Oscar Watch

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Freshly posted at Oh No They Didn’t. ¬†They also provide an IMDb summary:

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One of the best things about winning an Oscar is the new-found strategic power a filmmaker has at his disposal when he’s shooting from the hilltop. From that high ground stronghold, Danny Boyle took his certified prestige to leverage an unlikely project that might never have been green-lit without the fortified clout the Academy can confer.

The advantage we got with the [Slumdog Millionaire] success we had was that you had an opportunity to do something with it, and I’ve wanted to make this film since 2005…I didn’t want to do it like Touching the Void, because that was so wonderful and I didn’t want to do it like a documentary. I said I wanted to do it where you are part of the experience, and where the audience is trapped with [Aron Ralston] for the whole 127…Without that [Slumdog] success, we wouldn’t have gotten to make it. Because what you saw in the teaser trailer is the good bit, the fun bit – and after that he’s stuck there.

Boyle framed the wordless conflict by regarding the boulder as a stone-cold Evil Wilson:

The bit after you saw him getting trapped in the trailer has him trying, for hours, to get out. Now we’d fixed it so he couldn’t move the rock; but by God he tried! He tried to rip that set apart. So we had two cameramen every day, because we didn’t have a villain – except for the rock, but it’s inanimate – but we’ll have two cameramen and change them so it gives him something different to do.

Here’s a clip of Boyle at Movie Con in London. Credit to slashfilm for finding this item from Empire.

After the cut, Boyle explains the cinematic handicap that attracted him to the story, and how camcorder culture inspired his approach:

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Update: turns out that Mr. Wells did not base his prediction on the trailer, as described below (and than god for that, right?) but a reaction from a “trusted research screening informant.”

We alll get loopy on the subject of Oscar potential. ¬†Trust me, I know this to be true. ¬†I am ashamed at the amount of time I’ve spent watching Oscar and watching those who watch, drive and turn out Oscars. ¬†But I always think hard when people shoot their wad way early. ¬†I watch because it’s going to go a few different ways.

The first is what the person doing the shooting hopes for, that their own prediction will either come true, or that it will be ground zero for the first wave of buzz. ¬†This I call the God Complex of Oscar blogging. ¬†Not a pretty picture, but occasionally on target. ¬†It could also kill the chances of the potential contender by putting expectations so high they almost always fall short, and you get the old “I shaved my legs for this?” response. ¬†Finally, the third thing is that they have no impact whatsoever but when the prediction turns out to be true the blogger gets supreme bragging rights. ¬†Yes, this is the greasy little game we all play.

At any rate, here is Jeff Wells on Anne Hathaway based on the trailer for Love and Other Drugs:

Prediction:¬†Anne Hathaway is a guaranteed lock for a Best Actress nomination. Honestly? I’m 60% convinced she’s going to win.

I thought he was kidding until I drilled down into the comments and he says, “My nose knows. I can smell it. The film may be this or that, but Hathaway is on it. You’re all a bunch of haters for hate’s sake.”

The hate he speaks of is usually the blowback from the slightly premature adulation.  Meanwhile, Vulture takes the opposite position:

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We did the ladies, now it’s time to focus on the men. With Get Low opening today with decent enough reviews — we have to look at the Best Actor race, and whether a vet like Robert Duvall, who gives a well reviewed performance, can make it for the long haul.

Unlike the Best Actress race, the Best Actor race is still buried in the haze of expectations and unknowns. We wait for so many answers, like Jeff Bridges in True Grit? Brad Pitt in Tree of Life? We just don’t know. Javier Bardem‘s astonishing work in the very depressing Biutiful? Sean Penn again for Fair Game? George Clooney for The American?

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Women and Hollywood’s Melissa Silverstein wonders if this Gwyneth Paltrow role will bring her a second Oscar. Listen to the single Paltrow released:

This bit of news and info from CMT.com:

In May, Paltrow told MTV News, “I had to learn how to play guitar, and I took singing lessons. It was a real challenge, but I felt like I pretty much pulled it off.” She also said that her character is “in various stages of undress” because of her struggles with a drug and alcohol problem. In other reports, she said she asked her husband, Chris Martin of Coldplay, to help her master the guitar.

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Russell Brand is currently filming the remake of Arthur with Jennifer Garner. ¬†Dudley Moore was nominated, deservedly so, for his performance as the drunken millionaire back in 1981, starring alongside Liza Minnelli and Sir John Gielgud, who won for his performance as Arthur’s wise and cantankerous butler. ¬†I have my doubts about Brand but am willing to have an open mind. ¬†Helen Mirren and Nick Nolte also star. ¬†What do you think?

[poll id=”43″]

Another pic after the cut.

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Vulture points us to this brand new trailer of the John Madden film, “In 1965, three young Israeli Mossad agents on a secret mission capture and kill a notorious Nazi war criminal. Now, thirty years later, a man claiming to be the Nazi has surfaced in Ukraine and one of the former agents must go back undercover to seek out the truth.”

Two things. ¬†The first, I shamelessly stole this off of Scott Feinberg’s latest projections on his newly launched scottfeinberg.com for Oscar (which I find silly since most of these movies haven’t been seen so what’s the point, really? I like the site, though, cool layout) which has Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours as a possible for Oscar’s Big Ten. ¬†Feinberg’s biggest mistake? ¬†Not including Toy Story 3, one of the only sure bets so far this year, in the Big Ten. ¬†I mean, jerk off all you want but you never count out something like this (cough cough, like I did with Up last year, cough cough).

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Welcome to the Rileys features three really great performances, so says the buzz coming out of Sundance. Kristen Stewart is supposed to be particularly good as the 16 year-old stripper.

This MTV review says Stewart is “utterly fearless in “Welcome to the Rileys.” That’s the takeaway from the film’s world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday afternoon. You can quibble all you want with her portrayal of a 16-year-old runaway turned stripper and prostitute. But you cannot walk away from a viewing and say the actress doesn’t fearlessly expose herself physically and emotionally, and doesn’t do so with astonishing maturity and believability.”

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I don’t know how long it’s going to take for the film criticism community, and/or the Oscar voters or SAG to realize just what a great actor Leonardo DiCaprio really is. ¬†I feel safe in saying that 2010 will be one of his best years, with two stellar performances in the can. ¬†While watching Shutter Island (and another I can’t talk about) I was thinking that DiCaprio is not unlike the actors Alfred Hitchcock preferred working with. ¬†I put this question out to folks on Twitter and Facebook to see if they agreed. ¬†The consensus seemed to be that there were two Hitchcock male archetypes floating around out there: Leonardo DiCaprio and George Clooney. ¬†It’s hard to argue with either of those.

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All These Wonderful Things’ AJ Schnack makes a pretty good case that it is very likely that the five Oscar docs are already “out there.” ¬†Says Schnack:

In the past five years, only one film – last year’s¬†THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA: DANIEL ELLSBERG AND THE PENTAGON PAPERS – wasn’t screened by this point in the year and went on to be nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar.

So, chances are,¬†we’ve already seen this year’s five nominees.

He then tosses out a few titles most likely, The Oath, Enemies of the People, Last Train Home, A Film Unfinished, Gasland (but is it eligible?), Inside Job, The Tillman Story.  But then counters those titles with the more high profile ones that rarely break through, Oceans, Babies, Exit Through the Gift Shop and Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.

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NY Post’s Lou Lumenik writes the following, vis-a-vis Seabiscuit and Secretariat:

In my¬†morning-line piece on next year’s Oscars published in March, I named “Secretariat” as a long-shot pick, reasoning that Disney’s Oct. 8 release could very well follow in the hooves of “Seabiscuit” (2003), which nobody thought had a prayer of being nominated for Best Picture. And that Tony Angelotti-engineered coup was in a field of just five pictures!

It wouldn’t hurt, though, if Disney’s came up with a less generic-looking poster for this fact-based story about the 1973¬†Triple Crown Winner, whose triumph gave a big boost to thoroughbred racing. The intriguing duo of¬†Diane Lane andJohn Malkovich play owner Penny Chenery and trainer Lucien Lauren. Director Randall Wallace has an Oscar pedigree — he was Oscar-nominated for writing “Bravehart” — but it remains to be seen if “Secretariat” will be¬†entered at the unofficial starting line for the movie awards season, the¬†Toronto International Film Festival. The release date suggests that’s a possibility.

The thing is, those of us paying extra, nose-up-against-the-glass attention to the Oscar race that year absolutely did not underestimate Seabiscuit. Really and truly. ¬†Secondly, after last year’s The Blind Side blindsiding everyone, no film should be considered too low-brow, too mainstream, or too poorly reviewed – not that The Blind Side was any of those things. ¬†Secretariat should be considered a contender along with every other film. ¬†So I guess I don’t get the whole “long shot” thing. ¬†And the subsequent “I told you so” that will follow should the film get nominated.

Oh and yeah, John Malkovich alert.

Dangerous Liaisons – starring three overdue actors, directed by one overdue director.

Winning an Oscar is usually a combination of factors at play. ¬†It doesn’t have to do with the specific performance so much as it has to do with timing – not just individual timing, but the timing of the our collective. ¬†I say “our,” but throughout Oscar history, and even today, the Oscars have been driven by the choices of men, mostly white American heterosexual men. ¬†This, it should be emphasized, is changing. ¬†The British contingent in the Academy is bigger than it ever has been – and there are many more women voters now than there ever have been. ¬†I can’t prove this, as the AMPAS doesn’t release its membership info, but it would be a logical assumption based on how the face of Hollywood itself, and the Academy winners, have changed over the last ten years.

I wanted to create a list of actors, not separated into male and female categories, but to make it slightly more difficult than that. ¬†It would be so much easier to separate them, and perhaps at some point, I might do that. ¬†I’m interested more in the dynamic of male and female power in Hollywood. As mainstream Hollywood makes its money on the tastes of youngish boys, so does the casting choices of female leads become affected by those tastes. ¬†If you watch mainstream Hollywood films in the ’80s, you will find actresses who align more closely to an adult male’s tastes, rather than, say, a 13 year-old boy’s. ¬†And as we get closer and closer to the 2000s, the women get sexier and younger, even on the indie circuit. ¬†This is my own assumptions about the time in which we live. ¬†There are always exceptions.

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I didn’t find out about this petition until a few days ago, but Steve Pond at The Wrap covered it. ¬†They have a Facebook group, which reads:

To: The Organisers of the Cannes Film Festival

As people who care about and are interested in films we must protest
the lack of female directors in competition for the 2010 Cannes Film
Festival. Women make up over half of cinema audiences and we
demand a fairer representation of female directors in the main
competition.

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Let’s get down to it, shall we?

There wasn’t a No Country for Old Men at Cannes this year, at least not as far as I could tell. For one thing, the best films there weren’t in the English language, except for Mike Leigh’s Another Year, a surefire Best Pic/Best Director/Best Screenplay/Best Actress nominee if I’ve ever seen one. Can the Best Picture ten widen to include really great foreign films? Can the Academy read subtitles?

Unfortunately, having ten Best Picture nominees didn’t necessarily mean they went more artistic. To brain dead Americans, the idea was to allow some of the favorites of the masses to be let in, thus removing the stigma of the Academy Awards “rewarding films no one saw.”

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Three of last year’s nominees for Best Cinematography came from movies released during the summer months. The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Four, if you count the Cannes premiere of The White Ribbon. Since 2009 was the first case in recent memory when the awards season was front-loaded so early with such superb camerawork, it can’t be called a trend. But yesterday’s beautiful new teaser for The American, shot by Martin Ruhe, has me thinking about the prospects for this year’s summer cinematographers. (I’m forcing The American into my premise even though it’s set for a September 1 release — because Labor Day isn’t until September 6.) Seven cinematographers whose work I’m looking forward to seeing over the next few months:

  • John Mathieson — Robin Hood (May 14) — Two-time Oscar nominee (Gladiator, The Phantom of the Opera) Mathieson also shot Brighton Rock, another prestige project due out later this year. (pedigree: Graham Greene, dir. Rowan Joffe, Helen Mirren, John Hurt, Sam Riley)
  • John Seale — Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (May 28) — One reason I’m interested in seeing PoP:SoT is the for the subdued beauty 4-time Oscar nominee Seale brings to all his movies (Witness, The Talented Mr Ripley, Cold Mountain, The English Patient, The Perfect Storm, Rain Man). Did I say ‘one reason I’m interested’? Make that the only reason.
  • Javier Aguirresarobe — Twilight: Eclipse (June 30) — Shut up. Say what you will about the Twilight Saga, but Summit can afford to splurge on top-notch film artists to put a glossy sheen over any shortcomings. Aguirresarobe’s work on The Road was one of about 6 Oscar nominations that magnificent movie deserved.
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Stitchkingdom has posted some first looks pics of Diane Lane and John Malkovich in Secretariat.

Malkovich is one of the most overdue actors for an Oscar that I can think of. I’ve come to appreciate his versatility more and more after re-watching a few of his best roles, including In the Line of Fire, Burn After Reading, and Dangerous Liaisons. The right role at the right time and he will win. Secretariat probably isn’t that role.

Click images for larger version.


First image from Betty Anne Waters, a movie that seems to have Oscar written all over it. From Collider.

Ryan’s picks first:


Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan in Never Let Me Go

This far out from peak season, it’s easy to overlook titles blipping distantly on the OscaRadar¬Æ. I’ll fill in a few missing titles from the list posted earlier today. Oscar prospects unknown, but projects that have piqued my interest.

Black Swan – Directed by Darren Aronofsky. With Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder. Cinematography, Matthew Libatique (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain). “A thriller that deconstructs the relationship between a veteran ballet dancer and her rival.” (Fox Searchlight)

What’s Wrong with Virginia ‚Äì Written and Directed by Dustin Lance Black. With Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, Emma Roberts, Harrison Gilbertson, Amy Madigan. Cinematography, Eric Alan Edwards (My Own Private Idaho) ‚ÄúA sheriff sees his state senate bid slide out onto the ice when his daughter begins to date the son of a charming but psychologically disturbed woman with whom the sheriff has engaged in a two-decades-long affair.‚Äù

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As I was glancing over the films that are slated for this year, it occurs to me that, despite our complaining about it, the ten nominees thing DOES make room to honor films that don’t fit the “Oscar movie” template. When you have movies like The Blind Side, District 9 and A Serious Man sharing the slate with Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Up in the Air, etc. you have wide open possibilities. That means, as I look over the list, one can start Oscar-watching fairly reliably earlier and throughout the year.

The other thing I learned this year is that you can’t trust just one group in terms of sussing out a film with Oscar potential. Bad reviews don’t necessarily derail a film’s chances, as we saw with The Blind Side, and mediocre reviews didn’t much hurt Inglourious Basterds in terms of the awards race. It always helps to have great reviews, but it’s possible that a film can be rescued provided it has the right stuff – in other words, audiences eat it up.

Here’s to keeping an open mind heading into Oscars 2010.

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