Supervising sound editor Wylie Stateman earned his sixth Oscar nomination this year for “Django Unchained.” The soft-spoken industry veteran has now managed to earn a nomination in four decades – the 1980s (“Born on the Fourth of July”), the 1990s (“Cliffhanger”), the 2000s (“Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Wanted,” “Inglourious Basterds”) and now the 2010s.
I decided to do something a little different with the shots column for this, its sixth year (and finally imitated -- we're flattered). I thought I'd go with a metric of instinct rather than analysis.
First let me introduce the overall concept for those perhaps unfamiliar. Every year I recap the year in my own unique way. Film is, after all, about the image first, and so what better way to put 12 cinematic months in a time capsule than to feature the most striking single images of the year? But what is striking to one is always not so much to the next. Like all of this, it's in the eye of the beholder.
For my part I would always try to give my perspective on shots that might seem, well, unexpected to others. I would posit that an Eric Gautier shot of an eagle picking away at a carcass in "Into the Wild" says something about a country weighing on the soul; or that an unassuming Anthony Dod Mantle shot crammed into a frenetic "Slumdog Millionaire" montage better sums up character motivations than any other frame; or that the simplicity of Anna Kendrick riding slowly away on an airport people-mover as seen through Eric Steelberg's lens in "Up in the Air" speaks elegant volumes.
With the roundly acclaimed "Before Midnight" playing out of competition at the Berlin Film Festival, Richard Linklater wasn't expecting to leave with any prizes, but he received one anyway before the film's European premiere last night, as he was honored with the Berlinale Camera, traditionally presented to "film personalities or institutions to which [the festival] feels particularly indebted and wishes to express its thanks." It's especially sweet that he should receive it in conjunction with this film, given that "Before Sunrise" won him the fest's Best Director prize way back in 1995. It also leads me to wonder how many other institutions will pick up the meme of acknowledging Linklater's long, diverse career this year, particularly if "Midnight" gathers the awards steam I suspect it will. [Berlinale]
BERLIN - Some films, like "Gloria," enter Berlin with no profile and leave with their heads held high; others merely shuffle away quietly after a reasonably noisy arrival. David S. Rosenthal's drab backwoods thriller "A Single Shot," a rather surprising inclusion for the festival's more esoteric Forum sidebar, is in the latter group.
One of the few world premieres at the festival to boast a modicum of US star power -- well, to those for whom high-end character actors like Sam Rockwell and William H. Macy are stars, at any rate -- it's the kind of indistinct genre potboiler that might have seemed more at home in the lower reaches of the Sundance programme. Not that this overextended pulp is particularly flattered by the festival circuit to begin with: happened upon at the halfway mark on TV, preferably after a few beers, its identikit premise and logical stumbles may seem more comfortingly expected.
BERLIN - We're roughly at the midway point of the Berlin Film Festival, and should probably tell you how this year's Competition lineup is shaping up. The truth, however, is that I haven't seen enough of it to say, as my schedule for the last couple of days has kept me in the smaller, often more interesting, sections of the vast Berlin programme, meaning I've only seen about five of the films in the running for the Golden Bear.
The festival grapevine, however, suggests I haven't missed that much. Consensus has it that the Competition, with the exception of Ulrich Seidl's excellent "Paradise: Hope," got off to a bit of a slow start, and was only kicked into touch yesterday by Chilean entry "Gloria" -- which I resolved to see at this morning's public screening after hearing glowing reports from multiple trusted colleagues. Good news travels fast in Berlin: I arrived at the city's vast Friedrichpalast theater to find it improbably crowded for a freezing Monday morning.
It's easy to see why Sam Fell and Chris Butler's "ParaNorman" from the LAIKA animation studio ended up reaping the most critical prizes throughout the film awards season. At a time when the issue of bullying is very much in the social dialogue, the film's themes resonate and elevate it from the ghetto of "mere entertainment" that animated feature films can often struggle to escape.
The idea of what would become "ParaNorman" first came to Butler 16 years ago. It was just the superficial spark of "how cool would it be to make a stop-motion zombie movie for kids?" But the more he mulled over the genre and why it had always been so compelling to him, the more he realized there was a thematic draw there.
"The zombie movies that worked best, and certainly my favorites, are the ones that have social commentary," Butler says, "that use zombies as a metaphor to say something about a human condition. And so it made sense to me that if I was going to do a zombie movie for kids that I should try and address an issue that affects kids. I think that was like a fundamental part of the movie right from the start. It's part of the fabric of it."
(Welcome to the Oscar Guide, your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 24, with the Best Picture finale on Friday, February 22.)
A modern epic on the Pacific Ocean. A historical epic in 19th Century Russia. A historical epic in 19th Century America. A Presidential biopic in 19th Century America. And Roger Deakins. Sure sounds like a group of Academy Award nominees for Best Cinematography!
The ASC and BAFTA cited the same five films this year, and AMPAS followed by nominating four of them. This left Danny Cohen of “Les Misérables” as the most obvious “snub.” But some major critical favorites have every reason to feel shafted after outstanding critical notices for films that earned multiple nominations. History, both recent and more historic, strongly points to what nominee will win, notwithstanding my sincere wish for an upset.
The nominees are…
As last night's surprise BAFTA win for "Skyfall" demonstrated, this year's Best Original Score Oscar could go just about any way this year -- partly because the Academy's ever-peculiar music branch skipped over some of the year's most acclaimed work when assembling the nominees, and partly because the field that remains is stacked with admired names, only two of whom have won before. One of those is Dario Marianelli, whose score for "Anna Karenina" could benefit from being the most ornate in the category. In a nicely timed showcase, Marianelli will be celebrated next week at the Dublin Film Festival, where the RTE Concert Orchestra will perform a programme of his work selected by Marianelli himself, including "Karenina," "Pride and Prejudice," "V for Vendetta," "The Brothers Grimm," the Oscar-winning "Atonement" and my own favorite of his, "Jane Eyre." Any Irish readers going? [JDIFF]
This was probably Roger Deakins's last opportunity to make some noise with "Skyfall," my personal pick for the year's best cinematography. Well, he won the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Award for his work on the film, staving off his winless streak at the Oscars just a bit.
In the first year that BAFTA switched to the Academy's system of letting the entire membership vote across most categories, we had every reason to expect their customary quirks to disappear with branch-specific voting. Gone are days, probably, of "Mulholland Drive" winning for Best Film Editing, or Pedro Almodovar taking Best Director for "All About My Mother," as BAFTA increasingly settles into its assumed role as one more Oscar-minded precursor.
But wait -- not so fast. Where they could merely have checked off every consensus favorite from the season thus far, BAFTA threw in enough individual choices to suggest they're at least as keen on guiding Oscar voters to viable alternatives as they are in merely guessing their taste. Some of their choices, meanwhile, were merely about celebrating their own industry: witness the Best British Film award for people's favorite "Skyfall," which, as I mentioned in my review, is really its own kind of British heritage film. (They could, after all, have gone with "Les Miserables," which nonetheless ended the night with the most trophies of any film.)