Also: Gervais says this is his Globes swan song and 'War Horse' tracks hit the net
So The Hollywood Reporter held its directors round table and didn't invite any women. Then the outlet's editor Stephen Galloway was condescending toward the profile of female-directed films this year, asking the filmmakers to "name a female director who made a major film this year." This made Melissa Silverstein hit the roof, and I think she speaks truth. "'The Whistleblower' was a major movie that actually made the UN stand up and look at how peacekeepers are acting around the world,' she says. 'Circumstance' was a major movie that brought us into Iranian culture from the perspective of two teenage girls. 'Pariah' is a major film about an African American girls dealing with sexuality...It matters that the Hollywood Reporter doesn't think a woman made a major movie this year." [Women and Hollywood]
Welcome to the third annual tinsel town roast
Are you surprised? Well, if you’ve been reading the site, then perhaps not. In Contention informed of Ricky Gervais’s imminent return to Golden Globes hosting duties (read: indiscriminate razing of Hollywood’s collective egos) in August and then again earlier this month. Still, given the recent Oscarcast shake-up, today’s official announcement could be interpreted as the Globes, in essence, sticking their tongue out and saying, "Suck it Oscars. The Globes aren't afraid of a live wire."
Gervais Tweeted his intentions clearly: “It's gonna be biblical.” Anyone familiar with the Brit comedian’s view on religion knows that “biblical” (in Gervais speak) may well mean full of epically scaled exaggeration, fancy and lies. (TO BE CLEAR – that is not my take on the bible so please release the caps lock button.) It is simply my best estimation of the comedian’s implications. It could also denote a grandiose disaster that only the animals will survive…if anyone.
Potential 2011 nominees latest to be celebrated in 'A Life in Pictures' series
For whatever reason, I always find myself forgetting about BAFTA's series of 'A Life in Pictures' tributes, wherein assorted big-name actors and directors speak about their work to a public audience at the British Academy's headquarters. (It's a little like the James Lipton treatment, if a mite less toadying.) Previous honorees run the gamut from Will Ferrell to Jean-Pierre Jeunet, so it's not particularly an awards-related deal, but it just so happens that BAFTA's two most recent selections for the series are currently on the campaign trail: "Young Adult" star Charlize Theron was up last week, while "My Week With Marilyn" hopeful Kenneth Branagh has his turn on Saturday. It certainly won't hurt their visibility with voters.
I didn't even know Theron was being celebrated the very next day when I reflected on the South African's early career highlights on Friday. In retrospect, it all ties in rather nicely -- even if it still seems a tad early for the 30-something star to be given the this-is-your-life treatment. (A BAFTA, incidentally, is one award Theron hasn't won: nominated for "Monster" the year after her Oscar win due to release-date discrepancy, she wound up losing to Imelda Staunton.)
Two-time Oscar champ to give something back to the Academy
Considering what a pickle they were in only a week ago, I admire the efficiency with which the Academy is moving forward with their Oscarcast plans -- with new producer Brian Grazer and host Billy Crystal in place, Oscar-winning production designer John Myhre is now on board to literally set the stage for the event. (It's a nifty coincidence that this news should land on the same day Gerard covers the Best Art Direction race in Tech Support.)
And I must say, I'm fully down with this choice. As with Grazer, there's something classy about bringing a previous winner into the fold to design the show that has been so good to him in the past -- it suggests to me that their show, a little like Bill Condon's 2008 ceremony, will be grounded in a strong, affectionate sense of Academy tradition.
Looks like it's boiling down to her and Viola Davis for the Best Actress Oscar
It's really striking, the similarities between Phyllida Lloyd's "The Iron Lady" and Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar." Both attempt to paint a sympathetic portrait of a conservative politician whose ideals were eventually warped and obsessed upon. Both ultimately whitewash those ideals in favor of broad, glossed-over history lessons built from lazily structured screenplays. And both feature leading performances that, in better films, would likely be no-brainers for Oscar wins.
Lloyd's film begins with aged former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher having difficulty merely buying milk in a brave new world that has moved on ahead of her. It initiates the viewer with a dementia-stricken Thatcher and finds some success in using mundane daily encounters -- a dinner party place setting, a tea cup -- to ignite her memory and send the narrative back in time for the usual biopic foundations. But that ultimately gives way to rather arbitrary flashbacks to cover her life in politics quite broadly, rarely finding time to dig in on the various human hues with which it wants to paint its subject.
Offer up your burning queries
You know the drill. Rifle off your need-to-knows and we'll address as many as we can on the podcast tomorrow.
Other contenders include 'War Horse,' 'The Artist' and 'J. Edgar'
The design of a film truly does “set the scene.” I’m obviously speaking literally in part – the sets fill up our screen and can therefore present interesting opportunities for glitz and glamor, the complete opposite or anything in between.
But I’m also speaking on a more fundamental level: sets and props build the atmosphere of the world a film's characters inhabit. If done well, the job of the directors and actors becomes much easier. It seems only fair that the talented individuals who engage in this art are recognized by their peers in an Oscar category.
Despite being called the Academy Award for Best Art Direction, the art director is unfortunately not awarded in the category. Rather, the production designer and the set decorator are cited. The production designer is in charge of the film’s entire art department as well as designing and blueprinting set construction. The set decorator is in charge of filling up those sets with elements that flesh out the space.
Also: Ricky Gervais hosts the Globes and indie threats in the Best Actress race
Hey, has there been a more hilarious performance all year than Viola Davis's wackily oppressed, zanily bereaved maid in "The Help?" There has, you say? Whatever. Anyway, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is with you, as they've barred DreamWorks's planned strategy to campaign the film in the Musical/Comedy races at the Golden Globes. The Globes regularly make iffy calls in this department (particularly irksome is their insistence that biopics of musicians are in fact musicals), but this one isn't really up for debate, tonal shifts and amusing shit-pie hijinks notwithstanding. Not that this changes anything: the floor has always been clear for "The Artist" (which has its own darkly dramatic aspects, but comedy should never be simple) to triumph here. [Deadline]
Contenders range from Pixar to the Smurfs to the Quay Brothers
Aside from being a handy wild card in any Oscar betting pool (as much as I like recent winners "Logorama" and "The Lost Thing," I value them most for what I gained from their victories), the Best Animated Short Oscar is always fun to keep an eye on at this stage, given that it's almost impossible to handicap this far out, and yet not too difficult to research. So it is with the 45 shorts that were recently revealed to have qualified for the award, any number of which look from afar like potential nominees.
As usual with this category, shorts from major animation outfits like Pixar, Disney and Warner Bros. are jostling for space with minute independent productions from various corners of the globe -- what's lovely about this category is that size is rarely an advantage here. It's interesting to note that only one of Pixar's two 2011 shorts is on the list, and it's not the one ("Toy Story: Hawaiian Vacation") that preceded "Cars 2" in theaters; rather, their hopes lie with acclaimed festival player "La Luna," which you may recall Kris flipped for in Telluride. Smart move.
Our fuzzy friends star in tongue-in-cheek UK cinema ad for phone network
Okay, so they didn't get the Oscars. Boo. But hey, work is work, so the Muppets have instead lent their services to UK cellphone network Orange (which, if you squint at it, looks kind of like Oscar) for the latest entry in a series of celebrity-satirizing theatrical ads that have become a customary part of going to the movies in Britain.
Essentially elaborate reminders to cinema patrons who haven't yet turned their phones off, the ads do so by sending up the commercial evils of product placement in films ("Don't let a mobile phone ruin your movie," is the recurring punchline) and the vulnerability of fading stars seeking career resuscitation -- all of which ties in nicely with the meta-narrative around "The Muppets" as a comeback vehicle for previously down-and-out vaudeville veterans.
Previous good sports who have appeared in the ads range from Sigourney Weaver to Spike Lee to Patrick Swayze to Juliette Lewis, so the felt gang is in good human company; the latest ad (embedded after the jump) isn't the sharpest in the series, but frankly, I'll watch these guys in life insurance commercials if it comes to that. (Meanwhile, how envious am I that Kris has seen the movie and I haven't? Guess.)