Anne and I are taking the first (much-needed) week off of the season from the podcast today. So we'll be back 12/30 to close out the year with our 75th (if you can believe it) episode. So enjoy the holidays, whatever you're doing, and enjoy a week off from our rambling nonsense.
Also: championing Pitt for 'Tree of Life' and the year in LGBT characters
When last week's Globe and SAG nominations were announced, the blogosphere was thick with talk of who had been "snubbed." It's a word we're all guilty of misusing, implying as it does calculated group-think impossible with large voting bodies. (Film writer Nick Davis summed up the misconception with this tweet: "Whenever I order off a restaurant menu, I look at everything I didn't order, even the dish I almost chose, and I think, 'I'm snubbing them!'") Screen International editor (and HFPA voter) Mike Goodridge reminds us that voters can only vote for contenders, not against them; in a crowded field, omissions are inevitable, but who's to say they were pointedly ignored? Proving that a group like the HFPA is a hive of conflicting opinions, not the collective Globes mentality we often refer to, his own favorite film of the year is "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." [Screen Daily]
'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' and 'Flowers of War' to play out of competition
With over two months left of Oscar talk that isn't even half as oppressive now as it will feel in a few weeks, I find myself eagerly looking forward to the mini-wave of winter festivals that will bring some fresh films to our attention -- in particular, the Berlin Film Festival, which I'll be attending once more in February. It's at Berlin where I've previously got a hefty head start on such films as "A Separation," "Coriolanus" and "The Illusionist," and I'm antsy to see what the most civilized of the major European fests is serving up next year.
We already have a couple of titles locked in place, and one of them is a major one: Brillante Mendoza's "Captured," starring arthouse queen Isabelle Huppert. I'd previously thought the film sounded a likelier contender for Cannes, but I'm told Berlin was always the target: anyway, after competing twice at Cannes and once at Venice, he now completes the hat-trick.
97 submissions compete for five spots
The Academy has announced a list of 97 film scores eligible for consideration in the Best Original Score category this year. Typically, it's this announcement that brings the bad news of this or that score either not being submitted or being ruled ineligible for whatever reason.
The notable exclusions this year are work from Cliff Martinez ("Drive"), Howard Shore ("A Dangerous Method"), Christophe Beck ("The Muppets") and Alexandre Desplat ("A Better Life"). Each, however, is in the race elsewhere, but it's unfortunate in the case of the latter as it is one of Desplat's two best stabs in an accomplished and prolific year.
Also not on the list, to my great dismay, is Steven Price and Basement Jaxx's outstanding work on "Attack the Block." Humbug to that, I say. And Hans Zimmer, you'll recall, opted out of the race this year. So his work on a number of films, including "Rango" and "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" does not appear on the list.
‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’ takes another step onto the field
Director Stephen Daldry has received Oscar nominations for all three of his previous films (“Billy Elliot,” “The Hours” and “The Reader”), but the initial response to “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” has been mixed. In general terms, critics are either responding to the unrestrained sentiment or find it lacking, disingenuous, and/or saccharine. As Guy noted in Tuesday’s round-up, the BFCA nominated both Daldry (Best Director), his young star, Thomas Horn (Best Young Actor/Actress) and the film (Best Picture) but SAG and the Golden Globes passed.
Today the Palm Springs International Film Festival came out in favor of Daldry when it announced that he will be presented with the Director of the Year Award at the upcoming January 7 Awards Gala. “Stephen Daldry has garnered international acclaim as a director, bringing his consummate skill to both the cinema and stage,” said fest chairman Harold Matzner via press release. “In his latest work...he directs a virtuoso cast. For this haunting film and for all of his achievements as a 'director’s director,' the Palm Springs International Film Festival is honored to present the 2012 Director of the Year Award.”
Tech Support Interview: Joe Letteri and Andy Serkis on the progression of performance capture in 'Apes' and 'Tintin'
How Weta Digital has set two new benchmarks for the form
In 2011, New Zealand-based visual effects company Weta Digital was at it again with another banner year in the CG filmmaking landscape, perhaps the company's biggest year to date.
With Rupert Wyatt's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," performance capture technology was taken to new progressive heights as a franchise was not only rebooted but redefined, primarily due to the hardworking effects engineers behind the enterprise. With Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin," a legendary director saddled up to the technology and commissioned added effects elements to the mixture that brought the work of Belgian artist Hergé to life on the big screen.
At the forefront of making those films a reality were visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri, director of Weta Digital, and actor Andy Serkis, steward of the performance capture form and the face for a technology that could potentially, at some point, become a standardized tool in the filmmaker's arsenal.
Andrei Zvyagintsev's fine-cut moral drama will also play Sundance 2012
[UPDATE: The film has indeed secured US distribution.] Since a few of you have been asking, my Best of 2011 list will go up on December 26 -- and for regular readers of my festival coverage over the year, I don't think it's much of a spoiler to say this film will be on it. "Elena," the third feature from Andrei Zvyagintsev ("The Return"), premiered at Cannes, inexplicably in the Un Certain Regard section rather than in Competition, where the director's lesser sophomore film did get a berth. Still, it won a Special Jury Prize and a slew of critical raves, while star Nadezhda Markina was recently nominated at the European Film Awards, so it all comes out in the wash.
"Elena" played Toronto in the fall; and is set to pop up again at Sundance next month -- Zeitgeist Pictures will release the film Stateside in May. (It was one of the quality films cheated out of an Oscar play when Russia questionably selected the critical and commercial failure "Burnt by the Sun 2" as its foreign-language submission.) It's a brilliantly equivocal, morally fragile fable of guilt and obligation, drawn with the stark elegance of a Chekhov short story; I'll enthuse more in a couple of days, but for now, a brand-new trailer and exquisite poster are after the jump. (Thanks to Palace Films.)
How Paddy Considine's debut took her far from the comforts of TV comedy
The 2011 awards season may be young, with a great many breathless winners yet to soak the stage in tears, but I'm not sure we'll see another acceptance speech quite as humbly overwhelmed as Olivia Colman's at the British Independent Film Awards earlier this month. Visibly trembling and sincerely astonished at having beaten a roster of nominees including Tilda Swinton, the unassuming London-based actress managed to stammer out a brief list of thank-yous before scuttling off the stage, seemingly shaking her head in disbelief at her good fortune.
It was, of course, not the first trophy she's won for her shattering performance as a brutally abused charity worker in actor Paddy Considine's hard-bitten directorial debut "Tyrannosaur," which also won the top prize at the aforementioned BIFA Awards. Her success began nearly a year ago with an acting award (shared with co-star Peter Mullan) at the Sundance Film Festival, while a Chicago Film Festival prize followed in the fall. Earlier this week, she snagged a nomination from the London Film Critics' Circle. All through the year, Colman has remained a prominent dark horse in the Oscar conversation, fiercely championed by critics and bloggers who fear this minute UK indie will slip through the cracks: the actress isn't optimistic about her chances of being invited to that particular dance, but such talk, she finds, is its own reward.
Also: Steve Pond predicts 8 Best Pic nominees, and Richard Curtis on Spielberg
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise for me of the awards season thus far has been the relative ease with which Tilda Swinton has slid through the precursor circuit for her searing performance in "We Need to Talk About Kevin," collecting helpful nods from SAG, the Globes and the BFCA, not to mention an NBR win. Swinton hasn't left my predicted five since I saw "Kevin" at Cannes, but I did fear her chilly, challenging vehicle would prove an obstacle. Not so, apparently. Emboldened by this success, Oscilloscope is capitalizing on the buzz by bringing forward the film's January release date, hoping to capture a younger, genre-happy audience. Could the film gain momentum in other categories where it deserves recognition, not least for the superb Ezra Miller? One can dream. [The Wrap]
'The Guard' is naturally a domestic favorite
The Dublin Film Critics Circle is the latest critics group to name year-end superlatives, and "Drive" was clearly a favorite, taking Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor. Jessica Chastain won Best Actress for her performance in "The Tree of Life." Check out the full list of winners below.