Cannes Film Festival: Could This Year’s Croisette Lineup Of Big Names And Academy Favorites Lead All The Way To Oscar?

By | Thursday April 17, 2014 @ 12:50pm PDT
Pete Hammond

So what does today’s announcement of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival lineup mean for Oscar?

Who knows except that out of competition entry How To Train Your Dragon 2 will almost certainly be nominated Cannes2014_badgefor Best Animated Feature. Other than that we will have to wait and see until we actually view the films in Cannes next month. But there are good omens in this lineup (which could still see one or two more titles added) if you look at the impressive group of actors represented in these films:  Oscar winners Tommy Lee Jones (who directs the competition entry The Homesman), Meryl Streep, Juliette Binoche, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, and director Michel Hazanivicius are among the prominent names and past nominees like Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Jessica Chastain, Hailee Steinfeld, Berenice Bejo, Ryan Gosling (who is making his directorial debut) are also represented.

31f3755aebf03843615001f677fab8b5My colleague Nancy Tartaglione did a great job predicting who would make — or not make — the cut and wrote an exhaustive overview earlier. Now it’s time to look at the awards implications outside of those that will be handed out May 24th at the Palais. I look at Cannes as a soft start to Hollywood’s awards season. There’s no question of its importance as the granddaddy of all film fests and as a key worldwide launch for a movie that has got the goods, but in the end the May date scares off some distributors who, by launching their fall Oscar hopefuls on the Croisette may feel it ultimately hurts their chances — and more importantly their momentum.

Cannes Lineup 2014 Oscar SeasonThat’s no doubt a key reason Warner Bros chose to hold back past Cannes competitor and favorite Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice and Fox Searchlight did the same with Alexander Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman even apart from the usual reasons that they may not “be ready.” Last year Paramount decided at the last minute to take Alexander Payne’s Nebraska to Cannes even though he initially favored more postproduction time. Payne had competed once before with About Schmidt, headed the Un Certain Regard jury, and served on the main competition jury so he was a favorite of Cannes’ chief programmer Thierry Fremaux. The film ended up winning Best Actor for Bruce Dern but after Cannes the director “tinkered” with it and made it tighter before hitting the Telluride Film Festival over Labor Day with his final cut. It went on to win six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Director and Actor after finally opening November 15 (it didn’t win any Oscars, though). It’s not the first time a filmmaker has made changes after their film was shown to the world’s press and reviewed in Cannes. The growing feeling among distributors is it is best to wait until the movie is really locked before risking exposure at this most visible of all festivals. Read More »

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Meryl Streep As Hard Rocker? TriStar Closing Deal For ‘Ricki And The Flash’

streepEXCLUSIVE:  Tom Rothman’s TriStar Productions is closing a deal to finance and distribute Ricki And The Flash, a hot package that had several studios circling because it comes with Meryl Streep playing a hard rocking mama. Scripted by Juno‘s Diablo Cody, the film will be directed by Jonathan Demme, and produced by Marc Platt and Mason Novick. This comes on the heels of TriStar’s deal with Robert Zemeckis to direct the 3-D experiential film To Walk the Clouds about the French aerialist Phillipe Petit who crossed between the Twin Towers on a wire in 1974. The project is based on Petit’s memoirs To Reach The Clouds and is being produced by Zemeckis with his ImageMovers Jack Rapke, Steve Starkey and Rothman. Landing Ricki and The Flash is a coup for Rothman.

demmeStreep will play a rock n’ roll-loving woman who chased her tattered dream at the price of her family, but gets a last chance to get it right by reconciling with her estranged daughter. This isn’t some development deal. Rothman has committed to make the picture and Streep is already preparing. Demme has directed documentaries with Neil Young, and there was an impromptu encounter with Demme and Streep where Young was present, and the iconic guitarist and singer gave her some pointers. She has already demonstrated her ability to sing on Mamma Mia! This is new territory for an actress who has done most everything; her character belts out hard rock at night and is a grocery store checkout lady by day. Shooting begins this fall.
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OSCARS: On The Scene As Nominees Lunch Brings Out Record Number And EVERYONE Is A Winner In This Room

By | Monday February 10, 2014 @ 6:17pm PST
Pete Hammond

No question the nominees lunch, which took place today at the Beverly Hilton, is the feel good event of a very long Oscar season — at least as far as the86th Oscars®, Nominees Luncheon, Group Photo nominees who have made it this far are concerned. If the Governors Awards in November is a great networking opportunity for contenders, this luncheon has become a “must attend” for nominees, who get their certificates, a goodie bag and the chance to meet their fellow nominees in a collegial atmosphere where everyone’s a winner. At least until March 2. Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron made a point of telling them a billion people will be watching in more than 225 countries and that the time begins the moment they hit the microphone and they will have only 45 seconds. “But don’t be nervous,” smiled Zadan. “Just prepare”.

Related:
86th Academy Awards Nominees Photo
OSCARS: 86th Academy Award Nominations
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Wild Critics’ Choice Movie Awards Brings Out Oscar Nomination Day’s Winners And Losers; Julia Roberts Compares It To “Some Strange Fellini Movie”

Pete Hammond

19th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards - Backstage And AudienceLast night’s Critics’ Choice Movie Awards pretty much mirrored the results of the Golden Globes handed out just a few days earlier. The winners – 12  Years A Slave for Picture, American Hustle for Comedy Picture, Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Cate Blanchett, Amy Adams, Leonardo DiCaprio, director Alfonso Cuaron, Spike Jonze for his Her screenplay, and animated film Frozen – were awarded similar honors from the Hollywood Foreign Press on Sunday. The only real variation was in Supporting Actress, where Slave’s Lupita Nyong’o was the choice of the Broadcast Critics (I am a member of the group) while Jennifer Lawrence grabbed the Globe. Lawrence did win a CCMA too, though, as part of the victorious ensemble of Hustle.

Related: Critics’ Choice Movie Awards Winners

So does this mean an Oscars consensus is finally forming as awards season begins to heat up? Not really. We are still talking awards from media groups here. The real contest Critics-Choice-Movie-Awards-logo-e1379366211768starts this weekend when the first two big guild awards — SAG on Saturday and the Producers Guild on Sunday — declare their winners and the industry gets its say. These results will be significant and I am particularly looking towards the PGA (which has turned out to be a kingmaker in recent seasons, matching Oscar’s Best Picture the last six years in a row) to add some clarity to the season which at this point is wide open — although I would say, by virtue of a major Best Picture win at the Globes and CCMAs, 12 Years A Slave is having a good run this week.  And remember, for whatever reason, the Broadcast Critics Association members often seem to reflect the sentiment of Academy voters. It has a good track record predicting eventual Oscar wins.

19th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards - Press RoomBut where the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards really made its mark last night was that it came at the end of a long day where Oscar nominations were revealed. This is the second year in a row BFCA chose the same date as the Academy for a major awards season event. You might recall Ben Affleck’s “I’d like to thank the Academy…” speech last year when he won the CCMA after being snubbed by the Academy for a Best Director nomination earlier that morning.  There weren’t quite the same dramatic moments last night, but the vibe in the room was electric. A whole group of brand new Oscar nominees were in a celebratory mood, and the networking and backslapping going on was every bit as fun as the crazy atmosphere that surrounds the Globes.

Related: Bullock, Cooper Drop F-Bombs On Live Critics’ Choice Show Read More »

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Deadline Awards Watch 59: The Oscar Nominations Podcast

By and | Thursday January 16, 2014 @ 5:27pm PST

Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond talks with host David Bloom about today’s Oscar nominations, which produced a very strong field of competitors and inevitably left some worthy contenders on the outside looking in.

We’ll get Pete’s take on just about everything Oscar, from Best Picture to Best Boy, who got in and who didn’t and what it will all mean come March 2.

Among the most interesting tidbits: that Best Song nominee from a movie virtually no one had heard of; record-setters for Meryl Streep, David O. Russell and Jennifer Lawrence; disappointments for Inside Llewyn Davis and Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks, and what may still be a seven-way race for Best Picture.

Separately, Pete also talks about two of this week’s movie debuts, the reboot of a durable Tom Clancy franchise, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit with Chris Pine; and Ride Along, a cop comedy featuring rising star Kevin Hart trying to win over his grumpy future brother-in-law, played by Ice Cube.

Choose your preferred format here:
Deadline Awards Watch podcast 59 (.MP3 version)
Deadline Awards Watch podcast 59 (.M4A version)
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The Weinstein Co., Meryl Streep To Take Down NRA In ‘The Senator’s Wife’

By | Thursday January 16, 2014 @ 10:25am PST

Palm Springs Film Fest: Harvey WeinsteinMeryl-Streep-9497266-1-402The title will be The Senator’s Wife, the star, Oscar winner Meryl Streep and the producer, The Weinstein Co. The target: the NRA. The formidable chairman of The Weinstein Co., Harvey Weinstein, confirmed to Deadline today they will be taking on the NRA gun lobby head-on with a film entitled The Senator’s Wife which will star the just-Oscar-nominated Streep (August: Osage County) and other top talent in a movie he described as “the new Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” — the beloved Frank Capra film that starred Jimmy Stewart about one man’s fight against corrupt politicians in Washington. Weinstein announced on The Howard Stern Show that “they’re (the NRA is) going to wish they weren’t alive after I’m done with them.” Weinstein, who has been one of the strongest supporters of President Barack Obama, in this film will expose the NRA for their behind-the-scenes machinations of what Obama himself called “intimidation” and “lies” that ended up defeating legislation that would have expanded background checks on gun sales. Shortly after, Obama, flanked by parents of murdered children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, held a press conference out in the Rose Garden, calling out the NRA, saying the organization led by Wayne LaPierre “willfuly lied” to the American people. “They claimed that it would create some sort of big brother gun registry even though the bill did the opposite,” said Obama of the NRA, and he added, “this pattern of spreading untruths about this legislation served a purpose. Because those lies upset an intense minority of gun owners and that in turn intimidated a lot of senators.” For the record, I took part in the We Are Better Than This campaign after my cousin’s daughter was murdered in the Aurora theater shooting, but my family members own guns and one is an NRA member. Read More »

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Oscars: Ballots Due In Less Than 48 Hours As Contenders Keep The Campaigns Hot And Voters Try To Keep Pace

Pete Hammond

The clock is ticking, Academy members.

As the deadline looms for the close of Oscar nomination polls at 5 PM Wednesday, I  have talked to a largeOscar_Logo110922004651__120227115551 number of potential voters who are still not even close to seeing the key movies, whether in theaters or making a dent in that pile of screeners at home. A more limited voting pool could lead to a surprising outcome, and this year it seems there are many members struggling to check out all the contenders. Last year then-Academy President Hawk Koch boasted to me on the day of nominations that with the help of the (then-controversial) new online voting system, turnout was the largest in recent Academy history. Hoping not to fall off the pace, new President Cheryl Boone Isaacs has been sending recorded messages urging voters who haven’t marked their ballots yet to get them in before the deadline.

Related: OSCARS: Ballots Are Out And The Race Is On, But Will Voters See The Movies In Time?
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Oscar Contenders Hit The Desert As Hollywood’s Awards Season Moves to Palm Springs

Pete Hammond

As one battle-weary awards publicist said, “Here we go again. Three months later, same drill.”

Not quite, but close.  Wasn’t it just October when we saw Sandra Bullock, Matthew McConaughey, Julia Roberts, Steve McQueen and Lupita Nyong’o hit the stage at … Read More »

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‘August: Osage County’ Leads Awards At Capri, Hollywood Film Festival

Meryl_Streep_August_Osage_County.png.CROP.rectangle3-largeAhead of today’s WGA Award nom for its adapted screenplay, August: Osage County picked up Best Film of the Year and two other awards at the Italian event. The 18th annual Capri, Hollywood International Film Festival also honored the … Read More »

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Meryl Streep, Margo Martindale & Abigail Breslin Talk ‘August: Osage County’: Video

By | Friday December 20, 2013 @ 12:10pm PST
Pete Hammond

After a screening of August: Osage County this week at the TV Academy’s theater in North Hollywood, I sat down with three augustosage45of the stars from the film’s cast –Meryl Streep, Margo Martindale and Abigail Breslin – to talk … Read More »

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Harvey Weinstein, George Clooney And Tracy Letts On ‘August: Osage County’s Ending Change And Release Date Shift

Mike Fleming

auguEXCLUSIVE: After this week’s L.A. premiere of August: Osage County, Harvey Weinstein is prepared to make two proclamations as the film launches into a crowded Oscar season. “When it comes to Oscars, I’ll take bets on this movie, it’s going to be a surprise and a sleeper, but it’s gonna be there,” he said. His second proclamation: “I’m never again going to rush to play a movie festival anymore, until the movie is locked,” Weinstein said. “We rushed to get a version of August: Osage County because we wanted the heat of Toronto. It wasn’t finished and it has created a disconnect.”

Weinstein, George Clooney (a producer with Smokehouse Pictures partner Grant Heslov) and Tracy Letts (who adapted his Pulitzer Prize-winning play into the John Wells-directed film) called me to dispel a misperception they hope will not become a problem: that because of slight changes between the Toronto version and the final cut, this was a problem picture. In this case, the early version of the Meryl Streep/Julia Roberts-starrer had a slightly different ending than it does now. The finished film is a bit longer and more polished and contains over its closing credits ”Last Mile Home”, a moving acoustic song that Kings Of Leon wrote for the film. “Our worst review has been three stars, but forevermore in the age of the Internet you read that reaction was mixed in Toronto and it colors people,” Weinstein said. “There’s something in the air and the way to take it out of the air is for the three of us to combat it.” I won’t give away the ending here, but it involves how things are left between a dysfunctional family matriarch (Streep) and the daughter (Roberts) in danger of following in her bitter footsteps. Besides Toronto, there were test screenings and the usual back and forth that resulted in what the three said is the best version of the film, the one they showed this week.

Related: Toronto: Huge Reaction For Oscar-Bait ‘August: Osage County’ – But Will It Divide Audiences? Read More »

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The Contenders 2013: ‘August: Osage County’s John Wells On Directing Meryl Streep: “She Came To Play” (Video)

By | Wednesday November 20, 2013 @ 11:50am PST
Pete Hammond

As one of television’s most prolific and successful writer/producers, John Wells has known great success with Emmy-winning series like E.R. and The West Wing and currently Showtime’s Shameless, but after getting his feet wet directing movies with The Company Men Read More »

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Avi Lerner Saves His ‘ExpendaBelles’ News For Bulgaria

By | Friday October 25, 2013 @ 9:29am PDT
Mike Fleming

For some reason, Millennium Films chief Avi Lerner likes to drop scoops in the Bulgarian press. That might mean that his revelation to the Standart that he is negotiating with Meryl Streep, Cameron Diaz and Milla Jovovich to … Read More »

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OSCARS: Why Michael Fassbender’s Refusal To Campaign Likely Won’t Matter

By | Tuesday October 15, 2013 @ 2:51pm PDT
Pete Hammond

Buried near the end of a lengthy Michael Fassbender profile in the November issue of GQ, writer Zach Baron gets the Oscar-buzzed actor to explain why he has no plans to do the campaign circuit this season for his supporting role as the vicious slave owner in 12 Years A Slave.

“I’m going to be busy working. I just don’t really have time. (Campaigning is) just not going to happen, because I’ll be in New Zealand. I’ll be on the other side of the world. You know, I get it. Everybody’s got to do their job. So you try and help and facilitate as best you can. But I won’t put myself through that kind of situation again. It’s just a grind. And I’m not a politician. I’m an actor,” Fassbender said of the whole Oscar process, which seems to grow every year and includes numerous Q&As, luncheons, meet-and-greets, private screenings, film festival tributes, presenting at endless awards shows, well-timed talk show appearances, etc etc. Many artists who suddenly find themselves the object of an all-out Oscar campaign find this part of the job even more grueling than making the actual film. And by the time the Oscars roll around they are spent.

Campaign or no campaign, in Fassbender’s case it may not matter. He’s very likely going to get nominated — and could win — for Best Supporting Actor and I think that’s a scenario whether he lifts a finger or not in doing the usual rounds. The film and the role are so strong it’s hard to imagine the actors branch ignoring him. Now after the nominations it could change, especially in a tight, competitive race where every vote counts. Read More »

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Meryl Streep In ‘Into The Woods’: First Photo

By | Thursday September 26, 2013 @ 8:40pm PDT

Here’s the first look at Meryl Streep as the Witch who’s out to reverse a curse that has taken her beauty. Disney‘s high-profile adaptation of James Lapine’s Broadway musical Into The Woods also stars Johnny Depp, Chris Pine, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt and others. The Rob … Read More »

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Toronto: Weinstein’s Premiere Marathon Delivers Huge Reaction For Oscar-Bait ‘August: Osage County’ – But Will It Divide Audiences?

Pete Hammond

Just call it Weinstein Premiere-O-Rama. The company launched four movies with splashy galas at the Toronto International Film Festival in the span of 48 hours (is this some sort of weird record?). That included Saturday night’s Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom World Premiere, Sunday’s North American launch of Philomena and last night’s World Premieres of August: Osage County  and One Chance directly against each other. When I saw Harvey Weinstein at the combined Soho House after-party for the Monday films I told him he obviously loves Toronto. He was moving fast between his movies showing up everywhere, including on stage for August before it began. ”Everything came together and we just thought this would be the perfect way to get these films out there,” he said clearly beaming at the reaction.

Related: Toronto: TWC’s Epic ‘Mandela’ Debuts To Standing Ovation

All the films won standing ovations, not uncommon in movie-friendly Toronto (people like getting up on their feet here) but even by those standards the raucous, prolonged standing O for August: Osage County was definitely the most enthusiastic I have encountered at this year’s fest. And the John Wells-directed movie adaptation of actor/writer Tracy Letts’ Tony-winning Midwestern-set Broadway play about a dysfunctional family to end all dysfunctional families played like gangbusters with much audible reaction throughout. Star Meryl Streep was a last-minute cancellation due to illness and co-producer George Clooney (with Grant Heslov) didn’t make the trek to Canada for this film or Gravity in which he co-stars with Sandra Bullock since he was back in L.A. still working on posting his latest directorial gig, Monuments Men as well as shooting Disney’s Tomorrowland. But most of the cast was there including Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, Chris Cooper, Julianne Nicholson, Abigail Breslin, Dermot Mulroney and Julia Roberts, clearly the belle of this ball. When I spoke with her afterwards she was definitely on cloud nine over the reaction the film received and obviously excited to be working with this cast and opposite Streep who manages to do the impossible and tops Streep as the bitterly funny, bitingly caustic  mother who lets it rip, particularly in the film’s (and the play’s ) signature dinner scene. Roberts is also at her best and both should be major Oscar contenders in the impossibly crowded lead actress category. This would make nomination #18 for Streep. Could anyone ever top her own record?
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Toronto: 300 Movies To See, But Who Will Get The Biggest Oscar Buzz?

Pete Hammond

The 2013 Toronto Film Festival gets underway in full force later tonight with the world premiere of DreamWorks’ awards hopeful The Fifth Estate from director Bill Condon. The fest will show off approximately 300 films by the time it wraps September 15 with the closing-night film, Life Of CrimeThat movie, up for acquisition, stars Jennifer Aniston, John Hawkes and Tim Robbins and has added heat since its selection as the closer. It represents the last movie in which the late author Elmore Leonard, an executive producer, was involved.

Related: ‘Life Of Crime’ Director Laments That Elmore Leonard Won’t Be In Toronto

Among the true world premieres here — films that haven’t already been world premieres in Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Sundance or Telluride — the most anticipated outside of the acquisition titles are those mostly sight-unseen movies expected to become major players in the awards race. They include August: Osage Country, which will be unveiled at a starry gala Monday that will include Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts; Ron Howard’s terrific car racing drama Rush, launching Sunday; Dallas Buyers Club with a buzzed-about turn from Matthew McConaughey on Saturday night; Nicole Holofcener’s romantic comedy Enough Said starring Emmy-winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus and repping one of the final films of James Gandolfini, on Saturday afternoon; Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, the story of the young Nelson Mandela with Idris Elba in the lead, early Saturday evening; and David Frankel’s One Chance, a crowd-pleaser about the Britain’s Got Talent winning opera singer Paul Potts that could be a big player in the Golden Globe Musical or Comedy race (see the trailer for that one here). One of its producers is Simon Cowell, and it screens Monday night. And although Spike Jonze’s December entry Her won’t be debuting until it closes the New York Film Festival on October 13, key press will be given a preview of clips along with a conversation with Jonze on Sunday afternoon as Warner Bros tries to put the Amy Adams-Joaquin Phoenix picture into the awards conversation coming out of Toronto.

Related: Analysis: What Toronto Lineup Signals For Oscar Race

As previously noted, several contenders that played Telluride, Venice or Cannes such as All Is Lost, Inside Llewyn Davis and Nebraska  are skipping Toronto altogether in favor of turning up next at NYFF later this month. By the way, Nebraska really popped at Telluride, a consensus favorite there doing even better than it did in Cannes competition. Director Alexander Payne told me he “tinkered” with the film for some time after its Cannes debut to get it to the place he wanted. Obviously he made the right choice. This one looks like it could be a major player at the Oscars — you can just feel it. “People just want a comedy right now, ” explained a modest Payne about the reception it received in the Rockies last week.

Toronto organizers shouldn’t be crying in their soup over pictures they didn’t get. This fest, once known as the Festival of Festivals, is already impossibly overcrowded. It’s like Cannes on steroids with way too much for any one person to see. You have to make Solomon-like choices if you want to cover Toronto in all its glory. I say thank god for Cannes and Telluride as it gives me a head start. Read More »

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Meryl Streep To Play Chief Elder In ‘The Giver’

By | Tuesday August 6, 2013 @ 3:58pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Meryl Streep is poised to join Jeff Bridges and a fast growing cast in The Giver, an adaptation of the Lois Lowry novel that Phil Noyce will direct. Streep is in talks to join a … Read More »

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FilmNation, Tribeca Reunite Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro For ‘The Good House’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: FilmNation Entertainment has acquired from Jane Rosenthal the rights to the bestselling Ann Leary novel The Good House. They’re reuniting one of the great screen couples, Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro, and Michael Cunningham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of … Read More »

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