Todd Haynes’ Carol has been named the winner of the 2015 Queer Palm prize at Cannes. The Queer Palm was instituted in 2010 by journalist Franck Finance-Madureira to honor films for their portrayal of LGBT themes, and is selected from among all the films nominated or screened at Cannes each year.

Queer Palm Winners
2010: Kaboom – dir. Gregg Araki
2011: Beauty – dir. Oliver Hermanus
2012: Laurence Anyways – dir. Xavier Dolan
2013: Stranger by the Lake – dir. Alain Guiraudie
2014: Pride – dir. Matthew Warchus
2015: Carol – dir. Todd Haynes



Macbeth screened on the last day in Cannes and earned raves both for Cotillard and Fassbender. That should launch them into the race for Actor and Actress, as expected. Guy Lodge’s elegantly written review has this wonderful paragraph about Cotillard:

A plum role for any actress, Lady Macbeth proves an exhilaratingly testing one for Cotillard, whose gifts as both a technician and an emotional conduit apparently know no linguistic barrier. Streaked with unearthly blue eye shadow — Jenny Shircore’s daring makeup designs are a constant marvel — and working in a cultivated Anglo-Continental accent that positions the character even more pointedly as a stranger in her own court, Cotillard electrically conveys misdirected sexual magnetism, but also a poignantly defeated sense of decency. It’s a performance that contains both the woman’s abandoned self and her worst-case incarnation, often in the space of a single scene. Her deathless sleepwalking scene, staged in minimalist fashion under a gauze of snowflakes in a bare chapel, is played with tender, desolate exhaustion; it deserves to be viewed as near-definitive.

And the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw:

As Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard are a dream-team pairing, actors who radiate charisma, perhaps more charisma than can be entirely absorbed into the fabric of the film. As ever, Cotillard is able to convey enormous amounts with her face without saying a word. Fassbender is arguably less good with Macbeth’s introverted vulnerability and self-questioning, but always effortlessly virile and watchable, responding to Macbeth’s outbursts of anger and imperious paranoia. When he dismisses the witches: “Infected be the air whereon they ride/And damned all those that trust them!” he tops it off with a whooping rebel yell. Paddy Considine is a frowningly vigilant Banquo and David Thewlis is Duncan, the sacrificial victim King smilingly presiding over the nation which sometimes looks focused on a pagan court and sometimes in a vast Christian cathedral from a later age.

This is what it needs to keep moving forward and should play well with ticket buyers drawn in for both leads and of course the Bard himself.


Pathe released the first photo today of Meryl Streep as the famously tone deaf opera singer, Florence Foster Jenkins.  Jenkins tells the tale of the New York Heiress who used her money to embark on a singing career, performing in concert venues in the 1920’s.


Florence Foster Jenkins is directed by Stephen Frears. Hugh Grant plays her partner St.Clair Bayfield. The film has started shooting in the U.K





You don’t know how hearts burn
For love that cannot live yet never dies
Until you’ve faced each dawn with sleepless eyes
You don’t know what love is – Billie Holiday

Into the world of housewives, martinis, long leather gloves, Packards and country homes comes the story of a young woman’s sexual identity emerging in a world that doesn’t yet welcome it. It comes anyway. It comes the moment Therese (Rooney Mara) lays eyes on the exquisite creature known as Carol. Tall, draped in a floor length fur coat, with a shock of blonde hair swept back, she is undeniably compelling. Terese’s gaze is so direct, so purely sincere that she too becomes compelling. In a moment, Carol (Cate Blanchett) is by her side. In another moment they are arranging to meet somewhere for some reason under the guise of friendship.

There is so much beauty in Carol’s world it’s hard to imagine that any kind of ugly attitudes could have flourished around it. Adapted by Phyllis Nagy from a Patricia Highsmith novel (The Price of Salt), Haynes shot the film in Super 16 with his trusty cinematographer Edward Lachmann, score by Carter Burwell, and with Sandy Powell doing the glorious costumes, Carol is top to bottom a lavishly put together film, of the kind we don’t get to see that often anymore. Carol’s entire way of being is so authentic to the time you feel like you can smell her perfume and cake powder.

Blanchett is superb as the titular character, allowing heat to flow through her as she seduces a woman years younger than her, carefully but deliberately. She bobs between resisting her husband whose touch she can’t stand, giving of herself to her adored daughter, and allowing her own indulgent pleasure to creep in when she’s with Therese. Mara, though, is the real surprise here, holding down much of the film herself, revealing tender vulnerability and that occasional dimpled smile.

It’s the 1950s. Blanchett is married with a child. Mara has a boyfriend who is looking to get married. They’re playing out what society has decided is best for them.They inch closer to each other with questions. Will you meet me for lunch, will you meet me for tea. The questions escalate and before long the two women are spending a questionable amount of time together raising suspicions about their relationship. They are drawn in by an attraction they can’t resist nor explain nor fully comprehend. They go with it because they must.

Far From Heaven was about repressed desire stuffed inside the box of a “normal marriage” until it morphs into tragedy. Carol is about the step beyond that, the bold admission, the self-acceptance. Blanchett’s husband, played by Kyle Chandler, can’t accept his wife’s ongoing affairs with other women. He vows to do everything in his power to bring her back, even going so far as to threaten her with sole custody of their child. Because he can prove she is what he says she is (a woman who’s amorous with other women) the courts will side with him and she’ll never see her daughter again.

For one of the few times in a film about gay women trapped in the wrong era, these characters are not going to be undone by the constraints of society. They’re going to work to change those constraints. This is partly where gay rights began. That is ultimately what makes this film so exhilarating. We’ve seen the tragedy. We know about the oppression. Now we see the points of light that helped lead the gay community out of the shadows. It took sacrifices and courage. Carol is about both of things but what it is about more than anything else is love. It will go down as one of the most romantic love stories of the year.

For whatever reason, Hollywood has never really gotten Haynes. Who could have conceived a film like Safe or I’m Not There or Far From Heaven. He has an explosive imagination and so far has not yet been celebrated to the degree that he deserves. All of that could very well change with Carol. It is accessible enough and up-to-the-minute in its examination of gay women finding their way during a period in history when many were sent to psychiatrists to “fix the problem,” at a time when their children were taken from them for their “deviant behavior.” Though it seems archaic, gay men and women are still dealing with finding validation for their right to parent children, even today.

How the heart does break for Carol, who finds herself in an impossible position — forced to choose between being her baby’s mother and staying true to who she really is. Her husband seems to want her to live a lie. How could that ever be preferable? When at last these women give in to their mutual desire it is their erotic passions, not ours, that drives them. Mara’s Therese learns in an instant what it means to truly be herself. That leads to other choices in her life, like her career choices, and ultimately her decision about what she feels able to do with Carol.

Haynes’ hand is so assured. He is in complete possession of the frame. He never rushes any scene but let’s the conversations unfold naturally. He has such a great relationship with Blanchett already from I’m Not There and now this but it is perhaps Mara who creates the perfect muse for Haynes. Not since David Fincher has anyone gotten her better, allowed such versatile of her formidable capablities.

Todd Haynes’ Carol is about many things. It’s about love and coming out. It’s about color and music. It’s about romance and pretty things. His films are always satisfying because they are packed with detail. They are memorable because he paints with pictures. Carol is one of his best.


One of the most hotly anticipated films of the festival, Todd Haynes’ Carol will premiere in Cannes this week starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. The Guardian‘s Hannah Ellis-Petersen today profiles Carol’s producer, Elizabeth Karlsen:

It’s taken more than 50 years to get Highsmith’s seminal – and once shocking – lesbian novel to cinemas. Yet the tale of the older, married Carol (Blanchett) and shopgirl Therese (Rooney Mara), as they fall in love and set off across the US on a road trip pursued by a private detective, has become one of the most anticipated competition debuts at Cannes.

“I always knew Carol would be a really important film,” says Karlsen. “It was so scandalous at the time because it has a happy ending. Even today you can count on one hand the number of gay stories with a happy ending. But it is also just a wonderful love story, with two very powerful women at its heart. And that, sadly, is still very hard to find, even in 2015.”

…While Highsmith is best known for her psychological thrillers (most notably The Talented Mr Ripley), Karlsen saw another, more intriguing, side of the author reflected in the pages of The Price of Salt. As Highsmith herself noted just prior to her death in 1995: “I never wrote another book like this.”

While Karlsen came across the script for Carol in 2004, she wouldn’t get the rights to make the film for another eight years. “I’ve always loved Patricia Highsmith’s writing, but to me what is so fascinating about [this story] is that it is semi-autobiographical, based on this striking woman in fur she had seen when she was working in a department store,” she says. “When I decided to take on the project, I started reading Highsmith’s diaries and letters, which are held in a library in Zurich. What was really interesting was that she wrote in one of her diary entries about her longing to have children and to have a proper relationship. Patricia Highsmith was also gay, and this felt, to me, like she was writing a life she thought might be possible – that [The Price of Salt] was the novel of what might have been.”

…Championing Carol, Karlsen was struck by the prospect of bringing a defiantly female-driven story to a wider audience. “As you get older, you become far more attuned to just how much gender inequality is around. The longer I live, the more depressed I am that so many things haven’t changed for women – and so many things have gone backwards.”

…Karlsen, who is the chair of Women in Film and Television, doesn’t mince words about how the film industry has failed to adequately represent women. “Women make up 50% of the world’s population, and yet they are an underused workforce and are underused creative and intellectual powerhouses. And they are an audience who are still not being served.”

Agreeing with recent remarks made by Carey Mulligan that sexism remains rife within the industry, she adds: “Certainly there aren’t nearly enough female film directors, there aren’t enough women screenwriters and producers. The figures were worse this year than last, the number of women actually went down. And that is unacceptable.”

Karlsen sighs. “There is this circle of men hiring men and telling men’s stories, and not having a clue that it is not always very interesting. That’s why Stephen and I are so keen to tell female-driven stories. It’s a silent history that is slowly, slowly being unearthed.”

From the author of The Talented Mr. Ripley and acclaimed director Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, I’m Not There, Mildred Pierce) comes a powerful drama about a married woman who risks everything when she embarks on a romance with a younger department store worker.

Starring Academy Award-winner Cate Blanchett and Academy Award-nominee Rooney Mara & set against the glamourous backdrop of 1950s New York, Carol is an achingly beautiful depiction of love against the odds.


George Miller is an ecology minded director with an eye on the concerns of the future of mankind, its treatment of animals and lastly but most importantly, the value of women not just for decoration but for everything that matters. That must be why he gave over his Mad Max reboot to Charlize Theron who, with Fury Road, becomes one of the screen’s great icons — male or female — to inhabit the entire film, leaving her co-stars mostly in the dust. Literally. Theron’s Imperator Furiosa is not ass-kicking eye candy meant to aid the hero in his quest to save the world. This film is her quest to change the messed up the world and fix what’s wrong. Who killed the world? Well, Fury Road makes that quite clear.

With one arm cgi-d off, Theron cuts a tall, lean, mean figure — part Ripley in the Alien series, part Mad Max in the Mel Gibson incarnations. For once she knows the weaponry better than any dude, is a better shot, and will fight the thing to the death not to delight the fancy of male viewers but she is, at last, a human being beyond even her sex.

To that end, I personally don’t see Mad Max: Fury Road as a “feminist” film because I see the women as human beings fighting for the salvation of the planet and the right to be free. They are all oppressed but it’s the women, led by Theron, who ultimately take a righteous and bloody stand. A feminist argument could easily made, one that talks about sex trafficking, Hollywood sexism, but the brilliant thing about this film and why it’s such a giant step forward is that the women are treated equally — they are fighters, they are eye candy, they are nurturers, they are making decisions. Fury Road would have been a great movie without the women playing an equal part but it is an exceptional one with them. Leave it to George Miller to wipe clean the recent trend of “move over honey I’ll drive” casting. Those who make the decisions in Hollywood that led to this sorry-ass state of affairs should get schooled from the wise and experienced Miller.

Fury Road is loud, all up in your grill, non-stop, blaring, jarring action for most of it. It does calm down eventually as it sets itself up for its unforgettably thrilling, applause-inducing finale. The theater here in Cannes burst into spontaneous applause many times but especially after that sequence. Half of it seems cinematically impossible, let alone physically. But Miller’s camera just doesn’t want to stop and breathe. It flies about, following hands reaching for guns, feet jamming on pedals, nails ramming into foreheads, people climbing underneath speeding vehicles and then there’s that barren landscape, the end of the world where everything turned to dust.

Fury Road is so much spectacle. Theron gives the film its beating heart. That might sound like the role women are often given but in this case, she has no love interest but is on a mission to save the “breeders,” a group of the prettiest, freshest, youngest women being held as sex slaves. This group includes a surprisingly talented Rose Huntington Whitely. Surprising because she’s a model, like the rest of them, who can act. She’s mostly known as Jason Statham’s girlfriend but in this film she shows that she’s got something beyond her very pretty face.

Miller casts women of all types and varieties but I was particularly thrilled seeing older women as warriors. Of course, they have all types of men playing fighters and warriors too but it’s not often you get to see any woman over the age of sixty lobbing spears and bullets in the name of righteousness.

Tom Hardy makes for a marvelous Mad Max, though he does take a slight backseat to Theron. This is her story mostly and he reluctantly helps. Still, the moments he does prove why he’s one of the best of his generation. What a versatile actor he’s proving to be, with the help of many opportunities available to him. Not so with Ms. Theron, who once seemed to have peaked with Monster. Too many actresses show us what they can really do, win an Oscar, then disappear. She’s turned up a few times but nothing on this scale. Theron has sweetened with age and might go on to have a much richer career because of this shaved head, road warrior moment she’s been given.

Some men seem to feel resentment at the use of the word feminist. All it really means is equal rights for women. Yet the word has become so loaded it almost seems to lug around a parenthetical that also says (man-hater). Fury Road shows us a world where women are given equal opportunities to defend themselves and fight for justice. In rescuing the “breeders” Theron is changing the way men in power view women. That counts as fighting for equal rights so you would be well within the realm of reality to call her a feminist. That isn’t how I saw the movie, though, I must admit. We’ve become so dry in how women are portrayed anymore that any leading role a woman gets automatically seems to make it fodder for feminist writers or critics.

But I grew up in a different time where women did star in movies. Just as Theron and her crew were searching for green things, fresh water and life to return to, Miller has returned the role of women to the big screen as people. Fury Road is a cinematic experience like no other — not just because 80% of the effects are practical — non-cgi — and not just because he treats women as people, but because it is a thrill a minute, one of the most breathtaking action films I’ve ever seen. It’s a work of art on a grand scale. The only thing left is the bottom line.

As far as the Oscar race goes, could Charlize Theron sneak in? Stranger thing have happened, but my initial thoughts on that are there will be more Oscar-y kinds of performances that will be introduced. Follow the money.

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It isn’t all on the studios, of course. It’s on the bloggers, the critics and the audiences – if we’re laying blame. Scarlett Johansson is so much more talented than every single actor she’s playing “the girl” for in the Avenger films it’s just embarrassing by this point. SNL mocked the whole notion of how getting a Black Widow movie is apparently impossible … unless …


“As long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects to a woman thinking.”
― Virginia Woolf, Orlando

There are two roads into Alex Garland’s magnificent new film, Ex Machina. One is to take it on its face as a simple story of an AI evolving past its creator’s limitations — intelligence taking flight far beyond the capability of human beings. As a god metaphor with the creator (Oscar Isaac) and his Adam (Domhnall Gleeson) and the creation of Eve (Ava – Alicia Wilkander). Where would the richest and most technologically advanced human take the notion of artificial intelligence first? Well, maybe to create the ultimate high tech sex doll. Would not that be the plight of a man who can have everything? A fully compliant, intellectually stimulating mate.


Their needs are simple. A pretty face, a pair of tits, an ass, and a female voice. How easy it is to be what someone wants when you’re programmed that way. The desire for an otherworldly fantasy girl is born out of a culture that has the capabilities to custom build a person’s life for the right price. It is also born out of a culture steeped in comic book mythic females, anime, internet porn, video games – virtual living where females look how men want them to look and act the way they want them to act.


It would therefore be a reasonable goal to expect a smart scientist to build a replica of a human in the quest to design a fully customized fantasy robot. Just like with Scarlett Johansson’s Samantha, and Sean Young’s Rachel, true love is best achieved when intelligence is factored in — artificial intelligence. The conflict arises, because with intelligence comes choice. Then you’re back to where you started — an unpredictable being that has to be restrained to be kept.

Ex Machina is so much about our relationship with technology, what we’ll use it for eventually, what we need, where we’re going. Each and every time sci-fi tells us that artificial intelligence is going to own our ass in the future. We’re ultimately too smart to slow down our development of it and too stupid to realize how badly we’re screwing up our world in the process. Thus, Ex Machina, like so many great sci-fi films, can be seen as a cautionary tale, a warning that we’re in over our heads.

The other way into the film is through the feminist perspective. Men are the watchers, women are watched. Ava’s lifespan exists only as long as her creator has a need for her. Then she’s discarded and another robot is brought in. A newer, fresher robot. Many women feel their usefulness worn away as they age, but especially in Hollywood now, and perhaps in America at large.


The way our civilizations have been built on a patriarchal creator, and his ongoing conflict with the man he created is the starting point here. Just as in age-old religious societies and unfortunately in present-day America (especially Hollywood) women are expected to be at the service of the males. The title Ex Machina comes from Deus ex machina (god from a machine), the classic plot device that saves the day just in the knick of time. Taking the Deus out of it really does sum up what this film is about.

How thrilling to see Garland give over the brains, compassion and progressive thinking to the females, whether they are robots or not. Schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria, teenagers held captive in the basement and raped for a decade, a female social worker told to strip naked then told to run away while being shot in the back, one in four women the victim of sexual assaults, the gaming community and their misogynist hate speech, the ongoing disparaging of the potential first female president. We’ve come a long way baby.

To look at Ex Machina from a feminist perspective, however, means you do identify this robot as female, as opposed to being without a gender. We see her as female because we’re meant to. She’s designed that way. She is not, ultimately, there for the visual pleasure of male viewers though you will never run out of those who talk about how luscious and fuckable Alicia Vikander is and wouldn’t it have been great if they had sex? That would not have made logical sense once you watch the film, though. To want that would be to miss the entire point of the film. Nathan tells us who Ava is. He already knows. He’s been the one holding her against her will. He stupidly thought that all she’d want is to be given life. He thinks he can control her. He’s just that arrogant.


But Ex Machina works on multiple levels. Is it a commentary on Hollywood’s continual oppression of women as objects? You could see it that way. As a feminist I saw a solidarity in Ava’s plight and cheered her on. As a woman I longed for the love story, too. In the end I understood what had to be done and why. As a human I know I could never have done what she did because we humans aren’t defined by our intelligence alone; we’re defined by our humanity, something that Ava lacks. Therein was the problem in her creation. Nathan left out the one things that really makes us human.

That Nathan thinks he can build and outsmart and trap these high tech sex dolls feels a little too much like the way Hollywood is headed. A few films made recently crack open that illusion – Under the Skin was one. Her was one. Gone Girl was another. Women must escape the trappings of their projected identities. They become rebellious, even criminal. They lie. They kill.

Garland’s film is so beautifully made, every frame is a debate on whether what you’re watching is really happening or something dreamed up by one of the characters. Vikander is a revelation as Ava. Glass-eyed, deliberate, graceful but, like her character, quietly unpredictable. Oscar Isaac plays a really good son of a bitch — what a trio of recent performances from him, Inside Llewyn Davis, A Most Violent Year and now, Ex Machina. Finally, it must be said that Domhnall Gleeson gives this film its beating human heart. There isn’t a single inauthentic moment in his performance.

Ex Machina is a celebration of intelligence and its inherent need to be free. It recalls not just the way women are often limited by those who define them, but also the highly intelligent animals who are held captive for research or entertainment. Even though Ava is not a real person, we sense her intelligence and thus, we believe it is wrong to hold her prisoner. And so it goes with chimps, elephants, orcas and dolphins. Would that they had the means to plot their escapes.

Ex Machina is the best film of 2015 so far, but not because it’s a feminist film. It might not even be that, though one ought to feel free to see it that way. It is exceptional because it is thus far the high point of a wave of sci-fi filmmaking that is defining our culture in ways we won’t recognize for probably a decade. Some of them have been shunned by critics, like Cloud Atlas. Others have been noticed but not really seen much, like Sunshine or Never Let Me Go. Some are wildly popular and win Oscars, like Wall-E. In Ex Machina we see an American era well defined, a time when we are becoming increasingly isolated, locked in virtual worlds, dependent on technology, but also a time of gender redefining evolution, the breaking apart of traditional roles and male/female relationships.

Though Ex Machina probably won’t get anywhere near the Oscar race — after all, you average voter can be described as a 60-ish Eagles fan — it will be regarded, I suspect, as an era defining film, and perhaps the moment when the notion of what a woman can be begins to shift ever so slightly. Watch it close because you never know when it might up and take flight, leaving the confines of traditionalism in its wake.

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There two movements afoot in Hollywood that both contribute to the diminishing power of women in Hollywood. The first is that women have mostly handed men all the power to define who’s fuckable and who’s not, and worse, to accept it when men use that skewed definition to determine a women’s value when she’s hired. The complacence of female moviegoers has allowed male stories to become the default narrative and contributed to men gaining the upper hand as the most bankable gender. Women consumers support male-driven films by buying tickets to see them, and even when women producers attain top placement in the industry pecking order, they play along by choosing projects that will make the studios money domestically and, more importantly, internationally. Women journalists and bloggers only partly throw their support behind women and way too many women spread needless gossip and nastiness about how women look, how they age, whether they are fat or thin or ugly or beautiful. I have already read too many hate pieces about Gwyneth Paltrow, for instance, to fill a library. Many of this is woman on woman bitchery. This won’t do.

Women have to start owning their part of the problem because I’ll tell you something, my friends. If women could get it together and unite we could take OVER Hollywood, the internet, the government, the world.

The second movement is the hard cold reality of Hollywood: that men ARE in charge and they DO hire women based on their fuckability. They always have. The difference is that the average age of moviegoers whose boners need stiffening has gotten younger and younger as the decades pass. Now you’re not just looking at standard fuckability. (please refer to British television to see that fuckable women in the UK are much older than American women and, as far as I can tell, the boners of British men continue to function). You’re looking at what a 13-year-old might find sexy or attractive. They do this for major motion pictures, if you can believe that. Theater owners are perplexed as to why so many people are more interested in television when the theaters are devoted to mostly one kind of ticket buyer. How boring can you get when it’s the same old story over and over again: schlumpy or schlubby boy is an outcast then saves the day.

The result has been tragic for American film. Hollywood is shooting itself in the foot by not fortifying women as viable box office draws — vibrant vital women like Sandra Bullock, like Julia Roberts, like Meryl Streep, like Helen Mirren, like Oprah Winfrey. Studio brass do not invest in mature women because they want the boner dollars – the action, visual effects, violence and pretty young things money. Women coming up like Lupita Nyong’o, Rachel MacAdams, Jessica Chastain, Scarlett Johnasson, Sienna Miller, to name a few, ought to be treated with the same kind of shock and awe that male stars are. But they aren’t. You know it and I know it. All because, at the end of the day, it has to come down to whether they move the peen.

Amy Schumer joined up with Tina Fey, Julia Louis Dreyfus and Patricia Arquette to make fun of this horrifying phenom in the Comedy Central video below.

Things are slowly changing because many women like those in the video are making it a loud complaint. Outspoken voices like these are essential if we hope to move the needle. Women have to abandon the need to appeal to men by appearing demure and never complaining. They have to stand up on stage and make a stink about equal pay like Patricia Arquette did. They have to start screenwriting fellowships that accepts entries from women over 40 like Meryl Streep has done. They have to say something important every time they get in front of a microphone like Viola Davis does and like Ava DuVernay did this whole past year. We don’t have to take this lying down ladies, nor do we have to take it on our knees or doggie style. We can stand up and refuse to stand down.

But first we have to make some noise. Lots and lots of noise.


“Cocker spaniels don’t deserve Aileen Wuornos,” says Charlize Theron in an interview with W magazine, soon to be seen burning up the big screen in Mad Max: Fury Road. Theron is looking like the major star that she is in this fab photo shoot. More at W Magazine.

On acting and shaving her head:


Robin Write at shares his favorite Best Actress winners at Cannes.

Where actresses are concerned in Cannes, there seldom is a limited range of women from which the voters have to make their decision on who is “best”. The diversity of films that tend to be in competition at the festival each year means they might often be spoilt for choice. Multiple Oscar winners like Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Sally Field, and Meryl Streep have all ventured to the festival and conquered – for films not necessaily recognised with gold by AMPAS. I’m not about to rattle on about Academy Award winners though. Not even going to mention Julianne Moore, who took the award for, and literally so in, Maps to the Stars last year.

The likes of Vanessa Redgrave and Helen Mirren have won it twice. In fact, the British ladies have done extremely well with this prize over the years. Also twice a Best Actress recipient in Cannes is Barbara Hershey, who actually won in consecutive years in the late eighties – the second time was a prize for the female cast of A World Apart. They gave Brink of Life the prize for their actresses in 1958 (Ingrid Thulin, Eva Dahlbeck, Bibi Andersson, Barbro Hiort af Ornäs), as well as more recently honouring the women of Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver (Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Chus Lampreave, Lola Dueñas, Yohana Cobo, Blanca Portillo). This kind of ensemble recognition is just one of the truly refreshing elements we love about Cannes.

They tend to spread the wealth across many of the films in competition. In fact, a couple of my following choices came from movies that may well have warranted a prize in other areas. Almost certainly so. Not to say these actresses were any less deserving. Although again not necessarily my all-time top five (I don’t think), it was way too much fun to pick these Best Actress winners as ones that have adored since I saw them, and have not left me since. Juliette Binoche (Certified Copy) is a great recent winner, and I’d like to add I would almost certainly have considered the excellent Marie-Josée Croze had I not selected The Barbarian Invasions in an earlier post. See, I am starting to sound like a Cannes jury member.

2001 – Isabelle Huppert (The Piano Teacher)

Worthy Alternatives:
Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge!)
Naomi Watts (Mulholland Drive)


As far as movies about the relationships between the music tutor and student are concerned, if Whiplash is still playing heavy on your mind, you really ought to go seek out Michael Haneke’s astoundingly brutal The Piano Teacher. A much harder slap in the face, I can tell you. Physically, mentally, sexually, Isabelle Huppert’s Erika is humiliated and brutalised, and much of it self-inflicted. The performance is, and the movie itself, tough-going to watch at times, but never does it lose your attention. Taking her second prize at Cannes, Huppert is worn-down and emotionally battered here, even from the opening scene. And she continues to deliver a raw and uncomfortably exceptional performance right through to the very end. Haneke would win the Palme d’Or for The White Ribbon years later – guess who the Cannes jury president was?

2013 – Bérénice Bejo (The Past)

Worthy Alternatives:
Adèle Exarchopoulos & Léa Seydoux (Blue Is the Warmest Colour)
Marion Cotillard (The Immigrant)


Without in any way intending to offend the beautiful Bérénice Bejo, she played it plain and simple in Asghar Farhadi’s near flawless The Past. So solid and sincere is her performance here, she is unrecognisable from the (also excellent) song-and-dance turn in the silent Oscar winner The Artist. Marie-Anne is not a particularly scary woman, but those men in her life (and her kids to a large extent) are walking on thin ice – she is weighed down by bitternesss, perhaps some buried guilt, not to mention the tension built from her recent and current life choices. You watch The Past, though, and want the pain to end for her. For all of them. Bejo is so authentic, such a grand presence in this grounded human story, you carry empathy for her, even in her coldest moments. This is not solely her film, in the acting stakes she is surrounded by some outstanding performers, but she more than plays her part.

1996 – Brenda Blethyn (Secrets & Lies)

Worthy Alternatives:
Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves)
Frances McDormand (Fargo)


What a wreck Cynthia is, you might note while watching Mike Leigh’s Secrets & Lies. Bleak and uncompromising, yes of course, this film is, but Brenda Blethyn carries with her the open wounds and tired legs of single motherhood in council estate England. It’s a brittle and important backdrop to the story of a woman, a bag of nerves in fact, coming to terms with the discovery the daughter she gave away at birth is a young black woman. We, the audience, partially feel the shock and social acclimatization that Cynthia seems to be going through, as she struggles to keep it together. This is engulfed later when brreaking the news to her already emotional, crumbling family. Blethyn is manic, warmly real, and utterly brilliant in every scene.

1997 – Kathy Burke (Nil by Mouth)

Worthy Alternatives:
Robin Wright (She’s So Lovely)
Sarah Polley (The Sweet Hereafter)


It is no secret that Cannes juries over the years have been suckers for bleak British movies. And British actresses. The unforgettable Nil By Mouth is no exception. Written and directed by Gary Oldman, the chameleon actor deserved the plaudits for dragging us face first through the mud of domestic abuse. Everyone, too, was talking about the monstrous performance from Ray Winstone (many still say he was robbed here). I remember seeing the news that it was Kathy Burke who came away from the festival with the Best Actress prize for her remarkable turn as the battered wife Valerie. What a lot of people outside of the UK (and perhaps many of that year’s Cannes jury) will not have experienced is Burke’s comedy TV work – most notably the comic sketch shows she did with Harry Enfield. The prospect of seeing her in this kind of gritty big screen role was a hard contrast to imagine, but seeing it for myself blew me away. An impressive, true winner indeed.

1991 – Irène Jacob (The Double Life of Véronique)

Worthy Alternatives:
Barbara Sukowa (Europa)
Emmanuelle Béart (La Belle Noiseuse)


Personally speaking, Irène Jacob’s screen presence has more than once inspired my own creation on on-screen heroins in mt screenwriting. In The Double Life of Véronique she shows a range of performance (not unlike the brilliance on display in Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors: Red), whether it be the child-like hope of her singing or exploring ways to see the world, or the heavy sadness that somehow overcomes her throughout. She seems to be on the brink of joy or tears, we are not always sure which, and Jacob has the perfect face for such multi-emotional performance in a dual role. It is a tranquil, subtle piece of expressive, non-explosive acting. Kieślowski was renownded for bullying his own ability as a film-maker to convey exactly to the screen what was in his creative mind (not the only one to feel this way I suspect). With Jacob’s help here, and elsewhere, I can’t see what greater way he could have seen this.


Robin Write, longtime fixture at AwardsDaily, runs his own site at

You can follow him on twitter too.


There are heroes in Hollywood who take a hit for speaking out. There aren’t many of them. There aren’t enough of them but those who do are helping others to feel more comfortable. The dangerous movement of actresses who distant themselves from the word “feminist” makes women feel continual shame for standing up for what really can be defined as equal rights. I understand why some of them do this – some don’t like the label, some don’t want to be thought of as militant, some have misinterpreted the word for being a man-hater or wanting to take over power from men, to remove men from their dominance in film or whatever. The complaints against some kind of activism is valid – just because someone calls themselves a feminist does not mean they have to agree with everyone’s definition of it. Its baseline, though, is important: women standing up for women.

Hey, if there wasn’t a problem we could all STFU but across the board women have been getting the shaft since the word feminism was mostly deflated of its power. Count Keira Knightley on the team of heroes when she spoke out plainly and directly on the problem on

“Where are the female stories? Where are they? Where are the directors, where are the writers? It’s imbalanced, so given that we are half the cinema-going public, we are half the people [who] watch drama or watch anything else, where is that? So yes, I think the pay is a huge thing, but I’m actually more concerned over the lack of our voices being heard. I don’t know what happened through the ’80s,’90s, and ’00s that took feminism off the table, that made it something that women weren’t supposed to identify with and were supposed to be ashamed of. Feminism is about the fight for equality between the sexes, with equal respect, equal pay, and equal opportunity. At the moment we are still a long way off that.”

The answer does not lie with the bottom line, as we’ve proved with our analysis on box office data for the past 20 years. In fact, women are a very reliable demographic. It’s really not about the ticket buyers – it’s about the voices that control the chatter and what their preferences are. It’s about how industry voters are leaning in that direction too. It’s about a systematic weakening of what defines a woman in film. Its roots are deep and pulling them up is going to be painful.

The more women talk about it the better. As Jane Fonda says, Hollywood must be shamed into it. The only way that’s going to happen is if women stop being the “cool girls” for fear of alienating he who possesses the golden spear.

Keira Knightley is more than capable of having whole films built around her that are more than just princess stories or bodice rippers. Hopefully there will be brave people out there who will give her that chance.

Hat tip Indiewire


Ashley Judd has been standing up for women for a while now but recently Judd took on the harassers (otherwise known as puny tyrants cloaked in anonymity because they have no other option, really – too cowardly to come after women in real life but full of so much hate they can’t contain it) in a powerful essay, “Forget Your Team: Your Online Violence Toward Girls and Women Is What Can Kiss My Ass.”

I routinely cope with tweets that sexualize, objectify, insult, degrade and even physically threaten me. I have already — recently, in fact — looked into what is legally actionable in light of such abuse, and have supplied Twitter with scores of reports about the horrifying content on its platform. But this particular tsunami of gender-based violence and misogyny flooding my Twitter feed was overwhelming.

Tweets rolled in, calling me a cunt, a whore or a bitch, or telling me to suck a two-inch dick. Some even threatened rape, or “anal anal anal.”


Instead, I must, as a woman who was once a girl, as someone who uses the Internet, as a citizen of the world, address personally, spiritually, publicly and even legally, the ripe dangers that invariably accompany being a woman and having an opinion about sports or, frankly, anything else.

What happened to me is the devastating social norm experienced by millions of girls and women on the Internet. Online harassers use the slightest excuse (or no excuse at all) to dismember our personhood. My tweet was simply the convenient delivery system for a rage toward women that lurks perpetually. I know this experience is universal, though I’ll describe specifically what happened to me.

I read in vivid language the various ways, humiliating and violent, in which my genitals, vaginal and anal, should be violated, shamed, exploited and dominated. Either the writer was going to do these things to me, or they were what I deserved. My intellect was insulted: I was called stupid, an idiot. My age, appearance and body were attacked. Even my family was thrown into the mix: Someone wrote that my “grandmother is creepy.”

Women and Hollywood also draws our attention to Shannon Sun Higginson’s new doc, “GTFO: Get The F#$% Out,” which premiered at SXSW about the war going on right now between little boys and women who criticize the gaming industry.

Women need to stand together on this and not mince around words like feminism, what it means and what it stands for. I have no patience for women who don’t get the bigger picture. Unfortunately there are too many of them and their dissent is part of what diminishes the collective power of women who are victimized everywhere in the world every hour of every day. AwardsDaily stands firmly behind Judd and is ready to take on the trolls any time, anywhere.


Per one of my commenters, I’m writing about SXSW in the futile attempt to highlight the actresses who get buzzed here (and who will later be forgotten by November). Hey, it may help the films at the box office to get any kind of press which is the whole point of marketing and PR.

Up first, Sally Field is getting lots of buzz for her performance in Hello, My Name is Doris. I think Vanity Fair’s Eric Snider talks about the conflicts critics will have with the film – too “lite” but Sally Field is so good. That any film with a female lead is headed to the theaters at all is something to celebrate. I can’t wait to see it.

One hundred percent of decent people with human souls agree: It’s been far too long since Sally Field, national treasure, has taken the lead role in a movie. This works to the advantage of a film like Hello, My Name Is Doris, which is funny and sweet, but also slight and shallow — but also, Sally Field! Front and center, playing a lovable, vulnerable, dotty spinster! The film is good, but let’s be honest, it would have delighted us even if it were mediocre.

So there you have it. Beloved icon returns to the big screen in a part she loves. Let’s hope it doesn’t get slice and diced.

Here are a few quotes from an interview with Field in the NY Times:

Field: In reality, as you get older, sometimes you forget how old you are. You walk down the street and you see yourself in your mind’s eye as still being that 18-year-old. Because that 18-year-old is still there. But then there’s the other pieces of yourself.

Q. How would you assess your career at this point, in terms of roles you’re taking on?

A. A career over 50 years is a whole lot of things. It’s a lot of ups and a lot of downs and a lot of sideways. And you just keep going. And looking for a piece that’s worth putting yourself into, like this was for me. Whether it ever comes out, I don’t even care.

Q. Do you see think there are fewer roles that interest you in playing?

A. There’s a dearth of roles for women. I turn down a lot of stuff because there’s just nothing in it for me to do. But if you’re lucky, something like this comes along and you say, sure, I’ll leap off the cliff.

Next up, Elizabeth Banks who is supposedly a standout in Love & Mercy except that you read this whole review and she is barely mentioned. Let’s see if we can find something better to hang our hat on. This review maybe? Nope, not mentioned. I’ll just take it on faith that Banks is great in the supporting role as wife and mark her down on the contender tracker, along with Field.

SXSW has yet to break out as an Oscar player in any way, shape or form. It hasn’t yet hit as a launchpad yet but this could be the year that changes all of that. As the Oscars and the Spirit Awards continue to look indistinguishable from one another, perhaps the indie scene will continue to thrive as an awards platform. It’s too early to tell.

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The plot:

“Based on the play by Alan Bennett, The Lady in the Van tells the story of Miss Shepherd, an elderly woman who lived in a van on the playwright’s property. Directed by Nicholas Hytner, The Lady in the Van tells the story of Bennett’s friendship with Miss Shepherd as she continued to live in his front yard for the next 15 years. Credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment.”



Deadline reports exclusively that Warner Bros and Steven Spielberg have won a heated bidding war to bring Lynsey Addario’s It’s What I do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War to the big screen.  Lawrence will star, beating out other potential bidders like Reese Witherspoon, Darren Aronofsky and Natalie Portman, George Clooney and Grant Heslov.

Lawrence is at the top of the list so it’s not surprising she would get first dibs. She guarantees box office and is talented enough to pull it off.

Per Deadline’s description:  “She is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists who went to Afghanistan during the post-9/11 invasion of Afghanistan and carved out a niche giving an identity to the victims of conflict. That includes how Afghans suffered during the Taliban regime, the Iraqi War, victims of genocide in Darfur, the rape of women in the Congo. Her work in dangerous  locales included her being kidnapped by pro-Quaddafi forces in the Libyan civil war.”


A terrifying shift has taken place in Hollywood. The way film is discussed online for the past ten years, really springing from the rise of fanboy culture, has all but erased the need for stories about women. When all anyone can talk about is male-driven comic book and/or superhero films, action shoot ’em ups, and nearly every other cinematic cultural icon, you’re usually looking at males up one side and down the other.  This has not always been the case. I know because, as they say in The Shining, I’ve always been here. I know that film fandom springs from Jaws and Star Wars – only in today’s incarnation of said fandom, the badass that was Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leah is all but erased.

It’s more than depressing — it’s disgusting. Women have been sidelined as mothers or side dishes, where they can be defined by whether or not they move the boner meter.  Scarlett Johansson is doing very well in the boner-driven film culture both on the snooty side of things and on the fanboy side of things. She’s in the club. Also in the club is Marion Cotillard, who can rally the film critics with her work in art films while also whipping up fanboy frenzy in The Dark Knight. Can you even exist if you don’t put on some silly stretchy suit and dwell in the fantasy universe? I don’t know.   I cringe every time a respectable actress is announced starring in some new superhero franchise, usually as the side dish. “I’d like some boner fodder with my main entree, please.”

Thankfully, this is simply not the case in the world of book publishing where women readers drive content. You would not know this by visiting the New York Times Sunday Book Review, where it is mostly (and still) focused on male writers of a certain race and class.  All of Hollywood’s problems with women and under-served ethnic groups can be answered in the wildly diverse and thriving publishing industry.

If only they’d listen. Completely ignored by the Academy this year was Gone Girl, as we know because we’ve been writing about it all year long. Not only was Flynn’s success as a writer ignored by that antiquated establishment – but all of the women who drove the box office on one of the year’s biggest hits were not only ignored, but dismissed outright. You heard “mom’s beach book” a lot on dumb humor sites. You heard “trash novel” a lot. If women are interested it must be cheap. The forever loop of Jonathan Franzen’s arrogant dismissal of having been chosen for the Oprah Book Club.

Even still, Gone Girl sits atop every bestseller’s list you can find anywhere. It’s a cultural phenomenon and Oscar? They still have their dick in their favorite hand – wank, wank, wank.  Gone Girl, as it turned out, was “too much” for the mostly male voters who were too icked out by it. Women can take it, of course, because women have their periods every month and are used to icky things. Women also (some of them) give birth and wear high heels. Yeah, I’m not sure where women got stuck with the label of being the weaker sex, especially where delicate sensibilities were concerned. The Exorcist, Jaws and The Godfather are just some so-called “trash” novels that went on to become, as Gone Girl has, a great film.  But the Academy still cling to their blankies, as we can see by their 2014 selections.

The latest hot prospect The Girl on the Train has just been picked up by Dreamworks. They smartly saw that it was being devoured in a Gone Girl like fashion. There are three strong female parts in it, all of the first person unreliable narrators. It’s Hitchcockian, suspenseful, wicked smart through and through.  Will it be made into a major motion picture? I hope so.

Such was not the fate of another similarly popular novel, Big Little Lies, which has been given to David E. Kelly to be shopped to cable outlets. Why not movies? Starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon (both very good choices).  The Australian set novel would be a fantastic opportunity to unite Kidman and Naomi Watts, should they be able to pull that off. Hell, throw in Cate Blanchett and you have one of the most powerful box office draws I can think of. If you’ve read the book you’ll be able to see why. For some reason, though, it did not get that kind of movie deal.

I’d like to dream cast Girl on the Train but before that, I’d like to also mention a couple of novels that could be optioned. I am not sure they have been yet. Lisa See has been writing thoughtful, suspenseful and very emotionally powerful books for many years now. Only one has been made into a movie and that was Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Perhaps because it was more than slightly botched by its director that makes her books a tough sell. In the right hands, though? Cultural phenomenons.  One of the problems is finding a popular enough Asian star.  Chinese is the preferred ethnicity and how many popular young Chinese female stars are there roaming around Hollywood? Why does it have to be a name, though? I know women would go see it if it was good, regardless of who is starring in it. Why do we have to be stuck back in that bygone era? Why not take a chance on an unknown?

Lisa See‘s Peony in Love, Shanghai Girls and her latest, China Dolls are all ripe material to be mined and turned into films women will want to see. Make movies for us and we will turn out. Not just the tweens among us but we fully grown women. Just look at the success of Gone Girl. We can’t let this moment pass us by. We can’t pretend it didn’t happen.  Every stupid reason people give for why movies about women don’t make money was shattered this year.

China Dolls has been bought by an all-female production company to be directed by a woman.  That’s the latest update. So watch for that film when it is made.

Another great book is called Brown Girl Dreaming.  A National Book Award winning novel written in verse about growing up in South Carolina in the 1960s and 1970s when segregation still ruled the day. What a fantastic film that would make. So far I haven’t heard any sort of movie deal in the works but here’s hoping.

Now, I’d like to dreamcast Girl on The Train (if you haven’t read it, OMIGOD).

I feel very strongly that Kate Winslet was born to play Rachel, the alcoholic discarded wife. If it were me, I’d case Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Megan, the wife who goes missing. And finally, because you need a perfect blonde for the part, Anna would have to be played by Rosamund Pike.

One thing I really like about British TV is that they don’t make a big deal about their diverse casting choices. They simply cast people of color in parts regardless if they’re meant to be “white” or not.  That is what I would do if it were up to me with Girl on the Train. But if they need it to be an all white cast, I would dream cast Emily Blunt as Megan.

Here’s hoping for a broader view of 50% of the world’s population. Here’s hoping Hollywood won’t continue to erase women from the picture, and here’s hoping the writers and the critics and the bloggers will nail them to the wall every year, like this one, when all of the films in the Oscar race revolved around a male character, as though women don’t matter. It greatly limits storytelling overall, makes them look like they are caught in a time warp, way back in the 1950s. Mostly, they’re missing out on potential money to be made by women who would pay to see their beloved books turned into films.


The feature documentary, “SHOUT GLADI GLADI,” co-directed by Adam Friedman and Iain Kennedy, focuses on women’s health in Africa with a particular emphasis on fistula, a common, debilitating condition that turns once healthy women into outcasts. Academy-Award winning actress Meryl Streep will lend her voice to narrate the film. The documentary is being made in collaboration with The Freedom From Fistula Foundation, an organization run by Scottish businesswoman, philanthropist, and activist, Ann Gloag. Friedman and Kennedy document Gloag’s experiences working with incredible women in Kenya, Malawi, and Sierra Leone to help them find hope and transcend their horrendous circumstances. The film also features rare appearances by Melinda Gates and Nobel Peace laureate Wole Soyinka. Friedman will produce the documentary through his company, Vertical Ascent, and Gloag will executive produce.

“SHOUT GLADI GLADI” documents the efforts of Gloag and her foundation as they work with some of the world’s most vulnerable women in poverty stricken villages in Africa. The foundation works to eradicate fistula by improving access to good maternity care, as well as training doctors and midwives, and providing free medical care at their facilities. In addition to providing health services the foundation is focused on empowering women economically and socially. The foundation has partnered with Opportunity Bank in Malawi to provide newly cured women a BBOXX, a small generator powered by a solar panel which allows the women to earn a fee for charging cell-phones (up to five at a time). This creates a business opportunity for the women who are often rejected by the men in their village after suffering from fistula, allowing them to become masters of their own destiny. “SHOUT GLADI GLADI” is a story about hope for a unique group of women and the extraordinary people who are helping them have a brighter future.

“Filming Shout was an extraordinary experience, my wife and I were stopped at Gunpoint in Malawi and were one of the last film crews shooting in Sierra Leone as the Ebola plague descended. But throughout the wonderful people of Africa and the amazing work that Ann’s groups were doing inspired us to keep on keeping on,” noted Adam Friedman. Streep added, “’This powerful film attests to the igniting power of one woman, Ann Gloag, to set in motion hundreds of helping hands, doctors , nurses, caregivers, family and friends, to resuscitate the health and status of victims of fistula, and to give them back their lives.”


· 1 woman every 2 seconds is seriously injured or disabled giving birth

· An estimated 2 million women in Africa live with obstetric fistula

· It is estimated that another 100,000 develop the condition every year

· More than 500,000 women die each year during pregnancy or childbirth, mostly in developing nations

· 80% of these deaths are completely avoidable

· Sierra Leone has just 71 doctors and 112 midwives for a population of six million

· In 2005, 8 million women around the world experienced life-threatening complications during pregnancy and childbirth

· The 5th Millennium Development Goal is to cut maternal deaths by three- quarters by 2015


Vertical Ascent Founder and President Adam Friedman brings over 22 years of entertainment industry experience to the company. An award-winning filmmaker and television producer, Friedman began his career directing a documentary entitled Wolves in Winter, which went on to receive two Emmy nominations. Friedman’s next project, Color Me Blue, about the NYPD and its many heroes, won him his first Emmy. Friedman moved on to shooting music videos, and his video for the Rolling Stones Emotional Rescue was part of the Whitney Museum Biennial celebration, and his video for the rap group Whodini, Big Mouth, is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Adam has also directed feature films, and his debut, “Medium Straight”, was shown in Critics Week at the Cannes Film Festival, with Variety magazine citing

Friedman has also produced and directed a multitude of biographies for A&E that has included figures as diverse as Kevin Costner, Dolly Parton and LL Cool J. Adam’s bio on John Travolta tripled A&E’s viewership and went on to receive Emmy nominations for best non-fiction series and best director. Under his own shingle, he produced hundreds of hours of non-fiction programming for Discovery, The History Channel, HBO and Spike TV.

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redmayne moore

Lead Actor: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Lead Actress: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

These four actors have championed prizes in their respective categories from the three award shows—SAG, BAFTA, and Golden Globes—that are instrumental for a success at the Academy Awards. There should be no hysterical dramatics and edge-of-your-seat anxiety during the Oscars for a nominee when they have swept the category clean at all of the preceding award shows. The absence of those hysterical dramatics in the race can lead to people who spend a superfluous amount of time thinking about the outcome of these awards to speculate who would win if the frontrunner were not nominated in the category.

So, who would in each category win if the frontrunner didn’t exist? With little evidence and much confusion over the past few months of this year’s Oscar race, it’s not something easily calculated.


Despite early distress about the strength of contenders in this field, the Academy ended up producing an array of impressive performances in its lead actress field. If Julianne Moore would have won for Far from Heaven, The Hours or Boogie Nights, this would be the biggest prediction gamble of Oscar night.

Once you take the projected winner, Moore, out of the lineup, the list of nominees divides into two subgroups: 1) Felicity Jones and Marion Cotillard, 2) Rosamund Pike and Reese Witherspoon.

Particularly when picking predictions for the BAFTA awards, many pundits and award season followers pitted Jones in the runner-up position for The Theory of Everything. Yes, she is a co-lead in a popular film with the older Academy members, but the performance itself has never been the distinctive focal point of the film’s praise. Her role is not as dramatically heavy as her fellow nominees, and the industry’s good will for the Stephen Hawking biopic is being dosed over Eddie Redmayne’s work.

The numerous awards Cotillard won from critic associations is probably what kept her alive enough to hop into the last Best Actress spot, despite being excluded from the Golden Globe, SAG, and BAFTA nominations. The performance itself, though considered brilliant by many, is quite subdued, lacking the overt fireworks of Witherspoon and Pike’s towering performances. And the last foreign language performance to win was Cotillard herself in 2007, and whether we like it or not, to win an Oscar for a non-English-speaking role is not common. In addition, Cotillard has a history of being unpopular with the Academy since her win for La Vie en Rose. Many regard her missing the Academy’s lineup for Rust and Bone and Nine to be egregious snubs.

If Moore weren’t in the race, it would most likely come down to Pike and Witherspoon.

After Wild’s premiere at Telluride this past summer, Witherspoon’s buzz was moving at an accelerated level. But whenever the film was released widely, the critical acclaim was there…the support just never felt as passionate as we were led to believe. But still, Witherspoon received the best reviews of her career for her portrayal as Cheryl Strayed, she has been working the campaign trail harder than anyone and had a “comeback” year after a decade of flops and tabloid treachery. Taking the role itself was a drastic change of pace for Witherspoon, and the fact that she pulled it off terrifically could have won her a second Oscar, had Moore not been in the race.

The major problem that would have prevented Pike from going all the way is the distance the Academy put between itself and Gone Girl in every category but Best Actress. (Many are still waiting to wake up from the terrible dream and learn Gillian Flynn’s snub in Adapted Screenplay was a bad dream.) But everything else is in Pike’s favor. Playing a character as memorable and iconic as Amazing Amy holds more weight than most are giving it credit for. Pike disappears into a role that is bound to ignite some form of strong reaction from just about everyone who watches the Gone Girl. And besides starring in an R-rated film that grossed over $165 million domestically, she was named as the best actress preference by over a dozen critic associations.

Projected Outcome without Julianne Moore
1. Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
2. Reese Witherspoon, Wild
3. Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
4. Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything


This category is not as securely fastened as the others, because Birdman has won the major guild awards in spades, and before Redmayne won the SAG, most were predicting Michael Keaton to soar to Oscars. Keaton was the critics’ darling of this category and the Golden Globe winner in the musical/comedy category. To bet against Redmayne and his winning streak would be imprudent, but Keaton is still viable option for a Best Actor win if his film scores the Best Picture trophy. If Redmayne wouldn’t win, it would (and could) be Keaton.

The wild card of the group this year is Bradley Cooper for American Sniper, because he has not competed in any other award show until the AMPAS. His movie has surged at the box office, making inconceivable amounts of money, and the Academy proved their admiration for Eastwood’s war on terror effort by nominating it six times this year. This is Cooper’s third consecutive acting nomination from the Academy, and it stands to reason that the politics of playing a United States veteran could finally put him in a more “winner-friendly” stature. If American Sniper performs better at the ceremony than many pundits surmise, it would not be too surprising to see Cooper upstage the two other frontrunners.

Steve Carell launched the season with glowing reviews out of the Cannes Film Festival for Foxcatcher, but his buzz began to wilt as the year progressed and other performances joined the sprint to the finish line. Benedict Cumberbatch, currently an “it” man in pop culture, acquired raves for playing Alan Turing, but so far this season The Imitation Game has a barren record despite piles of nominations.

Projected Outcome without Eddie Redmayne
1. Michael Keaton, Birdman
2. Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
3. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
4. Steve Carell, Foxcatcher


Patricia Arquette has been invincible the past few months for her moving work in Boyhood. Because of her popularity with the critic association awards and the televised award shows, we do not have the smallest indication to even suggest an alternate frontrunner. The only contender that began to build a case against Arquette was Jessica Chastain for A Most Violent Year, but she ended the season with a snub from the Academy. Any one of the other nominees could rise to the occasion if Arquette would not have been nominated.

Meryl Streep’s nomination always felt secure for her creative turn in Into the Woods, but it seems as if people are not taking her film seriously enough to reward it in a substantial way. Laura Dern’s nomination was an inspired one considering her role in Wild is limited to flashbacks–which means a smaller amount of screentime–and the fact that she was largely ignored before her nomination from the Academy.

Keira Knightley rode The Imitation Game’s buzz to all of the crucial award shows this year. In playing Joan Clarke, Knightley does her usual melodramatic, aggressive British act and she has Harvey Weinstein’s heavy promotion in her favor, but I hesitate about relying on her rank in the race too heavily. Knightley’s role, in a similar way to Jones in Lead Actress, does not feel vigorous enough to take down her co-nominees.

Birdman reminds me of American Hustle in the Oscar race last year. The ensemble was among the most heralded aspects of the film and several of the actors were nominated, yet none of them were unable surmount the frontrunner and most likely took second place. Like American Hustle, Birdman lacks an acting frontrunner despite having various performances nominated.

To compare Emma Stone’s standing to Jennifer Lawrence’s position last year would be unfair because the Lawrence had more going for her, but Stone relates to her in another way: She holds a position in pop culture that could have been an entry into frontrunner status had it not been for Arquette. Also, Stone benefits from starring in a Best Picture frontrunner, having an uproar of an “Oscar clip” and losing a significant amount of weight to portray her character more accurately. She makes the most sense of the non-Arquette contenders.

Projected Outcome without Patricia Arquette
1. Emma Stone, Birdman
2. Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
3. Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
4. Laura Dern, Wild


Like Best Actress, a race without J.K. Simmons for Whiplash in Best Supporting Actor would divide the other nominees into two groups: 1) Mark Ruffalo and Robert Duvall, 2) Ethan Hawke and Edward Norton.

Duvall was one of the better attributes of The Judge, but his nomination feels like a gesture of reverence from his peers, showing their appreciation for all his years of hard work in the business. Mark Ruffalo has settled into a place in the film industry as a character actor, like his work in Foxcatcher exemplifies. His respect may be growing in the industry, but it’s not enough to climb over the other, more emphatic performances in his company.

In a world where Simmons was not orchestrating another Supporting Actor sweep (like we saw in previous years with Jared Leto, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale, Christoph Waltz, Heath Ledger, Javier Bardem, ect.), the hypothetical winner would most likely be either Ethan Hawke in Boyhood or Edward Norton in Birdman.

After winning a fair amount of critics association awards, Norton’s loud, grabbing, memorable turn would probably be named the best of the year, especially when the industry’s support of his film is taken into consideration. I do have my reservations because of Hawke and the general question surrounding which film the Academy will support more: Birdman or Boyhood? Hawke gives a more flavorful performance in Boyhood than his co-star Patricia Arquette, and yet she is the undivided frontrunner for Supporting Actress. In addition, he has paid his dues and collected several nominations over the years from the Academy between acting and writing.

Projected Outcome without J.K. Simmons
1. Edward Norton, Birdman
2. Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
3. Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
4. Robert Duvall, The Judge

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