Pen Lit Awards Ignore Protesters, Honor ‘Zero Dark Thirty’, ‘Game Change’, Joan Didion, Kickstarter

By | Wednesday October 16, 2013 @ 12:33am PDT
Pete Hammond

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. Read More »

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Which Best Picture Nominee Received The Biggest Pre-Oscar Bump?

By | Monday February 25, 2013 @ 6:02pm PST

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:

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Post-Oscars, Senate Intelligence Committee Closes ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Probe

By | Monday February 25, 2013 @ 4:40pm PST

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 … Read More »

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OSCARS: This Year Has Much In Common With 1962 Race

By | Saturday February 23, 2013 @ 8:00am PST
Pete Hammond

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 … Read More »

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OSCARS: The Original Screenplay Nominees

By | Monday February 18, 2013 @ 6:31pm PST

Anthony D’Alessandro is Managing Editor of AwardsLine. Paul Brownfield and David Mermelstein are AwardsLine contributors.

Amour

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 … Read More »

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OSCARS: Nominated Film Editors Break Down Key Scenes

By | Monday February 18, 2013 @ 5:00am PST

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.

WILLIAM GOLDENBERG | ARGO

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”. Read More »

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Does ‘Argo’s’ WGA Victory Seal The Deal For Oscar?

By | Sunday February 17, 2013 @ 11:11pm PST
Pete Hammond

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 … Read More »

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OSCARS: Best Picture Nominees Had Uphill Production Battles

Pete Hammond

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.

RELATED: OSCARS: Best Picture Contenders Part 1

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. Read More »

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Oscars: Will Politics Change The Race?

Pete Hammond

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 Read More »

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Leon Panetta Drops ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Zinger At Farewell Tribute

By | Friday February 8, 2013 @ 6:24pm PST

Panetta Zero Dark ThirtyZero 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 … Read More »

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WGA Panel: Mark Boal Strikes Back At Politicians Seeking “Publicity Platform”

By | Thursday February 7, 2013 @ 10:44pm PST

“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.”
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OSCARS: Best Actor/Best Actress Race Handicap

Pete Hammond

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 … Read More »

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OSCARS: Best Picture Contenders Part 3

The last in a three-part series in which AwardsLine breaks down all nine of the best picture contenders.

Django Unchained

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. Read More »

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OSCARS: Anything Goes In This Year’s Race

Pete Hammond

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 Read More »

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Survivors Of 9/11 Victims Slam Senators For Trashing ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

By | Thursday January 31, 2013 @ 9:41am PST
Mike Fleming

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 … Read More »

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‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Too Risky For Pakistan Theaters, But It’s Popular On Pirated DVD

By | Friday January 25, 2013 @ 12:58pm PST

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 … Read More »

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Michael Moore Weighs In On ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

By | Friday January 25, 2013 @ 11:12am PST

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:

In Defense of Zero Dark Thirty

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.

Read More »

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Kathryn Bigelow Answers Tough ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Questions – On Comedy Central: Video

By | Wednesday January 23, 2013 @ 11:51am PST

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 … Read More »

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OSCARS: Jennifer Lawrence And Jessica Chastain Stir Things Up In Tight Best Actress Race, But Does It Matter?

Pete Hammond

The tight Oscar race for Best Actress between the presumed co-frontrunners, Silver Linings Playbook’s Jennifer Lawrence and Zero Dark Thirty’s Jessica Chastain, took a few twists and turns this weekend. But will any of it affect the outcome one way or another? Momentum is a fickle thing — you can win it or lose it  in an instant.

Related: Jennifer Lawrence Monologue On ‘SNL’

Both young stars are coming off a stellar week where they won Golden Globe and Critics Choice Movie Awards for their performances. And now, just 2 1/2 weeks before Oscar voting begins and smack in the middle of SAG balloting, Chastain pulled off the neat trick of starring in the No. 1 and No. 2 films at the box office (#1 Mama and #2 Zero Dark Thirty). Before Mama opened, some pundits observed that starring in a standard horror film in the midst of Oscar crunch time could hurt Chastain the same way Norbit’s Oscar-time release was perceived to hurt Eddie Murphy when he lost for Dreamgirls. But in fact Mama received generally good reviews (62% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes) and way overperformed at the box office, helping to make the emerging Chastain an even bigger star. And the fact that she simultaneously continues in her Broadway run in The Heiress (a film based on the play won Olivia DeHavilland an Oscar) also helps as voters love actors who move between theatre and movies with ease.

Related: Golden Globes Movies: Does Winning Really Affect Oscar Chances? Read More »

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