Noticing a significant trend that defines a large part of this awards season and movie-going year, the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) announced Tuesday that they have partnered with L.A.’s House Of Blues to produce an evening devoted to …
Nominations for Film Independent’s Spirit Awards were announced earlier today. As usual the Spirits were among the first groups to jump into the awards season fray, but also, other than the Oscars, the last to name winners (the ceremony is Saturday March 1, day before the Academy Awards). That means there can be a big momentum shift between now and then when the envelopes are opened. But it does give a boost to certain films that qualify as “indies” under their rules (generally a budget under or around $20 million) as they build toward Oscar nominations. Although the Spirits preclude many Oscar frontrunners such as Gravity, Captain Phillips, American Hustle, Saving Mr. Banks, Philomena, August: Osage County, The Wolf Of Wall Street, Prisoners and Lee Daniels’ The Butler to name a few they can provide some comfort for those crossover films whose smaller budgets make them eligible for both including newly-minted Best Film nominees All Is Lost, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska and 12 Years A Slave which led all comers with 7 nods. Nebraska was a strong runner-up with 6 and would have tied, but inexplicably Phedon Papamichael’s exquisite black and white scope cinematography was somehow overlooked for the likes of Spring Breakers and Computer Chess. What’s up with that, indie people?
Nevertheless Oscar’s Best Picture list could include several of the Spirit choices and the same goes for the lead acting categories where Bruce Dern, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Oscar Isaac, Robert Redford, Matthew McConaughey (a winner last year at the Spirits) and Michael B. Jordan all have reasonable chances to make the corresponding Oscar lineup as well as Blue Jasmine’s Cate Blanchett who likely will have a very good early March weekend at both the Spirits and the Oscars for lead actress.
The Contenders 2013: ‘Prisoners’ Screenwriter Asks “How Did I Become So Warped To Give Birth To This Story?” (Video)
With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, it may also be time to reflect on what is easily one of the most harrowing movies of the year, Prisoners. The film, which starts out at a Thanksgiving day celebration that turns …
Another piece of the Oscar-season puzzle was unveiled Sunday night when Sony held the first major screening of David O. Russell‘s American Hustle at the Cary Grant Theatre on the Culver City lot. The packed crowd was largely made up of SAG and a few Academy members, plus select press. Since this and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street (which begins screening at the end of the month) have been the two remaining question marks before we have a clear view of the complete competitive landscape, the unveiling of this one was hotly anticipated. It was definitely the place to be. In fact, one New York-based consultant working on the film flew in Sunday afternoon specifically for the screening and flew back on the red-eye immediately afterwards.
If rivals were hoping it would be a bust, or at the very least a disappointment, I hate to bring them the bad news. Although formal reviews are verboten until early next month, I can say that from my vantage point, Russell — whose last two films Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and The Fighter (2010) were nominated for Best Picture and Director, as well as taking some acting Oscars — has another winner with a film that will have strong appeal particularly in the actors branch and at SAG. I also think, even in this fiercely contested year, Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Editing and Costume nods could be in the cards along with any number of possibilities for its superb ensemble including lead actor Christian Bale, lead actress Amy Adams, supporting actors Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner, and supporting actress Jennifer Lawrence. Especially Lawrence; she is simply dazzling as Bale’s wife, a total knockout scene-stealer throughout. If she hadn’t already won last year as Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook, there is no doubt she might be unbeatable here. At 23 years old and the star of this weekend’s all-time November record breaker, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, she may well become the frontrunner anyway to take back-to-back Academy Awards after this performance is seen. It’s prime Oscar bait. The actors, including voters I spoke to afterward, were clearly blown away. In fact the entire cast — which also includes a terrific unbilled one-scene cameo from Robert De Niro, who was nominated last year for Silver Linings — will certainly figure heavily for the SAG Outstanding Cast of a Motion Picture award. One person connected to the film to whom I spoke said early reaction had been on the mixed side, but I couldn’t detect that at this screening. It was all upbeat. Time will tell.
Since graduating from Juilliard in 2005, Guatamalan-born and Miami-bred Oscar Isaac has been on a steady rise. With noticeable roles in films such as Robin Hood, Drive and The Bourne Legacy, Isaac has been proving his worth as a film actor with something extra. That “something extra” has been fully realized with his breakthrough role as the title character in Joel and Ethan Coen’s tale of a struggling folk singer in the early 1960s, Inside Llewyn Davis. Since winning the Grand Prize at Cannes in May, the film has been building a high profile this season and promises to put Isaac, who does all of his own singing, right in the heart of the race.
AwardsLine: Recount how you got this role, because the audition process was drawn out for the film. The Coen brothers thought the movie wouldn’t get made if they didn’t find the right actor.
Oscar Isaac: I heard about the audition process early on, and I was like, “I have got to get into this thing because I love the Coen brothers, I play music and I can sing.” I went in (to the audition) knowing that it was loosely based on (folk musician) Dave Van Ronk’s memoirs, and I knew he was this huge 6-foot-5, 200-pound Swede. I knew (I would be) a stretch, if they were trying to do a biopic. So I came in and I had a beard and I saw a photograph of this well-known musician—dark hair, dark beard. Suddenly, I calmed down and said, “So is this a reference shot? You guys are looking for people like that?” (Someone in casting) says, “Oh, no. He came in; he killed it.” It was like all the blood being drained out of my veins. They had been looking at a lot of really great musicians for the part because they wanted to have full songs performed live in the film, which is very unusual. I learned three songs and did the audition, and about a week later, they called me in to meet with the Coens. They’re the best to audition for. They are incredibly generous, and they’re quick to laugh, even just in conversation. So it was impossible to tell how it went because, apparently, they’re like that for everybody. A month went by, and I was just begging the universe to give me this one shot. Then I got a call (from) Joel. I remember him talking for a while before saying it, but then he finally said, “We’d love for you to do (the film), if you’d want to be a part of it.” I couldn’t believe it.
Although the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is constantly reviewing their rules and regulations, the changes are usually minor. But this year one major change regarding the foreign-language category could cause a few tremors in that race: For the first time, the entire Academy will vote on the winner.
The nominating process to select five foreign-language contenders from the 70-some entries from individual countries remains the same. But in the past, only members who had proven they had seen all five nominees in a theater were able to vote. Now everyone gets to vote without proving they’ve seen the films, just like the rest of the major categories.
But will this change the dynamics of the race, perhaps favoring higher-profile titles? Last year, Austria’s acclaimed Amour won the foreign-language Oscar the old-fashioned way. Had the new rules been in effect, it almost certainly would have won anyway because it was the rare foreign-language entry that also received a best picture nomination. Would lesser-known winners such as Argentina’s The Secret In Their Eyes (2009) or Japan’s Departures (2008) have reigned in an unsupervised Academy-wide vote against better-known nominees?
A recent, and unsolicited, email from a producer friend of mine demonstrates what a lot of people are saying about this year’s best picture race: “Now this is a year for film! Tremendous. Going to be a fun one, my friend.” It is going to be a fun one. Nearly every Academy member to whom I have spoken seems excited about the level of quality in this year’s race, which is a strong indication that this could be the first year 10 films are nominated since the rules changed to allow a variable number. Just consider what’s already out there in theaters or on Blu-Ray: 12 Years A Slave, Gravity, Captain Phillips, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Dallas Buyers Club, Blue Jasmine, All Is Lost, Fruitvale Station, Prisoners, Rush, Blue Is The Warmest Color, Before Midnight, Mud and The Place Beyond The Pines.
The fact is, this is a year in which there could be room for 20 films. Consider those yet to open or just opening: Philomena, Saving Mr. Banks, Nebraska, Inside Llewyn Davis, August: Osage County, The Book Thief, Her, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, Lone Survivor, Labor Day and The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty. All of those films have played the fest circuit, and most pundits—including this one—already have seen them and can say definitively that it’s a formidable list. Of those yet to be seen by just about anyone outside of rarefied circles are The Wolf Of Wall Street and American Hustle, both December releases expected to be major players in several races.
With this kind of lineup, it is no wonder some movies once thought to have awards aspiration—such as Foxcatcher, Grace Of Monaco, The Immigrant and George Clooney’s The Monuments Men—have all opted out. And why not?
OSCARS: ‘Despicable Me 2′s Pharrell Williams Aims For Best Song Spot With “World’s First” 24-Hour Music Video
Well here is an idea that could be very intimidating for other tunes trying to get a foothold in the Oscar race for Best Song this year. Pharrell Williams, who has been on the circuit performing his Academy Award contending song “Happy” from Despicable Me 2, has created what is being billed at the world’s first 24-hour music video to showcase it. Shot over 11 days in L.A entirely on Stedicam (the camera crew estimates they walked over 8 miles each day) more than 400 extras appear in it, including several celebrities and the film’s stars Steve Carell and Miranda Cosgrove. All of them hand off to one another as the song continues in a loop. Williams appears in the video 24 times, at the top of every hour, and then followed by 14 additional performances in the same hour. Here’s a sample:
The emphasis on the song is a big part of Universal’s awards campaign for the movie which at over $900 million worldwide is the biggest grossing hit in the studio’s history.
Listen to (and share) episode 51 of our audio podcast “Deadline Awards Watch with Pete Hammond.”
Deadline’s awards columnist talks with host David Bloom about more highlights from Deadline’s recent The Contenders event, including Meryl Streep‘s all-business approach behind her sterling performance in August: Osage County; how screenwriter Kelly Marcel had to make the irascible author of Mary Poppins just a wee bit more cuddly to help save Saving Mr. Banks; and behind the scenes with the tech and design gurus who helped make Spike Jonze’s latest, Her, another unique cinematic experience.
We also talk about the looming voting deadline for the shortlist of Oscar documentary features, a publicists’ pre-Oscar frenzy at the glitzy and star-filled Academy Governors Awards and how recent festival fever among the major studios might help their entries scoop up more Oscar gold.
With the long Thanksgiving weekend just ahead, however, several other substantial entries will open in U.S. theaters this weekend, including Disney’s animated tale Frozen, which also features a marvelous Mickey Mouse short, Get A Horse, that Pete picks as a can’t-miss for the animated short Oscar; the big festival favorite Philomena, with Judi Dench and do-everything sidekick Steve Coogan; and the somewhat serious comedy remake Delivery Man, with Vince Vaughn in perhaps his most well-rounded performance ever.
The Contenders 2013: ‘August: Osage County’s John Wells On Directing Meryl Streep: “She Came To Play” (Video)
As one of television’s most prolific and successful writer/producers, John Wells has known great success with Emmy-winning series like E.R. and The West Wing and currently Showtime’s Shameless, but after getting his feet wet directing movies with The Company Men …
There are officially 151 films vying for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar this year. For that huge number of entries, a deadline looms this Friday: That is the last day of voting by the Academy’s docu branch for the lucky 15 that will make the shortlist of finalists, which will be announced in early December. That list will then be whittled to the five nominees. But for many docu filmmakers, just receiving early shortlist recognition would be a huge boost not just to their films but could do even more for the movies’ real-life subjects.
The steady, emotional journey of award-winning documentary Bridegroom continues with its availability for sale beginning today on iTunes and Amazon. But it is an Academy Award nomination — or even just making that shortlist – that filmmakers Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and husband Harry Thomason really want in order to carry their message of love and tolerance for gay couples worldwide. It demonstrates the importance of Oscar for many filmmakers who recognize its worth as a worldwide symbol. “We’ve done the research, and that would be so huge in getting it overseas,” said the film’s writer-director-producer Bloodworth-Thomason, a multiple Emmy nominee who created Designing Women. “Our goal now is to get it into as many countries we can. Even if it is underground, I want to get the film into places like Russia and the Middle East. I think we do have Oscar buzz. We are getting on these lists, but not ever having had it before, I am not sure I recognize it.”
Captain Phillips newcomer and Oscar-buzzed Barkhad Abdi, who plays the lead Somalian pirate in the film, told me he thought the Governors Awards meant prizes actually handed out by the Governor and he seemed a bit overwhelmed by the whole occasion. Of course these honorary awards bestowed on Saturday night at the Hollywood & Highland Grand Ballroom are not presented by Jerry Brown, but rather voted on by the Board of Governors of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. And in addition to the formal duty of putting a shiny new Oscar statuette in the hands of Jean Hersholt Humanitarian winner Angelina Jolie, Steve Martin, Angela Lansbury and Claudia Cardinale (standing in for absent Costume Designer Piero Tosi who couldn’t make the trip from Italy), this signature awards season event now in its fifth year also has become the official “must schmooze” event of the entire six month awards corridor, a place where Oscar nominee hopefuls can jump from table to table full of Academy members. As presenter Martin Short put it, “the Governors Awards are the highest honor an actor can receive in mid-November.” And there can be no question the timing of the event is extremely important for those out on the campaign trail.
But ultimately this event is about honoring those the Academy feels are worthy of career recognition, generally a lifetime achievement award. Cheryl Boone Isaacs, new president of the Academy, welcomed each of the honorees and noted the importance of the honor. “Congratulations to all of you. Your work on screen and off captivates and invigorates society. You challenge us to see each other and the world in different ways. We are all richer for your brilliance,” she said before breaking for dinner.
Once the 90-minute show began, Jolie’s In The Land Of Blood And Honey cast, actress Gena Rowlands, and George Lucas presented Jolie, the youngest winner of the Hersholt award, with her Oscar. A detailed film package clearly explained why this tireless global humanitarian is getting the award but she seemed overcome by it, saluting her late mother for the inspiration (father Jon Voight was in the audience).
The major studios have finally caught on to what the indies have known for years: There’s a definite trend brewing between success on the film-festival circuit and winning at the Oscars. In fact, the past seven Best Picture victories were born somewhere on the fest circuit — a place where buzz, particularly online, is becoming too loud to ignore. Since No Country For Old Men, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007, every Best Picture winner has debuted at fests: Slumdog Millionaire (Telluride Film Festival, 2008), The Hurt Locker (Venice Film Festival, 2008), The King’s Speech (Telluride, 2010), The Artist (Cannes, 2011) and Argo (Toronto International Film Festival, 2012).
What really stands out is that the only film on that list that came from a major studio is Warner Bros’ Argo. That’s because early in this century, Hollywood was playing by the old rules, opening movies in the fall or Christmas, ignoring film festivals and still winning Best Picture statuettes at the Academy Awards. Between 2000 and 2006, only one Best Picture winner— 2005’s Toronto pickup Crash — had even played a festival. Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Chicago, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Million Dollar Baby and The Departed all used a different path to gold.
But things changed last year with Argo, whose festival debut created buzz that carried the story about the rescue of six diplomats amid the Iran hostage crisis all the way to an Oscar. Prior to that, Warner Bros had achieved its most recent Oscar success with off-the-circuit Best Picture winners like The Departed and Million Dollar Baby. The Argo strategy allowed the studio — which was dying to stop Harvey Weinstein from grabbing a third Best Picture trophy in a row — to grow the buzz from two important fall fests and build Argo as a legitimate contender.
The race for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars this year is shaping up to be another impossibly competitive contest. Jared Leto, Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Steve Coogan, Harrison Ford, Geoffrey Rush, Daniel Bruhl, Chris Cooper, Bradley Cooper, Jonah Hill, Casey Affleck, George Clooney and so many others already are staking a place in this crowded field. Fox Searchlight alone has viable contenders in its fall films with 12 Years A Slave’s Michael Fassbender and Enough Said’s James Gandolfini, who could grab a rare posthumous nom for one of his final film performances.
But Searchlight also has another contender who might be forgotten since his film came out way way back in June. Right. June. Can we remember back that far? When The Way Way Back was winning acclaim at the beginning of summer, the one name pundits found to ignite a nascent Oscar supporting contest was the wryly funny, smart and memorable turn from the criminally never-nominated Sam Rockwell as Owen, the wisecracking manager of Water Wizz Water Park and mentor to 14-year-old Duncan (Liam James), who has one unforgettable summer working there. Rockwell, who easily could — and should — have been nominated for last year’s Seven Psychopaths or his extraordinary work in another Searchlight film, Conviction (2010), always has been good. He’s an actor’s actor who first gained major notice after more than a decade acting in TV and films by playing game show host and CIA looney Chuck Barris in Clooney’s Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind (2002). Mainstream moviegoers probably know him best as Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2, while he has also gained a cult following for 2009′s Moon, a low-budget predecessor to Gravity (a film Rockwell says he loved). But his performance in The Way Way Back (which also deserves recognition for the sharp original screenplay from writer-directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash of Oscar-winning Descendants fame) was a real standout — and that’s in a cast that includes fine work from Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Allison Janney, among others. No one pitched Sam Rockwell to me in this endless season of pitching. I sought him out to talk about it.