No one needs awards coverage this deep
The Wachowski brothers' cyberpunk-inspired opus swept 'Star Wars' back in 1999
Ray Park as Darth Maul in "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace"
Credit: 20th Century Fox
I wasn't much of an Oscar-watcher in 1999. I was naive enough to think, surely, "The Insider" would be a big winner that year. "Three Kings" would definitely get a few nominations. "Magnolia" would HAVE to be a Best Picture nominee. None of that happened, of course.
I never liked "Star Wars." Still don't. Not one single entry in the franchise. Look, fans, I respect your obsession, admiration and commitment. But they don't work for me. So when I lined up for "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace" on May 19, a high school senior soon to enter film school (and let me tell you, what a year to be a film school student), I wasn't too pumped or anything. I had a number of friends who were, surely, but even they -- some of them on their third and fourth viewing of the DAY -- were beginning to cool on it a bit when I finally got there to see it that afternoon.
'Drive,' 'Dragon Tattoo,' 'Hugo,' 'Transformers' and 'War Horse' square off
Ryan Gosling blows some dude's face off in "Drive"
(The Oscar Guide will be 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 26, with the Best Picture finale on Saturday, February 25.)
As Guy intimated in his Oscar Guide to Best Sound Mixing, the sound categories really were interesting and all over the place this year. In the sound editing field, we have just two of the nine Best Picture nominees represented, one surprise show (for some) for a Cannes hit that was expected to pop up elsewhere, a franchise entry that deserves more love than it'll get and a tip of the hat to a Best Picture snubee that actually showed up in both sound fields.
Typically, voters pick their "favorite" movie of the nominees in these areas. That is, unless a palatable secondary option is available that makes its case for recognition of its aural qualities. I expect this year's situation to be more reflective of the latter.
The nominees are…
Also: What happened to Shailene Woodley's Oscar bid?
Welcome to Oscar Talk.
In case you're new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is a weekly kudocast, your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is weekly, every Friday throughout the season, charting the ups and downs of contenders along the way. Plenty of things change en route to Oscar's stage and we're here to address it all as it unfolds.
We're getting close. Oh so close. The Oscars, if you can believe it, are just over two weeks away. We have a few more ceremonies on the horizon, but with ballots in hand for another week, it's a few more times into the breach. So, let's see what's on the docket today...
Spielberg's maestro clocks seven nods
"Hanna" composers The Chemical Brothers, nominated for Breakout Composer of the Year
Credit: AP Photo/Jonathan Short
I'd like to humbly make a (self-serving) request of the International Film Music Critics Association. Bump your announcement up by a couple of weeks. Granted, you don't speak for composers, so your annual announcement of the best in film music doesn't necessarily indicate anything. But in a category with precious little in the way of precursor suggestion, every little bit helps.
This year's list of nominees was predictably dominated, however, by John Williams, who landed seven nominations across the various categories for his two Oscar-nominated scores: "The Adventures of Tintin" and "War Horse." Not too far back with five nods was "The Artist" composer Ludovic Bource.
Third was Michael Giacchino, who landed a nomination each for "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" and "Super 8" and was singled out in the Film Composer of the Year category as well. And Howard Shore had a decent showing for "Hugo," popping up twice.
Also: AMPAS promises to look at original song process and Hollywood and Highland pushes back against Kodak
Shailene Woodley and George Clooney in "The Descendants"
Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures
When I'm asked, I'm honest. And I've been asked about "The Descendants" plenty in the last few weeks, whether the Jean Dujardin SAG win is a harbinger, whether the film still has any gas left in the Best Picture tank after that post-Globes feeling of ecstasy, etc. And my line is this: Forget Best Picture. Stick with Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay before you lose those, too. In a recent piece, Brooks Barnes gets it wrong vis a vis what makes an Oscar underdog (both "Crash" and "Million Dollar Baby" were less that than alternatives at a time when the Academy really did want to go a different way), but he nevertheless props Fox Searchlight's big "underdog" push up. Look (and I really do believe this): it was never going to win Best Picture. Focus. [New York Times]
Fest opens with Diane Kruger in lavish but tart take on the Marie Antoinette story
A scene from "Farewell, My Queen"
Credit: GMT Productions
BERLIN - Just one full day into the 2012 Berlinale, I’m struck by how many faces I recognize as I traipse across the snow-dusted triangle of the festival center at Potsdamer Platz: crimson-blazered festival stewards who all seem to man exactly the same stations they did last year; international critics in the press room whom I identify instantly by their hair, glasses or oddly colored overcoat, but couldn’t possibly name; even the slickly sullen barista at the one decent coffee source over the road.
Nothing and nobody appears to have moved in the space of a year in this city, making today feel less like the opening day of a major international film festival than a comfily unfazed resumption of business. “You’ve been here before,” the politely unenthused assistant said to me as she handed me my shiny new pass and no-nonsense black lanyard. “You know where to go.”
The Oscar-nominated composer details his approach
Howard Shore received his first non-"Lord of the Rings" Oscar nomination for his work on "Hugo."
Credit: AP Photo/Joe Tabacca
It’s a rare thing for Martin Scorsese to use a score as expansive and elaborate as Howard Shore’s Oscar-nominated one for “Hugo.” Indeed, Philip Glass's booming and full composition for “Kundun” 14 years ago represents the last score from one of Scorsese’s films to be nominated for an Academy Award.
“We worked very differently on this film than we had previously,” Shore says, calling from his studio in New Zealand where he is currently writing the “brand new and shiny” compositions for Peter Jackson's “The Hobbit.”
Shore won two Academy Awards for his scores on Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings" franchise, as well as Best Original Song for the series' final installment. His work on the trilogy was an immense undertaking which was eventually adapted into “'The Lord of the Rings' Symphony: Six Movements for Orchestra and Chorus."
"It appears you have bought your last zoo."
Jean Dujardin auditions for "Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer 2" at Funny or Die.
Credit: Funny or Die
Okay, full disclosure. An invested publicist forwarded this to me. But, well, it got me. And I had to post.
The running, cynical logic on Jean Dujardin for quite a while has been that we'll likely see him and the rest of the crew from "The Artist" fade away after this lightning-capturing season, and that if we don't, well, maybe Dujardin will play a Bond villain or something. Just look at Christoph Waltz, who has languished in bad-guy parts in "The Green Hornet" and "Water for Elephants" after winning his Oscar two years ago.
Funny or Die is always quick to get out ahead of a joke like that, and Dujardin is wise to be on board for something like their latest video, which spoofs the actor being tapped to audition for every Hollywood villain role available at the moment. He runs the gamut from "Mission: Impossible" and "Die Hard" sequels to hilariously dubious possibilities like follow-ups to "We Bought a Zoo" and "Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer."
How the film, recently restored, changed film advertising forever
A scene (and gorgeous image) from "A Clockwork Orange"
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
A well-known filmmaker friend and I were chatting about the dearth of quality films in the annual Oscar race at an awards show recently. He said to me, "When I was young, films like 'Network' and 'All the President's Men' were nominated. I feel sorry for you that nothing nominated touches those films these days."
Well, I'd argue few things MADE these days touch those films, and I almost wanted to say something like, "You're a filmmaker in today's environment. What does that say about you?" But nevertheless, point taken. Even still, I marvel at the fact that a film like, say, "A Clockwork Orange" was nominated in 1971. I couldn't fathom that kind of thing happening today. Of course, few films have the earth-shattering impact that Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece did, and when the earth moves, I guess you kind of have to take note.
On the incrementally self-medicating foreign language film process
The exclusion of Cristian Mungiu's "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" from the 2007 finalists list spurred the creation of an executive committee within the foreign language branch.
Credit: IFC Films
This may come as a shock to readers accustomed to my usual tone of weary despair when it comes to the category, but I’m about to write in defense of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
Reluctant defense, mind you – I’m not going to get either impassioned or affectionate for the award that recognized “Departures” over “The Class,” “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” over “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and “Woman in the Dunes” and never even shortlisted “Persona,” “The 400 Blows” or anything by Kieslowski. For reasons both within and beyond their control, it’s a troubled category and always has been. But unlike most of the Academy’s many problem areas, it’s a highly self-aware and self-medicating one, forever adjusting its voting process to address blind spots.
The adjustments sometimes cause blind spots of their own, like a game of cinematic and bureaucratic whack-a-mole, but you can hardly accuse them of shrugging their shoulders. When arcane eligibility bylaws about the required language of national submissions took Michael Haneke’s “Hidden” out of the running, rules were promptly changed the next year; when voters failed to place critics’ darling “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” into the nine-film shortlist in 2007, branch leaders were sufficiently embarrassed to devise the executive-committee safety net that stands today.