The Oscar nominated best pictures still in the theaters are holding well the last weekend before the Academy Awards. Most are at the end or nearing the end of their runs. Those distributors who re-released their films or upped the number of theaters post-nomination did receive nice bumps to add to their overall cumes. This is the last weekend before the Academy Awards, so traditionally the Oscar-nominated films still in theaters usually see rock solid numbers as moviegoers venture out to see them before the show. Last year’s Oscars brought in 40.3M viewers. Here is how they all look to play out this weekend and their overall cumes based on Saturday morning estimates:
12). American Hustle (SONY), 903 theaters / 3-day cume: $1.8M / Total cume: $144M+ / Wk 11
14). The Wolf of Wall Street (PAR), 627 theaters / 3-day cume: $1.3M / Total cume: $112.8M / Wk 9
15). Philomena (TWC), theaters / 3-day cume: $1.2M / Total cume: $32.7M / Wk 14
17). Gravity (WB), 348 theaters / 3-day cume: $914K / Total cume: $269.3M / Wk 21
20). 12 Years a Slave (FSL), 349 theaters / 3-day cume: $493K / Total cume: $49M / Wk 19 Read More »
He might not be the next Roger Ebert, but that didn’t stop futurist and artificial-intelligence pioneer Ray Kurzweil from giving Spike Jonze‘s Oscar-nominated and slightly satirical sci-fi dramedy Her a strongly positive review — on cinematic if not all technology grounds. “This is a breakthrough concept in cinematic futurism in the way that The Matrix presented a realistic vision that virtual reality will ultimately be as real as, well, real reality,” Kurzweil writes in a review posted recently on his site KurzweilAI.net. Kurzweil, now Google’s director of engineering, is author of books such as The Singularity Is Near and The Age of Spiritual Machines and subject of the documentary Transcendent Man, all of which detail Kurzweil’s vision of a future when computer intelligence becomes self aware and merges more fully with human intelligence.
Related: OSCARS: How The Adapted And Original Screenplay Races Could Go Down To The Wire
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When it comes to predicting who will take home Oscars for adapted and original screenplay, don’t look to the recent Writers Guild Awards for any significant clues. Usually the guild will give some indication of which way the winds are blowing among the scribes of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, even though the 372-member writers branch has different criteria and eligibility rules than the more stringent 20,000-plus WGA membership. The WGAs differ from other guild awards in not nominating any movies not made under their basic agreement or within guild guidelines. That isn’t a huge factor this year, as the Academy matched the WGAs’ nominee list in original screenplay and chose three of the same adaptations (Oscar nominees 12 Years A Slave and Philomena were not allowed to compete in the WGAs). Lone Survivor and August: Osage County nabbed the other two nominations, although neither won. In fact, in a highly unusual result, the WGA winners, Her for original and Captain Phillips for adapted, have not been considered slam-dunks to pull off the same trick at the Oscars on March 2.
Related: ‘12 Years A Slave’ Writers Win 2014 USC Scripter Award: John Ridley, Solomon Northup
Phillips is listed as a 100-to-1 shot on betting website Gold Derby, … Read More »
Made In Hollywood? When it comes to Oscar nominees don’t count on it.
The third annual “Made-In-Hollywood” awards were presented today at 1600 Vine, former site of the famous Brown Derby restaurant, to the producers of Her, The Croods and Frozen, pretty much the only higher profile Oscar nominees that qualified even remotely as a film wholly or in substantial part made in Southern California. Frozen producer Peter del Vecho, Croods producers Kristine Belson and Jane Hartwell, and Her producer Vincent Landay accepted proclamations from presenter Jacqueline Bisset and L.A. City Councilmen Tom LaBonge and Mitch O’Farrell who said these honors were conceived as a way to encourage local production by rewarding Academy Award nominated films for keeping their productions in their “historic home”. The Councilmen whose districts include Hollywood want to “promote the full and well-earned use of the vast reservoir of filmmaking talent, creative artists, craftspeople and technicians”. Of course this is a big part of the reason Mayor Eric Garcetti created the job of L.A. Film Czar, filled briefly by the late Tom Sherak and now in the hands of Ken Ziffren. There’s lots of TV production but the movie industry has definitely fled for other environs. Previous winners in the first two years of the program, Argo and The Artist were the only two films in their respective years that qualified and both went on to win Best Picture at the Oscars.
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First-time Oscar nominee William Butler, from the Grammy-winning band Arcade Fire, who is nominated along with Owen Pallett for the score of Her, said the music for the movie morphed as the relationship became stronger between the two main characters, played by Joaquin Phoenix and the voice of Scarlett Johansson. The film, directed by Spike Jonze, is an unusual love story about a man who is isolated after being separated from his wife and struggling to let go of that relationship and eventually becoming intimate with his interactive computer operating system. Both “people” are trying to figure out what it means to be human. Jonze shot Her in only 42 days, but the editing took 14 months. (Her also is nominated for Original Song, “The Moon Song” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer Karen O and Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig.)
Related: Artificial Intelligence Pioneer Gives ‘Her’ A Thumbs Up
Butler and Jonze are old friends and actually visited at Jonze’s home, at one point, while he was writing the screenplay. “He was working on the film for seven years,” said Butler. “So when we would be in New York, we would sometimes stay there. Spike and I had done a short film together in 2010 and 2011, Scenes From The Suburbs, so we had worked together … Read More »
Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have set singer-songwriter Karen O to perform nominated tune “The Moon Song” live on the March 2 Oscarcast. With music by Karen O, and lyric by Karen O and Spike Jonze, the song was written for Jonze’s Her. The three other tunes nominated for Best Original Song are “Happy” from Despicable Me 2, “Let It Go” from Frozen and “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Karen O is the lead singer of the band Yeah Yeah Yeahs and she previously co-wrote original songs for Jonze’s Where The Wild Things Are. She’s also performed on the soundtracks of Frankenweenie, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and I’m Not There.
For K.K. Barrett, the Academy Award-nominated production designer of Warner Bros’ Her, one of the most important aspects of the film was developing the device that would deliver the voice of Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), the computer operating system. “It was the first design we went after because we knew it would set the tone of how sleek or not we were,” said Barrett. “We had a very forward-thinking version in our head and then abandoned it within about two weeks because we didn’t want it to be about technology or him fighting technology, so we had to take the attention away from that and put it back onto him.” The ‘him’ of Her is Joaquin Phoenix, who portrays Theodore Twombly, a lonely writer whose job it is to write beautifully crafted, intimate letters for other people. He buys an operating system to help him organize his world and is seduced by its intuitive software that ends up offering him the intimacy missing from his own life. Her just won the WGA Award for best original screenplay for Jonze, and Barrett this past weekend won the award for production design from the Art Directors Guild.
Related: 2014′s WGA Award Nominees Share Thoughts On Screenwriting
Barrett used the color red throughout the film in the production design. “We wanted the world to be warm and comfortable, and we weren’t afraid of reds and oranges and golden sunlight,” said Barrett. “The use of red in the movie is so strong and gives you a focus. It was our way of uncluttering.” Even though the film was futuristic, there was a conscious effort not to create such an ultra-modern environment. “We were anti-dystopian. So many of the films about the future have that. It becomes such a hard battle if you do that because then you have your characters fighting that world rather than dealing with their own internal character problems.” The film, clearly worked in the way the production was designed as the audience does focus on the relationships, not the technology. “Her is about when to love, the damage that it does and how to trust. You’re always beholden to the story and trying to set a tone for the characters to be believable. You don’t want to disconnect the design from the story that the actors have to carry. We were very careful not to overplay anything to distract from the timing and temperance of that story.” The hardest point of the design is coming up with the ideas and what to do and how to express it to be unique to the film. It’s a very common challenge, but it helped that the collaborative effort with Jonze and his team was completely in sync. “It’s not departmentalized by title, so we have everyone to bounce ideas off of. It was a very organic process. It was a team effort.”
Related: National Board Of Review Names Spike Jonze’s ‘Her’ Best Film
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Tuesday night at the WGA West’s annual Beyond Words panel, ten WGA Awards-nominated scribes assembled to talk screenwriting and commiserate over the scripting challenges faced on eight very different films. A common theme of the night was distilling fiction from real life, as in Terence Winter‘s The Wolf of Wall Street, David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer’s American Hustle, Billy Ray‘s Captain Phillips, and Melisa Wallack and Craig Borten’s Dallas Buyers Club. Nebraska writer Bob Nelson‘s advice seemed to ring true with more than a few: “The best thing to do as a screenwriter,” he declared, “is to pillage your family mercilessly.” Nelson modeled Bruce Dern‘s cranky Midwestern senior citizen Woody after his own father, and June Squibb‘s domineering character after his mother-in-law. “When my brother saw the movie he said, ‘That wasn’t writing – that was dictation.’”
Tracy Letts, who adapted his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play August: Osage County for the screen, echoed that sentiment. The contentious matriarch Violet, played by Meryl Streep in the film in an Oscar-nominated performance, sprung from Letts’ own memories of his grandmother. “She was a really monstrous figure in my mind,” he said. “When I started to write this I wasn’t looking to find a way to sympathize with her, necessarily, but I was trying to find a way to humanize her. .. what I found to my delight and surprise and horror was that she was your mother, too, and she’s everybody’s mother.”
“Jordan (Belfort) was very much based on my grandmother,” joked Winter, who recalled the task of filtering the real life Wall Street swindler into a protagonist that could win over the audience before revealing his true colors. “We have the most unreliable narrator in history and that’s basically license to tell the story in any manner that character sees fit. I wanted Jordan to sell us his story,” he said. Read More »
Let’s hope the first weekend of 2014 is just a blip in the calendar. As newcomers are mostly hiding out, some holdovers have held steadfast in a freezing cold weekend for a huge chunk of the country. TWC’s August: Osage County held its base in five theaters as TV commercials touted the Golden Globes nominated pic. The Meryl Streep/Julia Roberts starrer grossed almost $141K, averaging $28,177. When it opened last weekend, the feature averaged $35,895 in the same number of reporting locations. It expands wide next week. Sony Classics added one theater for its Charles Dickens film The Invisible Woman, grossing over $30K in four theaters. It averaged $30,151 for a two week cume approaching $117K. Warner Bros.’ Her is playing very strong the weekend before it expands from 47 venues to 1,700 so the studio is well set for a wider release. Her opened initially on the 18th of last month in six theaters and on Christmas day expanded to its current 47 venues. The Spike Jonze pic is getting high accolades and positive word of mouth so is up 11% from last weekend and is the only one at the moment that did not fall weekend to weekend on the same number of screens. It’s per screen rose to an estimated $15,361 this weekend on a total take of .722. It’s cume to … Read More »
It continues to be a good week for American Hustle, The Wolf Of Wall Street, Her, Captain Phillips, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers Club and Nebraska. All followed up yesterday’s Producers Guild nominations with WGA noms this morning, making it 2-for-2 in the early guild contests of this new year. The WGA also gave a much-needed shot of adrenaline to August: Osage County, which was bypassed by the PGA but had three SAG nominations earlier and now an adapted screenplay bid for Tracy Letts that keeps it alive. But the news continues to be bad for the Coen brothers, who are usually awards darlings.
Related: An Early Look At A Crowded Best Picture Oscar Race
After being snubbed by SAG and yesterday’s PGA announcement, the Coens’ Inside Llewyn Davis also was bypassed by the WGA, even though it was eligible to be nominated for Original Screenplay. That’s the biggest surprise of the day. (Read the full list of WGA Awards nominees below.) Writers have loved their work in the past. Since the guilds often closely parallel Oscar nominations and have many of the same members, it does not bode well for the chances of the CBS Films release, which started the season by winning the Grand Prize (2nd) at Cannes but has not gotten much traction since. One source close to the film’s campaign told me this morning they think Inside Llewyn Davis will fare better under the more specialized Academy preferential voting system as opposed to the popularity contests of the guilds. Passionate fans of the film will have a better chance to be heard by giving it first-place votes.
Related: Will Critics & Precursor Awards Carry More Weight In A Jam-Packed Year?
Among other films eligible under WGA rules but omitted from the list: Nicole Holofcener’s most acclaimed film to date, Enough Said, was overlooked for Original Screenplay — a surprise given that the WGA nominated her previous film, Please Give, in 2010. Danny Strong’s ambitious script for Lee Daniels’ The Butler also missed the cut as it the film itself did at PGA and the Golden Globes. It is nominated for three SAG awards. And Alfonso and Jonas Cuaron’s original script for one of Oscar’s front-runners, Gravity, failed to impress the writers, who perhaps saw it as more of a technical achievement. Warner Bros has been trying to change that perception and has widely circulated the intricate and complex script but to no avail, at least as far as the WGA is concerned.
Related: Year-End: How A Growing Global Mandate And Franchise Fever Led To Movie Studio Tsuris
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Philomena is heading to become one of the most successful independent films winding into awards season this year, and having compiled the box office for four weeks now, I have watched this film — based on true events and starring Judi Dench — steadily climb both domestically and internationally. Curious, I ventured out to see it last night and found a theater almost full to capacity on a Thursday night (the only seats left were a smattering of neck-benders in the front). After the picture ended, the audience erupted into applause. Strong, positive word-of-mouth is why. It was, simply put, a sweet surprise.
Related: ‘Philomena’ Puts Judi Dench Back In Thick Of Oscar Race
“Our exit polls were as high as anything we’ve had, including The Artist and The King’s Speech,” said Erik Lomis, president of distribution and home entertainment for The Weinstein Company. Exit polls are showing a very high 85% definite recommend, with 95% ranking it “excellent” or “very good,” and its CinemaScore is an A. After seeing the film, that is not a surprise. But its box office numbers might open readers’ eyes a bit:
Related: Specialty Box Office: ‘Philomena’ Debuts Strong
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In its limited debut, Spike Jonze‘s Her opened on 6 screens and tallied $257,815 over 3 days averaging $42,969 per screen. The tech-themed drama-romance starring Joaquin Phoenix as a man in love with his Siri-esque operating system (Scarlett Johansson) jumped to $361,474 over 5 days, averaging $60,246 for WB which has Oscar hopes for Phoenix. And beyond the Hobbits and Ron Burgundy shenanigans it was a Bollywood weekend in the USA (and Canada) this weekend. Bollywood also bows to the franchise machine and it cashed in with Dhoom 3, which Yash Raj Films opened in 236 theaters in North America, grossing over $3.3M and averaging a solid $14K. America and India did not have a good week diplomatically as protests raged in the subcontinent after a diplomat was arrested in NYC. Yash Raj touted some exciting factoids about the release Sunday morning: Dhoom 3 had the highest opening day gross of any Indian movie in North America Highest opening weekend gross of any Indian movie in North America First Bollywood movie to do over $1 million on opening day. Only Bollywood movie to do more than $1 million on 2 consecutive days. “Our biggest strength has been that our audiences are so clued in that technically we just need to announce a date and they will be there for a film like this,” Yash Raj’s VP – Int’l Operations, Avtar Panesar said this week. It will roll out further in the coming weeks.
Related: ‘Dhoom 3′ Breaks Record For Biggest Bollywood Opening Weekend In North America
China also made a grand opening with Feng Xiaogang’s Personal Tailor, launching in 9 locations this weekend. It opened in 9 runs, growing $104K for an $11,555 PSA. Read More »
Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
UPDATED: Spike Jonze’s New York Film Festival world premiere Her will finally hit theaters this weekend in limited release. Jonze has long had “indie” cred and this film will likely find a core of fans among Specialty audiences though the Warner Bros release will go wide in January. “The movie has all these high-concept ideas, but it is nevertheless mostly a relationship movie. It’s about love and our need to connect and our [method] of connecting. But, at its heart, it is a relationship movie,” Jonze said ahead of its NYFF debut. The Specialty b.o. will likely note the film’s opening this weekend as it sits on the cusp of what defines a “Specialty.” Newcomers that are more squarely in that area also taking their bows this weekend include Oscar-winner Asghar Farhadi’s first non-Iranian-set film The Past, which will platform this weekend before Christmas via Sony Classics. Joe Swanberg‘s All The Light In The Sky (Factory 25) is headed out after an Ultra-VOD run. Swanberg hinted that his film Drinking Buddies (out last summer) had a similar Ultra-VOD run and gave some hint at its non-theatrical exclusive, which suggests the power of such releases for at least certain titles. Yash Raj Films will open Dhoom 3, the largest Bollywood title to hit theaters in North America to date, while IFC Films will open Cannes pickup The Selfish Giant at two NYC locations. First Run will take a different approach to its releases of its doc Maidentrip this weekend. And boutique distrib China Lion releases comedy Personal Tailor in seven U.S. markets.
The Past (Le passé)
Director-writer Asghar Farhadi
Writer: Massoumeh Lahidji (adaptation)
Cast: Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa, Pauline Burlet, Elyes Aguis, Jeanne Jestin, Sabrina Ouazani, Babak Karimi
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s The Past is his first film outside his home country and the follow-up to his 2012 Oscar-winner for Best Foreign Language Film, A Separation. Shot over several months in Paris, The Past centers on an Iranian man who deserts his French wife and two children to return to his homeland. While away, his wife embarks on a new relationship, a twist her husband must confront when she asks him for a divorce. “I didn’t have problems finishing the film and worked in a very calm environment,” said Farhadi. “But the big challenge was the French language and culture.” One challenge Farhadi did face was a an actor change in the lead role of Marie. Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard initially had the part, but a scheduling conflict forced her to leave the project. Bérénice Bejo was tapped for the part. Read More »
UPDATED, 2:35 PM: The LA Film Critics Association held its annual end-of year awards vote today, handing Best Picture to WB pics Gravity and Her in one of multiple ties. The big surprise of the day went down as Best Supporting Actor award resulted in a tie between Oscar contender Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) and James Franco (Spring Breakers). Also tying for LAFCA honors were Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine and Adèle Exarchopoulos for Blue Is the Warmest Color, while Nebraska‘s Bruce Dern was named Best Actor and Alfonso Cuaron beat Spike Jonze for Best Director.
Scroll down for full winners.
BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM: Blue Is the Warmest Color
Runner-up: The Great Beauty
BEST PICTURE (tie): Gravity and Her
BEST ACTRESS (tie): Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine and Adèle Exarchopoulos, Blue Is the Warmest Color
BEST SCREENPLAY: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Before Midnight
Runner-up: Spike Jonze, Her
BEST ACTOR: Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Runner-up: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
BEST DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Runner-up: Spike Jonze, Her Read More »
The ever-quirky National Board Of Review has crowned Her as the year’s Best Film and its helmer Spike Jonze as Best Director. It only adds to what is becoming a year without consensus — at least so far, after the New York Film Critics Circle named American Hustle their best film yesterday and the Gotham Awards chose Inside Llewyn Davis. The latter won Best Screenplay from NBR, but there was no mention of Hustle anywhere on its list this morning (see the full list of winners below). Also largely ignored were three films most pundits put at the top of their Oscar frontrunners: 12 Years A Slave, Gravity and Captain Phillips. The latter was completely dissed and 12 Years and Gravity mentioned only in NBR’s Top Ten list, but NO individual awards other than a technical citation for Gravity’s “creative innovation”.
Unlike last year when NBR and NYFCC agreed on Zero Dark Thirty as Best Pic and Director , this morning’s list was far apart. The groups’ only matches came for The Wind Rises in animation, Stories We Tell in Documentary and Fruitvale Station as best first film. NBR’s acting choices of Bruce Dern and Will Forte in Nebraska, Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks and Octavia Spencer for Fruitvale represented a completely different quartet than the NYFCC picks of Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett, Jared Leto and Jennifer Lawrence. But for those who harbor Oscar hopes, don’t despair. The National Board of Review, which describes itself as “a select group of knowledgeable film enthusiasts and professionals, academics, young filmmakers and students”, has had a lousy track record in recent years of picking eventual Oscar winners. In the past five years only one of their Best Film picks — Slumdog Millionaire — and just two acting choices — Christopher Plummer and Penelope Cruz — went on to win Academy Awards. They haven’t had a Best Director in common with Oscar since Martin Scorsese for The Departed in 2005 — the same year they chose Letters From Iwo Jima as Best Film. Here is NBR’s full list of winners:
Spike Jonze, HER
Bruce Dern, NEBRASKA
Emma Thompson, SAVING MR. BANKS
Best Supporting Actor
Will Forte, NEBRASKA
Best Supporting Actress
Octavia Spencer, FRUITVALE STATION
Best Original Screenplay
Joel and Ethan Coen, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
Best Adapted Screenplay
Terence Winter, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
Best Animated Feature
THE WIND RISES
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After Warner Bros unveiled its first trailer for Spike Jonze‘s unconventional romantic drama in August, the studio made a strategic move to December and took it to the NYFF and Rome fests, collecting kudos for star Scarlett Johansson. But early awards hopes for Johansson’s voice-only performance as a Siri-like operating system that captivates her owner (Joaquin Phoenix) were muted by an HFPA ruling that it’s ineligible for contention at the Golden Globes. Check out a new trailer for Her, which opens December 18 in limited release and expands January 10:
I have learned Scarlett Johansson, who plays Samantha, Joaquin Phoenix’s Operating System in the upcoming Spike Jonze film Her has been ruled ineligible to compete for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for this year’s Golden Globe awards. Johansson’s role is strictly a voice over performance – she is only heard, not seen – and would mark a history-making nomination for the Oscars and the SAG awards where she is eligible. Warner Bros has been campaigning for consideration in the category and she recently was named Best Actress at the Rome Film Festival for her role in Her (12/18) which only added fuel to this fire. Warner Bros should be disappointed in the decision by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association but plan to continue bringing her performance, which has won critical raves, to the attention of awards voters. No one has ever been Oscar nominated (or Globe nominated) for a voice over part or for a performance capture role despite past campaigns for actors like Andy Serkis who played Gollum in the Lord Of The Rings films and most recently was touted for his work as Caesar the ape in 2011′s Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.
It will be up to the actors branch of the Academy and SAG nominating committee members to recognize Johansson’s work as a full-bodied performance, even if it is one that isn’t … Read More »
The unique cinematic worlds of Spike Jonze would provide any behind the scenes wizard a unique challenge as evidenced in such films as Adaptation, Being John Malkovich or Where The Wild Things Are, but his latest film Her could be the most difficult to pull off. We have to believe that in the near-future Los Angeles Joaquin Phoenix’s love-struck character could actually fall head over heels in love with Samantha, his Operating System, a Siri-like voice played brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson. For cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema and costume designer Casey Storm the challenges were unique to say the least as they explained on the Warner Bros panel at Deadline’s THE CONTENDERS event.