For a medium we're told nobody cares about, people sure are devoting a lot of column inches to the end of cinema. Michael Cieply joins the long line of writers sounding the artform's death knell, claiming that Hollywood has lost its grip on the public imagination to TV. He points out that even the film of the moment, "Argo," has still attracted fewer viewers over its three-week run than a single episode of "Glee," while the number of specialist films released in US market has dropped by 55% in the last decade. Furthermore, Cieply quotes sources suggesting the Oscars are complicit in this disconnect, citing the recent coronation of the backward-looking "The King's Speech" (to which audiences flocked, mind you) as an example. I think people might be getting a bit dramatic. [New York Times]
While official Academy screenings are already under way for the long roll-call of foreign-language Oscar submissions, I've slowly been wading my own way through the pile. Having now seen in the region of 25 contenders, around two-thirds of the list remains – I'll never get to them all, but I'm still feeling more well-briefed than usual. Meanwhile, the more I see, the more impressed I am by the standard of this year's competition; the threat of “The Intouchables” notwithstanding, Academy voters will really have to go out of their way to make a dud choice.
Today's double-shot of contenders for discussion haven't been been paired for any reason beyond the fact that I saw them back-to-back at the London Film Festival last weekend. Certainly, at first glance, Mexico's serenely threatening high-school drama “After Lucia” and The Netherlands' gentle slip of a family film “Kauwboy” don't have much more than that in common. On closer inspection, however, some clear dramatic and thematic links belie the gaping tonal and formal differences between them.
Hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, Notre Dame actually GOOD again -- oh the horror! The weekend produced its fair share of nightmares (well, the end of baseball season was a godsend) and Halloween isn't even here yet. But Oscar season feels like it's at a bit of a standstill, settled into a holding pattern. I hesitate to call it the eye of the storm, but after that first wave of fall festival entries, and with plenty still ahead, it kind of feels like that. So let's just do a bit of tidying to get an idea of where we are.
"Argo" continues to be a box office hit and the Best Picture frontrunner while "Cloud Atlas" has faltered. AFI Fest is going to bring "Hitchcock" into the fold at the end of the week with "Lincoln" closing it out a week later. "Zero Dark Thirty," "Les Misérables," "Django Unchained," "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" and "Promised Land" (though it's been seen) are all on deck for press reveals next month.
How many Oscar nominees can you fit into one cast? Okay, Daniel Craig, you'll get there, but in addition to the "Skyfall" actor, director George Clooney has filled out the cast of his World War II drama "The Monuments Men" with Cate Blanchett ("The Aviator"), Bill Murray ("Lost in Translation") and Jean Dujardin ("The Artist"), in addition to John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville and Bob Balaban.
That's a lot of fire power. But Clooney can wrangle that kind of talent easily. He's one of Hollywood's golden boys, primed to receive an Oscar nomination in his sixth category for producing "Argo" this year. Deadline reports that the film, based on a true story and written by Clooney and partner Grant Heslov, tells of a crew of art historians and museum curators who scrambled to recover renown works of art stolen by the Nazi regime, destined to be destroyed.
Commercial projections for "Skyfall" suggested it would be the highest-grossing Bond movie ever, and global box office figures this weekend suggest that will be the case. In the UK, the film took in over $32m this weekend -- the biggest opening haul of 2012, and a record for a non-3D feature. Indeed, it sits behind only the final "Harry Potter" instalment in the all-time rankings. Internationally, meanwhile, it opened at #1 in 24 other territories, raking in $77.7m overall. Given much robust figures, it'll be interesting to see if it outperforms estimates when it opens Stateside, where it's expected to gross a little over one-third of US champ "The Avengers"' total. [Deadline]
The Wachowskis are back this weekend with "Cloud Atlas." The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival to mixed reviews, though HitFix's Drew McWeeny is certainly one of the devoted. My take is that, as I've noted a few times, the underlying thematic tissue didn't hold so well for me but the individual stories were involving and, above all else, the craft on display is immaculate. So in many ways, I think it's a fascinating miss, but a movie I'd no doubt see again -- if I can carve out the time (it's LONG). In any case, you'll get a look for yourself this weekend, so when you do, head on back here with your thoughts. And feel free to rate the film via the tool above.
Tom Hanks has been out and about plenty this week promoting today's release of "Cloud Atlas." I caught him on Letterman earlier this week, wonderful as ever, the perfect salesman. And yesterday, he showed up at "The Colbert Report" to engage in a little Halloween sketch built around that salesmanship.
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.
I accidentally neglected to mention the Hollywood Film Awards in yesterday's roundup. There may be much skepticism in the blogosphere as to their credibility, but like it or not, they are an awards show at the start of the season -- and we can expect to see a lot more of certain honorees in the months to come. Of course, the winners had all been announced beforehand: "Silver Linings Playbook" was a favorite of theirs, taking directing honors for David O. Russell, while Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro were named actor and supporting actor of the year, respectively. Others winners included Marion Cotillard, Amy Adams and Quvenzhané Wallis -- but by the time "Django Unchained" wins for its screenplay, when no one's yet had a chance to see how the script works on film, you get why they're not taken too seriously. As usual, Scott Feinberg is the go-to man on this subject. [The Race]
With the November 1 eligibility due date looming around the corner, it's time to really dig in on the Best Animated Feature Film category. Currently there are 16 titles assumed eligible for the award, which has been dished out at the annual Oscars for 11 years now. And that 12-year history has shown an interesting progression for the category.
The rise of GKIDS in the indie sector has shaken this race up a bit as of late, seemingly giving animators the artistic alternatives that they don't always get out of the commercial lot. The dirty little secret about the animated feature category is that it was, long before the Best Picture category's facelift, the first real step the Academy made toward allowing space for commercial films and therefore providing general audiences a better sense of accessibility to the annual Oscarcast.
But over time the category has naturally evolved, all the way up until just last year, when the studios were up against it as Pixar was shut out after winning the award four years in a row, two indie titles faced off against two traditional animation house films (from the same studio, in fact) and the win went to an in-house gem that came from a non-animator filmmaker who made his name in live action.