Here’s a look at the latest from true independent director Henry Jaglom. The title, The M Word, refers to the change of life, but in this case it is a broad definition as the story also centers on big personnel changes at a local TV station that is …
There may be lots of speculation about the future of DreamWorks in its current incarnation at Disney as my colleague Mike Fleming wrote earlier this week, but you would never know it from last night’s rip-roaring premiere of its latest film, Need For Speed, at the Chinese Theatre. I went in expecting a poor man’s Fast & Furious and instead got a riveting and fun entertainment with lots of heart and emotion in addition to all the stunt driving. The film, which opens Friday and stars Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul as a street racer out for revenge after being framed for a death of a young street-racing rookie, has all the requisite action you would expect from this kind of movie, but there’s so much more. The fact that it marks the second feature directed by former stuntman Scott Waugh (the son of another stuntman, Fred Waugh, who passed away while his son was in preproduction) would lead one to believe it would be all pedal-to-the-metal and no soul, but that’s not the case. Waugh’s first feature behind the camera, Act Of Valor, proved he knew how to put humanity into a genre film. What he’s made here is a good old-fashioned movie that doesn’t rely on CGI, has a genuine story to tell with three-dimensional characters (in 3D, no less), and great locations.
It also presents yet another reason the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences needs to re-consider its decision not to create a 25th category for stunt work. Come on, these people deserve the recognition on a regular basis. I do understand the ticklish situation with the Actors branch, the Academy’s largest and most powerful, but this kind of work is definitely Oscar worthy. The Television Academy has a stunt peer group and recently even split comedy and drama stunt coordination into two separate Emmy categories. Veteran stuntman-director Hal Needham got an Honorary Oscar in 2012, and I suppose the Academy feels that’s enough recognition for now (Needham passed away several months after getting that Oscar). But it’s not.
After months of speculation, maneuvering, campaigning, champagning, Q&Aing and ever so much more, the 2013-14 awards season is done, done, done, and in this week’s podcast, Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond and host David Bloom wrap up the winners and notable moments from this years Academy Awards ceremony. They’ll look at which studios (hint, the initials are W and B) and stars were big winners, why 12 Years a Slave is a lot like The Godfather, and why The Hammond Rule proved so durable throughout the season.
Pete and David also review the Oscar Lite ceremony that was Saturday’s Independent Spirit Awards, with winners in nearly every award exactly tracking the Oscar wins.
OSCARS: A Selfie-Important Academy Awards Honors Our Past And Our Future And Hits Just The Right Notes
In the end the Academy Awards fell right into place with every other awards show this season. Gravity got LOTS of love but it ended with 12 Years A Slave‘s Steve McQueen making the big acceptance speech of the night for Best Picture — just like it went at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Movie Awards, BAFTA, PGA and others. It’s a weird year when a blockbuster picture like Gravity can win seven Oscars including Best Director yet lose the big one. But science fiction is not a category the Oscars have ever embraced in that way, and this year was no exception. In 1977 Star Wars also won seven Oscars yet lost in the end to Best Pic winner Annie Hall, which only picked up four awards overall much like Slave’s haul of three nods this year. The record still stands though with 1972′s Cabaret winning eight Oscars but losing ultimately to The Godfather which won only three including Best Picture.
How do you explain it? It’s called spreading the wealth but wanting to save your most important award for a movie that has real gravitas, one that breaks barriers over what the Academy has ever done before. A movie directed by a black person has never before won nor has a film that so harrowingly details one aspect of the black experience. 12 Years A Slave may have depicted the dark side of this country in a way Oscar had never before recognized, but the Academy wanted to spotlight that and reward it with its highest prize in a year of great films about the black experience. In fact the whole show was full of diversity including numerous black presenters and the Best Director award to Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron.
The robocalls and emails apparently did the trick. Academy CEO Dawn Hudson reports the 86th Oscar contest is responsible for another significant high mark in the Academy’s efforts to turn out the vote.”As we head toward Oscar Sunday, I am thrilled to report how engaged our members have been this voting season. Your efforts resulted in another record turnout. And we are so happy to see that members have embraced our online voting system, and are voting from all over the world easily and securely. Thank you for participating in this historic year – when all members were able to vote in all categories – and for honoring the brilliant artists in our community,” she wrote in an internal Friday memo. The Academy doesn’t reveal actual numbers but I was told by reliable sources that the turnout for the nominating phase was over 90%, and with a huge last-minute surge (and that effort to get members engaged in the process) the total for the final voting phase which ended last Tuesday may have exceeded that number. But what does it all mean? It’s been said before, but I will say it again, this is one of the tightest and most unpredictable Best Picture races I can remember and I am not sure what the massive turnout of the Acad’s 6028 eligible voters says other than there was obviously a lot of interest within Oscar’s ranks. I have talked to numerous members over the past few days at various Oscar-related events, and while the results vary, it is clear this has all finally turned into a real seesaw race between 12 Years A Slave and Gravity. It appears to be a divide so sharp between those two that Sony’s American Hustle has a fighting chance to be the real beneficiary in what has been widely acknowledged the past few weeks to be a three-way contest.
In this week’s podcast, Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond and host David Bloom do their annual Oscar preview ahead of the weekend’s festivities, to help you fill out that Oscar ballot with Pete’s choices and dark-horse candidates in all the major categories. David and Pete also preview Hollywood’s favorite beach party, the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday. This year, nominees for the Spirit Awards don’t feel that independent with all the familiar names also up for Sunday’s kudos. Finally, David and Pete discuss the weekend’s notable movie debuts, led by the airplane thriller Non-Stop and the very Russian war movie Stalingrad.
You have to hand it to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Just as it is in the heat of putting on a little TV awards show over at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday night, the group still found time to stage the first-ever “Oscar Concert” on Thursday night at UCLA’s Royce Hall — and turn out in force. This ambitious show, which featured suites conducted by all the nominated composers for Best Original Music Score as well as performances of the four Oscar-nominated songs, was put into the works and approved by the Board of Governors last year, according to former president Hawk Koch, one of last night’s attendees. But as Academy Music Branch governors Arthur Hamilton and Charles Fox put it, most of this was cobbled together in the six weeks since the nominees were named. All the top Academy brass were there humming along, including president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and CEO Dawn Hudson along with numerous members, particularly from the music branch.
It was quite a logistical challenge pulling the event off, which I am told by reliable sources cost in the neighborhood of half a million dollars to produce. And it may be sparking a trend: The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences plans to do its own concert at Royce Hall on May 21st featuring composers of new and classic TV scores. But I’m afraid Oscar has set this bar pretty high with a program that ranks as one of the highlights of the entire awards season, a classy event that saw tickets going to the general public for up to $100 each and discounted tickets for Academy members at $75 for orchestra seats. Box office was sweet as the place was packed.
Last chance Academy members — and you know who you are.
Voting for the 86th Annual Academy Awards closes today at 5 PM PT, but because of the Academy’s 2-year-old venture into online voting, members who opted in for that option actually have the luxury of time today getting their ballots in. Of course, if you are one of those members who chose the old-fashioned paper ballot and still haven’t voted for this year’s Oscars, you have only one alternative: It must be hand-delivered to the LA offices of PricewaterhouseCoopers at 601 S. Figueroa Street by that 5 PM cutoff.
There are no hard figures on just how many voters wait until the last day, but they are probably the same people seen dropping off their taxes at 11:59 PM on April 15th. I do know of a number of members who waited until this weekend to vote, particularly since this is the first year all 24 categories are open to everyone and the Academy sent out an elaborate 13-disc set of DVDs of Documentary Features, Foreign Language Film nominees and the Shorts. That’s a lot to get through. One consultant told me they estimate that anywhere from 5%-10% of the voters waited until the last 24 hours, even surmising that Monday may have been the single biggest day based on anecdotal evidence and past history. “Several members I spoke with thanked me for reminding them. They had forgotten believe it or not,” this person said. Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and CEO Dawn Hudson have continued to work diligently to turn out the vote. “I voted. We’ve gotten voicemails, emails etc. They are doing a terrific job of making sure everyone does it by the deadline this week and I credit Cheryl for that, ” said one member in an email to me after they finally cast their ballot Sunday.
In this week’s podcast, Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond and host David Bloom look at the impact of those all-over-the-map BAFTA Awards, which gave Gravity lots of love but handed 12 Years A Slave two important wins.
They also look at what questions are being asked by Fox Searchlight’s Oscar campaign for 12 Years, which declares that “it’s time,” and whether it may also be time for Oscar to hand a statue to Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street or to score composer Alexandre Desplat for Philomena.
OSCARS: A Look Back On The 50th Anniversary Of Sidney Poitier’s Historic Win – How Far Have We Come?
The 1963 Oscar ceremony marked a significant milestone in the history of the Academy Awards—and for African-American actors. Sidney Poitier took the best actor prize for Lilies Of The Field, an “Amen” moment, to quote the best picture nominee’s famous song, if ever there was one. Until Poitier, only Hattie McDaniel, who won best supporting actress in 1939 for Gone With The Wind, held the distinction for any African-American actor, and it would take another two decades after Poitier’s seminal win for it to happen again (when An Officer And A Gentleman’s Louis Gossett Jr. won a supporting statuette in 1982). After presenter Anne Bancroft opened the envelope and excitedly read Poitier’s name, he bounded to the stage as the orchestra played “Amen” and he famously called it, “a long journey to this moment.” Poitier said he didn’t expect to win, and many predicted Tom Jones star Albert Finney would take it. (Neither Finney nor the other nominated actors—Paul Newman (Hud), Richard Harris (This Sporting Life) and Rex Harrison (Cleopatra)—were in attendance, but that was not uncommon in Oscar’s earlier days.) After all, Tom Jones would prove to be the evening’s big winner, taking best picture and three other Oscars.
For the first time, all Oscar voters have been sent all five of the nominated Foreign Language films by the Academy, and all members are now eligible to vote without having to prove they have seen the films in a …
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. And 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.
The 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 before 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).
“You must be sick of me by now — what the hell do you want to hear me say?” Leonardo DiCaprio laughed as we began a phone conversation late last week. He was joking, but it’s not an uncommon thing to hear an actor say that after they’ve been through the promotional ringer of an exhaustive awards season. He was in New York, where he had just participated in a retrospective of his work with Martin Scorsese (he did something similar the week before at the Santa Barbara Film Festival), and would be shortly heading to London for the BAFTA awards, where he was nominated for Best Actor (he lost to 12 Years A Slave‘s Chiwetel Ejiofor). But the fact is since early December and the first screenings of The Wolf Of Wall Street DiCaprio has been very visible — much more than the norm when he’s had a new movie to promote or an Oscar campaign to deal with.
But this one, for which he has already won a Golden Globe and Critics Choice Movie Award (both in comedy) is special to him. He not only stars in Wolf but also was a producer. He has received his fourth and fifth Oscar nominations as a result for the movie that is up for five Academy Awards including Best Picture and the fiercely competitive Best Actor category. He worked for six years to figure out a way to bring to the screen Jordan Belfort’s candid autobiography of his spectacular rise and fall on Wall Street. He wouldn’t give up until Martin Scorsese said yes to directing and until he was convinced they could make the movie their way. It became controversial but it also has now become Scorsese’s most successful movie ever.
DiCaprio previously did a detailed interview with my colleague Mike Fleming for Deadline, and he’s also encountered me a lot on the trail this season. But, with just two weeks to go until the Oscars, he’s still on that trail and very pleased — particularly for Scorsese’s box office milestone. “I am incredibly proud of that. I knew this movie would have to be framed in the right context for the public because, like I’ve said before, it’s punk rock, a major Hollywood epic about hedonism and debauchery and putting this culture up on screen. So I’ve been trying to support it as much as possible, in large part because I want to make movies that take chances like this. I want studios eventually to say ‘Hey, look at what Wolf Of Wall Street was able to do’. Maybe they’ll take a chance on this kind of material in the future even if it doesn’t fit the sort of criteria studios feel is bankable. I really hope if I bring something to a studio or want to develop it in a certain way they will use this as a reference point at the very least,” he said.
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 …