Mark Boal, the journalist-turned-filmmaker who teamed with Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, has formed Page 1. The production company will hatch films and TV that will be backed by Megan Ellison‘s Annapurna Pictures. She financed Zero Dark Thirty, which Boal wrote and produced. Boal will be CEO and he has named as president Hugo Lindgren, a former editor of The New York Times Magazine and editorial director of New York Magazine. Matthew Budman will be the Annapurna executive overseeing Page 1; he worked closely with Boal on Zero Dark Thirty. Jonathan Leven will be a development/production exec.
Notes from Monday night’s 23rd annual Pen Center USA Literary Awards Festival:
These awards, handed out at a ritzy gala at the Beverly Hills Hotel, celebrate the “freedom to write” and generally honor books. But there were a few showbiz awards thrown in including the Screenplay honor to Mark Boal for Zero Dark Thirty and its television counterpart to Danny Strong for HBO’s Game Change. Kickstarter even got in on the game, winning the Award Of Honor. But the big news was happening out in front of the hotel as the Motion Picture Editors Guild followed through on threats reported on Deadline to protest the Freedom To Write award to Sonia Nassery Cole, director/co-writer/producer of Afghanistan’s 2010 Foreign Language Oscar entry The Black Tulip. Several members were there with signs claiming she stiffed them back pay for their work on the film. The protest didn’t seem to dampen the mood inside the ballroom (there was no acknowledgement of the dispute) as she won a hearty ovation when Oscar-nominated actress Shoreh Aghdashloo introduced her to receive the evening’s final award. Cole’s speech focused heavily on the fight for freedom and peace in Afghanistan, pointing out her time there was “Hell on Earth”. Her anti-Taliban book and film enabled her to fight against them, she said.”Freedom is something I have been fighting for my entire life, and for me freedom is not free. We have to fight for it every single day of our lives, especially when you go to a country like Afghanistan,” she said, although the protesters outside would probably say making a movie is “not free” either.
Conventional wisdom is that Best Picture Oscar winners enjoy a 35% bump in theatrical grosses for the week after the show. But today Rentrak announced which titles had the largest box office growth since nominations were announced on January 10. Sure, Argo took home the gold. But Sony Pictures Classics’ Amour experienced a 1,250% increase and Annapurna Pictures/Sony Pictures’ Zero Dark Thirty earned a 1,570% increase. Rentrak numbers below include gross domestic totals from Sunday, January 6 (before nominations were announced on January 10) until Sunday for all nine Best Picture rivals:
It appears the Senate Intelligence Committee probe into Zero Dark Thirty is over. A Congressional aide today confirmed to Reuters that the Committee led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Senators John McCain (R-Ariz) and Carl Levin (D-Mich) has dropped its inquiry into Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-nominated film. The negative campaign from Capitol Hill had plagued the pic in the months leading up to the 85th Academy Awards, where Zero Dark Thirty went home without winning any major awards Sunday night. The Senate Intelligence Committee launched its public battle against the film in December when members issued a letter to Sony Pictures head Michael Lynton that called the film “grossly inaccurate”. The committee subsequently called for an investigation into the propriety of access given by the CIA to Bigelow and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Mark Boal, whose film depicts CIA operatives employing enhanced interrogation practices on detainees. At a WGA nominees panel this month, Boal accused his politician detractors of using Zero Dark Thirty as a “publicity platform”: “You’re talking about an institution that has lower approval ratings than head lice and cockroaches in the American public”, he said, “so I think anything they can do to, in some cases, avoid the issues that they’re voted in to do, they’ll do”.
The Osama bin Laden pic was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best …
Many have said 2012 has been the most remarkable year for movies in the Oscar race in a very long time. The dense list of quality contenders makes for quite a race, and it’s somewhat reminiscent of another legendary year for cinema a half-century ago.
The year 1962 was an embarrassment of riches, and in many ways, just an embarrassment for the Academy. Yes, they did include the year’s two best films, To Kill A Mockingbird and (eventual winner) Lawrence of Arabia, in the best picture lineup and both have endured as certified classics. Both were worthy. But then the Academy padded out the remaining three spots with popular studio offerings like The Longest Day, The Music Man, and most egregiously, the bloated Marlon Brando remake of Mutiny On The Bounty. OK, these films might have been decent entertainment, but were they the best the Academy could do 50 years ago? Hardly.
Just consider the films that didn’t make the cut: Blake Edwards’ Days of Wine and Roses; John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate, Birdman Of Alcatraz, And All Fall Down; Arthur Penn’s The Miracle Worker; Robert Aldrich’s What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?; Otto Preminger’s Advise & Consent; Stanley …
Anthony D’Alessandro is Managing Editor of AwardsLine. Paul Brownfield and David Mermelstein are AwardsLine contributors.
Auteurs wouldn’t be auteurs if they weren’t enigmatic, especially when it comes to deconstructing details of their oeuvre. “Let the film speak for itself” is often the motto, and for Amour director and screenwriter Michael Haneke, that’s not too far from his own credo. However, he’s not completely inaccessible when responding to the audience’s fervor for his work.
“It’s very difficult for me to say, it was so long ago, I can’t remember”, Haneke told AwardsLine when asked if there were one particularly challenging scene to write for Amour. “Generally, when it comes to screenwriting, I can say that if it’s flowing, you enjoy it. If not, it’s far less pleasant. But there’s always ambivalence—the struggle to put something there on a blank page when there was nothing there before. If it’s successful, you’re happy; if not, you’re depressed”.
In writing the story of 80-year-old husband Georges who contends with his dying wife Anne’s debilitated state, Haneke was spurred by a beloved aunt’s long and painful battle with a degenerative condition. For the director, the story of the elderly couple’s struggle was a universal tragedy versus a tragic drama “about a 40-year-old couple who is coping with a child dying of cancer”.
In researching the script, Haneke met extensively with medical specialists who work with stroke victims. …
Thomas J. McLean is an AwardsLine contributor
The film editing race is both diverse and expected. All five nominated films are also up for best picture, and the individual editors range from three-time Oscar winner Michael Kahn to several first-time nominees and one nominee, William Goldenberg, nominated for work on two separate films. We talked with the nominated editors and asked them to run through a key scene from their films—one that was crucial to making the picture work, either from a tone perspective or a more technical one. The results were as diverse as the nominated films themselves.
Goldenberg says Argo’s incongruous quality was epitomized in an often bizarre sequence that cuts from the elaborate table-read of the fake screenplay at the Beverly Hills Hotel to the houseguests trying to entertain themselves in their long isolation to Iranian forces frightening hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Iran with a mock execution.
“When I read the script, I thought this was a scene where if we can make this work tonally, the movie will work”, says Goldenberg. “Because it’s all these different tones colliding together, and if all these expositions can work as a scene, then I think what we’re trying to do with the movie will be successful”.
Tonight’s Writers Guild of America awards show brought further clarity to this year’s topsy turvy awards race but it also brought some embarrassment to the guild. Is there any reason the WGA can’t coordinate the so-called “simutaneous” ceremonies between east coast and west coast so that winners aren’t being tweeted thoughout the room at L.A.’s JW Marriott Hotel Ballroom a full hour before they are announced to the local crowd gathered for the main awards show?
Anyone with a Blackberry or iPhone knew that Argo and Zero Dark Thirty won their respective Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay awards long before the actual winners in Los Angeles even knew thanks to word leaking out of the New York WGA East show. Argo’s scripter Chris Terrio told me he had no idea until it was announced in L.A . that he had won even though that announcement came fully an hour and a half after it was blasted across several websites including Deadline. He said he wondered if something was up when other winners on stage referred to tweets they had received indicating they had won but he never checked. Director Ben Affeck stayed home with the family but told Terrio he would be closely following events on the WGA’s live streaming site. Obviously he had reason to be happy.
As the industry kicks into full awards mode, with one guild after another handing out trophies to whomever they consider the year’s best in any given field, it’s become increasingly clear this is a year like we have not seen in a while. Certainly every season we go through this ritual of watching the crème de la crème of the industry line up to get awards, but rarely have we seen as dense a field of top contenders, and especially deserving ones, as we have this year. The common denominator among most, if not all, of the contenders in Oscar’s 24 categories is how difficult it was in the first place to get any of these films made in a sequel-happy, franchise-loving, play-it-safe motion picture industry.
For example, Steven Spielberg began talking about Lincoln with Doris Kearns Goodwin before she started writing the book and struggled for well over a decade to bring it to the screen, getting turned down by three studios in the process. And first-time feature filmmaker Benh Zeitlin went against all industry norms to make the unique and hard-to-define Beasts Of The Southern Wild come to life. But no matter who the filmmaker is, the most often-heard mantra is stick to your core beliefs and vision and somehow an Oscar-worthy film can be willed into being. Even James Bond ran into trouble when MGM went bankrupt and a normal 2½-year process turned into twice that for Skyfall, which went on to win five Oscar nominations. It also got recognition as one of the year’s best pictures from the Producers Guild, as well it should, considering what its veteran producers went through to just to make it.
Everyone knows that with all of the rampant campaigning going on, Hollywood’s Oscar season can get quite political, but this year it’s literally poliitics. And not as usual. An infusion of real politicians, and political issues, have been characterizing this Academy campaign season for several weeks and it seems to be ramping up to new heights just as ballots went out this week and voting is now going on in earnest through February 19. Of course real-world politics have often seeped into Oscar season but, whether it is the political nature of the films or some other reason, it’s careening out of control.
Starting with the October release of Warner Bros‘ Argo, several real-life Presidents have been used to either officially – or unofficially – make an endorsement of a contender or at least be used in ways we haven’t seen before. For Argo’s end credits former President Jimmy Carter turns up in an audio interview basically confirming the facts of the CIA mission he approved to get six American hostages out of the Canadian Embassy in Iran by creating a fake movie production. It was a very effective way of validating the events of the film set in 1979 and giving it added gravitas. It also didn’t hurt the film’s awards chances to have Tony Mendez, …
Zero Dark Thirty’s Mark Boal and Kathryn Bigelow scored some vindication when exiting Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta admitted on NBC’s Meet The Press that some of the intel that led to Osama bin Laden came from “interrogation tactics”. (He even called the controversial Best Picture Oscar contender “a good movie”.) Today at an Armed Forces Farewell Tribute in Fort Myer, Virginia, President Obama applauded Panetta for “delivering justice to Osama bin Laden”. The ex-CIA head, who’s played by James Gandolfini in Zero Dark Thirty, referred in his remarks to the embattled film (and his dog Bravo) with a decidedly lighter touch than any public official has dared in recent months: “Bravo was in all of the meetings when we planned the bin Laden operation, and he also sat in on many of the sensitive meetings and discussions that I had at the Pentagon. And I want you to know that he has never told a soul what he heard. He is definitely not a leaker, at least according to that definition of the word. You’ve heard of the movie, Zero Dark Thirty. The producer is seriously considering a new movie about Bravo, entitled, Zero Bark Thirty.”
“It’s almost like it’s become a fad for politicians to use movies as a publicity platform,” screenwriter Mark Boal told Deadline of the political controversy still swirling around Kathryn Bigelow‘s Zero Dark Thirty tonight at the WGA‘s annual panel discussion with guild award nominees. Until recently the Oscar-nominated screenwriter, along with Oscar-snubbed director Bigelow, kept his feelings relatively close to his chest on the Senate critics who called for investigations into the accuracy and propriety of Zero Dark Thirty‘s account of the intelligence operations that led to bin Laden’s capture and death. With the Academy Awards less than three weeks away, he likened the Zero Dark Thirty political assault to McCarthyism: “You’re talking about an institution that has lower approval ratings than head lice and cockroaches in the American public, so I think anything they can do to, in some cases, avoid the issues that they’re voted in to do, they’ll do.”
In a race as tight as the one this year for Best Actress and particularly Best Actor, there were many deserving performances that might have made the cut in any other year but were overlooked because of intense competition. As far as lead acting categories go, this year is one of the most fiercely fought in recent Oscar history. So what was it about the 10 nominated performances in the top two acting categories that sealed the deal with Academy voters? Here’s a look at why they made it to the golden circle.
Bradley Cooper | Silver Linings Playbook
Coming into the project just shortly before production began, Cooper proves a shrewd choice to play Pat Jr., a volatile man just released from an institution, in denial about his dead marriage, and just trying to put his life back together. Mark Wahlberg was cast in the part originally, but after he dropped out, Cooper got the role and ran with it. It’s a delicate balance of comedy and drama that Cooper must navigate, and he creates a wholly original and likable character, a neat trick considering Pat Jr. isn’t always sympathetic. Coming off popcorn movies like The Hangover and The A Team, Cooper finally shows his true acting chops, and his scenes opposite Robert De Niro and Jennifer Lawrence prove he is a talent to be reckoned with. Watching …
The last in a three-part series in which AwardsLine breaks down all nine of the best picture contenders.
What the Academy says: 5 nominations (Picture: Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone; Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz; Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino; Cinematography: Robert Richardson; Sound Editing: Wylie Stateman)
What the public says: $147.5M domestic boxoffice; $111.5M international (as of Feb. 1)
What Pete Hammond says: Quentin Tarantino’s spaghetti-western homage was a Christmas Day release and struggled just to meet its late-year release date. That means its five nominations including best picture are an impressive feat considering many members probably didn’t get a chance to see it because of the earlier voting schedule. It just shows the love for all things Tarantino, as this is the third film for which the director has seen a best picture nom. Although unlike Inglourious Basterds and Pulp Fiction, Tarantino didn’t earn a best director nomination this year.
With less than a month to go, the stage is set for one of the strangest Oscar showdowns in memory. Certainly the season started with some clear favorites emerging, like Argo at Telluride, Silver Linings Playbook at Toronto, then Lincoln just after the election, followed by Life Of Pi. I thought Paramount’s Flight also might emerge as a major best picture contender around this time, but when critics awards and early nominations for Globes and CCMAs started coming in, it was clear this was mainly just a play for Denzel Washington and John Gatins’ original screenplay. At Christmas time, we got Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained, and the hotly anticipated Les Misérables to complete our seven-pack of best picture contenders. What many weren’t anticipating was that two small indie films that made a splash earlier in the year were also going to come in. Beasts Of The Southern Wild managed to hold on to all that momentum from its Sundance debut a year ago, and then
Here is an unexpected vote of support for Best Picture nominee Zero Dark Thirty, a film that probably lost an Oscar nomination for director Kathryn Bigelow because of the cage rattling by three U.S. Senators over what they said was a false impression that the torture depicted in the film led somehow to 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden. Here is a release issued by 9/11 Parents & Families of Firefighters and WTC Victims, which was forwarded to me by Sony Pictures. As a New Yorker, I can see their point. While I was having my house built in a new community a dozen years ago, we met a firefighter who right up the block was building his dream house. Construction got delayed and by the time these houses were done, he had perished on 9/11. His family has long since moved away, but each time I drive past that house, I think of him. I also thought of him while I watched Zero Dark Thirty, and while I found the depiction of torture to be upsetting–it seemed to me that Bigelow and Mark Boal presented it in a way that leaves it up to the viewer to decide whether or not it was worthwhile or reprehensible–but the most surprising thing about the way that movie has played is how the heroism of the CIA operatives and the Navy SEALs has gotten little to no recognition …
Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-nominated Zero Dark Thirty will not be released theatrically in Pakistan, where the film is largely set. The film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, who was tracked down hiding out in the Pakistan town of Abbotabad, is too much of a risk for local distributors, according to Mohsin Yaseen of Cinepax, the largest exhibition chain in the country. Speaking to the BBC, Yaseen said, “The movie had some controversial scenes in the story related to Pakistan… For us it’s not possible to bring it here. It did affect our business, but, you know, it’s better to be safe than showing that film.” Local censors had previously demanded so many cuts on another film Cinepax had acquired which involved bin Laden, that Yaseen said the company “thought it best to just keep away from” Zero Dark Thirty, and other distributors have agreed to do the same, The Telegraph reports. The film is not going unseen in Pakistan, however. A pirated DVD is “very popular in Islamabad,” according to the BBC with locals even setting up home cinemas to screen it.
Michael Moore has never had a problem weighing in on controversial, hot-button political issues, and he gave his 2 cents about Zero Dark Thirty to Time magazine — the mag one that features director Kathryn Bigelow on the cover. An abbreviated version of his take appeared on Time.com, but Moore posted the full piece on his Facebook page:
There comes a point about two-thirds of the way through ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ where it is clear something, or someone, on high has changed. The mood at the CIA has shifted, become subdued. It appears that the torture-approving guy who’s been president for the past eight years seems to be, well, gone. And, just as a fish rots from the head down, the stench also seems to be gone. Word then comes down that – get this! – we can’t torture any more! The CIA agents seem a bit disgruntled and dumbfounded. I mean, torture has worked soooo well these past eight years! Why can’t we torture any more???
The answer is provided on a TV screen in the background where you see a black man (who apparently is the new president) and he’s saying, in plain English, that America’s torturing days are over, done, finished. There’s an “aw, shit” look on their faces and then some new boss comes into the meeting room, slams his fist on the table and says, essentially, you’ve had eight years to find bin Laden – and all you’ve got to show for it are a bunch of photos of naked Arab men peeing on themselves and wearing dog collars and black hoods. Well, he shouts, those days are over! There’s no secret group up on the top floor looking for bin Laden, you’re it, and goddammit do your job and find him.
Kathryn Bigelow and Zero Dark Thirty screenwriter Mark Boal are doing the media tour thing to defend their depiction of torture in the Oscar-nominated military drama — and how those tactics might have led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. The Senate, for one, wants to know more about where that information came from. Bigelow was supposed to be on The Colbert Report two weeks ago but backed out — she apologized to Stephen Colbert during yesterday’s show, saying “I was spooked by the Senate investigation.” Her carefully worded answers suggest “spooked” isn’t too far off. Funny that it took Comedy Central to bring out Bigelow’s most candid interview yet — and kudos for Colbert for asking strong questions about the filmmakers’ primary sources, whether Bigelow believed they were spun by the government, and what she thought about potentially being called before Congress.