With the exhausting thrill of Sundance still in my bones, I'm not quite ready yet to think about diving into the Berlin Film Festival -- but there it is, less than two weeks away. The programme has been revealed in drips and drabs, and today we learned who'll serve alongside present Wong Kar-wai on the competition jury. As usual, it's an interesting group, and one that includes two Oscar winners: Tim Robbins and Danish writer-director Susanne Bier. Meanwhile, the addition presence of the superb cinematographer Ellen Kuras ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"). Iranian video artist turned filmmaker Shirin Neshat and Greek New Wave talent Athina Rachel Tsangrai (director of "Attenberg," but also a producer on Richard Linklater's "Before Midnight") makes for a mostly female jury this year. [Berlinale]
I've been out most of the evening but some quick thoughts on tonight's SAG outcome...
"Argo" is the story of the weekend, clearly. After coming out victorious at the PGA Awards it picked up the ensemble prize that everyone had either chalked up to "Lincoln" or "Silver Linings Playbook," with some outliers thinking "Les Misérables" had a shot at it. Surprise!
The Producers Guild of America (PGA) has crowned Ben Affleck's "Argo" with this year's Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures. Affleck received the award along with co-producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov.
SANTA BARBARA - As "Argo" star and director Ben Affleck took the stage of the Arlington Theatre last night to begin a two-hour Modern Master Award fete at the 28th annual Santa Barbara Film Festival, he settled into that on-going self-effacing tone immediately. "Ben Affleck, career retrospective," he said. "That could go one of two ways."
Indeed, the usual reminder reel of accomplishments that kicked off the evening was set to the Foo Fighters' "Walk," with lyrics ringing a note of redemption: "I think I lost my way," "getting good at starting over," "learning to walk again," "I believe I've waited long enough, where do I begin."
And maybe that angle is slightly played out to some at this point. How much can you really feel for a millionaire who cashed in early on and wants to be taken seriously as a craftsman now? That's a point of view for the cynical, though.
Affleck, who talked with moderator Leonard Maltin about getting the acting bug early and relishing the responsibility and commitment of the job, said he was pulled aside once and given a speech of encouragement by an acting mentor that has stuck with him and gave him a leg up into the early stages of his career. Lately, as he's looked to transition from tabloid beefcake to respected filmmaker, another vote of confidence wouldn't be misplaced. And that's what he's been getting every step of the way this season -- well, from everyone save the Academy's directors branch.
The nominations for the César Awards -- the French film industry's answer to the Oscars -- were announced this morning, and most of the top contenders were easily seen coming: Oscar hopeful "Amour" received nine nominations, as did historical drama "Farewell My Queen," while "Rust and Bone" and "Holy Motors" scored eight apiece. The field leader, however, may come as a surprise to non-French observers: actress-director Noemie Lvovsky's time-travel comedy "Camille Rewinds," still little seen outside its home country, racked up a massive 13 nods.
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.
As I mentioned at the fest, I think the film with the most awards potential to come out of Sundance this year is Richard Linklater's "Before Midnight." Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress and maybe even Best Actor and Best Picture could be in the cards. It just needs the right nuanced campaign.
Lionsgate was hovering. Fox Searchlight seemed like a good fit and was probably in the mix, but they sure did drop a lot on "The Way Way Back." So it was Sony Pictures Classics, which was busy at the fest with acquisitions of "Austenland" and "Kill Your Darlings," that grabbed the title for what is said to be well into the seven figure range.
Academy Awards telecast producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have already announced plans, in the 50th year of James Bond, to offer 007 a tribute at this year's show. It dovetails nicely with the release of "Skyfall," and I imagine the two were giddy that Adele was nominated for her theme song. Indeed, they were quick to announce that she'll be on the show to perform the tune.
Today it's been announced that the Oscarcast will feature a tribute to three movie musicals of the last decade. That would be Broadway hits-turned Oscar nominees "Chicago," "Dreamgirls" and "Les Misérables." It's a shame they felt a need to limit it to a decade, though. Why not an expansion of considerations for the musical in the modern era? Then you could include films like "Moulin Rouge!," "Dancer in the Dark," "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," etc.
The odds-on favorite to win the Best Cinematography Oscar this year seems to be Claudio Miranda for Ang Lee's "Life of Pi." Why? The Academy tends toward aesthetically pleasing films in the category. "Beautiful pictures," you might say, and sometimes at the expense of perhaps more technically proficient work that may not be as postcard pretty.
But while that may be true, it's been leveled at "Life of Pi" as a criticism in some quarters. This is, after all, a film with a visual scope that is as much a result of visual effects as it is practical photography. But Miranda has a few things to say about that, if you think his work was somehow not as important in the greater scheme than that of the effects artists at the Rhythm & Hues and MPC effects houses.
Kathryn Bigelow is out there hitting the PR circuit for "Zero Dark Thirty" at a bit of an awkward time: she was passed over for a Best Director nomination two weeks ago after being considered one of the best bets in the category for a film that is very much driven by her artistic vision. She was on CBS This Morning recently offering a point of view on that, in fact. "To be honest, it was just a couple of years ago that I was standing on that stage with 'The Hurt Locker,'" she told host Gayle King, "and so that might have something to do with it as well."
Meanwhile, she gets a big cover story in Time Magazine this week that serves as part profile, part timeline of the criticism that has been leveled toward "Zero Dark Thirty" for its conflation of circumstances and, some would say, "dangerous" depiction of torture and enhanced interrogation's role in finding Osama bin Laden.