If we've said it once we've said it a hundred times: the Best Actor Oscar race is crowded this year. And that's really putting it lightly. The amount of contenders that would be shoo-ins in any other year is unfortunate, really, because someone is going to come up with the short straw, and it won't be pretty.
The use of 3D in "Gravity" was part of the equation from the beginning. As director Alfonso Cuarón told me in an interview last week, the original title of the script was "Gravity: A Space Suspense in 3D." Stereoscopic supervisor Chris Parks was involved in the imagery before cameras even began rolling, way back during the pre-visualization phase. It was crucial for the immersive experience Cuarón was looking for.
When "Blue Jasmine" opened in the summer, its awards talk initially revolved around Cate Blanchett's certain Best Actress nod -- but as the glowing reviews and remarkable box office continued, the conversation has expanded. Speaking about their 2013 Oscar strategy to Scott Feinberg, Sony Classics bosses Michael Barker and Tom Bernard say they're confident the film will receive Best Picture nominations, along with nods for Sally Hawkins, Woody Allen's screenplay (of course) and even the costumes. They also explain their decision to play any festivals with the film, while the conversation extends to "Before Midnight," "The Invisible Woman," and their foreign and documentary hopefuls. [The Race]
Tom Hanks walked the red carpet with the man he plays in "Captain Phillips," Richard Phillips, Friday at the opening night of the 51st New York Film Festival. Unfortunately, Phillips couldn't make it to Los Angeles for the West Coast premiere of the film tonight, but that wasn't going to stop director Paul Greengrass from giving Phillips his due. Even after his ordeal of being taken hostage by Somali pirates in 2009, Phillips has returned to the sea as a ship captain. And as Phillips is actually setting sail this week (according to Greengrass at least), he said hello to everyone at the film's Los Angeles premiere via Skype. It was a fleeting moment, but one that will be remembered by the Academy, guild and industry attendees who will spread their enthusiasm for the Best Picture contender (i.e., it was a nice PR win).
Unlikely 'Captain Phillips' star Barkhad Abdi on learning from Tom Hanks and finding empathy for a pirate
Barkhad Abdi could easily have been a statistic. He might not have made it out of a harrowing childhood alive. He was born in Somalia and lived in the chaos of Mogadishu where he was surrounded by murder, rape, robbery and a lack of structure and government. He was lucky enough to have parents who got him out of there, to Yemen for Middle School and, eventually, a lottery to the United States.
He moved to Minneapolis, but he hated the snow. Every year he would ask himself, 'Why am I here?' He drove a limousine. He was just a mild-mannered immigrant living his life when he was at a friend's house one day and a commercial flashed on the screen: "Casting call. Tom Hanks. Local Somali actors." Well, why not, Abdi figured.
It's nice to see more and more of the year's awards season players being evenly spread throughout the fall festival circuit. Venice got "Gravity" and "Philomena." Telluride got "12 Years a Slave" and "Prisoners." Toronto landed films like "August: Osage County," "Dallas Buyers Club" and "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom." New York, meanwhile, landed the trio of "Captain Phillips," "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" and "Her." Even the London film fest got a nice first look at "Saving Mr. Banks" this year.
AFI Fest, as always, is utilized smartly by studios every year. In the middle of Oscar season, it's a great opportunity to make a big splash with a cheap Los Angeles premiere, and films like "Saving Mr. Banks" has already been announced for a US premiere there, though a scheduled world premiere of "Foxcatcher" was nixed last week when that film was moved off its Dec. 20 release date and scheduled for 2014.
Three more films have been set as centerpiece screenings for this year's AFI Fest. The first is a world premiere: Scott Cooper's "Out of the Furnace," which has mostly avoided the fall festival circuit save for a Dec. 6 Rome Film Festival berth (the day it releases domestically). The second is Ben Stiller's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," which will segue to the festival for its Los Angeles premiere after world premiering at NYFF on Oct. 5. And the third is Alexander Payne's "Nebraska," which will bring with it a tribute to actor Bruce Dern.
Every year Turner Classic Movies gets home audiences in an Oscar state of mind with its annual "31 Days of Oscar" showcase. Held every February, it's a month-long celebration of Oscar-winning films leading up to the annual Academy Awards ceremony, and this year, the showcase will kick off with the premiere of a brand new documentary about the awards' 85 years of history. It's called, what else… "Oscar."
What a difference a week makes...
This time seven days ago we were telling you about a delayed "Wolf of Wall Street" from Martin Scorsese (tipping off trades to sniff it out on their end and write a version without crediting the original story, natch). Within days, "Foxcatcher" would take its leave, joining "Grace of Monaco" on that score. The season, as it always does, is changing shape.
The deadline for Best Foreign Language Film submissions is now one day away. We're still waiting one some countries (including China), and there are usually a couple of post-deadline stragglers, but it's fair to say the field -- which now numbers 65 films -- is close to complete.And it's a field that just got even more competitive with a flurry of high-profile entries over the weekend, including a couple of Cannes award winners.
Chief among them is Iran's selection. Having won its first Oscar two years ago with Asghar Farhadi's "A Separation," and boycotted last year's competition for political reasons, the country has returned to the race -- and to Farhadi -- by submitting the director's French-Italian production "The Past."
Oscar talk is not something you'd expect to surface much at the Zurich Film Festival, but when Harvey Weinstein is giving a masterclass there, it inevitably comes up. Wendy Mitchell reports from the event, where the master awards campaigner declared this year's Oscar race "the most competitive season I've ever seen," explained the delayed release of "Grace of Monaco" -- it's not ready, he wants it to play festivals and it could be "bigger than 'My Week With Marilyn'" -- and revisited the 15-year-old controversy of "Shakespeare in Love"'s five Oscar-awarded producers. He also gave a shout-out to his favorite non-Weinstein films of the season so far: "12 Years a Slave," obviously, but also "Prisoners." [Screen Daily]