A year ago, Benh Zeitlin and Ben Lewin had never met, but both men were on the verge of traveling on a similar journey. The two filmmakers found their films "Beasts of the Southern Wild" (Zeitlin) and "The Surrogate" (Lewin, and later re-titled "The Sessions") accepted into the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Six weeks later, both emerged from the annual indie film showcase with critical accolades and a new home under the wise eyes of noted mini-major Fox Searchlight. Fast forward 11 months and "Beasts" is a projected best picture nominee and "The Sessions" could find stars John Hawkes and Helen Hunt nominated in the best actor and best supporting actress race respectively.
If the New York Film Critics Circle believed they might cause a commotion with a number of their 2012 selections, they certainly succeeded in rattling the awards season boat. The NYFCC, like their Los Angeles counterparts, have rarely gone with the collective wisdom unless it’s the best picture or best director category. This year? They made sure Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” remained a centerpiece in the best picture race with honors for best actor (a very deserving Daniel Day-Lewis), best screenplay (cultural touchstone Tony Kushner) and, um, best supporting actress (Sally Field). Where they really stirred things up was by giving the season’s first major kudos to “Zero Dark Thirty" and pretty much anointing best actress and best supporting actors out of left field.
NEW YORK -- Having just come from interviewing the cast of "Les Miserables," I can tell you there is a genuine excitement in the air. Tom Hooper's adaptation of the long-running and now classic musical was a difficult gig for everyone involved and the almost unanimous enthusiasm over the finished product has clearly lifted a weight off their shoulders (you'd have to assume Hooper's as well, but he was still in Los Angeles where he attended last night's Governors Awards).
Many moviegoers don't like to watch clips before seeing a film, but if you're still unsure what the hype is all about these four should make it incredibly clear. Hooper's decision to have his actors sing live is close to a game changer and are one reason "Les Miz" is going to be part of the Oscar discussion for quite some time. Universal Pictures was also smart in making sure each preview was over a minute long so viewers could appreciate the performances and music at work.
When Lee Daniels’ “The Paperboy” debuted at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival last May, the reviews were hardly glowing. The Twitterverse was full of salacious tweets of crude acts by an Oscar winning actress and snarked about over-the-top Southern campiness – all out of context, of course. Even In Contention’s own Guy Lodge seemed torn over the film seemingly want to like it, but only rewarding it with a B- (and that was one of the more initial positive reviews). In fact, so few of my peers seemed to champion it (and those who didn’t like it hated it), that I tossed it in the back of my mind as a disappointing misfire for Daniels. Financier Millennium Entertainment decision to distribute the picture themselves seemed to be the final nail in the coffin. If no mini-major was going to take the time to acquire a “sexy melodrama” starring a mostly shirtless Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack and Matthew McConaughey it wasn’t worth rushing to see, right?
Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis will need to make some more room on his award shelf.
The 24th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival will present Zemeckis with the Director of the Year Award for "Flight."
The Awards Gala will be held Saturday, January 5, at the Palm Springs Convention Center.
As always, the Spirits are an intriguing beast. Originally a fly by the seat of your pants awards show meant to give exposure to indie films they couldn't find anywhere else the Spirits have morphed into a prestigious honor that people in the industry actually care about. This year it appears the nominating committees got it mostly right. Sure, there's that always sticky $20 million or less budget figure qualification no one wants to pay attention to (until they do) and some blatant omissions here and there. But, at the end of the day the Spirits still provide an important platform for new filmmakers to make their mark with moviegoers and the larger movie industry. Taking that into account, here are the winners and losers after the announcement of the 2013 Independent Spirit Awards nominees this morning.
When the 2013 Independent Spirit Awards nominations are announced less than 12 hours from now many of the nominations won't surprise you. "Silver Linings Playbook," "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Moonrise Kingdom" should all receive multiple nods. The question is where will the Spirit nominating committees pull a fast one? Because, let's face it, they always do. Whether it's deciding "The Artist" qualifies as an American production (don't get me started on this one) or basically ignoring "Midnight in Paris" or giving "The Last Station" a best feature nod, half of the Spirit nominations are almost never what you expect. That being said, they are somewhat predictable in their unpredictableness. Here are five things you should look for when the nominations are revealed at 10 AM PST.
Ah, the Gotham Awards. New York's smaller cousin to the Independent Spirit Awards. Part tribute show, part awards showcase, the Gothams are if nothing but entertaining.
The program is being streamed by IFP here, but feel free to enjoy this live blog of the evening's highlights. The audience may already be buzzed, but we won't be.
8:13 PM EST - Jimmy Kimmel comes out (via tape) and tells everyone to be quiet. "You are there to celebrate the best independent films of 2012 and Matt Damon" and then rips all his commercial hits. "No one embodies the spirit of independent film like Matt Damon."
There is something very disheartening about the box office performance of "Rise of the Guardians" this past holiday weekend. When Paramount and DreamWorks Animation first previewed footage from "Guardians" early this year there was genuine excitement in the media and animation circles. After surprising moviegoers with an unexpectedly adult-friendly "Puss and Boots" and somehow improving critically with "Kung Fu Panda 2," DWA seemed intent on continuing to break the mold with their upcoming slate. Principally, "Guardians" was executive produced by Guillermo Del Toro (who seemed to work wonders for "Boots") and was their first property acquisition since "Shrek" back in the day. And that was just the beginning of its impressive creative credentials.
WEST HOLLYWOOD - "Zero Dark Thirty," Kathryn Bigelow's follow up to her Oscar-winning thriller "The Hurt Locker," made its formal screening debut in both New York and Los Angeles on Sunday, but the West Coast audience had the pleasure of a formal discussion with the director and some of her cast members immediately following.