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OSCAR: Is Natalie Portman Overexposed?

Pete Hammond

For that matter, is Geoffrey Rush’s Oscar chances in The King’s Speech hurt by a dud movie earlier in 2010? Or Justin Timberlake’s in The Social Network by a kid’s movie that came out at Christmas? Or Nicole Kidman’s in Rabbit Hole by a comedy releasing in February? Or James Franco’s in 127 Hours by a soap opera turn during Academy Awards week? The careers of Oscar contenders have taken some strange twists and turns of late. But none more so than that of Natalie Portman, who has new movies opening in theatres in January, February, April, and May, and the marketing for them as already begun to kick in. The question is whether this constant Portman media blitz will help or hurt her Black Swan campaign?

The undisputed specialty hit of the year that has won her Golden Globe, Critics Choice, and SAG nominations also has made Portman one of the frontrunners for the Best Actress Oscar. But just as the first round of voting is going on, she seems to be everywhere, most prominently on billboards and trailers for the January 21st release of No Strings Attached, a comedy directed by Ivan Reitman that asks the question: “Can Sex Friends be Best Friends?” It is indeed a sexy kind of performance demonstrating a different side of her talents and certainly miles away from a demented ballerina.

But that’s not all. There are movie trailers running on the internet and in theatres for her April release Your Highness, another upcoming Portman comedy “from the director of Pineapple Express” in … Read More »

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Academy Narrows Visual Effects Oscar Field

Mike Fleming

Beverly Hills, CA –The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced that seven films remain in the running in the Visual Effects category for the 83rd Academy Awards®.
The films are listed below in alphabetical order:
“Alice in Wonderland”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”
“Hereafter”
“Inception”
“Iron Man 2”
“Scott Pilgrim vs the World”
“Tron: Legacy”

All members of the Visual Effects Branch will be invited to view 15-minute excerpts from each of the seven shortlisted films on Thursday, January 20. Following the screenings, the members will vote to nominate five films for final Oscar consideration.

The 83rd Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Tuesday, January 25, 2011, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2010 will be presented on Sunday, February 27, 2011, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

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‘The Social Network’ Returning To Theaters; To Cross $200M Worldwide & Launch DVD

EXCLUSIVE: So how does Sony Pictures continue to remind awards voters about The Social Network when it was released way back in September? If you’re primo Jeff Blake, chairman of Worldwide Marketing and Distribution for Sony Pictures, you decide to re-release the Oscar-touted Facebook origins story in about 600 nationwide theaters on January 7th to take advantage of all the critical acclaim and awards hype. And then launch the DVD on January 11th with more than 8 hours of bonus extras. But you also fete the fact that The Social Network will pass $200 million at the worldwide box office within the week. To date, The Social Network has grossed more than $93 million in the U.S. and $104 million overseas. Commenting on the announcement, Blake said, “At the box office, this film showed true staying power, grossing more than four times its opening weekend gross – a rare accomplishment when the average for wide releases last year was below three times its opening weekend gross.” It’s the best chance Sony’s Columbia Pictures has had to win Best Picture Oscar since 1988.

The Social Network nearly swept honors from the National Board of Review, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Actor for Jesse Eisenberg. The film has also received six Golden Globe nominations, including Best Picture – Drama, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Original Score, and nominations for Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield, as well as two nominations from the Screen Actors Guild, including Ensemble and … Read More »

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OSCAR: Scott Rudin Q&A On ‘The Social Network’ And ‘True Grit’

Mike Fleming

Many Hollywood producers go their whole careers hoping just once to field a Best Picture contender in the Oscar race. Scott Rudin, who won in 2008 for No Country For Old Men, this year has not one but two films with real shots to win the ultimate category. There’s little doubt that his The Social Network and True Grit will make the lineup for the 10 Best Picture nominees. Earlier today when the Producers Guild announced their nominees, Rudin became the first producer to receive two feature nominations in the same year, to go with the  David O. Selznick Achievement Award he’ll also receive at the ceremonies. Campaigning for one film is a challenge for any producer. For one as hands on as Rudin, it’s a lot to navigate.

DEADLINE: It’s rare to be the main producer of two films in the Best Picture hunt. It must be like a father having two kids in the same beauty pageant…
RUDIN: First of all, I don’t want to talk about myself as the main producer, I had great partners on both. I’m working with both these teams again and part of the reason this works is we all share. But it’s a great thing to have two movies people like. The Oscar stuff is fantastic, rewarding and in some ways exciting, but it’s not why you do it. You do it because you want to hold your own work to a standard of excellence. It’s a bonus when other people agree you’ve achieved it, but, in the end, I’m really trying to feel good about my work. That’s my goal, to feel like I’ve done the best I could. When I’ve done that, anything else that happens is a bonus.

DEADLINE: The Social Network has passed $200 million at the worldwide box office, and True Grit has been the Coen Brothers’ highest grossing movie ever. What does this tell you?
RUDIN: They’re just good. I also don’t buy the idea that audiences don’t enjoy dramas. I think that audiences historically have just not responded to weak films. I got really lucky this year with two strong films from fantastic filmmakers. That’s why both worked, along with the advantage of being well marketed by both studios. A couple of years ago, either movie might conceivably have gone out through a specialty division. Neither would have reached anywhere near the level of gross they did. Because you are looking at two movies that opened in 2,200 and 3,000 screens respectively. That’s got to be powered by a decent amount of advertising money. There’s no way to bet halfway. Part of the reason you’re looking at them turn into blockbusters is that the studios that made them loved them, believed in them, and chased them. The chase is a big part of this.

DEADLINE: Chase means spend. Is convincing studios to do that on non-sequels a challenge?
RUDIN: The challenge is convincing the people paying for it that there is an upside in going for it in a big way. In the case of Social Network, we had a handful of LA screenings and the movie was, frankly, rapturously received. It was by far the best critical response I’ve ever had on anything. We thought it would be great if the film opened the New York Film Festival. They were the first people to see it, the screening finished, and they called and said, ‘You have opening night. We love the movie’. That movie was ratified, immediately. With True Grit, while we never had a screening of the movie, the people who paid for it thought it was a big rousing romantic adventure. All of us felt it clearly had the potential to be the most successful Coen Brothers movie ever, which it is now. They deserve it. They did a brilliant job on it. Part of the job is carrying the studio along with the making of the film, so people understand you’re making a film that you believe has the capacity to work in a big way.

DEADLINE: These are two very different projects. How did you support each as producer?
RUDIN: They needed very different things. In the case of True Grit, it has always been, pulling together the financing, pulling together the cast, running the marketing, giving them what they need. They need no help of any kind making the movie. They don’t want it, and I wouldn’t presume there was anything I could tell them about the making of a movie. We worked great together because we know what we each do and that’s a very comfortable place. There are aspects of the movie they’re very happy to run on their own, and aspects they are happy for me to run alone. We got that very clear and right the very first time we worked together on Raising Arizona, so I go back with the guys basically to the very beginning of their careers.

DEADLINE: Will they take a script note from you?
RUDIN: Yes. I have done that, and I do. We did a lot of work on the script of No Country, and on True Grit. There are big differences between Charles Portis’ book and this movie Read More »

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‘Precious’ Oscar Winner Mo’Nique Joins Tom Sherak To Unveil Noms January 25

Mike Fleming

Beverly Hills, CA – Nominations for the 83rd Academy Awards® will be announced on Tuesday, January 25, by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak and Oscar-winning actress and Academy member Mo’Nique.

Sherak and Mo’Nique will unveil the nominations in 10 of the 24 categories at a 5:30 a.m. news conference at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, where hundreds of media representatives from around the world will be gathered. Nominations information for all categories will be distributed simultaneously to news media in attendance and via the Internet on the official Academy Awards website, www.oscar.com.

Last year Mo’Nique received her first Oscar nomination and win for her supporting performance in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.” She currently hosts her own late-night talk show, “The Mo’Nique Show,” on BET.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2010 will be presented on Sunday, February 27, 2011, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live on the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

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Flackery Humiliates ‘Buried’ Screenwriter By Helping Him With Oscar Rule-Breaking

By | Friday December 31, 2010 @ 2:27am PST

And here I thought only Los Angeles flackery mPRm’s name was moronic. Turns out this fish stinks at the head because its co-founder and president Mark Pogachefsky is now blaming his own client for an Oscar rule-breaking situation that the PR firm should have prevented instead of aided and abetted. After a lot of Sundance hype because of its claustrophobic nightmare premise and star Ryan Reynolds, this movie came and went at the box office in record time after making only $1 million domestic. And not even distributor Lionsgate is campaigning Buried for an Academy Award or anything else. So Buried has zero chance of any golden statuettes this season without its studio support. And yet mPRm while repping Buried let its screenwriter Chris Sparling commit an Oscar taboo even though he didn’t know the rules, as Pogachefsky is admitting. (“Weirdly, I would not be surprised if this was not a setup just to get attention,” Deadline’s awards columnist Pete Hammond comments to me. “How else would he get any notice?”) Entertainment Weekly‘s Dave Karger scoops that Sparling sent a personal missive to members of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ writers branch gushing about his screenplay — “no film this year — or ever — has done so much with so little” — and respectfully asking them to read it in hopes that it would land on their ballot for Best Original Screenplay. Well, the return address belongs to mPRm. Still, this is hardly a repeat of last year’s Nicolas Chartier scandal because The Hurt Locker was an … Read More »

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Video: Making Of ‘The Fighter’

By | Thursday December 30, 2010 @ 12:46pm PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Paramount has issued a featurette on director the David O. Russell-directed The Fighter, a film that is developing momentum that might give it more than a puncher’s chance in awards season.

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WGA Script Awards Disconnect With Oscars

By | Wednesday December 29, 2010 @ 9:00pm PST
Pete Hammond

UPDATE: PETE HAMMOND RESPONDS — Some commenters to my post seem to believe it was written with an anti-WGA agenda on my part. I didn’t point out in the story – and perhaps I should have – that I am a longtime and proud WGA member and also represented the interests of writers, rather vehemently at times, as one of two TV Academy writing Governors for four years. I would hope my reporting on this particular story is not taken as any personal position on my part against the Writers Guild as some commenters seem to think. I do however find it sad that some of the best screenplays, year in and year out, are ruled ineligible by the WGA. Awards should honor the absolute best, not an incomplete list, but that’s the Guild’s prerogative to protect their interests as a union and their right to conduct the contest the way they see fit. 

Realistically, however, the media are going to view the WGA awards — just as with SAG, DGA, PGA, and even the Oscars – as being a significant part of the season because, it is peer group voting. That’s a fact, no matter which scripts turn out to be eligible or not.

PREVIOUS 8:30 AM: Here they go again. Every year the disconnect between the Writers Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences seem to grow wider in the movie script categories. This year looks no different. … Read More »

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OSCAR: Voters Receive Final 2010 Screener

Pete Hammond

Here’s the story of an Oscar campaign aiming not to be first, but dead last: Academy members have begun receiving what is believed – and intentionally planned – to be the final screener of the season, Peter Weir’s independently produced and distributed adventure epic The Way Back. For those with short memories, the first screeners mailed this awards season were Sony Pictures Classics’ Mother And Child and Animal Kingdom on September 28th. The Way Back is one of four indie dramas making up the final quartet of 2010 contender releases in limited runs beginning today. The others, all in theatres more easily accessed on the Academy voter-centric Westside of Los Angeles are Roadside Attractions’ Biutiful, Sony Pictures Classics’ Another Year and The Weinstein Company’s Blue Valentine. But awards strategists for The Way Back‘s distributor, Newmarket, decided to hold back mailing the DVD screener to Oscar voters until Monday of this holiday week, the same day nominating ballots were also being mailed by the Academy. The thinking was that, rather than getting lost in the pile of hopeful discs, it would be fresh in mind just as members start thinking seriously about filling out their ballot. As one of the film’s strategists told me today, “We think voters will take notice of it coming at the tail end of the screener process and be curious to watch it, particularly since it is a film by Peter Weir who has been nominated … Read More »

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OSCAR: Overview Of Best Screenplay Race

Pete Hammond

It’s amazing that any good script ever gets made anymore. If there is one common thread running through most of the contenders for screenplay honors this year, it is what a long, looooong journey it is from page to screen. And another fairly obvious truth: the road to Best Picture starts on the page. In fact, since 1933, only 3 movies have managed to win the Best Picture Oscar without at least having their screenplay nominated and, in the majority of cases, actually winning. One of those movies was Hamlet in 1948 but its credited writer, William Shakespeare, wasn’t around for the rewrites. The other two were The Sound Of Music (1965) and Titanic (1997).

The writers strike in 2007 proved not much gets done without scribes and the effects of that strike, particularly in terms of quality screenplays, is still being felt. Nevertheless 2010 is a rich feast as far as the writers are concerned  but none of it was easy. Among the screenplay contenders, Black Swan, Blue Valentine, Get Low, and Inception were each percolating in the minds of their writers for more than a decade. In the case of The King’s Speech, it was more than 3 decades. The Kids Are All Right and Hereafter were thrown into drawers, unfinished, only to be rescued years later. And to demonstrate just how important  the right words and concept are, it was 11 years between Toy Story 2 and 3. Of course the wait for just the right concept and script paid off when Toy Story 3 not only became the highest grossing film of the year, but also the number one animated film of all time and the best reviewed movie of the year on Rotten Tomatoes.

On the other hand, it doesn’t always have to take years to see a script turned into a movie. Another of 2010’s most critically acclaimed hits, The Social Network, was fast-tracked. The events it depicts happened just six years ago and were still unfolding when Aaron Sorkin wrote his screenplay even as the book it is partially based on was still being written itself. That seems to be an exception as most Oscar caliber scripts languish in development hell, most of them “too good” to get made until fate – and a reasonable budget — intervenes. Of all the branches in the Academy, the writers have been the ones to go off the page as it were and select offbeat and sometimes unexpected and unheralded nominees.

Here is a rundown of the screenplays that completed Hollywood’s obstacle course  and now have a shot at the industry’s highest award:

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Animal Kingdom – David Michod: This tight Australian crime thriller about a 17-year-old trying to survive in a fearsome crime family has so far won lots of notice this awards season for co-star Jacki Weaver but could be recognized by writers for writer/director Michod’s powerfully effective and almost Shakespearean-like tale.

Another Year – Mike Leigh: Leigh’s uniquely original scripts borne out of a long and involved rehearsal period in which his actors all contribute to the final product have won him four previous nominations here (Secrets And Lies, Topsy Turvy, Vera Drake, Happy Go Lucky) and this slice-of-British-life drama could make it five.

Biutiful – Alejandro Gonzalez  Inarritu: After directing such critically acclaimed films as Amores Perros, 21 Grams, and Babel all written by Guillermo Arriaga, Inarritu strikes out on his own to write this very personal, dark, and moving journey about a man whose life is in freefall. He’s been previously Oscar nominated as a director, producer, and for Foreign Language Film. But this could be the first time he is recognized for his writing talents.

Black Swan – Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John J McLaughlin: This script started out as sort of an All About Eve set in the world of ballet but it morphed into much more than that once it finally got into the hands of Heyman, director Darren Aronofsky’s director of development. After 10 years and almost being permanently shelved just a month before production was to begin, it’s turned into a hit movie and major awards magnet.

Blue Valentine - Derek Cianfrance, Joey Curtis, Cami Delavigne: First written in 1998 and then rewritten more than 60 times, Cianfrance, who also directed, took 12 years to finally see his very personal story of a failing marriage hit the screen. The rawness of the dialogue and intensity of the scenes nearly landed this with an NC-17 until distributor Harvey Weinstein convinced the MPAA to change course and award an “R”.

City Island – Raymond De Felitta: This spring crowd-pleaser about a loud but loving and highly dysfunctional New York family was one of the first to get its screeners out, a good thing since many Academy members missed it and now seem to have a sense of discovery as they have been catching up with it. Whether that translates into a long shot surprise nomination in the writing category is anyone’s guess. But this movie has been full of surprises since winning the audience award at Tribeca two years ago.

Company Men – John Wells: The timeliness of WGA president John Wells’ story of corporate executives being downsized and thrown out of a job could be the thing that gets his fellow writers to give this a whirl in the DVD player. But the Weinstein Company seems to be pushing other higher profile movies in this category like The King’s Speech and Blue Valentine a little more forcefully. Its 76% fresh ranking at Rotten Tomatoes suggests that critics at least have liked what they’ve seen.

Conviction – Pamela Gray: She wrote two films, A Walk On The Moon and Music of the Heart, both released in 1999. But it would be another decade before she earned another big screen credit for this remarkable true story of  Betty Anne Waters who spent 18 years putting herself through school in order to become a lawyer and get her wrongly convicted brother out of prison. Still this might be as much of a long shot as that triumph was.

The Fighter – Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, Keith Dorrington (co-story): Another long in development dream project, this true story of boxer Mickey Ward and his relationship with his crack-addicted brother Dicky was another case of ‘never say never’, thanks in large part to the perseverance of star/co-producer Mark Wahlberg who didn’t stop training even when the Paramount movie looked dead until further rewrites and budget cuts got it a greenlight from Ryan Kavanaugh/Relativity Media. With strong Best Picture prospects, this would seem a shoo-in for a nomination.

Get Low – C. Gaby Mitchell, Chris Provenzano: Mad Men writer Provenzano dreamed up the story of a hermit wanting to throw his own funeral in 2001 but then saw it reworked five years later by Mitchell. The result of this shotgun writers’ marriage was this long-in-development film finally got made and gave Robert Duvall  another major starring role and shot at a second Oscar at age 80.

Hereafter – Peter Morgan: As a writer Morgan tended to do real life stories like The Last King Of Scotland, The Queen and Frost/Nixon, the latter two both winning him Oscar nominations. But the death of a friend led him into very different territory with this very spiritual tale on the tenuous connections between living and dying. With director Clint Eastwood insisting on not changing a word, Morgan got to live the writers dream and could land his third nomination although the film seems to be fading in memory this awards season.

Inception - Christopher Nolan: Shortly after winning his only Oscar nomination to date with his original screenplay Memento 10 years ago, Nolan came up with the concept for this startling and emotional story about dream invaders. It took a couple of enormously successful Batman films but Nolan finally got it made, winning that “dream” combination of rave reviews and blockbuster boxoffice. This would seem a certainty to earn him his next dance with Oscar.

The Kids Are All Right – Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg: Indie filmmaker Cholodenko wanted to go a little more commercial. And commercial filmmaker Blumberg wanted to go a little more indie. So the perfect combination was formed to write this family dramedy about a Lesbian couple with two teen kids whose relationship hits the rocks when their sperm donor suddenly flies in from the past. Winner of a NY Film Critics screenplay award and nominated for Golden Globes and CCMA honors, this is a rare comedy that could break through against its super serious competition.

The King’s Speech – David Seidler: Seidler, who had stuttering problems of his own as a kid, has been waiting 35 years to tell the story of the friendship between King George VI of England and his Australian speech coach, Lionel Logue. It’s been the longest journey of any screenwriter this year, but this WGA nominated writing veteran (Tucker: The Man and His Dream) is suddenly an “overnight” success and an Oscar frontrunner.

Made In Dagenham - William Ivory: A feel-good period piece about a group of feisty female factory workers fighting for equal pay in late 1960s England, Ivory’s deft combination of pathos, humor, and determination would make this an instant contender. But box office has been spotty, and its main chance at Oscar recognition would appear to be in the hands of the writers branch who are often known for championing the little guy – or in this case gal.

Please Give – Nicole Holofcener: This spring comedy was one of the first 2010 films to elicit any awards talk when it was released in April but its memory has faded a bit and another offbeat family comedy The Kids Are All Right may have stolen its thunder. Still, Holofcener’s quirky dialogue and amusing and flawed characters are highly entertaining and could pull a (major) surprise.

Somewhere – Sofia Coppola: This European-style minimalist exercise may be an acquired taste but don’t count out Coppola who won here for her only other original screenplay, Lost In Translation, in 2003. The Grand Prize winner at the Venice Film Festival, this story of a LA actor adrift and trying to forge a relationship with his young daughter actually could strike a few chords and win a few votes from other writers who may see someone they know in this.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

127 Hours – Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy: Adapting Aron Ralston’s book about his 5-day ordeal trapped “between a rock and a hard place” in a canyon he only escaped by cutting off his own arm, would seem to be impossible. Director Boyle had a vision and conquered 2 drafts before bringing in his Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire writer Beaufoy to do clean up. Somehow, they managed to turn this one-man show into a compelling movie and so far have landed Golden Globe and CCMA nominations for this ‘farewell to arm’ tale of man vs. nature with Oscar recognition a good bet at this point.

Fair Game – Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth: This riveting political thriller won top reviews in Cannes but failed to ignite the box office in its November opening stateside. Still, the screenplay crackles as the Butterworth brothers took both books by Valerie Plame and husband Joe Wilson to tell the tale of Plame’s massive CIA identity leak and the ensuing nightmare it caused. Longshot.

The Ghost Writer – Robert Harris, Roman Polanski: With Polanski’s aid, novelist Harris took a crack at his own book about a hired writer helping to craft the memoirs of a shady former British Prime Minister. With Hitchcockian twists and turns, the pair wrote a screenplay dealing with the craft of writing among many other things that should have great appeal in this category and may well win a nomination despite the threat of being forgotten due to its early 2010 release date.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Nikolaj Arcel, Rasmus Heisterberg: Despite its Foreign Language and Swedish origins, this first of Stieg Larsson book adaptations (followed by The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest) represent perhaps one of the highest profile and most prodigious contenders in the category this year. Writers branch members in their Oscar voting are often receptive to foreign films so this one has a genuine shot of making the grade.

How To Train Your Dragon – William Davies, Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders: Taking Cressida Cowell’s stirring kids book and giving it heart, humor, and action, this writing team could find themselves competing against another toon, Toy Story 3. Writers have never been shy about acknowledging the scribe talents behind animated features in recent years and this one should be no exception. But it would mean seeing two toons going head to head here for the first time.

Love And Other Drugs – Ed Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz, Charles Randolph: Jamie Reidy’s book Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman proved to be perfect source material to get Zwick off the historical epic beat and back to romantic comedy basics. An underperformer at the box office,  this sexy romp is a long shot but showed there’s still life in the genre. Read More »

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OSCAR: Best Director Race May Surprise

Pete Hammond

At the last Academy Awards, Barbra Streisand ripped open the envelope and revealed that Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman ever to win Best Director. No such groundbreaking moment is expected this year, but the category could offer up several surprises. With a wide open Oscar race, there’s probably a split in the offing between Picture and Director, two categories which traditionally pair up three-quarters of the time. But not always. Voters in the earliest Oscars didn’t believe strongly in a correlation between the Best Picture of the year and the person directing from behind the camera. Since then, there have been scattered years where that aberration occurred (such as for Hamlet, All the King’s Men, An American in Paris, and The Greatest Show on Earth). For Driving Miss Daisy, its director Bruce Beresford wasn’t even nominated. Going by recent history, the split has happened fairly frequently, culminating when Ang Lee took Best Director for Brokeback Mountain but Crash proved an upset Best Picture winner. Will another director be left at Oscar’s altar this year? Will The King’s Speech or The Fighter triumph, while David Fincher for The Social Network or Christopher Nolan for Inception wears the directing crown? An early signal will be the Directors Guild of America choice on January 29th. That group has a strong track record predicting the Director Oscar. Only six times since the DGA awards began in 1948 has the Guild and Academy not aligned. Here’s the alphabetical lineup of likely contenders and their chances this year:

BEN AFFLECK, The Town (Warner Bros.) – This Best Original Screenplay co-winner earned impressive notices for his first directing gig, Gone Baby Gone, and this year’s box office success, The Town, which he also co-wrote and stars in. He has won strong industry respect for his work behind the camera, but is a long shot to make the magic five. However, it looks like he’s becoming the new Clint, and that could eventually lead to his second Oscar — as a director.

DARREN ARONOFSKY, Black Swan (Fox Searchlight) – His intense indie films pull no punches. Now his dark and twisted Black Swan has dazzled the autumn fest circuit and became Fox Searchlight’s biggest box-office opener ever. Although its critical reception has been strong, it may be too much for more conservative Academy members. Nevertheless, Aronofsky’s eye-popping work here could impress enough of his peer group to land a spot in the top five.

DANNY BOYLE, 127 Hours (Fox Searchlight) – The well liked Boyle comes off his 2008 Oscar triumph, Slumdog Millionaire, with this unexpected follow-up. Using dazzling directorial tricks, styling with visual invention, and guiding star James Franco, Boyle pulls off this virtual one-man show. But some voters may be too squeamish to pop the DVD in their players after reports of faintings at early screenings. Plus, he just won, so it may be someone else’s turn.

LISA CHOLODENKO, The Kids Are All Right (Focus Features) – Previous films High Art and Laurel Canyon didn’t prepare the Industry for her confident work as director and co-writer of this warm and perceptive comedy. Showing she could assure superlative performances from major stars should further impress colleagues. But the notoriously male dominated directors’ club may not be ready to make it two in a row for her. An Original Screenplay nod is her best shot.

DEREK CIANFRANCE, Blue Valentine (The Weinstein Company) – This very personal study of the disintegration of a marriage was 12 years in the making for Cianfrance. His first feature, he elicited no-holds-barred acting from leads Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. Problem is, it may be too raw and intimate, which could overshadow the achievement. But here’s hoping it doesn’t take as long for this promising director’s second movie to reach the screen.

JOEL COEN & ETHAN COEN, True Grit (Paramount) – The Academy loves this prodigious writing/directing/producing team and have already honored them with four Oscars each, including one in this category. Can a remake of a John Wayne classic put them in contention again? The execution is flawless, and they have returned to Charles Portis’ original novel for inspiration while drawing first-rate performances. But Westerns don’t usually score for directors.

SOFIA COPPOLA, Somewhere (Focus Features) – Coppola lost Best Director for Lost In Translation in 2003 but won for her original screenplay. This latest film represents her second original screenplay and should be put in the writing category, but not necessarily in the directors’ circle again — although she did take the top prize at the Venice Film Festival (amid controversy because her pal Quentin Tarantino was head of the jury). No such problems now.

CLINT EASTWOOD, Hereafter (Warner Bros.) – A two time Best Director winner for Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, Eastwood can never be counted out. He didn’t make the cut for his last two attempts, Gran Torino and Invictus. His latest, Hereafter, drew mixed reviews and disappointing box office, so he’s a Director’s category dark horse at best this year. Though, never underestimate the respect from his peers for this 80-year-old icon.

DAVID FINCHER, The Social Network (Sony Pictures) – The director behind such dark but acclaimed films like Seven, Fight Club, Panic Room, and Zodiac finally found an Oscar nod with the challenging crowd-pleaser The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and now this successful Facebook-founding flick. Critics’ plaudits are piling up, and he’s back in the heat of the race, this time going for the win from Sweden where he’s rebooting The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Read More »

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OSCAR: Who’s Wearing Whom To Awards?



From Issue #4 of Deadline’s recent awards print editions, noted fashion editor/writer Elizabeth Snead filed this report:

No, it’s not too early to ask that question about the Oscars or the Golden Globes or the BAFTAs or the SAG Awards or to speculate about the actress considered this Hollywood awards season’s biggest “get” among the global fashion industry that has taken root. Clothes and accessories designers, personal stylists, and image-makers who hook up celebrities with prestige brands already are predicting which actresses will wear whose haute couture (especially if they fit into a runway sample size 2).

The fact is, what stars showcase on the red carpets is based on their existing relationships. Several actresses touted for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress nominations this year, like Anne Hathaway, Nicole Kidman, and Annette Bening, already have long fashion histories. Style-icon Hathaway (Love & Other Drugs) favors Oscar classics from Armani, Valentino and Marchesa. Oscar winner Kidman (Rabbit Hole) has worked with many top designers during her career including, Chanel, Balenciaga, and her designer/stylist L’Wren Scott. Annette Bening (The Kids Are Alright) has long been on Team Armani.

Carey Mulligan (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and Never Let Me Go) often wears Balenciaga; Lanvin; and Prada, the house that did her most recent Oscar gown adorned with tiny forks and spoons. Michelle Williams wowed critics with her trend-setting, mustard-yellow Vera Wang for her Oscar nod in 2006, but recently wore Chanel couture at the Blue Valentine Cannes premiere. Amy Adams (The Fighter) has picked Carolina Herrera for three highly-praised Oscar carpet strolls. Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right) loves edgier Lanvin and Balenciaga — plus, Tom Ford has directed her, so he might give her something special from his new collection that recently debuted during NYC Fashion Week. The always-eclectic Tilda Swinton (I Am Love) has designers she describes as “friends who send me boxes” including, Alber Elbaz (whom she’s nicknamed ‘Albert Elbows’), Haider Ackermann, Dior’s John Galliano, Balenciaga’s Nicolas Ghesquiere, Viktor & Rolf, and Vivienne Westwood.

This season’s biggest Oscar ‘get’ might be Natalie Portman (Black Swan), if only she hadn’t recently signed her first fragrance contract — for Parfums Christian Dior. The natural assumption is that she’ll do Dior on Oscar Day just like she did at Mike Nichols’ recent AFI tribute. But there’s already chatter she might don Rodarte for some red carpets because of her long history with its Pasadena-based designing sisters, Kate and Laura Mulleavy. And don’t forget that she insisted on Rodarte designing the exquisite ballerina costumes for Black Swan. Natalie already wore a stunning red Rodarte gown to the Venice Film Festival, but also carried a Dior bag. Read More »

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Oscar Nominations Ballots Mailing Today

Just a reminder that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences officially mails out its nominations ballots today to 5,755 voters for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards. Those ballots have to be returned to PricewaterhouseCoopers when the polls close on January 14th at 5 PM PT. Ballots received after that deadline will not be counted. That’s so the Academy can announce its nominations live on January 25th and then telecast the Oscars live on February 27th. Nomination and final Awards ballots are tabulated by PricewaterhouseCoopers to ensure that all aspects of the balloting process are conducted with fairness and accuracy. Prior to mailing, the PricewaterhouseCoopers staff administers a thorough verification process to ensure that there are no duplicate ballots and that none are missing. In addition to being counted and sorted, the ballots are numbered to guarantee that each one is addressed to the appropriate Academy voter.

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OSCAR: Joel And Ethan Coen Q&A On ‘True Grit’

Mike Fleming

Considering they’ve rubbed out characters memorably by feeding them through a wood chipper (Fargo) or with a pneumatic cattle slaughtering gun (No Country For Old Men), setting Joel and Ethan Coen loose with a revenge story in the Old West seems a recipe for mayhem. In fact, True Grit turns out to be the most mainstream audience-friendly film they have made in years. Sticking close to the 42-year Charles Portis novel and not even watching the first movie that won John Wayne his Oscar in 1969, the Coens have made a PG-13 adventure film that gives the starring role to teenager Hailee Steinfeld, and surrounds her with such seasoned actors as Jeff Bridges as salty U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn, Matt Damon as the blowhard Texas Ranger LaBeouf, and Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper as the ornery outlaws they are chasing. The film opens today, and could add intrigue to the Oscar race.

DEADLINE: How did you find your way to a 40 year old book you’d have been hard pressed to find in a bookstore?
ETHAN COEN: We both knew the book, and we’d both read it, amongst other Charles Portis novels. A few years ago I read it out loud to my son and that was the point we began talking about it, thinking this might be interesting to do.
JOEL COEN: Fully aware there of course there had been this previous movie. But we hadn’t seen that since it came out, and didn’t really remember it very well.

DEADLINE: The book focuses more squarely than the film did on young Mattie, the bright, headstrong teenager determined to see the man who shot her father swing from a rope. What potential did you see in that that overcame the inevitable comparison to a film considered somewhat iconic?
ETHAN COEN: That is what we liked about the book, that it was told in the first person narrative told by the 14-year old character, Mattie Ross. It’s just a very funny book. It has three really great, really vivid characters. Her, Rooster Cogburn and LaBeouf, the Texas Ranger. And it’s a simple pursuit revenge story. It all just seemed promising material for a movie. Which might sound funny because, as you say, there was this iconic movie. Which we were aware of but which we didn’t remember very well.
JOEL COEN: We didn’t revisit it, either.
ETHAN COEN: And in the course of remaking the movie, we didn’t watch the first one. We weren’t much worried about it, though. You say it’s iconic, and that’s very true. But on the other hand, I must say it’s probably iconic for people our age and older. And we’re not the moviegoing demographic anymore. I don’t think younger people have much of a connection to John Wayne, at all. So it didn’t feel like we were trespassing and we didn’t worry about it. We just had this enthusiasm for the novel.

DEADLINE: I should qualify iconic. It’s called that because John Wayne won an Oscar, but many feel that statue was a reward for a career and not that role.
JOEL COEN: That’s what I’ve read about it too, that it was a kind of valedictory thing.
ETHAN COEN: You’ve been around a long time, we love you, here’s an award.

DEADLINE: How did adapting a book like True Grit compare with adapting Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men?
ETHAN COEN: Not dissimilar, actually. In the Cormac book that we did, we had this similar issue. Read More »

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OSCAR: Warner Bros ‘Inception’ Reminder

Pete Hammond

EXCLUSIVE: As films launched in Oscar season threaten to hog the awards season limelight, Warner Bros. is releasing a new  Inception featurette in theatres and online. The goal: to put the summer blockbuster back in the Oscar conversation, and the writing/directing achievement by Christopher Nolan and an emotional performance by Leonardo DiCaprio that has largely been overlooked by awards groups so far. The short will be in general circulation soon and in theaters December 31, but you can watch it right now:

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OSCAR: Critics Keep Friending ‘The Social Network’ While Picture Rivals Keep Fretting

Pete Hammond

In an era where review aggregation sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic have erased individuality and replaced it with a percentage statistic that can be quoted  more easily than the words of Roger Ebert or other name reviewers, we are seeing a pack mentality emerge with critics groups come awards time. No matter which region of the country, they all seem to be moving in step with each other for the most part. For David Fincher this has to be especially sweet. Just two years ago he sat on the sidelines as nearly all these groups lined up for Danny Boyle and Slumdog Millionaire against his highly touted The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. When Oscar time rolled around there was no question which film would win. Now it’s hard to find a single critics group that doesn’t want to friend The Social Network — and rivals in this still very fluid race are feeling the pain, no doubt trying to figure out how to counter it all before it’s too late.

While most Hollywood offices are shutting down for the holidays, Sony Pictures’ awards campaign crew are working overtime for contender The Social Network in advance of next week’s mailing of Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences nomination ballots. That’s why director Fincher, who was supposed to be on a 2-week holiday break from shooting the studio’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in Sweden, actually isn’t getting much of a break at all. Last week, he was in … Read More »

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OSCAR: Anne Hathaway Q&A On ‘Love And Other Drugs’

Mike Fleming

Beyond the fact that Anne Hathaway spends more time nude onscreen in Love and Other Drugs than most of her peers would dare, the maturity in her performance is a reminder of how Hathaway has grown from a child into an adult before the eyes of moviegoers. Her track began with The Princess Diaries, then through the rebellious teen of Havoc, and into adulthood with Brokeback Mountain, The Devil Wears Prada and an Oscar-nominated turn in Rachel Getting Married. She started the year with a turn in the hit Valentine’s Day, then played the White Queen in the billion-dollar grossing Alice in Wonderland. Love And Other Drugs hasn’t burned up the box office, but Hathaway’s performance earned her a Golden Globe nomination for the most sophisticated and grown-up work she has done. Shortly after this interview, Hathaway and James Franco were named Academy Award hosts. She’s no stranger to the pressure of that broadcast, after taking part in Hugh Jackman’s opening song and dance number when he hosted the Oscars.

DEADLINE: The film Rachel Getting Married brought you your first Oscar nomination…
HATHAWAY: Thank you for saying my first Oscar nomination, because the day of, I was thinking, this is the first and maybe only, so I’d better enjoy it.

DEADLINE: That is charmingly self deprecating, but that day you also took part in Hugh Jackman’s opening musical number. Can you sum up what that night meant to you and the highlight of Read More »

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OSCAR: 248 Films Eligible For Best Picture

Beverly Hills, CA — Two hundred forty-eight feature films are eligible for the 2010 Academy Award® for Best Picture, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced today. To be eligible for 83rd Academy Awards® consideration, feature films must open in a commercial motion picture theater in Los Angeles County by midnight, December 31, and begin a minimum run of seven consecutive days.

Under Academy rules, a feature-length motion picture must have a running time of more than 40 minutes and must have been exhibited theatrically on 35mm or 70mm film, or in a qualifying digital format.

Feature films that receive their first public exhibition or distribution in any manner other than as a theatrical motion picture release are not eligible for Academy Awards in any category.

The 83rd Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Tuesday, January 25, 2011, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater. Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2010 will be presented on Sunday, February 27, 2011, at the Kodak Theatre.

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OSCAR: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu Q&A On ‘Biutiful’

Mike Fleming

After Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s electric feature directing debut Amores Perros, the Mexico-born filmmaker became the toast of a specialty film circuit dominated by studios willing to overspend for prestige and Oscars. Top actors lined up to work with Inarritu in 21 Grams and Babel, the latter a picture that personified the excess that would haunt the prestige film business. Paramount paid $25 million to license the U.S. and a handful of other territories and the film was wildly profitable for its makers before Inarritu shot a frame, I’m told. Those days are long gone. Studios fled the prestige game, and survivors are cautious, especially when subtitles are involved. How else to explain why it took four months to get U.S. distribution after a Cannes debut of Biutiful that won Best Actor for Javier Bardem?

Bardem plays a street hustler in Spain who deals in undocumented African street peddlers and Chinese sweat shop workers. Dying of a terminal disease, he can’t face leaving his children to the mean streets, especially since their bipolar mother is too unreliable to care for them. The film is bleak, but behind the darkness, there is light and redemption. Will Oscar voters bother to look? So far, Bardem and Inarritu have been ignored in the critics’ awards, except in the Foreign Film category. Who better to dissect the condition of foreign language films than Inarritu, who worries about the current climate where wary distributors rely on festival … Read More »

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