After three film festivals and weeks of buzz, Alfonso Cuarón's "Gravity" has finally arrived in theaters in the U.S. The film has been an awards season player for some time, but the universal acclaim has likely surprised even Warner Bros., who produced and is distributing the film.
Let no one accuse the American Film Institute of not giving us sufficient notice on this: it won't be presented until next summer, but veteran actress/activist/workout instructress Jane Fonda has been named the recipient of the next AFI Life Achievement Award. She'll accept the honor at a gala tribute evening of June 5, 2014.
Forest Whitaker's awards season prospects are very much in flux: his potential Oscar nomination for summer hit "The Butler" (which would be only the second of his career) is largely dependent on whether or not certain prestige films take hold in the months to come. One honor he'll definitely be receiving, however, is the Actor Tribute at the indie-oriented Gotham Awards on December 2. "Breaking boundaries and challenging audiences with complex, multifaceted roles, Forest Whitaker is a significant independent voice whose performances have only been elevated by his visionary work as a producer, director and humanitarian," says Gotham Award director Joana Vicente. Previous recipients of the tribute include Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon and Robert Duvall. [Hollywood Reporter]
For nationwide audiences, the wait is over. And hopefully we haven't built it up too much around here but me, Greg, Guy, Drew -- we're pretty much over the moon for "Gravity," an experience like none you've ever had in a theater. I caught it twice at Telluride and it seemed at the time that a tandem piece with "All is Lost" made sense, given thematic and narrative parallels. We've talked to the film's director, Alfonso Cuarón, as well as producer David Heyman and star Sandra Bullock. It truly is one of the great movies of our era and I'm not personally concerned about overstating it. Now, however, it's your turn. So when you get around to seeing it this weekend or whenever, please tell us what you thought in the comments section and feel free to vote in our poll. I know I'll be heading out to see it in IMAX tonight and, at some point, Dolby Atmos. It warrants multiple trips to the multiplex, I think.
By now, you've surely heard -- or seen for yourself -- that Sandra Bullock is excellent in "Gravity." Critics who never much cared for the star in her signature romantic comedies, or her Oscar-winning dramatic turn in "The Blind Side," are now hailing her work as an imperiled astronaut adrift in space as a revelatory breakthrough. "Who knew?" they ask.
Well, hold up a minute. Some of us knew, and not just the Academy members who checked off her name in the 2009 Best Actress race. "Gravity" may be a better, more ambitious film than the vast majority of Sandra Bullock's output, but that doesn't mean it magically transformed her overnight into a gifted actress. She's always been this good, it's just that you've sometimes had to look past the films to see it. Even then, not always; for every shoddy B-movie of which she's been the saving grace, there's another exemplary genre piece in which she has equally excelled. Nobody was calling her immaculately timed comic turn in this summer's delightful action-comedy "The Heat" a revelation, for example, but I'd argue that it's every bit as strong a showcase for her abilities as "Gravity."
Cate Blanchett, as you may have heard, received a Gala Tribute at the New York Film Festival last night. On the one hand, such events are opportunities for actors to bask in the warm glow of others' admiration, in return for doling out a few anecdotes and quotable (usually self-deprecating) reflections on their life and work. On the other, however, they can be key campaign stops for actors on the awards trail, and for Blanchett – the incumbent Best Actress frontrunner for her riveting comeback performance in Woody Allen's “Blue Jasmine” – this was her first significant PR opportunity of the season, considering how unassumingly the art house hit opened in the summer.
Producer David Heyman's relationship with Alfonso Cuarón actually began well before he tapped the filmmaker for a new direction in the "Harry Potter" franchise back in 2004. They were thinking of collaborating on an adaptation of William Sutcliffe's 1999 road trip novel "Are You Experienced?," but the project fell through. Cuarón went on to make "Y Tu Mamá También" and Heyman went on to shepherd the "Harry Potter" books to the screen. When it came time for a stylistic detour in that series, Cuarón was the first artist Heyman had in mind.
"There were several reasons I thought he was the perfect choice [for 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban']," Heyman says. "One, I loved 'A Little Princess' and I also liked his first film a lot. I felt that he had a really keen understanding of teenagers. 'Y Tu Mamá' was about the last moments of being a teenager and this third 'Harry Potter' was about the first moments of being a teenager. He was good at bringing sort of the truthfulness to the relationships."
For Heyman it was about cultivating a sense of modernity to an already wildly successful film franchise. The way to sustain the series was to reinvigorate it after director Chris Columbus had done such a definitive job of setting up the world. "Even though, funny enough, his film was the least successful of the eight financially, Alfonso sort of redirected the series in such a way that it allowed us to continue on to make eight films," Heyman says. "He allowed us to grow up."
Cut to five years later and Cuarón is out on a bit of a limb with a hugely challenging concept: "Gravity." Heyman didn't even need to read the script to know that he was in for whatever ride was in store. And as it would turn out, it would be quite the eventful ride indeed, both in front of and behind the camera.
Welcome back. It’s hard for me to truly appreciate that this is the eighth season of Tech Support here at In Contention (third in our association with HitFix). I’m pleased to say that this column has come a long way during this time, as has media coverage of below-the-line Oscar races as a whole.*
Tom Hanks' two-pronged Oscar campaign this year seems to be going well enough on either side of the Atlantic, but the resurgent actor is really courting the British vote this year. He's the unofficial mascot of the BFI London Film Festival, appearing on the red carpet next Wednesday for the fest opener "Captain Phillips," and returning to close things out with the world premiere of "Saving Mr. Banks" on October 20. Before, then, meanwhile, he'll be the subject of a BAFTA 'Life in Pictures' tribute evening, where he'll discuss his career and his craft before a London audience. Previous luminaries to have been hosted in such a way include Martin Scorsese, Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman, Cate Blanchett and Helen Mirren. Hanks has never won a competitive BAFTA, though he accepted an honorary award at BAFTA Los Angeles' Britannia Awards a few years back. [BAFTA]
Based on the events of the past week you'd think Tinseltown was on the edge of having some sort of dramatic breakdown. Let us count the ways...