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.
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.
The thing over at Gold Derby is to make predicting a game so why not put your predictions out front before anyone has seen anything and/or Telluride has hit. Premature expectations, though, can mostly guarantee that the movies in question will be obliterated come awards time. That doesn’t mean it will happen that way this year; it just means that whatever movie people put out front early on usually has trouble living up to those expectations.
Buzz on The Revenant is off the charts. We hear – from reliable sources – that this might be unlike anything we’ve ever seen from Alejandro G. Inarritu. It will make Birdman seem like the appetizer. Not that the two movies are in any way comparable, just that it’s supposed to be the masterpiece that Birdman almost was. Don’t believe the rumors about so-called troubles on the set. From what I’ve heard from various sources it was all in the name of serving authenticity.
One has to also assume that Gold Derby users are probably on the youngish side. They are also probably caught up, like so many are, with the ongoing lament: when will Leonardo DiCaprio finally win an Oscar? Will this be that year? Jeff Wells throws it out there that, in fact, maybe.
Funny story: when I was a very young woman I was wooed by a would-be filmmaker who made schlocky horror movies. He spent the whole night telling me how great the sex was going to be and how blown away I’d be. Rather impressed with him in general (I had never spent much time with any filmmakers, schlocky or otherwise), I was willing to go along for the ride. When the deed finally arrived I’m gonna say it was the worst I’ve ever had or close to it. I learned an important lesson that night before finally put the kibosh on the whole thing: high expectations and talking up things before they happen can usually lead to disappointing results. Not to dampen the mood or anything.
It’s important that all expectations on The Revenant be based on seeing just what DiCaprio/Inarritu and Chivo can do when put to the test. It’s one of my most highly anticipated films of the year, along with Spotlight, Joy, Danish Girl, Black Mass…Make of it what you will.
This looks pretty great all the way around, I have to admit. Someone seems to have finally put Matt Damon’s sense of humor to good use. Can it possibly be as good as its trailer? Written by the hard working Drew Goddard whose list of credits includes Alias and Lost, among other things, seems to have the thing well under hand here. The film has a release date of October 2, which you dear readers should recognize as the Sweet Spot when it comes to releasing “Oscar movies.”
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.
The 40th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 10 to 20, 2015. Paco Cabezas’s Mr. Right will be the Closing Night. The rest of the lineup include a few to look foward to, like Catherine Hardwick’s Miss You Already, and two of my favorite filmmakers Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden return with Mississippi Grand.
Disorder (Maryland) Alice Winocour, France/Belgium
In this masterfully engineered thriller, a young ex-soldier suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder protects a beautiful woman and her child from a brutal home invasion. Starring Matthias Schoenaerts and Diane Kruger.
Man Down Dito Montiel, USA North American Premiere In a savage post-apocalyptic America, U.S. Marine Gabriel Drummer searches desperately for the whereabouts of his estranged son and wife. Accompanied by his best friend, a hard-nosed Marine whose natural instinct is to shoot first and ask questions later, the two intercept Charles, an apocalyptic survivor carrying vital information about the whereabouts of Gabriel’s family. By revisiting the past, audiences are guided in unravelling the puzzle of Gabriel’s experience, and what will eventually lead to the origin of this war-torn America. Starring Shia LaBeouf, Kate Mara, Gary Oldman and Jai Courtney.
Miss You Already Catherine Hardwicke, United Kingdom World Premiere This honest and powerful story follows two best friends, Milly and Jess, as they navigate life’s highs and lows. Inseparable since they were young girls, they can’t remember a time they didn’t share everything — secrets, clothes, even boyfriends — but nothing prepares them for the day Milly is hit with life-altering news. A story for every modern woman, this film celebrates the bond of true friendship that ultimately can never be broken, even in life’s toughest moments. Starring Toni Collette, Drew Barrymore, Dominic Cooper, Paddy Considine, Tyson Ritter and Jacqueline Bisset
Mississippi Grind Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden, USA Canadian Premiere Gerry is a talented, but struggling poker player about to be swallowed up by his unshakeable gambling habit. But his luck begins to change after he meets the young, charismatic Curtis. Gerry convinces his new lucky charm to hit the road with him, towards a legendary high stakes poker game in New Orleans. The highs and lows unveil the duo’s true characters and motivations, and an undeniable bond forms between them. Starring Ben Mendelsohn, Ryan Reynolds, Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton and Alfre Woodard.
North American Premiere
Closing Night Film.
Mr. Right Paco Cabezas, USA World Premiere Martha is unlucky in love, but when she finally meets her Mr. Right it seems like she’s found her match — even if he’s an international hitman on the run from the crime cartels who employ him. On the bright side, as long as Hopper or Shotgun Steve don’t kill them first, these two may actually have a chance at happily ever after. Starring Sam Rockwell, Anna Kendrick, Tim Roth, James Ransone, Anson Mount, Michael Eklund and RZA.
45 Years Andrew Haigh, United Kingdom
While preparing for their 45th anniversary, Kate and Geoff’s marriage is shaken with a discovery that calls into question the life they’ve built together, in this emotional tour-de-force. Starring Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay.
About Ray Gaby Dellal, USA World Premiere The touching story of three generations of a family living under one roof in New York as the life-changing transformation by one ultimately affects them all. Ray is a teenager who realizes that she isn’t meant to be a girl and decides to transition from female to male. His single mother, Maggie, must track down Ray’s biological father to get his legal consent to allow Ray’s transition. Dolly, Ray’s lesbian grandmother, struggles to accept that she now has a grandson. They must each confront their own identities and learn to embrace change and their strength as a family, in order to ultimately find acceptance and understanding. Starring Naomi Watts, Elle Fanning, Susan Sarandon, Tate Donovan, Linda Emond, Sam Trammell and Maria Dizzia.
Angry Indian Goddesses Pan Nalin, India World Premiere A comic drama about a group of Indian women finding their hearts and losing their heads! A wild bunch of girls from all over India descend upon Goa. Their closest friend Frieda has invited them to her family home for a surprise announcement: she’s getting married. Thus begins an impromptu bachelorette. Starring Tannishtha Chatterjee, Sandhya Mridul, Sarah Jane Dias, Pavleen Gujral, Anushka Manchanda, Rajshri Deshpande and Amrit Maghera.
Being Charlie Rob Reiner, USA World Premiere Being Charlie is based on a compilation of real-life experiences written by two friends who lived through being stuck in the cycle of rehab. Eighteen-year-old Charlie Mills is a sharp-mouthed addict fighting to get back home, while his father constantly stiff-arms him to limit the distractions during a big election for governor of California. Charlie’s parents are at odds about their son’s return to rehab. Following a feeble attempt at an intervention, he agrees to work the program at a new adult rehab facility where he meets a handful of misfit personalities; among them is Eva, a beautiful but troubled girl, and Travis, a supportive house manager. Charlie’s internal struggle with his addiction is confronted by the envy for his best friend and his separate addiction with Eva. Starring Nick Robinson, Morgan Saylor, Devon Bostick, Cary Elwes, Susan Misner, Common and Ricardo Chavira.
Body (Body/Cialo) Małgorzata Szumowska, Poland North American Premiere Set in Poland, this absurdist dark comedy follows the intertwined stories of a criminal prosecutor, his anorexic daughter, and her therapist who claims she can communicate with the dead. Starring Janusz Gajos, Maja Ostaszewska and Justyna Suwala.
Equals Drake Doremus, USA North American Premiere In a futuristic, utopian society known as the Collective — where inhabitants have been bred to be peaceful and emotionless — a man and a woman discover that they have feelings for one another. Together, they attempt to understand this connection. Starring Kristen Stewart, Nicholas Hoult, Guy Pearce and Jacki Weaver.
I Saw the Light Marc Abraham, USA World Premiere This film tells the story of legendary country western singer Hank Williams, who in his brief life created one of the greatest bodies of work in American music. The film chronicles his meteoric rise to fame and its ultimately tragic effect on his health and personal life. Based on Colin Escott’s award-winning biography. Starring Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, Bradley Whitford, David Krumholtz Cherry Jones and Maddie Hasson.
London Fields Matthew Cullen United Kingdom/USA World Premiere Set in 1999 London, this noir crime thriller based on Martin Amis’ novel of the same name features a star-studded cast, including Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, Cara Delevigne, Theo James, Billy Bob Thorton and Jim Sturgess.
ma ma Julio Medem, Spain/France International Premiere This is the story of Magda. Confronted with tragedy, she reacts with a surge of life that flows inside of her, from the imaginable to the unimaginable. Accompanied by her closest circle, she will live the most unexpected situations filled with humour and delicate happiness. Starring Penélope Cruz, Luis Tosar and Asier Etxeandia.
The Meddler Lorene Scafaria, USA World Premiere Marnie Minervini, recent widow and eternal optimist, moves from New Jersey to Los Angeles to be closer to her daughter. Armed with an iPhone and a full bank account, Marnie sets out to make friends, find her purpose, and possibly open up to someone new. Starring Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne and J.K. Simmons.
Mr. Six (Lao Pao Er) Guan Hu, China North American Premiere With his son captured, Mr. Six and his old pals stand up to the new, younger generation of hooligans, defending their dignity as once respected gangsters in the neighbourhood. Starring Feng Xiaogang.
Mustang Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Turkey/France/Germany North American Premiere It’s the beginning of the summer in a village in the north of Turkey; Lale and her four sisters come home from school, innocently playing with boys. The supposed debauchery of their games causes a scandal with unintended consequences. The family home slowly turns into a prison, classes on housework and cooking replace school, and marriages begin to be arranged. The five sisters, driven by the same desire for freedom, fight back against the limits imposed on them. Starring Gunes Sensoy, Dogba Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan, Ilayda Akdogan, Ayberk Pekcan and Nihal Koldas.
My Mother (Mia Madre) Nanni Moretti, Italy/France North American Premiere Margherita is a director shooting a film with the famous American actor, Barry Huggins, who is quite a headache on set. Away from the shoot, Margherita tries to hold her life together, despite her mother’s illness and her daughter’s adolescence. Stars Nanni Moretti, Margherita Buy, John Turturro and Giulia Lazzarini.
Our Brand Is Crisis David Gordon Green, USA World Premiere A Bolivian presidential candidate enlists a management team led by damaged but brilliant strategist “Calamity” Jane Bodine, who seizes the chance to beat her professional nemesis Pat Candy, coaching the opposition. But as Pat zeroes in on every vulnerability, Jane faces a personal crisis as intense as the one her team exploits to boost their numbers, in this drama revealing the machinations of political consultants for whom nothing is sacred and winning is all that matters. Starring Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Joaquim de Almeida, Ann Dowd, Scoot McNairy and Zoe Kazan.
A Tale of Love and Darkness Natalie Portman Israel/USA North American Premiere Based on Amos Oz’s international best-seller, this is the story of his youth at the end of the British Mandate in Palestine and the early years of the state of Israel. The film details young Amos’s relationship with his mother and his birth as a writer, looking at what happens when the stories we tell become the stories we live. Starring Natalie Portman, Gilad Kahana and Amir Tessler.
A Tale of Three Cities (San Cheng Ji) Mabel Cheung, China International Premiere Based on the miraculous true story of Jackie Chan’s parents, this film is about the unbreakable bond of love between an opium- peddling widow and a former spy on the run. Together they witness love and humanity in the face of war, famine, and overwhelming danger. Starring Tang Wei and Sean Lau.
Truth James Vanderbilt, USA World Premiere In the vein of All the President’s Men and The Insider, this is the incredible true story of Mary Mapes, an award-winning CBS News journalist, and Dan Rather’s producer. The film chronicles the story they uncovered of a sitting U.S. president that may have been AWOL from the United States National Guard for over a year during the Vietnam War. When the story blew up in their face, the ensuing scandal ruined Dan Rather’s career, nearly changed a U.S. presidential election, and almost took down all of CBS News in the process. Based on Mapes’s book Truth and Duty. Starring Cate Blanchett, Elisabeth Moss, Robert Redford, Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid and Bruce Greenwood.
The Wave Roar Uthaug, Norway International Premiere Experienced geologist Kristian Eikfjord accepts a job offer out of town. As he’s getting ready to move from the city of Geiranger with his family, he and his colleagues measure small geological changes in the underground. Kristian worries that his worst nightmare is about to come true, when the alarm goes off and disaster is inevitable. With less than 10 minutes to react, it becomes a race against time in order to save as many people as possible, including his own family. Starring Kristoffer Joner, Ane Dahl Torp and Jonas Oftebro.
The Witch Robert Eggers, USA/Canada Canadian Premiere A colonial family leaves plantation life and attempts to reap their harvest on a fledgling farm at the edge of an imposing ancient New England forest. Superstition and dread set in as food grows scarce, a family member goes missing, and the children’s play takes on a frenzied and menacing undercurrent. As they begin to turn on one another, the malevolent machinations of an ethereal presence from within the woods exacerbate the growing corruption of their own nature. Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson.
As promising as the gloss critics had already given Straight Outta Compton, the multi-faceted bio-pic of rap group N.W.A. achieved something else this weekend that can only add to its sheen. Exceeding Universal’s best expectations, the first box-office estimates yesterday were in $56 million range — and today that amazing number was revised upwards to $60.2 mil. This places Straight Outta Compton in the top 5 best August openings of all time. (Guardians of the Galaxy and Bourne Ultimatum hold the #1 and #2 August records). With a rock-solid Cinemascore of ‘A’, Straight Outta Compton has vaulted to prominence with a reverberating thump of undeniable Oscar heat, as witnessed by a packed Academy screening yesterday that “drew a massive crowd and overwhelmingly favorable response,” according to reports from THR. I posted the red-band trailer back in February but I suppose we had more urgent things on our minds because 6 months ago it was greeted by crickets. Give a listen to Sasha and Jeff who were on the case for Straight Outta Compton in their recent return of OscarPoker.
I’m seeing Straight Outta Compton this afternoon. Meanwhile, a repost of the trailer.
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.
I caught up with Pawn Sacrifice a week or so ago but needed time to ruminate on the film before writing about it. I am a bit of a chess geek with a fondness for Fischer’s game. Fischer himself was off his rocker for a variety of reasons though no one was ever able to really get a handle on his illness because he all but disappeared from society a number of times and ended his life an exile and a recluse. But he had game. Maguire brings Fischer back to life as a vibrant man who could do one thing exceptionally well. His intensity and focus made him somehow great at chess but truly bad at life. He couldn’t maintain relationships nor his own status as chess champ. He was a self-hating Jew who blamed the Jews for society’s ills. Maguire captures Fischer’s intensity and delivers, ultimately, a moving portrait of the complicated Fischer. Here is a clip.
The Best Actor race is booked solid this year, that much we know. Breaking in will be near impossible. Someday people will sift through the ashes of this year and they’ll look back at the performances that didn’t catch enough buzz to get in the race. I suspect Maguire’s will be at or near the top of that list, along with Colin Farrell in The Lobster, Michael Fassbender in Macbeth, and on and on it goes. It’s a good time to be male in Hollywood.
The trick with Pawn Sacrifice is how to build tension over chess moves for audiences who don’t really get chess? Maybe some do, but unless you have studied the game, and more specifically Fischer’s approach to the game, you might not get what the big deal was with Game 6, for instance. That the film doesn’t adequately involve the audience in the suspense of the game itself bothered me at first but in the days since those qualms have evaporated and I’m left with thinking fondly of the film and the performances. Liev Schreiber is fantastic as Boris Spassky, and Peter Sarsgarrd and Michael Stuhlbarg are good as well.
The Year of the Man marches on with Bradley Cooper in Burnt. Oh look, there’s Emma Thompson propping him up – and look, there’s Siena Miller helping him out. I kid. I’m sure it has to be better than this trailer because it was picked up the Weinstein Co. and their instincts are usually spot on. Also, it may be about a man but women audiences will eat this up like candy.
Chef Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) had it all – and lost it. A two-star Michelin rockstar with the bad habits to match, the former enfant terrible of the Paris restaurant scene did everything different every time out, and only ever cared about the thrill of creating explosions of taste. To land his own kitchen and that third elusive Michelin star though, he’ll need the best of the best on his side, including the beautiful Helene (Sienna Miller). BURNT is a remarkably funny and emotional story about the love of food, the love between two people, and the power of second chances.
It’s been hard to find much to get excited about for Oscars 2015 – though the season isn’t yet upon us. That starts in a few weeks with Venice and Telluride. Tarantino gives his fans what they want and rarely deviates from that formula, especially in the latter part of his career. Here is The Hateful Eight trailer.
You might wonder why Scorsese would be interested in the 19th century’s most prolific serial killer in The Devil in White City but what I think draws him to the project, other than working again with DiCaprio, is the opportunity to bring the World’s Fair to life. Amid the spectacle of the 1893 World’s Fair, brought to life by Daniel H. Burnham is another kind of architecture going on, that of H.H. Holmes who built a crazy kind of house of horrors where he committed untold numbers of murders and then sold the skeletons. It’s a fascinating story, but visually, it’s off the charts — I’m thinking Hugo meets Silence of the Lambs.
Paramount apparently won the rights after an intense bidding war between the five families.
Michael Patterson has been predicting the Telluride lineup for a while now and has compiled what he thinks are the ten most likely titles to land. Why it matters: Telluride has screened the Best Picture winner for the past ten years. Not since The Departed has the eventual winner not screened — or premiered — either at Telluride or somewhere else before Telluride.
2014 – Birdman — Venice/Telluride
2013 – 12 Years a Slave — Telluride
2012 – Argo — Telluride
2011 – The Artist — Cannes/Telluride
2010 – The King’s Speech — Telluride
2009 – The Hurt Locker — (year prior)
2008 – Slumdog Millionaire — Telluride
2007 – No Country for Old Men — Cannes
Why this rule continues to apply has to do, I think, with the Academy’s decision to push their ceremony date back one month, which eventually shifted everything back, which now means the race is decided behind the scenes. It also could be the safe harbor Telluride represents. Unlike other film festivals, critics and bloggers must pay their own way in at $750 a pop. Thus, the attendance is limited to those who are either being sent there by bigger outlets or there because their passion for film compels them to be there. Also, the Telluride people who select the films could have similar tastes to industry voters.
Patterson has chosen ten films he thinks will go. Is the eventual Best Picture winner among them? Or will this be the year the streak is finally broken?
Here are the features he’s predicting
Beasts of No Nation
Son of Saul
These will represent the underdogs expected to beat the Big Oscar Movies coming out in October or later in the year and those include: Bridge of Spies, The Revenant, Spotlight, etc. And the ones already seen in Cannes that could have a shot: Sicario, Youth and the already mentioned Carol.
Telluride begins at the end of this month, right on the heels of the Venice Film Festival.
Written, directed and starring Angelina Jolie with Brad Pitt, reuniting the couple for the first time in ten years is By the Sea. Jolie gave People Mag the first look at the actors in their parts and talked to Jolie about the film.
Set in France during the 1970s, By the Sea tells the story of a struggling marriage between Vanessa (Jolie Pitt), a former dancer, and her writer husband, Roland (Pitt). “It focuses on three couples, all at different stages in their lives,” the 40-year-old mom of six tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “And at its center are the questions of what happened to Roland and Vanessa and why they are in the place they are now.”
In this photo provided by the Producers Guild of America, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu accepts the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for outstanding producer of theatrical motion pictures for “Birdman” on stage at the 26th Annual Producers Guild Awards at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision for Producers Guild of America/AP Images)
When this website first began its grand experiment of cracking the code of why some films make it into the Oscar race and why other films don’t, there were three major forces determining Best Picture: the public, film critics and the DGA. All three of these forces have faded and become far less influential than they used to be. The reasons for this have to do with the changing tide of Hollywood itself, what Lynda Obst calls “the new normal,” the tectonic shift of events that reverberated once the Academy pushed their date back one month, and the advent of the internet.
Large sectors of public started liking movies the Academy didn’t; awards were chosen and decided upon long before the public even got involved with those films; and critics changed from a powerful lobby of high-minded opinion-shapers to a sea of indistinguishable voices that seems to matter less and less as the years wear on. One thing remains the same: the critics and the Academy still tend to be on the same side, they like the same kinds of films; and while the majority of moviegoers are often left to fend for themselves, their tastes are now reflected by populist ceremonies like the VMAs and the People’s Choice Awards.
The DGA’s story is a little different. There used to be no bigger influencer than the DGA where Best Picture (and of course, Best Director) was concerned. In the early days of the Academy, the producer was the most important player in the Oscar race. That’s why Best Picture came and comes at the end of the night. Those were the days of Louis B. Mayer and Zanuck and the like. The directors were much like the other important players, the writers and the actors but weren’t the gods we see them as today. I think it’s mostly safe to say that the French had the biggest impact on how we view directors because the rise of the DGA happened roughly at the same time: the end of the 50s, into the 60s and most importantly, the 70s. The concept of a film director as film author, or “auteur” was how great films were distinguished from “entertainment,” although of course the two would frequent;y and inevitably cross paths.
The DGA (founded in 1936) has been around as long or longer as any other major guild, but their influence on the Oscar race began to have significant effect around 1948. For the next several decades, DGA winners would signal which film was headed for the Best Picture win. Of course, there were always splits between Picture and Director for various reasons. Sometimes they had to split because the Academy couldn’t decide which film was best. Sometimes they split because one film was clearly more of a director’s movie than a producers movie. Sometimes they split because the Best Picture winner did not have a Best Director nomination. Either which way, the influence of the Directors Guild was profound and important.
In 2012 things began to shift dramatically. It was a simple decision, to move the ballot deadline to occur before the DGA announced their awards. For many years the DGA would announce and then the Oscar voters would have their say. While it’s true that 2012 presented the biggest difference between DGA and the Academy in Oscar history and we haven’t seen that kind of freaky mismatch since, the fact remains that we are now seeing pure Academy choices detached from the directors branch without any DGA influence at all.
Here are the deadlines for voting per the big guilds:
Ballot deadline for Producers Guild – January 4th
Nominees announced for Producers Guild January 5th
Ballot deadline for Academy – January 8th, 2016
DGA ballot deadline – January 11, 2016
DGA announces nominees – January 12, 2016
Oscar nominations – January 14, 2014
At the same time, adding to the Oscar/DGA disconnect, the Academy expanded the Best Picture slate from 5 to 10 for 2009 and 2010. From 5 to an unknown number between 5 and 10 from 2011 up to today. That means that we’re always dealing with a preferential ballot of more than 5 Best Picture nominees. Now the PGA is the only guild that matches the Academy in terms of using a preferential ballot with more than 5 nominees. The DGA, SAG, the WGA, the Golden Globes and BAFTA all use 5 nominees and none use the preferential ballot.
These two forces combined have shifted the power and influence away from the DGA. They remain the best bellwether to confirm the Best Director winner. But where Best Picture is concerned, the PGA now rules. In fact, they rule so hard that starting in 2009 producers have been the voting body that best determines where the Best Picture race is going.
2009 – Avatar won the Globe but the Hurt Locker won the PGA and then Oscar. 2010 – The Social Network won the Globe and everything else but the King’s Speech won the PGA and then Oscar. 2011 – Hugo and The Artist won the Globe, The Artist won the PGA and then Oscar (not surprising). 2012 – Argo did not seem like it was going to win Best Picture until it won the Critics Choice and the Globe. But that wouldn’t matter until it won the PGA, which it did, and then Best Picture. 2013 – Gravity and 12 years a Slave won the PGA for their first ever tie. 12 Years won Best Picture, Gravity Best Director. 2014 – Boyhood won everything until it got to the PGA where Birdman stunned everyone by winning that and then going on to win Best Picture.
While all of these wins also had a corresponding DGA win, the PGA came first and the DGA seemed to merely confirm what the PGA voted as the winner.
One of the biggest reasons for the PGA’s influence is that their membership numbers closely mirror the Academy’s and they are comprise many different types of voters — old, young, male, female; film and TV. There are roughy 6,500 members of the PGA and around 6K for the Academy. It doesn’t take a math whiz to see that roughly the same amount of people voting on a preferential ballot of more than 5 nominees are going to come out with roughly the same titles and winners.
The PGA has the luxury of a 10-slot nomination ballot, as opposed to the Academy’s, which only has 5 blanks to fill. I think this ultimately makes the PGA’s choices for Best Picture better than the Academy’s because it is more varied. Last year, for instance, three of the best dark movies – Gone Girl, Nightcrawler and Foxcatcher did not get a Best Picture nomination with the Academy.
To find your way to Best Picture you have to find your way to the PGA and figure out how some films wind up there and others don’t. This is where the date change comes into effect. Pushing the awards back from March to February meant that everything got pushed back. Thus, whereas in the old days the Christmas season would be prime time for finding “Oscar movies,” now, it all happens much, much earlier during the film festivals. That mostly takes the public out of the equation. The public figures in now as ticket buyers only. Sure, a Cinemascore rating of A always helps but for the most part the Oscars are STILL USED as a way to make more money for the movies. Thus, “Oscar buzz” can still translate to money at the box office.
Money at the box office does not impact the Oscar race because by the time the films hit the theaters most of them have already been accepted or rejected by the critics and industry voters. Moneymakers ordinarily do not seem to impress critics nor industry voters the way they used to. Thus, a film can make NO MONEY at the box office and still win Best Picture. This argument was settled when Avatar and The Hurt Locker battled it out and continued when 12 Years a Slave beat Gravity — and Gone Girl was not even nominated. The money doesn’t matter because this part of the film business has officially become “niche.”
Grantland’s Mark Harris has never liked how the pundits decide (based on what films publicists are pushing) what will be the candidates for the Oscar race. He has long objected to the way films are corralled into the winner’s circle. The problem is that you’re dealing with a massive consensus of thousands of voters. That consensus starts building with the critics awards and the pundits predictions. They thin the herd, as it were, so that voters have a smaller screener pile to deal with. The lower level precursors evaluate the movies and help Oscar voters decide which ones are worth their while and then the elites of the industry get involved in the voting.
The size of the guilds are simply too large to overcome, thus, there can’t really be many surprises beyond that first PGA consensus decision. After the PGA calls it, the race is mostly all over but the shouting.
Academy dates for the season
Saturday, November 14, 2015 The Governors Awards
Wednesday, December 30, 2015 Nominations voting opens 8 a.m. PT
Friday, January 8, 2016 Nominations voting closes 5 p.m. PT
Thursday, January 14, 2016 Oscar Nominations Announcement
Monday, February 8, 2016 Oscar Nominees Luncheon
Friday, February 12, 2016 Final voting opens 8 a.m. PT
Saturday, February 13, 2016 Scientific and Technical Awards
Tuesday, February 23, 2016 Final voting closes 5 p.m. PT
Cate Blanchett will enter this year’s Oscar race with another lead performance in James Vanderbilt’s Truth, about Mary Mapes, an award-winning news journalist who broke the Abu-Ghraib prison story. It was the same moment in history when Mapes and Dan Rather uncovered a story questioning whether George W. Bush may have gone AWOL from the National Guard during Vietnam. The story almost ended Rather’s career and altered the course of the election. If the Jeffrey Wigand 60 Minutes scandal didn’t take down CBS, this 60 Minutes story might have.
The film appears to center around Mapes as protagonist — why else cast Cate Blanchett — even if the bigger name, obviously, is Dan Rather, played by Robert Redford. Pic also stars Elisabeth Moss, Topher Grace and Dennis Quaid. It is being distributed by Sony Pics Classics.
My first thought is that all eyes are going to be on Vanderbilt and whether or not he can make a successful jump from writer to director, always tricky. My second thought is, can Robert Redford be believable as Dan Rather?
At any rate, here is the Wikipedia rundown of the scandal, as such:
Mary Mapes produced a segment for 60 Minutes Wednesday that aired criticism of President George W. Bush’s military service, supported by documents purportedly from the files of Bush’s commanding officer, the late Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B Killian. Those documents had been delivered to CBS from Bill Burkett, who was a retired Lt. Colonel with the Texas Army National Guard. During the segment, Dan Rather asserted that the documents had been authenticated by document experts, but ultimately, CBS could neither confirm nor definitively refute their authenticity. Morever, CBS did not have any original documents, only faxed copies, as Burkett claimed to have burned the originals.
After the report was aired, it was immediately the subject of harsh criticism, primarily from the blogosphere, primarily due to the allegation that some of the documents referenced in the report were forgeries. As a result of the controversy over the use of the documents, CBS ordered an independent internal investigation. The panel in charge of investigation was composed of former governor of Pennsylvania and United States Attorney General, Dick Thornburgh and retired president and chief executive officer and former executive editor of the Associated Press, Louis Boccardi. The panel investigated the memo scandal, subsequently dubbed “Memogate” or “Rathergate.” Following the investigation, Mapes and others involved were accused of lapses in judgement and were fired.
Among the allegations in the 60 Minutes report were that Bush, the son of an ambassador, Congressman and future President, had received preferential treatment in passing over hundreds of applicants to enlist in the Texas Air National Guard in order to avoid being drafted and sent to fight in Vietnam after he had graduated from Yale in 1968. Then-Texas Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes had admitted making phone calls to get Bush into the Guard, as he claimed to have done for the children of several other influential Texans.
The Thornburgh/Boccardi report, however, stated that some of Bush’s former instructors or colleagues had told Mapes that Bush had told them that he wanted to go to Vietnam, but that he could not go because there were others ahead of him with more seniority. Mapes was criticized for failing to air them in the 60 Minutes Report to balance the claim that Bush had enlisted in the Guard to avoid serving in Vietnam.
Mapes was also faulted for calling Joe Lockhart, a senior official in the John Kerry campaign, prior to the airing of the piece, and offering to put her source, Bill Burkett, in touch with him. The panel called Mapes’ action a “clear conflict of interest that created the appearance of political bias.” Mapes was terminated by CBS on January 10, 2005. Also asked to resign were Senior Vice President Betsy West, who supervised CBS News primetime programs; 60 Minutes Wednesday Executive Producer Josh Howard; and Howard’s deputy, Senior Broadcast Producer Mary Murphy.
Mapes herself continues to deny any wrongdoing. She said that the authenticity of the documents had been corroborated by an unnamed key source and that journalists often have to rely on photo-copied documents as the basis for verifying a story. Further, Burkett admitted lying to Mapes and the 60 Minutes team regarding the source of the documents. Further, she suggested that she would have preferred to do more work on the story, but that her superiors, including CBS News president Andrew Heyward, pushed for the story to be aired on September 8. Mapes later claimed that she was the victim of a right-wing Internet smear campaign, and is dismissive of opinions that the Killian Documents are forgeries.
Karl Rove, assistant to President George W. Bush, called Mapes’ work “the gift that keeps on giving” due to the story’s lurid foundations and the apparent boost it gave to President Bush during his reelection campaign.
It’s probably no surprise that Karl Rove’s name comes up here. It is textbook Rove. He can be outsmarted if you can see him coming. Clearly, CBS did not.
His accent is spot on. Johnny Depp could go toe to toe with his Gilbert Grape/Basketball Diaries co-star Leonardo DiCaprio for Best Actor. You can’t really win an Oscar if you’re too good looking. The best looking actors have to ugly themselves up in order to get taken seriously by the Academy for some reason. Admittedly, making Johnny Depp not pretty is no easy feat but he is a chameleon and seems to have transformed himself to unrecognizable yet again. Director Scott Cooper is better with directing than he is with writing and this comes from a script by Mark Mallouk and Jez butterworth (Get on Up, Fair Game).
Indiewire’s Ryan Lattanzio reports that Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation could be headed to the Oscar race now that is has gotten a theatrical release date. They are doing the HBO dance of giving the pic a theatrical release alongside its streaming World Premiere:
Netflix is partnering with indie film distributor Bleecker Street and exhibitor Landmark to release the film day-and-date on Friday, October 16, 2015 in 19 markets. Clearly, awards are in view and theatrical is needed to achieve that. The film has already booked a Venice competition premiere, followed by a Canadian premiere in Toronto. Which means we should expect “Beasts” to pop up in the secret Telluride lineup.
It’s a clever way to change up the game, much the way Netflix did with House of Cards’ first season. The idea was to de-stigmatize Netflix’s original content programming, which it aced without breaking a sweat. Now, in order to satisfy the bizarre shifting landscape of television looming large over much of the feature film market (that’s where the audiences are now) Netflix is once again bridging the gap and de-stigmatizing their brand and the idea of VOD as a kind of legit platform for Oscar consideration.
In other words, this is as close as anyone has yet come to making the Oscars consider “television” or VOD in the feature film world. HBO does the same every year with its documentaries. They drive up their own profits by giving the film its needed theatrical release to qualify for awards. That helps publicize it by the time it hits HBO airwaves. Now, Netflix will do the same and you can imagine the publicity potential for the film if it gets anywhere near the Kodak.
To change the game they need a big name. They had Fincher for House of Cards and now they have Cary Fukunaga whose name is gold right now amid critics and voters. This would then open doors to other companies – theoretically Amazon or even HBO (who could have done that with Soderbergh’s Candelabra for instance).
As Lattanzio notes, “Earlier this year, AMC, Regal, Carmike and Cinemark dug their heels, stating they would not show the film without a 90-day window between its theatrical and streaming premieres.“
There are two films involving the Boston Globe this year. Black Mass, about Whitey Bulger and Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight. If you split Martin Scorsese into two films you have would each of these stories. Here is Spotlight’s trailer.
The New York Times just announced that the Danny Boyle film, “Steve Jobs,” starring Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet will be the centerpiece gala for the New York Film Fest. With a crackling script by Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs will be poised to take the Oscars by storm, or certainly get invited into the room.
In a statement, the event’s director, Kent Jones, described the film as “extremely sharp,” adding, “It’s wildly entertaining, and the actors just soar — you can feel their joy as they bite into their material.”
The fest kicks off September 25th, after Telluride and Toronto, leaving me to wonder whether Steve Jobs will be headed to Telluride…
The NYFF can have a major Oscar impact and then sometimes it can do more harm than good if the critics turn on the movie. It is then in the hands of the left coast to turn that boat around, as happened with Life of Pi.
Tomorrow, we get our first taste of the Toronto Film Fest lineup. Telluride will not announce until the day before Labor Day weekend, at the end of August. Supposedly if Toronto says “international premiere” that means it could theoretically play at Telluride first.
Jurassic World just passed The Avengers to become the third highest grossing domestic and international hit of all time. When you adjust it for inflation it drops to number 27, which is still impressive, considering. This means not only did millions of people want to see it, but once they saw it they liked it enough to not only see it again but recommend it to millions of their friends. Doesn’t that count for something in the world of naming the “Best Picture of the year”? The answer to that is, no, it doesn’t count for anything beyond the disproportionately tiny visual effects category. Sound, Sound mixing. Art direction on occasion. Titanic and Avatar hold the the number one and number two spots, but what made them Best Picture juggernauts was their serious side, their emotional effectiveness.. Still, it is getting harder and harder to ignore the “new normal” of Hollywood when it comes to the Best Picture race.
Last year was probably the most dramatic disconnect between the films real people saw vs. films the Oscar voters saw and voted on. The only movie the majority of Americans could really talk about was American Sniper because so many had already seen the film by the time the awards rolled around. How do you build a movie like American Sniper? You consider both the audience and the Oscars, meaning it’s a prestige pic made by a studio set for wide release with big name celebrities. Studios put these movies out every year but only some of them are deemed worthy by critics and then by the industry. By no means does the industry take the public into account anymore. The ticket buyers do not influence voters. At the same time, voters are still a consensus, albeit a slightly upscale consensus compared to, say, the People’s Choice Awards. These are ostensibly industry professionals who believe they are choosing the best films they saw in a given season.
As far as blockbusters go, Jurassic World is popular for a reason. Part of its appeal, no doubt, is the spectacle left over from Spielberg’s 1993 Jurassic Park. The same way the new Star Wars movie (and the Star Trek movie before it) is supposed to wipe clean the bad memories of the bad sequels, this Jurassic Park was being billed as a “return to form,” meaning, the same park, with more focus on characters. In this version, the dinos have been genetically altered to be bigger and meaner and scarier. Audiences interpret that as spectacle of the kind they have never seen before.
The other appealing things about Jurassic World include its alluring male lead, Chris Pratt, who has gained a massive following of young girls since Guardians of the Galaxy. Pre-awareness + spectacle + appealing lead would be enough for a major hit. For it rise to the top three there must be something more. That “more” is that it’s a pretty good popcorn movie with an engaging group of creatures you feel for. It also has an eco message that is clearly anti-SeaWorld, anti-animal captivity.
In one way, you can look at Jurassic World and its ilk as the ruiner of all good things, movie-wise. That it is what movies will be in the future, as George Lucas once predicted — tent poles, event movies that play everywhere in the world and make more money than anyone could ever dream of because they stick to the formula: leading male saves the day, massive previously unseen visual effects, humor. It would be easy to call the film sexist but in fact it’s actually worse than that: it’s misogynist in a casual way, meaning none of the women in the film understand anything important, and more than one woman seems to have been invited to serve the sole purpose of gory dino-bait. This is a major leap from the first film where Spielberg not only cast Laura Dern as one of the smartest scientists but he also cast a young female teen/computer whiz to save the day. In the update, the kids are made into two boys. The highly placed executive played by Bryce Dallas Howard is mansplained about the dinosaurs every step of the way. She doesn’t even know the basics of what they are and even worse, the script makes her do the world’s most stupid thing: run from a T-Rex in high heels.
Because my personal commitment to animal welfare supersedes my irritation with the film’s misogyny, I was willing to give Jurassic World a pass and even paid to see the movie twice. This formula works all over the world because misogyny thrives all over the world — in fact, it’s the default position. When you look at the top moneymakers internationally they are all male-driven visual effects movies. In other words, audiences aren’t necessarily looking for feminist heroes or stunt casting. They want the formula. If you give it to them, they will come.
Because of its inherent and obvious sexist ways, Jurassic World doesn’t deserve to be nominated as the best film of the year, although it wouldn’t be the first nor the last Best Picture nominee to be blatantly sexist. Just look at last year. The only difference is that in the prestige pics they make the supporting females a wee bit smarter than Bryce Dallas Howard.
Still, I can’t be the only one who is looking at the long game here, where it’s all headed and what might eventually be the answer. The Academy is going to have to find a way to answer to the changing landscape of film. Either they will need a separate category for effects-driven films or else they will need a separate tech category to honor the evolving visuals. A publicist friend suggested there being two categories — one for visual effects and one for special effects. I’m no expert but I would think anything to expand where they are now would be a step in the right direction for them.
Why do I think the Oscars need to evolve? They will be closing in on their 100th birthday in a decade and a half. In the year 2025 what will movies look like? What will the “Oscar movies” look like? Will they be strictly independents? Will they be films made in other countries where they value their artists over profits? Will the studios continue to care about winning Oscars — so much so that they lay those select eggs every year?
I don’t have the answer and to tell you the truth, I probably won’t be writing about the Oscars then. It does seem, however, like the film industry — at least the American film industry =– is only moving in one direction. Perhaps things will shift back as the millennials age a bit. Either way, if Jurassic World beats Titanic to become number 2, what then? Can it beat Avatar? Will any movie ever beat Avatar and if so, would it be deserving of being named Best Picture of the Year? We’ll have to wait and see.