No one needs awards coverage this deep
One year after winning for 'A Separation,' the country may not compete this time
The win for "A Separation" in the Best Foreign Language Film category at last February's Academy Awards marked a major breakthrough -- and not just because it marked the first time in donkey's years that the critics' favorite actually took home the prize. More significantly, Asghar Farhadi's searing marital drama made Iran the first Middle Eastern country the win this mostly Eurocentric award.
Not that all of Farhadi's compatriots appreciated the gesture. The Iranian government has been famously suppressive of its more outspoken artists -- notably in the case of filmmaker Jafar Panahi, placed under house arrest and banned from producing films for 20 years for "making propaganda against the system" -- and "A Separation" had its own share own hurdles to overcome. Initially banned while still in production due to Farhadi's past criticisms of the administration, the film was used by certain factions as a political pawn after its success: Javad Shamaghdari, head of the government's cinema agency, labelled the film's Oscar win an anti-Zionist victory, much to the dismay of its makers.
Tom Hooper's film is set for release on Christmas Day
Someone asked me today what looks like a Best Picture winner in these early days, with many things seen, a few still to come. With so many having marks against them it's difficult to get a gauge on what could be "the one," and of course, it's silly to be mulling something like that over when the season has so many more secrets to tell. But my knee-jerk reaction was Tom Hooper's "Les Misérables."
Why? Well, it's in the enviable position of still being a bit of a mystery, for starters. Hooper, of course, is coming off his big win for "The King's Speech" in 2010, which made him a commodity in Hollywood. The campaign is taking flight, the early notes revolving around the live singing employed by the film (which, frankly, from a sound mixing standpoint, makes it immediately more interesting in the musical realm than most). But more to the point, there's a lot of tangible thematic resilience in the story that could find the right stride in today's world. Well, let's just say there's a case to be made on that score by a smart campaign, anyway.
Kicking off a misguided new feature with John Lee Hancock's in-production biopic
I've been hearing more and more about John Lee Hancock's forthcoming "Saving Mr. Banks" ever since Tom Hanks was signed on to play Walt Disney in the film and, therefore, the screenplay review community gobbled it up and dissected it and word got out that it had a heck of a lot of potential. Apparently it's pretty damn good, and it presents a grand opportunity for Hanks, a five-time Oscar nominee who hasn't been recognized by the Academy since 2000's "Cast Away."
Hanks was on hand at the Emmys last night, to collect his trophy for Outstanding Mini-Series or Movie as a producer of HBO's "Game Change." (He's won five of those now, by the way, for "The Pacific," "John Adams," "Band of Brothers" and "From the Earth to the Moon," in addition.) He showed up sporting, it would appear, the mustache he's rocking out as Disney in the new film, and it got me thinking of a spit-ball sort of column we could throw up every once in a while to place unnecessary pressure on upcoming films and performances that, on paper, look like they could be awards contenders. This certainly seems like one of them.
Plus: 'The Hobbit' meets the Queen, and celebrating Tom Hardy's 'Lawless' knitwear
Last night's Emmy Awards dwarf any movie news today. I didn't watch them myself -- the Oscars may be silly, but at least they can't repeat their mistakes year after year -- but I'm amused at how the TV industry puffs its chest about producing superior entertainment to Hollywood... only to fawn over movie stars (or at least former movie stars) when it comes to dishing out awards. As you've probably heard, Julianne Moore, Jessica Lange, Kevin Costner, Claire Danes and Tom Hanks (as a producer) all took home trophies, many of them deservedly -- though when Maggie Smith's sleepwalking schtick manages to beat out A-grade work by Christina Hendricks that would dazzle on any size of screen, you have to wonder if the voters really know their medium. Anyway, HitFix's resident TV ace has more informed thoughts. [What's Alan Watching]
With the deadline looming on October 1, the competition is already tight
With a little over a week to go before the official deadline -- though there are always a couple of stragglers and switches afterwards -- submissions for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar are now flooding in faster than I can write about them. The last two days, in particular, have brought in a bounty of high-profile new entries, many of them laden with festival awards and acclaim.
Perhaps it's simply because I've seen more of the submissions -- 15 at present, with the upcoming London Film Festival set to bulk up that number a bit -- than is usual for me at this early point in the game, but even with another 20 or so entries still to be announced, this is looking like an unusually high-class crop of contenders. Not only are a great many strong films in the running, but many of those are, to some degree at least, Academy-accessible. The shortlisting process is going to be ugly; the race for nominations competitive. And while most pundits agree that "Amour" (with some heat from "The Intouchables") is leading the race for the win, that's not to say there aren't equally (or even more) deserving films in the mix.
Stephen Chbosky's self-adaptation opens this weekend
The Clint Eastwood/Amy Adams drama hits theaters this weekend
A handful of releases this week so we'll start with Robert Lorenz's "Trouble with the Curve." I'm quite the fan, and as you heard in Friday's Oscar Talk podcast, Anne is, too. I still wonder how the Academy will respond but I'm also interested in what you guys have to say. So if/when you get around to it, head on back here with your thoughts. Also, feel free to rate it via the tool above.
Gus Van Sant's latest was recently added to the season
Not to be outdone the day after Fox Searchlight dropped "Hitchcock" on the season, Focus Features would like to remind everyone of its own last-minute addition: Gus Van Sant's "Promised Land." The film, starring and written by Matt Damon and John Krasinski, has launched its first trailer and it's clear it's dealing in shades of shifting American values. That could be very powerful this season.
Also: This weekend's releases and a quick look at Best Foreign Language Film
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.
This week there have been a number of shake-ups, from significant scheduling shifts to new movies for the season to festival premiere announcements. And there are even a few movies to discuss, too. Let's see what's on the docket...
Entries range from 'Amour' to 'Iron Sky'... but where's 'Holy Motors?'
Unless I'm very much mistaken, this might qualify as the first official longlist of the awards season. (Don't get too excited -- you might not have any energy left by January.) The nominations for the European Film Awards -- effectively the Oscars of European cinema -- won't be announced until November 3, but we now know exactly what pool of eligible films they'll be drawn from.
Since voting from the vast selection of European films to play in theaters and at festivals over the past year would be impractical -- especially given that no two country's release schedules are alike -- the European Film Academy instead narrows the field using a system in some ways similar to that of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. The 20 countries with the most EFA members each elect one film to represent their country in the awards. Then, over 20 further films -- some from other countries, some overlooked by the national committees -- are added to the list by a panel of EFA board members and invited industry experts.