Nominees for the 24th annual PGA Awards have been announced. Expected money-makers such as "Argo" and "Lincoln" which have been mainstays in the season joined blockbuster fare such as "Skyfall" (Sony's first billion-dollar grosser to date and an over-performer overall) as well as indies such as "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Moonrise Kingdom."
In the ranks of major filmmakers never to have received so much as an Oscar nomination, David Cronenberg sits pretty high on the list. Though it has its critical champions, his 2012 effort "Cosmopolis" certainly isn't going to change that -- though in a Movieline interview marking the film's DVD release, the veteran Canadian auteur says it doesn't concern him one bit: "It's not sour grapes... The people who are releasing the movie get excited, they want you to do more, and you understand it because the awards can maybe get more people to see the film. This, on its face, is a good thing. However, it is all bullshit, it is all annoying and it is all very problematical. But it gives people stuff to write about, gives structure, we understand. But I won't be watching any of the awards shows." [Movieline]
"Argo" won top honors with the Phoenix Film Critics Society, which announced nominees two weeks ago. Kathryn Bigelow took the Best Director prize for "Zero Dark Thirty," however. Daniel Day-Lewis and Jessica Chastain took top acting honors, with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Anne Hathaway filling out the supporting ranks. Check out the full list of winners below and as always, keep track of it all at The Circuit.
When asked this season what film I think will win Best Picture, I've said "Les Misérables" since about September. Obviously for a stretch that was sight-unseen. Then the film, and others, came along. And I stuck with it. Largely I had to defend the call against those who couldn't see a film that is perceived as "divisive" (and boy are the detractors LOUD) winning the top prize, and they had a fair enough point.
The only thing is, I see passion for the film and the nay-sayers are a bit marginalized. Critics and industry people view this film differently. And those who love the film LOVE it. You can't ignore that kind of embrace. Few films this year really have it. And it's particularly important in a season that seems more up-for-grabs than any in recent history.
But as more and more members have finally caught up with the majority of the season's offerings in the past few weeks, I've made sure I paid attention to one thing in particular in my conversations: consensus. Consensus and general agreement wins you Oscars. But many films have inherent marks against them. There are really only two films, though, that tend to be enjoyed, adored, respected and liked all the way across the board, and one of them has taken shape as the potential taker of the cake. That film is "Argo."
And so it is that I've left it until the last day of the year to add my Top 10 list to the already teetering; I don't think I've ever left it so late before, and it certainly wasn't calculated on my part, though there's something pleasingly tidy about using New Year's Eve as an occasion to post a list that, in some ways, looks forward as much as it looks back. (Speaking of looking forward: in a break from tradition, the list is accompanied by a video countdown this year, so if you want my curious accent guiding you through, just press play.)
This is the space where I'm supposed to say it's been a good/bad/indifferent year for film, though I'm increasingly uncertain of how to answer that question. That's partly because of the way I compile my list: given that I occupy the no-man's-land territory of a European critic on an American site, release calendars are hard to keep up with and even harder to stick to, so I opt instead to include any new film I saw in 2012, whether as a theatrical release, on the festival circuit or somewhere in between.
As 2012 prepares to fade and the ball primes itself for another drop a few blocks away, it's time to look back once more on the year that was. Well, not "once more." The season is still pushing ahead and we won't be finished with it until February 24, but as far as I'm concerned, this annual post is my bow on what the year had to offer.
I know, I know, more column inches on the "Zero Dark Thirty" torture debate. But I'm leading with Andrew O'Hehir's piece because it's the most thoughtful, level-headed response I've read on the matter so far. He's a fan of the film -- most flatteringly, he compares it to the "complex historical fiction" of Dickens or Tolstoy --, but doesn't see that as any reason to assume it takes the morally "right" position. "Both interpretations can be simultaneously correct," he writes, "partly because it’s an unusually complicated work, partly because there are so many things we don’t know about the Bush administration’s notorious “detainee program,” and partly because art is an inherently amoral and ruthless enterprise, however much we may want to believe otherwise." Great stuff. [Salon]
Even the most banal phrases have their uses, and when it came to Bart Layton's documentary “The Imposter” earlier this year, it's easy to understand why so many critics reached for that fusty standby: “The truth is stranger than fiction.” Then again, “The Imposter” – one of 15 shortlisted films vying for an Oscar nod in the Best Documentary Feature category – tells a story that is stranger even than most truths.
Centered on the charismatic, frightening figure of Frédéric Bourdin a shapeshifting con artist and serial identity thief who claim to have masqueraded as over 500 people in his lifetime, the film peels back the covers on the Frenchman's most infamous and improbable stunt. In 1997, aged 23, he seemingly duped a Texan family into accepting him as their teenaged son who had gone missing three years previously – despite not sharing his accent, appearance or even eye color. Turning up in Spain and claiming to have been kidnapped by a military-run child prostitution ring, Bourdin sold his outlandish tale not only to the Barclay family but to the US authorities, and maintained the charade for five months before the FBI caught wise.
I know I'm way behind the curve in reporting on these, but the weeks before Christmas kept us so busy with wall-to-wall US critics' awards that certain things passed me by -- particularly awards away from the Oscar trail. This afternoon, I suddenly remembered the Prix Louis-Delluc, arguably the most prestigious award in French cinema, and wondered if I'd missed their nominations. As it turned out, I'd missed the entire thing.
The Louis-Delluc, a single award handed to the year's best French film -- as determined by a jury headed by Cannes president Gilles Jacob -- was first presented in 1937, and the list of previous winners is a veritable who's who of classic French cinema: Renoir, Cocteau, Truffaut, Bresson, Malle, Chabrol, Rohmer, Godard, and so on.
When the Oscar nominations are announced in exactly two weeks' time (!), they'll be a pioneering edition in two ways: not only will they land earlier in the season than ever before, but they'll be the first to be partially drawn from electronic voting. It's a brave new world and all, but after interviewing a cross-section of voters, Many of them aren't happy with the changes -- to the point that some of them, short of time to see the necessary films and/or befuddled by the security surrounding the online ballot -- may not bother voting at all. Scott Feinberg quotes one member as saying, "There will probably be a large percentage of people who will just say, 'Screw it,' and not even vote this year," and expresses concern that the changes could result in a record low in voter anticipation. Of course, we'll never know. [The Race]