BEST ACTRESS

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Kristen Stewart was dubbed the Queen of Cannes by The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw with the one-two punch of Cafe Society and Personal Shopper. Stewart’s work in the Clouds of Sils Maria earned her a Cesar award last year and though many critics in the US also awarded Stewart, she did not crack the industry’s supporting actress nominations. The reviews for both films have been mixed but Stewart has been named as the standout for both.

TIME OUT’s Guy Lodge says this about Stewart in a rare five star review:

Amid all the shifting mirrored surfaces and hazy ambiguities of Olivier Assayas’s bewitching, brazenly unconventional ghost story, this much can be said with certainty: Kristen Stewart has become one hell of an actress. The former ‘Twilight’ star was easily the standout feature of Assayas’s last film, the slightly stilted study of actors ‘Clouds of Sils Maria’, quietly yanking the rug from under the feet of Juliette Binoche. Here, Stewart doesn’t need to steal the film from anyone: she’s in virtually every crisp frame of it, holding the camera’s woozy gaze with her own quizzical, secretive stare and knotted body language.
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Focus Features delivered its teaser poster for the new Jeff Nichols film Loving, about the real-life courage and commitment of an interracial couple, Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), whose civil rights case, Loving v. Virginia, went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Greg Kilday writes that Loving should be “in the conversation,” but especially the actors

Given the material, Nichols could have delivered a standard-issue courtroom drama, culminating with soaring oratory before the nation’s highest court. But he chose to take a different route — the American Civil Liberties Union, agreeing to take on the case, doesn’t enter the picture until more than half-way through the two-hour-three-minute movie. Instead, the film is centered around the Lovings themselves: Richard, played by Australian actor Joel Edgerton, and Mildred, played by the Ethiopia-born Ruth Negga.

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Once you find love, can you ever let go? Watch the new trailer for The Light Between Oceans, starring Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, and Rachel Weisz. See the film in theatres September 2.

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Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn), dancers, and Alabama State Marching Hornets in TriStar Pictures'  BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK.

Sony released a still of the eagerly anticipated (definition: any movie directed by Ang Lee) film based on the bestselling novel. Kristen Stewart stars in the film, alongside Joe Alwyn. Stewart is all the talk at Cannes today, having turned in another knockout performance in Woody Allen’s latest, Cafe Society. Jean-Christophe Castello adapted the Ben Fountain novel, John Toll does the cinematography.
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The underrated thriller Panic Room is one of the few that focuses on a mother saving her daughter from intruders. This is a real fear for every single mother out there, whether they live in a massive mansion or not. This was the first time Kristen Stewart met and worked with Jodie Foster. All of these years later, Foster was given a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, and Stewart joined her to present. It seems odd that it’s taken this long for Foster to get a star, right? Shouldn’t she have had one long before now? Either way, it’s great to see the two women still friends, still supporting each other, with Foster being an inspiration and guiding force for Stewart.

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Nathaniel Rogers has sketched an outline for what the Best Actress race might look like. He has smartly divided up the field between veterans and the hottest of the moment. His top five includes Viola Davis for Fences, Emily Blunt for Girl on a Train, Ruth Negga for Loving, Annette Bening for 20th Century Women (he has given it a “wishful thinking” notation), and Rosamund Pike for United Kingdom.

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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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