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Mary Steenburgen Joins Robert Redford, Nick Nolte In ‘A Walk In The Woods’

By | Wednesday May 14, 2014 @ 5:22pm PDT

mary steenburgenEXCLUSIVE: Oscar winner Mary Steenburgen has been cast in A Walk In The Woods, adapted from Bill Bryson’s best-selling memoir. The story tracks an aging travel writer who decides to hike the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail, accompanied by a long-estranged high school buddy he’s been avoiding for years. Larry Charles previously was attached to direct; now He’s Just Not That Into You helmer Ken Kwapis is at the helm of the pic, which stars Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Nick Offerman, Kristen Schaal, and Emma Thompson. Wildwood Enterprises and Route One Films are backing the road-trip comedy, adapted by Oscar-winning scribe Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3). Steenburgen will play an alluring motel proprietress named Jeannie who tempts Bryson (Redford) when he and Katz (Nolte) stop into her establishment for the night. Read More »

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Sundance Institute Selects 2014 Directors & Screenwriters Fellows

By | Thursday May 8, 2014 @ 12:11pm PDT

SUI wordmark 2 color PMSThe Sundance Film Festival is long over this year but the moviemaking at the Sundance Institute is just getting into full swing this summer. Today the Institute announced the 13 diverse projects that will participate in its annual Directors and Screenwriters Labs starting later this month (see full list below). Set at the Sundance Resort in Utah, the Directors Lab goes from May 26 – June 19 while the Screenwriters’ Lab runs from June 21-26. And the young filmmakers will have a plethora of experience to draw from. Sundance founder Robert Redford is joined as a Creative Advisors for the 2014 Fellows by Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow as well as Oscar wining Little Miss Sunshine and Hunger Games: Catching Fire scribe Michael Arndt, Miguel Arteta, John August, Walter Bernstein, Scott Z. Burns, Joan Darling, Deena Goldstone, Keith Gordon, Twilight helmer and Sundance alumni Catherine Hardwicke, Ed Harris, Azazel Jacobs, Brian Kates, Christine Lahti, Kasi Lemmons, Josh Marston, Pamela Martin, acclaimed author and screenwriter Walter Mosley, Howard Rodman, Ira Sachs, Marjane Satrapi, Susan Shilliday, Peter Sollett, Dana Stevens, Wesley Strick, Chris Terrio, Joan Tewkesbury, Athina Tsangari, Tyger Williams, and Erin Cressida Wilson.
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CNN’s ‘Chicagoland’ Finale Hits Viewer Low

By | Friday April 25, 2014 @ 2:58pm PDT

chicagoland finale cnnLooks like a deep-dish double whammy today for CNN’s Chicagoland. First the 8-part docu series produced by Robert Redford‘s Sundance Productions got caught in a media hailstorm for being too chummy with one of its main subjects, Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Now the ratings are in for last night’s finale, and it ain’t pretty. Featuring an appearance from Windy City native Michelle Obama, the cable news series from filmmakers Marc Levin and Mark Benjamin drew 325,000 total viewers — a series low — and 132,000 adults 25-54 in its 10 PM slot. Those numbers are well behind the 1.22 million total viewers and 244,000 in the demo that Fox News Channel‘s Sean Hannity drew in the time slot and behind the 648,000 total viewers and 202,000 25-54s that MSNBC’s Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell pulled in.

Related: Media Shocked – Shocked! – To Learn CNN’s ‘Chicagoland’ Cajoled/Coordinated With Mayor Emanuel’s Office

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Media Shocked – Shocked! – To Learn CNN’s ‘Chicagoland’ Cajoled/Coordinated With Rahm Emanuel’s Office

By | Friday April 25, 2014 @ 1:09pm PDT

LisaColumn__131015210634-275x198Another day, another media story on the fudging of “reality” and “documentary” for the TV camera – this time it’s CNN’s eight-part series Chicagoland, which never got so much media interest as it did this morning when the Chicago Tribune posted a report on emails between the office of  that city’s mayor Rahm Emanuel, and the producers. The emails show Emanuel’s office closely controlled access to their guy, that the producers cajoled his office to get shots they wanted, and a good time was had by all. In the world of politics, and the world of television, this is known as “how it works.”

Related: CNN’s ‘Chicagoland’ Finale Hits Viewer Low

Chicagoland-Keyart.jpg_CTBroadsheet_02-23-2014_ALL_SUN_B66DB0LA“If it seems as though some scenes of CNN’s documentary series Chicagoland were coordinated by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Hall and the show’s producers, that’s because they were,” the Trib scolded in the report, timed to coincide with the series’ final-episode premiere last night. “City Hall’s frequent correspondence with the producers illustrates how senior aides to a mayor known for shaping his media image managed how their boss would be portrayed on CNN to a prime time national audience,” the Trib marveled.

cnnlogo4__140310195953More than 700 emails reviewed by the Tribune reveal that the production team “worked hand in hand with the mayor’s advisers to develop storylines, arrange specific camera shots and review news releases officially announcing the show.” Among its findings, producers asked the mayor’s office to help them set up key interactions for what CNN has billed as a non-scripted series. Those interactions included Emanuel’s visits with the school principal “who emerged as a star of the show, emails show,” according to the Trib.

The paper seemed most exercised over the emails in which the production team told Emanuel’s staff that particular scenes “would present the mayor in a positive light” including one in which one of the producers said the project would showcase Emanuel “as the star that he really is.” Read More »

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UPDATE: CNN’s ‘Chicagoland’ Debut Gets Demo Boost In Live + 3

By | Thursday March 13, 2014 @ 4:30pm PDT

Chicagoland-Keyart.jpg_CTBroadsheet_02-23-2014_ALL_SUN_B66DB0LAUPDATE, 4:30 PM:  Unlike entertainment programming, the world of cable news is not one where Live + 3 numbers often have any relevance. You don’t often think of DVRs as how audiences watch CNN, Fox News or MSNBC but with some of the non-breaking news programming that Jeff Zucker has instituted since taking over CNN last year that may be changing. For instance, if its debut is any indication, CNN’s new Chicagoland docu series has a digital afterlife looks almost as far reaching as Lake Michigan on a clear day. In Live + 3 numbers the Robert Redford produced series saw its March 6 debut rise 23% in the adults 25-54 demo to 280,000 viewers. That moves the CNN show up to No. #1 in the news demo for its 10 PM time slot. Previously, Chicagoland had been in second place with 227,000 viewers among the 25-54s behind Fox News’ Hannity (247,000) and ahead of MSNBC’s Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell (207,000) Overall, Chicagoland still stayed in third place among total viewers with 782,000. Up a bit from its Live + Same Day results, FNC’s Hannity easily held on to  the top spot with 1.457 million total viewers and Last Word had 830,000.

PREVIOUS, MARCH 7 PM: The premiere of CNN’s new Chicagoland didn’t get totally whacked last night but it certainly didn’t make a ratings killing either – in fact it came a distant third in terms of total viewership … Read More »

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‘Death Row Stories’ Debut Puts CNN On Top In News Demo

By | Monday March 10, 2014 @ 12:42pm PDT

The premiere of CNN Originalgibneyredford Series: Death Row Stories ranked No. 1 among cable news networks in the news demo last night in the 9 PM hour, averaging 255,000 demo viewers, besting MSNBC (117,000) and FNC (103,000). In overall audience, FNC’s Justice With Judge Jeanine won the hour with 990,000 viewers, to CNN’s 719,000 and MSNBC’s 243,000 with Caught On Camera.  CNN noted the launch of its Death Row Stories jumped 99% in the news demo compared to prior four-week average (355,000 versus 128,000). Each in the series of one-hour cnnlogo4documentaries follows a different capital murder case; the series is exec produced by Alex Gibney and Robert Redford, and narrated by Susan Sarandon. The project is part of a CNN programming shift to documentary storytelling — the most success of which remains the docu-film Blackfish which, last October, opened with an impressive 1.36 million viewers and 472,000 demo viewers. Two weeks later, CNN’s next docu-film,  Pandora’s Promise scored a deflated 345,000 total viewers and 145,000 demo viewers, demonstrating the difficulty of documentary films that each has to be sold to viewers. Death Row Stories, on the other hand, has an eight-episode order.

In prime time last night, CNN was top-rated in the news demo, with 201,000 viewers, to MSNBC’s 175,000 and FNC’s 139,000.

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Sundance: Failure Panel With Robert Redford Plagued By Failing Video

By | Monday January 20, 2014 @ 12:06pm PST

Sundance2014_badge__140109214059__140116020608Maybe they should’ve just avoided the topic altogether. Failure took on a very real form today at the Sundance Film Festival’s Free Fail series. A video clip of financier and Open Society Foundations founder George Soros failed to appear onscreen about 15 minutes into the heavily attended panel at Park City’s 20140120_120243Egyptian Theater. After the clip was set up by Open Society president Chris Stone, the panel — which included festival founder Robert Redford, director and Sundance alumni Jill Soloway, creativity researcher Charles Limb, and author Dave Eggers — all turned to look at the screen. Nothing showed up. After nearly 20 seconds, with the panelists looking off-stage and Sundance staff running up and down the side aisles, the lights went up and the discussion went on sans clip.

Related: Sundance: Documentary Program Gets $5M Grant From George Soros’ Foundation
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Sundance: Documentary Program Gets $5M Grant From George Soros’ Foundation

By | Sunday January 19, 2014 @ 11:25am PST

Sundance2014_badge__140109214059__140116020608Day 4 of the Sundance Film Festival saw socially conscious documentaries getting a multi-million dollar boost. The George Soros-founded Open Society Foundations announced today that is handing over a $5 million grant to the Sundance Institute to help foster films about social issues through the Institute’s emerging filmmaker Labs. “Documentary films profoundly impact our culture; they challenge the traditional role of journalism by illuminating stories that inform, inspire and connect us as members of a global community,Sundance Institute said Sundance founder Robert Redford today in a statement about the matching dollar for dollar grant. “The continued support from George Soros and the Open Society Foundations speaks to our shared belief in the value and power of documentary film.” Eighteen years ago  Open Society started the Documentary Film Program. The program was incorporated into Sundance Institute in 2002.  ”The Open Society Foundations have long been one of the world’s leading supporters of those defending and promoting human rights,” said Open Society president Chris Stone Sunday. “We believe that film can intensify conversations on rights, justice, and social ills.”

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Fleming On 2014 Sundance Forecast: Thriving Indie Biz Makes Appetite Strong; Un-Commercial Slate Could Limit Big Deals

Mike Fleming

Sundance2014_badge__140109214059__140116020608The Sundance Film Festival market gets underway tonight, and it could start with a bidding bang for Whiplash, seen here first as a short and now a feature starring Miles Teller as a drummer trying to survive his ruthless school band conductor (J.K. Simmons). Then again, buyers could find it’s not the second coming of Precious, Beasts Of The Southern Wild, or last year’s gem Fruitvale Station. It will still sell if that happens, it will just take longer, with its prospect for a meaningful theatrical release dimming with each passing day.

Park City Prepares For The Sundance Film Festival - 2014 Sundance Film FestivalMore than any recent year in memory, this Sundance program might well have been programmed by Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid screenwriter William Goldman, because of how the fest follows his famous adage about Hollywood that “Nobody knows anything.” It’s harder than usual to predict this fest’s breakout films because nothing jumps off the page as a can’t-miss. How does that make buyers feel? One buyer likened himself and his competitors as being like a bunch of old men on a beach, with shorts, black socks, and metal detectors, combing the sand for that diamond ring someone dropped amidst the beer can pull tops and other debris. “You’ve got to cover the whole beach or you’ll miss something,” he said. “On paper, a lot of these films have good casts and potential until you see them, get disappointed and find something in the little movie which has no stars, and is much harder to market,” the distributor said. “There are so many buyers here and so much competition, you really have to be on your toes and see everything.”

Related: 2014 Sundance: Fest Films With Highest Wanna-See From Buyers

frankThere is a sense of deja vu here for the number of past Sundance directors returning with projects (they include Zach Braff, Mike Cahill, Richard Linklater, Lynne Shelton, Gregg Araki and Jake Paltrow), but also because of programming decisions which seem to increasingly bring the fest back to its origins of prizing smaller left-of-center fare. Read More »

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Sundance: “I’m Fine” Robert Redford Says Of Oscar Snub, Claims “No Campaign” From Roadside Attractions

By | Thursday January 16, 2014 @ 12:28pm PST

2014 Sundance Film Festival“Would it have been wonderful to be nominated? Of course,” Robert Redford said today kicking off the 30th anniversary of the Sundance Film Festival. Redford’s remarks during his annual state-of-the-fest news Day One Press Conference - 2014 Sundance Film Festivalconference came just hours after the actor was snubbed as a Best Actor Academy Award nominee in the Oscars’ announcement early this morning. “But I’m not disturbed by it,” added the Sundance founder and president, who was nominate for a Golden Globe for his performance in JC Chandor’s All Is Lost. “I’m fine.”

Related: OSCARS: Academy Chooses Strong Field, But Who Will Take The Gold?

Redford addressed the issue at the beginning of today’s presser. He said he thought one reason for the miss had to do with there being no real Academy campaign for the pic. “These films are reliant on campaigns. We suffered from little to no distribution. We had no campaign to help us cross over to the mainstream. It can get very political,” Redford said of the film, which Lionsgate-owned Roadside Attractions distributed domestically. “I don’t know what they were afraid of. They didn’t want to spend money or they were incapable,” he added. With those comments, Redford also was very practical about his chances for a film that has only made about $8 million at the box office. ”Hollywood is a business and a very good one, and I have nothing but respect for it,” the actor added.

Related: OSCARS: Oprah, Redford, Hanks & Other Snubs Read More »

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OSCARS: Who Got Snubbed By Academy?

By | Thursday January 16, 2014 @ 5:48am PST

Oscar Snubs and Surprises

A big part of Hollywood woke up early this morning to Oscar dreams of getting an Academy Awards nomination. Some like 12 Years A Slave for Best Picture, Dallas Buyers Club’s Matthew McConaughey and Gravity‘s Sandra Bullock for Best Actress were a lock. Unfortunately, for some others, they’d barely wiped the sleep out of their eyes before there was nothing to do but go back to bed in disappointment at having not made the cut. Once again, the Academy proved there’s still a wild card factor to who will and won’t get a nomination. Having said that, after all the campaigning, all the encouraging words and all the hopes, even against the odds, it still sucks to be one of those left holding a losing hand. Here’s some of the deserving actors, directors and films who were overlooked in today’s nominations announcement by AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Isaacs and Thor himself Chris Hemsworth:

imagesOprah Winfrey – The former talk show queen returned to the big screen with Lee Daniels’ The Butler in a stellar performance after a 15-year absence and the Academy negates her? The SAG Awards, the BAFTAs and the Critics Choice Awards all gave Oprah a nomination for her role as boozy Gloria Gaines, the Butler’s wife, but not the Academy? What are they drinking over there?

Inside Llewyn Davis - The folksy Coen brothers’ film didn’t get a lot of love from the Guilds but the Grand Prix winner at last year’s Cannes Film Festival certainly did warrant one of the 10 possible Best Picture spots.

Related: OSCARS: 86th Academy Award Nominations

Robert Redford – He didn’t say a lot in All Is Lost but as an old man battling the sea and a lot more, the Sundance founder spoke volumes in the J.C. Chandor-helmed pic. He won a Gotham Award, a New York Film Critics Circle Award and got an Independent Spirit nomination in the process. However, 40 years after Redford last was nominated for Best Actor for The Sting, that all obviously fell on deaf ears with Academy members.

Fruitvale Station Bursting out of last year’s Sundance Film Festival, this remarkable debut by director Ryan Coogler of the last day of Oscar Grant III on January 1, 2009 was picked up by the Weinstein Company and found fans everywhere – including the White House. Yet nothing for Coolger, nothing for star Michael B. Jordan and nothing for the film – that’s just a crime.

tom hanksTom Hanks – Maybe there is a limit to how many Oscars one man can have but the actor’s performance in Captain Phillips as the taken hostage merchant mariner was certainly more than sea worthy of a nom today.

Related: OSCARS: Nominations By Picture

Emma Thompson – Not even a spoon full of sugar will help this bitter pill go down. Saving Mr. Banks was Ms. Thompson’s film. Her turn as the difficult, to say the least, Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers should have seen her as one of the ladies getting that nomination today.

August: Osage County - Yes Meryl Streep got her 18th Oscar nomination for her role as the pill popping sharp tongued widow but there was no Best Picture nor Best Adapted Screenplay for August: Osage County. Some people might not like the truth telling, but those oversights are just plain wrong.

Daniel Brühl – The German actor’s performance as Formula 1 ace Niki Lauda in Ron Howard’s Rush picked up Golden Globes, BAFTA and SAG Awards nominations for Best Supporting Actor. Sure he lost out to Jared Leto at Sunday’s GG ceremony but the Academy didn’t even put him on the track today.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler Coming out in the year of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the hit White House-based Civil Rights drama had a story for our times as well as strong performances from Forrest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey. Maybe the last film to be produced by Laura Ziskin was too epic, maybe it was too black or maybe the dust-up the Weinstein Company had with Warner Bros and the MPAA over the initial The Butler title rubbed some people the wrong way but the powerful pic deserved better.
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Discovery Orders ‘The West’ From Robert Redford

By | Tuesday December 17, 2013 @ 8:02am PST

discoverchannel1Discovery Channel has ordered a new series, The West, from Robert Redford and Laura Michalchyshyn’s Sundance Productions. The West will focus on the wilderness, frontier lawlessness, and bloodshed of the 40 years between the end of the American Civil War until after the turn of the 20th Century.

From today’s announcement:

Discovery Channel announces today that it is in production of an all-new series, THE WEST, produced for Discovery by Robert Redford and Laura Michalchyshyn’s Sundance Productions, who recently produced Discovery Channel’s Emmy Award nominated documentary All the President’s Men Revisited, and Stephen David Entertainment, known for its two-time Emmy Award winning series, The Men Who Built America. THE WEST is set to premiere in 2014.

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Robert Redford Set For Santa Barbara Fest’s American Riviera Award

all-is-lost-robert-redford-02-600-370The All Is Lost star might have been passed over for SAG Award nomination last week, but he’ll get a career award from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The fest will honor Robert Redford on February 7 at the Arlington Theatre. The nod recognizes an actor who has had a strong influeSanta Barbara International Film Festival logonce on American Cinema. “To honor Robert Redford with the American Riviera Award is an immense privilege for SBIFF,”  festival Exec Director Roger Durling said.“His 50-year career, filled with significant achievements both on and off camera, is reason enough for celebration, but his role in All Is Lost proves that he’s an artist that continues to evolve and inspire us.” The 29th edition of SBIFF runs January 30-February 9.

Related: OSCARS Q&A: Robert Redford On Returning To His Roots In ‘All Is Lost’Read More »

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Golden Globes Film: Wow! No Oprah, But Nominations Set Up A Fiercely Competitive Race

Pete Hammond

At the Golden Globes nomination press conference at the Beverly Hilton this morning, a lot of the talk wasn’t soOprah Winfrey Snub Golden Globes much about who got nominated but who didn’t. I’m talking about you, Oprah! The star of stars didn’t make the cut and won’t be walking that red carpet (at least as a supporting actress nominee). I thought she was powerful enough just to call in and order one of these things. But Winfrey, along with everyone else associated with Lee Daniels’ The Butler, was snubbed big time. Yesterday, the Weinstein Company’s late summer hit had scored big at the SAG awards with three nominations, including one for Winfrey, and appeared to be on the rebound after being left off the AFI top 10 list Monday. But the awards-season gods giveth and then they taketh away. Conversely, yesterday’s big snubee at SAG, The Wolf Of Wall Street, saw its fortunes improve with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association naming it a nominee for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical and one for Leonardo DiCaprio, a perennial Globe favorite gaining his 10th nomination (he won in 2004 for The Aviator).

Related: Golden Globe Awards Nominations: ‘12 Years A Slave’ & ‘American Hustle’ Lead Pack

RushOther than Oprah (unfairly in my opinion) missing out in supporting (Jennifer Lawrence, Julia Roberts, Lupita Nyong’o, June Squibb and a surprise nod for Blue Jasmine’s Sally Hawkins made the grade there), there weren’t many jaw-dropping surprises in film (TV was another matter entirely – sorry Claire Danes). That is unless you think Ron Howard’s Rush getting a Best Motion Picture Drama slot over the likes of Butler and Saving Mr. Banks (which, as at SAG, received only one nod for star Emma Thompson) is a stunner.  Hate to say I TOLDJA , but I predicted that in this column yesterday. I have spoken to several HFPA members over the past few weeks and nearly every one of them brought up that film’s name as a favorite. Although the independently-produced Universal release didn’t do well at the box office in the U.S., it has great international appeal being a European-set film about the 1970′s rivalry between  Britain’s James Hunt and Austrian Niki Lauda (played by Daniel Bruhl who grabbed a supporting actor nod today).  The HFPA is an organization made up of international journalists, and the film held a special appeal for them. Read More »

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SAG Awards Film: Robert Redford Shocker Shakes Up Race As Actors Boost Chances For ‘Butler’, ‘August’ And ‘Dallas’

Pete Hammond

Without question the biggest surprise coming out of this morning’s all important announcement of the Screenrobertredfordlost2 Actors Guild Award nominations in film was the absence of Robert Redford‘s tour de force one-man show in All Is Lost in the Best Actor category. The New York Film Critics Circle Best Actor winner was shut out and that could have an effect on shaking up what is an extremely competitive category. Redford was widely expected to be a major factor here — he has only been Oscar-nominated as an actor once, for 1973′s The Sting, and never in the 20-year history of the SAG Awards — and since SAG is one of the most reliable precursors of Oscar noms, his omission is a troubling sign. Adding insult to injury SAG did nominate the “stunt ensemble” of All Is Lost (is that just one guy?) even though when I interviewed him Redford told me he did most of his own stunts in the movie. Go figure.Then again, last year SAG and Oscar disagreed at least once in every category and matched in just 14 of 20 main acting nominees, so although this is a setback for Redford, it’s not a knockout. In the last two decades it’s been highly unusual for an actor not at least nominated by SAG to go on and actually win at the Oscars. But it actually happened last year when Christoph Waltz took the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Django Unchained after being the only one of the field who was not also a SAG nominee.

Related: SAG Awards Nominations Announced

12 Years A SlaveThe Django factor could also be comforting to the Christmas Day release The  Wolf Of Wall Street, another film completely shut out this morning. Like Django it came to the game extremely late with its first SAG screenings only 10 days ago, and Paramount sent out no DVD screeners to the SAG Nominating Committee of 2000 randomly chosen members from around the country. That is why its absence from the list of Outstanding Cast, as well as for its most talked-about performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill, is not really surprising. It’s a good bet to say a great number of voters just didn’t see the film in time. That won’t be a factor with the Academy, which doesn’t even get its ballots until the end of the month. Read More »

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Awards Roundup: NY Film Critics, Gothams, And Oscar Docu Shortlist Get Season Rolling – So Who’s On Top Now?

Pete Hammond

The actual “awards” part of awards season is finally off and running with first results out of the East Coast with today’s Oscar_Logo110922004651__120227115551New York Film Critics Circle choices and last night’s Gotham Awards. And the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences even got into the act earlier today narrowing the intense Documentary Feature competition from 151 entries to a shortlist of 15 finalists. Stuff is happening.

17th Annual Hollywood Film Awards - ShowThe NYFCC went whole hog for David O. Russell’s American Hustle (Best Picture, Screenplay, Supporting Actress) today, while Gotham unexpectedly crowned The Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis over heavy favorite 12 Years A Slave. Those results are an early indication (or even confirmation) that this could turn out to be an extremely unpredictable year — one with no frontrunner.  The fact that the powerful critical favorite 12 Years, an early favorite to sweep the critics awards and use that to begin its march to Oscar (it leads most pundit polls), was shut out at the Gothams and only took Best Director for Steve McQueen at the NYFCC perhaps means this year won’t turn into a repeat of 2010. That’s when The Social Network swept the numerous critics groups Best Picture honors (and even the Globes) only to be upended by The King’s Speech when the Producers Guild turned the race. The King’s Speech became the industry favorite all the way to the Best Picture Oscar. I think dominance among the critics is important for a picture like 12 Years. That kind of awards pedigree could force reluctant Academy voters (and I know of a few resisting it because they fear it’s too brutal) to see the film and give it a shot. A lack of that kind of consensus could just bust this race wide open and turn it into a free-for-all. Of course there are many, many more of these groups to go, and 12 Years could still dominate, but the initial picture is cloudy. It’s an extremely competitive year and likely to continue to be if today’s results are an indication.

american_hustle_ver6_xlgAs for American Hustle‘s triumph at the NYFCC, it’s a bit unexpected but completely deserving. Sony Pictures , which releases the film December 13, has had a very good run with the NY Critics Circle — winning Best Pic in 2010 with Social Network and again last year with Zero Dark Thirty only to be stopped cold at the Oscars. Will Hustle be able to ride farther this early wave for the studio? Time will tell. With more Academy friendly-type films like Saving Mr. Banks, Gravity, Nebraska, Philomena  and others going unmentioned, there are plenty of places for Oscar voters to drift including the wild card of Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street, which was a last-minute screening for NYFCC.

Related: OSCARS: ‘Wolf Of Wall Street’ Makes A Raucous Debut Read More »

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New York Film Critics Circle Awards: ‘American Hustle’ Best Film; Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett Top Actor Honors

NYFCC200x200111019173230UPDATED WITH ALL WINNERS: The New York Film Critics Circle has voted David O Russell’s ensemble crime drama American Hustle as its film of the year, one of three awards bestowed today on the Sony/Columbia film by the critics group. The pic is set for a December 13 release. The NYFCC  also picked Robert Redford as american_hustle_ver6_xlgBest Actor for his stand-alone role in JC Chandor’s All Is Lost and Cate Blanchett as Best Actress for Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, while Steve McQueen was named Best Director for 12 Years A SlaveAmerican Hustle, which stars Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremey Renner and Jennifer Lawrence, also won for Lawrence as Supporting Actress and for Russell and Eric Singer’s screenplay. Last year, the NYFCC tapped Zero Dark Thirty for Best Film and helmer Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director, starting that pic’s path to a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

The NYFCC is one of the earliest groups to vote on the year’s best performances in film, kicking off a slew of critics organizations whose results can serve as if not Oscar predictors then maybe Oscar leaners. Like last year, this year’s NYFCC vote from its membership of NY critics from daily and weekly newspapers, magazines and online publications comes one day before the National Board of Review makes its picks. Here are the final results of today’s voting:

Best Film
American Hustle

Best Actor
Robert Redford, All Is Lost

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Best Director
Steve McQueen, 12 Years A Slave

Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

Best Foreign Language Film
Blue Is The Warmest Color

Best Supporting Actor
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Best Animated Film
The Wind Rises

Best Screenplay
American Hustle

Special Award
Frederick Wiseman Read More »

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OSCARS Q&A: Robert Redford On Returning To His Roots In ‘All Is Lost’

By | Saturday November 30, 2013 @ 3:35pm PST
Pete Hammond

For more than 50 years, Robert Redford has been at the top of his game, whether as an actor, Oscar-AwardsLine.LogoBWwinning director (Ordinary People), producer or at Sundance, the festival and institute he founded. He won an honorary Oscar for his work with Sundance in promoting independent film, and that is where he met director J.C. Chandor, whose first film, Margin Call, premiered at the festival. But none of the many young directors whose films got big breaks at Sundance actually ever dared to ask Redford to be in a movie. That is, until Chandor brought him All Is Lost. The result is an extraordinary tour de force performance in which Redford is the only actor on screen, playing a man trying to survive after his sailboat springs a leak. Incredibly, Redford has only been nominated for an acting Oscar once in his career, 40 years ago for the lighthearted The Sting. Betting odds are that All Is Lost is going to bring him his second best actor nom.

robertredfordlost1AwardsLine: What attracted you to such a physically and mentally challenging role?
Robert Redford: It was an opportunity for me to go back to my roots as an actor. That was how I began in this business, and it brought me great joy. As you move through your life, you create opportunities, and if you see new opportunities, you take them. Directing and producing, or creating opportunities for other filmmakers, feels great, but you’re not aware of how it’s taking you further and further away from what your basic joy is—to act. This gave me that in a very big way because of the kind of role it was. Then there is that other thing that happens when you just go in—and it’s impulse—where you say, “I’m going to trust this.” That happened for me with J.C. We met, and very quickly, I thought, “Let’s just do it.” Read More »

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Will Oscar Be Going Indie? Spirit Nominations Celebrate LOTS Of Strong Academy Contenders

Pete Hammond

Nominations for Film Independent’s Spirit Awards were announced earlier today. As usual the Spirits were among the first groups to jump into the awards season fray, but also, other than the Oscars, the last to name winners (the ceremony is Saturday March 1, day before the Academy Awards). That means there can be a big momentum shift between now and then when the envelopes are opened.  But it does give a boost to certain films that qualify as “indies” under their rules (generally a budget under or around $20 million) as they build toward Oscar nominations.  Although the Spirits preclude many Oscar frontrunners such as Gravity, Captain Phillips, American Hustle, Saving Mr. Banks, Philomena, August: Osage County, The Wolf Of Wall Street, Prisoners and Lee Daniels’ The Butler to name a few they can provide some comfort for those crossover films whose smaller budgets make them eligible for both including newly-minted Best Film nominees  All Is Lost, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska and 12 Years A Slave which led all comers with 7 nods. Nebraska was a strong runner-up with 6 and would have tied, but inexplicably Phedon Papamichael’s exquisite black and white scope cinematography was somehow overlooked for the likes of Spring Breakers and Computer Chess. What’s up with that, indie people?

Nevertheless Oscar’s Best Picture list could include several of the Spirit choices and the same goes for the lead acting categories where Bruce Dern, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Oscar Isaac, Robert Redford, Matthew McConaughey (a winner last year at the Spirits) and Michael B. Jordan all have reasonable chances to make the corresponding Oscar lineup as well as Blue Jasmine’s Cate Blanchett who likely will have a very good early March weekend at both the Spirits and the Oscars for lead actress. Read More »

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