Last year, BAFTA inaugurated its Conversations with Screen Composers series, which proved a popular one: it's always nice to see industry groups highlighting its artists outside an awards context, particularly in a forum that's open to the public. Rachel Portman, the first woman to win a scoring Oscar, was the most prominent of three composers whose work was discussed and performed in a showcase at London's iconic Royal Albert Hall. The format was successful enough that it's being repeated this year with two significant film composers: Dario Marianelli and George Fenton.
Anyone who's seen "August: Osage County" on stage knows that the role of Violet Weston, originated by Deanna Dunagan in the Steppenwolf Theatre production of Tracy Letts' play in Chicago and later reprised in a Tony-winning turn on Broadway, is catnip for any actress. Full of broad strokes and opportunity for chewing the scenery, it's a role that would have put whoever ended up with the film gig -- certainly Meryl friggin' Streep -- right in the middle of the Oscar race.
It's a clear leading role in a play with two of them (the other being Violet's daughter Barbara, originated by Amy Morton on stage and played by Julia Roberts in the film). Both, in fact, were nominated for Tonys, but the "bigger" role of Violet naturally brought in the attention and, ergo, the awards. So I don't quite know how you shuffle that performance, particularly coming from Streep, over to a supporting actress campaign, as Gold Derby is reporting, unless there has been some tinkering done with the script to make Barbara more of a fulcrum for the thing (which she kind of already is to an extent).
Fox has made a big splash recently with materials for Ben Stiller's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," positioning it well with a New York Film Festival debut and pretty much following the "Life of Pi" playbook for what could be the filmmaker's first big awards player to date. But meanwhile, a Holocaust drama from a "Downton Abbey" director with Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson and 12-year-old lead actress has been quietly positioned in the midst of the Oscar fray and could be another player for the studio.
I kept almost not liking "Elysium," but ended up being totally won over by it. Whatever that means. The thought I had coming out of the screening was that there are few filmmakers I want to keep making movies more than Neill Blomkamp. In my opinion, reviews harping on the heavy-handed message of the film miss the forest for the trees. Sometimes a point ought to be made heavy-handedly, and after all, sci-fi isn't necessarily the refuge of the subtle. Anyway, I'm a fan. I'll be interested to hear whether or not you are, too, so if you see the film this weekend, cut loose with your thoughts in the comments section and feel free to vote in our poll below. And if there's something else you've seen recently and want to discuss, consider this an open thread to do just that.
Two years ago, Rachel Weisz was the unofficial mascot of the London Film Festival, as "360" and "The Deep Blue Sea" opened and closed the fest, respectively. This year, Tom Hanks finds himself in that position, and this year's festival will be bookended by both his Oscar-buzzed prestige dramas. Paul Greengrass' thriller "Captain Phillips" was announced as the opening film last week; now John Lee Hancock's "Saving Mr. Banks," in which Hanks stars as Walt Disney opposite Emma Thompson's P.L. Travers, will close things out on October 20.
Judi Dench was a near-annual presence in the Oscar race for a time, though it's been seven years since she scored her last nomination (her sixth) for her remarkable work as an unhinged schoolteacher in "Notes on a Scandal." I maintain that she deserved the Oscar that year, but she had no chance against fellow British veteran Helen Mirren, who won Best Actress at Venice for her turn as QE2 in Stephen Frears' "The Queen" before bulldozing her way through the season. Which is funny, since that's pretty much the narrative Dench is seeking to emulate with her titular performance in Frears' latest, "Philomena."
As we steel ourselves for the season ahead with early lists of contenders and a harsh spotlight on unassuming films hoping to find an audience, let alone awards traction, it's worth remembering that the list of coulda-been players in a given Oscar season is long and considerable. And if I'm not making the point clear enough early on in that sentence, let me do so now: this is every bit the fault of analysts like me, as much as it is the films themselves, if not more.
Covering the awards season, we forecast, we look ahead, we see how things look on paper and we set sometimes unfortunate bars. Not every film is looking for that kind of exposure, and often enough, the inflated expectations of industry watchers get in the head of many a would-be player only to amplify the eventual disappointment of a dead end. That having been said, there are obviously many films that set their sights on the awards race with the right formula, or so they thought, only to come up empty-handed at the end of the day. We see them every year.
Showbiz 411's Roger Friedman -- who some might call a noted Harvey Weinstein shill -- bloviated about "Lee Daniels' The Butler" under the cover of "Oscar observation" a few weeks ago but apparently no one else could. The embargo is up today so let's get into it. The question on this one is, will it be an awards player or will it just fade out before the season even gets here? A few thoughts...
The Film Society of Lincoln Center announced today that Spike Jonze's "Her" will close the 51st New York Film Festival on Sunday, Oct. 13. "Her" is Jonze's first film since 2009's "Where the Wild Things Are" and his first original screenplay.
Shortly after the Venice Film Festival announced its heavyweight lineup last month, fest director Alberto Barbera teased us with the promise of later additions to the programme: "There are at least a couple of films we're still working on, American films," he said, stirring much excitement and speculation over various high-profile titles. Today, at least some of those latecomers were announced, and even if they're not the breathlessly awaited A-list titles some pundits were improbably hoping for, they add further shading to an already eclectic selection.