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HAMMOND: DGA Awards Nominees Analysis

Pete Hammond

Certainly with today’s announcement  of the all-important and often soothsaying Directors Guild nominations for feature film, there were no jaw-droppers on the list. David Fincher’s The Social Network, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, David O. Russell’s The Fighter, and Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech have all figured prominently in every key guild contest so far, including SAG, WGA and PGA noms as well as leading nominations for Globes, Critics Choice Movie Awards and others. The fifth nominee, Christopher Nolan for Inception, has also seen his film included in all of these precursors except SAG where the ensemble cast and individual actors were blanked. In addition, all of these films are attracting significant critical and box office success. Since he’s won the lions share of precursor awards so far, The Social Network’s Fincher would seem to be the frontrunner coming into the stretch. But this race is ripe for a surprise. As a producer of one of today’s other nominated films emailed me after the announcement, “I like spoilers. It makes it a lot of fun.”

Unlike other groups, the DGA does not allow studios and distributors to send DVD screeners to their membership which means voters have to get out to screenings or see the films in theatres — a factor that doesn’t favor small indie or foreign movies which sometimes sneak on to the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences list. Since the entire DGA membership (which numbers over 13,000) votes, results are largely … Read More »

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OSCAR: Parade Of Critics Awards & Parties

Pete Hammond

If they weren’t first out of the gate every season, the New York-based National Board Of Review (a self-described group of film enthusiasts, academics, film professionals, and students) probably wouldn’t garner a whole lot of attention for their awards choices. But their announcement (1ST AWARDS: ‘The Social Network’ Sweeps 2010 National Board Of Review Kudos) today naming Sony Picture’s The Social Network Best Picture, Best Director for David Fincher, Best Adapted Screenplay for Aaron Sorkin, and Best Actor for Jesse Eisenberg will certainly give at least a temporary boost to that film’s battle for supremacy over the other presumed Oscar frontrunner, The King’s Speech, which only got mentioned on the org’s 10 Best List. The complete shut out in individual categories for The Weinstein Co pic is a bit surprising since the NBR in the past had a tendency to be a little more conservative. It even was overlooked for Original Screenplay which  went, surprisingly, to Liongate’s Buried, a box office dud that disappeared quickly and is not on anyone’s awards radar.

Still The Social Network probably shouldn’t start prepping those Oscar acceptance speeches yet. Even though the NBR did match eventual Best Picture Oscar winners No Country For Old Men in 2007 and Slumdog Millionaire in 2008, nothing other than Best Documentary winner The Cove and Best Animated winner Up repeated at the Oscars last year. (Up In The Air was the NBR winner.) And only one of their 8 acting winners in the past two … 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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Indie Spirit Nominations Could Predict Oscar

Pete Hammond

Analyzing today’s 26th Annual Independent Spirit Award nominations, I would say Winter’s Bone, the film that led with the most nods, is also the one to beat, particularly after its triumphs at Monday night’s Gotham Awards where it took the Best Ensemble and Best Feature awards. It is the kind of movie that personifies “indie spirit” and seems to have so much heat in that regard that several Oscar nominations could also be in the picture. It’s generally thought that, for the Best Actress Oscar, the race may come down to Annette Bening vs Natalie Portman, but at the Indie Spirits the front runner is most likely Winter’s Bones’ Jennifer Lawrence with her co-stars Dale Dickey and John Hawkes figuring as viable potential winners in their respective supporting categories as well. Place your bets.

Winter’s Bone led the indie Spirit race with 7 nods, along with The Kids Are All Right, Black Swan, and 127 Hours all nabbed Best Feature nominations. And it’s entirely possible, at least according to current conventional wisdom, that the same quartet will land four of the 10 Academy Awards Best Picture slots as well. This time around, there’s perhaps the closest correlation between the Spirits and Oscar’s Best Picture race seen in years. Which would indicate that, despite the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Science’s attempt to broaden the field in the category to include more commercial entries, the indie spirit … Read More »

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OSCAR: No T-Day Slowdown For Contenders

Pete Hammond

Traditionally, most Hollywood businesses grind to a halt for the 5-day Thanksgiving holiday. But not this wide-open awards season. Tangled had its official Academy screening last Sunday morning but only drew about 200 people. Instead, the holidays actually seem like a good time to push an animated Disney musical. So Disney isn’t even taking Turkey Day off: instead, the studio has skedded screenings of Tangled at the DGA open to all Guild and Academy members. This isn’t actually a new practice. In the past, Oscar hopefuls like Dreamgirls, The Lord Of The Rings, and others have done the same thing at the DGA theater drawing surprisingly strong crowds of potential voters on a day most people are thought to stay at home. Disney also sent a note warning some early voting groups that they wouldn’t be able to send screeners of the film before deadlines for ballots (piracy concerns are part of that problem), so the T-Day screenings take on even greater import.

Tangled aside, distributors have been rushing to get screeners in as many voter hands as possible before Thanksgiving when they think people will have more time on their hands to pop a DVD in the player before the real crunch comes in December. Among those sent in the last few days are The Social Network, Made In Dagenham, Inside Job, Stone, Let Me In, 127 Hours, Black Swan, Conviction, Never Let Me Go, Toy Story 3, Winter’s Bone, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1,  The Town, Inception, Hereafter, Legends Of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole, and The Ghost Writer.

Meanwhile, campaign season continues. Over the weekend, American Cinematheque also proved why it can be a very useful tool during awards season by hosting two sold-out events  for Oscar hopefuls. Saturday night, there was a tribute to Pierce Brosnan at the Aero in Santa Monica with a double feature of Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer and Matador. Inbetween, Pierce appeared for a nearly hour-long Q&A (I moderated) in which he discussed his career from TV’s Remington Steele to James Bond to an Roman Polanski’s Ghost Writer in which he plays ex-British Prime Minister (Tony Blair, anyone?) now writing his controversial memoir. Summit Entertainment is hoping the pic will land him in the Best Supporting Actor conversation. Its early February release is a hindrance but by having a toney organization like American Cinematheque create these little tribute evenings, studios believe they can get the “right” kind of association for their contenders.

It was completely sold out, as was the next night at the same venue which hosted a Q&A session with writer Aaron Sorkin and stars Justin Timberlake, Andrew Garfield and Armie Hammer following a special screening of Sony Pictures’ The Social Network. All were talking about the genius of Director David Fincher (away on location in Sweden shooting The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo remake) and the number of takes he would require of his actors. “Sometimes there would be 99 of them, but not 100, never 100,” Timberlake said. In an encouraging sign for writerly respect, most of the audience questions from the predominantly young crowd were surprisingly directed at Sorkin who said dialogue-heavy movie might have been written by Paddy Chayefsky in another era. Not bad company to be in since Paddy won no less than three screenwriting Oscars. Some are asking if there is any way Sorkin can lose the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar this year? Especially after The Social Network opened to near-unanimous acclaim and strong business for a drama.

Other Best Picture competitors were also active over the weekend Read More »

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OSCAR: Private Screenings Aplenty & ‘The Kids Are All Right’ Campaign Heats Up

Pete Hammond

Screening rooms all over town are booked solid for the tsunami of Q&A sessions being held for WGA, PGA, DGA, SAG and countless media organizations which host their own sponsored screenings of contenders. One SAG Nominating Committee member I ran into at the Arclight said he was skipping the screenings and just hopscotching from one Q&A to another. Someone was asking me this week if I thought there were more Q&As than usual this season. It seems like it but probably not, even though publicists are running their stars and filmmakers ragged trying to get them from one part of town to the other for two and sometimes three post-screening chat sessions in one day. Wednesday night alone at the Arclight in Hollywood, there seemed to be as many “private screening” notices on the multi-screen electronic box office marquee as there were regular features playing. Paul Giamatti was being shuttled from one house to another to talk up his new Sony Classics film, Barney’s Version. And Jada Pinkett Smith and co-star Michael Vartan were also there doing a session in front of SAG nominating committee members in hopes of gaining attention for their TNT medical drama, Hawthorne. (Pinkett–Smith fielded questions like “How do I get financing for my movie?” to “Would you consider making a sports movie? I have a script.”) Despite having won every imaginable trophy several times over (including two consecutive SAG ensemble awards), Mad Men isn’t giving it a rest and … Read More »

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OSCAR: Disney’s Rich Ross Says “We’re Going For The Best Picture Win” For ‘Toy Story 3′

Pete Hammond

EXCLUSIVE: “We’re going for the Best Picture win. We wanted to have the best movie and the reviews have clearly said that and it’s the number one box office hit of the year so I’m not sure why we would not go for it all,” the Walt Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross told me in a phone conversation this week. He’s talking about their worldwide billion dollar grosser Toy Story 3 which also sits atop Rotten Tomatoes chart of the best reviewed films of the year, at least those in wide release. To that end Disney/Pixar will launch an ambitious advertising campaign aimed squarely at Academy members this week that will blatantly try to associate past Best Picture winners with TS3 by having Toy Story characters enact some iconic images from Oscar winning films like West Side Story, On The Waterfront, Shakespeare In Love, Silence Of The Lambs, Titanic, The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King and Forrest Gump (which will feature the Woody character voiced of course by ‘Gump’ star Tom Hanks – get it?). There are potentially more than 20 different ads they will create, but some, like Lambs, which features a disembodied Mr. Potato Head, still are being cleared by various parties. The campaign which uses the phrase ‘Not Since’ will launch with The Godfather Part II in which Lotso, the mob boss-like bear emulates Al Pacino. Since that film (and Rings) were rare instances of … Read More »

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OSCAR: Stars Gather For Governors Awards

Pete Hammond

“These awards really took flight this year,” Warren Beatty effusively said to 2nd annual Governors Awards producer and Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences 1st Vice President Sid Ganis right after the ceremony ended around 11 PM Saturday night. It took place at the Grand Ballroom in the Hollywood and Highland complex where the Academy’s Post–Oscars Governors Ball is held every February. This time, these awards honored indelible actor Eli Wallach, film historian and preservationist Kevin Brownlow, iconic director Jean-Luc Godard, and Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award receipient Francis Ford Coppola. “Can I use the ‘F’ word?,” Beatty asked. “I think the movie industry should tell the television industry to go F*** itself.” His likely meaning (at least in ‘Warren speak’) was that commercial interests should never compel the AMPAS to sell the Governors Awards as a TV special — a possibility raised after last year’s show — and ruin the “specialness” of the evening.

This separate lifetime achievement ceremony was created last year as a way to shorten the actual Oscar telecast and to hand out more than one honor each year in a more relaxed setting where the recipients aren’t forced to keep their acceptance speeches to 30 seconds or less. They aren’t televised and likely never will be according to Academy officials I talked to who were very pleased with the outcome. “This must have been what the original Oscars were like,” said one. And even though … Read More »

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Deadline Hires Pete Hammond From LA Times /Envelope’s “Notes On A Season”




LOS ANGELES – September 1, 2010: is expanding its film and television awards coverage for the 2010-2011 season and beyond. Media Corporation’s Jay Penske and’s Nikki Finke today announced the hiring of Pete Hammond, the well-known Los Angeles Times/The Envelope’s “Notes On A Season” blog columnist and former Variety contributor who is widely considered the preeminent awards season commentator for film and television. Effective immediately, he becomes the Awards Columnist. His breaking news and analysis will also be offered on to reach a consumer audience as well as Deadline’s industry readership. Hammond also will be contributing original columns to Deadline|Hollywood’s's five planned print newsletters during this awards season. It is Deadline’s intention to own the awards space, helped by Pete’s unique understanding of the behind-the-scenes of this very specialized process when the entertainment industry is fixated on grabbing the gold.

With the 2010 hirings of top journalism talents Mike Fleming, Nellie Andreeva, Tim Adler, and now Pete Hammond, continues its next phase of editorial expansion to dominate the Hollywood news and commentary arena in both film and television so the website can remain a “must-read” for influencers and leaders in the global entertainment and media business. Hammond’s status and reputation fit perfectly with the tradition of shattering the mold of traditional reporting and creating a new paradigm for delivering news and opinion with New Media immediacy.

“We are thrilled that Pete has joined our talented team at,” commented MMC Founder and CEO, Jay Penske. “He has become one of the entertainment industry’s most prominent and visible awards journalists during his tenure at the Los Angeles Times –and we felt it was essential for to address the needs of our audience, partners, and advertisers by hiring someone of Pete’s caliber to continue our site’s ascendancy.”

Said Finke, Deadline’s General Manager and Editor-in-Chief: “I realized that if Deadline Hollywood was going to offer expanded awards season coverage, we had to find someone of Mike’s, Nellie’s, and Tim’s caliber. Pete Hammond is a very well-established brand in this arena, and he’s among the most knowledgeable and insightful people on film and television I’ve ever encountered. If awards season is Hollywood’s Super Bowl, then Pete is the quarterback calling many of the plays. I am delighted that Jay and I could convince him to come over because hiring Pete is a game changer for Deadline|Hollywood.”

Said Hammond, “I am thrilled to bring my views and news on the Hollywood awards scene to readers of Deadline and Movieline and to be working with Jay, Nikki, and Charles and everyone at MMC in making it all happen starting this season. While I loved writing for the Los Angeles Times/The Envelope, I am really looking forward to ramping it up and taking it to the next level on two of the web’s premier sites.”

“Having Pete on board gives a whole new dimension to our academy strategy for both Deadline Hollywood and Movieline. His depth of knowledge and relationships in the industry is unparalleled,” said Lynne Segall, Publisher & Vice President of MMC entertainment. “It is fantastic to have one of the town’s foremost awards experts on our team.”

Pete Hammond is a writer, producer, movie critic, and film historian. During Hollywood’s awards season in recent years, he has been a regular contributing columnist for the online and print editions of the Los Angeles Times/The Envelope, where he wrote the well-read “Notes On A Season” blog. He formerly was a regular contributor to Variety about the Cannes Film Festival, AFI Fest, Golden Globes, and Academy Awards. His film and TV analysis and commentary has appeared in print, on air, and online for numerous media outlets including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, NBC Nightly News, the CBC, and the BBC. Additionally, Pete hosts the extremely popular year-round KCET Cinema Series and is the instructor for UCLA Extension’s Sneak Preview Winter Session where he shows films prior to release and interviews the filmmakers.

His unique and reknowned interviewing and moderating skills have been utilized by Variety for their Annual Awards Screening Series as well as by the American Film Institute, American Cinematheque, the Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild Of America, the Writers Guild Of America, the Academy Of Television Arts & Sciences, and BAFTA, in addition to film festivals and entertainment conferences around the world. Pete recently has been a regular on-camera presence profiling celebrities on the Biography Channel’s series “Famous” and the longtime Contributing Editor for the bestselling Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide. He was also co-author of Behind the Silver Screen. He is the recipient of five Emmy nominations for his television writing and served four years on the TV Academy’s Board of Governors representing writers. Prior to becoming an awards season analyst and film critic, Pete was a full-time consultant to the AMC Network.


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