In what will be a handy boost to her Best Actress Oscar campaign for "Rust and Bone," French star Marion Cotillard will receive a career tribute at next month's IFP Gotham Independent Film Awards, traditionally the first stop on the awards calendar. Also due to receive non-competitive honors at the ceremony are Matt Damon, David O. Russell and Participant Media chairman Jeff Skoll. The ceremony takes place a little over a week after Cotillard's film lands in US theaters. Joana Vicente, director of the IFP, stated: "Marion Cotillard is not only a delight to watch, she is one of the most talented women working in cinema around the world today. Her acting choices are always challenging and rewarding, and her performances show that she is a truly skilled artist, totally dedicated to her craft. We are so honored to present this Tribute to a woman of her magnitude.” Here's hoping the Academy agrees. [Filmmaker]
Also: 59 world premieres at Rome, and a taste of the 'Skyfall' score
Roadside will release her intimate family portrait in mid-2013
I'm a bit behind the curve on this news, but since it was rather buried beneath the surge of autumn Oscar-contender updates, I thought it worth flagging up anyway. I've recently been combing the US release calendar for possibilities in the Best Documentary Feature race, looking in particular for the slightly left-of-center contenders that routinely pop up in the branch's shortlist -- the eligibility rules may have changed this year, but we have no reason to think voters will suddenly start focusing more intently on much-hyped frontrunners.
In doing so, I found myself wondering what became of "Stories We Tell," Sarah Polley's lovely non-fiction debut -- a critical hit at the Venice and Toronto festivals that did rather well for itself by scoring a US distribution deal with a relatively high-profile indie outfit, Roadside Attractions. In recent years, Roadside has been a tidy little player in the Oscar race, scoring major nominations for "Winter's Bone," "Biutiful," "Albert Nobbs" and "Margin Call," in all cases against significant odds. However, they made their name with the Academy in the documentary race: founded in 2003, they landed their first nod less than two years later with "Super Size Me," and took the win five years later with "The Cove."
Rounding up a (very) few words from an old pro
Five years ago Alan Arkin won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work in "Little Miss Sunshine," an award many thought would end up going to "Dreamgirls" star Eddie Murphy. He's back knocking on the door of another tip of the Academy's hat with his work as a cranky, seen-it-all film producer in Ben Affleck's "Argo." But he probably couldn't care less.
"To me that's a euphemism for saying, 'I liked your work,'" he says of awards speculation by telephone. "I'm just as happy with people saying that."
Nevertheless, as short-answered and moderately cantankerous as Arkin can be in an interview situation, there's something lovable there. He's not the sort who has to work the circuit hard to get kudos because, after all, we're talking about someone whose first nomination was 45 years ago (for "The Russians are Coming the Russians are Coming"). He's been there. Done that. So the terse replies to queries become a bit of a warm blanket that lets you admit, yes, this is all rather silly.
Also: The landing of 'Lincoln,' and Variety finds a home
Pete Hammond reports that the Weinsteins have won yet another Oscar race: the annual scramble to see who can get the first formal For Your Consideration screener mailed out to voters -- an early-bird strategy that has previously paid off for under-the-radar contenders like "A Better Life" and "Frozen River." (Millennium sent out "Bernie" a while back, but it was a commercial disc that didn't comply with official Academy regulations.) The lucky beneficiary? French Oscar submission "The Intouchables" -- an obvious contender for Best Foreign Language Film, but a crowdpleaser that I think most pundits are underestimating in other categories. Omar Sy is an outside shot who shouldn't be discounted in the Best Actor race, while I recently added the film to my Best Original Screenplay predictions. [Deadline]
Disney's campaign will have to focus on art and sentiment over commerce
I could tell things weren't going swimmingly for "Frankenweenie" this weekend when I could use a single hand to count the responses to our post inviting your thoughts on the film. For whatever reason, and not for lack of critical enthusiasm, Tim Burton's peculiarly personal stop-motion animated feature just hadn't caught the public's imagination, and the figures last night made for discouraging reading: after opening wide in over 3000 theaters, "Frankenweenie" limped into fifth place with $11.4 million, less than half of what rival Halloween-friendly animation "Hotel Transylviania" managed to gross in its second weekend. International box office will surely be required to clear a budget of $39 million.
I'm no box office analyst, but as disappointed as I am by this tepid reception for a lovingly made film that deserves an audience, I'm hardly surprised. As much as Disney tried to underline Burton's money-raking "Alice in Wonderland" credentials in the marketing, "Frankenweenie" is a tough sell: a stylized, macabre and boldly black-and-white mosaic homage to vintage horror/monster movies, it's a film for the director's devotees who likely loathed "Alice."
The nine-film shortlist will be announced in January
Well, we're finally there. After three months of submissions, which we reported on at regular interviews, the Academy has lowered the boom and announced the official longlist of films in the running for this year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. And quite a list it is too: with 71 countries represented, including a first-time entry from Kenya, it's the longest in the category's history.
Last week, after glancing over the near-final list as it stood after the October 1 submissions deadline, I mentioned that a few additions, switches and/or disqualifications would take place before the Academy set it in stone. Happily, only the first of those modifications came to pass, with three last-minute entries joining the fray: Malaysia's "Bunohan," Kyrgysztan's "The Empty Home" and Singapore's "Already Famous." Contrary to the title of the latter film -- a showbiz satire about a TV soap addict trying to launch an acting career -- none of these latecomers have much of a profile, though reviews from last year's Toronto fest of the Malaysian entry make it sound like a hoot: Variety calls it "a fight film with echoes of 'King Lear,' and a ghost story about living people who occupy the edge of existence." It's remake-ready, apparently. Sign me up.
Also: Top supporting actors, and Hollywood goes back to board games
The Hamptons International Film Festival wrapped this weekend, delivering another Audience Award to Toronto favorite "Silver Linings Playbook" -- more ammo the Weinsteins to campaign it as the crowdpleasing Oscar choice -- and a hat-trick of prizes for Australia's foreign Oscar contender "Lore." Meanwhile, the festival hosted the official celebrations for Variety's 10 Actors to Watch, a well-chosen bunch that includes Scoot McNairy ("Monsters"; "Killing Them Softly"), Nate Parker ("Arbitrage") and the film-stealing "Anna Karenina" duo of Alicia Vikander and Domnhall Gleeson. (Yep, son of Brendan.) Cheers all round. [Hamptons Film Fest]
Tim Burton's latest animated effort hit theaters yesterday
We may have led with "The Paperboy" yesterday, but if we were to focus on the new release that's likeliest to find awards recognition in the next five months, it'd have to be Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie" -- the kook merchant's first animated feature since 2005's "Corpse Bride," and a likely bet to repeat that film's nomination for the Best Animated Feature Oscar. (I think it could easily go one better.) Due to the quirks of transatlantic embargoes, I'm not supposed to discuss the film until its UK premiere on Wednesday, when it'll open the London Film Festival, but I will say that I can happily endorse our colleague Drew McWeeny's enthusiastic take. But let's turn it over to you. Do you think it's a return to form for Burton? Could it net him his first golden statue? Feel free to rate the film above, and share your thoughts below.
The star and director breathe a little more life into their early-year indie
NEW YORK -- Almost a decade ago, Richard Linklater and Jack Black first crossed professional paths. Black had been a fan of the sometimes-studio-usually-indie director going back another decade, all the way to Linklater's debut, "Slacker," but never really thought of him when he and buddy/screenwriter Mike White were developing "School of Rock." Producer Scott Rudin offered the outside-the-box suggestion of Linklater and the rest was history.
Earlier this year, Linklater and Black clocked in their second collaboration, the dark comedy/true story "Bernie," which just recently made its way to DVD and Blu-ray. Ostensibly, they're out on the circuit now to promote the home video release, but with it comes a fair amount of rejuvenated awards buzz. The film was critically acclaimed when it hit theaters in April and many called Black's performance as a small town Texas mortician who murdered an elderly woman (in a story where that premise doesn't begin to scratch the surface) his best to date. And now, after an intimate soirée down town the night before, they're sitting with me having lunch, more than happy to breathe more life into it.
NYFF's Centerpiece selection gets its close-up on the Beatles' 50th anniversary
NEW YORK -- It was either serendipity or programming genius that the first NYFF press screening of David Chase's "Not Fade Away" was held today on the 50th anniversary of a seminal moment in the history of rock and roll: the release of the Beatles' first single, "Love Me Do." The fab four's burst onto the scene is in fact one of the moments depicted in Chase's directorial debut that sends its protagonists on a journey of self-discovery and artistic awakening.
It's an era Chase captures with joy and passion in a film both funny and, at times, profound. Indeed, the theme of the film, Chase said in a post-screening press conference, is the conflict between security and freedom. "Human beings are always in that conflict of, 'I want to be part of something, I want to be babied, I want to be taken care of' and 'I also want to tell everybody to go fuck yourself and I'm free and I want to do what I want and I'm just my own person," he said. "That's one of the things that launched the movie in my mind."