Well, AMPAS brass decided to end the speculation mercifully early this year, announcing Ellen DeGeneres as the host of next year's Academy Awards ceremony -- her second stab at one of showbiz's trickiest gigs, having first done the job to amiable effect back in 2007. And predictably enough, the news has met with a mixed response: for everyone who's happy to see DeGeneres return with her warm, non-confrontational approach, there's another (like our own Greg Ellwood) who thinks it's too conservative a choice.
I very rarely run a transcript/Q&A-style interview because, well, on one hand I think it's kind of lazy (not always). On the other, I'm a writer and I like to write, I like to paint a portrait of someone and use their words as tools toward those ends.
But sometimes you talk to someone whose every word you want to print, and filmmaker Derek Cianfrance is definitely one of those guys. The director of "The Place Beyond the Pines" has been making the rounds lately to discuss the film again as it heads for DVD/Blu-ray next week and so it was a great opportunity to finally see the film (I had missed it in theatrical) and talk to him about his vision for it.
Yesterday, Kris and I looked over a number of upcoming potential prestige films that, despite high-profile festival appointments, are still seeking a foothold in the distribution market. Today, coincidentally enough, a trailer has arrived that handily proves just how long the journey from a festival premiere to an actual release can be -- even for a relatively big-name project. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Billy Bob Thornton's "Jayne Mansfield's Car."
When I woke up this morning I checked my inbox on my phone and quickly saw there were a number of E-mails with the headline "Ellen DeGeneres returns to host…" My first thought was, "Wow, FOX must have spent a ton of money to get DeGeneres to return as an 'American Idol' judge. I wonder if that means Jennifer Lopez is still coming back?" Of course, a host and a judge are two very different things (don't worry Seacrest your job is safe and I was half awake) and it quickly dawned on me that, instead, DeGeneres is heading for her second go around as Oscar host.
There are an awful lot of ifs, maybes and "in talks" still attached to this story, so don't get too excited (or bewildered) just yet, but it's certainly the least expected pre-production news of the day: veteran Chinese director Zhang Yimou is in the frame to direct his first Hollywood studio feature, "Quasimodo" -- obviously enough, a take on the oft-filmed Victor Hugo chestnut "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."
You can hear the machinery clicking to life. We've moved into August, meaning the Telluride Film Festival is just four short weeks away. Trailers are landing, festival announcements are filling email inboxes and soon enough the awards season will be in full swing.
As we inch closer, however, there are still a number of films that, at least on paper, would appear to have a lot of awards season potential. Many of them are playing the early fall fests, Toronto in particular, given the market for product at that annual showcase. It's possible this studio or that decides some added firepower is needed and they go shopping for more Oscar players, but just as many will be scooped up for 2014 release.
With all that in mind, Guy and I have put our heads together to come up with a list of 15 that, at least to our eye, could figure into the race in some way big or small if acquired in a timely fashion. We've noted festival players, though in the case of Telluride -- as ever -- all we can do is guess. So we've hung a "maybe" out on a few in that regard.
James Cameron taps 'Terminator,' 'Jurassic Park IV' and 'Aliens vs. Predator' writers for three 'Avatar' sequels
Four years ago James Cameron's "Avatar" made a huge impact on the film industry landscape. Raking in over $2 billion worldwide, it became the highest grossing film of all time and altered the business pattern of distribution by (unfortunately) ushering in the era of inflated ticket prices for 3D movies.
With a healthy but still humble $7,743,294 gross so far in the US, Richard Linklater's "Before Midnight" isn't exactly an art house blockbuster, but it's one of the summer's strongest survivors. Ten weeks after it first went into limited release back in May, the critics' favorite isn't just hanging around in theaters -- it's expanding once more. Sony Pictures Classics is tripling the film's screen count this weekend to 226 theaters, a move that should see the season's artiest franchise entry comfortably through to the fall.
That's good news for the film commercially, of course -- it's already out-grossed "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset," and its performance so far proves the validity of releasing well-chosen prestige films as summer counter-programming. (Particularly one that evokes summer as naturally as "Midnight" does.)
The latest I've heard on J.C. Chandor's one-man-show "All is Lost" starring Robert Redford is that we can expect to see the film at Telluride. That's a little bit surprising, given the Sundance connection, though in the same breath I have to wonder whether Redford could be up for a medallion tribute, or if the Sundance Institute itself could be recognized with a Special Medallion, like we've seen with the likes of Janus Films and Sight & Sound in the past. There's certainly little argument against the man or the organization deserving it. (More Telluride spitballing here.)
In any case, the film seems to have Redford all set up for an awards season run. How much work the 76-year-old actor would be willing to put into the grueling circuit is yet to be seen, but the built-in narrative of a 40 year gap since the legend's last nomination for acting sure will get a lot of mileage this year. "It is a classic Oscar bait movie," HitFix's Gregory Ellwood said in sizing up Oscar potential coming out of Cannes back in May. "This is the perfect opportunity to nominate him."
The 51st annual New York Film Festival already lined up a splashy opening night premiere in the form of Paul Greengrass' Tom Hanks-starrer "Captain Phillips." Today it's been announced that Ben Stiller's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" will be the festival's centerpiece gala.