No one needs awards coverage this deep
The director calls the film 'really a story about connections'
Steven Spielberg and Mark Harris discuss "War Horse" following a New York screening of the film.
Credit: MSN Entertainment
This afternoon, following the nationwide sneaks of Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" (which joined in Cameron Crowe's "We Bought a Zoo" in that regard, two films that share more than just that distinction), the esteemed director took the stage in front of a Lincoln Center theater audience to participate in a Q&A with journalist and author Mark Harris. The event was streamed live at MSN Entertainment and rebroadcast afterward.
Since this was a public event and given the live broadcasting of the discussion, it seems fair to me to lift a number of choice quotes from the proceedings. Spielberg hasn't done a lot of press in advance of the film's release (though he did speak with the Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips recently), so it's a good perspective to finally have.
Harris began things by actually noting a parallel between "War Horse" and the cinema of John Ford, which Anne and I brought up in Friday's edition of Oscar Talk. "Ford's in my mind when I make a lot of my pictures," Spielberg said. "I grew up with John Ford movies and I know a lot about his work and have studied him. I think the thing that might resemble a John Ford movie more than anything else is that Ford celebrated rituals and traditions and he celebrated the land. In 'War Horse,' the land is a character. It's the biggest thing that is a character that you perhaps didn't notice until you think back."
Two holiday films draw ties to South England's protected moorland
Jeremy Irvine in Steven Spielberg's "War Horse"
Credit: Touchstone Pictures
A reader comment in last week's "War Horse" assessment sparked me to an element of this year's Oscar season that I hadn't even noticed: Dartmoor's time in the spotlight.
The Dartmoor moorland in South Devon County, England is a protected National Park known for its tors, rivers and bogs (yep, I'm skipping a stone across the Wikipedia entry). It's notable this year, though, because two of the upcoming holiday season's crowd-pleasing, sentimental entries share ties to the location.
Cameron Crowe's "We Bought a Zoo" was adapted from the memoir by Benjamin Mee, who purchased the Dartmoor Wildlife Park (now called the Dartmoor Zoological Park) and set up shop with his family. The film was shifted to a San Diego County location, however.
Despite B.O. disappointment, the film hopes to deliver a long awaited Oscar
Nick Nolte at the premiere of "Warrior"
Credit: Getty Images/Kevin Walter
Nick Nolte seems to be engaging in a small round of media events and interviews in the hopes of generating renewed Academy interest in his role in Gavin O'Connor’s MMA drama “Warrior.” The film generated a predominantly positive critical response (it stands at 83% at Rotten Tomatoes) but was a box office disappointment (or disaster, depending on your perspective) with a $25 million production budget and $22.2 worldwide gross. “Warrior”’s financial failings have in all likelihood destroyed any hopes the film had of making a real showing at the Oscars. But if there is one person who may be able to rise above the limitations imposed by the stigma of (perceived) failure, it is Nolte.
Several critics found “Warrior” to be a film with a limited story that was supported by strong performances (Kris is notably included in this camp). And Nolte’s portrayal of Paddy Conlon has been singled out as particularly strong. His turn as an abusive, recovering alcoholic struggling to reconcile with his two sons, Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton), is quintessential Nolte. He is mercurial, vulnerable to the point of discomfort and grounded. O’Connor wrote the role specifically for the actor, and Nolte delivered the natural and raw performance that we imagine the director both hoped for and envisioned.
Also: More on 'The Iron Lady' and 'Young Adult' and handicapping animated feature
Welcome to Oscar Talk.
In case you're new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is a weekly kudocast, your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is weekly, every Friday throughout the season, charting the ups and downs of contenders along the way. Plenty of things change en route to Oscar's stage and we're here to address it all as it unfolds.
A late-breaking edition of the podcast today as we try to muster the energy to shake off the food coma of Thanksgiving. And there is tons to talk about today in a somewhat longer podcast than usual. Let's see what's on the docket today...
Director Michel Hazanavicius and stars Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo speak for the film that doesn't
Bérénice Bejo, Michel Hazanavicius and Jean Dujardin at the AFI Fest gala screening of "The Artist"
Credit: AP Photo/Katy Winn
“People keep telling me what a good idea it was to make this movie, but the truth is that it was a bad idea, a very bad idea,” Michel Hazanavicius says on the phone from Los Angeles, a chipper lilt to his warm French accent. “I don’t even know if ‘idea’ is the word – it was more of a desire, something I needed to discover. There’s a difference. If it had been just an idea, it’d have been too far out of the market to pursue.”
The “bad idea” he’s is speaking of, of course, is “The Artist,” the director’s playful ode to classic Hollywood moviemaking that has beguiled critics and festival audiences on assorted shores, turned the head of Harvey Weinstein, scooped an award at Cannes and now finds itself among the frontrunners for this year’s Academy Awards. All this despite the minor obstacles of being French-made and in black and white. Oh, and silent. If Hazanavicius sounds like he can’t quite believe his luck, a lot of industry pundits are with him.
Should the Academy introduce a Best Picture category for comedies?
Kevin Kline won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for "A Fish Called Wanda."
As I floated around the web recently, I found myself struck by a pair of (on the surface) unrelated articles on The Guardian's culture site. One dealt with John Cleese taking steps to transform his dream of staging an "A Fish Called Wanda" musical into a manifest reality and the other with the possibility of Aaron Sorkin penning a Steve Jobs biopic. Alright, they are unrelated. And yet I could not help but remember how much I loved "A Fish Called Wanda" and think to myself, 'Hmmm, Sorkin, Jobs, biopic: Oscar bait.'
It occurs to me that comedies are often given a perfunctory pat on the head in the form of a nomination, or altogether ignored by the Academy. To be fair, "Wanda" was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director and Kevin Klein won for Best Supporting actor -- but the film itself was not given a Best Picture nod (though "Working Girl" was). The revolutionary, enduring and entertaining "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" also failed to make the cut. The reality is that these films are unlikely to secure a Best Picture win against something like "Rain Man." Oscar overwhelmingly favors drama. Which brings me to a query: Has the time come for the Academy to take a page from the HFPA's book and introduce a new category?
Does the World War I adaptation arrive as a threat to the field?
Could "War Horse" be one of a handful of crafts showcases fighting it out for Best Picture?
Credit: Touchstone Pictures
The screening procedure on Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" has been an odd, not exactly particular one. I say not particular because it's not like they've been hiding the film. It's been completed since September and various long leads have gotten a look. Rival publicists have even seen the film and that's a bit of a rarity this early. And then there's the "heartland" strategy of doing pop-up screenings around the country for the public, not unlike what Paramount did with "Young Adult."
So a lot of what we've heard has been Joe the Plumber rifling off a LiveJournal entry here or a Tweet there. Others have already written about the film (one outlet, as always, making sure to be extra clear it got a look a few weeks back, as if that is relevant). Readers who caught public screenings have even posted little mini-reviews in the comments section here at In Contention. So an embargo might be tough to hold up. I was given the green light to write, but the goal is to open the movie, so funneling as much coverage to the release date as possible obviously makes sense.
The film hits theaters this week
A scene from "Arthur Christmas"
Credit: Columbia Pictures
Yes, there is yet another film hitting theaters in wide release this week that we might as well chalk up for one of these posts: Aardman's "Arthur Christmas." I have been making my way through all the Best Animated Feature Film hopefuls the past week or two and still haven't made it to a screening for this one, but I will, as it seems to be the best bet for competition with "Rango" in the category, from what I can surmise. So if you get a chance to take a look this weekend, come on back here and tell us what you thought.
Also: Alexandre Desplat hits the circuit and celebrating the makeup of 'Super 8'
Vanessa Redgrave in "Coriolanus"
Credit: The Weinstein Company
There are two main categories that really have me scratching my head at times this year: Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress. The Jessica Chastain situation has become maddening for me. It should be a no-brainer: "The Help," by miles. Yet there's confusion. But whatever. We were probably the first to have Shailene Woodley in the mix, but I still find myself wondering if she'll just be skipped over. And the frontrunner, which we've had at the top since day one thanks to Guy having had a look at Berlin in February, still sits on my stack of screeners. Maybe I should finally watch "Coriolanus" and get the perspective I need. (Talk about a no-brainer.) Anyway, Jeff Wells recently offered his thoughts on how he'd like it all to pan out. [Hollywood Elsewhere]
Voting opens on only BAFTA category determined by the public
Jessica Chastain in "Take Shelter."
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
I've never really understood why BAFTA makes such a song and dance of publicizing every stage of its voting process -- the pre-nomination longlists they release for each award category every January are both suspense-draining and indicative of the overly small pool of films they consider, but I suppose when you're not the Oscars, you have to drum up attention however you can.
Perhaps it makes slightly more sense to release a longlist of contenders for the one BAFTA category determined by a public vote -- the Rising Star Award. With voting now open, the public is thus offered a say in the nominee list as well as the final outcome, though with only eight names to whittle down to five in January, it seems an odd half-measure. Clearly, BAFTA doesn't trust the public to single out the worthiest names themselves -- and given a number of the winners they've chosen, they have little reason to do so -- so giving them the liberty of booting three names from the group is a bit of a token gesture.
Check out the full longlist, with more thoughts on the names includes, after the jump.