestown had starring roles.

Far from the Bay State’s grittier side is the rarefied world of Harvard, immortalized in “The Social Network.” The opening scene was shot in Somerville’s Thirsty Scholar Pub. Back Bay’s own Ben Mezrich, author of “The Accidental Billionaires,” which provided the basis for the film, will also be on the red carpet, with his socialite/designer wife, Tonya Chen Mezrich.

“The Social Network” is nominated in the Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director categories, among others.

“We might lose to ‘The King’s Speech’, but it’s not because (‘The Social Network’) didn’t hit all the right chords. It’s a young versus old thing. It’s going to be tough, but it’s still fun,” Mezrich said.

Also representing Harvard are alumni Natalie Portman and Darren Aronofsky for the dark ballet drama “Black Swan.” Portman is nominated in the Best Actress category and Aronofsky for Best Director.

Back at Sully’s, having Hollywood in the Hub has been good for business.
“You see people driving by taking pictures of the outside,” said Feeney of the neighborhood haunt.

“Boston wins no matter what,” said Donnalyn Sullivan, cousin of the owner.