BEST ACTRESS

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The news about Passengers coming out of CinemaCon made it sound like a comedy, maybe not aimed squarely at the Oscars. But some further digging indicates that it’s not a comedy comedy, and it’s very likely headed straight for the Best Picture race. It’s being released December 21st of this year, but will likely start screening sooner. Will it hit any of the major festivals first?

The Oscar race is making the jump slowly but surely to be more inclusive of “genre films,” but specifically Sci-Fi. Inception, District 9, Gravity, Mad Max: Fury Road and The Martian are all recent Best Picture nominees, Ex Machina likely almost was. Thus, it isn’t even a strange thing to think about a nomination for Passengers, which tells the story of a group of colonists en route to a new world, two of whom wake up about 90 years too soon. Apparently, it’s a love story, but it’s also likely about the future of humanity.

The one constant in the science community, across almost all disciplines, is the fundamental idea that if we stay on this planet, eventually mankind will die off (best thing for all the other life on the planet, really). Thus, the next question is how and where can the human race survive. Can we get to any of those Earth-like planets so far away that they would require two hundred years of space travel to reach? That is the premise of Passengers.
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The new trailer for Girl on a Train is great, meeting all expectations for fans of the novel, at least so far. If you’ve not yet read it, I strongly recommend the audiobook version with three different actresses playing the three different women. They are all so good and the book reads like radio theater.

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The original film, The Beguiled, starred Clint Eastwood as a wounded confederate soldier during the Civil War who was taken in at a girls boarding school before worming his way into their hearts, reports Variety. One of the most interesting female auteurs working today, Coppola has worked, almost exclusively, within the realm of the female mind. Her most male-oriented film, Lost in Translation (which isn’t even, really) is the only one so far that has gotten any Oscar attention, earning her a screenplay win and one of the rare Best Director slots (4 in total in 88 years), along with Best Picture and Best Actor.

Coppola’s The Bling Ring was, I thought, unfairly maligned and disregarded when it shouldn’t have been. It was and remains one of the most starkly truthful looks at modern girl culture, specifically in the realm of the Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian legacies. Somewhere is a beautiful rendering of a distant relationship between a father, who is trying his best to connect with his daughter, and a daughter trying her best to connect with her father. Marie Antoinette is a crazy masterpiece that would – let’s face it, people – have far more respect had it been directed by a man. And yeah, Lost in Translation remains one of the best films ever made.

To say we’re very excited about The Beguiled would be an understatement. Coppola is a surprising and unpredictable filmmaker who never delivers the same film twice. I’m sure this latest of hers will be no exception.

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It’s interesting to be on the selling side of the awards race because you can tell which studio is really in it to win and which ones are either confident, nervous, or resigned. In some ways, it seems that many in Hollywood feel this race is all but locked up and thus, expect no surprises. And indeed, it could be. Will the SAG Awards tell us anything different from what we thought we knew before? Are any of the acting races still open? Are there any performances ripe for an upset? Can we expect some surprises?
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At last, the glamour categories. A lot of tricky maneuverings happening here as our voters cast ballots to decide which performances are Lead and which are Supporting. Mathematics brings down the gavel to make the final judgement. Dr Rob will be here to explain how it all happened – and how it may play out tomorrow morning when the real Oscar ballot results are revealed. How do actual Oscar voters differ from you and me? To quote Fitzgerald and Hemingway:

F. Scott: “The rich are different from you and me.”
Ernest: “Yes, they have more money.”

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Brie Larson has already collected more than major ten awards this season for her universally acclaimed performance in Room.  Almost every Oscar expert has Larson down to win the Oscar for Best Actress. Director Lenny Abrahamson says, “She’s lovely. She’s funny, warm, beautiful and a little boy is going to love her.” That’s just what you take away when you see Larson in Room, how much she loves co-star and on-screen son, Jacob Tremblay.

I caught up with Larson the day before the AFI Awards to talk about how she brought Ma to life, and how she physically trained for the role.
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Though it was greeted with open arms by critics and even grew into a decently wide theatrical release, Grandma has been curiously absent from most of the awards conversation this season in favor of movies with more politically neutral storylines, bigger budgets, less academic themes, younger stars, and male characters. Even in a year where the many popular female stars in Hollywood, like Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Schumer, are unambiguously discussing women’s issues in relation to their professional work, Grandma has remained a hidden gem, not exploited as an awards contender, and really, it’s a film that should be swimming in nominations. Grandma one of the most important, enjoyable, and intelligent films of 2015.

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The last time a movie about two women in love took the critics by storm it was Blue is the Warmest Color, a film that was so good it didn’t even need its graphic sex scenes to generate interest. In fact, those scenes risked cheapening a great film – not because sexuality is cheap, or that it should be hidden from view, or that its inclusion verged on sensationalism – but because the depiction lacked authenticity. To many other of us it seemed the director shot those scenes as a reflection his male point of view, and that intrusion ultimately diminished the two breathtaking performances of its two leads — a opinion shared by an overwhelming number of lesbian moviegoers. Todd Haynes would never let the love story of Carol and Therese be upstaged by graphic sex. Instead he has toyed with the expectations of audiences by doing the opposite: daring to tell a gay love story that finds more sensitive ways to express the breathtaking complexities of sexuality than to reduce it to the breathless act of sex itself. Imagine that.
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After Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, David O. Russell continues his productive cinematic partnership with Jennifer Lawrence in Joy, and their latest collaboration strays from convention and expectation. Russell’s take on the life of Joy Mangano is one of the most bizarre and unique films targeted at mainstream audiences this year. It is possibly these qualities that have resulted in the picture’s mixed reception, and while some of the criticism could be interpreted as valid, it can be argued that Joy is a misunderstood, undervalued, and overlooked entity.

Unlike Russell’s other recent films, Joy doesn’t follow a familiar formula (though some have pointed our Russell’s homages Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore). Silver Linings Playbook had the romantic comedy blueprint to follow and American Hustle was guided by a Scorsese gangster flick roadmap. Those films never were simply a romantic comedy or a Scorsese rip-off, because they were saturated in Russell’s own personality and vision. But Joy stands separate from his other his work because of the lack of model to shadow; Russell is able to let his creative imagination run even more wildly through the pages of the screenplay and the lens of the camera than he did in his previous two films.

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This year’s Best Actress race is a peculiar one. The year started out with the pipe-dream expectation that Jennifer Lawrence might win her second lead actress Oscar for Joy, David O. Russell’s first film featuring a woman at the center. Well, be careful what you wish for because critics of Russell’s choice of lead then criticized the film once he took the risk that everyone has been carping about for years. Now, with the reception Joy has received, he’s likely to go back to doing what he knows will land better — films with central male protagonists. What a shame. Joy is getting way too harshly treated, I think, and probably because — I’m guessing only because — the expectations on it were way too high. It is his best film since Flirting with Disaster, in my opinion. The difference here, though, is that no one really wants to see Jennifer Lawrence not being bubbly and funny. (Adults, anyway – younger girls seem to prefer her warrior fierce). Remember when Julia Roberts tried to get serious? Everybody wanted her to unleash her big loud laugh to bring in ticket sales. So bravo to David O. Russell for finally taking a risk and making a movie about a woman. I think Joy is brilliant in so many ways – I’m sorry no one else did. But we’ll see how audiences respond on Christmas Day to the best Christmas movie in years.

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There are so many films about women this year that voters actually have choices. Old women, young women, women in love, gay women, suffragettes. But the odd thing about it, though? They’re all white. The door is open but only to one color. At first I thought — why would anyone want to take down Suffragette when films by and about women are so rare. All we ever do is fight for the power of women directors to take the lead yet then when one does she is bashed by social justice bloggers pissed off that the characters in her film are all white. But I’ve come around to a different way of thinking on this (even though I still think it is ultimately counter-productive). Because, yes, we’re seeing a lot more of women in film, but when we see films with predominantly black casts, those casts (this year, at least) are mostly male.
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(Left to right)  Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer, Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes and Brian d’Arcy James as Matt Carroll  in SPOTLIGHT.
 
Photo credit:  Kerry Hayes / Distributor:  Open Road Films

The SAG ensemble award is going to be an interesting thing to watch, especially the day before the Globe nominations. The thing that’s easy to forget about both is that typically they depict the earlier part of the Oscar race, not what it becomes the time Oscar voters vote – about a month from now. A lot can happen in a month. Movies can rise and fall. Contenders can be celebrated or forgotten. Scandals can and do erupt. Money is made or lost. Many award announcements in between as we watch, guild announcement by guild announcement, a consensus building – and even then the Oscar Best Picture nominations can be a surprise. Continue reading…

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Santa Barbara, CA (Press Release) – The Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced today that it will honor Rooney Mara with the Cinema Vanguard Award on Friday, February 12, 2016.  The actress will be celebrated for her remarkable role in this year’s Carol alongside Cate Blanchett, who will present Mara with the award at a tribute at the Arlington Theatre.

The Cinema Vanguard Award was created in recognition of actors who have forged their own path – taking artistic risks and making a significant and unique contribution to film. Previous honorees include Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, Amy Adams, Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, Nicole Kidman, Christoph Waltz, Vera Farmiga, Stanley Tucci, Peter Sarsgaard, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Ryan Gosling.
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2015 has been one of the best years for ensemble acting in recent memory. From the smallest independent films like Tangerine on up to the biggest studio films like Bridge of Spies, ensembles drove the season probably more than any leading performances did. We’re at the end of the year and the only film left to see is Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Films this year went far into the past, glided through the 1950s, dug through the 1990s and soared through to the future of mankind.

In a year with so many choices, finding a consensus is going to be tricky and we might see several shakeups and upsets, even among the big guilds. But today, let’s talk about the actors who brought it all together on screen.

The Best Ensemble of the Year
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Although Joy is under embargo for formal reviews, several people have already written about Lawrence and the film in terms of the Oscar race. The first thing to remember is nobody really knows anything. No one knows how the film will land with critics, with audiences, or with voters. We base our opinions mainly on experience with this kind of thing. Thus, it’s all to be taken with a grain of salt.
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Finding the single best moment in Bill Pohlad’s Love & Mercy is impossible as you have two actors playing the same person. Then there’s Elizabeth Banks. Add Paul Giamatti and you have one of the best ensemble performances of the year. Banks glides confidently through the film in a way we’ve never seen before.

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Ex-Machina, Testament of Youth, The Man From U.N.C.L.E, Burnt and The Danish Girl all have one actress in common, Alica Vikander. The actress has had a whirlwind year and got to visit the White House for the first time. She’s just returned from D.C and I manage to sit down with the actress who leads me into her “little lounge” that overlooks Sunset Boulevard. Vikander is dressed in a long skirt, her dark hair slicked back, she’s about to head to Chateau Marmont for a cocktail reception celebrating her latest movie, The Danish Girl.

112315DCDanishGirl521Awards Daily: Wow! What a year for you and what a weekend.

Alicia Vikander: Yeah, it’s been busy and fun. We had the premiere three days ago, I can’t even remember. I was in D.C yesterday, so I’m a bit, “I don’t know what day it is.” It was my first time ever going there, and then I’m going back to shoot in six days.
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From Cannes to Telluride

I saw three or four films in Cannes back in May that count as tectonic shifts where this year’s movie performances are concerned. One of the most surprising moments in Mad Max: Fury Road comes from the scene where Tom Hardy trudges through the sand towards the war rig. Up to now, we’ve only seen Charlize Theron as the driver of the rig, but once Hardy rounds the corner there emerge the women, the “breeders,” barely clothed in white gauzy material, washing themselves with fresh water. What a sight for Hardy’s Max, who can’t quite figure out what he’s seeing. But even more of a jolt is the way Furiosa approaches Max in this scene, attacking with one arm, then pulling back, then attacking again. Clearly this isn’t a woman who will be beaten. After all, she knows the passcode that enables the war rig to run. Theron as Furiosa owns Mad Max – both the film and the character, a power swap that caused a shift in how people regarded Mad Max the icon. Theron’s focuses her hold on Hardy as she battles him for the gun, all in defense of nothing any bigger than saving whatever humanity is left of the human race. When Max momentarily bests her and tries to leave (he can’t, she has the codes) her toughness flickers and briefly fades – but never much shakes her tough facade. It is a masterful, steady and ultimately brilliant performance by Theron.

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Opening in limited release tomorrow in just 4 theaters, Carol is receiving glowing reaction from East and West Coast critics. With 25 reviews now collected on Metacritic, over half are perfect scores of 100 and only one is lower than 80.) As so often happens, a lavishly conceived film has inspired equally rich analysis.

Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan:

“Carol” universalizes from the particular, and it does so with exceptional skill and style. This is a love story between two women set at a time and place when that relationship was beyond taboo, but as its bravura filmmaking unfolds, those specifics fade and what remains are the feelings and emotions that all the best movie love stories create. And make no mistake, “Carol” belongs in that group…

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This is going to be an #OscarsSoWhite year where black actresses – or any actresses of color — are concerned. Men will fare slightly better, maybe, with Will Smith and potentially Idris Elba in the mix. Women, though? I saw one actress of color in a supporting role – that would be Gugu Mbatha Raw in Concussion. They might have had her on the cover, I suppose, but they’re also missing Saoirse Ronan. Either way, it’s a catch-22 because these things are set up by publicists who essentially help keep The Hollywood Reporter (and this site) in business. Thus, they take their lead from the publicists who are putting forth their best contenders. Helen Mirren is in for, I take it, Woman in Gold?

THR tried to clear up the shitstorm before it hit with this piece.

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