The frustrating thing about this time of year is how many of us must make “sight unseen” predictions. It’s a gamble – kind of like saying “I predict it will rain on Christmas.” Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. It’s most likely to rain so I’m gonna go with that. But Anne Thompson is one of the few who refuses to that, thus, her predictions are based on films she’s seen – she also lists contenders she thinks might go all the way, or films she thinks are in the running but isn’t confident about placing them in the winning category. Then she has the longshot dark horses. So, as we all know in the Oscar predicting game, this is a nearly foolproof method of being able to never get anything wrong.

Also, Kris and Anne have reignited Oscar Talk and you can have a listen to that as well.

Let’s trip the light fantastic, shall we?

Anne writes:

Best Picture
Front Runners

“Anna Karenina”
“The Master”

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You may be a state trooper, you might be a young Turk
You may be the head of some big TV network
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame
You may be living in another country under another name

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
–Bob Dylan

There is a moment in the documentary Grizzly Man when two bears are fighting and one of them unexpectedly shits himself. To we humans that would be the utmost embarrassment. We try so hard to control ourselves, especially when we have an audience. It’s true that in moments of pure terror we let loose uncontrollably because pure instinct takes over and rational thought vanishes. The struggle between these two impulses is what, I think, drives Paul Thomas Anderson’s most accomplished, exquisite film to date, The Master.

There aren’t many people in this world, let alone filmmakers anymore, who have something to say that elevates not just the ongoing cinematic conversation, but the human experience. No, this movie doesn’t say: God does not exist, find your own religion. Maybe it implies that. But in taking on the subject of anyone having a master at all it sends you out of the theater and into some deep thinking about what or whom your master is. Is it money? Is it sex? Is it love? Is it conventional religion or do you keep searching, in hopes that you will be gripped by a master and shown the way? Most fascinating of all, and the subject of Anderson’s film, are the people who fancy themselves god-like leaders capable of starting a whole new religion — of perpetuating the myth that the answer to the human experience is really that attainable.

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I just a brief chat on Twitter with Guy Lodge, Clayton Davis, Ali Deniz Sensoz and a few others as to the Best Actress race. I can’t really write legitimately about it since I haven’t seen the performance that started the conversation. Guy asked whether or not Jennifer Lawrence from the Silver Linings Playbook was on tap to win this year.  I answered him that I thought that, yes, I thought from what I’d heard in Toronto so far that she probably has the best shot. Guy mentioned The Hunger Games being such a phenomenal success, and I added that she also has another potential money maker opening soon, the House at the End of the Street. She will end this year with The Silver Linings Playbook as her slam dunk.

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Argo feat


As we head into Toronto, we still don’t have our presumed front-runner for Best Picture, unless it’s Argo, which it very well might be. Recent history has shown us that we’ve already seen our winner someplace by now. That makes it all the weirder that we’re headed into TIFF without one bobbing to the surface. Since 2007 when No Country for Old Men won, every BP winner has been seen before Toronto. The Hurt Locker was seen first at Venice, then Toronto, but not released until the following year.

The way it usually goes is that the movies everyone expects will do well, don’t. And the solid hits building buzz throughout the year and, to a degree, flying under the radar, tend to do better. Argo has a good chance because it is being underestimated by almost everyone. Ditto Beasts of the Southern Wild. No one expects either of those to win which automatically gives them the edge. Funny how that works but it seems to have all to do with expectations and very little to do with reality. If you expect a movie is going to blow you away chances are it won’t. Unless it does: Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, The Artist are three that were never diminished by their hype. Emotion drove them all the way to the win. With No Country, Hurt Locker and The Departed the slow and steady film won the race. These films didn’t win on emotion, but rather they stood out among lesser titles. Each of them can be argued as deserving or not but what I remember from those years is that they were the reliable steadies.

The Artist – Cannes
The King’s Speech – Telluride
The Hurt Locker – YYear prior but Venice (4 days before TIFF in 2008)
Slumdog Millionaire – Telluride
No Country for Old Men – Cannes
The Departed – October release… not on fest circuit.
Crash – TIFF 2004, US Premiere 2005
Million Dollar Baby – late comer

Really, Clint Eastwood’s win for Million Dollar Baby came at a year when another film was supposed to win. Actually, it often happens that the littler, more reliable film that makes voters feel like heroes discovering a hidden gem can often trump the bigger production, or the more highly praised film. The Social Network was supposed to win but they chose The King’s Speech instead. Avatar was supposed to win but they chose Hurt Locker instead. Benjamin Button was supposed to win but they chose Slumdog Millionaire instead. Brokeback Mountain was supposed to win but they chose Crash instead. The Aviator was supposed to win but they chose Million Dollar Baby instead. I lived through all of these years and remember them well.

To a degree what tips the balance for Best Picture isn’t always the film that wins but often the film that doesn’t. A vote against The Social Network was a vote for The King’s Speech. In a way, finding your Best Picture winner means finding the film they will actively vote against for whatever reason: it cost too much, we don’t like the director, it cost too much, it didn’t make enough money, it was badly written, it was cold, I didn’t feel anything. When you vote for a movie like The Artist or Slumdog Millionaire you are voting because it feels good, not because you should or because you believe one is better than the other — but voting for the impoverished Indian kids? Way better than a story about aging backwards (Oh Fincher, you genius). You could say Hugo should have made voters feel better last year but to feel better about Hugo they had to deal with their Scorsese issues, and the film’s budget compared to its profit. No such baggage attached to The Artist.

Avatar’s baggage was Jim Cameron, motion capture (actors would never vote for something that was going to replace their faces), and the terrible screenplay. The writing is so bad Avatar is almost impossible to watch now. And besides, voting for the first woman in 62 years to win Best Director and Best Picture? What could feel better than that. Many readers of this site will always say Avatar deserved to win. But no one will ever convince me that it is a better film than The Hurt Locker, a masterpiece I continue to stand behind (even though the critics that hailed it to the high heavens turned tail and ran when it came to compiling the Sight & Sound list, ditto The Social Network).

Crash and Brokeback Mountain is a can of worms in and of itself. To me, I’d have felt better voting for Brokeback Mountain. But I remember seeing Crash and crying at the end. I remember that it was a movie that might make voters feel better about the world by voting for it. It’s either that or their irrational fear of Brokeback Mountain prevented them from even seeing it — so how could they vote for it?

And if you were around for the Aviator vs. Million Dollar Baby you would have watched a car wreck. Then again, more people “out there” will name Million Dollar Baby as their favorite film compared with The Aviator. Best Picture winners, give or take a No Country for Old Men here or there, are almost always general audience movies: you can sit anyone in front of them and they will get it if not love it. The more complex the film the less likely it is that it will win. Which was why, after 13 years on the beat, I was stunned that there was that run of winners — The Departed, No Country for Old Men and The Hurt Locker. Those wins were not “business as usual” but represented more thoughtful voting. Perhaps this was because the voters reacted to being savaged by the press after choosing Crash over Brokeback. The next mini-quake would come when they failed to nominate The Dark Knight for Best Picture.

But none of that means anything for this year because this is a new year. The Oscar race, I have always believed, is fluid, not static. It is movable, changeable, unpredictable. And it remains that way until the inevitable happens. But because I’ve seen big surprises happen I always leave that door open. Who knows what might walk through it. Who knows how this year will turn out.

To find Best Picture, though, you might have to start by finding that movie everyone thinks will win but won’t because A) everyone already thinks it will and B) it is too delicious of an option to not vote for it.

Films that have already been seen and are reliable contenders:
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Moonrise Kingdom
Ruse & Bone
The Master

Films that will be seen in Toronto that have not yet been seen
Cloud Atlas
Anna Karenina
The Place Beyond the Pines
The Silver Linings Playbook

Films that are already churning in the hype machine but haven’t been seen:
Zero Dark Thirty
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Life of Pi (New York)
Flight (New York)
The Hobbit
Trouble with the Curve
The Promised Land

Total wild cards:
The Dark Knight Rises
The Avengers
The Sapphires

The only thing we know for sure is that this probably isn’t going to be a year like Slumdog Millionaire, The Artist or The King’s Speech, unless Argo or Beasts win. It might be like Million Dollar Baby or The Departed. Most would agree that, sight unseen, it’s a race between Les Miserables and Lincoln. The New York Film Fest might have our Best Picture winner in either Flight or Life of Pi.

Based on what I know about Oscar the winner will either be a runaway hit by a virtual unknown (King’s Speech, The Artist) or it will be one that is owed to a veteran of film who either hasn’t ever been acknowledged or is overdue for another Oscar win.

To that end, my instincts have me thinking of Best Picture this way:

  • Lincoln (Spielberg is overdue, written by the brilliant Tony Kushner, adapted from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Pulitzer Prize winner, in an election year, a film about the greatest President who ever lived).
  • Les Miz (it could pack an emotional punch, plus help validate the Academy’s bet that Tom Hooper has the stuff)
  • Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino is one of the greatest American filmmakers yet to be honored with a Best Director or Best Picture win)
  • Flight (Zemeckis has been off course for a while now but will Denzel put him back on track?)
  • Joe Wright’s Atonement and Pride & Prejudice together have 11 Oscar nominations. Anna Karenina could conceivably rack up that many alone, combining literary pedigree with epic grandeur and promising to kick it all up a notch?
  • Life of Pi (the beloved Ang Lee might finally cash in on the Best Picture win his Best Director Oscar promised)
  • The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan is long overdue and this last film in the trilogy could finally give him the acknowledgement he deserves, but…)
  • Argo (just a really good film that might win because it isn’t the other movie that voters don’t want to win)
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild (the film is so emotionally affecting it might be the only one voters LOVE).

If there are any potential winners beyond that they are off my radar. The Master, while being hailed as brilliant, will be too obtuse to win over the middle of the road voters. The Hobbit, Peter Jackson was too recently rewarded (though it’s possible, of course), Cloud Atlas is still a mystery, The Silver Linings Playbook will probably be too light, The Place Beyond the Pines will probably be too depressing, Moonrise Kingdom too obtuse, etc.

This is how it stands on Wednesday, September 5. Once anything changes I’ll be sure to let you know. And I do sort of hope it changes and keeps on changing. Those are the best Oscar years, when nothing is as it appears and the twists and turns come so fast you can barely keep track of them.

feature telluride last day

The sun decided to come out as the Telluride Film Fest was coming to a close. “Monday’s not a real day,” Jeff Wells told me via Twitter. But I had no choice. Monday was a real day to me because I wanted to see whatever movies I could see in the time I had left. The great thing about the last day of the film fest is that the crowds have dwindled to a more tolerable level. After three days of moving my rental car from spot to spot I was able to find a great space on the last day. The problem was that somewhere along the line I’d gotten someone’s cold. I’d planned on seeing at least three movies but I ended up only seeing two.

I dragged myself out of bed to go see Frances Ha, one of the most buzzed movies of the fest. I was grumbling that I didn’t want to go see another “precious” movie, especially that early. Noah Baumbach and the impossibly cute Greta Gerwig were there to present it but they’d decided to cancel the Q&A. I bought some tea at the snack bar to help cure my ailing cold. Every theater here has an assortment of things to purchase, all over priced but the money goes to the fest so why not pay $4 for a teabag and a cup?

After the movie, as we scrambled out of our seats and bee-lined it for the bathroom I could hear some twenty-somethings enlivened by Frances Ha — it spoke to them. It WAS them, they were saying. The conversation eventually turned to HBO’s Girls. They liked that show too. The long line to pee stretched out long past the door and into the main lobby. But it was moving quickly and thank god because one way or the other it was going to get ugly.

The only thing I hadn’t done yet was go to my favorite bookstore, Between the Covers. When I got there, Ken Burns and his daughter Sarah were signing copies of her book, The Central Park Five (which ended up selling out). As I passed them Noah Baumbach passed and shook Ken Burns’ hand. I noticed he didn’t shake Sarah’s. Someday he will. I hadn’t realized the Burns’ would be signing today at Between the Cover but it isn’t unusual to see celebrities in Telluride. They are everywhere, all of the time.

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William Blake once wrote that exuberance is beauty. Despite the success of Ben Affleck’s Argo here, this fest seems to be driven by women filmmakers. This is most surprising, since we just came out of such an bad year for women. But three of them were the major forces behind their projects that told important stories, sometimes personal, sometimes not. I came here feeling the pressure of time and age – and frankly feeling some despair about the state of things for women. I never expected I would leave here feeling hopeful not just for women this year but for the doors they creaked open this year, how they managed to do it, how well they did it, and how successful they’ve become doing it.

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tell feature 3

The rain continued its moody descent upon Telluride village, ebbing and flowing at its own discretion. The festival can’t stop for the rain, nor can we whine about having no sunshine because that would be unseemly. Telluride looks the way it does because of the rain. Nonetheless, it made for a somewhat less celebratory mood. My morning started out with a trip up the gondola for an early screening of No, written and directed by Pablo Larraín about the election to unseat Chilean Augusto Pinochet in or around 1989.

You never know what kinds of conversations you’ll be having on the ride up the gondola, depending on what combination of people you end up with. I met a couple this time, on their first trip to Telluride but already so much more organized about it all than I have ever been. They knew what time was the best time to get into the long lines. They knew where the best wi-fi was and how to tether their computers to their blackberries, if the wi-fi didn’t work. They’d been going to Sundance for years but it became “too much of a zoo.” Since there had been so much buzz around Telluride in the last few years they figured they’d give this a try. I wondered what it would be like to just come here for the sheer fun of it, for the love of cinema, to hang out with someone who really liked doing film festival stuff for fun.

The large number of senior citizens who attend this festival is a hopeful harbinger of what might lie ahead for some of us. When kids aren’t at home, when there’s no more 40-hour work weeks, there are film festivals in beautiful cities all over the country. It’s a thing to do, anyway. “How are you doing,” the coffee barista at Between the Covers asked one of the elderly customers. “I wonder if I’ll remember anything later,” she said.

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tell 2-7

Time slips away faster than you think, especially when all you want to do is sleep and watch the sky change. A 9am screening means getting up and out as early as you can, especially when you’re going to The Nugget, the teeny tiny theater on the main drag in Telluride. If you don’t get there early you will not get a seat. If you want to get coffee at the Steaming Bean next door that’s an even longer wait.

The fresh coffee inside the theater was as good as any I’ve ever had so I just waited and got it there. I spotted Kris Tapley from In Contention and Joe Morgenstern from the Wall Street Journal — I’d been tipped off by Tapley who is smart about picking which movies to see and when. If you ever attend a fest with Tapley, it’s not a bad idea to just follow him around if you can get him to tell you where he’s going. He was one of the first of our “Oscar blogger” community to come to Telluride and since then it’s morphed a bit into a pre-Oscar stop. This year, though, it feels less like a mini-Toronto and more like what it’s intended to be: smallish films attended by a faithful community of devotees.

The Central Park Five might end up being among the best films I’ll see here. Sarah Burns began studying the horrifying case of five black teens who were caught in Central Park the night a jogger was raped, bludgeoned and left for dead. After being kept up all night, with no food, no water and no lawyer, the teens started lying to get out of there. They confessed to a crime they never did because the cops and the DA promised them that’s what they had to do to get out of jail. It had become such a high profile case that they had to catch the perps, no matter if it meant coercing young men, aged 14 even, to falsify a confession. Without checking any of the hard evidence in the case first, the boys were charged, tried and found guilty. All the while, the press fanned the flames, the public was alarmed and angry, politicians used the case to urge for the Death Penalty (super-genius Donald Trump is quoted). The parents of the boys knew the truth but no one would listen to them.

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Telluride 2012 feat

  • THE ACT OF KILLING (d. Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark, 2012)
  • AMOUR (d. Michael Haneke, Austria, 2012)
  • AT ANY PRICE (d. Ramin Bahrani, U.S., 2012)
  • THE ATTACK (d. Ziad Doueiri, Lebanon-France, 2012)
  • BARBARA (d. Christian Petzold, Germany, 2012)
  • THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE (d. Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon, U.S., 2012)
  • EVERYDAY (d. Michael Winterbottom, U.K., 2012)
  • FRANCES HA (d. Noah Baumbach, U.S., 2012)
  • THE GATEKEEPERS (d. Dror Moreh, Israel, 2012)
  • GINGER AND ROSA (d. Sally Potter, England, 2012)
  • THE HUNT (d. Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark, 2012)
  • HYDE PARK ON HUDSON (d. Roger Michell, U.S., 2012)
  • THE ICEMAN (d. Ariel Vromen, U.S., 2012)
  • LOVE, MARILYN (d. Liz Garbus, U.S., 2012)
  • MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN (d. Deepa Mehta, Canada-Sri Lanka, 2012)
  • NO (Pablo Larraín, Chile, 2012)
  • PARADISE: LOVE (d. Ulrich Seidl, Austria, 2012)
  • PIAZZA FONTANA (d. Marco Tullio Giordana, Italy, 2012)
  • A ROYAL AFFAIR (d. Nikolaj Arcel, Denmark, 2012)
  • RUST & BONE (d. Jacques Audiard, France, 2012)
  • THE SAPPHIRES (d. Wayne Blair, Australia, 2012)
  • STORIES WE TELL (d. Sarah Polley, Canada, 2012)
  • SUPERSTAR (d. Xavier Giannoli, France, 2012)
  • WADJDA (d. Haifaa Al-Mansour, Continue reading…


Kris Tapley, who has seen The Impossible, said he walked away thinking Naomi Watts had the best chance in the film for a nod. This is hard to believe, looking at the film’s trailer, because it gives the definite impression that Ewan McGregor turns himself inside and out for this.  But Tapley goes on to say that Summit will push instead for Tom Holland in the leading category, and Ewan McGregor in supporting.  An interesting development — of course, it never really matters how the studio pushes any contender – hope springs eternal in this, the early phase.

To me it’s significant that Tapley singled out Watts as the only one who might get a nod – that tells me it might not be a performance-heavy piece, despite how the trailer plays.  Privately, he told me only that the film was incredibly heavy. More of his thoughts are here.

The hardest thing about the Oscar race is planning how the kid’s wedding is going to go before he’s even born.  So many people ask me if

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zero dark

I’ve been doing this long enough to remember the last two or three elections through the prism of the Oscar race; no matter what side of the political fence you belong on, it’s easy to remember how the race was impacted by what was going on all around it.

The first election when I began Oscarwatching was the Bush v. Gore in 2001. It was as tumultuous as any we’ve had since. The election was eventually thrown in favor of the Republicans by the partisan Supreme Court, and became a moment in history that held the public in its thrall — it’s hard to believe it even happened that way and it marked what many of us consider a dark moment in history where the powerful corporations began controlling politics. It took Obama, really, to break the spell finally. Incidentally, much of what fueled Bush’s victory (other than voter fraud) was the assault on President Clinton by the GOP regarding a subject that should have remained private — the Monica Lewinsky scandal took vital energy, attention and resources away from our leader at a time when we needed him most; not nine months after Bush was inaugurated and we were hit by al-Qaeda. Soon after that, so-called weapons of mass destruction, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Exhaustive, expensive, with a current death toll of American soldiers – exceeding 6,500.

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Image Credit It but remains for this council to command, and Tal Hajus must prove his fitness to rule. Were he a brave man he would invite Tars Tarkas to combat, for he does not love him, but Tal Hajus is afraid; Tal Hajus, your jeddak, is a coward. With my bare hands I could kill him, and he knows it.”

After I ceased there was tense silence, as all eyes were riveted upon Tal Hajus. He did not speak or move, but the blotchy green of his countenance turned livid, and the froth froze upon his lips. Tal Hajus,” said Lorquas Ptomel in a cold, hard voice, “never in my long life have I seen a jeddak of the Tharks so humiliated. There could be but one answer to this arraignment. We wait it.” And still Tal Hajus stood as though electrified. Continue reading…


From the first few moments of Compliance, actually apparent even from the trailer, it’s clear that Ann Dowd delivers what will likely be one of the best female performances of the year.  What made me want to watch the film — which, frankly, is a hard sit — was one look in Dowd’s eyes in the trailer, a flicker in her eyes that reveals a mysterious motive — what is she doing and why? Is it really just about compliance? Is it really just about taking orders or is there something more disturbing going on?

Compliance is a film that has prompted walk-outs, so say insider reports, and this is probably because it takes you a while to buy the concept. he adage that real life is stranger than fiction was never more true than it is here, and rattled viewers may lose patience for the baffling behavior onscreen unless they’re aware this sick travesty really happened. But Compliance, under the devilish control of writer-director Craig Zobel, takes a little while to sink its teeth in. Once it does you can’t look away. And you find yourself drawn in, you may begin to question your own motives. Are you waiting around to see something sexual happen? Are you caught up in the suspense of it? Are you horrified by what’s happening? What would you have done?

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Women and Hollywood’s Melissa Silverstein, someone I consider to be a growing voice in the film community, has co-curated a panel for the New York Times on women and their influence in Hollywood.  Or rather, their non-existent influence in Hollywood. It’s a must-read and a subject that should not be abandoned because we … oh look, shiny object.

Why does anyone care about this subject? Because it’s a glaring, ongoing problem that doesn’t appear to be getting fixed any time soon. More salt was rubbed in the wound when Sight & Sound listed its top fifty Greatest Films of All Time, which ended up being a lot like Oscar’s own single-minded vision:


When the Academy had a solid ten Best Picture slots, in 2009 and 2010, it afforded more opportunities for women directors to actually have their films nominated for Best Picture, something that hardly ever happens. But last year’s herding cats method, where there could be anywhere between 5 and 9, women were shut out once again and will likely be shut out for some time to come.  Wouldn’t it be a more interesting world if critics and the Academy thought a little bit differently about what defines “best”?

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If the imaginary Oscars were held today, that is, if everything went as it’s expected to go, the Best Director category would look something like this:

Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
Tom Hooper, Les Miz
Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

The next tier would be:

Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises
Peter Jackson, The Hobbit

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“Every step of the way we walk the line.
Your days are numbered.
So are mine.” – Bob Dylan

Four of the best performances this year come from two films about love and marriage in the twilight years. What’s interesting about both is that they come at a time when the majority of films star and favor youthful stories. It is as though we’re caught in an endless loop of denial. We’re young for such a short amount of time. The rest of our lives are lived (if we’re lucky) as older people. You really can’t know this until you’re well out of your 20s. The entertainment spenders are mostly young people and if they aren’t young people, they’re old people obsessing on youth, beauty and all of the stuff that can’t last. In other words, we mostly torture ourselves.

Michael Haneke and David Frankel. Two brave storytellers, with the courage to really dive into that which we can’t discuss — the whole lives of senior citizens. Even that term — senior citizen — is a way of boxing it up and putting it up on the top shelf where we can’t see it and don’t have to deal with it. That isn’t us. We won’t be the slow driver who cautiously enters the intersection or lingers a little too long at the electronic check-out at the supermarket, or blinks in confusion when someone mentions Facebook or wi-fi. Old people aren’t people, but seemingly disconnected creatures who don’t know anything about the modern world. As you get older you learn the dirty little secret that wisdom translates to a distillation of life’s primary colors.

Michael Haneke’s Amour and David Frankel’s Hope Springs are films that explore the good, the bad and the ugly of life, long term commitment, aging and ultimately, dying. This is the opposite end of the love at first sight, happily ever paradigm as love is so often presented. The main difference between the two couples is that in Amour you know these two people love each other so desperately that there is never a question of keeping their marriage alive; it IS alive. They wake up to talk to each other. They go to sleep in each other’s arms. They respect and adore one another. So that when one has to die, it becomes the most unbearable tragedy of their lives. Is it happily ever after? It was for a time. Until it wasn’t. This is the harsh reality of our lives. We’re all heading towards the end in one way or another. Therefore, the only thing that matters is the time you have left.

In Hope Springs, Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep are at a crossroads. They aren’t a couple who hangs on each other’s every word. They don’t really know who they are. They sleep in separate rooms and can’t bear to touch each other. He falls asleep every night in front of the TV, she curls up alone, more lonely that she’d be if she lived alone. She makes the decision to change things. Either they fix it or they end it.

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Remember when it was Hugo last year? It’s a great placement, to be the closing selection of 50th New York Film Festival (September 28 – October 14). The highly anticipated pic stars Denzel Washington, and was directed by Robert Zemeckis and is probably pretty good if it’s been chosen for this, as Rose Kuo said:

“Robert Zemeckis has shown his diversity as a storyteller in comedies, dramas and has skillfully translated narratives into special effect environments. It is a pleasure to see him bring to life this complicated, tragic-comic portrait of a man in crisis, with an exceptional and poignant performance by Denzel Washington.”

Denzel Washington is that actor I will watch in anything. And I mean, ANYTHING. But it’s always nice when he’s in a good movie. He really is one of the industry’s best.

moonrise feature 2

Oh America, what a big beautiful loser you are. Our giant lumbering paradise is so complicated, isn’t it? We can’t really be saved by John Ford movies, Levis, Marilyn Monroe and our precious life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Every time you turn around there is another evil to be conquered. What other country could celebrate the landing of Curiosity on Mars and hours later absorb a hate-filled shooting in Wisconsin because the shooter was too uneducated to tell the difference between Sikhs and Muslims. Oh America. You great thing, you catastrophe.

You can sometimes interpret history through the lens of Oscar. Some years seem in direct contact with the events of the day, and other years feel like a total disconnect. Movies take us out of reality anyway, don’t they? But if you glance over the 1970s, for instance, you’ll find a much more thoughtful selection of films because the generation who controls the voting at the Academy were younger, more daring voters. Or maybe audiences were smarter. Or maybe film critics had more influence. It’s hard to say why the 1970s still towers over any other decade that came after it. The exception was the two years the Academy decided on ten Best Picture nominees. 2009 and 2010 offered up maybe the best selection of Best Picture contenders since the 1970s. Last year we were back on target with the usual Academy oeuvre, with a few notable exceptions.

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From EW: Zero Dark Thirty, a chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks, began generating partisan critiques before even a frame of film was shot. Now director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal are finally opening up — though they remain extremely guarded — in their first interviews about the project.

Zero Dark Thirty will be an unusual film in that the climax of the story is already widely known and it’s the set-up that remains mysterious. Bin Laden was killed on May 2, 2011 by the U.S. Navy’s elite SEAL Team Six, but what remains largely unknown is the true backstory behind the raid, and how intelligence agencies and the military connected the dots that eventually brought them to that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

“I’m fascinated by people who dedicate themselves to really difficult and dangerous things for the greater good,” Boal said in a phone interview. “I think they’re heroic and I’m intrigued by them. I’m fascinated by the world they inhabit. I personally want to know how they caught bin Laden. All I can do is hope that it interests other people.”

(thanks Mel!) Check out a few stills after the cut.

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nolan feature 2

Before the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, I was having my usual battle on Twitter with the many people who like to tell me what the Oscar race is and isn’t about, namely that The Dark Knight Rises could never be nominated for Best Picture. Before the tragedy, everything was different. After the tragedy we face questions that will define how we go to the movies, what we think about the content and whether we can live with the reverberations. For me, it’s too easy to accept the plain truth, that The Dark Knight Rises, like The Dark Knight, was never going to be “an Academy movie.” Oscarwatching 101 tells you that the Academy does not go for movies based on comic books no matter how good they are, no matter how much money they make, no matter what kind of life-altering events surround it; if it doesn’t have traditional characters whose humanity is tested and then overcome, how can they relate? Are they really supposed to jot down their number one favorite movie of the year starring a guy in a bat suit? The plain truth, as every would-be prognosticator will leap over themselves to tell you, it’s not an “Oscar movie.” Or a favorite refrain, “it won’t happen.”

Glenn Whipp, starting his new Oscar column for the LA Times called The Gold Standard, has dived right into the film and how the tragedy might effect its Oscar chances. He brings up the Academy screening, so soon on the heels of the shooting. He talks to some Oscar strategists who mostly say that a non-campaign should be the campaign. And then there’s this part of the story:

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