No one needs awards coverage this deep
Director-producer defined the latter-day Oscarcast format
Gil Cates, producer of 14 Academy Awards ceremonies between 1990 and 2008.
Credit: AP Photo/Ric Francis
I feel distinctly sad about the passing of Gil Cates, who died yesterday at the age of 77, and yet what I'm mourning isn't precisely the sum of his career parts. A proficient, professional producer-director for screens big and small, he directed at least one fine film: "Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams," a brittle 1973 character study for which Joanne Woodward was Oscar-robbed. (I admit I've never seen his "I Never Sang For My Father," which earned nominations for Gene Hackman and Melvyn Douglas.)
And yet it's not these perfectly credible titles that are foregrounded in his obituaries: rather, it's the less personal but no less demanding achievement of having produced a record 14 Oscar ceremonies between 1990 and 2008. It's those dates that resonate with me: the 1990 Academy Awards ceremony was the first one I ever watched in full, and the first one hosted by Billy Crystal, arguably the most widely beloved Oscar host of my lifetime.
Putting together a list of possibilities, from Mary J. Blige to Jónsi (again)
Mary J. Blige croons in the music video for "The Living Proof" from Disney's "The Help."
Credit: Geffen Records
In four or five weeks we'll be closing out this year's slate of crafts category analysis via the weekly Tech Support column with my contribution to the cause: Best Original Song. I tend to wait until the end on that because it's best to hold off until a list of eligible contenders is announced and in place and, of course, to gauge how the tunes are used in the films in question.
But I haven't even gotten around to assembling a decent list of possibilities until just recently. So maybe it's time to toss that out there and maybe ask for a little help from the readership, since I'm sure plenty of you know some things about this race that I don't.
Let's start with a few things to get the discussion going, though. And animated films are always a good place to look. With that in mind, 20th Century Fox's "Rio" has a trio of contenders: "Real in Rio," "Let Me Take You to Rio" and "Hot Wings (I Wanna Party)."
Who do this year's biopic Oscar hopefuls have to live up to?
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Capote," winner of the Best Actor Oscar in 2005.
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe. Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher. Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover. All of them heading to our screens in the next few weeks, all of them looking to join the long list of actors to strike Oscar gold for playing real-life figures.
It’s a list that’s grown particularly rapidly in recent years: in the past decade alone, 12 of the 20 winners in the lead acting categories have triumphed for biopics. Meanwhile, you have to go all the way back to the 1997 Oscar race to find a year where all four acting winners played fictional characters. It’s a trend that often prompts complaints from hardened Oscar-watchers like myself: it’s no less difficult to create a character from scratch than it is to embody a previously existing one, but voters don’t all seem to agree.
Still, biopic bait needn’t always be bad news: for every actor who coasts to victory for doing a superficially impressive but soulless impersonation of an iconic figure, there’s at least one other who accepts the challenge to craft a fresh, inspired character from a real-life source, and succeeds. Which is what today’s list is about: I’ve rounded up the 10 Oscar-winning biopic performances that most excitingly avoid the obvious, and most insistently stick in my memory.
Also: Savannah festivities with Ellen Barkin and Albert Brooks still on the circuit
"Cars 2" will obviously qualify for this year's animated feature race, but does it have enough in the tank to secure a nod after a critical thrashing?
Credit: Walt Disney Pictures
Today is the deadline for animated feature contenders to submit paperwork for consideration. At 5pm PT today, to be precise. So far I'm seeing enough possibilities on the radar to warrant a full slate of five nominations, should they all qualify, that is. Meanwhile, "The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn" is set to close AFI Fest, "Puss in Boots" has just hit theaters, "Happy Feet 2" is on the way and "Arthur Christmas" is screening for press. so animation is very much at the forefront of discussion these days. We'll see how it all shakes down. [Oscars.org]
Debut writer-director reveals the thinking behind his alternative horror movie
Sean Durkin and actress Elizabeth Olsen at the London premiere of "Martha Marcy May Marlene."
Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan
Sean Durkin is okay with the fact that his quiet, delicate, elegantly assembled debut feature freaks the living shit out of any number of viewers who encounter it. That’s the way the mild-mannered, genially bearded young writer-director wants it.
“I’ve read some critics describe it as a horror film, and I’m happy with that,” he says of “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” the cool, slippery psychological drama that won him a Best Director award at Sundance in January, and has been preying on the minds of US arthouse cinemagoers for the past week. “I love horror films, but I hate when they get bloody. I love the build-up, I love the fear. I got really addicted to fear when I was a child. The way I approach filmmaking, it’s a way to confront my fears. To create them is to confront them.”
“Martha Marcy May Marlene,” a time-shifting study of the attempted self-rehabilitation of Martha (first-time actress Elizabeth Olsen), a pretty, suggestible young woman recently escaped from a dangerous Catskills cult, certainly revels in build-up, teasingly withholding key details of the character’s circumstances across its broken-mirror narrative – leaving some unaddressed altogether. If the filmmaker is working through personal anxieties in this story, it’s certainly not evident in the crisp control with which he braids this material.
We introduce the category's first Contenders page of the season
Blondin Miguel in Finnish Oscar submission "Le Havre."
Credit: Janus Films
Amid Kris' regular weekly predictions update, you might notice something new amid the Contenders pages: our first ranking for the season of the Best Foreign Language Film submissions. Needless to say, in a category this eternally uncertain, it's a rough list, to say the least: drawn from a vague voodoo combination of gut feeling about the films I've seen, hearsay about the films I haven't, and doubtless foolhardy underestimation of the films I currently know nothing about.
The rankings will no doubt shift as I see more of the submissions, but this one category where precursor awards are really of very little help: there's no way of logically deducing what will show up on the nine-title shortlist that precedes the nominations in January. The fun, for me, lies in predicting two opposing concerns: which seemingly obvious favorites the voters will snub (as happens to certain high-profile entries on an annual basis), and which left-field surprises the branch's more discerning executive committee might shoehorn onto the list. What's this year's "Of Gods and Men," and what's this year's "Dogtooth?"
Festival pulls off a real coup landing the North American premiere of the film
A scene from Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn"
Credit: Paramount Pictures
According to The Hollywood Reporter's Heat Vision blog, Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn" will close out this year's AFI Fest on November 10. The announcement is a real coup for the 25th edition of the festival, which already has Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar" set to open the event this Thursday night, November 3.
"Tintin" premiered in the UK last week, where it scored big at the box office but wasn't met with thunderous critical approval. Our own Guy Lodge was a big fan of the film, however, noting that "the film’s smashing key set pieces...fully justify this technological leap of faith [of performance-capture], while also successfully adapting the distinctive flat-color textures of Hergé’s trademark ligne claire drawing style."
Other key galas planned for AFI Fest include "Carnage," "My Week with Marilyn," "The Artist" (naturally) and "Shame." As previously announced, Pedro Almodóvar will serve as Guest Artistic Director of the festival, offering up his own sidebar program of curated classics.
F.W. Murnau's silent classic screens with live organ accompaniment
A classic image from F.W. Murnau's "Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror"
Credit: Film Arts Guild
Last night the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, along with Southern California Edison and the Santa Barbara Theater Organ Society, presented its third-annual pre-Halloween program dedicated to the screening of a silent classic with live music accompaniment. The night's offering: F.W. Murnau's "Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror."
The program launched in 2009 with "The Phantom of the Opera" and continued last year with "The Black Pirate." And judging by the big turnout at the Arlington Theatre yesterday, it's as popular as ever. The film was preceded by the somewhat Halloween-themed Laurel and Hardy short, "Habeas Corpus."
There was a bit of a last-minute scare, though, as the scheduled organist was stranded back east due to the severe weather that popped up over the weekend. A savior swooped in at the last second as Santa Barbara festival director Roger Durling and company got in touch with a Burbank-based organist who, after playing his third-straight mass that morning, was happy to change it up with a silent horror film and a slapstick short.
As always, studios navigate the tricky waters of expectation this season
Charlize Theron in a scene from "Young Adult"
Credit: Paramount Pictures
It's been quiet. You might say too quiet.
Mid-to-late-October, those thin moments just after the New York Film Festival concludes and a number of the fall festival staples segue to the London Film Festival, it's always a bit of a lull. Call it the calm before the storm if you want, but I don't even really see much of a storm on the horizon. Just some heat lightning, maybe.
The season will show further signs of life this week as both Jason Reitman's "Young Adult" and Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar" finally screen for LA-based press. The former has been playing for as long as possible on the outside, building steam and word-of-mouth initially in Minnesota (where the film is set -- first "reviewed" by the Minneapolis Star Tribune in a blog entry of less than 200 words accompanied by a whopping four comments) and then adjacent to the Austin Film Festival as one of a few "pop-up" screenings held around the country.
'Senna' scores nods for both Best Film and Best Documentary
Benedict Cumberbatch and Gary Oldman, both BIFA-nominated for their performances in "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy."
Credit: Focus Features
The British Independent Film Awards are essentially the across-the-pond equivalent of the Spirit Awards, but they seem to grow in profile every year as a slightly hipper alternative to (and bellwether of) the BAFTAs. Though limited to UK indies, their parameters are broad enough to include the bulk of the year's buzzy British titles.
Last year, for example, they were all over "The King's Speech," and took flak in some quarters for honoring such a relatively mainstream title; similarly, one of this year's leading nominees, local box-office phenomenon "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" is less independent, both in status and in spirit, than several of its competitors.
But no matter: together with Steve McQueen's "Shame" and Paddy Considine's debut feature "Tyrannosaur," Tomas Alfredson's star-studded John le Carré adaptation leads an exceptionally fine crop of BIFA nominees, one that testifies to a remarkable year for UK cinema. The three films scored seven nods apiece; close behind, with six each, are Lynne Ramsay's London Film Festival champ "We Need to Talk About Kevin" and Ben Wheatley's future cult item "Kill List."
(More analysis, and a full list of nominees, after the jump.)