Does the 'Moneyball' way translate to Oscar campaigning?
Tying Bennett Miller's "Moneyball" to the times has been a bit of a dubious game of connect the dots to me all season long. Much as I love the film (which walked away with two key prizes at last week's New York Film Critics Circle awards vote). I respect that there are universal truths therein, but I think thrusting the faux gravitas of zeitgeist onto it is a stretch.
Nevertheless, I think the film does speak to a more specific and, for our purposes, applicable idea: awards season campaign spending.
Reading through Patrick Goldstein's recent column at the Los Angeles Times calling for a luxury tax on studios that spend over a pre-determined cap (good idea), it got me thinking of what it takes to stand out in an Oscar season, the creativity involved, and indeed, the creative spending. Not everyone can be the New York Yankees this time of year, but with the right brain trust, anyone can be the Oakland Athletics.
The thing about Oscar season is that it's not about getting people to like your movie. It's about getting people to watch your movie. Anne and I are always talking on Oscar Talk about the intimidating pile of screeners that accumulates on voters' shelves every year. Everyone is going to watch "War Horse," "The Artist," "The Help" -- movies everyone is talking about. The trick is getting people to put your movie into the player, too.
So you get creative.
'Rango' and 'Rio' not far behind as Pixar joins the party again
The 39th annual Annie Award nominees have been announced this morning, and as usual, DreamWorks Animation had a really strong showing. The studio's one-two punch of "Kung Fu Panda 2" and "Puss in Boots" led the field with 11 and nine nominations respectively.
DreamWorks has been mobilizing as of late behind the scenes, bringing on awards publicists outside of the in-house Paramount team. The thinking is that the studio has a big slate, what with home-grown productions like "The Adventures of Tintin" and "Rango" to work with as it is, and no one wants the focus split too much. That's doubly important considering that, even in a five-nominee year, it'll be tough for DreamWorks to get both of its films in.
"The Adventures of Tintin" managed to be nominated for Best Animated Feature, but as I've been mentioning all season, I anticipated the film would be qualified as animation for the Oscars to avoid a stink, but I don't expect the animation branch to nominate it in the final analysis. We'll see if that happens.
Event to correspond with Paramount Pictures' 100th anniversary celebration
A few weeks ago, in a piece concerning Technicolor's restoration of a colorized print of Georges Méliès's "A Trip to the Moon" featured in Martin Scorsese's "Hugo," I mentioned that one of the projects the company was working on was a restoration of the first-ever Best Picture winner, William A. Wellman's "Wings."
The Academy announced this week that the film will screen as part of a celebration of Paramount Pictures' 100th anniversary (though pity the release says nothing about Technicolor). The screening will happen on Wednesday, January 18 at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills and will feature live musical accompaniment from organist Clark Wilson.
The live music aspect is nice and all, but the restoration also came with a full-on orchestral re-recording of the score for the film. I'm told that will be featured on the upcoming home video release.
Martin Scorsese and Michelle Williams also honored
God bless the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association, which has the quickest turnaround time on nods-to-winners of the circuit. They announce and get out of your hair really fast, and sometimes, they shine a light in interesting areas.
When "The Artist" swept through with a field-leading eight nominations Saturday, the writing was on the wall. Indeed, the film won the Best Picture and Best Score prizes from the organization, but curiously, nothing else. The wealth was spread as Martin Scorsese nailed down Best Director for "Hugo" (his second prize of the season), George Clooney won Best Actor for his work on "The Descendants" and Michelle Williams took Best Actress for "My Week with Marilyn."
Also: Chandler on awards season 60 years ago and Oscar hopes for 'The Muppets'
Todd McCarthy has written up the best films scores of the year. So I guess I'll offer up some favorites. I love traditional stuff from John Williams ("The Adventures of Tintin") and Howard Shore ("Hugo") this year. I also delighted in the jazzy change of pace Alberto Iglesias gave "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," as well as the subtle grandeur Mychael Danna brought to "Moneyball." Alexandre Desplat's shifting gears in the midst of his work on "The Ides of March" was fantastic. Hans Zimmer's "Rango" work was memorable and I actually dug what Patrick Doyle did on "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," but I'd love to see Steven James get some recognition for what he did on "Attack the Block" some time this year. (As if.) [Hollywood Reporter]
Acting awards for Michael Fassbender, Olivia Colman and Vanessa Redgrave
It may be deemed the British film most likely to register at the Oscars and BAFTAs, but UK box-office sleeper "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" had to take a back seat to the little guys at tonight's British Independent Film Awards in London. Instead, it was Paddy Considine's hard-hitting directorial debut "Tyrannosaur" that surprisingly emerged as the night's big winner, taking three awards including Best British Independent Film.
Considine's debut is a vastly impressive and assured one, striking its emotional notes hard and serving as a vehicle for some startling performances -- the most haunting of which, Olivia Colman's grievously abused middle-class samaritan, was a richly deserving winner of the Best Actress award. (Tilda Swinton's run of luck this week, which saw her triumph at the National Board of Review and the European Film Awards, came to an end here.)
'The Descendants,' 'Drive' and 'Hugo' also have a good showing
Not far behind the New York film critics' vote is the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association, which today made a firm declaration for Michel Hazanavicius's "The Artist." The film (which won the NYFCC prize) led the field with eight nominations.
There wasn't much wealth-spreading or unique thinking going on. The group tried to shake things up by tipping its hat to Tom McCarthy's "Win Win" in the Best Film category, but they couldn't be bothered to chalk it up anywhere else other than the Best Original Screenplay category.
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" screened just in time for the vote, but like with the other early birds this year, "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" was not shown. The former did get a score nomination; the double CD soundtrack was also mailed out to voting bodies earlier this week.
A big weekend on the non-fiction awards circuit
Two weeks after the Academy advanced 15 films in the race for Best Documentary Feature, the non-fiction awards circuit is showing further signs of life.
Last night, the International Documentary Association held its annual awards gala. None of the nominees happened to be on the AMPAS shortlist, but "Nostalgia for Light" came out on top, besting "Better This Workd" (one of the surprise Academy omissions), "How to Die in Oregon," "The Redemption of General Butt Naked" and "The Tiniest Place." One of last year's Best Documentary Short Oscar nominees, "Poster Girl" -- a fantastic portrait of a female Iraq veteran grappling with post-traumatic stress disorder -- managed to win the short film prize (beating out fellow Oscar nominee "The Warriors of Qiugang" in the process).
Meanwhile, the Producers Guild of America (PGA) was busy tapping its list of documentary nominees for the year. Those had a little more in common with the Academy shortlist, though not much.
Another year, another wave of films that won't get a boost from the guild
A copy of this year's WGA ballot made its way to my inbox today, so naturally the process of sussing out what screenplays did and didn't make the cut was in order. There are 33 adapted screenplays on the ballot and 55 originals.
However, even with considerably more contenders, the original field was gutted the most. Contenders in the thick of the Oscar hunt that aren't on the ballot (due typically to not being in accordance with paperwork guidelines or signatory stipulations) are: "The Artist," "Beginners," "The Iron Lady," "The Lady," "Like Crazy," "Margin Call," "Martha Marcy May Marlene," "Melancholia," "Rango," "Shame" and "Take Shelter." Ouch. What does that even leave? I'll get to that in a moment.
In the adapted field, the notable absences are: "Albert Nobbs," "Carnage," "Drive," "Jane Eyre," "My Week with Marilyn," "Sarah's Key," "The Skin I Live In" and "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy." There are others, but each of those lists, I think, is being a bit liberal as it is with what's considered in Oscar play this year.
Casting a light on Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi
David Thewlis, like many of us, was only minimally familiar with the story of Aung San Suu Kyi when he was first presented with the script for director Luc Besson’s “The Lady.” The actor (who plays Suu Kyi’s husband Michael in the film) was aware of her as a Nobel laureate and political prisoner in Burma (known officially as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar), but did not know the story of her marriage, or that she had left her husband and two children behind in her fight. “I knew that there was a woman campaigning for democracy under a military regime,” he says.
I, too, possessed little more than iconic snapshot images of Suu Kyi and her work when I sat down to watch the film. I knew she was a leader of immeasurable courage. I knew of her now legendary walk past the raised guns of the Burmese military, a military that was prepared to kill without hesitation on behalf of an entrenched government that has ruled violently via repressive military dictatorship for decades. And yet they did not kill her. In my imagination, it was as though she was some unearthly figure, something so graceful that they could not bear to cut her down.