No one needs awards coverage this deep
What do good-but-not-great numbers foretell for US release?
A scene from "The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn."
Credit: Paramount Pictures
Box-office analysis is a funny old business, one I find simultaneously fascinating and alienating: the line between success and failure can be as subjective as it is fine. Which is why it's with some interest that I've been following the reports on the opening numbers for "The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn" in its first week of UK release: what initially appears to be good news turns out to have rather more mixed signals.
On the one hand, as The Guardian's Charles Gant (the go-to guy for British box-office reporting, for those interested) tells it, the film's a hit. Topping the charts with a first-week total of approximately $10.8 million (hey, we're a small country), it's enjoyed the biggest opening of any animated film this year. However, as Gant explains, when you factor in the money it made in previews, the film is actually tracking behind January opener "Tangled," with the end of the UK half-term school vacation promising something of a drop-off. In other words: sure, it's a hit. But it looks unlikely to be a phenomenon on the scale of Spielberg's Spielbiggest.
Britain offers a variety of quality contenders in 2011... but are there too many?
Michael Fassbender angles for Best Actor Oscar consideration in "Shame."
Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures
A strangely jubilant atmosphere prevailed at Monday’s boozy standing lunch in central London, where this year’s British Independent Film Award nominees were read out to an invited crowd of journalists, industry pros and some of the nominees themselves. Well, perhaps not “strangely”: free Moët champagne and gourmet sliders tend to brighten the black moods of film folk, and that’s before you start throwing awards at them.
But the general air of apology and scepticism that clouds most British industry events was absent: for once, no one was complaining about what a crap year it was for UK cinema, a surprisingly routine line even in the best circumstances. Indeed, once the nominees for Best British Independent Film had been read out, conversation turned in quite the opposite direction: when the frequently filler-reliant BIFAs could assemble a slate as diverse and exciting as “Shame,” “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” “Senna” “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and “Tyrannosaur,” you’d be hard-pressed to call it anything but a banner year for the industry.
Offer up your burning queries
Alright, you know the drill. Rifle off your need-to-knows and Anne and I will try to address a few for Friday's podcast. We'll already be covering: "Young Adult," "J. Edgar," the "War Horse" heartland screenings and British Independent Film Award nominations. So keep that in mind to steer away from redundancies.
Jason Reitman's latest film finally lands in Los Angeles and it's a winner
Charlize Theron in a scene from "Young Adult"
Credit: Paramount Pictures
LOS ANGELES - "It's nice to just show the movie and say, 'Here it is, hope you like it,'" Jason Reitman said to me at a party following a "pop-up" screening of his latest film "Young Adult" last night. And he's been doing just that, in select cities across the country -- Chicago, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Austin and a stop north of the border in Toronto -- aiming at the kinds of fans who'll line up for a secret screening without knowing what the film will be. And the experience seems to have invigorated him a bit.
Going into these cities, he and screenwriter Diablo Cody haven't done the usual press commitments. No chatting with local news stations, radio shows, newspapers and college papers like you'd expect. In and out and a "hope you like it." It's fair to say the kind of intense press rounds he exhausted on "Up in the Air" two years ago were the last thing he wanted to do this time around, but it's also been about setting a foundation that says, "This ain't 'Juno.'"
And no, "Young Adult" is not "Juno." Not that the latter is the trifle it's come to be considered since its 2007 release (it has its dark and emotional moments), but the latest Cody/Reitman collaboration is an unflinching piece of work committed to following its lead character on a downward path, eschewing a narrative of redemption and never conceding any ground.
Also: ADG fetes 'Harry Potter' franchise and 'War Horse' pop-up screenings?
John Lasseter hams it up for the camera at the ceremony for his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Credit: AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
Not to follow up yesterday's round-up with yet another Pixar-themed lead story, but, alas, when it's in the news... Yesterday John Lasseter was the recipient of the 2,453rd star awarded/bought on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He apparently had some touching words for the late Steve Jobs, who passed away last month and was key to Pixar's early success. I wasn't able to attend the ceremony at the last minute, but Anne Thompson was on hand and got some nice video of the event. [Thompson on Hollywood]
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.