Way back on Independence Day I settled on what I anticipated the narrative of the 2011 Oscar season to be: The Year of the Beard. Steven Spielberg is as prolific as ever, and across media, working feverishly both as director ("War Horse" and "The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn") and producer ("Transformers: Dark of the Moon" and "Super 8" among others) on the big screen, while helping to usher things to the small screen, too, like "Falling Skies" and "Terra Nova." And he's hard at work in Virginia right now on next year's "Lincoln." Michael Cieply at the New York Times has caught up with this line of reasoning, it seems, and comes at it from the angle of Spielberg coveting recognition as an artist above a commercial player. [New York Times]
Also: In praise of Linda Blair and 'Iron Man 3' takes to North Carolina
Will it pay off?
When I spoke to Sony Classics honcho Michael Barker at this year's Telluride Film Festival, he told me, "Watch out for Jodie Foster." We were talking about the lead actress category at the time, and Roman Polanski's "Carnage" had just played the Venice fest. He was high on her chances and feeling invigorated by reactions to her showy turn in the film.
Well, things change in an Oscar season. According to screening literature recently placed at the studio's official site, not only will Foster actually be campaigned in the supporting actress category, but so will co-star Kate Winslet. Additionally, the other actors in the film's quartet -- Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly -- will be campaigned for supporting actor, taking the entire cast out of lead contention.
This, I think, is a smart way to go. The Best Actress race is already filling up and seems to have little room for movement between seven or eight serious possibilities. Meanwhile, the film's best shot at a nomination is probably for Christoph Waltz's smarmy lawyer (the character portrayed by Jeff Daniels on Broadway). And in a category that has a lot of wiggle room, I think he becomes a real possibility now.
Open thread. The floor is yours.
Welcome to Cinejabber, your weekly place to babble on about this or that to your heart's content.
It was a short week for me as I was out of town last weekend and didn't get to the usual Monday column, but that will be back on track next week. It's a holiday weekend, and I'm looking forward to just keeping it low key in the house with some scary movies.
On that front, I was watching Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" last night, still for me one of the greatest thrillers ever conceived directorially. It struck me while watching it -- probably because of yesterday morning's "Titanic 3D" presentation -- that, while I'm aware it's sacrilege, "The Shining" would be all the more stunning with a quality 3D conversion. Hear me out. Kubrick always worked with a dramatic depth of field, but that film in particular plays with foreground/background in ways that are already unsettling in two dimensions. Imagine further immersion. Just thinking out loud.
The film is set for a re-release in April 2012
This afternoon director James Cameron and producer Jon Landau showed an 18-minute, 8-scene preview of the 3D post-conversion work they've been up to on 1997's "Titanic" to press on the Paramount lot in Hollywood. The idea is to re-release the film next year, mostly on 3D screens, but in good ole' fashioned 2D here and there as well, and the experience is meant to reinvigorate the spirit of seeing the film in the theater (while Paramount, no doubt, is seeing lots of dollar signs in the wake of "The Lion King 3D").
The footage was extraordinary. It is without a doubt the best post-converted 3D we've seen on a film to date, but that's largely because the effort is being put into it. So often these days post-conversion is meant to be a cash grab, with little consideration given to the overall effect, issues of light levels in projector lamps, etc. But Cameron is being a stickler for that, and the elbow grease shows. It looked just like the film was actually shot in 3D.
Greg Ellwood (who actually worked on the film's publicity team way back when) will be reporting on the event and Cameron's comments on the project over at Awards Campaign in due time, but here I thought maybe we'd look back to the Oscars of March 23, 1998, when the film tied the record for Oscar wins with 11 after tying the record for nominations at 14, and ask: did it deserve all those awards?
Films like 'In Time,' 'Tower Heist' and 'Anonymous' speak to the here and now
It's funny how the zeitgeist can be tapped with this film or that. Recently much has been said and written about Bennett Miller's "Moneyball," which appears to be a snapshot of the here and now in its example of being forced to do more with less, the advantage of the rich over the poor and the necessity for ingenuity to find a path to the finish line. And of course George Clooney's "The Ides of March" speaks explicitly to corruption in politics, even if it is more a yarn about human nature than a political morality play.
However, a trio of films seem to be stumbling right into the here and now in unique ways this month, too. Two of them hit theaters today, the other a week from today.
Andrew Niccol's "In Time" and Brett Ratner's "Tower Heist" first got me thinking along these lines. The haves/have-nots nature of the narratives really find resonance at a time when the Occupy Wall Street movement is at a fever pitch. In the case of the former, Niccol spins a science-fiction yarn about a future where time is currency. We're able to turn off the aging gene and, for the right price, you can live forever. And one key line from the film used in trailers and TV spots really speaks the cause of the down-trodden in metaphor: "No one should be immortal, even if just one person has to die."
'The Exorcist,' 'The Great White Hope' and 'The Color Purple' to be screened
A few months ago it was announced that Oprah Winfrey, James Earl Jones and makeup artist Dick Smith would be the recipients of Honorary Oscars this year. The awards will be handed out at the Governors Awards on November 12.
This year, however, the Academy has put a spin on the event (which was transitioned to a satellite ceremony two years ago after the awards were previously handed out on the annual Oscar telecast). Pete Hammond reports that there will be an accompanying "Governors Awards Film Series" at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theatre, set for November 9-11, showcasing the recipients' most significant film accomplishments.
Each night will be dedicated to a different honoree. Wednesday, November 9, a newly restored digital version of the director's cut of William Friedkin's "The Exorcist" will be screened, featuring Dick Smith's transformative, terrifying work on a young Linda Blair. Thursday, November 10 will be all about Oprah Winfrey's star-making, Oscar-nominated turn in Steven Spielberg's "The Color Purple," while Friday, November 11 will be dedicated to James Earl Jones and his performance in "The Great White Hope," the only film to land him an Oscar nod.
Also: Discussion on the tight top tier of Best Actress and what will be the critics' darling?
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.
We're in the dog days of late October, those pre-November moments when the lull is palpable and we're waiting for the next films and moments to step out into the spotlight for us to chew on and devour. So it was kinda/sorta tough to come up with a rundown worth discussing this week, but we tried. So, let's see what's on the docket today…
Also: Diablo Cody's reaction to sight-unseen predictions and 'The Last Picture Show,' 40 years on
It's that time of year again. The pumpkins are carved, the classic horror is primed, another "Saw" movie is -- wait, we've been spared those now. But with Halloween right around the corner, it's time to pick out your costumes. What of 2011's crop of films has inspired get-ups? Naturally everyone who thinks they're hip will be sporting Ryan Gosling's "Drive" jacket, so that will be passé on arrival. How about a bridesmaid dress from "Bridesmaids?" Or get 11 of your closest friends together for your very own human centipede? And what about a beaver puppet like Mel Gibson sports in, well, "The Beaver?" Jen Yamato has a few other suggestions. [Movieline]
'Nostalgia for the Light' scores another major doc nod
Just one day after the Cinema Eye Honors documentary nominations were announced at a cheery London pub party, the rather more solemn International Documentary Association has weighed in with their own nods. It's a less playful list -- no mention for Justin Bieber this time, I'm afraid -- and one that pointedly omits several of the year's most prominent docs: "Senna," "The Arbor" and "The Interrupters," among others, are all conspicuous by their absence. Not having seen most of the IDA's choices, I'm in no position to say whether they're being discerning or wilful.
The IDA's only overlap with Cinema Eye in the top category is Chilean veteran director Patricio Guzmán's "Nostalgia for the Light," a fused meditation on astronomy and Pinochet-era politics that won the Best Documentary prize at last year's European Film Awards. It's certainly one of the year's most critically beloved documentaries, but I suspect it may yet prove a tough sell to the Academy.
In the short category, "Minka," which also scored a nod from Cinema Eye and may be a title to file for future reference. Meanwhile, 2010 Oscar nominees "Poster Girl" and "The Warriors of Qiugang" resurface here. Check out the full list of IDA nominees after the jump.
Have we all been played? And is that what the film is really about?
Something like 20 years ago, screenwriter John Orloff happened upon an episode of PBS's "Frontline" about the authorship question surrounding the works of William Shakespeare. It was something he had never heard before, so, in those antiquated days of pre-internet, he took to the library for a little research.
There weren't a lot of books out at the time dedicated to the issue. He didn't then and he doesn't now have a definitive idea of who might have written the plays attributed to Shakespeare, even though the film bearing his own signature, "Anonymous," props up the Oxfordian theory (that Edward de Vere penned them). But Orloff is, if nothing else, certainly a believer that Shakespeare wasn't the guy.
"I think it's more about education and life experience, not class," he says. "To me, it's not that a man from a lower class could not achieve all of this. Ben Jonson was from a lower class. So was Marlowe. So were most playwrights of the time. But the difference between those people and Shakespeare is they were educated. And to me, it comes down to education and personal experience. And they’re kind of separate."