Also: People's Choice winners and Paul Thomas Anderson's IMAX ambitions
When it comes to the Best Picture race, it's fair to say that below-the-line support from the crafts branches can be a bit of a deal-breaker: you have to go all the way back to "Ordinary People" in 1980 to find a film that won the top prize after receiving no technical nominations whatsoever. Fox Searchlight is aware of that, as well as the fact that nobody's really singing the praises of "The Descendants" in any technical capacity. Their plan of action: a featurette focusing specifically on the film's cinematography and editing, exclusively debuted on Scott Feinberg's site. (The score -- thankfully, if you ask me -- is ineligible.) It's a clever attempt to cover a blind spot, but they'll likely have a tough time convincing branch voters in either category. [THR]
Oscar hopefuls 'Buck' and 'Pina' also honored, 'Project Nim' goes home empty-handed
It's amazing how fleetingly causes can come and go in the awards race. Upon its release in the summer, "The Interrupters" -- a complex, clear-eyed study of inner-city violence in Chicago, from "Hoop Dreams" director Steve James -- was lavished with critical praise, hailed as one of the year's best films, and a cinch to snag the Oscar nod owed James by the Academy, if not the outright frontrunner. (17 years on, the unaccountable non-nomination of "Hoop Dreams" still smarts.)
With predictably frustrating perversity -- and an apparent impulse to torment James -- the Academy promptly left it off their 15-title longlist for the documentary Oscar, prompting widespread critical outrage that a film this strong could be carelessly slighted. Yet in the two months since that uproar, the critics haven't exactly come through for the film, either: the only win it's clocked up has been, in a show of hometown pride, from the Chicago critics' circle. Most nominee lists acros the circuit have left it off altogether, as lesser works like "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" and "Project Nim" rack up the precursors. (Even the International Documentary Association blanked the film entirely.)
Female contenders Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence sidelined
If you want a job done properly... well, don't get the public to do it for you. That's the lesson, at least, that BAFTA has learned today: in handing the public the task of electing their five Rising Star Award nominees, instead of leaving it to an industry jury as in years past, they've wound up with a slate that rivals last week's awards longlists in the embarrassment stakes.
That's not to rag on the nominees themselves -- a bright, promising bunch of young actors, most of whom fit the 'rising star' profile rather neatly. I've already sung the praises of Chris Hemsworth and Chris O'Dowd, two of 2011's most appealing breakthrough performers, in my First-Half FYC columns -- the latter's performance in "Bridesmaids" still ranks in my personal Best Supporting Actor ballot for 2011. Tom Hiddleston, meanwhile, has amply proven his worth in an exciting range of mainstream and arthouse projects, from "Thor" to "Midnight in Paris" to "The Deep Blue Sea." Kudos all round.
Offer up your burning queries
Alright, you know the drill. Rifle off your need-to-knows and we'll try to address a few in the podcast. We'll surely be previewing the Golden Globes and talking about DGA, ASC, the Critics' Choice Movie Awards and other news items from the week as it is, so steer away from that and give us something fresh to chew on.
The actress gives context to the stunning work writer/director Kenneth Lonergan drew out of her six years ago
As the door closes on phase one of the Oscar season and nomination ballots are finalized, Kenneth Lonergan’s “Margaret” takes the stage in the final moments. Screeners of the film were finally sent out to all voting members of the Academy recently, and now, supporters of the film wait to see if said members may have responded to the material.
The actress at the center of the story, Anna Paquin, delivered her performance six years ago, when she was 23. And yet the experience still seems fresh and vivid in her mind, as if she were leaving the set after a day of emotional Olympics on “Margaret” rather than an evening of stunt-heavy work on Alan Ball’s southern-fried vamp camp phenomenon “True Blood.”
What the intermittent years have done is give her a sense of perspective akin to the kind of enriched self-understanding only attained with the passage of time. But then the actress already had the benefit of chronological distance from her character, Lisa Cohen, when production began, providing the space necessary for her to find what was lovable in a girl who she concedes is so often eristic in the film.
Yet another bump in the road for Steven Spielberg's World War I epic
The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) has announced nominees for excellence in the field this year, and missing from the nominees was Janusz Kaminski's work on "War Horse," which marks yet another key snub for the film in the precursor season.
I've been critical of the lensing of Steven Spielberg's World War I epic, which was commendable in intent more so than practice and felt a bit uneven throughout. Nevertheless, it's a surprise to see Kaminski miss here, and further indication that the industry has not responded well to the film.
The happy surprise, though not all that surprising still, is Hoyte van Hoytema getting in for "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," a moody, atmospheric piece of work with photography as observational and patient as the directorial vision. It's the second guild nod for the film, following an Art Directors Guild citation, showing that the film has support through the craft branches even if it's not registering with groups like the PGA and DGA.
Also: Defending 'War Horse' and judging 2011's movie posters
Hey, remember "Blackthorn?" It wouldn't surprise me if you don't. Mateo Gil's western, starring Sam Shepard as Butch Cassidy, came and went in the fall with nary a sound, and certainly hasn't been part of any awards conversation. But every dog has its day, and the film just scooped 11 nominations for the Goya Awards, otherwise known as the Spanish Oscars. The film may not seem terribly Spanish to you, but it qualifies thanks to the beauty of international funding -- which is also why that noted Basque auteur Woody Allen nabbed a screenplay nomination (though nothing else) for "Midnight in
Madrid Paris." Curiouser and curiouser. More predictably, Pedro Almodóvar's emphatically Spanish "The Skin I Live In" leads the field with 16 nominations. [THR]
Bob Dylan, Leonardo DiCaprio and Olivia Harrison to participate in Critics' Choice Martin Scorsese tribute
Dylan will perform for the Music+Film Award recipient
Tomorrow's 17th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards ceremony just went electric.
The Broadcast Film Critics Association has announced that singer/songwriter Bob Dylan, along with Leonardo DiCaprio and Olivia Harrison (widow of Beatle George Harrison), will participate in Martin Scorsese's Music+Film Award tribute. DiCaprio and Harrison will present the award, while Dylan (who was featured briefly in Scorsese's "The Last Waltz" in 1978 and in depth in the 2005 documentary "No Direction Home") will toast the director with a performance.
Scorsese was announced in December as the second recipient of the award, which was inaugurated last year when it was presented to filmmaker Quentin Tarantino at the 2011 CCMA ceremony. The award honors "a single filmmaker who has touched audiences through cinematic storytelling and has heightened the impact of films through the brilliant use of source and original music."
From Wiig to Wilson, 10 leading turns from early 2011 that deserve a shot
If you've read the first two parts of this column series, you'll know by now what the drill is. Every year, the Oscar race is overwhelmingly tilted in favor of films released later in the year (one need only observe the surprising Guild performance of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" to realize the see the side effects of voters' short memories), as numerous early-year standouts struggle to remain in the conversation. These columns, then, aim to remind you of certain deserving but time-faded contenders from films released from January to June 2011, their buzz largely fading if they ever had it in the first place.
We've already covered the supporting and screenplay races: this week, it's the turn of the leading actors and actresses. Combing through the list of first-half releases, I was pleased to encounter enough worthy names that restricting myself to the traditional five-wide ballot proved rather a challenge: Best Actress, in particular, served up a number of far tastier options than the more recent ones we're currently considering in the Oscar race. I wanted to find room for Catherine Deneuve ("Potiche"), Saoirse Ronan ("Hanna"), Brad Pitt ("The Tree of Life"), Clive Owen ("Trust") and even Johnny Depp ("Rango"); unfortunately (or fortunately, from a film viewer's perspective), I ran out of room.
Pedro Almodóvar's 'The Skin I Live In' gets some love, too
The film of the year category includes several of the standard precursor favorites: “The Descendents,” “The Artist” and “The Tree of Life” among them. But it also includes a film that I feel as though I have been in an ongoing conversation with since seeing it several weeks ago, a contemporization of the myth of Pygmalion as only Pedro Almodóvar could conceive: “The Skin I Live In.” Andrew Haigh’s indie exploration of gay romance “Weekend” also got a nod.
Christopher Plummer and Janet McTeer both received nominations for Performance of the Year for their work in "Beginners" and" Albert Nobbs" respectively. Plummer is an odds-on favorite for a Best Supporting actor Oscar nomination, while Janet McTeer one-upped her film's co-star, Glenn Close. My dark horse Best Actor favorite Michael Fassbender is also included in the field for his work in “Shame.”