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As Anne and I discussed in Friday's Oscar Talk podcast, Disney/DreamWorks has been screening Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" to the public in a pop-up screening strategy kinda/sorta like the one Paramount employed for "Young Adult." Some are taking the cynical route, thinking the strategy is playing keep-away with a film that doesn't have the goods for Oscar. The goal of these screenings is indeed fuzzy, but the reactions are key, and they seem to be wide-ranging.
If you dissect Twitter you can find them. Some call the film a "masterpiece." Others call it shameless "Oscar bait." Whatever it is, I stand by my comments on Friday. If press members want to feel scorned by not getting an early look at such a highly anticipated film and then take it out on said film, that's incredibly petty and sad. I look forward to seeing and hopefully enjoying the film on its own terms.
Meanwhile, though, the press tour is showing signs of life. And one of the first considerable interviews with Spielberg I've seen regarding the film has popped up over at the Chicago Tribune with film critic Michael Phillips.
It's time for another morning round-up, in which I have brief thoughts on the most recent episodes of "Pan Am" and "Once Upon a Time," coming up just as soon as I borrow your uniform...
Actress Keira Knightley has cranked out a boatload of sincere performances in the wake of her work in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, whether it be "Atonement" in 2007, "The Duchess" in 2008, "Never Let Me Go" last year or the soon-to-be-released "A Dangerous Method," which could generate Oscar talk for the actress yet again. Well, it turns out she's desperate for a bit of levity, having recently completed "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" (great script) opposite Steve Carrell. But then, well, it's back to the grind with Joe Wright and "Anna Karenina," so call it a brief comedic pit stop. [Telegraph]
There's a tendency in our circles to talk about the European Film Awards, which announced their annual nominations on Saturday, as some kind of highbrow parallel-universe Oscars, where art reigns and Hollywood-style politics have no place. To some extent, that's true: at what other international awards ceremony would the top nominee be something as off-the-wall as Lars von Trier's apocalypse drama "Melancholia," which comfortably leads all takers with eight nods?
But look closer at the EFA list, and you'll see it's as riddled with conservatism and short-sightedness as any Academy Award ballot. Familiar big-name filmmakers dominate, while newer talents get frozen out. Exciting, difficult European marvels like "We Need to Talk About Kevin" and "Elena" are shunted out of the top categories in favor of vanilla, Academy-endorsed titles like "The King's Speech" and "In a Better World." Cannes remains the standard-setter: two-thirds of the Best European Film slate comes from this year's Competition.
Sometimes lady luck is clearly on your side and sometimes it really isn't. In terms of Oscar, Woody Harrelson has consistently struck out with the mercurial lady twice already and this year it appears he won't even make it to the party. Harrelson gives another impressive and strong performance as Dave Brown, an LAPD cop who can't break his corrupt habits in Owen Moverman's "Rampart." Harrelson's performance has drawn raves since the film debuted at the Toronto Film Festival in September (this pundit screened it at the AFI Fest on Saturday night). After Toronto, Millennium Entertainment came on board to give the film a pre-release Oscar qualifying run in December and a platform release in 2012. In hindsight, the Toronto and fall release strategy may not have been the best strategy for "Ramparts" producers.
I posted my review of "Hell on Wheels" earlier in the week. Now it's your turn. Did you enjoy this show's take on the familiar Western genre? Did you buy Anson Mount as a grizzled gunslinger? Common as a tough ex-slave? Colm Meaney as a charismatic businessman who gives monologues to thin air? If you were a "Deadwood" fan, was it hard to avoid the similarities? Most importantly, will you keep watching?
As I said at the end of my review, I didn't especially like the show, but it's acceptable enough in a genre I enjoy that I imagine I'll at least be sticking with it through the end of the season. And as a result, I may wind up doing regular posts - about as long as this one, if not shorter - to see if other people want to keep talking about it. We'll play it by ear, and if the interest just isn't there, I'll either stop or start bundling it up into one of the semi-regular round-up features.
Have at it.
A review of tonight's "Homeland" coming up just as soon as I'm a victim of your fabulousness...
Over at the Los Angeles Times/Envelope 24 Frames blog, Nicole Sperling has a juicy exclusive regarding this year's Oscar telecast. It seems Brett Ratner and Don Mischer, producers of this year's show, have hired a unique crop of comedy writers to work alongside Eddie Murphy and shake things up a bit.
Scribes tapped include: Alec Berg and David Mandel, two of the writers on Larry David's successful HBO comedy series "Curb Your Enthusiasm"; Jeff Nathanson, who frequently works with Ratner ("Tower Heist" and the "Rush Hour" films); Ted Griffin, who was part of the team of writers on Steven Soderbergh's "Ocean's" franchise; and Barry Blaustein and David Sheffield, who worked with Murphy on the "Nutty Professor" series and "Saturday Night Live."
Jon Macks, who wrote on the last 14 Oscarcasts and has extensive experience with variety show writing, from the Emmys to the Country Music Awards to "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," will also be on board.
A review of tonight's "Boardwalk Empire" coming up just as soon as I send you a book with a horse in it...
A review of tonight's "The Walking Dead" coming up just as soon as I bet on the snowball...