I'm not sure I've ever had a more purely enjoyable festival experience than I did at last year's Miami International Film Festival. The location alone obviously takes some beating, but the convivial, celebratory atmosphere of proceedings, coupled with some imaginative programming (particularly of Latin American fare unlikely to be seen elsewhere), made it rather special. Cannes may have its attractions, but a relaxed press brunch with Darlene Love, for example, is not among them.
A day later and I'm realizing I still haven't fully absorbed the unfortunate, untimely passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman. A house full of people yesterday for a boring football game and the usual work-related stuff this morning has kept it a bit at bay ever since the news struck yesterday.
I will say I'm annoyed at the predictability of high-horse riding judgment from those who clearly have no idea what addiction entails. But that kind of finger-wagging, which we can always spot as little more than frustration on behalf of others — children, loved one, etc. — left in the wake of such a tragedy, is to be expected. It can be timed like the tides. And it's always another level of sadness over these things.
Anyway, the point is, I'm still processing. We lost a genius, and one in his prime. These were the years of amazing Phil Hoffman performances. We were in the middle of it, you see? We just left the movie an hour in, so to speak, right in the meat of the second act build. But I'm grateful for the perspective of filmmakers like Cameron Crowe, who wrote a brief, poignant remembrance of Hoffman's work on a key scene from his 2000 film "Almost Famous."
With Woody Allen under fire following the resurfacing of his estranged daughter's abuse allegations, and the "Alone Yet Not Alone" scandal leaving a bitter taste, Michael Cieply ponders the unexpected ethical issues that have entered this year's Oscar race. "By and large, Oscar voters are lucky if they can find time to see the nominated films, let alone sort through a court case or a secret military operation. But they, including actors, are increasingly being asked to do just that," he writes, before citing Roman Polanski's surprise 2002 win as an example of the Academy "[using] the awards to send a message about focusing on art, not behavior." [New York Times]
I remember for a number of years I used to own a VHS tape called "Oscar's Greatest Moments," a unique peek at the Academy Awards over a 20-year stretch, from 1971 to 1991. Unique because the Academy rarely offers up this sort of material, for whatever reason. The organization's YouTube channel has been a nice resource in recent years, but it's been a while since we've seen something quite like Turner Classic Movies' "And the Oscar Goes To" documentary, which premiered Saturday night and aired again this evening directly after the Super Bowl.
The London Film Critics’ Circle Awards have just been presented at a black-tie ceremony in London, and while it’d be unseemly for me to evaluate their choices – given that I’m one of the voters – it’s fair to say the wealth was generously spread. “12 Years a Slave,” which has taken the most Best Picture prizes from critics in the US, added another to its tally: in addition to the Film of the Year Award, it also took acting prizes for Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o.
Philip Seymour Hoffman had pretty much settled into one of the top tier actors of his generation. I shouldn't even hedge: he WAS one of the great actors of his generation, arguably at the very top. His trick was making it look easy, so the other guys get that recognition. The flashy players stand out. But Hoffman was sublime each and every time out. He brought A-game to things like "Along Came Polly," for Christ's sake.
And now he's gone?? I can't even begin to register that. That's a punch right in the stomach.
Rife as they are with studio politics, the Annie Awards can sometimes perversely turn against frontrunners in the animated Oscar race, but if you were looking for any such shake-ups this year, you were out of luck. Disney's all-but-certain Oscar winner "Frozen" was the night's big winner, taking five awards for Best Animated Feature, Direction, Music, Production Design and Voice Acting for Josh Gad's irrepressible summer-loving snowman.
Well, if you didn't already think the cinematography Oscar race was a done deal, it certainly is now: season-long favorite Emmanuel Lubezki has taken the ASC Award for "Gravity."
Of all the cinematography precursors on the circuit, the ASC is the most resistant to 3D and CGI-enhanced imagery: recent Oscar winners in the category like "Avatar," "Hugo" and "Life of Pi" all failed to win here, so it wouldn't have been a surprise to see the voters plump for the more old-school work of "Inside Llewyn Davis" or even "The Grandmaster." The fact that they, too, joined the "Gravity" express underlines that this year, nothing is coming between Lubezki and his overdue first Oscar.
The Writers' Guild of America Awards have taken place in their customary confusing fashion, with the lack of co-ordination between the East Coast and West Coast ceremonies meaning certain key winners were revealed well before their awards were actually presented. The WGA should probably work on that. Anyway, the big news is that the three big winners in the film categories are Spike Jonze for "Her," Billy Ray for "Captain Phillips" and Sarah Polley for "Stories We Tell."
The Academy has released a statement concerning the decision to rescind the Best Original Song Oscar nomination for "Alone Yet Not Alone." Here it is in full...