Sony Pictures Classics is usually the dominant force in the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar race -- they've won the award for the last four years running. But they took a knock when the Academy unveiled the nine-film shortlist last month: with "The Past" and "Wadjda" failing to make the cut, the savvy campaigners were left without a contender in the hunt. Until now. SPC has picked up one of the two distributor-less titles on the list, Hungary's hard-edged Holocaust drama "The Notebook." It was already a strong nomination possibility, given the Academy's seemingly tireless taste for films on that era. Now that it has Sony's undivided attention in this competitive category, however, it's a formidable threat. [Deadline]
"Gravity" picked up another Best Picture prize on the critics circuit today as the Central Ohio Film Critics Association handed it the year's top honor. Alfonso Cuarón won Best Director for the film and Emmanuel Lubezki won Best Cinematography. Top acting honors went to Chiwetel Ejiofor and Adèle Exarchopoulos and James Franco was recognized for his work in "Spring Breakers." Check out the nominees here, the full list of winners below and remember to keep track of the season at The Circuit.
As you may have noticed earlier today, we are now firmly into the Guild stage of the season -- with the critics (bar a few groups, notably the august National Society) having largely had their say, it's time for the industry to pinpoint their favorites of the season. More often than not, Guild nominations usher in a wave of dull consensus: while you'd hope various groups of professional peers would single out different films for different reasons, they have a tendency to zero in on the same tightening circle of Oscar contenders, whether the films particularly excel in their department or not. (Remember when "Sumdog Millionaire" won everything from the SAG ensemble prize to the Costume Designers' Guild award a few years back?)
It's enough of a challenge to capture a life like Nelson Mandela's in a 146-minute film, but how do you use music to reflect such an extraordinary man? That is the challenge that faced composer Alex Heffes on Justin Chadwick's "Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom," and his compositions have since earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score.
The Best Picture Oscar nominees that failed to receive PGA nominations in the last four years — i.e. the relevant era — are "The Blind Side," "A Serious Man," "Winter's Bone," "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," "The Tree of Life" and "Amour." So there is hope yet for films like "Inside Llewyn Davis," "Lee Daniels' The Butler" and "Philomena" that absolutely have support within the Academy but missed out on recognition this morning. And also note, one of the films that missed with PGA over the last four years was a Coen brothers effort that manifested great passion within the Academy.
The films that made the PGA cut but missed with Oscar over that stretch are "Invictus," "Star Trek," "The Town," "Bridesmaids," "The Ides of March," "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," "Moonrise Kingdom" and "Skyfall." There are more misses because the PGA has stuck with 10 nominees over the last two years, when the Academy changed its rules slightly to allow for anywhere from five to 10 nominees (and have ended up with nine both years). So someone from today's announcement will absolutely be left off, but who?
The Producers Guild of America announced the 10 nominees for theatrical picture and animated picture categories today for the upcoming 25th PGA Awards and familiar names such as "American Hustle," "Gravity," "12 Years A Slave," "The Croods" and "Frozen" made the cut. Surprisingly, the Coen Bros' and Scott Rudin produced "Inside Llewyn Davis" and The Weinstein Company's "Lee Daniels' The Butler" was snubbed from the 10 motion picture honorees.
The last couple of days of the year were pretty electric for Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio and "The Wolf of Wall Street." The perception out there was that they — particularly DiCaprio, who hopped on the phone with a number of outlets on Monday (including this one) — were backed into a corner and needed to defend their film against an array of accusations. The studio probably wanted the bad press tapered, but whatever the case, it's been a bumpy road this holiday for a film some consider unequivocally the year's best, others consider an abomination.
But here at the beginning of the year, whether Oscar and guild nominations are in the film's future or not, there will be tribute love for the two creative forces from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Paired up, DiCaprio and Scorsese will receive the fest's Cinema Vanguard Award on Thursday, Feb. 6 at the historic Arlington Theatre.
One of the year's most complex achievements in film editing, I think, is one likely to go unrecognized at Oscar time: Eric Zumbrunnen's meticulous cutting of "Her," which goes a long way toward creating a convincing character and a relationship -- more or less literally -- out of thin air. In the last part of the LA Times's excellent "Five Days of 'Her'" series, Zumbrunnen discusses the challenges the film posed, notably the tricky process of replacing a key performance in post-production, as well as the decision over whether or not to feature a physical representation of Scarlett Johansson's Samantha on screen. Fascinating stuff. [LA Times]
It's been a pretty good year to be Angela Lansbury -- or Dame Angela Lansbury, should you now wish to address her as such. The 88-year-old actress is the most prominent film-related name on the annual New Year Honors list -- titles and citations presented by Queen Elizabeth II to those deemed worthy in any number of areas. For her services to the arts, Lansbury has been declared a DBE -- or Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, if you want to get wordy about it.
With Emmanuel Lubezki almost certain to take the Best Cinematography Oscar for "Gravity," few will argue that he's well past due the award -- but many will take issue with the technical implications of such FX-integrated work being recognized in such a fashion. It's an issue that now surfaces on a near-annual basis (wins for "Avatar" and "Life of Pi," in particular, caused a stir), and filmmaker Jamie Stuart thinks it's time "to redefine what constitutes cinematography." Part of that movement, he says, should be to divide the Oscar into two awards: "one for conventional live-action cinematography, and another for CGI-based filmmaking," much as black-and-white and color work was recognized separately until 1967. He's not the first to advocate such a change. What do you think? [Indiewire]