Three of this year's Best Picture nominees began life on the Croisette
As the absence of any potential Oscar fodder from the just-wrapped Berlin Film Festival became apparent -- pundits on the hunt for a second consecutive "A Separation"-style crossover item were disappointed with the lineup, though cineastes needn't have been -- I got to thinking about the presence of festival fare in this year's Academy Awards class.
In recent years, the festival circuit has become far more integral to the Oscar race than it used to be: all but one of the last six Best Picture winners debuted at a high-profile festival, from Cannes and Venice to Toronto and Telluride.
That's in marked contrast to the beginning of the new century, when all five winners from "Gladiator" through to "Million Dollar Baby" were major studio productions that had no need of a festival platform. As independents increasingly dominate the awards conversation, so too do the festivals that birth them: spotting an orphan film that can be groomed into a major Oscar player has become a more viable practice for many studios than developing their own, with Harvey Weinstein still the master of the game.
Oscar season heads into the home stretch with no real surprises in sight
Ballots are due tomorrow. The great settling has occurred. And now is the time of year when people bored with the proceedings scratch and claw for an alternative.
There isn't one. Despite a grand showing for "The Descendants" in the final stretch, it's not the one to pull the carpet out from under "The Artist." Despite "The Help" having a considerable amount of support throughout the Academy, it's not the one. And somehow, "Hugo" isn't the one, either, despite considerable spending in phase two (though the two nomination leaders spent quite a bit separately). There is no savior.
In a column today, Sasha Stone tries to make the case that more time would have mattered. It wouldn't have. If anything, a number of members are still (believe it or not) DISCOVERING "The Artist." When Stone writes that "no one seems to want 'The Artist' to win,'" she is, I think, responding to the echo-chamber that is movie punditry.
'The Artist,' 'The Descendants,' 'Dragon Tatto,' 'Hugo' and 'Moneyball' square off
The Oscar Guide will be your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 26, with the Best Picture finale on Saturday, February 25.
Of all the crafts categories, Best Film Editing always tends to parallel the Best Picture race the most, both in the nominations stage and again during the race for the win. This year’s final five fit squarely into that paradigm, with the top three Best Picture contenders being joined by another film that was almost certainly in the top six and one semi-prestigious genre film that likely wasn’t far from the Best Picture lineup. Despite the surprising omission of one of the most nominated editors of all-time, Michael Kahn (who managed to score an ACE citation for “War Horse”), the nominees were utterly predictable.
But while I was quite confident in my predictions for the nominations (at least about the six from which the five would be chosen), that confidence does not extend to this final stage of the game. No title can be safely ruled out in my opinion.
The nominees are…
Also: The costumes of 'W.E.,' and making excuses for 'Cars 2'
The big topic of Oscar conversation over the weekend wasn't exactly a newsflash: anyone who didn't previously know that the Academy membership is dominated by older white men is presumably still reeling from the shock of "Twilight: Breaking Dawn" not receiving a Best Picture nomination. Even so, the stats revealed in the LA Times's investigation into the AMPAS makeup are pretty stunning: sadly, I'm perhaps less surprised that voters are 94% white than I am by the knowledge that they're 77% male. Add in the fact that only 2% of them are under the age of 40, and you wonder why anyone even entertained the possibility of "Bridesmaids" cracking the top category. Members from Alexander Payne to Alfre Woodard (who's a "Shame" fan, as it happens) weigh in on the matter. A must-read. [Los Angeles Times]
'Hugo,' 'The Muppets' and 'Tintin' also go home with goodies
The Motion Picture Sound Editors' (MPSE) 59th annual Golden Reel Awards were held this evening, celebrating excellence in sound editing. "Super 8," you'll recall, led the way with nominees (and was nominated by the Cinema Audio Society), yet failed to score an Oscar nod in either sound category.
Tonight, the film managed to take home an award, for dialogue and ADR in a feature film. So it gets to hold its head up high. However, it was "War Horse" that triumphed in the sound effects and foley department, which is the area that most corresponds to Oscar (at least in terms of how the category is largely viewed).
After last night's CAS win for "Hugo," I started to lean toward a split between that film (mixing) and "War Horse" (editing) in the sound categories. I'm feeling that even more after tonight, but both categories could just as easily end up going to one film or the other. Pick your splits carefully.
Wrapping up Berlin with the three best films of the fest
BERLIN - After having spent the bulk of my Berlinale awards report complaining about the jury's curious choice of Golden Bear winner, I'm more pleased than ever that I waited until my final dispatch to dig into my three favorite films of the festival. For this year's fest, despite what you may have heard from grumpier attendees, was not one that deserved to be sent off with a sneer.
Typically uneven, but inventively programmed and shrewdly paced, it seemed less than usual like a lineup feeding off Cannes and Venice's scraps than one built to its own smaller, funkier agenda. (Yes, at least one Competition entry, Brillante Mendoza's excitingly divisive "Captive," was turned down by both Croisette and Lido selectors last year -- but more fool them, I say.) When one smart UK critic tweeted yesterday that he clearly hadn't missed anything by not attending the Berlinale this year, I couldn't resist replying, "Well, except for a number of excellent films." The success stories of Berlin this year may not have been audible from a distance, but the festival will quietly claim delayed credit as they slowly trickle through to international arthouses.
Guild ineligibility of 'The Artist' complicates Oscar picture
Well, were you honestly expecting anything else? Thanks to a slew of WGA ineligibilities -- notably that of Best Picture Oscar frontrunner "The Artist" -- the competition for these particular Guild awards had already been considerably narrowed, and true enough, the winners were precisely the two films that been set up to triumph here all season long. Only in one of the two screenplay categories can tonight's result be seriously considered as a bellwether for Oscar night; the other remains a virtual toss-up.
In a season heavy on veteran nominees, the Guild played along by adding to the laurels to two multiple previous honorees: Woody Allen took his fifth WGA award in the Best Original Screenplay category for "Midnight in Paris," while Alexander Payne took his third Best Adapted Screenplay gong for "The Descendants," sharing the prize with fellow writers (if not collaborators) Nat Faxon and Jim Rash.
Film beats out fellow sound mixing Oscar nominee 'Moneyball,' among others
The Cinema Audio Society has made some interesting calls over the years. "True Grit" last season, in the face of blockbuster and eventual Oscar winner "Inception." "No Country for Old Men" in 2007 rather than the skillfully layered "Transformers" (and, again, eventual Oscar winner "The Bourne Ultimatum"). "Road to Perdition" over musical heavyweight "Chicago" and feast for the ears "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers."
I applaud that. Very much. And indeed, when you look over their history, they often eschew the big, "loud" stuff that tends to have an easier time at the Oscars. In addition to the above-mentioned "Inception" and "The Two Towers," they ignored all the "Spider-Man" films, all the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films, "King Kong," "The Dark Knight," etc., etc. Well, tonight they did something they have done a few times in the past -- they went with a serious Best Picture contender that doesn't really have showcase sound qualities. They went with "Hugo."
Can it keep the screenplay love going tomorrow at the WGA Awards?
The 24th annual USC Libraries Scripter Awards were held this evening just south of downtown at the Doheny Library on the USC campus. For the first time in a while, I had to miss the show (which is always a classy affair and, as a former USC grad student, always a bit odd, ordering a vodka tonic at the counter where I used to check out books for thesis and term paper purposes).
Anyway, the goal of the honor is to recognize adaptation of the written word. Once upon a time that was limited to literature, but in recent years it has expanded to include former screenplays (allowing for remakes to be recognized) and comic books.
This year, the big winner, unsurprisingly, was "The Descendants." Screenwriters Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash were awarded alongside author Kaui Hart Hemmings. The film won the honor just moments after it was announced as this year's ACE Eddie winner for dramas.
Alexander Payne's drama upsets 'Hugo,' 'Moneyball' and 'War Horse'
The 62nd annual ACE Eddie Awards, recognizing achievement in film editing, were held this evening, and the big surprise came in the drama category. Alexander Payne's "The Descendants" beat out fellow Best Picture nominees "Hugo," "Moneyball" and "War Horse," as well as the slickly cut (by last year's Oscar winners) "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" for the award.
Meanwhile, "The Artist" predictably took the comedy/musical prize, besting "Bridesmaids," "Midnight in Paris," "My Week with Marilyn" and "Young Adult." And "Rango" beat out "The Adventures of Tintin" and "Puss in Boots" for the animated prize. (I might have gone with the former instead, as Michael Kahn's work there was really a virtue and part of the film's identity. But I'm happy I'm such a fan of both of those films this year and any success either gets is fine by me.)