The statue of Paddington Bear in London's Paddington train station.
The statue of Paddington Bear in London's Paddington train station.
Credit: Guy Lodge

Producer David Heyman on the contemporary relevance of 'Paddington'

'It's about an immigrant trying to find a home.'

It may or may not come as a surprise to you that one of my most eagerly anticipated titles of 2014 is "Paddington," a British family film that begins shooting at the end of this month. Chances are some American readers are unfamiliar with the antics of Paddington Bear, the accident-prone hero of British author Michael Bond's best-selling series of children's books, but he was a rather significant part of my childhood.

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<p>Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux in &quot;Blue is the Warmest Color.&quot;</p>

Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux in "Blue is the Warmest Color."

Credit: Sundance Selects

French distributor on why 'Blue is the Warmest Color' doesn't need foreign Oscar

"No one cares about this category," says Wild Bunch

Every year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar race brings its share of sore points, and the sorest at this early stage is France's inability to enter Palme d'Or winner "Blue is the Warmest Color" into the race -- an eligibility issue that ultimately resulted in the country selecting lower-profile period biopic "Renoir" to represent them. It's not exactly an unusual situation -- plenty of festival hits aren't released in time to compete in that year's foreign Oscar race. ("Renoir," after all, premiered in Cannes last year.)

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<p>Richard Linklater at the Sundance Film&nbsp;Festival in&nbsp;January</p>

Richard Linklater at the Sundance Film Festival in January

Credit: AP Photo

Richard Linklater to receive Director Tribute at the Gotham Awards

The independent film awards ceremony takes place on Dec. 2

I often go back and watch "Slacker" just for the unencumbered burst of independent creativity. It has a different spirit than the films that came after it, films like "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction," etc., that would define the indie film movement.

And Linklater has maintained that spirit, setting up shop in Austin, Texas long before it was the posh thing to do. Free of the Hollywood ties even if he mingled with them from time to time. So if ever there was someone fit for an independent film fete, he's the guy. And with "Before Midnight" on the circuit this season, the Independent Filmmaker Project has seized the opportunity to honor him with a Director Tribute at the 23rd Gotham Independent Film Awards.

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<p>Bruce Dern and Will Forte in &quot;Nebraska.&quot;</p>

Bruce Dern and Will Forte in "Nebraska."

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Bruce Dern stares into the abyss in new 'Nebraska' trailer

Can the veteran make good on his Cannes win in Alexander Payne's latest?

Kris and I disagree on the merits of Alexander Payne's new dramedy "Nebraska," in which veteran Oscar-nominated actor Bruce Dern and "Saturday Night Live" alum Will Forte play a father and son mending their fractured relationship on a bittersweet road trip through the eponymous state.

Reviewing the film at Cannes, where Dern wound up winning the Best Actor award, I was left cold, saying that "Payne can't seem to decide if he's coddling these old-school Midwesterners for their rudely rustic values or sneering at the sheer narrowness of their worldview." Kris, on the other hand, really connected with it at Telluride a few weeks ago, praising it for "[ringing] a lot of genuine notes while never losing its sense of humor." One thing we both agreed on (where others don't) is that it's definitely a leading vehicle for Dern, who hasn't had a role this generous in decades. 

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<p>Leonardo DiCaprio</p>

Leonardo DiCaprio

Credit: AP Photo

Roundup: DiCaprio goes the presidential biopic route

Also: Wrapping Toronto, and NBR and AFI set awards dates

Leonardo DiCaprio, it seems, has never met a prestige biopic he didn't like. We've already seen his respective takes on Howard Hughes (which netted him an Oscar nod), J. Edgar Hoover and the somewhat less immediately recognizable Frank Abagnale Jr., and will soon see him as business shark turned motivational speaker Jordan Belfort in "The Wolf of Wall Street." Next up: Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the US, already played to Oscar-nominated affect by Alexander Knox in a 1944 biopic. DiCaprio will co-produce the new film, based on a recently published biography by Pulitzer Prize winner A. Scott Berg. No denying the star's conscientiousness and commitment, but would anyone else like to see him do a romantic comedy at some point? [Deadline

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<p>Saoirse Ronan in &quot;How I Live Now.&quot;</p>

Saoirse Ronan in "How I Live Now."

Credit: Magnolia Pictures

Saoirse Ronan compares Wes Anderson vs. Ryan Gosling behind the camera

From 'How I Live Now' to 'Grand Budapest Hotel' to 'How To Catch A Monster'

TORONTO - Saoirse Ronan has been in this business a long time. She may only be 19-years-old, but the best supporting actress nominee for "Atonement" has been a working actor for a decade.  She's already collaborated with filmmakers such as Joe Wright, Peter Jackson, Peter Weir, Neil Jordan and Gillian Armstrong. She's shot all over the globe and walked the red carpets at some of the greatest film festivals in the world.  Today, however, Ronan is lying on a couch in a downtown Toronto hotel room as we meet to discuss her latest endeavor, Kevin Macdonald's "How I Live Now."

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<p>Ben Affleck at last year's Critics' Choice Movie Awards just hours after being snubbed by the Academy's Directors Branch.</p>

Ben Affleck at last year's Critics' Choice Movie Awards just hours after being snubbed by the Academy's Directors Branch.

Credit: AP Photo

BFCA (again) stakes out the night of the Oscar noms for 19th annual Critics' Choice awards

This year's ceremony will air on The CW on Jan. 16, 2014

I was pretty vocal last year about how the Critics' Choice Movie Awards, presented by the Broadcast Film Critics Association began to lean too heavily on red carpet glitz (adding more opportunities to honor celebrities with a wealth of new, dubious, categories) while sacrificing potentially great on-camera moments (leaving the great Tony Kushner to accept his screenplay award for "Lincoln" un-televised during a commercial break). Though it might be an uphill battle, I stand by those criticisms as a member of the organization handing out the awards.

This year, the BFCA has staked out the same territory it did last year for its annual awards show: the night of the Oscar nominations. The 19th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards will be held on Jan. 16, 2014, where the BFCA will hope to continue whatever hot topic conversation will have begun earlier that morning with the announcement of the Academy Award nominees. Last time, that conversation was significant: Ben Affleck, director of "Argo," had not been nominated for Best Director by the Academy. Yet his film went on to win the BFCA's Best Picture award, leaving the slighted helmer to say upon accepting the prize (tongue-in-cheek, of course), "I'd like to thank the Academy."

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<p>Carey Mulligan</p>

Carey Mulligan

Credit: AP Photo

Thomas Vinterberg to direct Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts in 'Far From the Madding Crowd'

The Fox Searchlight production also stars Juno Temple and Michael Sheen

When I initially skimmed over today’s press release from Fox Searchlight, I somehow absorbed the information that Tomas Alfredson was directing their new adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s “Far From the Madding Crowd,” and was intrigued by the match of the material to his chilly, literate Swedish sensibility. Upon closer inspection, I was certainly right to be intrigued, but I had the wrong Scandinavian auteur: instead, it’s erstwhile Dogme 95 rebel Thomas Vinterberg who will be steering the prestige production, which began principal photography in the UK today.

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<p>Vincent Rottiers and Christa Theret in &quot;Renoir.&quot;</p>

Vincent Rottiers and Christa Theret in "Renoir."

Credit: Samuel Goldwyn Films

France surprises by selecting 'Renoir' for foreign Oscar race

Meanwhile, Portugal and Pakistan enter the fray

Every year, during the busy submissions stage for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, France's selection is among the most curiously anticipated -- if only because they annually have such a surfeit of plausible contenders. This year, there was particular intrigue surrounding their choice -- since the film that would otherwise have been the likeliest pick, Abdellatif Kechiche's Palme d'Or winner "Blue is the Warmest Color," was ineligible.

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<p>Nicole Kidman in &quot;Grace of Monaco.&quot;</p>

Nicole Kidman in "Grace of Monaco."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Nicole Kidman opens the princess diaries in international 'Grace of Monaco' teaser

Will the Weinsteins' biopic attract the Academy's attention?

Well, it's safe to say we can already strike one of this year's princess biopics from the list of Oscar contenders, with Oliver Hirschbiegel's "Diana," starring Naomi Watts, having been unveiled the week before last to across-the-board critical derision in the UK, where it opens on Friday. I have yet to see it myself, but have been assured even by more temperate colleagues that its chances of recovery are hovering around nil. I guess we now know why it skipped Toronto.

But can Watts' compatriot (and best pal) Nicole Kidman fare any better with her take on an iconic 20th-century royal? 

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