Inside Movies and Pop Culture with Gregory Ellwood
Brit will sing the title song to James Cameron's new epic
A scene from James Cameron's "Avatar."
Credit: 20th Century Fox
James Cameron and James Horner helped propel Celine Dion's career into the stratosphere, can they do the same for Leona Lewis?
Atlantic Records announced today that Lewis, whose new album "Echo" is released this week, will sing the title track "I See You" for Cameron's long awaited new film "Avatar." Written by Academy Award winner James Horner, the single will be included on the film's score soundtrack which will be released on Dec. 15.
Plus: Which two films are surprisingly increasing in buzz?
Credit: The Weinstein Company
Rob Marshall's "Nine" was screened for press this past weekend and while they are all embargoed on commenting on the highly anticipated movie musical -- read into that what you will -- the scuttlebutt that has surfaced is that the ladies in question really deliver. And just who might that include? None other than Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Sophia Loren, Marion Cotillard, Kate Hudson and Stacey "Fergie" Ferguson. Critics and bloggers such as Awards Campaign won't get to see "Nine" until early in December, but in the meantime, The Weinstein Company has released two new clips which feature the partial debut of Cruz and Hudson's big screen singing talents.
The Best Supporting Actress contender hosts a special cross country flight
Anna Kendrick at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival.
Credit: AP Photo/Evan Agostini
You gotta hand it to Paramount. Many studios would be afraid to pull off what they accomplished Saturday for their new contender "Up in the Air."
Along with about 50 other journalists, Awards Campaign trekked on a private American Airlines flight from New York to Los Angeles with star and likely Best Supporting Actress nominee Anna Kendrick and Sad Brad Smith, a new music artist whose song "Help Yourself" plays during the closing credits. While most of the press watched the film once we were airborne (I'd had the pleasure of attending the Toronto Film Festival premiere), I spent a few minutes conducting video interviews with both Kendrick and Smith.
Having previously spoken with the lovely ingenue at Toronto, it was fun to see her a few months later when the hype for her performance has really begun to make some noise. Kendrick is in a great moment in her career. She's still part of the madness around the "Twilight" saga as Bella's human friend Jessica, but she's also got a key role in Edgar Wright's big screen adaptation of "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World." Oh, and her breakout role that can't be diminished in "Air." Not a bad place to be.
As for Smith, he showed a lot of class and talent by performing a few songs including "Help Yourself" in the aisle of a plane (video will come later this week). His inclusion in the movie and on the soundtrack is no doubt a great kick off for his debut album "Love Is Not What You Need" arriving early next year. And yes, he's called Sad Brad because he sings sad songs (but certainly not the Tori Amos wrist cutting variety).
It's always an odd experience watching a movie you've already seen on the big screen on an airplane projection, but two months after my initial viewing I was struck by a number of things about "Air" that had escaped me. The moments that feature the real-life unemployed seem more relevant by the day, Kendrick's in the film a lot more than I remember and Clooney really does give one of the finest performances of his career. Moreover, Reitman's direction is even more impressive the second time around. Unlike "Juno" or "Thank You For Smoking," it seems as though Reitman's visual aesthetic has grown to match his established talent with directing his actors.
It's worth noting American Airlines is a promotional partner of "Up in the Air" and with a number of the company's reps on the plane it was fun to corner, er, grill, er, quiz them on the fictional 10 million mile club Clooney's character is after in the movie and the very real concierge key status he already has. It seems the latter is awarded by American on a case by case basis. So, even if you may have 1 million miles it doesn't guarantee you're going to get the key. And while Clooney's character rattles off a number of benefits of having the special card, those are not exactly what it entitles you to on American. What extras you do get from it or even how many flyers have one was considered a state secret by the American reps. Paging TMZ...
While setting up and conducting interviews on a plane wasn't a piece of cake, Paramount was able to squeeze everyone in just a few minutes before we have to land back at good ol' LAX. And as Miss Kendrick was reminded by a bunch of journos, this is one cross-country flight where she packed 50 quick interviews she'll never forget. And neither will we.
On a side note -- for those wondering -- Clooney was in Italy shooting his new thriller "The American," director Jason Reitman was introducing "Air" at the St. Louis Film Festival and the film's other leading lady Vera Farminga? Well, let's just say she had a very important date with the Academy.
Look for the video interviews with Kendrick and Smith that have to be seen just because they were conducted on a plane, later this week.
"Up in the Air" opens in 12 markets on Dec. 4. It should be nationwide by Christmas.
Plus: A look at the Best Supporting Actor and Actress races
Julianne Moore and Colin Firth in the poster for Tom Ford's "A Single Man."
Credit: Weinstein Company
If it's the second week in November, Awards season has got to be heating up. Because of year-end critic group deadlines, most of the true contenders that haven't released yet are finished or "almost there" creating nervous distributors hoping their flicks can live up to the hype. So, while the few stragglers who haven't shown their wares remain, the race finds some new films joining the field in what will make for a very busy December for moviegoers and media alike.
One, "Crazy Heart," has already made a big impression with members of the press in both New York and Los Angeles. Many are going gaga over star Jeff Bridges fantastic performance as Bad Blake in the music-themed drama (and rightfully so), but while "Heart" certainly has a shot at cracking the Best Picture top ten its Maggie Gyllenhaal's impressive turn as Blake's smitten lover that may really be it's second strongest chance at a nomination.
Many pundits will argue that the Best Actress race is just as competitive as the Best Supporting Actress race, but that's ludicrous in my view. The former has only three strong possible nominees at the moment, Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep and Gabourey Sidibe. But the latter has up to 12 depending on who you speak to. That's why it's puzzling "Up in the Air's" Vera Farminga taking on a deeper field including her own co-star Anna Kendrick by racing supporting versus lead. In "Heart's" case, Gyllenhaal is best served staying where she should be in the Best Actress competition. If the movie is received by the Academy the way many expect it to be, she could easily slip into the fourth or fifth Best Actress slot providing Gyllenhaal her first Oscar nod.
Another picture whose actors have better chances for nominations than the picture itself is Tom Ford's "A Single Man." This pundit has been a big fan ever since I was able to attend the drama's Toronto Film Festival premiere. And event then I called it that Julianne Moore was a major player in the Best Supporting Actress race. Disappointingly, however, the initial marketing for "Man" seems to be deliberately doing everything possible to remove all of the gay elements from the picture. That's pretty hard considering Colin Firth's acclaimed performance centers on his character being unable to handle the death of his longtime lover (Matthew Goode) and the new young man (Nicholas Hoult) who may turn his life around. In fact, if you check out the film's original trailer here -- cut by Ford's production company before it was acquired by the Weinstein Company -- the gay themes aren't washed over. However, the new trailer, which is embedded below, has taken out every shot that could insinuate that any of the characters are gay at all. Worse, shots have been edited to construe that Goode's character might be straight and that the film centers almost completely on a romantic relationship between Firth and Moore's characters (hardly the case). It's one thing to have the poster for a film called "A Single Man" which feature both stars in, again, a shot that looks more romantic than their characters' relationship really is, but the "revised" trailer is even worse. Considering the successful campaigns for both "Brokeback Mountain" and "Milk," two Best Picture nominees that scream gay a hell of a lot more than "A Single Man," it's almost jaw-dropping. And, yes, those were MPAA approved fellas. You'd think The Weinstein Company was releasing the picture in 1994 not 2009. Egad.
Plus: Jason Schartzman talks 'Fox" and 'Bored to Death'
Wes Anderson demonstrates a scene from "The Fantastic Mr. Fox."
Credit: Fox Searchlight
"2012" is getting all the hype this weekend, but if you take a look at Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic you'll find another new release with much better reviews, "The Fantastic Mr. Fox." Wes Anderson's stop motion animated adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic children's book has a stellar 90% on RT and an 88 on Meta which certainly equals that site's designation as "universal acclaim." Of course, "Fox" is only opening in New York and Los Angeles this weekend, the rest of that nation will have to wait until Thanksgiving.
Featuring some, um, fantastic vocal performances by George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman just to name a few, "Fox" centers on its title character's plan to steal from under the noses of three farmers and the consequences of his action on his friends and family. Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach ("The Squid and the Whale") wrote the screenplay, but it's the visual style of the movie that makes it really feel like an Anderson flick.
Plus: David Rockwell thankfully returns as Oscar production designer
The always humble Martin Scorsese can't turn the Globes down.
Credit: AP Photo/Francois Mori
The HFPA announced today that Martin Scorsese will be honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes this January. There must be some feeling of deja vu for the acclaimed filmmaker about the award. Just last year, Scorsese helped present buddy Steven Spielberg with the same honor.
The organization's lifetime achievement will be Scorsese's third Globe. He previously won best director for "The Departed" and "Gangs of New York." Scorsese won his first Academy Award in 2006 for "The Departed."
Will Spielberg return the favor and present to Scorsese? We'll soon find out. The Golden Globes will be hosted by Ricky Gervais and broadcast live on NBC, Sunday, Jan. 17.
Scorsese's next film, "Shutter Island," hits theaters on Feb. 19
In other awards season news...
'Ice Age,' 'A Christmas Carol' and 'Alvin and the Chipmunks 2' qualify
"Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" will try to sneak into the Best Animated's five nominees, but the international blockbuster will have a tough time doing so.
Credit: 20th Century Fox
Wonderfully timed to Awards Campaign's rundown of who will be left out in the cold in the category, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the 20 submissions for Best Animated Feature today. While a number of the entries still need to meet their Los Angeles qualifying run this is officially confirmation that there will be five entries for the first time since 2002.
There will officially be five nominees, but one potentially great flick won't make it
JuJu and Mama Odie in a scene from "The Princess and the Frog."
Credit: Walt Disney Studios
In news that will come to sweet relief to Pixar, Walt Disney Studios, Sony Pictures Animation, Fox Searchlight and Focus Features, the Best Animated Feature race officially has over the 16 entry minimum needed to require a five nominee field. Surprisingly, that doesn't end the stress for a number of potential contenders.
Awards Campaign's buddy and animation beat extraordinaire reporter Peter Debruge broke the news in Variety today that two indies, "The Secret of Kells" and "The Missing Lynx" were the films that pushed the category over the edge. However, while those films chances at being nominated are slim, it now means one of the following features is going to be left out in the cold. Here's a run down at the six flicks who have a shot at being nominated this year.
Icon making it clear her awards hopes are with 'Julie and Julia'
Meryl Streep in the funny poster for Nancy Meyers' "It's Complicated."
Credit: Universal Pictures
Having two competing roles in the same category is always a wealth of riches during awards season, except when the studio, your reps and half of Hollywood knows that "other" part could hurt your chances for success.
Last year, Kate Winslet was incredibly lucky -- and not to mention deserving -- to win her Oscar for "The Reader." Both The Weinstein Company, who released "Reader," and the defunct Paramount Vantage, which handled "Revolutionary Road," were hoping to slot Winslet in the Best Actress race with the latter and the Best Supporting race with the former. Well, Academy members would have none of that. They voted Winslet in for Best Actress for "The Reader" (which was probably the correct slotting anyway) and kicked her downer role in "Road" to the curb. All's well that ends well for Winslet as she actually won, but other actresses haven't been so lucky. Therefore, it's no surprise that none other than Meryl Streep appears to have made it clear where her support lies -- at least for awards.
In a somewhat weak Best Actress pool, Streep has been getting a ton of buzz for her portrayal of Julia Child in this past summer's hit "Julie and Julia" (and let's be honest, she pretty much carried the movie). In the meantime, she also has Nancy Meyer's adult-themed romantic comedy "It's Complicated" hitting theaters in December. Meyer's resume wouldn't normally scream Oscar except that she directed Diane Keaton to a nod in 2004 for "Something's Gotta Give." Additionally, there has been some scuttlebutt around town that Alec Baldwin's performance in the love triangle storyline could be awards-worthy. A late year release date, the pedigree of the talent involved and words are thrown around such as "potenital contender."
A tidbit was passed Awards Campaign's way from a trusted source that Ms. Streep was asked to pose for a spread in a major magazine that would be timed around the opening of "Complicated." A publication many Academy members are known to still buy. Her reply? Only if she could take the photos with Nora Ephron.
Note: Ephron is her "Julie and Julia" director.
(Obviously, read into that what you will.)
Oscar contender makes a remarkable limited release debut
The final poster for "Precious: Based on Push on Push a Novel by Sapphire."
The journey of Lee Daniels' "Precious: Based on Push a Novel by Sapphire" continues to astound. In a stunner, "Precious" made box office history this weekend by posting the highest per screen average for a film in more than 10 theaters. The acclaimed drama made $1.8 million in only 18 theaters for an eye-popping $100,000 per screen average.
Historically, the only live action films to ever have a bigger per screen were "Dreamgirls" and "Brokeback Mountain," but both those films debuted on only three and five screens with averages of $126,000 and $105,000 respectively. The more screens you make available, the lower your per screen usually is. In fact, the difference between 3 and 10 screens can be over a 50% drop. That what makes "Precious'" 18 screen debut so remarkable.