<p>Cate Blanchett, Woody Allen and Alec Baldwin on the set of &quot;Blue Jasmine.&quot;</p>

Cate Blanchett, Woody Allen and Alec Baldwin on the set of "Blue Jasmine."

Credit: Sony Classics

Roundup: Woody Allen's valentine to casting directors

Also: David O. Russell honored at AFI Fest, and critics' blind spot with docs

Since the Academy created a casting directors' branch earlier this year, there's been a growing debate over whether or not a new Oscar category should be created for them. One person clearly in the "pro" camp is Woody Allen, who has written an open letter in praise of their work -- and, in particular, that of his longtime collaborator Juliet Taylor, whom he credits with introducing him to the work of such actors as Dianne Wiest, Jeff Daniels and Patricia Clarkson. (Wait, he worked with Clarkson in 2009 - bit slow on the uptake there, Woody!)  "Because my films are not special effects films and are about human beings, proper casting is absolutely essential," he writes. "I owe a big part of the success of my films to this scrupulous casting process which I must say if left to my own devices would never have happened." [Hollywood Reporter]

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<p>Jonah Hill and Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese's &quot;The Wolf of Wall Street.&quot;</p>

Jonah Hill and Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street."

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Contender Countdown: Oscar race gets a taste of 'Wolf of Wall Street'

Are there just two potential party crashers left?

Another week, another contender officially enters the fray for Best Picture. Last week, "Saving Mr. Banks" took its expected place among the top five contenders. This week, Martin Scorsese returns to the Oscar game for the fifth time this century with "The Wolf of Wall Street."

Think about that fact just one more time.  Are we really surprised Marty's back in the game?

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<p>A scene from &quot;12 Years a Slave&quot;</p>

A scene from "12 Years a Slave"

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Tech Support: The production designers go it alone this year

As the costumers form their own branch, how will that affect the race?

For the second year of "Best Production Design" (the category previously known as Best Art Direction), we have a slightly different system of choosing the nominees. That's because the costume designers have split off from the designers branch to form their own branch. It'll be interesting to see how this long overdue development affects the race in both categories.

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<p>Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet in&nbsp;&quot;Labor Day&quot;</p>

Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet in "Labor Day"

Credit: Paramount Pictures

A very different Jason Reitman on display in the trailer for 'Labor Day'

The film is set for release this Christmas

The reactions to Jason Reitman's "Labor Day" ever since it dropped at Telluride have been interesting, stretching from adulation and tears to outright seething hatred. It's a very different film for the director, representing a mature departure from his prior work. "The edge that has defined Reitman's work has been set aside while a more refined, lived-in aesthetic has taken hold," I wrote out of the Colorado festival.

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<p>Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson at this year's BAFTA&nbsp;Awards.</p>

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson at this year's BAFTA Awards.

Credit: AP Photo

Roundup: Bond producers honored by PGA

Also: McConaughey in THR's actors' roundtable, and David Simon on '12 Years'

James Bond franchise producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson already got a nod of respect from the Producers' Guild of America last year, when "Skyfall" was one of the 10 films nominated for their top award. At the next PGA ceremony, on January 26, the duo will actually get to take something home: they've been named the winners of the PGA's David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Motion Pictures, a prize previously presented to such named as Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Billy Wilder and Roger Corman. In their statement, PGA chairs Michael DeLuca and Lori McCreary commended them for "[bringing] thrilling exploits and cinematic masterpieces to audiences worldwide." [PGA]

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<p>Mark&nbsp;Wahlberg in &quot;Lone Survivor&quot;</p>

Mark Wahlberg in "Lone Survivor"

Credit: Universal Pictures

Real life 'Lone Survivor' and Mark Wahlberg discuss the cost and depiction of war

Marcus Luttrell's story makes for a riveting account but is it an Oscar player?

In June of 2005, during a firefight with Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan that would claim the lives of three of his fellow Navy SEALs, Petty Officer First Class Marcus Luttrell broke his back. He broke his pelvis. He tore out his shoulder, bit his tongue in half and crushed his hand. He sustained facial bone damage, he was shot "through and through" his quads and his calves, his body was riddled with shrapnel from his ankles to his eyes…and he lived to tell the tale.

That tale was captured on the page in his 2007 memoir "Lone Survivor" and it has now been captured on the big screen by director Peter Berg with Mark Wahlberg in the starring role as Luttrell. A riveting depiction of the mission, called Operation Red Wings, the film eschews traditional structure and launches its players into the heart of darkness quickly before tearing through a 33-minute recreation of the firefight itself that recalls such nail-biting sequences as those captured by Steven Spielberg in "Saving Private Ryan" or Ridley Scott in "Black Hawk Down."

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Berenice Bejo and Tahar Rahim in "The Past."
Berenice Bejo and Tahar Rahim in "The Past."
Credit: Sony Classics

The Long Shot: No country for gold men

How long can Oscar pretend the foreign-language race is a cinematic Olympics?

Here's a fact of which not all awards-watchers are entirely aware: Michael Haneke hasn't won an Oscar. Neither has Francois Truffaut, nor Luis Bunuel. Pedro Almodovar has one for writing, but that's it. Ang Lee has two for directing, but nothing for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” And Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini and Akira Kurosawa each won honorary Oscars, but no competitive ones between them.

At this point, some of you might be crying foul. You expressly remember Haneke accepting his Oscar only a few months ago. You've definitely seen Almodovar give two acceptance speeches. And you know your Oscar history: Fellini has four of the damn things. What gives?

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<p>Nick Kroll</p>

Nick Kroll

Credit: AP Photo

Nick Kroll set to host Gotham Independent Film Awards

IFP event will take place December 2

Nick Kroll, the comedian and "Kroll Show" star, will host  IFP's Gotham Independent Film Awards on Monday, Dec. 2 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City.

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Adele Exarchopoulos in "Blue is the Warmest Color."
Adele Exarchopoulos in "Blue is the Warmest Color."
Credit: Sundance Selects

France's Oscar entry snubbed by Louis Delluc jury, as Cannes hits make the grade

'Blue is the Warmest Color' the frontrunner for France's most prestigious award

Well, this isn't exactly a vote of confidence in France's submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Eyebrows were raised when Gilles Bourdos' attractive but not notably acclaimed period biopic "Renoir" was selected to represent the country at the Academy Awards, and those same skeptics will feel vindicated by today's shortlist for the most prestigious individual award in French cinema, the Louis Delluc Prize: eight films have been nominated, and "Renoir" is not among them. 

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<p>Asa Butterfield and Harrison Ford in &quot;Ender's Game.&quot;</p>

Asa Butterfield and Harrison Ford in "Ender's Game."

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Review: Virtual reality gets complicated in smart, solemn 'Ender's Game'

HitFix
B
Readers
n/a
Orson Scott Card adaptation credits its young audience with some intelligence
The pint-size soldiers of Gavin Hood's “Ender's Game,” the long-awaited adaptation of Orson Scott Card's YA sci-fi franchise starter, are dab hands at fighting off alien invaders, unreasonable authoritarianism and each other – though we have yet to see how well equipped they are to handle a real-world human rights boycott. In the last few months, the volume of the marketing for this would-be tentpole has been rivalled by the pop-cultural pushback against its creator: not Hood, of course, but co-producer Card, a sophisticated, audience-attuned storyteller who also happens to be a vocally homophobic loon. Would that Summit could write him out of the production and retitle it “Gavin Hood's Ender's Game” – or, indeed, “Lee Daniels' Ender's Game.” But them's the breaks.

 Why open on this purely circumstantial note? The situation is not of the film's making, after all – Hood's adaptation is even at pains to remove whatever evidence of the author's dubious personal beliefs had seeped onto the page. (Sure, it's just a coincidence that Card settled on the term “Buggers” for the alien race threatening to wipe out humanity.) Meanwhile, a boycott is the last thing “Ender's Game,” a carefully constructed, serious-minded commercial entertainment that treats its young audience with an unusual degree of intelligence, deserves.

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