Well that’s no surprise – Sony Pictures Classics has moved to have a lawsuit over a William Faulkner quote used in Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris dismissed. “Plaintiff’s purported copyright infringement claim does not survive a motion to dismiss because: (a) the use of a nine-word quotation from a full-length novel is a de minimis use and is not actionable under the Copyright Act; and (b) the Film’s use is a fair use expressly allowed by Section 107 of the Copyright Act,” the studio’s short five-page motion (read it here) filed earlier this week states. Faulkner Literary Rights filed suit on October 25 against Sony Pictures Classic in U.S. District Court in Mississippi for the infringement plus commercial appropriation and violation of the Lanham Act. The paraphrased quote comes from Faulkner’s Requiem For A Nun. At the time, Sony called the lawsuit over few words uttered by Owen Wilson in the 2011 film “frivolous.” Their court move earlier this week only reinforces that view. What is interesting though is that at the same time as seeking the dismissal, the studio is also seeking to have the case moved from the south up to New York. Besides stating the case “could have and should have” been filed in New York in the first place, Sony says in a separate filing Tuesday that such a move would benefit “the convenience of parties and witnesses, and the interest of justice.” Even though he’s not named as a defendant in the initial suit, maybe that’ll make it easier for Woody to make an appearance.
Funny Or Die appears to be sick of Woody Allen’s Tour Of Europe films (To Rome With Love, Midnight In Paris, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Match Point). Also his love of jazz:
When the awards season kicked into gear at Telluride and Toronto, it appeared the movie to beat was going to be Fox Searchlight’s The Descendants. But then along came the big momentum for the little-silent-movie-that-could, The Artist, and that was all she wrote — that is, until this last weekend before ballots are due. Descendants has been on a tear these past few days, almost seeming to say “it ain’t over til it’s over”. With significant victories for Best Adapted Screenplay at the WGA Awards Sunday night, preceded by the prestigious USC Scripter Award and Best Drama Feature Editing win at the ACE Eddie Awards on Saturday — not to mention writer-director Alexander Payne’s special award from the cinema editors — you have a pretty impressive haul. But is it too late to turn around the momentum of The Artist? After all, ballots are due at PricewaterhouseCoopers by Tuesday at 5 PM, and with the President’s Day holiday on Monday slowing postal delivery, the only way to get ballots in on time is to have them hand-delivered.
When it comes to Academy recognition, Midnight In Paris writer-director Woody Allen’s view isn’t that far from the Groucho Marx philosophy held by his Annie Hall alter ego Alvy Singer: Allen would never want to belong to a club that would want someone like him as a member. After Annie Hall scored four Oscar wins, it seemed Allen was an Oscar club member for years to come, especially with 21 nominations under his belt. Not so according to his producer and younger sister Letty Aronson, who has shepherded his films since working on 1994’s Bullets Over Broadway. She also is behind Allen’s latest Oscar Best Picture nominee, which also earned him Director and Original Screenplay noms. Aronson assesses Midnight In Paris, her 18th collaboration with Allen, as well as her brother’s awards-season track record with AwardsLine’s Anthony D’Alessandro.
AWARDSLINE: Midnight In Paris is Woody Allen’s highest grossing film of all-time ($148.4 million worldwide). Why did this title resonate widely with audiences?
ARONSON: When I read the script, I said to Woody, “Who’s going to come see this?” No one has heard of Man Ray or Gertrude Stein. He is always determined to make the movie that he has a vision for and it’s my job to always ask “I wonder who will go see it?” It’s one thing to read the script and quite another to actually see the film. How do I account for its success? It’s been a crossover film in terms of younger folks, which I attribute to either the parents going and saying “you gotta see this” or taking their kids to it. This was also a breakout film partially because people have a love affair with Paris.
The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television, which previously honored Aussie productions, has launched five new award categories that will recognize international product in Best Film, Best Direction, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Actress. In other words, the Aussies are going Hollywood. The nominees were announced tonight by Jacki Weaver, the Aussie actress who was Oscar nominated for Animal Kingdom. I am not sure how these will factor into the Oscar conversation, but here are the nominees:
INAUGURAL AACTA INTERNATIONAL AWARDS NOMINEES
The Artist – Thomas Langmann (The Weinstein Company)
The Descendants - Jim Burke, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Hugo – Graham King, Tim Headington, Martin Scorsese, Johnny Depp (Paramount Pictures)
The Ides of March – George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Brian Oliver (Columbia Pictures)
Margin Call - Robert Ogden Barnum, Michael Benaroya, Neal Dodson, Joe Jenckes, Corey Moosa, Zachary Quinto (Roadside Attractions)
Melancholia – Meta Louise Foldager, Louise Vesth (Magnolia Pictures)
Midnight In Paris – Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Jaume Roures (Sony Pictures Classics)
Moneyball - Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz, Brad Pitt (Columbia Pictures)
The Tree of Life – Bill Pohlad, Dede Gardner, Sarah Green (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
We Need to Talk About Kevin – Jennifer Fox, Luc Roeg, Bob Salerno (Oscilloscope Pictures)
It wasn’t that long ago that the top pictures being talked up during awards season all had do with war, murders, corporate baddies, ruthless oil barons, criminals, the disconnect between people, and well, just our basic bummerness. Recent Best Picture winners like The Hurt Locker, The Departed, No Country For Old Men, Crash, Slumdog Millionaire and nominees like There Will Be Blood, Babel, Michael Clayton and The Reader among many others exploring our darkest moments seemed to be what the Academy — and the public for that matter — wanted in their entertainment.
But then bad economic times hit, really bad times, and the result seems to have spawned a different kind of top Oscar contender. Last year was the turning point as a more traditional period film that promoted a better view of ourselves handily defeated a more cynical movie that defines our times. In the battle of The King’s Speech vs. The Social Network, good old fashioned entertainment won out over edgy and complex, if superlative, filmmaking.
This year, at the top of most pundits lists we are seeing a return to the kinds of movies that might have worked in the Great Depression of the 1930s, when pure entertainment ruled the roost and Shirley Temple and Astaire and Rogers were must-sees. With frontrunners and early award magnets like the Weinstein Co’s black-and-white silent film The Artist, Martin Scorsese’s love letter to the earliest days of the movies in Paramount’s Hugo, Woody Allen’s nostalgic and romantic Midnight In Paris from Sony Classics, and the Weinstein’s glistening film-about-the-making-of-a-film My Week With Marilyn (just longlisted for a leading 16 BAFTA awards), it is a different kind of race entirely. These are the favorites in many categories, while darker fare struggles to compete on the same level. It’s as if people are trying to use movies again for escape from the harsh realities of living in this modern, difficult world.
Take it with a grain of salt. But Saturday night’s “official” Academy member screening of Moneyball seemed to draw the most enthusiasm since last May’s packed Midnight In Paris. At least judging by several unsolicited responses emailed to me by Academy members in attendance. Of course it helped that the film came in a very respectable No. 2 at the box office this weekend with just over $20 million. One Acad member told me it was “as crowded as it gets.” While another wrote, “I just went to the Academy screening of Moneyball, and it was packed! Pretty much filled besides a few random open seats.” The make-up of the Acad crowd was described as “older than usual, and a lot of new faces” and by another member in attendance as “definitely older than I would have expected. But there was great reaction throughout the film and big applause at the end for Brad and Jonah.” Another opined that “the lighter moments played well, which as you know is always telling. The few jokes were responded to well. There was warm applause at the end. But personally I gauge baseball movies by the emotional swelling I get in my throat at least once. I didn’t get that here.”
Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris, which recently became the director’s highest-grossing film of all time at the domestic box office, is getting another wide release. Sony Pictures Classics, which has distributed the past four Allen films, will …
SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 5TH UPDATE: After last weekend’s disappointing outcome for Green Lantern, Summer 2011 returns with big-time North American grosses. But both Disney’s Cars 2 and Sony’s Bad Teacher cooled off Saturday after a hot Friday. Expect an overall moviegoing total of $176M, up +6% from last year. Here’s the Top 10.
1. Cars 2 3D (Pixar/Disney) NEW [4,115 Theaters]
Friday $25.7M, Saturday $23.3M, Weekend $68M
Wow, even Pixar’s clunker exceeded expectations, becoming Pixar’s 12th straight No. 1 toon. Strange that the special studio parent/kids’ tracking was only showing a $50M weekend for Cars 2 even with 3D’s higher ticket prices and a very wide U.S. and Canadian release. (Its 4,115 theaters comprise 2,508 3D locations, including 120 IMAX venues.) Other studios at first thought the toon could zoom between $71.5M-$75M for the weekend, but Disney was right to stay conservative with projections of “just” $68M. Surprising that gross was -10% from Friday despite those Saturday kiddie matinees, indicating that word of mouth wasn’t good. It’s still a big bump up from the original’s $60.1M despite far less favorable reviews. Audiences gave Cars 2 a ‘A-’ CinemaScore vs ‘A’ for the first Cars back in 2006 – but critics called the sequel a lemon and Pixar’s worst movie ever because of the lame espionage story and over-use of Larry The Cable Guy (a little of him goes a loooong way). No doubt his good ol’ boy tow truck voiceover will go down well in flyover country. But critics expected better of Pixar CEO John Lasseter, the chief creative officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and principal creative adviser of Walt Disney Imagineering, who is returning to the director’s chair for the first time since Cars. Still, the moolah puts the sequel #5 on the Pixar food chain.
But the real platinum lining here is all that Cars-branded merchandise parents are going to buy for their kids. Disney has put 300 or so products on the market – Cars Kleenex, anyone? — and Wall Street expects those licensed retail sales to total $10 billion, making it the biggest movie merchandising ever. (Toy Story 3 made about $2.8 billion.) It’s a supremely cynical move — lousy movie, great crap – that includes a video game releasing Tuesday, ice and stage shows, and a 12-acre Cars Land expected to rejuvenate California Adventure next year. On the other hand, the Pixar brand may wind up hurt by its first bout of bad PR for a company whose first 11 feature-length animated films have earned $6.5 billion at the global box office and 29 Academy Awards. ”Families (flyover or not) are deciding for themselves and disregarding reviews,” an unconcerned Disney exec replies to me. “Critics not liking a movie doesn’t seem like it will hurt the Pixar brand in my opinion. It will be their 12th #1 film in a row and will rank near the top for opening weekends. Should I send you a Larry the Cable Guy DVD?”
Besides its licensing bonanza, Cars 2 builds on the original’s brand overseas. Cars 1 made “only” 47.2% of its $462M internationally, so Pixar/Disney decided to rev up the sequel’s foreign appeal by sending its vehicles on a race to Tokyo, Italy, London and Paris after the studio found that the tow truck resonated with kids around the world. (The Japanese washlet toilet scene is sight to behold.) Cars 2 is opening in 18 international markets including Italy, Russia, Brazil, Mexico and Australia. Already Russia scored the biggest opening day of all time for a Disney animated film (but there also are more theaters there now than before), while Australia is pitting Cars 2 against Kung Fu Panda 2, and the Pixar film has pulled a little ahead. Even the music is global, with a score by American composer Michael Giacchino, plus alternative rock legend Weezer, country music hitmaker Brad Paisley, best-selling British singer-songwriter Robbie Williams, French superstar Bénabar, and the power pop Japanese girl band Perfume.
2. Bad Teacher (Sony) NEW [3,049 Theaters]
Friday $12.1M, Saturday $10.9M, Weekend $31M
Welcome to the brave new moviemaking world of Bad Gals and raunchy ‘R-rated’ movies starring women. (Hard to believe feminists fought for this kind of film equality, huh?) Exit polling showed the pic attracted 63% female/37% male audiences, while 57% were over age 25/43% under age 25. Given the mega-success of Bridesmaids and now Bad Teacher, expect a lot of clones coming to the megaplex near you. Even though audiences gave foul-mouthed Cameron Diaz et al a ‘C+’ CinemaScore, this sleeper overperformed with Sony expecting a $20+M result. I’m told this under-$20M budgeted comedy was championed internally by Columbia Pictures president Doug Belgrad, and, like so many other films that Sony has successfully released of late, he was able to put the film together with the producers for the right $20M-$40M price. (If you look at the last several years, Sony still overspends on tentpoles but also has developed a solid portfolio of modestly produced films like The Social Network, Superbad, Pineapple Express, Bounty Hunter, Karate Kid, Julie and Julia, Easy A, Vantage Point, The Ugly Truth, etc. These titles, when done right, allow for decent upside…)
Once again, Sony had pitch-perfect marketing thanks to Marc Weinstock, Tommy Gargotta, and of course Jeff Blake. The buzz began developing weeks ago thanks to an irreverent outdoor campaign with Cameron and her desk continuing through the trailers and TV ads that shouted the subversive concept of the film. “We had a lot to work with on this title. From the movie itself to the cast, we used all our assets to build heat and awareness for the film while having fun with the campaign,” a Sony exec tells me. For example, on National Teacher Appreciation Day, the studio sent apples with Post-it notes that read “Eat Me” to top radio DJs in key markets to get a lot of air chatter going. Online, there were initiatives like the Worst Teachers In History Collection on collegehumor.com. Of course, Cameron, Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel all worked the talk-show circuit. On TV, spots aired on many of the more mouthbreather-targeted season finales and premieres, while the two-minute trailer ran during MTV’s Jersey Shore in March to gain early awareness. Sony also had a strong footprint throughout the recent NBA playoffs and finals.
Bad Teacher opened first in the UK where it has done very well, taking in nearly $4M in its first week of play there and holding to a strong -41% Friday. It opens day and date in 25 smaller countries this weekend, including Germany, Holland, New Zealand and Sweden.
At 75, Woody Allen shows no signs of slowing down. “I’ve been very lucky over the years to be able to sustain the career I’ve had,” he recently told Cannes. As I pointed out last weekend, Midnight In Paris is Woody Allen’s biggest hit in years, looking to exceed both Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) and Match Point (2005), both of which grossed $23+M domestic at the box office. Now it’s official. Sony Pictures Classics announced today that Woody’s latest has become his highest-grossing film in North America in 25 years, having grossed $23,330,859 to date. “This is proving to be one of the big summer pictures, and we hope to hit more major milestones in the coming weeks,” Sony Pictures Classics’ Tom Bernard and Michael Barker emailed me. The pic is on target to surpass Hannah and Her Sisters (though not adjusted for inflation and higher ticket prices) to become Woody’s top earner ever.
Sony Pictures Classics announced today that it is expanding Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris to 1038 screens for the weekend, making it the widest-released film of Allen’s career. The comedy has been riding strong buzz and solid word-of-mouth that began with its well-received world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival …
If after last year’s lackluster lineup Cannes was wondering “will you still love me when I’m 64,” the answer was a definitive yes judging by response to the perfectly chosen opener Wednesday night for the festival’s 64th year: Woody Allen’s love letter to all things Parisian, Midnight In Paris. Press (who saw the film earlier in the day) as well as the tony opening-night crowd were calling this time-travelling Allen comedy, his first full feature shot entirely in France, one of his best in years. Sony Pictures Classics releases the film in America in just eight days, with SPC co-president Michael Barker calling the response inside the Palais and the ovation at the end of the film “fabulous.” What did you expect him to say? But Cannes opinion makers are backing him up. Also, as I mentioned yesterday, Barker has another film coming up in the competition (Paris was not competing for prizes) on May 19 when Pedro Almodovar’s first horror film, The Skin I Live In, premieres. Barker just saw the film himself for the first time yesterday and told me “It’s off the charts, fantastic.”
If true, that could put two-time Oscar winner Almodovar back in the Oscar-season game. Certainly I think with his terrifically whimsical and clever script for Midnight In Paris, 21-time nominated and three-time winner Allen could find himself again in the Original Screenplay race, where he was last nominated in 2005 for the dramatic Match Point. His last nomination for a comedy, though, was in 1995 for Deconstructing Harry, although Vicki Cristina Barcelona picked up the Musical/Comedy Best Picture Golden Globe and Penelope Cruz won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2008.
Allen is one of the most prolific filmmakers out there but his comedies, with the exception of Vicki Cristina, have been a string of disappointments in the past decade that include last year’s Cannes player, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, Whatever Works, Scoop, Anything Else and Hollywood Endings, the latter 2002 effort being his only other film to open Cannes. The reaction this year was decidedly warmer, with the phrase most often heard along the Croisette: “Woody is back in top form.”
Just as I hit the ground at the Nice airport today I ran smack into Jude Law, one of the main competition jury members of the 64th edition of the Cannes Film Festival (under President Robert De Niro), and he looked rarin’ to go as he arrived for all the hoopla and non-stop filmgoing over the next 11 days. We’ll see what he feels like after plowing through the 20 competition films as well as those out of competition such as Wednesday night’s opener, Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris, and the closer, on May 22, Christophe Honore’s 2-hour and 25-minute Les Bien-Aimes (Beloved), the longest of any film in the official competition — competing or not.
Workers were busily attaching huge billboards up on the big Croisette hotels when I cruised the tony neighborhood earlier today, but the world’s second-most-famous red carpet won’t be laid out until midday tomorrow just before Woody, Marion Cotillard, Owen Wilson and the cast of the director’s first French-set film make their way up those famous Palais steps for his love letter to Paree. It was hoped that co-star Carla Bruni, aka Mrs. Nicolas Sarkozy, First Lady of France, would be coming too, but I heard she’s not making the trip after all and neither is her husband. C’est La Vie.
Up and down the Croisette you are bombarded as usual by Hollywood product being hyped on any available space. The new Transformers film from that auteur (NOT) Michael Bay got the hot spot at the Carlton entrance right next to a display for Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2 on one side and Cowboys and Aliens on the other. Lording over them, though, are The Smurfs and all of those Pirates of the Caribbean, which plans to make a huge splash here Saturday as the prime-time film on one of the key nights of the fest. Star power will be in force, of course, with Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz driving the paparazzi wild, which is just what Disney wants for its global launch of the film that premiered last week at Disneyland and makes another stop in Moscow before hitting the Cote d’Azur. Cannes, though a serious-minded haven for cineastes, doesn’t mind the attention either.
Jodie Foster’s The Beaver, starring Mel Gibson, is the surprise inclusion in this year’s list of major films playing in Cannes, announced this morning in Paris. As expected, Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life will play In Competition, vying with other festival-favorite directors including Pedro Almodovar, Aki Kaurismaki, Takashi Miike, Nanni Moretti, Lynne Ramsay, Nicolas Winding Refn and Lars von Trier. Malick’s Days Of Heaven played In Competition in Cannes in 1979, winning best director. This year’s list promises a much livelier event than last year’s, which left critics bored with the selection. And you can expect plenty of star wattage at next month’s festival –- something lacking last year – assuming, that is, all the stars show up: Brad Pitt (The Tree of Life); Sean Penn (This Must Be the Place); Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz and Keith Richards (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides); Ryan Gosling (Drive); Antonio Banderas (The Skin I Live In); and Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin). But perhaps Carla Bruni, the ex-supermodel wife of French president Nicolas Sarkozy, will upstage them all as she shreds flashbulbs on the Palais red carpet for Woody’s latest, the opening-night film Midnight In Paris.
Midnight In Paris, dir. Woody Allen (Out of Competition)
The Skin I Live In, dir. Pedro Almodovar
House of Tolerance (L’apollonide – Souvenirs de la maison close), dir. Bertrand Bonello
Pater, dir. Alain Cavalier
Footnote, dir. Joseph Cedarhttp
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Bir Zamanlar Anadolu ), dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan
The Kid With A Bike (Le Gamin Au Velo), dirs. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Le Havre, dir. Aki Kaurismaki
Hanezu No Tsuki, dir. Naomi Kawase
Sleeping Beauty, dir. Julia Leigh
Poliss, dir. Maiwenn
The Tree of Life, dir. Terrence Malick
La Source des Femmes, dir. Radu Mihaileanu
Hara-kiri: Death Of A Samurai, dir. Takashi Miike
We Have a Pope (Habemus Papum), dir. Nanni Moretti
We Need to Talk About Kevin, dir. Lynne Ramsay
Michael, dir. Markus Schleinzer
This Must Be The Place, dir. Paolo Sorrentino
Melancholia, dir. Lars Von Trier
Drive, dir. Nicolas Winding Refn
Midnight in Paris, the new film by Woody Allen will open the Festival de Cannes on May 11th in the Lumière theatre, in the presence of the Jury presided by Robert De Niro.
The romcom, which was shot last year in the French capital, brings together a broad international