Lily Tomlin has only been nominated for a single Oscar, 39 years ago for Nashville. She did not get a supporting nod for Flirting with Disaster (she should have).  She was not nominated for Short Cuts nor for I Heart Huckabees.  Jane Fonda has been nominated seven times and won twice.  She was nominated 6 times for lead actress and 1 time for supporting. Still, it has been twenty years since Jane Fonda was up for Oscar consideration with The Morning After. Fonda and Tomlin starred together in Nine to Five, a memorable, iconic film that earned a single Oscar nomination for Best Song.

Yet both women are not going out quietly, as Hollywood has prescribed for them. Thanks to Netflix (yet again), Tomlin and Fonda are currently starring in Grace and Frankie — a funny, sometimes heartbreaking, ongoing series drawing from the stories of two women whose husbands discovered late in life that they could happily come out and get married — to each other. Fonda plays the “pretty one” who likes to dress up and lives neatly and cleanly.  Tomlin is the artist, the looser of the two. They are working out the kinks and struggles of life in the golden age. The funny thing about the show, though? All generations watch it. It doesn’t just appeal to “older women.” It’s the writing that makes Grace and Frankie, working on its second season, so addictive.

Fonda and Tomlin have been acting in films and television going on 50 years.  Yet, here they both are — headed to the 2016 Oscar race doing the best work of their careers. Lily Tomlin stars in Grandma, a film that was written for her by Paul Weitz.  She plays a woman who has recently lost her longtime companion, or wife. It would have been easy to pigeon-hole Tomlin as a man-hating feminist. She could have been just one thing but Weitz wrote her with complexity so that she’s not always likable. Women — especially older women — become invisible after a certain age. But Tomlin’s character refuses to accept that death sentence. Three generations of women, all different, all wanting different things.

It’s a miracle of writing, this thing, because even the best roles written for women usually give them one thing to do or be and it’s — let’s be honest — usually connected somehow to a man. So that, with few exceptions like The Danish Girl and The Martian women don’t get to be much more than who they are in relation to their male co-stars. Yet here we have a woman whose whole life is played out in big and small moments, in vague and obvious moments. We find out about her lovers, her books, her cheapness, her sloppiness, her toughness, her difficult relationship with her daughter and of course, how deeply she is grieving the loss of her lover.

By contrast, Jane Fonda’s character in Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth has a short amount of screen time but manages not just to stand out in a cast of many great performances but to stand out when comparing this performance to her entire career. She isn’t having someone explain something to her. She isn’t being rejected. She isn’t looking for love. She isn’t looking even for acceptance. She is setting straight someone whom, she believes, lives in a delusion that Hollywood is as it once was. Fonda does not hide from her age, nor the “work” she’s had done. She allows it to be filmed in high def, wrinkles and all. It is a vanity free moment that really does express a character who has lived a whole life both as a woman and as an actress.

It might be too much to ask to imagine both of them attending the Oscars next year. But if they do, it will be a unique pleasure to see these two hard working veterans back on the red carpet, showing the young ones how it’s done.


In what I would consider Tom Hooper’s most ambitious and successful film to date, newcomer Alicia Vikander has given one of the best performances of the year as Gerda Wegener, the wife of The Danish Girl, Married to Einar Wegener, whose true self as Lili Elbe emerges throughout the film, her role is every bit as fascinating.  As Vulture’s Kyle Buchanan rightly says in his piece about queer films being really films about straight people, The Danish Girl really isn’t so much about Elbe as it is about Gerda Wegener. Within the context of this story told on film, which is probably sort of like the real story though not entirely, Vikander turns out to be the best part of it.

My daughter has already told me that the Tumblr rumblings about The Danish Girl and About Ray — or any film that casts cis gender people in place of trans actors — is going to find itself navigating a shitstorm. I do not feel qualified nor invited to comment on this debate. It’s not my place to talk about it, really, since I am not a trans person. And yes, you could say I have no right to talk about the “slave” controversy and Suffragette but there I do believe it was a “mistake.” I am defending Meryl Streep’s integrity because so few seem willing to do so, and if that makes me a racist to some — okay, fine. Call me a racist.


In this context, however, I can only look at The Danish Girl as a work of art. This is a film about a woman married to someone who is discovering or uncovering her true self.  She frames the situation as “god made me a woman” and the medical team helped her become herself. It is a story about the first well-known transgender woman who underwent a series of operations to clarify her identity. Unfortunately, the final surgery (not in the film) to implant a uterus led to Lili Elbe’s death. The true story of Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener is quite fascinating as Gerda was not just an understanding spouse who accepted her husband’s desires to wear her clothes — she was herself bisexual, and painted beautiful lesbian erotica. This was not depicted in The Danish Girl because you can only imagine how Academy members might react to that. This film, like The Imitation Game are more about easing progress into the lives of the rigid traditionalists and to do that one needs a light touch.

Still, I couldn’t help but imagine co-star Amber Heard and Alicia Vikander together discovering their own delights, perhaps if the film had been made in the 1980s and had been directed by Philip Kaufman. Ahem. As it is, however, it is very much a love story and more than that, a story of friendship.

Alicia Vikander walks away with the movie. With this and her performance in Ex Machina, Vikander’s star has risen fast in a very short time. It isn’t easy playing opposite a fine actor like Eddie Redmayne, whose adeptness at disappearing into a role is as evident here as it was last year when he played Stephen Hawking.  Part of the reason Vikander is so accessible and Redmayne not as accessible is that he’s playing a character who has been walled off inside another person. Redmayne had to first figure out how to play someone not really himself. He then had to find Lili and bring her out, bit by bit. By the end of the film, there is no question of who she is.

Though the film paints this story as a tragedy, there is a delightful eroticism and playfulness in the paintings Gerda made of Lili, and of course in her other work. If The Danish Girl stands for anything beyond cis gendered people trying better to understand trans people, it’s that here is a film about a female painter, by god, at a time when women didn’t really do stuff like that. Gerda is, therefore, the true cinematic feminist hero of 2015. With her cigarette dangling from her teeth, her exposed ankles, her willingness to follow her then-husband’s wishes — matches this freed up actress so comfortable with her caramel-colored dancer’s body, leaning forward from Tom Hooper’s camera so that her vulva is visible — in a film that also shows Redmayne’s unwanted penis being tucked between his legs. The camera loves Vikander — not just for her unusual beauty but for the emotional life she accesses as the movie progresses. Do not miss The Danish Girl — even if you are politically opposed to cis gendered actors playing trans people. See it for the celebration of sexuality, beauty, art and freedom. See it for the magnificent discovery that is super alien Alicia Vikander. And finally, see it to watch Tom Hooper dip a brave toe into eroticism. If I found any flaw with the film it was that I wanted Hooper to take off his clothes and dive in.

1267061_1_l 46_Le Modele - Gerda Wegener 1927_7058 Gerda Wegener 3

Gerda Wegener 5


In the last 17 years that we’ve been covering the Oscars the world has changed. The country has changed. Television has changed. The film industry has changed. Here is what I’ve learned: The Oscars don’t always address change. Much of the time, they prefer to dwell in the rear view mirror, a time when voters imagine things were better, not worse or even if they really were worse we have all agreed to remember them as better.

Some of the strongest films circling this year’s Oscar race for Best Picture touch on the very things that are terrifying people in known and unknown ways. We are living through a millennium shift, and have been since this site began in 1999. We’re still so deep in it that we can’t really see what kind of impact the turn of the millennium has caused on our culture. We can see it through Oscar’s eyes. We can remember that in 2000, Gladiator won Best picture. Russell Crowe was a champion. Fifteen years later, Ridley Scott is back in the Oscar race but this time his hero is a lost man in search of solid ground.

When this site first began watching Oscar 17 years ago, we were heading into two terms of the Bush presidency. That reign impacted cinema and the Oscars in significant ways. Sometimes very directly, with Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker in 2009 and James Vanderbilt’s Truth in 2015.

Through two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, then two terms of the Obama presidency, the internet, blogging and social networking have replaced the traditional ways we broke news, and how we get our news. Almost everyone would agree that there are good things and bad things about it. Hollywood is on the fence, as last year’s Birdman win confirmed. Love Twitter? Hate Twitter. Twitter is here to stay. We all have to improvise, adapt and overcome or we will be left behind.

The internet’s rise, along with groundbreaking visual effects, video games and virtual reality simulators has given humans a way to interact as an avatar — a self that is not really themselves. They hunch over their keyboards and leave nasty comments. We blog ferociously from our own living rooms bypassing traditional publishers and taking it straight to readers. We take selfies everywhere. We are full blown narcissists who celebrate who we are every day. We are the sum total of the effects of capitalist-driven advertising. It’s no wonder the film industry continues to pick films about lost or desperate men, like Birdman, 12 Years a Slave, Argo, The Artist, The King’s Speech, The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire, No Country for Old Men, The Departed, Crash, and Million Dollar Baby. This is millennium panic with no end in sight.

The way the country has been permanently changed by the wars brought on by 9/11, the increasing anxiety of impending doom as the natural world collapses around us — because of us — the helplessness of watching it all go down with no immediate plan to fix it.  All this is manifest and reflected in the kinds of stories voters align themselves with. Not critics. Not the Hollywood Foreign Press or the Broadcast Film Critics but the thousands of voters who vote in the large guilds and the Academy.

Last year’s winner Birdman identifies that angst directly. It did not exist anywhere except the film industry where large amounts of voters identified with what it was saying about Hollywood, art, and the business of art. It simultaneously and reluctantly acknowledged that it’s all about Twitter and viral videos while also showing disgust at how everything has changed. Boyhood could have never been that movie for Hollywood because, let’s face it, they could care less about some punk coming of age. How does that resonate at all when the vast majority of Oscar voters are older than 60?


When you have that many people deciding things, it’s easier to spot check intent and identification. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how this story is being written. The question then remains — will this year be different?

If it won’t be different, then to find Best Picture we have to go out in search of the lost men. It may be harder to figure that out right now, with so little hard data to work from. What we have so far are films way outside that paradigm. They address relevant issues that occupy the minds of people outside the Hollywood loop. They are tackling big issues, some of them, and they are stories that are bigger than the ailing heart of a failed dreamer.

2015 has already been and will continue to be an unusually strong year for female-driven films. It is probably beyond the limits of believability to think a woman-led film could win Best Picture. It hasn’t happened since 2002. Still, are there any films with a female in the lead that won’t be deflated by critics before they get to the guild stage? Are there any Black Swans, Philomenas, An Educations, Winter’s Bones? Maybe. Are there any Chicagos? Doubtful.

Still, it’s hard not to be lulled in to the story of a women-driven film triumphing at last, on the eve of maybe the first female President of the United States. Carey Mulligan stars in two films about women. The first is Far from the Madding Crowd wherein she must choose between three suitors. She also stars in Suffragette, a full blown woman joint — written, produced, directed by and starring almost all women. It is about women putting it on the line and fighting for the right to vote. Good intentions alone will not push this thing through the gauntlet, which is comprised almost entirely of men — from the critics to the bloggers to the industry voters. Suffragette might barely squeak through but it is far from certain as a winning film.

Carol, Todd Haynes’ magnificent, beautiful love story is really about gay rights. More to the point, it’s about gay couples being free to live openly without having to hide who they are. This will eventually lead to the federal law that allows gay marriage, something we’ve all just lived through, and something the Republicans continue to fight against each day. That war has already been won but the battle rages on. Can Todd Haynes finally get the recognition from the Academy he deserves? Maybe. But you still have to imagine a good amount of voters putting Carol on their top five. If you can do that, it’s in.

Brooklyn is a film about a young Irish woman who must choose between two different men and two different countries. The film is anchored by the performance of Saoirse Ronan. Since so many already love the movie, men and women alike, this seems like a sure bet to become one of the favorites by year’s end, at least so far. But can it win?

Ex Machina is one of the best films of the year and is about women in so much as it speaks — shouts — metaphorically to the way women are trapped and molded to fit a certain list of desirable traits. It is absolutely a take on what Hollywood has become. How exciting is it, then, when the robot escapes. That power is out now. Still, can Ex Machina win? Not likely.

The three films staring women that have the best shot to win would be George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, Lenny Abramson’s Room and most likely, sight unseen, David O. Russell’s Joy.


Each of these films has a winning path laid out. Mad Max because it is just all kinds of cool and would help the Academy evolve, not that they would take that opportunity. Room because it is a satisfying story well told, one that can appeal to lots of people across the board. And finally, David O. Russell’s Joy because first, he’s kind of overdue for a big win at this point, and second, if any woman is at the top of the game for women and men right now it’s Jennifer Lawrence. The two together could prove that they’ve not only got the race sewn up but will also help break the streak of films about lost men winning Best Picture.

The narrative doesn’t seem to be working in favor of a female-driven film, at least not yet, unless you count Joy. The narrative taking hold right now is that it’s Spotlight’s to lose until a Rocky-like film appears to topple it. That film will either be a big film that is too accomplished to ignore — like The Revenant, perhaps. Or it will be a more generally and broadly likable film that voters feel compelled to choose because it is too likable to ignore.

Spotlight is, right now, heads and shoulders above the competition both in terms of perception and because it is really that good. It is as carefully made and exacting as the story at the heart of the film. Hurting it is that it has been praised to front-runner status which puts a bulls eye on its back and makes it vulnerable for a Rocky-like phenom to overtake it. We won’t know how it’s going to go until the Producers Guild announces its winner at year’s end. That gives a lot of time — too much time — to sift through the potential winners we’ve seen and those still coming up.

However voters decide to define themselves for 2015-2016, one thing is clear: it is going to be a while before we find solid ground. Perhaps this is why Hollywood and the Oscars are so stubbornly married to the notion of one white straight male protagonist as the default for getting broad ideas across and expressing the human condition. Perhaps it is the loss of solid ground that makes this industry so intent upon preserving it in the realm of fantasy. If we aren’t gazing back at how great we once were, heroes who overcame obstacles to light our way, we are comforting the failures, whose own glory days have long since fled.

If you’re asking me point blank if I think the films about women will get in I would have to answer no. No because by the time the voting rolls around the critics will have finished off most of the films starring women  — either by giving them middling reviews (“It was underwhelming”) or by simply hyping films that don’t star women. I am thinking that probably when all is said and done there will be at the most two or three films with women in them and the rest will be filled with the usual. I say this because it makes common sense. The voters are overwhelmingly male. They almost always choose — except for once in a while — films that resonate with them, about their stories. Since women are perfectly happy watching movies about men they help drive that narrative.

We have so many films left to see — how they land will determine how this Oscar year is defined. We are in an area of I don’t knows. One has to be comfortable with that and accept that it’s a wide open race where anything can happen.

Either way you slice it, whether they end up in the game of Oscar or not, it is heartening to see this many films at all with women in the lead. Maybe it means things are starting to shift. Maybe it means the storytellers are coming from everywhere now, that those stories are only getting bigger. They call out to us from the future, and they’re only getting louder.


On the eve of the New York and AFI Film festivals, the Oscar race is turning out to be somewhat of a mystery to people tasked with figuring it out. Many are simply waiting for all of the cards to be played before assessing the scene. In truth, films can’t really be judged in terms of their “Oscar potential” until they’ve run the gauntlet of critic screenings, early awards, industry screenings and that teeny tiny window over the holidays when Oscar voters select their nominees.

First, a quick primer on how Best Picture is tabulated. From around 1945 until 2009, every voting member of the Academy had five slots to fill for Best Picture and the Academy named five Best Picture nominees for the year. Things were different then. The Academy has changed in two dramatic ways since then. The first major change occurred when they pushed their date up a month, from Oscar Nights that came in late Nrsch or April to the current timeframe 4 or 5 weeks earlier. This all but eliminated a late December releases as potential Best Picture winners (although nominees can still be plucked from this late breaking release date). And second, they expanded the nomination ballot for members in 2009 and 2010 to ten and had ten nominees. As we keep writing every year, this allowed the Academy members much more freedom to choose from different types of films rather than strictly “Oscar movies.” If you have ten slots to fill you might put down an animated feature, maybe a foreign language, maybe a movie — gasp — directed by a woman.

Beginning in 2011 and up to this year, the Academy made a third change, reducing the number of nominating slots to back to five while still allowing for more than five films to be named as Best Picture nominees. No one knows how many there will be (there were always 9 until last year, when there were 8). What we do know? The diversity with which the Academy once seemed to aspire for Best Picture has lately tended to become limited to the “Oscar movie” once again. Only now we get more than 5 of them named. There wasn’t and isn’t a lot of diversity in voters’ tastes. They pick five and those five tend to be important films, or wildly entertaining films, or a make-good film by an otherwise washed up actor/director. Usually they are films about heroes, unlikely, failed or high achieving. They are usually driven by a male protag. That male protag tends to lead the way when sussing out which films are leading. Sometimes it isn’t a protag at all but a Big Idea. That Big Idea can propel a movie through the entire race. Though, it should be said, that those movies tend to be driven by men too, with women as supporting players.

That is what we talk about when we talk about the “Oscar movie”: male or multiple males and some females driving an idea, or a character overcoming obstacles and achieving something great (The King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, The Artist, Birdman). Every so often a film comes along that is “important” and groundbreaking and ultimately too big to ignore (12 Years a Slave, Titanic, Schindler’s List). The last time a film with a female in the lead won Best Picture was in 2002, with Chicago. 13 years ago.

So how do we go about finding out strongest contenders this year? We have to ask these questions: can you sit anyone down in front of it and they will get it on first viewing, at least thoroughly enjoy if not love it? Does it have something important going on, a big idea that makes voters feel like their vote counts for something? Does it revolve around someone overcoming obstacles and achieving something great?

I did pretty well last year predicting the nominees. I borrowed a little from Variety’s Kris Tapley who aces the cinematography category and thinks better than I do overall in the techs. I tried really hard to remove my own heart from the equation (with the exception of Gone Girl). This is how I did at Gold Derby:

78% CORRECT (96 of 123)
Sasha Stone (Awards Daily)

76% CORRECT (94 of 123)
Steve Pond (The Wrap)
Paul Sheehan (Gold Derby)

75% CORRECT (93 of 123)
Tom O’Neil (Gold Derby)

74% CORRECT (91 of 123)
Scott Feinberg (Hollywood Reporter)
Glenn Whipp (L.A. Times)

71% CORRECT (87 of 123)
Pete Hammond (Deadline)
Mary Milliken (Reuters)
Claudia Puig (USA Today)
Christopher Rosen (Huffington Post)

70% CORRECT (86 of 123)
Nicole Sperling (Entertainment Weekly)
Anne Thompson (Thompson on Hollywood)

69% CORRECT (85 of 123)
Edward Douglas (Coming Soon)
Thom Geier
Michael Hogan (Vanity Fair)
Tariq Khan (Fox News)
Michael Musto (
Peter Travers (Rolling Stone)

67% CORRECT (82 of 123)
Susan Wloszczyna (

66% CORRECT (81 of 123)
Thelma Adams (
Matt Atchity (Rotten Tomatoes)
Jenelle Riley (Variety)

65% CORRECT (80 of 123)
Scott Mantz (Access Hollywood)
Kevin Polowy (Yahoo)

63% CORRECT (77 of 123)
Keith Simanton (IMDB)
Jeffrey Wells (Hollywood Elsewhere)

Unfortunately, last year we saw the difference between a five nomination ballot with the Academy and what might have been with a ten nomination ballot at the Producers Guild. The difference was that the three darkest PFA movies -(Nightcrawler, Foxcatcher and Gone Girl) were left out by the Academy and mostly heroic films about heroic people — tight character dramas about the human condition — triumphed with a five slot ballot.  You always have to THINK FIVE, not THINK TEN.

Whatever your criteria for choosing, ultimately you will have to aim for the films most voters will put down as one of their top five most favorite of the year. That usually excludes animated and genre films. Films that are emotionally moving or “important” tend to take precedent over films that were “fun” or profitable or simply entertaining. It is the job of publicists to make their film look big enough to be considered one of those five choices.

Anne Thompson always says you build Best Picture branch by branch. That is, if enough branches choose the film because they like the film there is a good chance that film will show up on their individual category ballot too. There’s crossover. That’s why Selma’s inclusion was unique last year. It wasn’t tied to any other major category nomination. That means it got in despite it not being a top-5 favorite by the actors, the writers, or the directors. It got in because a lot of people who were looking at the big picture put it high enough on their ballots to make it count. Every other Best Picture nominee was tied to other nominations:

That may or may not happen this year but it’s certainly possible. Either way, for Best Picture we’re still looking for branch by branch favorites. Having the major categories behind a movie helps it greatly getting in. Acting, writing, directing, editing are all important. But if you also have cinematography, sound, score, maybe visual effects, then you have a powerhouse entering the race.

What are the powerhouses so far in the first half of the year? Let’s go through them.

Spotlight (Telluride)
Important because it is about real journalism back when such a thing still existed, and is about taking on the powerful Catholic Church and everyone who helped cover up the abuse.
Probable nominations: Picture, Director (Tom McCarthy), Screenplay (Tom McCarthy), Best Actor (Mark Ruffalo), Supporting Actor (Michael Keaton). Possible nominations: Editing.

Steve Jobs (Telluride)
Important because it is really about a genius finding his humanity amid his obsession with tech advancements.
Probable nominations: Picture, Director (Danny Boyle), Actor (Michael Fassbender), Supporting Actress (Kate Winslet), Screenplay (Aaron Sorkin). Possible nominations: Editing, Cinematography, Supporting Actor (Jeff Daniels), Score.

The Martian (Toronto)
Important because it’s about science, about intelligence and survival.
Probable nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Ridley Scott), Best Actor (Matt Damon), Supporting Actress (Jessica Chastain), Screenplay (Drew Goddard), Visual Effects, Art Direction, Sound, Sound Effects Editing, Editing. Possible nominations: Score.

Carol (Cannes)
Important because it is about the moment when gay rights stopped being something no one stood up for or talked about.
Probable nominations: Picture, Director (Todd Haynes), Screenwriter (Phyllis Nagy), Actress (Cate Blanchett), Supporting Actress (Rooney Mara), Cinematography, Costume, Production Design. Possible nominations: Score, Editing.

Room (Telluride)
Important because it’s about how mothers make a home, no matter where it is.
Probable nominations: Picture, Actress (Brie Larson), Screenplay (Emma Donoghue – the rare novel writer adapting own screenplay), Supporting Actress; Possible nominations: Director, Supporting Actor (Tremblay).

Youth (Cannes)
Important because it’s about mortality, life’s meaning, love, art.
Probable nominations: Actor (Michael Caine), Supporting Actress (Jane Fonda). Possible nominations: Picture, Director/Screenplay (Paolo Sorrentino), Supporting Actress (Rachel Weisz), Supporting Actor (Harvey Keitel), Cinematography, Score.

Truth (Toronto)
Important because it’s about how the Bush administration pressured CBS to destroy one its reporters
Probable nominations: Best Actress (Cate Blanchett). Possible nominations: Supporting Actor (Robert Redford), Picture, Director/Screenplay (James Vanderbilt).

Brooklyn (Sundance)
Important because it’s about a woman finding herself in a new world.
Probable nominations: Picture, Actress (Saoirse Ronan), screenplay (Nick Hornby), Production Direction, Costume Design. Director (John Crowley). Possible nomination: Score.

The Danish Girl (Venice, Toronto)
Important because it’s about the first transgendered woman the world came to know about.
Probable nominations: Best Actor (Eddie Redmayne), Best Actress/Supporting Actress (Alicia Vikander), costume, cinematography, Production Design, Score. Possible nominations: Director (Tom Hooper), Screenplay (Lucinda Coxon).

Beasts of No Nation (Telluride)
Important because it’s about war lords and their victims, about childhood, about poverty.
Probable nominations: Screenplay (Cary Fukunaga), Supporting Actor (Idris Elba). Possible nominations: Picture, Director (Cary Fukunaga), Editing, Cinematography.

Mad Max: Fury Road (General Release, Cannes)
Important because it’s about the apocalypse, women’s rights, a rising up of the oppressed, global warming.
Probable nominations: Visual Effects, Sound, Sound Effects Editing, Editing, Score. Possible nominations: Picture, Director (George Miller), Actress (Charlize Theron), Supporting Actor (Tom Hardy), Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume Design, Production Design.

Love & Mercy (General release)
Important because it’s about mental illness and how it influences or subverts life and art.
Probable nominations: Supporting Actor (Paul Dano), Song (Brian Wilson), Supporting Actress (Elizabeth Banks). Possible nominations: Picture, Director, Screenplay, Art Direction.

Suffragette (Telluride)
Important because it’s about women fighting for the right to vote, which came none too soon and not soon enough.
Probable nominations: Best Actress (Carey Mulligan), costumes, art direction, score. Possible nominations: Picture, Director, Screenplay.

Black Mass (Telluride)
Important because it’s about nailing Whitey Bulger and exposing him as a ruthless killer.
Probable nominations: Johnny Depp. Possible nominations: Picture, Director, Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Joel Edgerton).

Important because it’s about the drug trade and drug lords in Mexico.
Probable nominations: Supporting Actor (Benicio Del Toro), Best Actress (Emily Blunt). Possible nominations: Picture, Director, Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Sound.

Important because it’s about Hollywood history and blacklisting.
Probable nominations: (Best Actor), Bryan Cranston. Possible nominations: Screenplay, Director (Jay Roach).

Upcoming movies:

The Revenant
Important because it’s an epic struggle of life and death
Possible nominations: Picture, Director (Inarritu), Screenplay, Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), Supporting Actor (Tom Hardy), Cinematography, Score, Production Design, Editing, Sound, Sound Effects Editing, Visual Effects.

Important because it’s the rare movie about a woman blazing her own career path
Possible nominations: Picture, Writer/Director (David O. Russell), Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Supporting Actor (Bradley Cooper), Editing, Makeup.

Bridge of Spies
Important because it’s about patriotism and honor
Possible nominations: Picture, Director (Spielberg), Screenplay (Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen), Actor (Tom Hanks), Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance), Cinematography, Production Design, Editing, Sound, Score.

The Hateful Eight
Important because it’s Tarantino
Possible nominations: Picture, Director/Screenplay (dat Tarantino), Actor (Kurt Russell), Supporting Actress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Supporting Actor (Samuel L. Jackson), Production Design, Costumes, Cinematography, Editing, Sound, Score.

Important because it hands the next chapter of the Rocky legend to a young African American boxer trying to make good on his father’s name.
Possible nominations: Picture, Director/Writer (Ryan Coogler), Actor (Michael B. Jordan), editing.

Important because it about the serious dangers of playing football and efforts to cover that up.
Possible nominations: Picture, Director/Writer (Peter Landesman), Score, Cinematography, Editing, Costume, Production Design.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Important — not really important, just maybe cool.
Possible nominations: Picture, Director (JJ Abrams), Screenplay (JJ Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas), Visual Effects, Sound, Sound Effects Editing, Cinematography, Score, Makeup, Production Design, Costumes.

In the Heart of the Sea
Important because it’s about the origins of Moby Dick’s legacy in our culture.
Possible nominations: Picture, Director (Ron Howard), Screenplay (Charles Leavitt), Production Design, Cinematography, Score, Editing, Sound, Visual Effects.

The Big Short
Important because it’s about Wall Street corruption.
Possible nominations: Picture, Director (Adam McKay), Screenplay (Adam McKay, Charles Randolph), Actor (Christian Bale), Supporting Actors (Ryan Gosling, Steve Carrel).

And now onward to predictions. Remember, it’s important to note two things. First thing to note, these aforementioned films are only those we’ve heard about and know about. There could be other films sneaking in that might get pushed into Best Picture, like Anomalisa, for instance.

The second thing to note — we are trying to predict Best Picture based on “top five,” not “top ten.”

Best Picture

Frontrunners seen by me: 
1. Spotlight
2. Steve Jobs
3. The Martian
4. Carol
5. Room
6. Mad Max: Fury Road
7. Beasts of No Nation
8. Youth
9. Love & Mercy
10. Truth

Seen by others, likely bets:
Son of Saul
The Danish Girl

(Think: white mostly male, mostly straight voters top five best films of the year)

1. Spotlight
2. The Revenant
3. Steve Jobs
4. The Martian
5. The Hateful Eight
6. Bridge of Spies
7. Room
8. Joy
9. Carol
10. Brooklyn
11. Beasts of No Nation
12. Youth
13. The Danish Girl
14. Creed
15. In the Heart of the Sea
16. 45 Years
17. Suffragette
18. Love & Mercy
19. Sicario
20. Concussion

Best Director

Frontrunners seen by me:
1. Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
2. Cary Fukunaga, Beasts of No Nation
3. David O. Russell, Joy
4. Todd Haynes, Carol
5. Ridley Scott, The Martian
6. Danny Boyle, Steve Jobs
7. Paolo Sorrentino, Youth
8. George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

Seen by others, strong bets:
John Crowley, Brooklyn
Lazlo Nemes, Son of Saul

Still to come

Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies
David O. Russell, Joy
JJ Abrams, Star Wars
Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight
Ron Howard, In the Heart of the Sea
Robert Zemeckis, The Walk

1. Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
2. Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant
3. David O. Russell, Joy
4. Danny Boyle, Steve Jobs
5. Todd Haynes, Carol
alt. Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies or Cary Fukunaga, Beasts of No Nation or Quentin Tarantino, Hateful Eight

Best Actor
Frontrunners I’ve seen:
1. Johnny Depp, Black Mass
2 Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
3. Michael Caine, Youth
4. Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation
5. Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
6. John Cusack, Love & Mercy
7. Tobey Maguire, Pawn Sacrifice
8. Ian McKellen, Mr. Holmes
9. Jacob Tremblay, Room
10. Jesse Eisenberg, The End of the Tour

Others have seen, strong contenders:
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Tom Hardy, Legend
Jake Gyllenhaal, Demolition and Southpaw
Michael Fassbender, Macbeth

Still to come:
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, The Walk
Michael B. Jordan, Creed

1. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
2. Johnny Depp, Black Mass
3. Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
4. Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
5. Michael Caine, Youth
6. Matt Damon, The Martian
7. Bryan Cranston, Trumbo

Supporting Actor
Frontrunners I’ve seen:
1. Harvey Keitel, Youth
2. Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
3. Paul Dano, Love & Mercy
4. Michael Keaton, Spotlight
5. Robert Redford, Truth
6  Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
7. Tom Courtenay, 45 Years
8. Joel Edgerton, Black Mass
9. Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
10. Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina

Still to come:
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Robert De Niro, Joy
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

1. Harvey Keitel, Youth
2. Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
3. Paul Dano, Love & Mercy
4. Michael Keaton, Spotlight
5. Tom Hardy, The Revenant
6. Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Best Actress

Frontrunners I’ve seen:
1. Cate Blanchett, Truth
2. Brie Larson, Room
3. Carey Mulligan, Suffragette
4. Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
5. Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road
6. Lily Tomlin, Grandma
7. Juliette Binoche, The Clouds of Sils Maria
8. Blythe Danner, I’ll See you in my Dreams

Others have seen/Strong contenders
Maggie Smith, The Lady in the Van
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Marion Cotillard, Macbeth

Still to come:
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy

1. Brie Larson, Room
2. Cate Blanchett, Truth or Carol
3. Carey Mulligan, Suffragette
4. Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
5. Jennifer Lawrence, Joy

Supporting Actress

Frontrunners I’ve seen:
1. Rooney Mara, Carol
2. Elizabeth Banks, Love & Mercy
3. Jane Fonda, Youth
4. Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
5. Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria
6. Ann-Marie Duff, Suffragette
7. Rachel McAdams, Spotlight

Still to come
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Jessica Chastain, The Martian
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Amy Ryan, Bridge of Spies


1. Rooney Mara, Carol
2. Jane Fonda, Youth
3. Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
4. Jessica Chastain, The Martian
5. Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
6. Elizabeth Banks, Love & Mercy or Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria

Adapted screenplay

Frontrunners I’ve seen:
1. Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs
2. Phyllis Nagy, Carol
3. Cary Fukunaga, Beasts of No Nation
4. Drew Goddard, The Martian
5. Emma O’Donoghue, Room
6. Andrew Haigh, 45 Years

Still to come:
Nick Hornby, Brooklyn
Matt Charman, Joel & Ethan Coen, Bridge of Spies

1. Steve Jobs
2. Carol
3. The Martian
4. Brooklyn
5. Beast of No Nation
6. Bridge of Spies

Original screenplay

Frontrunners I’ve seen:
1. Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, Spotlight
2. Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, Inside Out
3. Abi Morgan, Suffragette
4. Paul Weitz, Grandma
5. Oren Movermen, Michael A. Lerner, Love & Mercy
6. Alex Garland, Ex Machina

Still to come:
Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson, Anomalisa
Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight
David O. Russell, Joy

1. Spotlight
2. Inside Out
3. Anomalisa
4. The Hateful Eight
5. Joy

Random predictions

Best animated feature film of the year
Inside Out
The Peanuts Movie
The Good Dinosaur

Achievement in cinematography
1. The Revenant
2. The Hateful Eight
3. In the Heart of the Sea
4. Carol
5. The Danish Girl

Achievement in costume design
1. Carol
2. Suffragette
3. Cinderella
4. The Danish Girl
5. The Hateful Eight

Best documentary feature
1. Time to Choose
2. Going Clear
3. What Happened, Miss Simone?
4. Winter on Fire
5. The Look of Silence

Achievement in film editing
1. The Revenant
2. Spotlight
3. Mad Max
4. The Martian
5. The Hateful Eight

Best foreign language film of the year
Son of Saul (Hungary)
The Assassin (Taiwan)
The Second Mother (Brazil)
Mustang (France)
Labyrinth of Lies (Germany

Achievement in production design
The Revenant
Bridge of Spies
The Martian
Star Wars

Achievement in sound editing
The Revenant
Jurassic World
Mad Max: Fury Road
Inside Out
Star Wars

Achievement in sound mixing
Star Wars
Jurassic World
Mad Max: Fury Road
Son of Saul
The Hateful Eight

Achievement in visual effects

Mad Max: Fury Road
Star Wars
Jurassic World*
In the Heart of the Sea


The Emmys made the historic, unprecedented move of awarding the well deserving Viola Davis the first black actress to win in lead in their history. The audience didn’t seem to notice. Only Louis CK stood up as Davis left the stage.  Viola Davis once again gave a memorable speech which said the opportunities aren’t there for black women to get into the awards conversation in the first place. That has never more true than it will be for Oscars 2016. Not one of the frontrunners for Best Actress right now are black, let alone any other non-white ethnic group.

There is a reason Halle Berry is still the only black woman to win Best Actress in what will be 88 years of Oscar history. It’s hard enough to get someone like Sandra Bullock in a gender swap for Our Brand is Crisis.  Swapping ethnicities is equally difficult. Bullock in that role meant she drags with her “female baggage” that men may or may not take to. An actress of color put into a white actresses role without explanation brings in that same baggage.  We celebrate these suddenly powerful roles for actresses this year, of which there are many, but we must also acknowledge the start contrast between the Emmys and what will be the Oscars.  There will be no black women nominees, at least not in the lead category.

We know that the market drives the inequality. Those who make the deals put their faith in men. The only films that are within even a hair’s breath of the Best Picture race to feature a black star or a black cast would include: Beasts of No Nation, Straight Outta Compton, Creed and Concussion. They’re all black male characters almost entirely.

It comes down to a lack of opportunities and perhaps a lack of interest with the Wall of White that dominates the Oscar race. That includes the mostly white, mostly male critics and bloggers. The mostly male and mostly white industry voters. The mostly male and mostly white Academy voters. You know who isn’t mostly male and mostly white though? The ticket buyers. Only there do you see a broad spectrum of every ethnic group.

In the Best Actress race we don’t even have any alternatives at this point. Those opportunities are flat-out not there. They are on television. Even with versatile talent like Gugu Mbatha Raw, Kiki Palmer, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and yes, Halle Berry — to name a few — it’s almost impossible to get them starring roles in films that plan on the Oscar market. This is not one of those years.

Still, there is no point in condemning the films, the filmakers or the actors for being “too white.” Writers tend to write what interests them, or what they know. Since men get one deal after another, the films that get made tend to be about what interests them. It doesn’t necessarily follow that an Oscar win can guarantee real change either. Selma was a successful, profitable culture quake last year, even with the Team White Guy grumblings about it. That should be enough to get more deals made about black history — lord knows there are enough stories about it. I think I heard someone was making an LBJ movie instead.

The thing is, the times they are a-changing. Social networking has completely upended the game. Movies, and the Oscar race, are all part of an ongoing, general conversation. Young people aren’t going to be as willing to give over their attention to an industry and its awards that focus on a singule group =- a shrinking majority, in fact — that seeks to recall the history of white Americans only. Even the transgender subject matter present in the early stage of this race — with The Danish Girl and Ray are already having problems with LGBTQ groups who say they are more about straight people than trans people. But at least those doors are cracking open even a little.

Teenagers and those coming up fast behind them are going to be hungry for more than what’s being served up which means the people making decisions in Hollywood are going to have to think outside the box, like Mad Max: Fury Road already did, and the upcoming Star Wars movies does. Improvise, adapt, overcome. But you can’t do that if you’re stuck on the same channel.

So far, it’s a good year for women (albeit white women only)

The Best Picture race is so far down to these movies – Spotlight, Steve Jobs, Brooklyn, Carol and Room. Mad Max: Fury Road could be another strong contender, if the pundits like Anne Thompson turn out to be right.  Ridley Scott’s The Martian is another big, popular movie that might be one of the strongest early contenders. But already, if these movies are in, that’s four films ABOUT women with strong female leads. Nearly half.

The balloting process will hurt films that star women the most, which is why the best opportunities for women behind the camera and in front of it were the two years when voters had ten nomination slots and not five:

The Hurt Locker – directed by a woman, won Best Picture/Director
An Education – written, directed by and starring women
Precious – starring black women
The Blind Side – starring a woman
Winter’s Bone – written, directed by and starring women
Black Swan – starring a woman
The Kids are All Right – written, directed by and starring women
The following year, the Academy shrunk the nominating ballots down to five. And the results were interesting.

The Help – starring black women

2012 *
Beasts of the Southern Wild – starring a young black girl


Philomena – starring a woman
Gravity – starring a woman

No films starring women at all except The Theory of Everything, but it was really about Stephen Hawking, let’s face it.

*When I say “starring” I don’t mean co-starring. I mean the central story revolves around a woman and a woman only, not a couple.

With five nomination slots, voters may elect, even this year with an unprecedented number of films driven by women, not to include them in their top five, which may instead reflect their own preferences — generally speaking, stories about men specifically, white men usually.

The films that might withstand the 5 choice litmus test starring women could include: Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road. I would be nervous about Carol, Room, Suffragette, etc.

The rest of the films hover in circles outside the main circle but are being considered, films like 45 Years, The Danish Girl, Suffragette, Truth, Trumbo, Black Mass, and Beasts of No Nation. All of these and the aforementioned movies are threatened by what’s coming next — the Big Oscar Movies that are set to be screened next week at the New York Film Festival and then launch into the Oscar race later in the year.

Those movies in anticipation are:

Bridge of Spies
The Walk
The Revenant
By the Sea
The Hateful Eight

The Whitest Oscars Again?

If there is any possibility for Beasts of No Nation, Creed, Straight Outta Compton or Concussion to get in, no one will be able to accuse the Oscars of being the “whitest ever.” The only category that will be all white most likely will be Best Actress. 

The Oscars can only reward what is there in the first place, as Viola Davis said. Without imagination and a fair amount of courage those opportunities will never be there.

One thing is clear from last night, however — the film industry and the Oscars that feed off of it are the ones lagging way, way behind. The generations coming up behind this one aren’t as color blind as the previous generations. They aren’t as unwilling to see black women as vital, interesting people who make great subjects for films.

The country is almost ready for the first woman president in its history. Maybe it happens, maybe it doesn’t but it’s hard not to feel the seeds of change humming from the foundation. Everyone wants to see Hollywood and the Oscars evolve. Last night’s Emmys showed us that an audience watched the first black woman in history win Best Actress. They voted for her because she deserved it. They barely noticed that they were a part of history. Only a few of them even stood up at all. But the rest of us at home were shouting from the rooftops. Social media was lit up in a frenzy. The audience would later find out what they’d just been a part of. And so it goes with progress. You barely notice it’s happening until it’s blown past you.


Cate Blanchett began the year, along with her co-star Rooney Mara, as the strongest contender for Best Actress in Todd Haynes’ Carol. Unbelievably, she bested herself in Truth, giving maybe her best ever performance. Putting both Carol and Truth together you have the strongest double hitter we’ve seen in a while. But unfortunately, Truth will be hit pretty hard by journalists who have come forward to side with the Bush administration and CBS to say that Mary Mapes was in the wrong. The film Truth does not say she wasn’t. It isn’t about that as much as how the original Bush story was buried, and the unusually strong punishment Mapes received. It was, to my mind, a sad day for freedom of the press and freedom of speech. But it doesn’t really matter what I think. When a woman is involved people run like scared rabbits, as they did with Zero Dark Thirty, Selma and now Truth. This is one of those faux scandals that will simply damage an Oscar contender but then slither quietly back from whence it came. There is something about a woman being in charge that makes people nervous. Dollars to donuts if Mapes had been male none of this would have happened in quite the same way. CBS might have done what Ben Bradlee had done and stood by his reporters who really were on the side of the truth. But they didn’t. They collapsed under pressure. Period. The end.

So if the faux scandal gives Blanchett’s nod to Carol instead, which it may do, where does that leave us? Well, since Blanchett won recently for Blue Jasmine, it it could mean Brie Larson, whose film Room just won the Audience Award at Toronto, right at the top of the list for the Best Actress win. While it is too early to talk about winners, I suspect Larson, who was already a top contender anyway, could become the early frontrunner.

Helping Larson is that she’s never won before. She’s young and she has nothing but good buzz around her work so far. She exploded onto the scene with Short Term 12 and almost earned an Oscar nod for it. She made enough of a ripple effect that the residue goodwill for that performance will help getting recognition for this performance. Furthermore, Room is now a formidable Best Picture contender. That only helps Larson to win. While Best Actor is more closely aligned with Best Picture, it never hurts to be the star of one. Having beaten every other film at Toronto, Room’s chances are now greater. It had great word of mouth at Telluride and will likely continue to depend on word of mouth to get people to see it who might be reluctant because of the subject matter.

Brie Larson’s performance in Room is astonishing. The different ways her character expresses the complex feelings of being a carefree teenager, then sexual predator’s victim, then a mother, then a kidnap victim who escaped after being confined is why she will likely shine brighter than her competition. She doesn’t just play one note and isn’t afraid to sometimes be unlikable, blank-eyed, angry.

What moved me most was the close relationship Larson clearly had with her co-star, Jacob Tremblay. Never once did I doubt she wasn’t his mother. They never seemed like they were acting even. Larson, who has never been a mother herself, inherently knows what it means to be simultaneously irritated and resisting the urge to feel irritated at one’s own child. It is a performance that deeply embeds. It will be hard to beat.

Finally, as all of these things usually do, it will come down to Larson’s own personality and willingness to do publicity. The easygoing, accessible Larson is a charmer. True, she will be going up against the Queen of Charm, Jennifer Lawrence herself, and Blanchett, who’s no slouch in that department either, but Larson can hold her own as one of the most promising up and coming young actresses who’s nearly being wasted by Big Hollywood at the moment.

This also helps the supporting actress contender Joan Allen, and screenwriter Emma Donoghue, and of course, director Lenny Abrahmson.

Best Actress is shaping up like this:
Brie Larson, Room
Cate Blanchett, Truth or Carol
Carey Mulligan, Suffragette
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Lily Tomlin, Grandma
Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road
Marion Cotillard, Macbeth

Coming Soon:
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy

Jennifer Lawrence will have to be factored in somewhere.

Either way, the team working on Room will be having a very happy day today. They now know they have the goods to go all the way, certainly to Best Actress but no one can rule out winning Best Picture or Best Director either. Just saying.


It was a bit of a surprise that Lenny Abrahamson’s tearjerker, Room, took the audience prize at Toronto. Then again, it did receive a standing ovation. Room was extremely well received at Telluride as well, even with all of the competition there. It was the one film, other than Spotlight, that virtually everyone seemed able to agree upon. One of the things A24 has done really well with Room is keep what it’s really about on the down low. Everyone already knows it’s about a young woman being held captive by a rapist and trying to be a mother and raising a young son. But that is really just the premise. Room is about a lot of things that I won’t spoil for you here except to say that ultimately I think it’s about parenting and what a child can call home. It’s a heartbreaking but ultimately uplifting film and easily one of the best of the year so far. Big congratulations to all involved.  Six out of the last seven winners of the audience award at TIFF have gone on to be nominated for Best Picture.  The last one to win was 12 Years a Slave.


The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg has been busy covering the awards race, the Toronto Film Festival and the Emmys. But he’s taken time out to cast aspersions on the new James Vanderbilt film, Truth.

Feinberg says he feels an affection and allegiance toward 60 Minutes because he once toured the studio when he was in Junior High, thanks to a family connection. This is part of his explanation for why he felt it necessary, before Truth has even opened, to launch the first of what is sure to be many assaults on the film from the right — and apparently from the left as well.

This is how it goes now. Too many people covering this race, too many people trying to claim a slice of the pie, and before long every daring and provocative movie is savaged and attacked until there is nothing left but the most blandly inoffensive films — because no one can complain about them. Usually, though, this sort of thing happens a little later in the game. Truth, after all, hasn’t even been reviewed by any major outlets. But apparently it is not too soon for the Hollywood Reporter.

Truth tells Mary Mapes’ own first-hand account of events — thus, it is obviously told from her point of view. Feinberg appears to be objecting to the (deserved) skewering 60 Minutes got by not even remotely standing by its reporter. Choosing instead to kowtow to extreme right-wing bloggers who claimed that Mapes was using falsified documents to try to smear Dubya Bush on the eve of his re-election. It should be noted, the story of Bush’s cushy play-date assignment in Texas during the Vietnam war is a fact that remains a fact, even if one piece of evidence cannot be substantiated.

The truth of it is that Mapes had been working on this story for five years prior to the airing of the 60 Minutes segment, which is proof in itself that the story existed with or without the questionable documents. She had two sources do an about face when the shit came down because they were — say it with me now — pressured to do so. Yes, this was a mistake. CBS should probably not have run with the story. But what happened afterward, how Mary Mapes was subsequently treated, how 60 Minutes reacted and made her the scapegoat, is what Truth is ultimately about.

Imagine if Ben Bradlee had bowed to the pressure coming down from the White House while The Washington Post was investigating and reporting on Watergate. Imagine if when Woodward and Bernstein made one mistake (which they do in the film) Bradlee had listened to hysterical extremist bloggers and shut the whole thing down. Worse, what if the Post had assembled a conservative panel to “investigate” the reporters? Imagine if Bradlee has been as weak-willed as the producers at 60 Minutes and fired everyone involved to cover their asses? Yeah, imagine that.

When we see Carl Bernstein verifying names, he needs to have one person he’s calling simply hang up before he finishes counting. That is how he vets the story. Bob Woodward is relying on information from a guy who won’t go on record and calls himself Deep Throat. They were being stalked by thugs from the Nixon administration. Their phones were being tapped. But they had two things on their side: the truth and Ben Bradlee. Mapes had only one thing on her side, the truth. What did she have against her? The internet and all that it has done to help kill journalism in every way imaginable. This story of Mapes and Rather can, in fact, be seen as the final death rattle.

Now imagine 60 Minutes standing behind Mapes and Rather. Imagine them taking a brave stand and working with their reporters to find out if the story really was true or not — let’s say, giving Mapes the benefit of the doubt. Who knows what they might have uncovered. You see, mistakes are made in investigative journalism. The question that needed to be asked was: is the story true? That is what Woodstein believed and why they kept searching for more. If you cut the story off at the first mistake? Well, how can you ever get to the truth?

Or, as this piece in New York Magazine says better:

Unfortunately, in the new world of media, they might have to. Unlike other recent media scandals—Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, USA Today’s Jack Kelly—in which star reporters spent years weaving fake narratives out of whole cloth, the CBS document mess rests ultimately on a mistake, a source who lied, danger signs that were foolishly ignored. Thanks, however, in no small part to CBS’s uniquely favored position as conservatives’ most-hated network, and Dan Rather’s even more distinctive claim to being the right’s most-hated newscaster and unquestionably the oddest duck of the three network anchors, the fact that it is a mistake at the root of the scandal has given CBS not an ounce of reprieve. Which is too bad for Rather and CBS, but maybe worse for investigative reporting. If it has taught the public anything, it might be that the new standard for the media is one in which mistakes are as bad as lies. It is a standard that investigative reporting might find ever harder to live up to, until it is finally swept off the field by the ever-rising tide of commentary, risk-free and mistake-proof.

We’re all about noise these days. Outrage is consumed like Starbucks, then tossed the next day in favor of another outrage. It all becomes so much noise that the original story gets lost in the details. And people who seek to manipulate the media narrative know this all too well.

Mapes eventually endured the modern day equivalent of a witch being burned — cast her out and you cast out all evil in the village! It was a savage witch burning that needed to obliterate her good reputation and all the fine stories she’d already done, and guaranteed that she would never work in network news again.

No one, including Feinberg, bothers to ask: were the memos real? More importantly, is the underlying story still true, even if some of the memos could not be substantiated

That’s the question people should be asking. Mary Mapes vetted the story with two different people, both of whom later reversed their original statements — under duress. Everything else was just wild speculation. She was a good enough reporter to make sure the story was right before it went on the air.

Scott Feinberg says if you go at the King you can’t miss. He says Mapes missed. I say, bullshit. The deceptions spun by the Bush administration and the people who surrounded him make what Nixon did seem like child’s play. This was a coordinated attack. The message then becomes don’t go after the King if his name is Bush because he will go after you. And they have the power to make sure you lose everything.

We see in Truth a precarious situation that became too big to ignore. Once doubt was cast on the documents, and Mapes by association, there was no putting the toothpaste back in the tube even though they DID prove both by logical common sense (who would have forged these documents at that level of detail only to then type them up on a computer), and then by discovering that a superscript “th” was a typical peculiarity frequently found on typewritten documents at the time.

Scott tries to explain why he feels CBS is treated unfairly in the film. I hope we can agree, 60 Minutes doesn’t come across too well in The Insider either, but isn’t it good that Michael Mann made that movie? It’s been 11 years since “Rather-gate.” There’s no new Bush who can interfere with our conversation now. So let’s have one.

60 Minutes had already long ago tarnished its reputation with the Big Tobacco story. Once you cross that line — that line that says profit matters over everything else? There’s really no going back.

“None of this is the fault of the actors,” Feinberg reassures us at the end of his piece. No kidding. In fact, it’s to the credit of the actors, the director, and to Mary Mapes herself that they have tackled the task of telling the other side of this story, a story they knew would get their integrity targeted all over again.



Cate Blanchett already has one Oscar worthy performance this year in Todd Haynes’ brilliant Carol. She will be now competing against herself with her performance as Mary Mapes in James’ Vanderbilt’s excellent new film, Truth. The way Michael Fassbender owns Steve Jobs, so does Blanchett embody Mapes — fiery and complicated, at the top of her game. Can Blanchett win a second Oscar so soon? It’s hard to say. There should be no doubt, however, that her performance will likely soar to the top of the list the moment anyone sees her Mary Mapes.

At a time when there are fewer films that feature seasoned actresses who are over 40, Hollywood almost always tends to want to go younger and younger with them. Look at this Dave Karger tweet:

While that’s probably close to true, it’s depressing to look at it like that, especially with performances like Lily Tomlin in Grandma, Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years, Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road, Sandra Bullock in Our Brand is Crisis, and of course, Cate Blanchett in Carol and Truth. We already know Oscar voters like to choose young women but older men. They like pretty, fuckable women, but men who aren’t pretty. It is one of the biggest and most glaring standards for actresses, the reason being there’s very little industry regard for older actresses if all Hollywood and the Oscars want are younger actresses. Audiences certainly don’t feel that way – not with Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin making a lot more money at the box office than anyone anticipated.

Making matters worse, many bloggers are urging supporting performances “go lead,” which will also tip the scales against the veterans in favor of other younger actresses like Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl.

Rampling, Theron and Blanchett deliver performances that come from not just learning to become great actors, but also from bringing their life experiences to those performances. No offense intended against younger actresses but doesn’t it seem more logical to give awards to those who have accomplished something after years of hard work as opposed to those who are on their way up? I don’t think Hollywood sees it this way, not where women are concerned. They want a fresh plate of meat each year. Or so their stats would seem to back up. We know that women in their 40s, 50s and 60s have a much harder time winning, or even being nominated, for Oscars. I think this is creating a wasteful, disposable culture in American film that robs powerful women of their power. Frances McDormand, Susan Sarandon, Viola Davis — just three examples of older actresses who don’t get enough work and are still every bit as vital as they’ve always been.

But let’s get back to this year.

What is most exciting about Truth and Carol is that they demonstrate how great films can be when women are given more to do than prop up, turn on, or bitch at the male characters. For Truth, Vanderbilt deliberately chose to tell a story with a woman at the center — and not just any woman. He focused on one of the most powerful, intelligent, kick-ass news producers in the business, and detailed her demise at the hands of the Bush administration, its corporate lackeys, and a cowardly network that would rather kowtow to hysterical right-wing bloggers than stand by its reporters and its lead anchor, Dan Rather. Blanchett is mesmerizing as Mapes. She has the emotional complexity of Holly Hunter in Broadcast News, the steely resolve of ethical journalist Robert Redford in All the President’s Men, and gets to savage the opposition the way Al Pacino does in The Insider. She has a scene like that great “The cat TOTALLY OUT OF THE BAG.” Both The Insider and Truth are about CBS and 60 Minutes. Both are about the fight between journalistic ethics and bowing to corporate overlords (guess who wins that contest?) and both are brilliant ensemble pieces about chasing down a story. But Truth is a different film from The Insider and shouldn’t be compared to it except in the way that CBS took a cowardly stance and will now have to eat shit about it.

Blanchett is the kind of actress who evolves with each new performance. Even this year, with Carol and Truth you see two very different performances, two very different characters but each with a strong center — identities wriggling to be free amid circumstances and circles that throw doubt on her motives, underestimate what she can do, and question who she is. I haven’t seen a better performance by any female all year than Blanchett’s in Truth.

Lily Tomlin has the hard job of carrying a film that was literally written FOR her. She plays a cantankerous old lesbian whose granddaughter needs money for an abortion. Instead of turning the quest into a liberal screed that demands women have the same rights as men in deciding what is best for their bodies — although that part is hard to ignore — Grandma, instead, dives deep into the character of this woman. Her past. Her loves. Her own grieving. I am still reeling from the idea that someone out there (Paul Weitz) had the heroic notion of making this movie at all. How do you explain to people: “Oh, she won’t get in because she isn’t young and fresh enough.” How do you explain the peculiarities of voters? You can’t, really. It is what it is.

Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years could be the role that finally earns her an Oscar nod. Again, whose idea was it to make a whole movie about an old woman figuring out what he entire life has been about? My god, is this 2015 or what? Women, especially those of a certain ago, are supposed to be exiled to television — far out of site from men who grapple with erection pills and ticket buying audience that just keeps getting younger. And yet, here is a film that appears to be dazzling young male critics. It’s kind of amazing. Rampling gives such a tender, moving performance as Kate. When I remember back on this year I surely won’t forget Rampling’s face as it searches the face of her husband looking for the truth. When the truth finally lands? It hits hard.

Charlize Theron plays arguably the most talked about film character of the year, at least so far. Sure, maybe that doesn’t mean much to Oscar voters, but Theron is tough, a leader and a far better shot than her co-star, Tom Hardy. But if that was all there was to her performance it wouldn’t be so memorable. It’s rather the deep pain of what’s happened to humanity that bleats behind her sorrowful eyes. Like the other actresses on this list she carries Fury Road almost completely. That is, she’s the most exciting thing in it and considering the cast, that’s saying a lot.

Regina Casé in The Second Mother is another remarkable turn in a film that will likely be shut out of the acting race. It’s hard to break into the major Best Actress race with a foreign language film. But that shouldn’t prevent us from praising that great great performance. Case manages so many different levels of emotion here — conveys feeling awkward around both her employers and then around her daughter. She does it all without being self-pitying in the least — and is actually quite funny. The Second Mother is so much about being young vs. being older and is a film everyone should see.

Another role of note, Julianne Moore in Freeheld, which I have not seen.

But yes, the Oscar race will probably not be about any of these magnificent women but will instead give the edge to the younger actresses. It’s hard to complain about anything in a year with so many great roles for women, both older and younger. So as for the new generation, our frontrunners become:

Brie Larson in Room is another standout this year. As a mother trapped in a tiny space with her young child, Larson has to be two people. She has to be the young woman kidnapped and regularly assaulted by her kidnapper (a typical loser), and she has to be the mother and role model for her young son. We all know as moms that we have to put on the mom face. We have to. We have to hide some of the truth of things. We have to nurture, protect, teach, instruct and eventually inspire. We get all of the credit and we get all of the blame. Larson, not a mother herself in real life, surely had the right kind of relationship with her own mother in order to really get that. Since the film unfolds from the child’s point of view, what Larson does is even more remarkable. It’s as though she’s having a silent conversation with the audience. We’re let in and shut out at key moments. We love her, we hate her. Eventually, if nothing else, we understand her.

Carey Mulligan in Suffragette and Far from the Madding Crowd. Probably Suffragette is going to be the ticket for Mulligan who is just phenomenal in the role, particularly since the camera is so close in on her face the entire time. She holds on tight to everything she’s been brought up to believe about a woman’s role in the home. As it dawns on her that she has no rights, no power and no path out of a trap, she begins to develop the strength to fight back. It is a subtle shift for Mulligan but gives her a chance to show us what she can really do when given great material.

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn. This is supposed to be a wonderful film all around (I’m seeing it tomorrow) and Ronan’s performance is said to be beyond anything she’s ever done. Of her performance, Gregory Elwood said, “The Oscar nominee delicately maps out Eilis’ growth from sheltered small-town Irish girl to an independent and sophisticated metropolitan woman. And when Eilis has tough choices in front of her, the tears flow and they flow in buckets, but Ronan never lets these moments ring as anything but true.”

Emily Blunt in Sicario. Blunt plays a tough-as-nails FBI investigator who is tracking the leader of a drug cartel. Blunt is one of those actresses who is always so good but has never been given an entire movie to carry on her own. She comes close here, and is really good at playing both tough and vulnerable. Like many of the roles already mentioned, Blunt’s is a representation of a strong, capable woman, not just a gazing supporting character and is certainly one of the best performances of the year.

The big performance everyone is waiting to see is Jennifer Lawrence, who at last earned a lead role from David O. Russell in Joy. She won for Silver Linings Playbook, was nominated for American Hustle, and will likely, at the very least, be nominated for Joy. She is on a winning streak for sure — the sky’s still the limit.

If these are the names that we are going to be working with, it is hard to say how Best Actress will go. But you can never go wrong in following Dave Karger’s predictions. I hope that it isn’t just younger actresses, not in a year with so many vets turning in such astonishing work. Alas.

If I had to predict Best Actress right now I think I would order them this way, in terms of likelihood of being nominated.

1. Cate Blanchett, Truth
2. Brie Larson, Room
3. Carey Mulligan, Suffragette
4. Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
5. Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
6. Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road
7. Lily Tomlin, Grandma
8. Sandra Bullock, Our Brand is Crisis
9. Emily Blunt, Sicario
10. Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years

So, in the end, it looks as though Dave Karger is probably going to be right — that all but one of the Best Actress contenders will be under 30.

They asked me how I knew
My true love was true
I of course replied
Something here inside cannot be denied
They said “someday you’ll find all who love are blind”
When your heart’s on fire,
You must realize, smoke gets in your eyes
So I chaffed them and I gaily laughed
To think they could doubt my love
Yet today my love has flown away,
I am without my love (without my love)
Now laughing friends deride
Tears I cannot hide
So I smile and say
When a lovely flame dies, smoke gets in your eyes
Smoke gets in your eyes

Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years is one of those films that tells the truth about the human experience. It does it in such a pointed yet subtle way, you might find yourself unprepared for how moving it ultimately is. 45 Years is like perfume that clings to a scarf locked away in a drawer, and when pulled out the again the scent is so familiar, so uncomfortably captivating you can do nothing but surrender to all that it recalls. What we keep from our past tells us who we are as we age. What meant enough to us for us to record, photograph, store in boxes is all we have, really, when the door begins to close on our lives.

The role of Kate Mercer seems to have been written for the film’s star, Charlotte Rampling, whose emotional journey as she discovers more about her husband Geoff (an excellent Tom Courtenay) than she really ever needed to know. It’s written on her face — a legendary face now worn with age and time.  This is not a woman who lived out loud. This is a woman who came to her marriage with very limited experience. She was young, she was beautiful and she loved only one man who took her from her father’s house and spent the next 45 years as her husband.


As the couple head for their 45th anniversary party, a long buried secret is revealed. The body of the husband’s former girlfriend, or perhaps wife, “Katya” has been found. She’d fallen into an icy crevasse while the couple was hiking and died there. Whatever dreams Geoff once had with her died there too. He went on with his life as best he could; then met and married Kate. That we’re dealing with a “Katya” and a “Kate” probably tells you more than you should know walking into this fine, fine film.  It was based on a short story by David Constantine which laid down the framework for what would become a much bigger — yet still somehow quite “small” — story.

The suspense in the movie is wrapped up in the expressions on the couple’s faces as they work through their daily routine — the quiet of their childless lives, with only dogs and each other for comfort. He goes to work. She takes walks. They see friends. They eat dinner together. They brush their teeth and make a good attempt at making love. It is a perfectly fine life.  Most of us don’t sign up for perfectly fine lives, though, do we? We are aching for true love, if it exists.

Watching Rampling go through the business of living, all the while pondering what might be going on with her husband once the news of “Katya” emerges. After the news, he seems almost like a different person. She suddenly notices that there aren’t any photographs of them around, and none of her. She talks of wishing they’d captured more memories. He talks about rhow beautiful she once was. But with no photographs to remember those times, they are stuck with the present and all that it brings in the too quiet late, late nights in the countryside.

Rampling is exquisite in the part of Kate. Funnily enough, it might be the performance of the year for any actress. Is it showy enough? Is it too subtle? Those will be the questions people ask when it comes to the Oscar race.  None of that means anything, of course. Not in the real world of how art can move us so powerfully we leave the film changed. As beautiful as the past images Rampling conjures in our mind’s eye, this somehow seems the exact right moment when she is at her most beautiful. Her kindness and generosity towards her husband, her sudden realization of how he sees her — are astonishing.

That is what is most heartbreaking  about 45 Years. We all throw ourselves into love to be seen. We aren’t really the sum total of our memories, or photographs of who we once were. Kate is a knockout still, 45 years after her husband said she was one. How can we ever know we are really being seen? We hope that when the time comes to pay tribute — when they ask us how we knew our true love was true? We will get the answer.



It’s hard to suss out what is real and what isn’t if you’re sitting at home reading the tweets and reviews coming out of the Toronto film festival. The Oscar word is getting thrown around a lot. That happens every year. Whether or not any of it will hold water won’t be known until those titles start showing up in other places, like other awards shows. Given that, what films and performances are doing well in Toronto that didn’t play Cannes, Venice or Telluride?

  1. Truth – somehow this movie headed for TIFF with muted buzz, or no buzz. Actually, that’s the best way to go to any festival. You really don’t want the opposite. There is genuine buzz for Truth, whether it’s “Oscar buzz” or not matters less (who can really say for sure what is and isn’t) than just plain old fashioned buzz: is it a good movie? YES. Cate Blanchett’s performance is noteworthy – on par with her work in Carol. Robert Redford eyes a potential Supporting Actor win (his first ever acting Oscar).  All of this is very good news for Truth, even if it will be competing with another film about journalism that has done even better, Spotlight.
  2. The Martian – Like Truth, it isn’t “Oscar bait” but it is well liked and people are kind of raving about it. I listen less when people say “it’s not an Oscar movie” than I do when they say how much they liked the film. That is always the thing to listen to. Believe it or not most people aren’t really Oscar experts. Even the best Oscar experts can be wrong. One thing that is never wrong, though, is a lot of people liking a movie. That gets you love from all of the branches. It’s hard to say whether Matt Damon himself could be in contention but if enough people like the movie that’s all it takes, really.
  3. Bryan Cranston in Trumbo has hit its target and puts Cranston squarely in the Best Actor race. Even if people were kind of negative on the film overall – some saying they were “underwhelmed” — my least favorite film criticism 2.0 term next to “overrated” — Cranston gives the right performance needed to be in the conversation, as they say. His spot was being held already and this just confirms it.
  4. Michael Moore enters the race big time with Where to Invade Next. There isn’t another documentarian like Moore. He is almost a performance artist in the way he rolls out a movie, how he inserts himself into the narrative and how the movie ultimately plays. He is one of a kind in this respect. He’s also quite popular in the doc branch at the Academy. All in all, he took Toronto by storm.
  5. Sandra Bullock in Our Brand is Crisis – again, kind of a mixed reaction to negative on the film itself but high marks all around for Bullock, who enters the Best Actress race. It was probably met with the curse of high  expectations — which might have been the problem but nevertheless, Bullock can carry a movie and her movies make money. With George Clooney by her side in the producer’s chair and the gender switch, Bullock is one of the performances out of TIFF that has popped.


  1. Emily Blunt better than expected in Sicario –  Sicario played Cannes, but it’s worth noting that her performance seems to have popped up in Toronto where it didn’t as much in Cannes, for whatever reason.  Blunt’s biggest problem is that hers is not a big enough part because it’s kind of overshadowed by Benicio Del Toro. Were that not the case, she would be among the strongest contenders for Best Actress right now. Still, I think her TIFF buzz has caught fire.
  2. Anomalisa – the reason being it won in Venice and is now wowing in TIFF. It did well at Telluride, no doubt about it but it wasn’t seen by enough people. Now it is getting lots of attention up in Toronto. Still has no distributor as of yet but someone should snatch it up immediately.  It will do really well, based on the graphic puppet sex alone.
  3. Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl – while more intel is needed on the film overall, one thing seems certain: everyone is wowed by Ex Machina star Alicia Vikander aka the most perfect woman god ever created.  It’s hard to say where the film will land. Not cool enough for the cool kids, already burdened with the term “Oscar bait” but it’s like Anne Thompson always says. How do you build Best Picture? Branch by branch. Looks to me like the Danish Girl has the branches sewn up from the top down.

More Intel Needed

Tom Hiddleston in the Hank Williams biopic I Saw the Light seemed to draw a kind of tepid response. In a different year his performance might be one to reckon with — in a competitive year like this it seems like he has no shot.

Holding Steady

TIFF confirms that the Telluride or Venice hits like Beasts of No Nation, The Danish Girl, Youth, Black Mass, are also playing well, at least so far, to the more populist crowds Toronto. Will report back on that once the fest comes to a close.



It is an astonishing thing, to know there was a time when women weren’t valued enough to be allowed governance of their own rights. It took us so long, and the struggle is never-ending, because to fight requires sacrifices that are near impossible to make. Fighting and protesting means being exiled, alienated, belittled, resented, hated. You see it today on the internet where misogyny reigns supreme. You see it coming from both men and women, always with the message: shut up and sit down. In the face of all that, it would have been easy for Suffragette to turn into an angry screed, but Gavron isn’t much interested in focusing on the anger. Women in the twilight of the 19th Century did not have the luxury of indulging in anger because they were in enough trouble as it was.

Mulligan plays a good wife and mother who works in a laundry, suffers sexual harassment, long hours and much less pay than her male counterparts. She is reluctant to join the movement until its cause becomes too urgent — and the injustices too egregious to ignore.  She joins a group of women who are fighting for the vote — and with it, the right to declare that they are worth “no more and no less” than men. This is a film about what Mulligan’s character endures on the treacherous path to equality.

Gavron holds Mulligan’s face in tight closeup through the film, rarely pulling back for long shots. No director has ever done that with this actress, so that avid quality that might once have projected vulnerability throughout her work is transformed here into tenacious inner strength, a keen resolve that the camera can only catch when it pulls in close. With her half smile, her heavy lidded sad eyes, Mulligan’s Maud Watts is her best performance to date.  Carey Mulligan is the number one reason to see this film and she’s the thing that will make this film impossible to ignore come awards time. She carries it the way actresses used to do back when more women were given this kind of opportunity.

The supporting cast are all top notch, including Helena Bonham Carter, Romola Garai, and Anne-Marie Duff. Each one of them more than capable of having better parts and better roles written for them. With so much talent packed into two hours, it is a reminder of how few films like this exist anywhere. Telluride is unleashing the full force of the feminine this season, with this film, He Named Me Malala, and Carol. These are films about the sort of empowerment that means more than finding oneself on a spiritual journey. These films confront some of the forces that have oppressed and continue to oppress women the world over, including Hollywood itself.

Meryl Streep — who was in attendance the premiere, received a standing ovation. She had maybe five minutes of screen time but Streep knows full well what a movie like this means. Produced, written, directed by and starring women, this isn’t one the Oscars can pass by and sleep easy at night. The direction is unpredictable, moody and never goes for the easy emotional cheat. That one big crescendo is absent here, and in its place what is meant to be read as an ongoing struggle for women’s rights. One need only look at the presidential election to see how women are both on the precipice of equality and at the same time judged by a different standard, still measured by what they look like and whether or not they smile.

The costume design by Jane Petrie recalls an authentic, grimy London lifestyle that goes well with the no-makeup look of the film’s stars and the gritty cinematography by Eduard Grau. Once again, Alexandre Desplat outdoes himself with one of the film’s best assets — it’s suspenseful score.

Indeed, Suffragette will be recognized as one of the year’s best films not because it makes you beat your chest and celebrate women having won a hard-fought battle but because it may be one of the few films on the subject that makes it point by showing what individual women had to go through on a person level. It is Mulligan’s story but how many more women like her were punished for even thinking about wanting more.

Gavron is a relative newcomer with feature films but finds in Mulligan the perfect focal point. She could have told this story with any actress in the lead and it would have been good. With Mulligan in the lead the film becomes great. It becomes great because Gavron immerses us fully in this world — we can smell it, we can taste it, we can feel it wrap tightly around our necks until we want to scream. Suffragette is a master work.


Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt star in By the Sea and it will open the AFI Fest, Tim Gray reports. Written and directed by Angelina Jolie, the film is about a couple weathering the storms of a marriage in the 1970s. Jolie went big with Unbroken and now is going much smaller with By the Sea. Like her male counterparts, Jolie is kind of going to film school while experimenting with very different movies. Hopefully By the Sea will be better than Unbroken which, let’s face it, was pretty terrible.  It had its moments but overall was lacking a cohesive story, at the very least. But Jolie is ambitious and is learning and with each new work she will hopefully grow. Failing is the best part of learning and fingers crossed By the Sea is as cool and interesting as the trailer looks.


The BFI are set to bestow it’s highest honor on Cate Blanchett at this year’s London Film Festival. Blanchett will be the receipient of the BFI Fellowship Award, the award is given to individuals in recoginition of their contribution to film or TV.

Blanchett will make two appearances at the London Film Festival when Carol and Truth both play. Greg Dyke, BFI Chairman said, “Cate Blanchett is a compelling and brave actress whose mesmerizing screen presence has captivated audiences since her earliest roles. We are absolutely delighted to honor her extraordinary talents with a BFI Fellowship at this year’s LFF awards.”

The 2015 BFI London film festival runs from 7-18 October. The BFI Fellowship will be awarded on Saturday, October 17 at London’s Banqueting House.

Carol opens on November 20.

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 7.43.45 PM

Maggie Smith helms what will likely do pretty good business in limited release, The Lady in the Van. Maggie Smith played the character in the original 1999 production. It “tells the true story about an elderly woman called Mary Shepherd who lived in a battered car on the driveway of the writer Alan Bennett for 15 years.” Pic is directed by Sir Nicholas Robert Hytner.


Kyle Buchanan in his must-not-miss Oscar column asks whether Fury Road has the stuff it takes to go all the way, or at least to warrant nominations in the big five categories; we know it’s a shoo-in for the tech nods. The wholly original film (even though a sequel) has crackled and maintained admirers long after it played in theaters and at the Cannes Film Fest. Anne Thompson told me at a party in Cannes she thought it had the stuff, at least in the majors. As of now, Thompson has Mad Max: Fury Road predicted for Best Picture, along with 45 Years (a film she seems to dig enough to advocate for it), Carol, Inside Out, Love & Mercy. Thompson only predicts films she’s seen. The shift here is that she’s dropped Diary of a Teenage Girl and added 45 Years. As a sidenote: I do not think Inside Out has a shot at a Best Picture nomination with only five nomination slots on the ballot. Getting that many voters to choose that film as one of their top five is near impossible. But Mad Max? Possibly. If Anne Thompson and Kyle Buchanan are saying it – it certainly has game.

Buchanan writes:

As the summer movie season comes to a close, three big fall film festivals loom — Venice, Telluride, and Toronto — that will start clarifying this year’s Oscar race. But what about the movies we’ve already had the chance to see? Plenty of terrific films debuted in the first half of the year, and it’s entirely possible that half of this year’s Best Picture nominees could come from the movies that have already been seen and vetted at film festivals and in general release.

But are any of them better than Mad Max: Fury Road, the out-of-the-teal-blue-sky action spectacular that wowed critics earlier this year and deserves real awards consideration going forward?

That’s the question that’s been on my mind since I saw George Miller’s gonzo reboot last April. It’s become my cinematic high-water mark, the one I’ve been measuring most new movies against. I’ve previewed several of this year’s big fall films, and though some of them have great performances, I still haven’t seen anything that knocked me out like Charlize Theron in Mad Max. This year’s costume-design category will no doubt be packed with period pieces like Cinderella and Carol, but they don’t deserve a trophy over the striking postapocalyptic threads that Jenny Beavan put together for Mad Max. And while most of our Best Director candidates are likely still to come, and could include perennial nominees like David O. Russell, Tom Hooper, and Steven Spielberg, it would be hard for me to believe that any of them wrangled a more difficult and ultimately fruitful production than the 70-year-old Miller.

Mad Max: Fury Road is positively revolutionary in its depiction of female characters as leaders in the post-apocalyptic world. They begin the film oppressed then forge a revolution not just for themselves, mind you, but for all of the oppressed under the evil regime. You won’t see another film like Mad Max not this year, and not in the years to come because George Miller represents a different kind of filmmaker than what you see today. This isn’t a computer generated generation film – these are practical special effects. This is ballsy storytelling. These are characters sprung from a time when Hollywood still thought of women as people. You would have to pull Miller aside and tell him — see, that isn’t how things are done anymore for him to have made a different kind of film.

As with all Oscar years lately, the films that come out later have a harder time than the sure things that come out earlier. That gives Mad Max a bit of an edge, particularly if the Big Oscar Movies coming aren’t up to it.

On the flipside, we’re talking about not just the Academy but the Producers Guild (a shoo in there), the Directors Guild (a formidable name Miller seems highly plausible) and the Screen Actors Guild – a tougher battle there, competition wise. The ensembles coming up are probably going to upstage Mad Max. It doesn’t need the SAG to get in, though. It does need to keep standing out the way it does now. What films might obliterate it? Hateful 8 and The Revenant – both might look bigger and grittier than Mad Max. Also, they star men and you know how our industry likes movies that revolve around male characters.

It’s not time to get pessimistic just yet. Hope springs eternal until the shit hits the fan.


So much of the time now reviews of new films are written by people who don’t have a strong grasp of film history or, I’d wager to guess, enough life experience. I always get shit for this as critics become defensive but in truth, it is the rare young writer who has the thoughtfulness and wisdom to write a review that can make a difference in describing where a film sits in film history. Some of them do, a lot of them don’t. We’re living through an era where so many of the big names are being dropped and sometimes shifted to other outlets, sometimes disappearing and it’s really a shame, especially for reviews like this one from the Village Voice’s Stephanie Zacharek. I don’t always agree with her – in fact, most of the time I don’t, and sometimes I feel genuine anger at her reviews but you can’t say she doesn’t know her stuff and you can’t say she hasn’t lived life and you can’t say her opinion doesn’t matter. Most of all, you can’t say she isn’t a good writer. Her review of Paul Weitz’ Grandma is the kind of review a film like this needs — appreciation from someone who has experience with Lily Tomlin’s entire career. If you aren’t familiar with Tomlin – how can you write with any authority about this film? At best, you can give a snapshot – test audience style – of how some people might respond to the film – a Cinemascore review, if you will.

But Zacharek turns her review into something deeper, taking this performance and placing it in Tomlin’s body of work. She writes:

Young people are the only ones who ever talk about growing old gracefully. For those actually in the thick of it, the romance of that notion burns off pretty quickly, and wrinkles and creaky joints are the least of it: Growing old, gracefully or otherwise, means becoming the person you were always meant to be, only more so. After days, months, and years of gradual transformation, you wake up one day to find that you’re 1,000 percent you. Your good qualities have entwined so fixedly with the bad that it’s hard to distinguish which are which. By the time you feel wholly comfortable in your own skin, everyone around you may find you unbearable.

Lily Tomlin’s performance in writer-director Paul Weitz’s Grandma doesn’t just hint at that idea — it lives in it. The movie gets off to a shaky start, working too hard to establish the unrepentant prickliness of Tomlin’s character, a widowed poet named Elle. But it gradually settles and deepens into something nuanced and moving, a character study that’s not so much about aging, specifically, as it is about the great and awful process of getting to know yourself. As Elle finds out, even when you think you know everything, there’s always more to learn.

She closes it with:

Temperamentally, Tomlin’s character in Grandma is nothing like the one she played so long ago in Robert Altman’s Nashville, a dutiful, married mother of two who succumbs to the seductive charms of Keith Carradine’s singer-songwriter Casanova. But watching Tomlin here, as a woman who is 1,000 percent herself and could perhaps use a little dilution, I kept thinking of that scene in Nashville — possibly its most beautiful — where Carradine sings to Tomlin from the stage of a packed club. She listens, her face immobile but as filled with feeling as a cupful of tears. She knows that even if he has dozens or hundreds of lovers, this song is only for her. The song is everything, and not just for the moment — it’s something to be carried forward for the rest of life, even after the lover is long gone. Tomlin packed a lifetime of future feeling into those few moments of Nashville. In Grandma she shows us the aftermath of the song. The short version: Life went on. It was terrible. It was wonderful.

Le. Sigh.

Read Zacharek’s full review here and for the love of all things holy go see Grandma.

Lily Tomlin’s interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air is here.

Lily Tomlin on ‘Grandma,’ ‘Grace and Frankie’ and That Time Robert Altman Punched an Executive By Susan Wloszczyna


Jeff Wells floated an interesting theory over at Hollywood-Elsewhere about how Best Actress might be Jennifer Lawrence’s to lose if certain factors fall into place. The thing holding her back is that she’s recently won. That’s why Julianne Moore can’t really pull off a win for Freeheld — she pulled out the stops to win last year but back-to-back Oscar wins are extremely rare for actresses. It’s only happened twice in all of Oscar history and one of those times was Katharine Hepburn who broke all of the rules anyway. Before anything is seen and the dog and pony show starts properly, the idea is that there are already strong contenders in films seen (Carol, MacBeth, Sicario, Grandma, Mad Max: Fury Road, Clouds of Sils Maria) and films unseen (Joy, Room, Suffragette). If this turns out to be the case, and these are the main contenders we’re looking at, Best Actress won’t be as nail-biting as Best Actor.

Let’s take a quick look at the actresses who won back-to-back Oscars and those who’ve won two or more.

  • In 1936, Louise Rainer won for The Great Ziegfeld, beating Carole Lombard for My Man Godfrey, Norma Shearer for Romeo.
  • In 1937, Louise Rainer won for The Good Earth, beating Greta Garbo for Camille, Barbara Stanwyck for Stella Dallas, Irene Dunne for the Awful Truth and Janet Gaynor for A Star is Born.
  • In 1967, Katharine Hepburn won for Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner. She beat Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde, Anne Bancroft for The Graduate and Audrey Hepburn for Wait Until Dark.
  • In 1968, Hepburn again won — tying with Barbra Streisand who won for Funny Girl.

So you can see how rare it is for any actress to win back to back. Almost impossible. The performance would have to be outside the box brilliant, unlike anything that ever gets made today.

Only one actress has won 4 lead Oscars – Katharine Hepburn.

No actress has ever won 3 lead Oscars

12 actresses have won 2 lead Oscars

Ingrid Bergman – won for Gaslight, and then again for Anastasia.
Bette Davis –  Jezebel and Dangerous
Olivia de Havilland – To Each his Own and The Heiress
Sally Field – Norma Rae and Places in the Heart
Jane Fonda – Klute and Coming Home
Jodie Foster – The Accused and Silence of the Lambs
Glenda Jackson – Women in Love and A Touch of Class
Vivien Leigh – Gone with the Wind and Streetcar Named Desire
Luise Rainer – The Great Ziegfeld and The Good Earth
Meryl Streep – Sophie’s Choice and The Iron Lady
Hilary Swank – Boys Don’t Cry and Million Dollar Baby
Elizabeth Taylor – Butterfield 8 and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Do any of these second wins seem like stronger performances than their first? Clearly, Meryl Streep’ problem all of these years has been topping Sophie’s Choice which remains one of the greatest performances ever by anyone. They finally gave her a second Oscar for The Iron Lady.

This year, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlize Theron, and Julianne Moore will all be looking to get into this elite club of two-time winners.  Those who haven’t yet won for their work would include Brie Larson, Emily Blunt, and Carey Mulligan who will either be ready to have her baby or will already have had her baby by the time the awards roll around. If she skips the dog and pony show that might set her back …the Edward Norton complaint is valid but it’s sort of like saying Bernie Sanders can compete with no PAC money.

No one has any idea how Joy will go. David O. Russell has a really good history when it comes to getting nominated in the first place. He’s finally put his good luck charm in the lead. He’s great with actors usually and this could prove to be quite something, an opportunity to see what Lawrence can really do when she’s has the opportunity.




Anticipation is building for a David O. Russell film starring Jennifer Lawrence. She’s not a supporting character this time around but the lead.  Co-stars include Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Edgar Ramirez, Isabella Rossellini, Diane Ladd, and Virginia Madsen.


Sign In


Reset Your Password

Email Newsletter