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Sony Pictures Classics’ Michael Barker And Tom Bernard On Why Oscars Matter

Pete Hammond

When it comes to Oscar savvy we often hear Harvey Weinstein talked about as the kingpin of the game, but when you look at the success of Sony Pictures Classics you realize it rivals Weinstein, Searchlight, Focus and other comers in consistently, and annually, releasing and nurturing one contender after another in the quest for the elusive statuette of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Since the company was founded in December 1991, key to its success has been its co-Presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard who first worked together in similar specialty divisions at United Artists and Orion and now continue to run one of the most stable indie shops in the industry. But with a total of 25 Oscar wins  and 109 nominations just at SPC they clearly have the Midas touch, and that includes a slew of Best Picture nominations for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (their biggest hit to date), Howard’s End, Capote, An Education, Midnight In Paris and this year’s Amour which won the Palme d’Or in Cannes and has amassed five Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film, only the fifth film in Academy history to be named in both categories. With writing and directing nods for Michael Haneke as well as a realistic Best Actress bid for star Emmanuelle Riva the film looks to be another strong contender for the pair who continue to be one of the few high profile companies that still champions foreign language films. SPC serves up a wide variety of specialty fare of all types and always seems to find a footing in the Oscar race which has become an important part of their business plan. With two contenders for Best Documentary and two for Best Foreign Language Film in addition to the Best Picture bid, the pair are fixtures at every major film festival and are once again making lots of noise in their high season. I spoke to both late last week about the upcoming Oscars and what it means to their bottom line.

Deadline: How important is this Oscar business to the actual business of Sony Pictures Classics?
Bernard: It’s part of the  business for Sony Pictures Classics because we can get movies, or have movies, that won’t get the recognition that they deserve any other way. And if they get that recognition what we have found is that the boxoffice and ancillary and profits of these movies get much better. We can go all the way back to Camille Claudel when we had Isabelle Adjani and somebody close to her suggested that you should run a campaign for her for Best Actress and we said ‘it will never happen, no one will watch the movie. We can’t get them to the theatre. And the person said ‘well why don’t you send out VHS cassettes to the Academy’ so we did and sent them to the actors branch and lo and behold we got a nomination. And it took that movie to a level it would have never gotten if it didn’t happen. Read More »

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Big BAFTA Best Film Win Sends ‘Argo’ Into Oscars With Huge Momentum

Pete Hammond

Actual betting on the Oscars is outlawed in the U.S.. But it is permissible in England – and afterBAFTA today’s British Academy Awards show which just wrapped in London, people would be wise to put some pounds on Argo‘s Best Picture Oscar chances. In what is becoming a familiar sight every weekend, Ben Affleck once again was in the winner’s circle at BAFTA, and along with Best Film he also took Best Director, a prize for which he is famously not nominated at the Oscars even though his movie has 7 nominations – just as it did at BAFTA. So add another strong precursor award to the Argo stockpile that now includes PGA, DGA, SAG, Golden Globes, Critics Choice Movie Awards. Last night, it also added an honor for Chris Terrio’s adaptation at the USC Scripter Awards. (Terrio wasn’t there to accept; instead he was in London for the BAFTAs where he lost to David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook – the only award that film picked up.)

Related: BAFTA Winners: ‘Argo’, Ben Affleck, Daniel Day-Lewis, Emmanuelle Riva

So how reliable is BAFTA as an Oscar predictor? Pretty good in recent years, although spotty sometimes in acting categories. But the two organizations  have several hundred of the same members, and last year BAFTA and Oscar matched … Read More »

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OSCARS Q&A: Michael Haneke

By | Saturday February 9, 2013 @ 8:00pm PST

David Mermelstein is an AwardsLine contributor

Though his films might lead you to believe otherwise, Michael Haneke is surprisingly good-humored in conversation. His latest film, Amour, is nominated for five Oscars: best picture, foreign-language film, director, original screenplay, and actress. It soberly and precisely charts the decline of an aged French couple, played to a fare-thee-well by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva. The film might be the writer-director’s most personal to date, for though it retains the intense focus and absence of sentimentality present in his other work, its plainly expressed—and inevitably touching—humanity was inspired by a chapter from Haneke’s own life. Until Amour, Haneke was best known in America for the Oscar-nominated The White Ribbon (2009), which chillingly depicts village life in pre-World War I Germany and hints at the foundations of Nazism, and Cache (2005), which plumbs issues of memory, guilt, and identity. Speaking from Madrid, during rehearsals for a production of Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte, the filmmaker discussed with AwardsLine various issues connected with his recent film work.

AwardsLine: What compelled you to make Amour?
Michael Haneke: Nothing forced me [to make the film], but what motivated me was a case in my family. I was forced to look on as someone very close to me suffered—but not specifically as depicted in the film—someone for whom I cared for very much. And that led me to make … Read More »

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OSCARS: Does ‘Amour’ Have A Shot To Make Academy History?

Pete Hammond

Only once has the winner of the top prize in Cannes ever matched the winner of the Oscar for Best Picture. 1955′s Marty won both, but no film has been able to duplicate that feat in the more than a half-century since.  But now Michael Haneke‘s Amour, nominated for five Oscars including Best Picture and also winner of the 2012 Cannes Festival’s Palme d’Or, has the chance to do it.  However it’s a clear long shot, this year’s Oscar wild card.

Related: OSCARS: Parsing The Foreign Language Nominees

No foreign-language film has ever won Oscar’s top prize, although several have been nominated such as Cries And Whispers, Il Postino  and others. A handful, only four before Amour, have been nominated in both the Best Foreign Language Film and Best Picture categories. Z (1969),  Life Is Beautiful (1998), and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)  all won in Foreign Language Film but lost Best Picture. The Swedish film, The Emigrants had the distinction of nominations in both categories over the course of two years when Academy rules for foreign language films eligibility in other categories was different. It lost both Foreign Language Film in 1971 and Best Picture in 1972.

Related: César Award Nominations: ‘Amour’ Scores 10

The problem seems to be Academy members generally think the Foreign Film prize is a kind of Best Picture award making the trick of … Read More »

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‘Amour’ Takes Best Film, Actress, Screenplay At London Critics Awards

By | Sunday January 20, 2013 @ 12:12pm PST

Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage.

Michael Haneke’s Amour proved to be the favorite tonight at the London Film Critics Circle Awards, bagging wins for Best Film and Best Screenwriter for Haneke and earning Emmanuelle Riva a Best Actress prize. The org’s annual chance to fraternize with film stars may have been mildly hampered by snowy conditions in the capital, as none of team Amour made it to collect and there were no-shows also from The Master pair Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who won Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor respectively. The staunch critics favorites had seven nominations apiece. Rafe Spall collected Ang Lee’s Best Director prize for Life of Pi, and Les Misérables producer Debra Hayward accepted Best Supporting Actress on behalf of Anne Hathaway. Toby Jones took home Best British Actor for Berberian Sound Studio, which also won Best British Film, and Olivia Colman was on hand to accept Andrea Riseborough’s Best British Actress prize for Shadow Dancer. Rectifying a key oversight in the BAFTA’s Rising Star nominations, tonight’s awards did honor The Impossible‘s Tom Holland for Young British Performer of the Year, and Alice Lowe and Steve Oram were named Breakthrough British Filmmakers for their script work on Sightseers, in which they also starred. A complete list of winners follows:  Read More »

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