I'll be honest with you: sometimes we put up these posts as a formality. In this case, however, I couldn't be more curious to know what you make of Lee Daniels' deranged, divisive and rather delicious adaptation of Pete Dexter's bayou thriller, a crispy-coated trash pastiche that is at once knowing and brazenly heedless, and features outstanding performances from Nicole Kidman (who career we celebrated in Top 10 form this week) and Macy Gray. It received a critical drubbing at Cannes, where I was one of its few defenders, but is unsurprisingly gaining in stature after being marked in some quarters as a future cult item: Roger Ebert is a fan, while A.O. Scott calls a "hot mess," and means it as a compliment. Go see where you land, then rate the film and share your thoughts in the comments.
Lee Daniels' swampy Southern thriller hits theaters today
Also: 'Lincoln' to play NYFF, and parents oppose Seth MacFarlane
The American Film Institute announced this morning that Oscar-winning all-rounder Mel Brooks will receive the institution's Life Achievement Award next June, at a gala tribute event to be aired on TNT. The 86 year-old actor-writer-director-producer was actually honored by the Academy at the earliest opportunity, winning the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for his 1968 debut feature "The Producers," before 1970s streak of genre-pastiche comedies including "Blazing Saddles," "Young Frankenstein," "High Anxiety" and "Silent Movie." AFI chairman Howard Stringer says, "Mel Brooks is America's long-reigning king of comedy... a master of an art form that rarely gets the respect it deserves." [LA Times]
Meanwhile, Sony Classics picks up Israel's 'Fill the Void'
It'll be a few days yet before the Academy officially announces the longlist -- the odd last-minute addition, switch or disqualification is par for the course at this stage -- but with the official deadline for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar submissions having passed on Friday, we can effectively size up the playing field. And with 68 films having been entered for consideration, it's a crowded one: indeed, if they're all approved, it'll stand as a record number.
I've mentioned before that this is looking like an unusually competitive year for nominations in this category. There have been fewer controversial submissions than usual: only Portugal really raised eyebrows by opting for family melodrama "Blood of My Blood" ahead of swoony critical sensation "Tabu," and even then, they might have made the more Academy-friendly choice. (The same goes for France, who were always going to plump for commercial phenomenon "The Intouchables" over more broadly acclaimed fare.) By and large, however, countries largely submitted what everyone thought they would (and should); it's a field stacked with festival hits and bracing auteur works, and the executive committee will have their work cut out for them when they choose just three films to rescue after the initial vote.
Will the use of the original James Bond theme on 'Skyfall' disqualify Adele's original song hopeful?
Those pesky music branch rules might claim another victim
Even though the song is set to officially debut tomorrow, I imagine most interested parties have already heard the leaked portion of Adele's new Bond tune, "Skyfall." (UPDATE: The song is available now.) One of the cooler elements of the track is that it incorporates the original Monty Norman "Dr. No" theme that became, of course, the signature Bond melody. But while it's a nifty nod, it also might have done the song in where Oscar is concerned.
The rules are relatively clear about this. Per rule 15, category I B: "An original song consists of words and music, both of which are original and written specifically for the motion picture." The bold is the Academy's, not mine. So judging by that, just having that lingering bit of melody from the classic music is potentially enough to keep it out of contention.
That puts a slight dent in Greg Ellwood's theory that the category is set to be dominated by popular songstresses like Adele, Florence Welch and Katy Perry. Though, respectfully, I never really thought it would be, and if anything has been proven over the last few years (which have seen the eligible songs presented in context to voters rather than just sent on a CD or something), it's the song or the artist itself isn't the thing. Just ask Bruce Springsteen.
The Centerpiece selection premieres Saturday night
Things are clicking right along for the New York Film Festival The "Life of Pi" bow certainly was an event, and with added press screenings on the west coast, the film has very clearly set itself up as a formidable awards season contender.
"Flight" is all ready to close out the fest on October 14, and with it, surely, plenty of opinions as to whether Denzel Washington is a player this year. And in the middle, all of the great programming, restorations and events that have gone into making NYFF a big hit in its 50th anniversary.
One of those big events is a "secret work in progress" screening on Monday night that I'll unfortunately have to miss (as I'll be out of town). "Hugo" got the slot last year and it's anyone's guess what it is this time around. I've been told no on "Les Misérables," "Zero Dark Thirty," "Hitchcock," "Django Unchained" and "Promised Land," but it's possible those working on said film aren't even aware. My money is on "Lincoln," which screens for students in New York just two days later.
From 'The Avengers' to 'Zero Dark Thirty,' which films will spark below the line?
Welcome back. Today marks the beginning of the seventh year of Tech Support here at In Contention. If I may compliment Kris, this blog has come a long way in seven years. And if I may toot my own horn for a moment, the “Tech Support” columns have become one of the regular staples of this outlet and I’d like to think that our analysis of the categories that award below-the-line achievements, as well as our interviews with many of the artists in contention in such categories, has resulted in a number of other outlets beefing up their coverage in that arena.
Over the next 10 weeks, each of the “technical” category races will be analyzed: Best Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Makeup & Hairstyling, Original Score, Original Song, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects. We'll move between visual and audio categories to keep things fresh along the way.
Also: A kinky year at the movies, and Ramsay to send 'Moby Dick' into space
Earlier this year, the Academy's alteration of the eligibility criteria for Best Documentary contenders -- limiting it to bi-coastal theatrical releases from the calendar year -- was generally hailed as a positive move that would de-ghettoise the category. But as branch voters are now being plied with around 100 Academy screeners, some are wondering if the changes are either workable or fair, particularly now that the discs arrive "with a letter suggesting specific films to focus on." That seems hugely ill-advised to me, and several Academy members too -- while most voters may not have time to see all the eligible films, instructing their viewing in this way surely defeats the very point of the new voting system. Dave Itzkoff looks into the issue. (Meanwhile, I'll be belatedly compiling a Contenders page for the category over the weekend.) [New York Times]
The drama gets a healthy jolt with a new trailer
Did you catch the debate tonight? Most seem to agree: no matter your politics, Jim Lehrer loses. Okay, maybe that's harsh. And you heard Romney, Lehrer has a pink slip coming anyway.
In any case, much has been made of Steven Spielberg's desire to keep "Lincoln" out of the election cycle so as to not be seen as attempting to impact the proceedings. Hence the AFI Fest premiere and a November release AFTER the election. Regardless, Disney isn't above using the occasion to drum up interest in the movie, and so a new two-minute TV spot aired tonight with the debate.
Why other awards should welcome the Academy's calendar shift
When the Academy announced a fortnight ago that they were pulling next year's Oscar nominations announcement a full five days forward from the initially scheduled date, you'd have been forgiven for thinking -- from the howls of anguished confusion, rippled with the odd delighted cackle, across the Oscar blogosphere -- that they'd instead ruled all non-3D features ineligible for awards, or at least appointed James Franco the ceremony's solo host.
Some pundits' sense of disorientation was guilelessly geeky: We'll now know the Oscar slate for Best Film Editing before we do the Eddie nominees? Sacre bleu! Others, however, responded in a more conspiracy-minded fashion, sensing in the shift an open hostility to subordinate awards-season events. The rather specious explanation offered by the Academy for the move was that it was to allow voters more time to see the nominated films -- that it simultaneously allows them less time to see the far larger pool of films hunting for nominations was left tactfully unsaid.
And are we ready for 'School of Jazz?'
Yesterday I sat down with "Bernie" star Jack Black and director Richard Linklater to talk about their latest collaboration, which was critically acclaimed upon release but, as early releases tend to do, faded a bit as the season's big efforts took hold. But Millennium Entertainment is trying to stir a little consideration where it can, bringing the two to New York for a SoHo Apple Store conversation on Monday followed by a late-night soiree at Merc Bar downtown.
"Bernie" marks the second collaboration for Black and Linklater after 2003's "School of Rock." But, despite the fact that, as noted yesterday, Black really responded to Linklater's work as an independent filmmaker, he didn't really think of him for the film (which was written by his friend Mike White, who also stars). It was, in fact, the "stroke of brilliance" from a well-known producer that put the project together with the filmmaker, and the rest, as they say, was history.