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OSCARS: Moments In Oscar History–Part 1, The Producers

By | Monday February 4, 2013 @ 9:15pm PST

In honor of the 85th Academy Awards, AwardsLine is spotlighting memorable moments and winners from the last eight decades. This is Part 1: The Producers. Part 2 will be Actors & Actress; Part 3 will be The Directors.

David O. Selznick, 1940: The 12th Academy Awards took place at the Ambassador Hotel on Feb. 29, 1940, honoring a year that produced some of the most enduring films in history. Not only did David O. Selznick’s Gone With the Wind earn a recordbreaking eight statuettes—including picture, director for Victor Fleming, and actress for Vivien Leigh—but other well-known classics enjoyed nominations, including Dark Victory, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninotchka, and The Wizard of Oz. Frank Capra was both a nominee and director of the show, having sold the rights to a documentary of the proceedings to Warner Bros. Bob Hope hosted for the first time, although the Los Angeles Times eliminated some of the suspense by printing the winners in its evening edition, which attendees could read on the way to the ceremony. Robert Donat earned a best actor award for Goodbye, Mr. Chips.

“Paramount executive Y. Frank Freeman was called upon to bestow the best picture award. Since there was no longer any question as to what was going to win, Freeman kidded, ‘The only reason I was called upon … Read More »

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Mike De Luca On ‘The Social Network’ Loss

Mike Fleming

Deadline’s Mike Fleming just caught up to one of The Social Network producers, Mike De Luca, at the Vanity Fair Oscar party: ”We released the movie at the time we felt it was most appropriate, and it performed beyond out expectations. Maybe it wasn’t pleasing as The King’s Speech to Oscar voters. And historically there is a disconnect between the critics and those voters. But the emotional complexity is what I love about The Social Network. I did take comfort in Steven Spielberg’s reminder of the great films that didn’t win Best Picture.”

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HAMMOND: ‘Social Network’ & ‘True Grit’ Win At Guild Awards: What Does It Mean?

Pete Hammond

With The Social Network winning big with Film Editors, and True Grit doing the same across town with the Sound Mixers, Saturday represented the first night in several weekends when the big news was not The King’s Speech. Last night added a little surprise and diversity to an awards season that was becoming a bit predictable. Attention must be paid in particular to the American Cinema Editor’s ACE Eddie Awards, an uncanny predictor not only of who will win the all-important Best Editing Oscar but also Best Picture. So Saturday night was very important for The Social Network which has been trying to regain ground lost in several other Guild contests this season.

The Social Network’s Eddie win as Best Edited Dramatic Feature Film over other formidable Best Pic and Editing Oscar contenders like Black Swan, The King’s Speech, and The Fighter, not to mention the not Oscar-nominated Inception, was a big psychological boost to its Academy chances. Especially because it comes on the heels of a BAFTA win in the Editing category last weekend against hometown fave King’s Speech.  Now already favored in the Director and Adapted Screenplay categories, an Editing win would give The Social Network three categories that almost always add up to a Best Picture winner. The last film to take all three without winning Best Pic was Traffic in 2000.

The difference is now there are ten Best Picture nominees judged separately with a preferential voting system, something that almost certainly favors a consensus film like The King’s Speech. It’s entirely possible … Read More »

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OSCAR: Documentary On ‘Social Network’

Pete Hammond

Sony Pictures is looking for any way to focus attention back on the reasons why The Social Network was the early Best Picture frontrunner for most of the season until it got gobsmacked in the Guild awards by a certain British film. So the studio is taking out ads in Los Angeles promoting a free screening of David Prior’s new 90-minute feature documentary, How Did They Ever Make A Movie Of Facebook? (Clip here.) Prior is a frequent collaborator with David Fincher who produced docs on his films The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Zodiac, and Panic Room, and will introduce the film and do a post-screening Q&A on Sunday at the Arclight in Sherman Oaks. It is open to the industry and public and and it’s free but reservations are required at (310) 244-3901. This event takes place just as The Social Network will be learning its fate at the BAFTA awards in London where it is up for six major prizes (compared to hometown fave The King’s Speech nommed for 14). The London Film Critics just gave it a boost when it was named Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay this week so things are looking up. Or is it just a case of more critics trying to friend the movie again? With news reports crediting Facebook as a major factor in the Egyptian revolution that pushed out its President, I would say it is certainly not a bad time to turn … Read More »

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OSCAR: Hammond On State Of The Race

Pete Hammond

As President Obama busily prepares his State Of The Union address to be delivered on Tuesday night – the same day that the Academy Award nominations are announced — I think it’s only fitting that I deliver The State Of The Oscar Race as it stands now. Needless to say, all of Hollywood is primed for the big reveal at 5:38 AM Tuesday morning. At this point we’ve had all of the critics groups weighing in, all of the Guild nominations, all of the BAFTA nominations, and all of the Golden Globes results. Collectively these precursors have set the scene for what we can expect. But, first, a word of caution: there are always surprises with Oscar. But here’s where I see the race for Best Picture heading now.

Best indicator for this Best 10 horse race has been the consistency of what the various Guilds, above and below the line, have been offering up in their nominations. Since there is a heavy overlap of Academy members  who also vote in these Guild contests  they are key indicators. Or, as Harvey Weinstein told me Sunday night after the Golden Globes, “the real voters that matter”. The same 5 or 6 films seem to keep coming up over and over, making them the most solid bets. The Social Network, scoring with key noms everywhere except Visual Effects, is now the undisputed frontrunner in this race, particularly when its overwhelming lead in critics groups Best Pic winners is added in to the mix along with … Read More »

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OSCAR: So Many Toons, So Few Slots – Animation Feature Overview

Pete Hammond

Ever since the first Best Animated Feature category was included in the Oscars, and Dreamworks’ irreverent Shrek snagged the very first award in 2001, the annual race for top toon has been fiercely competitive. Of course animators were pleased by the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ long overdue special recognition. But their worry is that no toon will ever win Best Picture now that the genre has its own prize.

Rich Ross didn’t greenlight Toy Story 3. But the recently promoted Walt Disney Studios chairman understands he has an obligation to the Disney/Pixar toon as if he did. “We’re going for the Best Picture win,” he affirmed. “The reviews have clearly said that it’s the best movie, and it’s the No. 1 box office hit of the year. It’s thrilling that there is a separate category for animation that allows animated movies to be recognized. But for some reason an animated film has never gotten Best Picture. We decided, if not this year, and not this movie, when?”

Toy Story 3 is one of the presumed frontrunners both for Best Animated Feature and Best Picture along with DreamWorks’ How To Train Your Dragon. There have been only two Best Picture nominees ever: 1991’s Beauty And The Beast from Walt Disney Studios and last year’s Up from Disney/Pixar when the list of nominees was expanded from five to 10 for the first time since 1943. Neither won. “As far as Up last year, I think the strategy was you go for Best Picture and as a fallback end up as Best Animated Feature,” recalled Ross. “But with this movie, we wanted to come up with a campaign that kept our aspirations clear but at the same time used a tongue-in-cheek approach.”

To that end, Disney/Pixar has launched an ambitious advertising campaign aimed at Academy members to associate past Best Picture winners with Toy Story 3 by having the toon’s characters enact some iconic images from West Side Story, On The Waterfront, Shakespeare In Love, Titanic, and more. The campaign uses the phrase  ’Not Since’ and even has sequels in its sight, mimicking The Godfather 2 and Lord Of The Rings 3 in a not-so-subtle attempt to remind voters that it’s time for another sequel to win. Of course, Ross and his counterpart at DreamWorks Animation, Jeffrey Katzenberg,  have to overcome perceptions by many in the Academy that the Animated Feature category is enough recognition for this art form. But other genres of films like horror (Silence Of The Lambs) broke equally insurmountable barriers in terms of AMPAS perceptions that certain kinds of movies can’t win. “I feel very confident we have a movie everybody loves and I want to make sure with our campaign that people don’t feel the consolation prize is the appropriate prize for a movie like Toy Story 3,” Ross explained.

Jeffrey Katzenberg also makes the case for a toon winning Best Picture by pointing out that the three best reviewed films of the year (if you go by Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer) have been Toy Story 3 (99%) and How To Train Your Dragon (98%), plus Sony Pictures’ live action The Social Network (97%). Dragon producer Bonnie Arnold says about her toon, “It’s just a good movie that is in competition with other good movies, no matter what the medium, whether it’s live action, animation or whatever.” And Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich echoes: “We look at our films like every other film. Yes, it is animated and we’re working in a specific medium. But our approach is very much the same as live action – production design, costume design, casting of actors, scoring, editing. We’re making movies.”

Best Picture aspirations aside, the other frustration for animators is that Academy rules allow only three nominees in Best Animated Feature in any year when there are just 8 to 15 submissions deemed eligible. Sixteen and over qualifiers trigger five nominations, which has happened twice (in 2002 and last year). But on November 15th, the Academy announced that only 15 films were in the animation race this year, even though 2010 was considered an exceptionally strong year for toons. Since two of the nominees are expected to be Toy Story 3 and How To Train Your Dragon, only one slot is open.

Here is the shortlist of eligible Best Animated Feature entries in alphabetical order:

ALPHA AND OMEGA (Lionsgate) – If  Lady And The Tramp were thrown to the wolves, it might look like this sweet Romeo and Juliet-style toon that only did modest box office business. Against the heavyweights, its prospects of landing a nom are weak.  Read More »

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OSCAR: Scott Rudin Q&A On ‘The Social Network’ And ‘True Grit’

Mike Fleming

Many Hollywood producers go their whole careers hoping just once to field a Best Picture contender in the Oscar race. Scott Rudin, who won in 2008 for No Country For Old Men, this year has not one but two films with real shots to win the ultimate category. There’s little doubt that his The Social Network and True Grit will make the lineup for the 10 Best Picture nominees. Earlier today when the Producers Guild announced their nominees, Rudin became the first producer to receive two feature nominations in the same year, to go with the  David O. Selznick Achievement Award he’ll also receive at the ceremonies. Campaigning for one film is a challenge for any producer. For one as hands on as Rudin, it’s a lot to navigate.

DEADLINE: It’s rare to be the main producer of two films in the Best Picture hunt. It must be like a father having two kids in the same beauty pageant…
RUDIN: First of all, I don’t want to talk about myself as the main producer, I had great partners on both. I’m working with both these teams again and part of the reason this works is we all share. But it’s a great thing to have two movies people like. The Oscar stuff is fantastic, rewarding and in some ways exciting, but it’s not why you do it. You do it because you want to hold your own work to a standard of excellence. It’s a bonus when other people agree you’ve achieved it, but, in the end, I’m really trying to feel good about my work. That’s my goal, to feel like I’ve done the best I could. When I’ve done that, anything else that happens is a bonus.

DEADLINE: The Social Network has passed $200 million at the worldwide box office, and True Grit has been the Coen Brothers’ highest grossing movie ever. What does this tell you?
RUDIN: They’re just good. I also don’t buy the idea that audiences don’t enjoy dramas. I think that audiences historically have just not responded to weak films. I got really lucky this year with two strong films from fantastic filmmakers. That’s why both worked, along with the advantage of being well marketed by both studios. A couple of years ago, either movie might conceivably have gone out through a specialty division. Neither would have reached anywhere near the level of gross they did. Because you are looking at two movies that opened in 2,200 and 3,000 screens respectively. That’s got to be powered by a decent amount of advertising money. There’s no way to bet halfway. Part of the reason you’re looking at them turn into blockbusters is that the studios that made them loved them, believed in them, and chased them. The chase is a big part of this.

DEADLINE: Chase means spend. Is convincing studios to do that on non-sequels a challenge?
RUDIN: The challenge is convincing the people paying for it that there is an upside in going for it in a big way. In the case of Social Network, we had a handful of LA screenings and the movie was, frankly, rapturously received. It was by far the best critical response I’ve ever had on anything. We thought it would be great if the film opened the New York Film Festival. They were the first people to see it, the screening finished, and they called and said, ‘You have opening night. We love the movie’. That movie was ratified, immediately. With True Grit, while we never had a screening of the movie, the people who paid for it thought it was a big rousing romantic adventure. All of us felt it clearly had the potential to be the most successful Coen Brothers movie ever, which it is now. They deserve it. They did a brilliant job on it. Part of the job is carrying the studio along with the making of the film, so people understand you’re making a film that you believe has the capacity to work in a big way.

DEADLINE: These are two very different projects. How did you support each as producer?
RUDIN: They needed very different things. In the case of True Grit, it has always been, pulling together the financing, pulling together the cast, running the marketing, giving them what they need. They need no help of any kind making the movie. They don’t want it, and I wouldn’t presume there was anything I could tell them about the making of a movie. We worked great together because we know what we each do and that’s a very comfortable place. There are aspects of the movie they’re very happy to run on their own, and aspects they are happy for me to run alone. We got that very clear and right the very first time we worked together on Raising Arizona, so I go back with the guys basically to the very beginning of their careers.

DEADLINE: Will they take a script note from you?
RUDIN: Yes. I have done that, and I do. We did a lot of work on the script of No Country, and on True Grit. There are big differences between Charles Portis’ book and this movie Read More »

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OSCAR: Joel And Ethan Coen Q&A On ‘True Grit’

Mike Fleming

Considering they’ve rubbed out characters memorably by feeding them through a wood chipper (Fargo) or with a pneumatic cattle slaughtering gun (No Country For Old Men), setting Joel and Ethan Coen loose with a revenge story in the Old West seems a recipe for mayhem. In fact, True Grit turns out to be the most mainstream audience-friendly film they have made in years. Sticking close to the 42-year Charles Portis novel and not even watching the first movie that won John Wayne his Oscar in 1969, the Coens have made a PG-13 adventure film that gives the starring role to teenager Hailee Steinfeld, and surrounds her with such seasoned actors as Jeff Bridges as salty U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn, Matt Damon as the blowhard Texas Ranger LaBeouf, and Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper as the ornery outlaws they are chasing. The film opens today, and could add intrigue to the Oscar race.

DEADLINE: How did you find your way to a 40 year old book you’d have been hard pressed to find in a bookstore?
ETHAN COEN: We both knew the book, and we’d both read it, amongst other Charles Portis novels. A few years ago I read it out loud to my son and that was the point we began talking about it, thinking this might be interesting to do.
JOEL COEN: Fully aware there of course there had been this previous movie. But we hadn’t seen that since it came out, and didn’t really remember it very well.

DEADLINE: The book focuses more squarely than the film did on young Mattie, the bright, headstrong teenager determined to see the man who shot her father swing from a rope. What potential did you see in that that overcame the inevitable comparison to a film considered somewhat iconic?
ETHAN COEN: That is what we liked about the book, that it was told in the first person narrative told by the 14-year old character, Mattie Ross. It’s just a very funny book. It has three really great, really vivid characters. Her, Rooster Cogburn and LaBeouf, the Texas Ranger. And it’s a simple pursuit revenge story. It all just seemed promising material for a movie. Which might sound funny because, as you say, there was this iconic movie. Which we were aware of but which we didn’t remember very well.
JOEL COEN: We didn’t revisit it, either.
ETHAN COEN: And in the course of remaking the movie, we didn’t watch the first one. We weren’t much worried about it, though. You say it’s iconic, and that’s very true. But on the other hand, I must say it’s probably iconic for people our age and older. And we’re not the moviegoing demographic anymore. I don’t think younger people have much of a connection to John Wayne, at all. So it didn’t feel like we were trespassing and we didn’t worry about it. We just had this enthusiasm for the novel.

DEADLINE: I should qualify iconic. It’s called that because John Wayne won an Oscar, but many feel that statue was a reward for a career and not that role.
JOEL COEN: That’s what I’ve read about it too, that it was a kind of valedictory thing.
ETHAN COEN: You’ve been around a long time, we love you, here’s an award.

DEADLINE: How did adapting a book like True Grit compare with adapting Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men?
ETHAN COEN: Not dissimilar, actually. In the Cormac book that we did, we had this similar issue. Read More »

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OSCAR: Critics Keep Friending ‘The Social Network’ While Picture Rivals Keep Fretting

Pete Hammond

In an era where review aggregation sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic have erased individuality and replaced it with a percentage statistic that can be quoted  more easily than the words of Roger Ebert or other name reviewers, we are seeing a pack mentality emerge with critics groups come awards time. No matter which region of the country, they all seem to be moving in step with each other for the most part. For David Fincher this has to be especially sweet. Just two years ago he sat on the sidelines as nearly all these groups lined up for Danny Boyle and Slumdog Millionaire against his highly touted The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. When Oscar time rolled around there was no question which film would win. Now it’s hard to find a single critics group that doesn’t want to friend The Social Network — and rivals in this still very fluid race are feeling the pain, no doubt trying to figure out how to counter it all before it’s too late.

While most Hollywood offices are shutting down for the holidays, Sony Pictures’ awards campaign crew are working overtime for contender The Social Network in advance of next week’s mailing of Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences nomination ballots. That’s why director Fincher, who was supposed to be on a 2-week holiday break from shooting the studio’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in Sweden, actually isn’t getting much of a break at all. Last week, he was in … Read More »

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OSCAR: Is ‘The Fighter’ A Heavyweight?

Pete Hammond

It has been common wisdom as this awards race moves into full gallop that Best Picture Oscar may come down to The Social Network and The King’s Speech. But, after this week, I believe we may be adding a new heavyweight contender if mounting buzz is any indication. Academy members who are starting to see Paramount/Relativity’s The Fighter, particularly after Monday  night’s premiere, are starting to talk in ways that make Oscar consultants for rival films nervous.  “It’s a great movie, it really is,” one major writer/director told me last night. An exec close to the film’s campaign says the studios are starting to hear this a lot and points out one director branch member who came up after the film and told her, “I think I’ve just seen the Best Picture of the year.”  This exec says , “I know I should be drinking coffee but I am starting to drink my own Kool Aid. I think this thing is really starting to take off.”

At the premiere, stars Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale came on the Chinese Theatre stage after closing credits to introduce the real life inspirations for the film, Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund, and the venue erupted into a big standing ovation. The exec estimates there were about 200 Academy members in attendance which helps make up for the disappointingly low turnout at last Saturday night’s “official” Academy screening. DVD screeners sent to various awards organizations arrived  in the mail on Wednesday.

Now this morning I’ve also exclusively  learned that the Palm Springs International Film Festival … Read More »

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OSCAR: Coen Bros ‘True Grit’ Enters Race

Pete Hammond

UPDATE: True Grit doesn’t open until December 22nd but started screenings this week just under the wire of critics groups and SAG nominating committee deadlines. It’s the last unseen film of this awards season thought to have a serious chance of cracking the Best Picture Oscar list, especially now that there are 10 nominees. Can Joel and Ethan Coen’s much anticipated new take on the John Wayne classic do what that 1969 Paramount film couldn’t? First, a little history. The first version of the Charles Portis novel landed just two Oscar nominations, for Best Song and Best Actor, winning the latter as a heartfelt career swan song for star John Wayne. But the fairly standard western was shut out of Best Picture, never a friendly territory for oaters. After all, other classics of the genre, like 1956’s The Searchers and 1959’s Rio Bravo (both also starring Wayne), couldn’t even manage a single nomination between them even though both are now included on lists of the greatest films of all time. Only Kevin Costner’s 1990 Dances With Wolves and Clint Eastwood’s 1992 Unforgiven changed the Oscar outlook because they were untraditional westerns and that won them Academy Awards for both Best Picture and Best Director. Since 1992, no western has  been nominated unless you count Brokeback Mountain — and I don’t. On the other hand, very few have even been made.

But a western coming from the Coens would seem to have a reasonable chance. They each won three Oscars for Best Pic winner No Country For Old Read More »

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OSCAR: Ben Affleck Q&A On ‘The Town’

Mike Fleming

Ben Affleck’s career trajectory rarely happens in Hollywood much less all by age 38: from unknown actor (Mallrats, Chasing Amy) to Oscar–winning co–writer (Good Will Hunting) to leading man (Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Changing Lanes, The Sum of All Fears, Daredevil) to tabloid fixture (“Bennifer”) to washed–up star (after Gigli) to budding director (adapting Dennis Lehane’s novel Gone Baby Gone) to hot actor/helmer with the #1 opening movie September 17–19. For The Town, Affleck returns to his Boston roots and blue collar crime to adapt Chuck Hogan’s novel Prince Of Thieves for the big screen. The result: an adult–pleasing hit that has entered the Best Picture discussion. Mike Fleming talks to him about his and The Town‘s Oscar chances:

DEADLINE: So you wrote yourself a second career as a director in Gone Baby Gone. Now you’ve written yourself the edgiest role of your acting career since Good Will Hunting. How much of this was about you wanting to reinvigorate your onscreen career?
BEN AFFLECK: A huge part of this was wanting to play the role. I hadn’t had the chance to play a character as interesting as the one Chuck wrote in the book in a long time. In that sense, it did feel like Good Will Hunting because I was trying to make the movie, in part, as a step in my acting career.

DEADLINE: These R–rated crime dramas with action sometimes get marginalized in Oscar season, but this one has stayed in the conversation. Gone Baby Gone, though lauded, grossed only $35 million worldwide. The Town so far is nearing $150 million worldwide. What has most surprised you about the way it played and the reaction?
AFFLECK: Relative to my first movie, it didn’t have to do that well to be a step forward, so I was set up well. I think people caught up to that movie on DVD, but when you come out and do $20 million at the box office, nobody calls to congratulate you. In terms of pure commercial success, the thing that struck me was, our opening weekend on The Town was bigger than the whole number on Gone Baby Gone. This time, I had very modest expectations and I was really surprised the movie did as well as it did. It’s not a juggernaut, but my big goal was seeing it turn a profit for the studio. I use that as my metric for whether or not they’ll let me direct another movie. I remember calling up and saying, ‘So have you broken even yet? Are you going to make money on this? Are you happy?’ I’m a little embarrassed I’d done that, but it was what I set out to do. And it made me be sure I kept the costs down to under $40 million. This way I could make a movie that dealt with themes that interested me, at a pace I like dramatically.

DEADLINE: What went through your mind as you were deciding whether or not to do this?
AFFLECK: My first thought was, I really wanted to play the role. But I was concerned that the overlap between this and the other movie I directed would be too much, and that I ran the risk of getting pigeonholed for making crime movies in Boston. When I really want to tell stories that take place all over. That made me pause. But there were a couple things that ultimately persuaded me to take on directing it as well. There were a ton of great parts, and I thought the material gave me a shot to work with really good actors. And there was a big challenge in trying to synthesize the two elements of the movie. There was the traditional genre element — the robbery, heist, chase and all that stuff — which had to be done in an interesting and unique way in order to work. That needed to fuse with the character drama on the other side. I felt intimidated and daunted by that challenge, but felt, if I could execute it right, I’d put myself in a position to be able to make movies that I am really interested and attracted to. That is a rare thing in Hollywood. Mostly we’re just schmucks limited by our options.

DEADLINE: What did you do better this time?
AFFLECK: As director, this definitely had a broader scope than my first movie. Read More »

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Tom Sherak Re-Elected AMPAS President

Mike Fleming

It was hardly a cliffhanger, but Tom Sherak was reelected president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He was voted in last night by the Academy Board of Governors along with Sid Ganis (first vice president), James L. Brooks, (vice president) Phil Robinson (vice president), Hawk Koch (treasurer) and Annette Bening (secretary). Sherak’s first term was marked by the Academy’s controversial decision to expand the Best Picture category to 10 films, for which Sherak was a proponent. While widening the field gave some extra attention to films like District 9, The Blind Side, Inglourious Basterds and Up In The Air, the extra five films were not at all a factor in what really became a two-horse race between Avatar and Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker. Read More »

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