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(The Oscar Guide will be your chaperone through the Academy's 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 26, with the Best Picture finale on Saturday, February 25.)
As is often the case, the cinematographers' branch didn't exactly search far and wide for contenders in this category, settling instead on a quartet of high-profile Best Picture nominees, plus one major December release (and guild nomination hog) that surely came close to cracking the top race. Four of the men selected, moreover, are previous nominees, in keeping with this year's unofficial theme of sticking with the familiar.
The scramble for the fifth slot on the ballot was, presumably, a tight one: moodily lensed by Hoyte van Hoytema, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" was a surprise ASC nominee that seemed to be building late momentum in the final stages of voting, but wound up ceding its spot to more postcard-pretty work from a two-time Oscar champ who had been frozen out of the guild list. Oh, well.
The nominees are...
On Tuesday, Stuart Craig and Stephanie McMillan respectively earned the ninth and fifth Oscar nominations of their careers for serving as the production designer and set decorator of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.” They shared a win for "The English Patient" in 1996 and this year's mention is the fourth they have earned for the Harry Potter series, making the Best Art Direction category the place where the franchise (which wrapped itself up in 2011) has seen its greatest Oscar success.
The world of the boy wizard has been the duo's driving professional task for quite a while. Indeed, Craig (who also won Oscars for “Gandhi” and “Dangerous Liaisons”) is one of the few consistent department heads on the series going back to 2001. He interviewed with "The Sorcerer's Stone" and "The Chamber of Secrets" director Chris Columbus about the first movie over a decade ago. When he was offered the job, he says he jumped at it and never looked back. McMillan was shortly thereafter called by Craig and agreed to hop on board.
Director Joe Carnahan emerged as an up-and-comer with the release of 2002’s “Narc,” (the follow-up to his directorial debut “Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane”). The director began his career at the tail end of the “indie heyday” of the 1990s when driven artists really could carve a path to the studios out of the festival circuit with a no-budget film featuring actors with light resumes and zero notoriety.
After a notoriously rocky start in the world of big budget event films (having quit before being fired from “Mission: Impossible III”), Carnahan began to create a name for himself as a helmer of B-to-B+ level light-hearted actioners such as “Smokin’ Aces” and “The A-Team.” With tomorrow’s release of “The Grey,” however, the director will introduce audiences to a new dimension of both his psyche and work, one that might have made an impact on the current Oscar season had it hit theaters when originally anticipated.
Judging from the reactions of readers and colleagues alike, it seems a lot of people have trouble untangling the proudly knotty, restlessly non-linear espionage narrative of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" -- "It's my favorite film of the year that I didn't understand at all," one friend quite sincerely admitted to me. Some have even speculated that the film might have done better in the Oscar race if voters had found it easier to follow. Being acquainted with both John Le Carré's novel and the previous TV adaptation thereof, it's with no great sense of superiority that I say I found the film clear enough, but I was still fascinated by the estimable David Bordwell's thorough breakdown of just what's going on in the film, decoding both its structure and imagery. [David Bordwell]
Even when I don't love a Spike Lee movie, I'm always happy to go see a new Spike Lee movie, and hope springs eternal.
I didn't make it to the premiere of "Red Hook Summer" at the Eccles, and when I saw some truly venomous reactions to the film appear on Twitter afterwards, I got worried. There are Lee films that I adore without reservation, like "Do The Right Thing" or "The 25th Hour" or "He Got Game," and there are Lee films where I enjoy them but recognize they're uneven like "Clockers" or "Bamboozled" or "Mo Better Blues." But there are also some Spike Lee movies that I think just plain don't work on any level, movies I don't think I'll ever see again like "Girl 6" or "She Hate Me" or even "Summer Of Sam." The last few years, since "Miracle At St. Anna," it's felt like Spike was in retreat to some degree, focusing on things like sports documentaries or the wildly entertaining PBS production of "Passing Strange." I walked into "Red Hook Summer" with no idea which Spike Lee I'd be seeing.
It would be unlike the industry to let a groundbreaking album’s 25th anniversary come and go without some sort of fanfare. Last year was that arbitrary and round number of years for Paul Simon’s “Graceland” and it proved to be as good an opportunity as any for a reunion.
PARK CITY - Two years ago filmmaker and actor Josh Radnor arrived at the Sundance Film Festival with his debut feature "Happythankyoumoreplease." The dramatic competition dramedy was a crowd pleaser and was quickly acquired by an upstart distribution division of Hannover House before the end of the fest. Unfortunately, the story stopped being a happy one after that. Hannover House turned out to be a financial mess and "thankyou" didn't hit theaters until over a year after it debuted at the festival after Anchor Bay came in to give it a defacto release. Radnor, who most recognize as Ted on "How I Met Your Mother," is being much more discerning regarding his second feature, "Liberal Arts."
Before we begin our new episode, we see Charlize Theron go back into the stew room to thank the chefs. I don't know that we've seen that before, have we? As Grayson notes, she was a fan before, but now she's even more of a fan. And who can blame her? Very gracious, that Charlize! But we don't have much time to moon over Oscar winners and their good manners, because it's time for our Quickfire Challenge. Our six remaining chefs, who must all be exhausted beyond repair, trudge into the kitchen to see Padma, Emeril and Cat Cora waiting for them. Cat's tough, but hey, she's an Iron Chef, so it's not like she's not justified in being picky.