A trip down memory lane as 'The Artist' sets its sights on The Weinstein Company's second-straight Best Pic Oscar
"The Artist" is indeed a runaway train. Here is lightning, here is a bottle, and that's the 2011 Oscar season. Really, that's the Oscar season in general, capturing a feeling, an emotion, a vibe, and riding it as hard and as definitively as you can.
Last year, The Weinstein Company turned on the gas at just the right moment with its "Find Your Voice" campaign for "The King's Speech" in the wake of critics' circuit dominance by "The Social Network." This year, with no real uncertainty about it, they're cranking up the heat again with ads featuring the phrase, "You don't have to say anything to feel everything."
"Find Your Voice" was great, because it worked organically with the season. In addition to tying in with the speech impediment thing, it also said, succinctly, "Don't let the critics tell you what to think." And the subsequent "Some Movies You Feel" sealed the deal in phase two. This one (and the one I've seen on TV spots: "Speak With Your Heart") feels a bit more forced, though no less brilliant because it again aims squarely at what guides most voters this time of year: the heart.
Also: R.I.P. Ben Gazzara, and Iranian backlash to 'A Separation'
The Super Bowl is an event that passes me and most of my over-the-Atlantic brethren by, but I've been doing my best to mop up the buzz this morning. (Among other things, I've been amused to learn people still find flipping the bird a subversive gesture -- I'm sure if M.I.A. had wanted to shock America, she could have done better than that.) Anyway, many seem excited by the blockbuster trailers that were unveiled during the proceedings -- normally, I avoid trailers of heavily anticipated films, but since I'm not personally anticipating any of these, I watched them all in the name of journalistic thoroughness. Well, enough to register my disappointment that "Battleship" doesn't look at all like the board game, and that "John Carter" still doesn't star Noah Wyle. Here's a better rundown. [Television Without Pity]
Dante Ferretti wins his first-ever prize from the group and the Oscarcast gets some love, too
This evening, honors for the 16th annual Art Directors Guild Awards were handed out. But before we get to those, a brief history lesson on Oscar/guild correlations.
Last year "Alice in Wonderland" won the Academy Award but lost in the ADG's fantasy category to "Inception" (which, I have to say, should have walked away with the Oscar). Then there were two years of matching up with "Avatar" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" winning in their respective categories.
In 2007, "There Will Be Blood" beat out eventual Oscar winner "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" in the ADG's period category, while in 2006, "Pan's Labyrinth" won the ADG fantasy award as a precursor to its Oscar. Prior to that, the guild actually combined period and fantasy productions in one category.
'Kung Fu Panda 2' wins for direction while 'Puss in Boots' goes home empty-handed
The 39th annual Annie Awards were held this evening at UCLA's Royce Hall in West Los Angeles. You'll recall "Kung Fu Panda 2" and "Puss in Boots" led the nominations and both were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film.
It was "Rango," though, that had the big night (and will surely take the Oscar later this month). The film won four awards, including Best Animated Feature. It did, however, lose Best Director to "Kung Fu Panda 2" helmer Jennifer Yuh Nelson (whose film won one other award, for production design).
It's interesting to note an upset in the animated short category as the indie "Adam and Dog" beat out contenders from Pixar, Disney and the National Film Board of Canada (the latter having two nominees in the Oscar short category, both of which were in contention here).
Does Warner Bros. smell a window of opportunity?
Yesterday I sat down with "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" star and Oscar nominee Max Von Sydow for about a half hour to talk about this and that but mostly his and his film's surprising Academy goodwill. Warner Bros. has him in town for a few days for some TV here, some radio there, plenty of interview opportunities and a fair share of post-screening Q&As. Perhaps they smell a window of opportunity.
As I've noted here and elsewhere, Christopher Plummer may be lighting up the circuit as of late, but having his old "Dreamscape" and "Emotional Arithmetic" co-star in the category makes things a lot more interesting. Given the number of parallels between the two and equal arguments for being due a statue, I wouldn't call this race sewn up. Then again, it's tough to build momentum this late in the game and Plummer has been a full-steam locomotive for a number of months now.
The actor is gearing up his campaign with daytime and late night rounds as an air of uncertainty settles over the Best Actor race
Several months ago it seemed as though this may be Brad Pitt’s year. For some, he's a movie star who happens to know how to act. To others he is a talented character actor who happens to be a remarkably good-looking movie star. Pitt himself will often say that he has learned his craft over the course of a 20-year career peppered with hits and misses, but he has become known for his humility as well as his willingness to take chances and go against the grain of what could have been a one- or two-note body of work.
For a time in the precursor season, it appeared as though he may be nominated for “The Tree of Life” as well as “Moneyball.” Each would offer particular PR challenges. Neither necessarily represents a no-brainer Oscar win (great historical figure, person facing life-altering trauma or, as Ricky Gervais taught us in “Extras,” a Nazi or a nun). But “Moneyball” is also a film that is notably devoid of the bells and whistles of the traditional “sports movie.” There is no great triumph, no moment of cathartic victory in a neatly wrapped package of money and accolades. What the film does offer is a look at how and why we define ourselves and others as we do, as well as an exploration of a thinking man’s way through a system that is inherently inequitable.
'Bullhead,' 'Footnote,' 'In Darkness,' 'Monsieur Lazhar' and 'A Separation' 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.)
It may be the most dependably unsatisfying and upset-prone of all Oscar categories, but this year's Best Foreign Language Film race has thus far proceeded without stirring up too much of a fuss: there were few surprising inclusions or omissions in either the shortlist or the eventual nominee field. The arcane selection procedures in this category will never please everyone, but the Academy has wound up with a credible and well-balanced -- if not world-beating -- list of five films.
Given, however, that most observers would list the nominees as "'A Separation' and, uh, four other movies," people might just be saving their howls of protest for Oscar night, in the event that the critically revered, award-guzzling Iranian entry doesn't win. And however much people toss around the word "lock," the fact that voters are required to see all five nominees before making their decision means there are never any sure things in this ever-frustrating category.
The nominees are...
Also: Is 'The Grey' the first Oscar contender of 2012?
Welcome to Oscar Talk.
In case you're new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is a weekly kudocast, your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is weekly, every Friday throughout the season, charting the ups and downs of contenders along the way. Plenty of things change en route to Oscar's stage and we're here to address it all as it unfolds.
It's been about a week and a half since we assessed the season immediately post-nominations. Today Anne and I are both back in LA after trips to Sundance and Santa Barbara and there have been some awards announcements in the interim. So let's see what's on the docket today…
Also: The perils of online voting, and Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress 2012?
It's not often you see a studio pushing hard for Oscar wins in the less-prized technical categories, but that's exactly what Paramount is doing for "Transformers: Dark of the Moon." Despite the film being pointedly snubbed in the Best Picture category, its handlers are spending money on hefty TV promotion for the film's nominations in the Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Visual Effects races. What's interesting, of course, is that Paramount's prestige baby "Hugo" is competing in the same categories, but according to Pete Hammond, the Michael Bay blockbuster's ongoing franchise status and super-producer connections, make it a priority. The sound awards, in particular, seem up for grabs -- though the Academy tends to favor more critically approved action fare for those. [Deadline]
Freedom of speech meets independent documentary film
Indiewire reports that documentary filmmaker Josh Fox was arrested on Wednesday morning at 10:30am in Washington D.C. for unlawful entry after he attempted to record a House Science Committee hearing on fracking.
"Fracking," you ask? No, not the inspired alternate universe cussword from the rebooted "Battlestar Galactica" series (though I would like to see that hearing). Fracking is actually a far more serious matter.
Otherwise known as hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, fracking is a process stimulation procedure that “creates fractures in rocks and rock formations by injecting fluid into cracks to force them further open. The larger fissures allow more oil and gas to flow out of the formation and into the wellbore, from where it can be extracted.” Oil companies use the process to breach otherwise impenetrable rock.