This weekend, 20th Century Fox arrived to the 2013 film awards season with a pair of hopefuls that couldn't be more different from the outside. Nevertheless, Brian Percival's "The Book Thief" and Ben Stiller's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," both of which will be viewed as cloying in some circles, are made with an honesty that could stave off some of the cynicism and register. At the end of the day, though, neither is the slam dunk contender the studio may have hoped for a year after "Life of Pi."
There are, obviously, many reasons to look forward to Spike Jonze's "Her," which premieres at the New York Film Festival later this week -- beginning, of course, with the fact that it's a Spike Jonze movie, and his first since 2009's "Where the Wild Things Are" (much loved round these parts). But news of another major filmmaker's indirect input just makes the whole project that much more intriguing.
When the deadline for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar submissions passed last week, it seemed odd that China – the last major filmmaking nation not yet in the race – hadn’t submitted a film yet. As it turns out, they’d entered one on September 29; national holidays had simply prevented the announcement. And for the second time in three years, China has looked to Hollywood names to give them a boost in the race: this year’s selection, “Back to 1942,” which was released Stateside last year, features Oscar-winning actors Adrien Brody and Tim Robbins in its otherwise Chinese ensemble.
The big reveal of the weekend was Ben Stiller's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," which was unveiled at the New York Film Festival to a mixed reception. Audiences seemed to respond to the whimsical romantic fantasy; perhaps unsurprisingly, critics were, on balance, a little cooler. David Hudson, as usual, does a good job of rounding up reactions to the film so far, which include warm (if not ecstatic) reviews from the trades, while the likes of IndieWire, Slant and Film.com are less convinced. (HitFix's own Drew McWeeny offered muted approval.) Too early and inconclusive, then, to draw any conclusions about its awards-season future; it may well come down to how it plays with the public. [Fandor]
After three film festivals and weeks of buzz, Alfonso Cuarón's "Gravity" has finally arrived in theaters in the U.S. The film has been an awards season player for some time, but the universal acclaim has likely surprised even Warner Bros., who produced and is distributing the film.
Let no one accuse the American Film Institute of not giving us sufficient notice on this: it won't be presented until next summer, but veteran actress/activist/workout instructress Jane Fonda has been named the recipient of the next AFI Life Achievement Award. She'll accept the honor at a gala tribute evening of June 5, 2014.
Forest Whitaker's awards season prospects are very much in flux: his potential Oscar nomination for summer hit "The Butler" (which would be only the second of his career) is largely dependent on whether or not certain prestige films take hold in the months to come. One honor he'll definitely be receiving, however, is the Actor Tribute at the indie-oriented Gotham Awards on December 2. "Breaking boundaries and challenging audiences with complex, multifaceted roles, Forest Whitaker is a significant independent voice whose performances have only been elevated by his visionary work as a producer, director and humanitarian," says Gotham Award director Joana Vicente. Previous recipients of the tribute include Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon and Robert Duvall. [Hollywood Reporter]
For nationwide audiences, the wait is over. And hopefully we haven't built it up too much around here but me, Greg, Guy, Drew -- we're pretty much over the moon for "Gravity," an experience like none you've ever had in a theater. I caught it twice at Telluride and it seemed at the time that a tandem piece with "All is Lost" made sense, given thematic and narrative parallels. We've talked to the film's director, Alfonso Cuarón, as well as producer David Heyman and star Sandra Bullock. It truly is one of the great movies of our era and I'm not personally concerned about overstating it. Now, however, it's your turn. So when you get around to seeing it this weekend or whenever, please tell us what you thought in the comments section and feel free to vote in our poll. I know I'll be heading out to see it in IMAX tonight and, at some point, Dolby Atmos. It warrants multiple trips to the multiplex, I think.
By now, you've surely heard -- or seen for yourself -- that Sandra Bullock is excellent in "Gravity." Critics who never much cared for the star in her signature romantic comedies, or her Oscar-winning dramatic turn in "The Blind Side," are now hailing her work as an imperiled astronaut adrift in space as a revelatory breakthrough. "Who knew?" they ask.
Well, hold up a minute. Some of us knew, and not just the Academy members who checked off her name in the 2009 Best Actress race. "Gravity" may be a better, more ambitious film than the vast majority of Sandra Bullock's output, but that doesn't mean it magically transformed her overnight into a gifted actress. She's always been this good, it's just that you've sometimes had to look past the films to see it. Even then, not always; for every shoddy B-movie of which she's been the saving grace, there's another exemplary genre piece in which she has equally excelled. Nobody was calling her immaculately timed comic turn in this summer's delightful action-comedy "The Heat" a revelation, for example, but I'd argue that it's every bit as strong a showcase for her abilities as "Gravity."
Cate Blanchett, as you may have heard, received a Gala Tribute at the New York Film Festival last night. On the one hand, such events are opportunities for actors to bask in the warm glow of others' admiration, in return for doling out a few anecdotes and quotable (usually self-deprecating) reflections on their life and work. On the other, however, they can be key campaign stops for actors on the awards trail, and for Blanchett – the incumbent Best Actress frontrunner for her riveting comeback performance in Woody Allen's “Blue Jasmine” – this was her first significant PR opportunity of the season, considering how unassumingly the art house hit opened in the summer.