Just as Bruce Broughton has been punished by the Academy for his questionable campaign tactics, Vulture has chimed in with a detailed timeline of strategies employed by the master of Academy manipulation, Harvey Weinstein -- not all of them strictly by the Oscar playbook. Take this anecdote about Weinstein's 1996 campaign for Billy Bob Thornton in "Sling Blade": "John Ericson, a retired actor who lives in Santa Fe, N.M., said he was called several times recently by a representative from the studio. In the first call, this person asked Mr. Ericson if he had received Sling Blade and urged him to watch it. A few days later, the representative called back to gauge Mr. Ericson's reaction ... 'He said: "Didn't you think he was wonderful? I hope it will be something worthy of a nomination,"' Mr. Ericson recalled." [Vulture]
Updated (11:06 PM): Bruce Broughton and his wife responded to the controversy on their Facebook pages tonight.
When the title track for the independent faith-based production "Alone Yet Not Alone" picked up a Best Original Song Oscar nomination on Jan. 16, we at HitFix were the first to raise an eyebrow at the curiosity. One of the song's writers, Bruce Broughton, had formerly served as an Academy governor, making the whole situation smell a bit fishy.
It soon came out that he had directly campaigned on the song's behalf by sending notes to some of his fellow Music Branch members asking them to consider it. But my reaction at the time was "big deal." So the guy reached out to a few people. This happens every day of every Oscar campaign season and anyone who tells you different is either clueless or naive. But when Nikki Finke first Tweeted this afternoon that she had heard the Academy was about to announce a repeal of that nomination due to campaign violations, I started to feel bad for all involved.
Festival programming can be a competitive business to begin with, but when you have three major international fests in close proximity, things are bound to get a little bit heated. So it is with Venice, Telluride and Toronto, the latter two of which actually overlap with the first -- the whole marathon playing out over a condensed three-week period in late August and early September. And where Cannes gets to luxuriate in having May all to itself, there's no such comfort for the autumn trio: given that they mark the unofficial start of awards season, getting first dibs on heavyweight titles (and the media coverage that comes with them) is of increasing importance to festival directors.
Did you know that over the past seven years, six films that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival have been nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars? Or, that last year "Beasts of the Southern Wild's" Benh Zeitlin became only the third Sundance helmer after Peter Cattaneo ("The Fully Monty") and Lee Daniels ("Precious") to earn a Best Director nod? Were you aware of the impressive number of nominated actors whose performances first played Park City, including Melissa Leo ("Frozen River"), Jennifer Lawrence ("Winter's Bone"), Mo'Nique ("Precious"), Terrence Howard ("Hustle & Flow"), Michelle Williams ("Blue Valentine"), Carey Mulligan ("An Education") and Laura Linney ("The Savages")?
Sure, there have been some off years, but in general, Sundance has been a major player in the awards season ever since "Little Miss Sunshine" shook the annual indie conclave in 2006. And its influence appeared to be on the upswing. Emphasis on "appeared."
"Gravity" may still be my favourite of the Best Picture nominees by a long chalk, but there's no film I'm happier to see in the mix than "Her" -- Spike Jonze's wistful 21st-century love story was perceived by many as being a little too cool for the Academy, but its healthy haul of five nominations suggests its bittersweet charms may not be quite as socially or generationally specific as you might think. Meanwhile, I'm glad voters also noticed what an immaculately crafted piece it is: those nominations for Best Production Design and Original Score are among my favorites of this year's field.
[UPDATE: Unfortunately, this video has been removed at the distributor's request.]
You can't stop what's, er, coming. As I made clear in my review last week, the first part of Lars von Trier's "Nymphomaniac" was one of my highlights of the Sundance Film Festival, delivering all the brazen daring, operatic beauty and discomfiting hilarity any von Trier fan could want. Having not seen the entire beast like some of my colleagues, Volume Two is now top of my Most Anticipated list, and this new international trailer promises more of the same -- in the best possible way.
A reader asked me the other day if the UK has county-divided critics' awards to match the multitude of local US groups. The answer is no -- the nation isn't quite big enough for such madness -- but while the London Critics' Circle (which hands out its awards on Sunday) remains the highest-profile British critics' award, other UK critics and bloggers have banded together to form the UK Regional Critics' Awards, also known as the Richard Attenborough Awards. Despite the "regional" remit, their awards were presented in London last night, and also included a number of public-voted categories. No big surprises, and more good news for "12 Years a Slave"; check out the list after the jump, and keep up with the season at The Circuit.
As Oscar's phase one drew to a close and the nominations were set to be unveiled, the film press corps was getting its first look at one movie that dodged all of that commotion last year: George Clooney's "The Monuments Men." It's set for release next week and with its arrival, one can only ask: was Sony smart to move it out of the season?
The easy answer is "yes." This isn't the awards film it might have been. But that's not a value judgment or a criticism. Let me explain.
If it seems like just the other day that Tom Sherak was in the headlines for happier reasons, that's because it pretty much was. Only last autumn, the former 20th Century Fox chief was named by Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti as the city's senior film advisor, or "film czar." And that appointment came with his presidency of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences still a very fresh memory: he stepped down from the position in 2012. He was a hard worker -- all the more so when you consider that he had been battling prostate cancer for the last 12 years. Sadly, the fight ended yesterday; Sherak passed away at his California home aged 68.