Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline and Anne Hathaway among those paying tribute
Whether Meryl Streep wins her third Oscar in two months' time or not is still highly uncertain -- Michelle Williams has so far been winning the battle of the biopics in the critics' awards, while Viola Davis must wait until January's more populist ceremonies to potentially make her mark in the race -- but she's already received a neat maybe-consolation prize in the form of her Kennedy Center Honors presentation, which aired on US television last night.
Certainly, no Academy Award presentation can match this one for either generosity of spirit or simple star wattage: in order, Tracey Ullman, Robert De Niro, Mike Nichols, Kevin Kline, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci and Anne Hathaway all turned up to pay their respects in an elaborately staged tribute that, while unrelated, seemed to karmically repay Streep for her own lovely testimony at the Academy's Vanessa Redgrave tribute evening last month. The actress seems more comfortable at the giving than the receiving end of lavish praise, but good sport that she is, she grins through the whole thing.
Offer up your burning queries
Alright, you know the drill. I'm not quite sure what we'll be discussing yet, but for now, go ahead and tell use your need-to-knows and we'll address a few in the podcast. As always, keep it fresh and try not to retread things we've already covered.
The 14-time nominee closes in on yet another nod this year
We've talked to Greg P. Russell here at In Contention numerous times over the years, stretching back, I think, to his work on 2006's "Apocalypto." He's amassed 14 Oscar nominations throughout his career (including two in 1998), but the statue has eluded him.
This is kind of what I'm talking about when I harp on the fact that the Academy at large just doesn't think all that hard about its choices throughout the crafts categories. From member to member, I'd be shocked if the difference between sound editing and sound mixing is all that considered or even known. It's all about favorite movies when they get to those categories, which explains why other talented craftsmen like Roger Deakins and Kevin O'Connell have also gone Oscarless all this time despite often cranking out some of the best work in their fields.
Films like "The Rock" and "Con Air," therefore, just don't win Oscars. But Russell's contribution to those kinds of films is substantial, as it was this year on "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."
Also: Reznor on working with Fincher, and 'War Horse' the one to beat?
There's a lovely piece by Ian Buckwalter on NPR today about two of the most striking musical moments in film in 2011: John Hawkes's performance of "Marcy's Song" in "Martha Marcy May Marlene" and Carey Mulligan's slowed-down rendition of "New York, New York" in "Shame." Neither, of course, is a song originally written for the film, yet both selections feel more cinematically and thematically resonant than most Best Original Song contenders in any given year. As Buckwalter puts it: "[T]hey contain coded messages that pass, hidden between the lines, between the maker and the recipient... a simple two-minute pop song can carry more meaning and history than pages and pages of dialogue." [NPR]
And the 'Attack the Block' score gets its due!
The Austin Film Critics Association is the latest group to speak up on the year's best, tapping "Hugo" as the best picture of the year. The film didn't show up anywhere else on the unique slate of superlatives, though, which included three wins for "Drive." Check out the full list of winners below.
Four top 10 lists here at HitFix converged on one film
As the year draws to a close, we find ourselves in the midst of the season's superlative train. Most of the critics have had their say, and one film that has done somewhat surprisingly well on the circuit, establishing the field-leading Best Supporting Actor candidate and corralling a healthy share of Best Director trophies, too, is Nicolas Winding Refn's "Drive."
Not only that, but it is also the only film shared by top 10 lists published here at HitFix by Drew McWeeny (#6), Gregory Ellwood (#2), Guy Lodge (#3) and yours truly (#3). That's interesting to me, because when you look at those three takes on the 2011 film year, they are drastically different and have different criteria (in some instances different release date criteria) for judgment. But they converge at this one dynamic burst of style and vision. Why, I wonder? What is it about this film that manages to bridge gaps like that? And it's not just us, of course, as "Drive" has popped up on a number of top 10 lists this year, firmly in the top tier of the year's favorites.
The group also boasts tapping 'King's Speech' against the grain last year... Um...
"Last year the PFCS was the only critics group to name 'The King’s Speech' as Best Picture correctly predicting the Academy Awards."
Look, yay, you were good enough to go against the grain of last year's pro-"Social Network" critics' awards onslaught. But don't brag about it like it should matter. Your job isn't to predict the Academy Awards, so don't start thinking it is, please. PLEASE.
The group fell hard for "The Artist" this year, giving the film Best Picture along with eight other awards. Nine wins for the film that has become the 2011 critics' favorite. Not so against the grain after all, I guess. Of course, that writing was probably on the wall after the film led the way with nominations earlier this month.
Six of the actor’s most notable films will screen for free in January
Gary Oldman’s career has been a frequent topic of conversation of late at In Contention. Two recent interview pieces focused on his work in "JFK” and “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” respectively and a secondary list focused on his most notable performances.
But it appears as though we are not the only ones who believe the actor deserves a bit of well-earned recognition at this stage in his career.
The Palm Springs International Film Festival selected the Oldman for its International Star Award earlier this month, and now, the Arclight Hollywood has announced that it will host a six-film retrospective of character portraits starring Oldman – all of which make an appearance on Kris’s aforementioned top 10 Gary Oldman performances list.
10 worthy contenders from the first six months of 2011
It’s an annual complaint among Oscar-watchers and industry folk alike that the awards season is overwhelmingly geared towards prestige releases that land in the second half (or even fourth quarter) of the year, aiming to capitalize both on autumn festival buzz and Oscar voters' short memories. For every early release that stays the course all the way to the Oscar podium -- most recently, "The Hurt Locker" -- there are any number of deserving January-to-June contenders that slip through the cracks as newer, shinier, not necessarily better fare takes precedence.
With that in mind, I began a new column series last year dedicated to writing that wrong: First-Half FYC, in which I spotlight the worthiest major-category Oscar possibilities (or impossibilities) from the first six months of the U.S. release calendar. I've started a little late this year, so I'm doubling up on the categories, beginning with the Best Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress races: what follows is an alternative ballot of five deserving names in each category, all of them in films released before July.
‘Prometheus,’ ‘Looper,’ and ‘Gravity’ promise a strong year for the genre
The trailer for Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” was released last week and, as many have noted, it bears a striking resemblance to the original teaser for the film that acts as its foundation: Scott’s 1979 sci-fi classic “Alien.” For science-fiction appreciators, the trailer served as a reminder that 2012 has the potential to be one of the strongest years for smart sci-fi in recent memory.
Certainly, there have been intelligent science-fiction films released in the past decade: “Moon,” “District 9,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Children of Men” and “Primer” among them. But 2012’s landscape is distinct in that each of the offerings under discussion are fairly high-concept and have notable directors at the helm.
“Prometheus” marks Scott’s first endeavor in the genre since the release of “Blade Runner” in 1982. He created what was to become one of sci-fi’s most well known and defining franchise and now returns to revisit the universe (if not the story and characters) he designed.