No one needs awards coverage this deep
The British costume designer seeks her third Oscar nod for Joe Wright's latest
Keira Knightley in "Anna Karenina."
Credit: Focus Features
It's rare that a single garment in a film takes on an iconic status independent of the character or performer wearing it, yet such was the case five years ago when British designer Jacqueline Durran created That Dress for Keira Knightley in Joe Wright's “Atonement.” I needn't describe it: the shimmery emerald number launched a thousand prom-night knockoffs, has entire blogs devoted to it and is currently on display in London's Victoria & Albert Museum. Durran may have lost the 2007 Oscar to “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” but it turns out there's more than one way to reward great costume design.
Intricately in-period, yet subtly, flexibly modernized, Durran's creations were a vital collaborative element in Wright's first two films with actress Keira Knightley: two years before “Atonement,” she earned her first Oscar nod for her youthfully mud-splashed Regency garb in “Pride and Prejudice.”
Also: Older women in the Oscar race, and a 'Grave of the Fireflies' remake?
Thelma Schoonmaker at the 2004 Academy Awards.
Credit: AP Photo/Kevork Djenasezian
It's obviously a slow day for movie news, but this Atlantic piece about the danger posed to classic cinema by the digital revolution really registered with me. Much column ink has already been spilled on the demise of 35mm in contemporary film -- some of it overly doom-laden -- but less has been said about the effect the digital switchover will have on repertory screenings. Oscar-winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker, who recently found herself unable to obtain a new print of "The Age of Innocence" for a museum screening, is worried, not just about the future availability of older titles, but the preservation of the ones that do get converted: "I saw a digitized version of a film that David Lean made during World War II, and it looked just like a TV commercial that was shot yesterday. It was wrong, the balance was completely off. [Colorists] have no idea what these movies should look like anymore." [The Atlantic]
The Master of Suspense gets his own close-up this weekend
Anthony Hopkins in "Hitchcock"
Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures
We don't have much more to say about "Hitchcock" around these parts. Greg Ellwood was mostly positive at the AFI Fest premiere. I was surprised at how much it's tale of an artist desperate to feel the spark of creativity again spoke to me. We've talked to star Helen Mirren and even dedicated some content to Hitchcock's own history at the Oscars. But now it's time to hear your thoughts on Sacha Gervasi's film, which makes its way to limited release today. So if you aren't too stuffed with Thanksgiving goodies, give us your take. And feel free to rate it above.
One of the most competitive crafts categories is an embarrassment of riches
Russell Crowe in "Les Misérables"
Credit: Universal Pictures
Last year’s Best Picture winner highlighted one of the great innovations in cinematic history – the introduction of sound. As I noted in my cinematography column, it is the moving picture that, first and foremost, distinguishes cinema from other art forms. But in the absence of sound, our films feel incomplete. On this American Thanksgiving (even if I’m spending the day north of the border), I’m very grateful for our movie sound artists.
The category of Best Sound Mixing awards those who bring all elements of a movie’s aural experience – music, dialogue, effects – into a soup of sound. When done well, it exquisitely develops the atmosphere and brings the audience into the world on screen.
Up to three re-recording mixers are eligible for the prize (concerned with mixing in post-production) and the production sound mixer (who has the exceptionally important task of capturing and leveling the sound during filming). This is certainly a category where favorite artists tend to do very well as many, many sound re-recording mixers have seven-to-15 nominations over the course of their career, or even more.
Also: The year in film music, and Winslet's royal appointment
A scene from "Hannah and Her Sisters."
Credit: Orion Pictures
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! Everybody who gets to participate in it, at least: the rest of us are getting on with our working days and eating less-than-festive dinners. My experience of Turkey Day comes mostly through the movies, so I'm interested to hear if you have any go-to Thanksgiving movies that make the holiday complete. "The Ice Storm" comes first to mind for me, though it's hardly celebratory. Tim Grierson makes a solid case for "Hannah and Her Sisters," which is one of my favorite movies, period. Woody Allen's film, he writes, "recognizes that life is never perfect but that sometimes we can cobble together enough happiness to keep going... there are reasons to be thankful all around us, if only we’ll stop and appreciate them." What films give you that feeling? [IFC]
Ang Lee's visionary adaptation hits theaters just in time for the holiday
Suraj Sharma in "Life of Pi"
Credit: 20th Century Fox
Ang Lee's addition to the season is finally here as "Life of Pi" -- hotly anticipated for years -- hits the multiplex. I was favorable when I saw the film at the 50th annual New York Film Festival, though I took some mechanics issues with it. I still feel that way, though the creamy center has really felt richer and richer the further I've spun away from it. HitFix's own Drew McWeeny, meanwhile, has a completely different take, a disagreement with fundamental elements. But let's see what you have to say. Drop your comments below when you get around to seeing the film, and as always, feel free to rate it above.
Hitch probably never came closer to victory than his first time at bat
Alfred Hitchcock and his "Rebecca" leading lady, Joan Fontaine.
You needn't have been following the Oscars for long to know that -- the usual inseparability of the Best Picture and Best Director awards notwithstanding -- Academy voters aren't particularly auteurist-minded.
That's not a comment on the films and filmmakers they've chosen to reward over the years, though the winners list would look somewhat different if they were. Rather, it alludes simply to the practical consideration that their top prize is still awarded to a film's producer, not the director -- a tradition inherited from the days when producers often wielded more creative control in Hollywood than the helmers they hired to shepherd their projects to fruition. (Not coincidentally, the Academy was happier to split the Picture and Director awards back then.) If the Academy worked more along the lines of film festival juries, the director would claim, or at least share, credit for the year's best film -- and Alfred Hitchcock would have one competitive Oscar to his name.
The venerable French magazine's Top 10 ranges from 'Twixt' to 'Tabu'
Denis Lavant in "Holy Motors."
Credit: Indomina Releasing
Yep, folks, we're in Top 10 season already, and the first major list to land is both one of the longest-running and the most reliably eccentric: that of leading French cinephile magazine Cahiers du Cinéma.
As the journal on which the likes of Godard, Truffaut and Chabrol cut their teeth as writers after its establishment in 1951, Cahiers retains a staunch auteurist sensibility, and that's evident every year in their Top 10 -- though they don't always favor the same auteurs most other critics do.
Last year, they surprised everyone with an atypically softball choice -- Nanni Moretti's amiable ecclesiastical comedy "We Have a Pope" -- as the year's best. This year, paradoxical as this sounds, they're back on more familiarly adventurous ground, as Léos Carax's wild, weird, thrillingly bewildering shapeshifter study "Holy Motors" topped the list.
Also: Frank Ocean's 'Django' tune, and 2012's narrative rule-breakers
A scene from "Rise of the Guardians."
Credit: DreamWork Animation
DreamWorks Animation's "Rise of the Guardians" was once viewed by many pundits as the studio's best shot at an Oscar since winning the inaugural award 11 years ago for "Shrek," but things don't quite seem to be going to plan. Critics so far aren't wildly excited, and now box office projections for the holiday weekend suggest audiences aren't either. Variety is projecting a $25 million gross: nothing to be ashamed of, but it'd put it well below last year's "Puss in Boots," and among DreamWorks Animation's lowest openings ever. "Wreck-It Ralph" has evidently stolen its winter cartoon thunder, but can it also zoom ahead in the Oscar race? Or will voters retreat to the familiar comforts of "Pixar," or disregard commerce and side with the auteurism of "Frankenweenie?" For once, the race really is on. [Variety]
Surveying the varied contenders across both the original and adapted races
Credit: Lionsgate, The Weinstein Company, Paramount
Continuing our survey of this season's major-category contenders, we arrive at the screenplay races -- and in a super-sized gallery, we've combined both the original and adapted categories, with hopefuls ranging from summer blockbusters to upcoming prestige items to scrappy foreign and/or indie fighters.
The writers' branch is often said to be the most discerning branch of voters in the Academy, and frequently choose to go their own way. They're the ones who ignored "Titanic" when all the other voters lost their hearts to it; on the flip side, they've been to only branch to stand up for such outsiders as "Another Year," "Before Sunset" and "Y tu Mama Tambien." They can generally be counted on for a surprise or two come nomination morning.