Also: Protesting 'Paradise Lost 3' and everyone's talking about 'Shame
You've probably noticed the Fox ads decorating a number of sites (including this one) pimping Andy Serkis's motion capture performance in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." It's apt language -- "The time is now." -- and a commendable play even if it is the steepest of uphill battles. In this morning's Oscar Talk podcast we'll talk a little more about it, but it's worth it to stir the conversation at least to the point that those who walk in Serkis's footsteps in the form, or perhaps Serkis himself down the line, will benefit and maybe be taken a little more seriously in the awards season. The buzz on the matter has been swirling ever since Tom Roth made some public comments about it, and that buzz has made its way across the pond. [Guardian]
Season's most inscrutable precursors nominate practically everybody
The Satellite Awards don't get much respect on the precursor beat, and there's a reason for that: no one really seems to know who votes for them, they appear to be supremely undiscriminating with their lengthy nominee list, and their choices are frequently as head-scratching as they are admittedly inspired. (Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Best Supporting Actor nominee Colin Farrell in "Horrible Bosses.")
Still, as ridiculous as they are in many ways, I find it impossible to dislike an awards body that has so little regard for its own precursor status -- you certainly can't accuse a group who nominates John Michael McDonagh, debut helmer of "The Guard," for Best Director of trying to anticipate the Oscar race. And it's hard not to be a little tickled by a nominee list that is jointly led, with eight nods apiece, by two films at such opposite ends of the bait spectrum: "War Horse" and "Drive."
Contenders include 'La Luna,' 'I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat' and 'Paths of Hate'
The Academy announced today its list of 10 animated shorts that will compete for nominations in the category. This has become a favorite race to follow in these later stretches, I must say. The only film of the bunch that I have seen is Pixar's "La Luna," which could walk away with the prize. (It's the studio's best animated short in years; my thoughts from Telluride can be found here.)
The Short Films and Feature Animation Branch Reviewing Committee viewed all the eligible entries for the preliminary round of voting in screenings held in New York and Los Angeles, the press release notes. Branch members will now select three to five nominees. Screenings will be held in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco in January.
The 84th Academy Awards nominations -- in case you need reminding -- will be announced live on Tuesday, January 24, 2012, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater. We'll know then which of these made the cut.
Check out the full list of shorts below.
Martin Scorsese also takes Best Director; George Clooney and Tilda Swinton nab top acting honors
Not so fast, "The Artist." After Michel Hazanavicius's silent love letter came out earlier this week in the front of the Best Picture landscape (nailing down five Independent Spirit Award nominations and winning the New York Film Critics Circle's Best Picture prize), Martin Scorsese's "Hugo" has planted a flag in the race today by claiming the National Board of Review's prize for best film of the year.
The film also won the Best Director prize for Scorsese, and overall, I'm a bit surprised. But happily. I was worried for a moment there we might have a steamroller this season.
"The Artist" did manage to crack the NBR's top 10 list, which also included Best Picture hopefuls "The Descendants" and "War Horse," and somewhat surprisingly left room for Nicolas Winding Refn's "Drive" and Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life." And the organization being the Clint Eastwood devotees that they are, "J. Edgar" naturally showed up, too.
Offer up your burning queries
As we await the National Board of Review announcement, let's go ahead and knock this out. Anne and I will of course be giving our thoughts on the NYFCC, Indie Spirits and NBR announcements, as well as the Gothams and probably a bit on "We Bought a Zoo." Tell us your need-to-knows outside of that and we'll try to address a few. Keep it interesting, stay away from stuff we've already covered, etc.
Could Zooey Deschanel snag an Oscar nom for 'Winnie the Pooh?'
There's usually a fair amount of disparity between the Grammy nominations in the 'Visual Media' music categories and the choices of the Academy's music branch -- not least because they work on such different calendars. Still, with the Best Original Song race currently looking so sparse (seriously, just hand the Muppets their Oscar now and skip the formalities), we may as well take what signs we can get.
The Grammy race for Best Song Written for Visual Media highlights three eligible compositions I hadn't really thought to include in my predictions. I highly doubt the Academy will share Grammy voters' enthusiasm for Justin Bieber, and I'm not even sure how concert films would fare under their context-oriented voting system, but nevertheless, chalk up the Diane Warren-written "Born to be Somebody" from "Never Say Never" on the longlist.
Warren is also nominated in the category for Cher's "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me" from "Burlesque," the song the Academy deemed less integral to its film than something Randy Newman scrawled on the back of a matchbook for "Toy Story 3," but why reopen old wounds?
Also: Sherak's plea to AMPAS members and the Gurus make more picks
Martin Scorsese is famous for giving his collaborators plenty of homework in preparation for his films. At a recent Q&A for "Hugo," production designer Dante Ferretti quipped through his thick Italian accent, "He made me watch a lot of movies." Everyone gave a knowing laugh. It's the Scorsese way. And it can always be interesting to note what films he picks to watch, either for his crew or for himself, when working on something. I always thought it was cool that he dug into "Once Upon a Time in the West" for "Gangs of New York," as there are definite thematic parallels. Anyway, the homework on "Hugo" was unique: 3D movies. He had his crew watch everything from the original "House of Wax" to "Dial M for Murder," with non-3D things like John Boulting's "The Magic Box" and the films of the Lumière brothers thrown in for good measure. [Movies.com]
It seems so much easier to look back than dead on
Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse” is steadily building momentum as it approaches its Christmas Day release. Sneak screenings have begun for the film and Spielberg himself has been cautiously engaging with the press. One of the director’s goals was to shine a light on a WWI, a war that did not, and has not, received the same level cinematic attention that WWII or Vietnam have.
There are a number of complex reasons for the discrepancy, one of which may simply be a matter of timing (cinema was still in its early days during and after The Great War) and not the least of which is the mythos that surrounds what is perhaps the most unquestionably just (on the part of the allied forces) war in our collective memory: WWII. That is not to say that there are not complex issues surrounding that war, or the outcomes of our choices (particularly in the Pacific Theatre). It is simply to say that it is, as Spielberg described in a live-streaming Q&A following the sneak peeks, a more “fluid” war in several respects.
Online petition challenges distributor to campaign for Kenneth Lonergan's troubled marvel
To call Kenneth Lonergan's "Margaret" my most anticipated film of the year wouldn't be stating the case with total accuracy. Rather, it's been my most anticipated film of the last few years running, repeatedly raising hopes of a sighting since 2006 before dropping from view amid ever more legal paperwork, like some form of film industry mirage.
We've touched on the film's tortured route to the screen several times over the years, but happily, we don't have to rehash that now. Through whatever process of grace or compromise, "Margaret" made it through the tunnel: the film is finished, released and here to be appreciated. Well, sort of. As if embarrassed by its complex backstory, distributor Fox Searchlight has seemingly attempted to fulfil its obligation to the film while sweeping it quietly under the rug: its September release was limited to say the least, with a number of major US cities left out of the loop altogether before it vanished from release. (Meanwhile, its UK release on Friday is a single-screen engagement in London.)
The 'Midnight in Paris' star seems to be on the right track as of late
It's heartening to note as of late that a bit a fire has been lit under the campaign for Corey Stoll's performance as Ernest Hemingway in Woody's Allen's "Midnight in Paris."
The actor was on hand at the Gothams Sunday night as part of the tribute for David Cronenberg (a shrewd move on Sony Classics' part to get him in front of the audience -- the company is distributing both "Midnight in Paris" and Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method"). The actor nailed down an Independent Spirit Award nomination yesterday for Best Supporting Male (one of many Sony Classics citations honcho Michael Barker was beaming over when I spoke to him on the phone last night). And now, it's been announced that Stoll will participate in a unique event at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston on Sunday, December 11.
Lucky for us, Tech Support columnist Gerard Kennedy happens to live in Boston and will be on hand to cover the evening, which will feature a discussion of "The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume I, 1907 - 1922" with the book's editor, Sandra Spanier, and novelist Ward Just. Stoll will be reading selections from the volume.