In this week’s podcast, Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond and host David Bloom assess the just-announced lineup for this year’s Cannes Film Festival, which competing films have serious Oscar hopes and which pics Pete can’t wait to see when he hits the Croisette for Deadline next month. Today also was the last day for would-be Emmy voters to make themselves eligible with the TV Academy, and Pete and David take a look at the Emmy campaigns that are heating up, while also grumpily acknowledging the first Oscar campaign of the 2015 season. Finally, Pete gives his take on the weekend’s notable movie debuts, including Wally Pfister’s directorial debut Transcendence, the Woody Allen-John Tuturro collaboration Fading Gigolo and faith-based hit-in-the-making Heaven Is For Real.
Cannes Film Festival: Could This Year’s Croisette Lineup Of Big Names And Academy Favorites Lead All The Way To Oscar?
So what does today’s announcement of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival lineup mean for Oscar?
Who knows except that out of competition entry How To Train Your Dragon 2 will almost certainly be nominated for Best Animated Feature. Other than that we will have to wait and see until we actually view the films in Cannes next month. But there are good omens in this lineup (which could still see one or two more titles added) if you look at the impressive group of actors represented in these films: Oscar winners Tommy Lee Jones (who directs the competition entry The Homesman), Meryl Streep, Juliette Binoche, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, and director Michel Hazanivicius are among the prominent names and past nominees like Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Jessica Chastain, Hailee Steinfeld, Berenice Bejo, Ryan Gosling (who is making his directorial debut) are also represented.
My colleague Nancy Tartaglione did a great job predicting who would make — or not make — the cut and wrote an exhaustive overview earlier. Now it’s time to look at the awards implications outside of those that will be handed out May 24th at the Palais. I look at Cannes as a soft start to Hollywood’s awards season. There’s no question of its importance as the granddaddy of all film fests and as a key worldwide launch for a movie that has got the goods, but in the end the May date scares off some distributors who, by launching their fall Oscar hopefuls on the Croisette may feel it ultimately hurts their chances — and more importantly their momentum.
That’s no doubt a key reason Warner Bros chose to hold back past Cannes competitor and favorite Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice and Fox Searchlight did the same with Alexander Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman even apart from the usual reasons that they may not “be ready.” Last year Paramount decided at the last minute to take Alexander Payne’s Nebraska to Cannes even though he initially favored more postproduction time. Payne had competed once before with About Schmidt, headed the Un Certain Regard jury, and served on the main competition jury so he was a favorite of Cannes’ chief programmer Thierry Fremaux. The film ended up winning Best Actor for Bruce Dern but after Cannes the director “tinkered” with it and made it tighter before hitting the Telluride Film Festival over Labor Day with his final cut. It went on to win six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Director and Actor after finally opening November 15 (it didn’t win any Oscars, though). It’s not the first time a filmmaker has made changes after their film was shown to the world’s press and reviewed in Cannes. The growing feeling among distributors is it is best to wait until the movie is really locked before risking exposure at this most visible of all festivals.
Are you kidding?
Did Paramount just officially start the 2014 Oscar campaign even as we are barely getting the Emmys off the ground and the Tonys are two months away? Uh, yes. Looks like it. One top studio exec (not from Paramount) forwarded me an email he got yesterday from the Paramount Awards Office that pronounced free admission starting April 15th - two by two for Academy members and a guest- to screenings of Noah at theaters nationwide – but only Monday thru Thursday since most theater owners usually don’t like to give up seats on the weekends, especially to rich and famous movie types.
Emmy season is revving up already even though the primetime awards show won’t be happening until the end of summer (Monday August 25th on NBC). But if you want to vote, the first major deadline looms tomorrow April 17, the last day to join the Academy, renew your membership or apply for hyphenate ballots in order to cast a ballot in this year’s contest. There is always a surge of interest in joining the Academy around this time of year. In fact, last season there was a substantial increase in membership, primarily in order to cast an Emmy ballot. It’s not uncommon to see applications coming in bulk from staffs of shows that want those nominations, but unless these hopefuls apply by Thursday they will have to wait until next year.
In addition to the deadline, the Television Academy (as it now calls itself – and full disclosure I am on the Board Of Governors representing Writers) just sent out a formal letter this week to the eligible membership (now well over 16,000 and climbing) regarding instructions for online voting, which is being instituted for the first time this season.
“You need to show more re-releases. You need to show the great old movies in your theatres,” director Christopher Nolan told exhibitors at their CinemaCon convention a couple of weeks ago, but sadly no one in that crowd applauded the sentiment. I thought of that as I attended last night’s kickoff of TCM’s 5th Annual Classic Film Festival, a nirvana for movie lovers. At least this is still a place you can see “great old movies” in theatres and in pristine condition. And people from around the U.S., and even the world travel to Hollywood for the opportunity. For that Nolan should at least be thankful.
This edition got underway Thursday night with the World Premiere of a stunning TODD AO restoration of the 1955 musical Oklahoma. Star Shirley Jones joined TCM host Robert Osborne (a “rock star” to the TCM crowd that comes from everywhere for this four-day smorgasboard of movies) for a pre-screening Q&A at the newly renovated TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX. It was the first film for the Oscar-winning star who just turned 80 last week. It’s probably safe to say the movie didn’t even look this good when it originally premiered almost 60 years ago thanks to 20th Century Fox’s 8-month effort (led by restorer Schawn Belston) to bring it back to life in the same 30 frame per second TODD AO format in which it was made. Fox is releasing this film and several other Rodgers And Hammerstein musicals in a Blu-ray box set later this Spring. The TODD AO process was sort of an answer to the 3D craze of the 50′s and in this incarnation it actually feels at times like you are watching some scenes (like a runaway horse sequence) in 3D without glasses.
With the openings of Draft Day and Joe this weekend we suddenly re-discover two Oscar winners from the ’90s who have found their groove again after years of cinematic disappointments. I can’t remember the last time either Kevin Costner and especially Nicolas Cage delivered performances worthy of their prime as Costner does in Summit’s Draft Day and Cage does in Roadside Attractions’ Joe. Both come from companies associated with Lionsgate and hopefully both will find some sort of audience this weekend as they reaffirm the power of great actors in the right role.
Costner, who won Oscars for directing and producing Dances With Wolves in 1990, is right in his wheelhouse playing the general manager who has the opportunity to turn a hapless Cleveland Browns football team around with a No. 1 draft pick of a hot Heisman Trophy winner. It’s reminiscent not only of Moneyball but more importantly, of the kind of sports-oriented movies like Bull Durham and Field Of Dreams that made him a star in the first place. And Cage, is playing a combustible ex-con who becomes a surrogate father figure to a troubled teen (Tye Sheridan) in the Southern-set drama Joe. Cage turns down his usual volume of late to deliver a performance of power and poignancy in a film that has much in common with last April’s surprise indie hit Mud (also from Roadside and also co-starring Sheridan) but even more akin to the 1953 George Stevens classic Shane. It is perhaps his best screen acting since winning the Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas almost 20 years ago. And from what I can tell, both these stars clearly know they have again hit their mark.
In this week’s podcast, Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond and host David Bloom talk about the highlights in this year’s TCM Classic Film Fest, which opens tonight with a beautifully restored version of the 1955 musical Oklahoma, among many other treasures. David and Pete also mark the passing of Mickey Rooney, whose film career spanned nearly nine decades before his death this week.
Pete also gives his take on the weekend’s notable movie debuts, led by two films featuring the strongest performances in years from Oscar winners Kevin Costner (in Draft Day) and Nicolas Cage (in Joe). Pete and David also talk about the weekend’s likely box-office champ, the animated sequel Rio 2, and a thoughtful revenge drama, The Railway Man featuring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman.
Appreciation: Mickey Rooney Did It All So Well, And Did It Longer Than Anyone In The History Of Show Business
It’s almost impossible to believe Mickey Rooney is gone.
Even at 93 he was everywhere. A Hollywood fixture, as well as a legend. We last saw photos of him sharing laughs with Bruce Dern and Martin Landau at the Vanity Fair party following the Oscars just last month. In fact I often saw him around during Oscar season at many different events including Disney’s memorable Mary Poppins sing-a-long event in December with Richard Sherman at the Beverly Hills Hotel Polo Lounge in honor of their film, Saving Mr. Banks. He was one of the oldest active Academy members. And he was still working. With a film career that started in 1926 and going right through to the currently filming Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, his span in front of movie cameras went 87 years — the longest active career of anyone in motion picture history. And every time I saw him it was almost as if he never stopped being Andy Hardy or any number of those characters he played in films so long ago opposite Judy Garland, Elizabeth Taylor, Lana Turner, Lassie and others. He started young at age 17 months in his parents’ vaudeville act, and he never lost that youthful kick in his step.
Related: R.I.P. Mickey Rooney
What Rooney, who died Sunday at the age of 93, accomplished simply won’t be repeated. In 1939, the year of Gone With The Wind and The Wizard Of Oz among others, he was the No. 1 box office draw in the world. He was on the cover of Time magazine at age 20. He may have been short in stature but he was bigger than anyone including that other famous Mickey – Mouse. That same year he shared a juvenile Oscar (a miniature one) with Deanna Durbin for their “contribution in bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth, and as juvenile players setting a high standard of ability and achievement.” Durbin had just passed Shirley Temple as a box office draw. She died last year and we also lost Temple earlier this year. Now with Rooney, an era has truly gone with that wind.
‘Mad Men’s’ Season 7 Big Hollywood Premiere Buzz: How Does It All End? Why Can’t The Cast Win At Emmys? And Why Does Matt Weiner Welcome HBO’s ‘True Detective’ To Drama Series Race?
AMC threw a Hollywood premiere Wednesday night to kick off what was termed “the beginning of the end.” AMC president Charlie Collier, Mad Men creator Matt Weiner and cast and crew were at the Arclight Theatre for the “Time Zones” episode that begins the first half of Season 7 premiering April 13th. The season marks the final go-round of the landmark four-time Emmy-winning Best Drama Series. The protracted goodbye will be split between seven episodes this spring and the final final episodes in spring 2015.
It was all very bittersweet last night as production actually was just beginning on those even as the premiere was kicking off. In fact, executive producer Scott Hornbacher, who directed the “Time Zones” episode, was late to this party as he is also directing the first of those backend episodes. He told me later at the Chateau Marmont afterparty that it’s going to be tough to end it, pointing to several people in the room he described as “family,” people he saw every day. That was the general consensus I got from so many cast members and AMC execs who have been with this since Day 1. One exec told me he was 24 when he first saw the pilot script. He’s 35 now. Life goes on. And so does Mad Men – at least to the conclusion for this iconic group of characters. CAA’s Bryan Lourd was seated next to me (he reps Weiner) and told me he wouldn’t have missed this event — even though CAA is having its retreat this weekend at La Costa near San Diego and he had to postpone a run-thru there to 11 PM so he could make it down the 405 freeway after the screening.
Academy members will get the chance this weekend to see Noah and The Grand Budapest Hotel when their official Academy screening program finally resumes after a break for Oscar. But while the Samuel Goldwyn Theater at the Academy’s Beverly Hills headquarters is undergoing major renovations, the screenings have moved to Hollywood at the Acad’s much smaller Linwood Dunn Theater at its Pickford Center For Motion Picture Study on Vine Street. That’s a loss of about 700 seats, so it could get dicey, especially since no extra screenings are added and RSVPs aren’t taken. For a lot of films the Academy screens, 300 seats is just fine, but these fall squarely in the hotter want-to-see category, and it’s still first-come-first-served, just as it is at the Wilshire Boulevard location. Could get nasty for members wanting a free screening. Better get there early, folks.
Of course this is not exactly crunch time for serious 2014 Oscar contenders, so distributors need not worry too much about disgruntled voters getting turned away from their hot-button potential nominees. But recently I got an email from a veteran Oscar campaign consultant who asked the simple question, “Is NOAH a contender?” And it got me wondering if not only director Darren Aronofsky’s towering epic, which screens Sunday at 3 PM, but also Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, which runs Saturday at 7:30 PM both might actually have a decent shot at racking up numerous nominations, including Best Picture, despite their first quarter release dates (Noah opened March 28 and Budapest has been playing since March 7th). Both are doing extremely well at the box office and riding high with critics too (Noah is 77% fresh and Budapest is 91% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes) and have the kind of first-rate production values to which Oscar voters usually pay serious attention.
In this week’s podcast, Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond returns to the mike after a post-Oscar break to talk with host David Bloom about the just-ended CinemaCon gathering in Las Vegas. While all the studios used the confab to tout their hottest upcoming projects to theater operators, the longtime head of the National Association of Theater Owners touched off controversy with head-scratching comments about not watching Best Picture Oscar winner 12 Years A Slave on the big screen. Pete and David also discuss whether, in the wake of Josh Charles’ abrupt departure from The Good Wife, having your character killed off a hit TV show can be a shortcut to the Emmy red carpet. Finally, Pete gives his take on the weekend’s notable movie debuts, led by Darren Aronofsky’s audacious take on the Genesis story Noah.
CinemaCon: Warner Bros Brings Out Heavy Star Power To Court Theater Owners – Eastwood, Depp, Freeman, Sandler, Tatum Hit Vegas
If CinemaCon delegates were waiting for a busload of movie stars to show up at the convention, Warner Bros granted their wish this afternoon delivering, by far, more star power to the stage of the Caesars Palace Colosseum Theatre than the other studios combined. Clint Eastwood, Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Melissa McCarthy , Morgan Freeman, Johnny Depp, Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis were among the names who were trotted out by the studio to the delight of theater owners in the audience. But sometimes it gets awkward up there. Tatum and Kunis just read their lines off a teleprompter, and Depp couldn’t seem to figure out if he had any. Usually at these things he just walks across the stage and waves. Sandler actually was quite funny, bantering with a very pregnant Barrymore, who was still in tears she said over the preceding clip from Godzilla. Eastwood managed a standing ovation and, in talking about the very high-decibel sound levels of the film clips, charmed his way through a brief introduction to footage from his forthcoming musical Jersey Boys.
The heavy star presence distinguished Warners’ turn in the spotlight, the last of the major studios to come to bat, in a presentation that was otherwise very corporate in its approach. Warners had much to crow about and clearly knew it after coming off a record $5.03 billion year, 10 Oscars and a personal-best 21 nominations. It also had a 2013 summer that produced another record: All seven releases earned more than $100 million each. And Warners touted early results in 2014 as being just as promising, with The Lego Movie earning $400 million worldwide so far and the sequel 300: Rise Of An Empire already up to a symmetrically perfect $300 million. Whether the studio can continue on this kind of roll is anyone’s guess as it has a year ahead that’s almost totally lacking in bread-and-butter sequels.
With a chorus line of 40 Samba-dancing Vegas showgirls parading through the audience to the stage for a performance of a song from the upcoming Rio 2 (4/11), 20th Century Fox got its CinemaCon presentation off in style. And the studio earned high marks for attempting to put a little showmanship that has been missing from some other presentations this week. Hey this is Vegas. Let’s liven it up, folks. And Fox did.
This is not to say the rest of their “show” was not all about showing off footage from their 2014 slate. It was, but clearly they put a lot of work into impressing these theatre owners who responded strongly to what Fox was offering. Distribution President Chris Aronson appeared with a feather headdress on (he looked pretty hot) but quickly took it off for a more corporate look as he welcomed the crowd and got things rolling including those previously reported remarks regarding NATO ‘s John Fithian and 12 Years A Slave. He pointed out that the studio’s total worldwide boxoffice was $3.39 billion, the fifth consecutive year they have exceeded the $3 billion mark. He then introduced 20th’s Chairman Jim Gianopulos who expertly hosted the event as he does each year, actually managing to sound like he’s not reading stuff off a prompter – an art both he and Disney’s M.C. Alan Horn have mastered. He launched right into it by announcing “we are starting summer in April this year” and bringing on Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann to introduce clips of their comedy The Other Woman. Then it was time for the “tentpoles” as he intro’d a clip package featuring the opening scene and trailer from X Men: Days Of Future Past (5/23), extended footage from How To Train Your Dragon 2 (6/13) from their partnership with DreamWorks Animation and a harrowing scene from Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (7/11) , the latter really whetting the exhibitors appetite. Let’s just say it involves a couple of drunk guys, a playful-seeming ape and an Uzi. Wow. Even Shailene Woodley, star of 20th’s June 6th romantic drama The Fault In Our Stars, said she was still shaking from the Apes footage when Gianopulos brought her on.
On Tuesday during his annual address to delegates at CinemaCon, National Association Of Theatre Owners president John Fithian caused a stir with a real head-scratcher that has kept resonating among theater owners and some studio executives when he stated he waited to watch this year’s Oscar-winning Best Picture 12 Years A Slave at home, rather than at a cinema, because it was too “unequivocally intense.” For the head of an organization that is meant to promote movie-watching in theaters, singling out the Academy’s choice for Best Picture (with that Oscar distinction traditionally a real magnet to bring customers into theaters) was an eye-opener, and execs at 20th Century Fox to whom I have spoken were furious with the NATO chief for even suggesting, however personal, that the preferred way to see the widely acclaimed Fox Searchlight release was to wait and see it at home. This morning, near the beginning of their studio presentation at Caesars Palace’s Colisseum theatre, Fox shot back. ”All of (our) films are meant to be seen in the best possible venue, the cinema, your cinemas and that includes movies that win the Oscar for Best Picture like 12 Years A Slave,” said 20th Century Fox distribution president Chris Aronson in his opening remarks this morning that contained that not-so-veiled reference and response to Fithian’s comments.
Of course it is no secret that many Academy members were, like Fithian, reluctant to watch the intense film, either in a theater or at home on their screener. That’s one of the reasons Fox Searchlight launched their second-phase “It’s Time” campaign in order to encourage them to view the film that would eventually take the top prize for the studio. But coming from the head of NATO, these remarks really stung, especially since he so publicly supports strict windows between the theatrical release of a movie and when it can be consumed at home. One Fox exec to whom I spoke was, in a word, livid when he heard Fithian’s remarks. Another major theatre chain head who played several runs of 12 Years A Slave and still has it in some theaters (even though it first opened in October) was equally outraged by the suggestion that the film is too intense for their screens. Another said, “It’s like if you were the head of Macy’s department store and urged people to shop in their store, but to buy your underwear online.”
The 73rd Pioneer Of The Year Dinner in honor of the late Tom Sherak just may have been the most emotional and moving event the philanthropic organization has ever thrown, certainly of those I have attended in the four years they have been held during CinemaCon. As 20th Century Fox President of Distribution and President of the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation Chris Aronson said, it was also “historic” as it represented the first time the Pioneer Of The Year award was presented posthumously. That was not the plan when they selected Sherak, who passed away in January, for the honor several months ago. The dinner raised over $1M for the Pioneer Assistance Fund. Sherak’s widow Madeleine told me Wednesday evening that he was thrilled to be getting the award and was well aware of it before his passing. Still, she noted it was very bittersweet. ”When Tom died he didn’t leave anyone in charge. There isn’t a vice-president of All Things Tom. But what he did leave was a piece of him in everyone he touched. He didn’t have a number two, he had a number hundreds. We all have watched him through the years, we were mentored by him, he taught us to ‘do’,” Aronson said in opening remarks.
Although Disney devoted a good chunk of its CinemaCon presentation today to talk of Star Wars and The Avengers and clips of upcoming movies including first looks at the live-action re-telling of Cinderella and Pixar’s Inside Out, theater owners left the near three-hour session really singing the praises of one of the lesser-known films on the slate: the May 16 release Million Dollar Arm. It stars Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, who received the convention’s Excellence In Acting award from studio Chairman Alan Horn just before a full screening of the movie, which Horn told the crowd has scored higher than any movie he has ever tested at Disney, or Warner Bros before that. “And that includes the first Harry Potter, which was so highly anticipated,” he said. Judging from the reaction in the Caesars Palace Colosseum theater and comments afterward, those test scores would seem to be justified. This is the kind of increasingly rare non-animated family film that should play across the board. “It’s comical, it’s emotional, it has great music” was what one exhibitor was heard saying as he walked out. That music, by the way, is from two-time Oscar winner A.R. Rahman, who scored Slumdog Millionaire.
CinemaCon: Christopher Nolan Warns Theatre Owners: How ‘Interstellar’ Is Presented Will Be More Important Than Any Film He’s Done Before
The large graphic hovering above today’s CinemaCon luncheon filmmaker interview event said “Interstellar THE WORK OF CHRISTOPHER NOLAN“, but any theatre owner who was there anxious to get details of the blockbuster filmmaker’s latest learned very little. Nolan said he is still involved in his favorite part of the process – putting the first cut of Interstellar together – and wants to keep it all under wraps for now. He did praise star Matthew McConaughey’s work just as he did when I saw him at an event on the Paramount lot last week. Today he told the crowd he cast the brand new Oscar winner because he has a sort of “everyman” the audience could see the story through, saying he got interested in him particularly after seeing Mud. He also said his brother Jonah had actually written the initial script and that he became involved years later incorporating other ideas and elements that shaped the final screenplay. But in terms of real scoops we got none. “Really it’s about travel to other places we couldn’t reach through travel through space because the time expanse is far beyond anything we could conceive of,” was the most detailed description moderator Todd McCarthy could wrest out of him in a 50-minute interview, despite repeated tries.