'Drive,' 'The Tree of Life' and Tilda Swinton stand out amid predictable precursors
It's an odd time of year. There is a film, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," that has very little hope of securing Oscar consideration and that I can now talk about. But I have nothing to say other than to offer that, in my opinion, it is director David Fincher's least compelling, most superficial film to date, practice, a craftsman staying in shape with material utterly beneath him and his boredom with it (or was it mine?) showing like the slip of a dress.
Meanwhile, there is another movie, "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," that has plenty of potential in the Oscar race and that I cannot talk about.
So what do we talk about? The critics? There's nothing really left to say. The last film I screened in 2011, "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol?" It's fun and has great sound design (and good GAWD, Paula Patton is God's gift). This morning's BFCA announcement? It was one of the most vanilla, Oscar-forecasting collectives the group has ever managed to cough up.
The British actress tells us why she's drawn to characters she doesn't understand
In the last year or so, I’ve seen Keira Knightley withering away on a hospital bed as her inorganic organs are removed and farmed out, moodily chain-smoking in an icy Manhattan loft as she contemplates her husband’s infidelity, stridently slamming doors on a West End stage as her life is undone by malicious rumors about her sexuality, and most recently, getting the life spanked out of her by Carl Jung as he attempts to cure her of crippling hysteria.
It has, in short, been a rather intense time for Knightley in the fictional realm, so it’s a relief, not to mention an irrational surprise, when the young Londoner answers the phone with the perkiest of hellos. It swiftly becomes difficult to reconcile the fast-talking, warmly enthusiastic person on the line – the word “incredible” pops up with endearing frequency throughout our chat – with the prickly, often unhappy women she’s lately brought to life on screen (and, in a superb London revival of Lillian Hellman’s “The Children’s Hour” last spring, on stage too).
In the midst of the predictable critics make some unusual performance selections
Amidst the recent slew of regional critics awards lists there have been the predictable pre-Oscar nominations and wins peppered with a few unconventional and often well-deserved selections. One or two of the honors felt particularly surprising, though.
The nomination that struck me as the most unusual was Houston submitting Alex Shaffer in the Supporting Actor category for his work in “Win Win” vs. one or a few of the other actors in the film. I am an admirer of Tom McCarthy’s understated (for lack of a better word) dramedy and applaud Houston for including the film in its Best Picture contenders. McCarthy is also rightly in the race for a Best Original Screenplay nomination at the Oscars.
I spoke the writer/director last week and will be releasing a full interview with him this week. For now I will say that I was in absolute agreement with McCarthy when he said that the performances in this film are easy to overlook because they are “very subtle” and take place in “un-extraordinary settings.” I also grant that in a year with several strong candidates in the Best Actor field, the Indiana critics made a bold and legitimate selection with Paul Giamatti for his role in the film. “I might not know everything,” McCarthy said during our interview, “but I know acting and those performances are authentic and so deeply felt. There are very few people who could pull that couple off as genuinely as they (Giamatti and Amy Ryan) did.” It would be lovely to see Ryan receive her own share of critical recognition for her work in the film as well, work that was nuanced, layered and a joy to watch.
Also: Paul Feig talks 'Bridesmaids' and the top five badass female roles
Tomorrow we'll be continuing with the year in review as I post up "The Longlists," a slate of spotlights in key areas that I've extended beyond the Oscar-centric five to 10 in each field. One of the joys in doing it that way was the opportunity to widen the net and recognize many of the year's great performances rather than a specific slice. With that in mind, Sasha Stone has written up the year's best performances. But what about you? Are there any performances that stuck out for you this year outside of the generally agreed-upon stuff? Anything on the fringe that hasn't gotten its due, or perhaps something right in front of our faces that keeps getting leap-frogged in favor of others? I'm curious what you think. [Awards Daily]
'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' snubbed completely, Andy Serkis nominated for 'Apes'
The Broadcast Film Critics Association has announced its nominees for the 17th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards, and there aren't really any surprises. Across the board, it's the roll call of Oscar contenders the announcement has turned into, more and more.
I went to the mat for "Margaret" throughout my ballot. Naturally, though, it doesn't show up. Leading the way was "The Artist" and "Hugo" with 11 nominations each. Not far behind were "Drive" and "The Help" with eight apiece. The biggest surprise, I suppose, is "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" being snubbed completely. Nothing. Not even a notice for Gary Oldman in a Best Actor category of six.
Other things worth noting: Glenn Close didn't show up in the Best Actress category despite there being six nominees. Her film, "Albert Nobbs," only received a makeup nomination. "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" received nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Young Actor/Actress, but nothing for Max von Sydow or Sandra Bullock. And Nick Nolte rallied to a supporting actor notice for his work in "Warrior."
The cinema icon’s singular Academy Award is up for auction
Let's take a moment to pause and reflect on the fact that what is now considered one of the most significant films of all time, “Citizen Kane,” only took home the Oscar for Best Screenplay (though it was nominated for nine Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor). If I were forced to select just one category for a “Citizen Kane” win, it would be Best Director. The innovative techniques Welles employed to get the shots he wanted to tell his story were as effective as they were influential. Alas, as Aaron Sorkin writes in the "Moneyball" script, “the first one through the wall always gets bloodied.”
The history of Welles's golden statue is storied and apropos. The writer/actor/director originally gave his Oscar to cinematographer Gary Graver (so much for sentiment). His daughter, Beatrice, then sued Graver for ownership. She went on to give the Award to a Los Angeles-based charity called Dax Foundation. (Looks like material detachment may be in the bloodlines – they took the lessons of “Kane” to heart it would seem).
Win copies of 'The Descendants,' 'Win Win,' 'The Help' and more
Thanks to everyone who entered the "Rango" contest last week. The winners were ETHAN G. and SHARKMAN. So if you guys are reading, drop me a line so we can get you your prizes. (Additionally, I'm still waiting on you, GRUBI, to do the same following the "Super 8" contest. You were a winner!)
Today we have a set of screenplays to give away. Included are Tom McCarthy's "Win Win," Steve McQueen and Abi Morgan's "Shame," Sean Durkin's "Martha Marcy May Marlene," George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon's "The Ides of March," Tate Taylor's "The Help" and Alexander Payne's "The Descendants."
For this, I think we're going to dust off the ole' limerick contest. If you feel up to the challenge, rifle off a limerick inspired by one of the above-mentioned films. The best one wins.
Surprise acting nods for Brendan Gleeson and Brit Marling
I'm beginning to pick up a pattern to these regional critics' award lists, many of which seemingly feel obliged to lead with nominations: three-quarters of their choices fall within the expected bracket of Oscar favorites, while the remaining slots afford room for a few enterprising critics to flex their personality.
So it is with the San Diego crowd, who lead with the expected big hauls for "The Artist" and "Hugo," the former scoring a field-leading eight bids. Yet they continue the smaller organizations' heartening display of support for "Drive" -- is that the third citation for Nicolas Winding Refn in the last two days? I've lost count -- and venture a few suggestions even further outside the awards conversation.
I have to give them props for being the first US group to pay respect to Brendan Gleeson's wonderful comic work in "The Guard," which I've been championing all year, and this is the first vote of any stripe I've seen for "Another Earth" star Brit Marling in Best Actress. I have yet to see the latter, so you'll have to tell me how pleasant a surprise this is.
The 'Hugo' helmer is the first director to receive the honor
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival has announced that "Hugo" director Martin Scorsese will receive this years American Riviera Award. It's the first time the award -- which went to Annette Bening last year -- has gone to a director.
"Honoring Scorsese has been a dream of SBIFF's for many years," festival director Roger urling says in the press release. "We're thrilled that it's happening during a year when this contemporary master of cinema is breaking new ground with 'Hugo.'"
I figured he was sure to receive something, but I'd have figured him for the Modern Master Award, which is the festival's highest honor. I wonder, then, who'll be tapped for that. Steven Spielberg would be a real coup. Previous announcements have included Viola Davis as Outstanding Performer of the Year and Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo for the Vanguard Award.
But what's up with that Best Song winner?
Wheeeeee! You ready for more? These are a nice change of pace. Seriously.
The African American Film Critics Association have named "The Tree of Life" the best film of the year and Steven McQueen the best director, for his film "Shame." Just yesterday the San Francisco crowd went with Terrence Malick's effort (which clocked in at #2 for me on the year). It would be nice to see more groups going that way. Mostly I'm stoked by their Best Actor choice: Woody Harrelson in "Rampart."
One award on the list really annoys me, though. And that's giving Best Song to "The Show" from "Moneyball." The inclusion of that track in the film already irritates me to no end. It's anachronistic and they don't even make an attempt to NOT pass it off as original to the movie. It could have been anything else. Yes, the words are perfect. But… But… And then to give it an award? Odd.
Anyway, check out the full list of winners below.