‘The Wire’s David Simon Takes On Oprah-Produced HBO Mini On Martin Luther King

By | Wednesday March 5, 2014 @ 12:40pm PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: For years, I’ve been writing about all the futility davesimoninvolved in attempts to bring the life of iconic civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr to the screen. So here’s a big one. I’m hearing that David Simon, the architect of the HBO series The Wire, Homicide and most recently Treme, will spearhead the HBO six-hour miniseries adaptation of America: In The King Years, based on the celebrated book trilogy by Pulitzer Prize-winner Taylor Branch. Just as will happen with the Ava DuVernay-directed Selma, Oprah Winfrey will be backing this project as well in a producing capacity.

oprahWinfrey’s Harpo banner originally set up the three books at HBO in 2010 with the plan that it would be overseen by The Kentucky Cycle playwright Robert Schenkkan. While I’ve been trying to confirm the Simon part to no avail at HBO for weeks, I’m told reliably that Simon has assured Branch that he is taking on the project, which instantly becomes a beachhead project for HBO, covering King and his relationships with Lyndon Johnson, John F and Robert Kennedy, as well as the freedom rides, the Birmingham and Selma campaigns, and the poor people’s march on Washington that he was organizing when he was killed in Memphis. It is the perfect venue to tell the story of King’s long struggle.

I’ve heard that Simon will write at least the first episode, as well as the bible for the entire mini. He and Treme co-creator Eric Overmyer will see the entire mini through completion. This is a broad canvas, spanning Branch’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Parting The Waters, as well as Pillar Of Fire and At Canaan’s Edge. Read More »

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OSCARS: ‘12 Years A Slave’ Telling Voters “It’s Time” – But How Will It Resonate?

By | Wednesday February 19, 2014 @ 3:06pm PST
Pete Hammond

“It’s Time”.

That’s the message seen for the past few weeks on the 12 Years A Slave billboard as you drive on to the 20th Century Fox lot. Los Angeles-20140219-00222 (3).jpg  foxAnd since the film earned nine Oscar nominations it has frequently been the slogan of choice for the Fox Searchlight contender in  newspaper and television ads.  A highly emotional close-up of star Chiwetel Ejiofor as the man forced into slavery and just two words to accompany it: “It’s Time”.

So is it resonating with voters? Are they paying attention? And how do you interpret the message, clearly aimed at Academy voters, that the studio is trying to send for its Best Picture nominee?

It’s Time for a serious film about slavery to win Best Picture?

It’s Time for any film about the black experience to win Best Picture?

It’s Time for a film with a largely black cast, theme, black director and screenwriter to win?

It’s Time those Academy members who have resisted seeing it, because they think it’s too brutal, stick their screener in their DVD player and watch.

Whichever way you look at it, it’s an effective and simple way of getting the film’s message across. Two words, that’s all.

heatnightposter2The ad not only can be interpreted as shining a light on a very dark period in American history, it also shines a light on the Academy’s fairly dismal record of awarding its top honor to any movie about the black experience. In fact there has been only one Best Picture winner in the 85 years the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been handing out Oscars that even remotely qualifies in this regard. In 1968, In The Heat Of The Night , a murder mystery set against the racial divide in a small Southern town, won Best Picture and four other Oscars just a few days after the assassination of Martin Luther King (the ceremony was even postponed two days out of respect). The votes were in before1968_view_editing_ashby_jewison_actor_steiger_picture_mirisch the King assassination, but it seemed then that “It’s Time” would have been an appropriate way to describe that victory. However, outside of lead actor Sidney Poitier — who also co-starred in another racially themed Best Pic nominee that year, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner —  this movie  featured a largely white cast, white producer, screenwriter and director (Norman Jewison).

12 Years A Slave  makes a much bigger statement: The film has been honored widely with Best Picture awards from the Golden Globes, the Critics Choice Movie Awards, the Producers Guild (in a tie with Gravity), and most recently BAFTA, but the victories have been narrow (it went 1 for 7 at the Globes, 2 for 10 at BAFTA and 3 for 13 at the CCMAs). Co-producer/director Steve McQueen has made impassioned speeches at all of them, though apparently it’s not time for a black director to win as he has lost consistently to Gravity’s Alfonso Cuaron in that category at most precursor awards (ironically, there was a Picture/Director split the year of In The Heat Of The Night, with The Graduate’s Mike Nichols winning the directing awards over Heat’s Jewison). Read More »

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OSCARS: Alexandre Desplat Hoping Sixth Time Is The Charm With ‘Philomena’ Nomination (Video)

By | Monday February 17, 2014 @ 12:28pm PST
Pete Hammond

EXCLUSIVE: Alexandre Desplat earned his sixth Academy Award nomination for his lilting score to Philomena, but is the sixth time the charm for this most in-demand of film composers?  He’s never won even though his previous nominations generally all came with high profile films including two Best Picture winners, The King’s Speech and Argo as well as Best Pic nominees The Queen and The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. Another nomination came for the animated Wes Anderson film, The Fantastic Mr. Fox. The prolific musician is currently represented on screen with The Monuments Men (in which he also displays his acting chops in a small supporting role) and Anderson’s upcoming The Grand Budapest Hotel which just won a major prize at the Berlin Film Festival. He starts recording the score for the May release, Godzilla in a couple of weeks. How does he do it all?  Here is a look at the working process of Desplat as he went about creating the score for Philomena:

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In Sync And Bemis Balkind Merge To Create Formidable Ad Agency

By | Thursday February 13, 2014 @ 11:36am PST

Smit_Peter_Aubrey_Color_01EXCLUSIVE: Two highly respected advertising/marketing shops that helped launched some of the most successful and memorable campaigns — Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers Club, Lee Daniels‘ The Butler, Silver Linings Playbook, Ted, Wolverine, Avatar, Despicable Me, The King’s Speech, Forrest Gump, Slumdog Millionaire, and Black Swan, to only name a few — are merging. In Sync Advertising and Bemis Balkind have joined together under a new moniker that merges their names with In Sync’s Smitty as CEO and Peter Bemins and Aubry Balkind serving as co-presidents. It will be known as In Sync Bemis Balkind.

The troika will continue with audio/visual, print, digital and branding campaigns for film, broadcast, home entertainment and other mediums with offices both in New York and Los Angeles. In other words, a one-stop shop. The move combines In Sync’s A/V motion picture advertising expertise with Bemis Balkind’s print, digital and web ad talent. Read More »

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Berlin Record Deal: Harvey Weinstein Pays $7 Million For Alan Turing WWII Tale ‘The Imitation Game’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: In what I am told will go down as the highest price paid ever for U.S. cumbrights on a movie at the European Film Market, The Weinstein Company has locked a deal to pay $7 million for The Imitation Game, the Graham Moore Black List script that Morten Tyldum directed with Benedict Cumberbatch playing Alan Turing, the genius British mathematician, logician, cryptologist and computer scientist who led the charge to crack the German Enigma Code that helped the Allies win WWII. Keira Knightley also stars in a film that will be shaped as a major release for the next awards season.

Berlin2014_200CAA brokered this deal based on a promo reel that had five bidders going after it hard before TWC just took it off the table, with the feeling that it has one of its major Oscar hopefuls for the next race. TWC currently has Philomena in the Best Picture race that will be decided next month.

Compared to the small sales of Sundance, this is a whopper. Harvey and Bob Weinstein and their team headed by COO David Glasser bested five competitors that sparked to a 15-minute compilation of scenes on a picture that has just gone into postproduction. The film also stars Mark Strong and Matthew Goode, and it’s produced by Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman. It was Schwarzman’s Black Bear Pictures label that took the risk on the film after Warner Bros let it go. The TWC acquisition team of Robert Walak, Negeen Yazdi and Dan Guando chased this script for a year. TWC’s Michal Steinberg closed the deal.

Related: Benedict Cumberbatch In Talks To Play Alan Turing In ‘The Imitation Game’
Read More »

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OSCARS SCANDAL: ‘Alone Yet Not Alone’ Writer Calls Out Academy President For What He Says Is “Breach Of The Same Standard”

Bruce Broughton mugBruce Broughton is hitting back. The composer, whose title song from Alone Yet Not Alone received an Oscar nom but later was disqualified because of improper campaigning, penned a letter Thursday to Academy Director of Communications Teni Melidonian and CEO Dawn Hudson. And today — hours after the Academy issued its latest statement on the matter — Broughton’s PR guy Ray Costa made it an open letter.

Related: OSCARS SCANDAL: Why Academy Had To Explain Nixing ‘Alone Yet Not Alone’ Best Song Nom

Cheryl Boone IsaacsBroughton calls attention to Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs‘ role as a head of CBI Enterprises. As stated in her bio on the Oscars website, which was part of the press release the Academy sent out announcing her election in July, she served as a consultant on films including eventual Best Picture winners The Artist and The King’s Speech.

Safe to say this probably won’t be the last we hear of this.

Here’s the full letter:
Read More »

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Super Bowl Ad: ‘Full House’ Guys Reunite

By | Tuesday January 28, 2014 @ 2:02pm PST

Hollywood homages trending in Super Bowl ads this year? While Ben Kingsley, Mark Strong and Tom Hiddleston star in a Super Bowl ad for the Jaguar F-Type R Coupe, directed by The King’s Speech and Les Miserables helmer Tom Hooper, Dannon’s Oikos spokesman John Stamos will star in an ad, joined by Bob Saget and Dave Coulier with whom he co-starred in ABC’s late-80′s/early 90′s hit sitcom Full House that averaged about 30 million viewers a week in its heyday. Super Bowl XLVIII will be broadcast Sunday on Fox. Watch it here:

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Super Bowl Ad: Brit Movie Bad Guys Pitch Jaguar

By | Tuesday January 28, 2014 @ 12:42pm PST

Ben Kingsley, Mark Strong and Tom Hiddleston do the honors in an ad for the Jaguar F-Type R Coupe that will run during the third quarter of Sunday’s Super Bowl on Fox. The King’s Speech and Les Miserables helmer Tom Hooper directed.

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66th Annual DGA Awards: Alfonso Cuarón Wins Best Feature Film Director For ‘Gravity’, TV Winners Include Vince Gilligan ‘Breaking Bad’, Steven Soderbergh ‘Behind The Candelabra’, Beth McCarthy-Miller ’30 Rock’, Glenn Weiss ‘Tony Awards’ Don Roy King ‘Saturday Night Live’

DGA Award WinnersUPDATED WITH ALL WINNERS AND SPEECHES: The 66th annual DGA Awards was held tonight at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles, hosted by Jane Lynch. The DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film went to Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity. This was his first DGA nomination. Cuaron reflected on his research for the film, which in many ways, focuses on Gravity‘s philosophical commentary on humanity. “We saw all these 66th Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards - Press Roomphotographs of earth from space, and it’s absolutely beautiful; hues of greens and blues,” explained Cuaron, “Everything seems so organic (from space). Those silly lines and boundaries we put on political maps, you can’t see that from space. It’s a bizarre experiment of nature, that is the human experience. And it’s what we as directors try to sort out as filmmakers.” It’s worth recalling that while cuaron hasn’t made a bad movie, getting Gravity made was very difficult. Universal kicked it to the curb after Angelina Jolie dropped out. Warner bros took it in, but it was in peril after Robert Downey Jr. decided not to play the role George Clooney wound up playing. the studio looked at several actresses including Natalie Portman, before deciding on Sandra Bullock. It was a real show of faith by Warner Bros, whose movie chief Jeff Robinov championed the project. It has become an outsized global hit, following in the footsteps of Life Of Pi and Avatar. It was this movie that inspired TriStar’s Tom Rothman to want to make his first film To Reach The Clouds, the Robert Zemeckis directed film about Philippe Petit’s groundbreaking high wire walk from the North to South Tower of the World Trade Center in 1974. They are hoping Joseph Gordon Levitt will play him and that production will begin by summer. In the other major film award, Jehane Noujaim was honored as Best Documentary Director for The Square. TV winners included Vince Gilligan for Breaking Bad’s “Felina” episode, Steven Soderbergh for Behind The Candelabra and Beth McCarthy-Miller for the 30 Rock finale.

Related:
DGA Awards Film: ‘Gravity’ Soars With DGA Win For Alfonso Cuaron
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Producers Guild’s Stunner Of A Split Decision; How Does It Alter The Oscar Race?

Pete Hammond

For six years in a row, the Producers Guild Awards have correctly forecast the eventual Oscar winner for Best Picture. So Sunday night we came to get some kind of clarity in this year’s ultra-competitive Oscar race. Instead we got chaos.pga67

When I entered the Beverly Hilton Hotel lobby for the PGA Awards, I ran smack into 12 Years A Slave director Steve McQueen and some Fox Searchlight publicists. ”This should be an interesting night,” I told them. That turned out to be the understatement of all time. At the pre-reception, producer and moderator of the PGA’s nominee confab Saturday morning, Gary Luchessi, said, “I think there is going to be a big surprise tonight. I think it’s going to be either Gravity or Captain Phillips.” Well, he got half of it right and he was definitely on the money about the surprise part.

Related: PGA Awards: First-Ever Tie For Best Motion Picture — ‘Gravity’ And ‘12 Years A Slave’

25th Annual Producers Guild Awards Saturday night’s big SAG winner, American Hustle, could have built unbeatable momentum following it up with a PGA win – a one-two punch that influences the rest of the campaign and a knockout in awards-season terms. Instead, in an unprecedented result for either the PGA or the Oscars, there was a tie for Best Picture (or the Darryl F. Zanuck Award For Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures, as the PGA puts it) and it was between Hustle’s two key rivals, Gravity and 12 Years A Slave. That means each of Oscar’s presumed three frontrunners all could point to a key victory in this all-important weekend. Nothing was settled. The race goes on. In fact, put the whole thing on reset and start over. Hustle’s co-producer Chuck Roven looked a little shell-shocked when I ran into him moments after the show ended. “I guess this means it’s a horse race,” he said when I asked him his reaction to the night’s results. Earlier I had run into Hustle director David O. Russell who was clearly still on a high from the previous evening’s SAG victory for Outstanding Cast. No doubt the surprise outcome brought him down to Earth. You could feel the numbed reaction throughout the room when presenter Ben Affleck got to make the announcement of a tie. Once again, the PGA has upended the whole race. Read More »

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SAG Awards Film: ‘American Hustle’ Gets A Big Boost, But Will These First Guild Results Impress Oscar?

Pete Hammond

More often than not the SAG Awards turn out to be a very good barometer of future Oscar success. If thatsagawards__130708181913 continues to be the case this year then things are looking awfully good for Matthew McConaughey, Cate Blanchett, Jared Leto, Lupita Nyong’o and American Hustle, the latter winning the Outstanding Cast award which is sometimes a harbinger of Best Picture success — as it was last year when the cast of Argo won. Being the first major guild awards of the season, SAG is extremely significant in that it means we have turned the corner from critics awards and moved into peer voting. Guilds traditionally are the best indicators of where the Oscar winds may be blowing, so with the SAG results (on top of wins earlier in the week at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Movie Awards)  there can be no doubt McConaughey and Blanchett are clear frontrunners 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards - Showto take those lead Actor and Actress Oscars. At this point it just doesn’t appear Blanchett can be beaten — and she still has BAFTA to go before the Academy opens its envelopes on March 2nd. She is a favorite there too. Could Judi Dench for Philomena sneak up and steal her thunder? It’s happened before at BAFTA (being held February 16). That’s where Marion Cotillard made a late-inning run all the way to Oscar after losing to Julie Christie earlier in the season. Can Sandra Bullock turn around the Blanchett steamroller? Could be very tough right now. It looks like Cate’s year, and SAG just added more heat. Plus she delivers a great acceptance speech (“You’re giving me only 29 seconds after Matthew McConaughey was just up here talking about Neptune???”)

Related: SAG Awards: ‘American Hustle’ Wins Best Motion Picture Ensemble

As for McConaughey (whose speeches also have been terrific), his film Dallas Buyers Club has yet to open in England even though it was eligible for BAFTA nominations. It didn’t get any, and so after taking the Globe, CCMA and now the all-19th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards - Showimportant SAG Award — all this week — he’s got to wait until the Oscars to see if the momentum can continue. I would say his biggest rival right now is Leonardo DiCaprio, who is nominated for lead actor at BAFTA opposite Bruce Dern, a sentimental favorite for Nebraska who has lost to McConaghey three times this week (as have two other BAFTA nominees, Tom Hanks and Chiwetel Ejiofor). But DiCaprio did win on the comedy side at the Globes and CCMAs and has been gaining his own momentum.  A BAFTA win could really help throw some added heat his way for The Wolf Of Wall Street.  He wasn’t nominated at SAG primarily because Wolf was barely seen by the SAG nominating committee since it was finished so late in the SAG voting process. It was the only film that also did not send screeners. Wolf and DiCaprio were clearly victims of the insanely early voting deadlines SAG imposes on its members for nominating the best of the year (c’mon SAG, can’t you wait a couple of weeks like the other guilds?). It should be a cautionary note that last year’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Christoph Waltz was not even nominated at SAG because his film Django Unchained just like Wolf this year was screened so late most on the SAG nom comm didn’t get a chance to see it.  On the other hand, McConaughey is also helped by his brilliant cameo opposite DiCaprio near the beginning of Wolf, and there’s still residual fondness for his earlier 2013 release, Mud. It looks like it could be his year, but I am not ready to call this yet. Six weeks is an eternity in an Oscar race.

Related: SAG Awards Winners List

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On Eve Of MLK Day, Will Adultery Keep Epic Dr. King Movie Off The Big Screen?

Mike Fleming

mlkOliver Stone has run smack into the same wall on a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr biopic that director Paul Greengrass hit when Universal kicked his MLK project Memphis to the curb two years back. Stone took to his Twitter account today to say that DreamWorks and Warner Bros rejected his script rewrite and that he was done with the movie that also had Jamie Foxx attached. It came down to the studios — which are in lockstep with the MLK estate that brought them the right to use his famous copyrighted speeches — rejecting Stone’s characterization of long-running rumors that King Jr. engaged in extramarital affairs. “I’m told the estate & the ‘respectable’ black community that guard King’s reputation won’t approve it. They suffocate the man & the truth,” Stone tweeted. He also added a message directly to MLK: ‘I wish you could see the film I would’ve made. I fear if ‘they’ ever make it, it’ll be just another commemoration of the March on Washington.”

Related: Opposition To Martin Luther King Films Reveals Hard Truths About Biopic Biz

ostoneThis is almost a carbon copy of what happened two years ago with Memphis, the superb script that Captain Phillips helmer Greengrass wrote and set at Universal with producer Scott Rudin. The project stopped in its tracks after a version of the script found its way to the King family, and Ambassador Andrew Young, who was one of Dr. King’s closest confidants during the turbulent Civil Rights movement of the ’60s. While Universal was never really clear on why it halted the movie, blaming scheduling, it is clear that a film disowned by MLK’s family might hurt its audience appeal. This is an incredibly difficult and emotional situation because it depicts flaws in a man whose message of tolerance and equality and nonviolence still means so much to so many and has made him one of the most galvanizing figures of the 20th Century. Read More »

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Producers Guild Leaders On Their Banner Year, The p.g.a. Mark, Sunday’s Big 25th Anniversary Awards, And Why Scorsese And DiCaprio Didn’t Make The Cut

Pete Hammond

When I ran into Ben Affleck at the Golden Globes on Sunday he told me he thinks this wide open Oscar race won’t really come into focus until theProducers Guild of America Producers Guild names its choice for Best Picture on January 19th at the Beverly Hilton. Of course Affleck (with George Clooney and Grant Heslov) won at the PGA last year for Argo and it went on to take the Oscar for Best Picture as well. Now about to celebrate their 25th anniversary the PGA awards have become one of the most reliable bellwethers of eventual Oscar glory. In fact the last six films in a row that have taken the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures has gone on to win the Academy’s Best Picture prize too, a list that in addition to Argo includes The Artist, The King’s Speech, The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire and No Country For Old Men. In fact it was the PGA that turned the race completely around for The Hurt Locker by unexpectedly choosing it over Avatar and picking King’s Speech over The Social Network, the favorite until that point. The PGA turned both races on a dime. In fact since handing out awards a quarter century ago the Guild has had a strong overall track record in matching Oscar’s sentiments. Perhaps one reason is they work very closely with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in vetting producers credits and determining which producers are eligible not only for the PGA award, but also the Oscar, although the final decision on the latter is up to the Academy’s producers branch.

Related: Producers Guild Unveils Motion Picture And Long-Form TV Noms
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Wild Critics’ Choice Movie Awards Brings Out Oscar Nomination Day’s Winners And Losers; Julia Roberts Compares It To “Some Strange Fellini Movie”

Pete Hammond

19th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards - Backstage And AudienceLast night’s Critics’ Choice Movie Awards pretty much mirrored the results of the Golden Globes handed out just a few days earlier. The winners – 12  Years A Slave for Picture, American Hustle for Comedy Picture, Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Cate Blanchett, Amy Adams, Leonardo DiCaprio, director Alfonso Cuaron, Spike Jonze for his Her screenplay, and animated film Frozen – were awarded similar honors from the Hollywood Foreign Press on Sunday. The only real variation was in Supporting Actress, where Slave’s Lupita Nyong’o was the choice of the Broadcast Critics (I am a member of the group) while Jennifer Lawrence grabbed the Globe. Lawrence did win a CCMA too, though, as part of the victorious ensemble of Hustle.

Related: Critics’ Choice Movie Awards Winners

So does this mean an Oscars consensus is finally forming as awards season begins to heat up? Not really. We are still talking awards from media groups here. The real contest Critics-Choice-Movie-Awards-logo-e1379366211768starts this weekend when the first two big guild awards — SAG on Saturday and the Producers Guild on Sunday — declare their winners and the industry gets its say. These results will be significant and I am particularly looking towards the PGA (which has turned out to be a kingmaker in recent seasons, matching Oscar’s Best Picture the last six years in a row) to add some clarity to the season which at this point is wide open — although I would say, by virtue of a major Best Picture win at the Globes and CCMAs, 12 Years A Slave is having a good run this week.  And remember, for whatever reason, the Broadcast Critics Association members often seem to reflect the sentiment of Academy voters. It has a good track record predicting eventual Oscar wins.

19th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards - Press RoomBut where the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards really made its mark last night was that it came at the end of a long day where Oscar nominations were revealed. This is the second year in a row BFCA chose the same date as the Academy for a major awards season event. You might recall Ben Affleck’s “I’d like to thank the Academy…” speech last year when he won the CCMA after being snubbed by the Academy for a Best Director nomination earlier that morning.  There weren’t quite the same dramatic moments last night, but the vibe in the room was electric. A whole group of brand new Oscar nominees were in a celebratory mood, and the networking and backslapping going on was every bit as fun as the crazy atmosphere that surrounds the Globes.

Related: Bullock, Cooper Drop F-Bombs On Live Critics’ Choice Show Read More »

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Execs React To Best Picture Noms: ‘Gravity’, ‘12 Years’ ‘Captain Phillips’ Add Theaters, ‘Philomena’ Following ‘King’s Speech’ Distribution Plan

By | Thursday January 16, 2014 @ 1:26pm PST

Oscar100__130208155647Studio chairmen and their marketing and distribution executives were meeting across town today talking about their future plans for their Best Picture Oscar films. And all have the same marching orders: Get the pictures nearing the end of their runs back into the nation’s theaters ASAP. To that end, Gravity, 12 Years A Slave, and Captain Phillips are adding theaters (some more than others), and those already in their runs — August: Osage County and Philomena are all getting big adds over the next two weeks (some more than others). Not all can take advantage of the noms as some films are way past their theatrical runs, but even a film like Blue Jasmine, which bowed this past summer and is headed to DVD next Tuesday, will add a tiny number of theaters.

Related: OSCARS: Academy Chooses Strong Field, But Who Will Take The Gold?

The addition to the box office after a nom can be significant. The Artist was at $12.3M going into the nominations, and before it won its Best Picture it did another $19.5M. After the win, it made another $13M. The King’s Speech was at $58M prior to the nomination but grossed another $56M before Oscar night and another $25M after it won the big prize. The same holds true for Million Dollar Baby, which was at $8.8M when Oscar noms hit, made another $56.3M during the window between Oscar night and walked away not only with the Best Picture Oscar but tucked away another $36M at the box office afterward.

Related: OSCARS: 86th Academy Award Nominations

Alfonso-Cuaron-Sandra-Bullock-George-Clooney-Gravity-setWarner Bros’ Gravity, which is at the end of its theatrical run having been released at the beginning of October, already has grossed a whopping $675M worldwide (thanks to former exec Jeff Robinov for pushing it through) and will be in 944 theaters this weekend. Its other Oscar-nominated picture Her is holding steady as she goes. “We’re thrilled that our pictures have gotten the recognition that they have,” said Warners head of distribution Dan Fellman. “We’re pleased that Her has gotten the recognition that we think it deserves. It’s great to see the film recognized.” Fellman said that they are not changing the strategy for the Spike Jonze picture. (That’s not surprising as it was a well-though-out distribution plan; WB guys are pros.)

Related: OSCARS: Who Got Snubbed By Academy?
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OSCARS: Academy Chooses Strong Field Of Nominees, But In Super-Tight Race Who Is Going To Take The Gold?

By | Thursday January 16, 2014 @ 9:38am PST
Pete Hammond

Academy Award Nominations AnalysisJackass Presents: Bad Grandpa is an Academy Award nominee but Robert Redford and Tom Hanks aren’t. Welcome to the Oscars!

You can always count on the Academy to shake things up a bit, but other than the Best Actor logjam that resulted in the actors branch bypassing Redford and Hanks, the complete omission of Lee Daniels’ The Butler and most notably Oprah Winfrey in Supporting Actress there weren’t a whole lot of surprises on this list. Even the number of Best Picture nominees with 9 is exactly the same as the past two years and the films on the list are the ones I expected — particularly after the guilds snubbed the Coen Brothers’ once-thought-to-be-a-contender Inside Llewyn Davis (it received noms for a couple of below the line categories: Cinematography and Sound Mixing). Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks was once thought to be possible but was nearly shut out except for a music nomination. Emma Thompson was thought to be a surefire Best Actress nominee for that film but instead the Academy actors branch would not deny Meryl Streep an incredible 18th nomination for August: Osage County. She just keeps breaking her own record and no one will ever catch her. Amazing.

Related: OSCARS: Who Got Snubbed By Academy?

American HustleBut the really big story is just how wide open this race remains. American Hustle, the co-leader with 10 nominations, is a definite contender with key noms for Picture, Director David O. Russell, Screenplay and noms in all four acting categories for Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence (at 23 now the youngest ever to receive three acting nominations).  The remarkable feat of landing all four actors repeats the feat of another Russell film last year, Silver Linings Playbook, which was the first to do it since Reds in 1981.  Since the actors branch is by far the largest there could be huge support  for the film above the line, while Gravity , also with 10 nominations, has such a stronghold on technical achievements that it can also be a major player with below-the-line support in the Academy.

gravityThen there’s strength with 12 Years A Slave grabbing nine nominations but inexplicably being left out of Cinematography and Music Score (for Hans Zimmer) where it was also expected to compete. I had thought this film might lead the field, but Gravity and Hustle took the honors — and the headlines. Still Slave’s impressive nine can’t be discounted and should be enough to entice those reticent Oscar voters who have yet to watch the film (and you know who you are). Add Paramount’s duo of Nebraska and The Wolf Of Wall Street getting key picture, acting, writing and directing nods, throw in Dallas Buyers Club with its impressive six nominations, and this could turn into a very interesting, nail-biting race indeed.

Related: OSCARS: Nominations By Picture Read More »

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‘Philomena’ Box Office Surprise: Heading to $45M Worldwide; Could It Be This Year’s Oscar Sleeper?

By | Friday January 3, 2014 @ 9:47am PST

Philomena-1Philomena is heading to become one of the most successful independent films winding into awards season this year, and having compiled the box office for four weeks now, I have watched this film — based on true events and starring Judi Dench — steadily climb both domestically and internationally. Curious, I ventured out to see it last night and found a theater almost full to capacity on a Thursday night (the only seats left were a smattering of neck-benders in the front). After the picture ended, the audience erupted into applause. Strong, positive word-of-mouth is why. It was, simply put, a sweet surprise.

Related: ‘Philomena’ Puts Judi Dench Back In Thick Of Oscar Race

Weinstein-Co-Logo-260x152“Our exit polls were as high as anything we’ve had, including The Artist and The King’s Speech,” said Erik Lomis, president of distribution and home entertainment for The Weinstein Company. Exit polls are showing a very high 85% definite recommend, with 95% ranking it “excellent” or “very good,” and its CinemaScore is an A. After seeing the film, that is not a surprise. But its box office numbers might open readers’ eyes a bit:

Related: Specialty Box Office: ‘Philomena’ Debuts Strong
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No Giant Surprises On All-Important PGA Best Picture List But Will Oscar Fall In Line?

Pete Hammond

There may be a couple of eye-openers about individual producers who didn’t get nominated (sorry Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio – see below) but there were no huge surprises, and no slam dunk front runner either, from the Producers Guild Of America‘s list of tenGravity-c films competing for their Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures (now in its 25th year) with expected bids going to a lot of titles that have been showing up on other lists including American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Saving Mr. Banks, 12 Years A Slave and Wolf Of Wall Street.  The list is rounded out by a couple of smaller films, Focus Features’  micro-budgeted, long gestating Dallas Buyers Club and Sony Pictures Classics’ Blue Jasmine from Woody Allen.

Cate-Blanchett-Blue-Jasmine-VideoThe latter is considered an awards front runner for Cate Blanchett’s lead performance this year but was thought to be possibly a longer shot for Picture. This helps its Oscar chances big time since PGA is likely representing industry sentiments and has a large crossover with Academy voters. And even though they are from major studios both Her and Nebraska are also smaller films that resonated with the PGA membership which in the past has often tended to throw bones to some bigger- budgeted contenders such as the James Bond juggernaut, Skyfall last year. Not so this year. But despite a lack of huge blockbuster-type films (save Gravity maybe) it was a … Read More »

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Black List 2013: Full Screenplay List

By | Monday December 16, 2013 @ 6:40pm PST

The Blacklist logo (screenplay)UPDATED WITH VOTES, LOGLINES & REPS: The annual Black List today revealed the best unproduced screenplays of the year, as voted on by over 250 film execs. A total of 72 scripts made the cut in the 2013 edition of the yearly ranking compiled since 2004 by Franklin Leonard, with Andrew Sodroski’s Holland, Michigan receiving the most votes of all. As usual there are plenty of familiar names on this list, including Jason Fuchs for his Pan screenplay that’s set up at Warner Bros with Joe Wright aboard to direct, and Jason Dean Hall’s American Sniper, another Warners project. Black List alumni that have gone on to Oscar and box office glory include Argo, The King’s Speech, and Slumdog Millionaire. This year 33.3 percent of Black List entries have financiers attached; 68 percent have producers attached; and 5 writers or writing teams don’t have agents. Here is the list by votes, with votes by agency here and manager reps here. More complete info as it comes:

Related:
Black List 2013: Agency Scorecard
Black List 2013: Managers Scorecard

2013 Black List Screenplays

46
HOLLAND, MICHIGAN
Andrew Sodroski
When a traditional Midwestern woman suspects her husband of infidelity, an amateur investigation unravels.
Agency: CAA
Agents: Jon Cassir, John Garvey, Ali Trustman
Management: Principato-Young Entertainment
Manager: Peter Dealbert
Production: Le Grisbi Productions

44
SECTION 6
Aaron Berg
An exploration of the formation of Great Britian’s secret intelligence agency, Military Intelligence, Section 6, known as MI6.
Agency: Verve
Agents: Bryan Besser, Adam Levine
Management: Caliber Media
Manager: Adam Marshall
Financier: Universal
Producers: Grey Matter Productions, Marc Platt Productions

39
FRISCO
Simon Stephenson
A forty-something pediatric allergist, who specializes in hazelnut and is facing a divorce, learns lessons in living from a wise-beyond-her-years terminally ill 15-year-old patient when she crashes his weekend trip to a conference in San Francisco.
Agency: UTA
Agents: Peter Dodd, Geoff Morley, Julien Thuan
Producer: Tom McNulty

27
A MONSTER CALLS
Patrick Ness
An adolescent boy with a terminally ill single mother begins having visions of a tree monster, who tells him the truths about life in the form of three stories, helping him to eventually cope with his emotions over his dying mom.
Agency: Michelle Kass Associates
Agents: Michelle Kass

25
THE SPECIAL PROGRAM
Debora Cahn
The true story of Jack Goldsmith, a young attorney who took charge of the White House’s Office of Legal Counsel, then courageously took on Vice President Cheney and his powerful inner circle when he discovered they were running a number of illegal activities through their so-called “Special Program”.
Agency: CAA
Agent: Craig Brody
Financier: The Weinstein Company
Producer: Spring Creek

24
HOT SUMMER NIGHTS
Elijah Bynum
A teenager’s life spirals out of control when he befriends the town’s rebel, falls in love, and gets entangled in selling drugs over one summer in Cape Cod.
Agency: Verve
Agents: Zach Carlisle, Tanya Cohen, Aaron Hart, Adam Levine, Melissa Solomon
Management: Kaplan/Perrone
Managers: Josh Goldenberg, Alex Lerner, Sean Perrone

SOVEREIGN
Geoff Tock, Greg Weidman
A man goes to space to destroy the ship that, upon going sentient, killed his wife.
Agency: WME
Agents: Daniel Cohan, Solco Schuit
Management: Fourth Floor Productions
Managers: Chris Goble, Jeff Silver
Production: 21 Laps Entertainment

22
SHOVEL BUDDIES
Jason Mark Hellerman
Over 24 hours, four teenage friends try to complete the “Shovel List” (a will/bucket list) left for them by their best friend before he died of Leukemia.
Agency: CAA
Agents: John Garvey, Ali Trustman
Management: Management 360
Managers: Ali Itri, Dean Schnider

20
POX AMERICANA
Frank John Hughes
In the Old West, a group of soldiers go on a mission to slaughter a peaceful tribe in retaliation for another tribe’s attack on a white settlement, only to suffer at the hands of a devastating disease.
Agency: UTA
Agents: Peter Dodd, Charles Ferraro
Financier: Code Entertainment
Producer: Code Entertainment

REMINISCENCE
Lisa Joy Nolan
An “archeologist” whose technology allows you to relive your past finds himself abusing his own science to find the missing love of his life.
Agency: UTA
Agents: Kassie Evashevski, Keya Khayatian, Julien Thuan
Financier: Legendary Entertainment

THE INDEPENDENT
Evan Parter
With America’s first viable independent Presidential Candidate poised for victory, an idealistic young journalist uncovers a conspiracy, which places the fate of the election, and the country, in his hands.
Agency: Paradigm
Agent: Ida Ziniti
Management: Madhouse Entertainment
Manager: Ryan Cunningham Read More »

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