Last week this pundit discussed the buzz that was circling back on "Saving Mr. Banks" before its world premiere as the closing night film at the 2013 London Film Festival. And as chronicled by Guy Lodge's review and my own rundown of "Banks'" Oscar chances, the film is truly a player. Fast forward two days and in something of a surprise, another potential contender, "The Monuments Men," moves to 2014. That means we have just two unseen contenders left: "American Hustle" and "The Wolf of Wall Street."
Palme d'Or winner "Blue is the Warmest Color" may still be one of my favorite films of the year, but director Abdellatif Kechiche sure is doing his damnedest to make me sick of hearing about it. His ongoing feud with the film's stars and Palme co-winners -- in particular, Léa Seydoux -- has been a hot media topic for a couple of months now, with Kechiche rather melodramatically stating at one point that the film had been tainted and shouldn't be released. He's since retracted that particular outburst, but if you thought he was done, you thought wrong.
And another one, as they say, bites the dust. Well, for this year, anyway. Most Oscar pundits had George Clooney's WWII adventure "The Monuments Men" placed fairly prominently on their prediction lists, and with the unveiling of a high-toned new trailer last week, the all-star attraction seemed primed for the season ahead. That is, until Sony Pictures dropped the bombshell that the film would not be ready for release this year after all. "The Monuments Men" thus becomes the highest-profile film so far -- following others like Sony Classics' "Foxcatcher" and The Weinstein Company's "Grace of Monaco" -- to bow out of the awards race before it's begun.
The best Oscar-related piece on the internet comes from Salon critic Andrew O'Hehir, who examines our fascination with the awards, as as we concede that they mean little in the grand scheme of things: "The Oscar race has things to teach us, every single year; but on the other hand, the manufactured narrative that gets spun out of it is almost entirely devoid of meaning ... like electoral politics with the ideology shoved under the carpet." The difference this year, he says, is that neither of this year's two apparent race-leaders fit the usual Oscar formula: "12 Years a Slave" is a "valuable historical corrective" and "formally audacious," while "Gravity" "may have too much catharsis ... a remake of Kubrick’s '2001' made by HAL." [Salon]
Coming around to the final of the four acting categories this season, Best Supporting Actress isn't as jam-packed as the Best Supporting Actor field, but it's pretty dense in its own right. What's more, while it's not exactly "wide" open, there is room to navigate and we could end up with a surprise or two.
It's interesting watching things shake out so relatively late in the season. First Sony Classics decided that, rather than push "Foxcatcher" out there at the end of the season, it would wait and allow further considerations time to breathe in the editing room. Now that company's parent, Sony Pictures, has shuffled George Clooney's "The Monuments Men," which has been test screening and had a scoring session booked in London yesterday, out of what is already a crazily crowded year.
A couple of weeks ago -- I don't recall the context -- a reader asked me who I thought deserved consideration for an Honorary Oscar in the near future. Among the names I threw into the hat was Mike Leigh. The 70-year-old British writer-director may still be very much an active talent, but over the course of seven nominations (two for Best Director, five for Best Original Screenplay) in 16 years, Leigh hasn't really come close to cracking the winner's circle: his films may just be too intimately English, and his workshop-heavy creative process too unconventional, for the larger Academy ever to "get" him. And that's a shame.
It's really hard to hide the disdain this pundit has for the Hollywood Film Awards. There may be no less authentic awards ceremony during awards season. Honestly, it's pretty much pointless and just an exercise for potential nominees to practice their speeches and red carpet talking points. Damn you Kanye West for giving the event any sort of relevancy.
The winners of the Academy's annual Nicholls Fellowship in Screenwriting rarely get too much attention, gien that these new writers and their scripts are completely unknown quantities. Still, it's worth keeping these names in mind, since every now and then, a Nicholls winner makes it to the screen with some success. One of 2010's choices, for example, was Destin Daniel Cretton's much-beloved indie "Short Term 12"; 1992 winner Susannah Grant went on to write the Oscar-nominated script for "Erin Brockovich." Perhaps similar things await the writers of this year's five winners: "Legion," "Joe Banks," "Jersey City Story," "Queen of Hearts" and "Sugar in My Veins." [AMPAS]