Oscar Watch



The first major Oscar contender to emerge this year is probably Brooklyn, at least so far. Well, it will certainly put the Oscar voters to the test as this one is actually about — brace yourselves — a woman. Yes, a whole woman, not a woman as she relates to the primary character. This past season Fox Searchlight emerged as the Oscar champ with Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel. They will be a force to be reckoned with with Brooklyn, heading to theaters November 5, 2015.

Directed by: John Crowley

Screenplay by: Nick Hornby
Based on the novel by: Colm Tóibín
Produced by: Finola Dwyer, Amanda Posey
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, with Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters

BROOKLYN tells the profoundly moving story of Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), a young Irish immigrant navigating her way through 1950s Brooklyn. Lured by the promise of America, Eilis departs Ireland and the comfort of her mother’s home for the shores of New York City. The initial shackles of homesickness quickly diminish as a fresh romance sweeps Eilis into the intoxicating charm of love. But soon, her new vivacity is disrupted by her past, and Eilis must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.

BROOKLYN opens in select theaters on FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2015



Each year, as other representations of our melting pot try to rise in the ranks of Hollywood, there is the weight of the status quo to contend with. Magazines need to sell because by now they are all fighting for their lives. They go with the sure bet most of the time. They want to be the defining statement of the Oscar race, the glamour, the “Hollywood issue.” Last year’s cover, like last year’s Oscars, was mostly diverse. Oscar did not honor Idris Elba or anyone involved in Fruitvale Station but at least the publicists were on top of it anticipating those Oscar nominations.


The same way that Oscar snapped right back to business as usual, Vanity Fair did follow with this cover:


When I look at that cover I see the hard work of Oscar strategists: Sony, Fox Searchlight and Weinstein Co. get the cover, then Focus, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Sony Pictures Classics. They represent the earlier part of the race because this stuff has to be planned way in advance, hence only one out of the three on the cover nominated, and only four out of ten nominated overall. They hoped to be nominated and they each star in films that are represented in some way in the race. I guess they are supposed to sell well and that’s why they’re on the cover.

This is how the United States breaks down in terms of demographics:

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For Vanity Fair it is supposedly a bottom line issue. Capitalist driven culture chases the dollar – it has to. They use this excuse selectively — look at how popular the Superbowl was. Did you see all white faces throwing the football around? The Grammys always have high ratings. Do those faces look at white to you? The gossip sites are richly slathered with the Kardashians 24/7, Beyonce, Kanye – a variety of different kinds of stars draw major traffic based not on that one rigid standard but on a freer one. The truth is that this power dynamic is really only excluded to the so-called “Hollywood glamour” and how that continues to be defined, after eight decades of Oscar setting the bar for what defines that glamour.


As we head into another Oscar season you’ll see an array of representations of male characters of all ages and walks of life. Old, young, fat, thin, handsome, unattractive – you name it, they never run out of stories to be told about them. Women, such is not the case. Women have the choice of being the Bond girl, the superhero love interest, the regular love interest who helps male character achieve goal, the manic pixie dreamgirl, the young action star, etc. It’s even worse when you factor in race – Lupita Nyong’o, the hottest thing going last year, doesn’t seem to have any kind of industry that is prepared for her. Not yet, anyway. There isn’t a single black or Asian actress on my radar for a lead actress nod this year. Not so far anyway. With so much money at stake, the risk level drops significantly.

There are several major roles on the horizon to watch out for as we make our way away from roles that can be readily dismissed for Oscar consideration as being not meaty enough, not big enough, not outstanding enough to get a nod. Very young actresses who act in serious films have a hard time getting taken seriously by the voting Academy, or the Screen Actors Guild – there are exceptions, of course, but generally speaking an actress will have to earn her stripes to get taken seriously enough when the film itself is aimed at young adults.

Still, there are performances that are already being talked about for Oscar, or their place is being held in line in case the role achieves everything we all hope. This is how, in this very early stage, it’s shaping up.

*Performances I’ve already seen.

Early Predictions for the Best Actress Five:
Julianne Moore, Maps to the Stars*
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Amy Adams, Big Eyes
Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year
Hilary Swank, The Homesman*
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Kristen Stewart told the Wall Street Journal, “The reason this movie was made was not to make a statement about how superficial media can be, but it was a lot of fun for me to be the one to say it. Obviously, I’ve had more experience with the media, so it makes it funnier.” It’s great to hear her speak on the topic and mostly that she’s come out the other side with a healthy perspective.

Meanwhile, Stewart received rave reviews for her performance out of Cannes, along with Juliette Binoche and Chloe Moretz.

Indiewire’s Eric Kohn: “Maria heads to the sweeping getaway of the Swiss alps with her trusty assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart) to rehearse the part. Buried in glasses and tattoos, Stewart fully inhabits her role as a credible young woman riddled with self-doubt that nicely complements the fears of aging that plague her employer.”

Hitfix’s Guy Lodge: “Delivering the film’s most touching, textured performance, Stewart plays her gradual self-assertion beautifully, her signature underplaying building in light and shade, her sullen body language opening up as her co-star’s turns appropriately tight and uncertain. There’s a rueful twinkle, too, to her delivery as Valentine muses on the relentless pettiness of contemporary celebrity journalism. La Binoche isn’t the only actress whose own career is under the magnifying glass here.”

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, “The relationship here is quite beautifully drawn, with Stewart again demonstrating what a terrific performer she can be away from the shadow of Twilight. She’s sharp and limber; she’s a match for Binoche. Sitting down for dinner, in one telling scene, Val dismisses her boss as a snob and claims that blockbuster fantasies can be just as valid, in their way, as social-realist dramas set in factories or on farms. Maria arches a delicate eyebrow. Yet again, she’s unconvinced.”


Here comes Lucy. Source: Screenrant


Melanie Laurent has brought her film Respire here to Cannes. The Playlist’s Jessica Kiang calls this one of her most pleasant experiences at so far while simultaneously giving the film a B+ grade – really? B+ is like what, a pat on the back for a good effort. Couldn’t just fork over that extra half point to give it an A-? or, god forbid, an A? She writes:

There is a significant danger in premiering a female-led French-language adolescence tale with a lesbian slant on the Croisette the year after “Blue is the Warmest Color” won the Palme(s) in such memorable style. But it’s a danger that Melanie Laurent’s “Respire,” one of our pleasantest Cannes surprises so far, largely avoids, by establishing itself as a very different animal from the outset, if no less heartfelt and sincerely delivered, concerning itself less with evoking the joys and miseries of first love than with outlining the potentially disastrous effects of a love gone sour, curdled into a helpless kind of obsessiveness.

Providing an excellent showcase for the talents of her young, indecently photogenic cast, especially the two principal ingenues it also confirms the talent of Laurent (not so long an ex-ingenue herself) behind the camera, as she makes good on the promise of her already solid debut “The Adopted.” In fact, right up until the film’s very closing moments, in which the carefully maintained tension and tone snaps under the ratchet of one melodramatic turn too many, it is not just an absorbing performance piece, but a film of real directorial confidence and flair.


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Angelina wrote the script she and Brad will be starring in together.


In case you’ve been wondering why it’s so difficult to get movies about women made you don’t have to look any further than 2014’s 67th Cannes Film Festival. Under the jury president, Jane Campion, the best films so far in main competition here have revolved around female characters – complex, imperfect, beautifully drawn these leading roles offer up a counter to the majority of films that get paid attention to here in the US, on the festival and awards circuit leading up to the Oscars. We have already done our research and have established that the following conditions apply where film criticism is concerned now.

The majority of film critics are male, by an astonishing margin. This includes old school critics, for the most part, as many of the female voices have been fired, like Lisa Schwarzbaum from Entertainment Weekly who used to be one of the strongest voices in film criticism.
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While Oscar season is a long way off, and the long march to the end of the year often discards films whose buzz can’t be sustained, a good movie is a good movie is a good movie. But we don’t always measure Oscar contenders that way. We measure them, usually, by who made them, how important they are in the business, what their career arc is. For instance, Julianne Moore in Maps to the Stars might ordinarily be dismissed for playing too controversial of “difficult” a character. But given that Moore is so long overdue for an Oscar, given her place in the industry, it’s a good bet that she’s potentially in line for a lead nod.
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“That’s why they call it the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it.” ― George Carlin

When John Steinbeck wryly observed that most Americans disdained socialism as if they were “temporarily embarrassed millionaires” whose ship had yet to come in, he had no idea just how many millions of hard working self-made millionaires the country would someday spawn — how many would actually attain that American dream. In a strange reversal, much of American disdain is now aimed at millionaires, specifically toward those who believe this world is designed for them, those who believe they have a right to take whatever they want whenever they want it. In 2014 you don’t have to look very far to find these men – they are everywhere. Our government props them up, bends over backwards to cater to them, and the rest of us are left to fend for ourselves.

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While it’s true that Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel is also an early contender for film awards, Mike Leigh’s lavish epic about Britain’s greatest painter is very likely a film to keep an eye on for end of the year voting — if it can last that long. Though it’s hardly a crowd-pleaser in any respect — if you put Argo on one side of the world you could put Mr. Turner on the other — there was a time when Academy members cared more about high achievements in filmmaking and to that end, Mr. Turner has it in spades. But it’s early. It’s only Cannes and there is a lot more on the horizon.

At the very least, we’re looking at solid nods for Dick Pope’s exquisite cinematography, the production design and costumes. At the very least, Timothy Spall as a major contender for Best Actor. I would add Picture, Director and Screenplay (5 of 7 of Mike Leigh’s previous Oscar nods have been for his screenplays) but it’s simply too early to get my hopes up that this strange old-school masterpiece can dazzle our ADD awards voting community.

The Cannes Film Fest will also showcase Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher as a top shelf contender.

Two of my favorite people in the whole world shoot the shit about Oscar season. Tom O’Neil runs Gold Derby and Mark Harris writes the Oscar column for Grantland.com, among other things.



This year’s Oscar race is not different from most in the last twenty years. Best Picture is driven by two major factors: Director and Actor. The strong leading man has driven the Best Picture winner for the past seven years. You have to go back to Million Dollar Baby, or I suppose, Crash to find a year when the Best Picture winner wasn’t anchored by a strong leading male, whether or not that actor was nominated or not. The male narrative is key these days, with the giant consensus votes ruling the Best Picture race.

So much has changed since Oscar pushed its date back one month. You would have had to be blogging the Oscars 24/7 for 15 years to notice this. You would have to be able to remember what it was like before. Back when Million Dollar Baby won, the date shift was just starting to take effect. Since then, two things have happened beyond a shadow of a doubt — films released late in the year do not win and all of the films that do win are dominated by the male narrative.

This could just be coincidence, of course. Maybe the only movies worth rewarding are driven by a strong male lead. And maybe we will see a late-breaking film win this year, thus breaking the pattern that has been set since Million Dollar Baby. Either way, this is the way the Oscars have been going for a while now.
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Argo — Telluride, early September, 2012
The Artist — Cannes, May, 2011
The King’s Speech — Toronto, September, 2010
The Hurt Locker — the previous year, Toronto Film Fest
Slumdog Millionaire — Telluride, Toronto, September 2008
No Country for Old Men — Cannes, May, 2007
The Departed — October, 2006
Crash — May, 2005
Million Dollar Baby, December, 2004

Million Dollar Baby was the last film arriving in late release to take the Best Picture Oscar. Back then, though, there wasn’t the same kind of industry monolith that there is today. There was still some disagreement between the major voting bodies. That would continue on through to 2006, when Little Miss Sunshine and The Departed split the vote among guild voters, though The Departed won the DGA and eventually Best Picture. But since Slumdog Millionaire, there has been mostly monolithic voting starting with the PGA, then onto the DGA, sometimes the SAG ensemble, and Oscar.

Now you can mostly set your watch by what the PGA decides is Best Picture and, for the most part, barring some great catastrophe, the Oscar race is over. I have no idea whether this will ever change or not. Will it change this year? Next? In ten years? Or should we be resigned to the idea that the Academy no longer stands as the singular voice for the Hollywood film industry’s awards?

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Benedict Cumberbatch seems to be enjoying the perfect storm of projects right now.  His work in Sherlock is probably his best to date, though he was equally compelling (read: hot) in Parade’s End, where he played the husband mistreated by Rebecca Hall.  Reviews of both coming soon in our new TV section.  Meanwhile, Cumberbatch has these projects in the can, in addition to the highly anticipated 3rd season of Sherlock:

August: Osage County
The Hobbit 2&3
Twelve Years a Slave

He’ll also play the lead in Bill Condon’s The Fifth Estate about Julian Assange.

Finally, he’s just been cast alongside Emma Stone and Jessica Chastain in Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak.  Keep an eye on Mr. Cumberbatch.

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Twitter was a-flutter with reactions from a test screening of the Meryl Streep/Julia Roberts film August: Osage County.  I never trust test screenings where Oscar is concerned because they are almost always wrong. Moreover, they can sometimes set expectations too high for a film to then meet those expectations.  I hate it when that happens.  But you can’t put the genie back in the bottle once it’s out and so August: Osage County is not quite getting the Les Mis treatment yet but it might be headed in that direction. Remember: you need critics to see a movie to know if it’s going to be a Best Picture contender at the very least. Over the years test screening reactions have almost always turned out to be misleading.

Here’s what we know before we ever even go read those: Streep brings it. She brings it in bad movies (The Iron Lady) and brings it in great movies (Adaptation) — so there isn’t likely going to be anything disappointing about Streep in this film.  Therefore, it isn’t that surprising that the early word from the screening is a sploogegasm on the order of MERYL STREEP WILL WIN HER FOURTH OSCAR. And she very well might.  Since Hollywood, and the industry, really really really doesn’t like movies with strong female leads in them, and that there are barely enough of them to go around at all, it seems plausible that Streep’s tour de force could blow out any potential competition.

But enough of my empty, pointless speculation — on to the tweets.  A reader named Daniel sent this in (I hope he doesn’t mind if I post it):



You can read some twitter reactions over at the Awards Circuit.  A reaction review after the cut.    Continue reading…

Jane Got A Gun was set to begin production Monday in Sante Fe, but cast and crew found out yesterday morning that Director Lynn Ramsay would no longer be directing. The $25 million western, written by Brian Duffield and said to be one of the best Black List scripts of 2011, involves an outlaw who has managed to make it back to his home in spite of being ventilated with eight bullet holes. His wife must then turn to an ex-lover to help defend them against the gang tracking the wounded man back to their farm to finish him off. The stellar cast includes Natalie Portman, Scott Steindorff, Joel Edgerton and Rodrigo Santoro. Jude Law replaced Michael Fassbender as the husband on March 11 — an eleventh-hour shakeup that now looks like a earlier sign of deeper problems.

No details about the precise nature of the creative conflict have emerged, but naturally the default mode on male-dominated comment pages I’ve seen is to find a way to finger the female ego as the unstable element at fault. Whatever the actual problems may be, the worst idle chatter today revolves around Lynne Ramsay being a woman and reckless speculation about how this mess might damage or wreck her career. Silliest overreaction of all are the baseless extrapolations that this incident could taint the perception of professionalism of women directors in general. The only reason I’m even repeating that load of crap is so when I call it a load of crap and you’ll know what I’m talking about. There’s no word yet about how Michael Fassbender’s abrupt departure from the film last week reflects badly on every male actor. We can only hope it won’t make producers skittish about hiring men to star in movies from now on.

UPDATE: Gavin O’Connor has signed on to direct. His credits include Pride and Glory, Tumbleweeds and Warrior — one of the most undervalued movies of 2011.


(AceShowbiz) Warner Bros. Pictures is reported reaching out to recent Oscars’ Best Director winner Ang Lee to direct a biblical epic based on the Moses story called “Gods and Kings”. The studio immediately sets eyes on the 58-year-old filmmaker after failing to seal a deal with Steven Spielberg.

Lee is said “intrigued” by the offer, but has not been invited to have formal meetings with the studio yet. If he accepts to direct the “Braveheart”-ish version of the Moses story, it will be another new genre for Lee, who is well-known as a genre-hopping filmmaker.

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Working from a script by Lem Dobbs, Robert Redford directs and stars in The Company You Keep as Jim Grant, a former member of the Weather Underground who has been hiding out under an assumed identity ever since members of the group participated in a bank heist that ended in a guard’s death. When a young reporter figures out the truth, Grant must stay one step ahead of the FBI, who want to bring charges against him for the decades-old murder. (Fandango)

Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby has been announced as this year’s opening night gala in Cannes, but unless Warner Bros. delays the US premiere Gatsby’s spotlight won’t be a world premiere.

(LATimes) The Cannes opening slot has been an extremely fertile platform the last two years, propelling 2011 opener “Midnight In Paris” and 2012 debut “Moonrise Kingdom” to breakout success. But “Gatsby” could face a wrinkle: at the moment it appears to be dated for a May 15 French release but a May 10 Stateside release, which would mean much of the press about it in the U.S. will have already hit by the time the film rolls up on the Riviera. Poor reviews could especially put a damper on things.

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