The pace of the 2010 awards season seems at this early November juncture to be faster than any I can remember. (I feel like the title of the late and great Jill Clayburgh’s star turn, I’m Dancing As Fast As I Can.) Hopefuls are getting out there earlier, and more forcefully, in order to gain a foothold in the race any way they can. Examples from just two days’ worth of campaigning: Michelle Williams called me from the London set of My Week With Marilyn. Yes, she’s playing the iconic Monroe but couldn’t yet articulate what that means to her and instead wanted to talk about her awards contender, Blue Valentine. So we did before I had to run off to the Four Seasons Hotel to chat with Robert Duvall about his contender, Get Low. It was a summer release he’s now trying to keep in the conversation by doing an exhaustive series of interviews and Q&A sessions. For a guy who is about to turn 80, he could not have been more energized even with the daunting prospect of facing months of the “season” still to go. Javier Bardem called on his cell from a street corner in Madrid to recount for me the intense experience of making Biutiful. Then I had to again race to the Four Seasons for back to back bar chats with two other Best Actor wannabes, Kevin Spacey who talked Casino Jack before Aaron Eckhart arrived 10 minutes later to discuss Rabbit Hole.
With the exception of Get Low, all of the above were spotlighting work in independently made movies that are mid to late December releases. But their stars cannot afford to wait if they are to get on the map in this ultra-crowded season. The ever-busy Spacey was at the Britannias and an MPTVF event on Thursday night and also turned up Sunday evening at the Pacific Design Center for an actor-centric post-screening Q&A for SAG nominating committee members. Like an episode of Inside The Actors Studio, the packed house gave him a standing ovation. Reliable eyewitness sources tell me even more impressive standing O happened to Halle Berry two nights in a row at the same place where she Q&A’d her December stealth entry, Frankie & Alice for the NAACP Image Award voters Friday and SAG Nom Comm Saturday. They marked her indie’s first screenings but Berry wasn’t watching. She was out in the lobby doing TV interviews about what the project meant to her as an actress. Meanwhile publicists were frantically cutting film clips for the late-breaking entrant and hoping to have their DVD screeners out well before Thanksgiving. As part of her campaign, Berry will also be “in conversation” with a career retrospective Tuesday night at the AFI Fest.
Speaking of that, the AFI Film Festival opened with Twentieth Century Fox’s Love And Other Drugs. The glut of AFI galas is because it’s an inexpensive way for distribs to do LA premieres this time of year and still get maximum exposure. They included The Weinstein Co’s Blue Valentine with co-star Ryan Gosling and director Derek Cianfrance on the carpet at the Chinese. While down the street at the Egyptian, Sony Pictures Classics unveiled their comedy Barney’s Version with superlative performances from stars Paul Giamatti, Minnie Driver, and Dustin and Jake Hoffman who were all on hand for the stroll down that red carpet. The film, based on the Mordecai Richler story and previously seen in Venice and Toronto, was a hit at AFI with special praise for absent co-star Rosamund Pike who could find her way into the supporting actress race.