On Twitter, both Anne Thompson and Kris Tapley have been talking about the possibility for an Annette Bening upset over Natalie Portman on Oscar night. ¬†It’s really been down to these two actresses since the start of Oscar season. ¬†It will be interesting to see how Oscars 2011 go down – they’ll either be the most predictable Oscars ever or the least predictable. ¬†Will there be winners that come out of nowhere, like Adrien Brody did the year The Pianist almost swept the Oscars? ¬†Everyone had been heavily focused on the two favorites – Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York and Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt. ¬†Looking back on it now, it seems like Brody would have won based on the performance alone. ¬†As someone who championed his performance like crazy back then — and The Pianist, I might add (I was ridiculed then as I’m ridiculed now for being an advocate) — it was one of the highs of the time I’ve spent covering the race.

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close streep

[note]A guest essay written by Peter Gattlin (AD’s own ‘phantom’) looking ahead to a match that might materialize as one of the most interesting Oscar contests of 2011.[/note]

(Considering both films ‚Äì Albert Nobbs and The Iron Lady ‚Äì are unfinished at the moment, obviously I can’t comment on the actual performances or the films’ overall quality. I’m just trying to put into perspective a potential Meryl Streep-Glenn Close race.)

Although we are still very much in the 2010 race, I think it might be refreshing to stop (over)analyzing the Portman-Bening battle for a second, and take a quick look at next year’s Best Actress race, because if my early hunch rings true, it will be MUCH more fascinating than this year’s usual “hot ingenue vs. respected veteran‚Äù battle.

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blue valentine 1

Nominee for Best Actress at the Golden Globes this weekend, Michelle Williams talks about her role in Blue Valentine with The Australian, whose reporter says this search through the wreckage of a relationship is “the ultimate anti-date movie.”

Derek Cianfrance’s clever, counter-intuitive film does not reveal why Cindy and Dean are in such a mess or ply us with easy melodrama, but sketches the raw terrain of a relationship’s descent from tenderness to snarling mutual disdain.

Williams denies rumours that she and Gosling had a relationship off camera. However, they lived in their alter-egos’ “house” and went grocery shopping together. The film’s improvisational heart is clear in the naturalism of their performances. “When I dreamt of being an actor, as a teenager reading books about Marlon Brando and James Dean and the Method and all that embarrassing ‘actor’ stuff,” Williams says, “I hoped that one day I would be given the liberty to do the same, and now I have. We never did lines, everything was done straight on to camera. I hold myself to a high standard; I’m hard on myself, for better, for worse. I always ask for another take.”

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In each of the five films nominated for Best Director by the Directors Guild yesterday, overcoming an obstacle to become a winner drives the main characters. Micky needs to rid himself of his brother’s shadow and his own lack of self worth, Nina needs to rid herself of her repressed, infantilized vision of herself to become a perfect dancer. Cobb needs to overcome the guilt he feels in planting the idea in his wife’s head that the dream was the reality. And finally, George VI needed to overcome his fears of being King, of speaking publicly, of rising to the occasion and ruling a country at war.
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The Social Network


David Fincher, The Social Network

Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone

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Some films have different release dates in Ireland than they do here in the US. Here is more information on the Dublin Film Critics.

1. A Prophet
2. Winter’s Bone
3. Toy Story 3
4. The Social Network
5. Dogtooth
6. Inception
7. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Remember His Past Lives
8. The Road/ Bad Lieutenant
9. Mother
10. The Illusionist/A Room and a Half/Of Gods and Men

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It’s Oscar season. We know this because we look outside and we see that “it’s raining.” But we also know because the New York Times critics, in addition to their already wonderful Oscar coverage by the Carpetbagger, are rolling out their Oscar series. Perfect timing since SAG’s final ballots are mailed out to membership today. First up, AO Scott dissecting the brilliant Black Swan herself, Natalie Portman:

Is “Black Swan” a realistic portrayal of life in a ballet company? Probably not. Is it an overheated, wildly melodramatic rendering of an artist’s struggle? Without a doubt. And to scold the director, Darren Aronofsky, for what he doesn’t get about dancers or how he looks at women is almost deliberately to miss the point. This is, at bottom, a horror movie. It gathers psychological implications from its chosen milieu and makes them literal, giving flesh to wild metaphors of female sexuality and aesthetic risk.

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Tom O’Neil and Pete Hammond dish it up about Best Actress, wondering if Nicole Kidman might not come in and steal the Oscar away from Natalie Portman or Annette Bening (of Jennifer Lawrence, for that matter). Every day it feels like one or the other will win. First it was Bening, then it was Portman, then Portman got pregnant and then it was Bening, and now it’s Kidman, but then no one really cares about Portman’s pregnancy so maybe it’s Portman? Or maybe it’s Bening because of the popularity of The Kids Are All Right and her being overdue. She’s a heroic character, etc. Anyway, take it away Pete and Tom:

The Women Film Critics Circle gives out its own unique set of awards again this year.

Mother And Child

Winter’s Bone

BEST WOMAN STORYTELLER [Screenwriting Award]
The Kids Are All Right: Lisa Cholodenko

Annette Bening/The Kids Are All Right

Colin Firth/The King’s Speech

Jennifer Lawrence/Winter’s Bone

Annette Bening/The Kids Are All Right

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The wait just got 2 days shorter for everyone eager to see Blue Valentine. Weinstein Co. has decided to slide the premiere date to December 29 to get a jump on New Years holiday couples. Deadline says it’s still just one theater per coast, in NY and LA, expanding to 10 screens on January 7, 2011. (One of our first looks at Blue Valentine came in this Sundance clip, from January 26th — 2010).

hailee steinfeld 3

Best to use the word ‘rave’ sparingly, especially in headlines, but when it’s the right word for the job I’m proud to type it. True Grit emerges now undeniably as an awards force to be reckoned with. Manohla Dargis, The New York Times:

The first ‚ÄúTrue Grit‚Äù opened in New York in early July 1969, a week after ‚ÄúThe Wild Bunch,‚Äù the Sam Peckinpah western that‚Äôs widely seen as a metaphor about interventionist follies like Vietnam and that remains an enduring evisceration of the genre. The Coens, who like to play with genre, often with giggles and winks, haven‚Äôt mounted an assault on the western. But in Mattie they have created a character whose single-minded pursuit of vengeance has unmistakable resonance…

Avenging her father and keeping close track of her family’s expenses are what preoccupy Mattie, a richly conceived and written eccentric, as memorable on the page as she is now on screen. Softened for the first film, she has been toughed up again by the Coens so that she resembles the seemingly humorless if often unintentionally humorous Scripture-quoting martinet of Mr. Portis’s imagination. At times she brings to mind D. H. Lawrence’s famed formulation that “the essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer.” At other times, as when she wears her dead father’s oversize coat and hat, she looks like a foolish child left to perilous play.

Kenneth Turan, The LA Times, after the cut:

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Best Actress preview

Remember gang, tapping into your inner guru means forgetting about who you wish would be nominated. Try to channel the minds of Academy members to accurately predict which performances you think they’ll nominate. Choose 5 Actresses after the cut. (Have you cast your votes in the Best Picture predictions yet?)

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It always happens every year a unique film like Black Swan starts hitting the mainstream. There is bound to be some sort of freak out as people see the film that is creating such a stir. There is never any guarantee that it will be a movie they respond to. I’m thinking of Christmas time cinema going. While I no longer believe this idea that the Academy voters are either too conventional, too infantile or too old to “get” great filmmaking, I do understand that there are a good many who will be freaked out by Black Swan nonetheless.

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Beck’s “We Are Sex Bob-Omb!” from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World took home the Best Original Song prize at the Houston Film Critics Awards today. In more expected news, The Social Network continued its winning ways with trophies for Picture, Director, Actor and Screenplay. Inception picked up two awards, Cinematography and Original Score.

Best Picture – The Social Network

Best Director – David Fincher, The Social Network

Best Actor – Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network

Best Actress – Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Best Supporting Actor – Christian Bale, The Fighter

Best Supporting Actress – Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit

Best Screenplay – Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network

Best Documentary – Restrepo

Best Foreign Film – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Best Animated Film – Toy Story 3

Best Cinematography – Wally Pfister, Inception

Best Original Score – Hans Zimmer, Inception

Best Original Song – “We Are Sex Bob-Omb!”, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (music and lyrics by Beck)

Worst Picture – Jonah Hex

Humanitarian of the Year – George Clooney

Lifetime Achievement Award – Sissy Spacek


While the men characters are doing things like cutting off their arms to survive, creating a social networking revolution, learning to give speeches and becoming king of England while doing so, winning boxing matches, robbing banks and getting the girl – the women are coming apart. Many of them, anyway. There are a few strong oaks in the mix – Ree from Winter’s Bone and Nic from The Kids Are All Right (note that these are both written and directed by women). The stronger female leads, where the women are kicking ass and taking names, don’t seem to be featured as prominently as the crazy ones – Naomi Watts in Fair Game, Hilary Swank in Conviction. This year, we like them shaking and crazy.

Herewith, the top five craziest female characters in the Oscar race:

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As has become the norm lately, the Toronto Film Critics Association chooses David Fincher’s The Social Network for Best Picture, Director, Actor (Jesse Eisenberg) and Screenplay. But surprisingly, graffiti artist Banksy’s subversive Exit Through the Gift Shop walks away with two prizes, Documentary and First Feature. Meanwhile, the BP runners-up include not only Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, but Palme d’Or winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, which also takes home the Foreign Film prize.

Best Picture: “The Social Network”
Runners-Up: “Black Swan” and “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives”

Best Actor: Jesse Eisenberg, “The Social Network”
Runners-Up: Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech” and James Franco, “127 Hours”

Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone”
Runners-Up: Natalie Portman, “Black Swan” and Michelle Williams, “Blue Valentine”

Best Supporting Actor: Armie Hammer, “The Social Network”
Runners-Up: Christian Bale, “The Fighter” and Geoffrey Rush, “The King’s Speech”

Best Supporting Actress: Hailee Steinfeld, “True Grit”
Runners-Up: Amy Adams, “The Fighter” and Melissa Leo, “The Fighter”

Best Director: David Fincher, “The Social Network”
Runners-Up: Darren Aronofsky, “Black Swan” and Christopher Nolan, “Inception”

Best Screenplay: “The Social Network”
Runners-Up: “The King’s Speech” and “True Grit”

Best First Feature: “Exit Through The Gift Shop”, Directed By Banksy
Runners-Up: “Get Low”, Directed By Aaron Schneider and “Monsters”, Directed By Gareth Edwards

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franco nyt

This weekend’s New York Times Magazine showcases exclusive photos and videos of 14 actors who defined cinema in 2010, including:

  • James Franco
  • Natalie Portman (who graces the cover)
  • Jennifer Lawrence
  • Chloe Moretz.
  • Matt Damon
  • Michael Douglas
  • Jesse Eisenberg
  • Javier Bardem
  • Robert Duvall
  • Annette Bening
  • Anthony Mackie
  • Noomi Rapace
  • Tilda Swinton
  • Lesley Manville
  • Vincent Cassel

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As predicted yesterday, Black Swan met and easily exceeded it opening weekend box office estimates to set a new record for Fox Searchlight films in limited release. IndieWire has the hard numbers:

Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” had a massive limited debut this weekend. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, the film Рa psychological thriller about a ballerina (Natalie Portman) competing for the lead role in “Swan Lake” Рgrossed a stunning $1,394,265 from just 18 theaters. That made for a $77,459 per-theater-average, which is a new record for distributor Fox Searchlight, topping the likes of “Juno,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Sideways” and “Little Miss Sunshine,” all of which debuted on much fewer screens.

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Correcting the HR paragraph below. It turns out that Winter’s Bone won 4¬†prizes at Torino: Best Film,¬†Best Screenplay, the Achille Valdata audience award, and Best Actress shared by Jennifer Lawrence¬†for WB and Erica Rivas for Por Tu Culpa, directed by Anahi Berneri. (Thanks to Eduardo Grinovero for the correction.)¬†¬†Additional winners are listed at the TFF website.

Adding to its swag from Sundance, the Gothams, the NBR, the Seattle and¬†Palm Springs Film Fests,¬†not to mention¬†its 7 Spirit nominations, Winter’s Bone has won the main prize at the 28th Torino Film Festival, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The festival’s five-member jury headed by director Marco Bellocchio chose Winter’s Bone out of 16 main competition films, making it the first U.S. production to take home the main prize since David Gordon Green’s George Washington in 2000. The award carries a cash prize of ‚Ǩ25,000 ($32,500).

Jennifer Lawrence, the protagonist in Winter’s Bone, split the best actress award with Anahi Berneri, who was honored for her work in Port u Culpa. Omid Djalili was given the best actor prize for his role in The Infidel.

It’s quite something to see this little slice of Americana with its dark mood and big mythological themes winning acclaim not only here in the US, but in Europe as well. BIFA nominated it for Foreign Film, filling the same slot as last year’s The Hurt Locker. I doubt if Winter’s Bone can go all the way to a best picture win, but it’s looking like a real contender for several nominations, including best picture, Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, adapted screenplay and possibly even Debra Granik as director.

black swan reviews

Terrific to see women critics embracing Black Swan. After the cut, a few men who don’t get off on it to same degree.

The New York Times’ Manola Dargis sees everything in Black Swan that the National Board of Review missed:

Played by Natalie Portman in a smashing, bruising, wholly committed performance, the young dancer, Nina, looks more like a child than a woman, her flesh as undernourished as her mind…. It‚Äôs easy to read ‚ÄúBlack Swan‚Äù as a gloss on the artistic pursuit of the ideal. But take another look, and you see that Mr. Aronofsky is simultaneously telling that story straight, playing with the suffering-artist stereotype and having his nasty way with Nina, burdening her with trippy psychodrama and letting her run wild in a sexcapade that will soon be in heavy rotation on the Web… Together they create the solid foundation of truth that makes the slow-creeping hallucinatory flights of fantasy all the more jolting and powerful… ‚ÄúBlack Swan‚Äù is visceral and real even while it‚Äôs one delirious, phantasmagoric freakout.

USA Today, Claudia Puig

To induce a state of dread and mesmerize with beauty is a rare, paradoxical achievement… Like the most macabre nightmares, Black Swan plunges headlong into the dark side. Writer/director Darren Aronofsky fashions a terrifying tale that juxtaposes the grace of a dance film against a twisted horror backdrop. At the center of this dreamlike story is Natalie Portman’s exquisite performance of a troubled ballerina who evolves from timid to seriously unhinged.

New York Daily News, Elizabeth Weitzman

Aronofsky and his three screenwriters walk a thin line throughout, skirting overwrought melodrama without actually falling in. That’s a near-impossible task, requiring considerable skill from everyone involved. Portman, who does most of her own dancing, rises to the occasion with unexpected depth… It’s Aronofsky, though, who deserves the final bow. He has always boasted a unique vision, but as any dancer can attest, it takes years of hard work and discipline to corral talent into art.

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