Always wanted to hear Judi Dench break down the plot of "Big Momma's House" but never thought you'd see the day? Well friends, the wait is over.
Bonus: Hear the Oscar-winning actress break down 'Big Momma's House'
Chad enters, but Agnieszka Holland won't compete for the Czech Republic
Well, no sooner had I updated the category than the Academy announced the final, official slate of submissions for this year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar -- and a bumper slate it is. Last year's race featured 71 films, then a record number; this year, that record has been broken by a significant margin, with 76 territories vying for the award.
Among them are a couple of nations entering the race for the first time, including Saudi Arabia (a favorite for a nomination, and possibly the win, with the feminist heartwarmer "Wadjda"), Moldova and Montenegro.
Can they register in what is already a crowded season?
This weekend, 20th Century Fox arrived to the 2013 film awards season with a pair of hopefuls that couldn't be more different from the outside. Nevertheless, Brian Percival's "The Book Thief" and Ben Stiller's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," both of which will be viewed as cloying in some circles, are made with an honesty that could stave off some of the cynicism and register. At the end of the day, though, neither is the slam dunk contender the studio may have hoped for a year after "Life of Pi."
...and how Chris Cooper got the chop
There are, obviously, many reasons to look forward to Spike Jonze's "Her," which premieres at the New York Film Festival later this week -- beginning, of course, with the fact that it's a Spike Jonze movie, and his first since 2009's "Where the Wild Things Are" (much loved round these parts). But news of another major filmmaker's indirect input just makes the whole project that much more intriguing.
Will the Hollywood connection pay off this time?
When the deadline for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar submissions passed last week, it seemed odd that China – the last major filmmaking nation not yet in the race – hadn’t submitted a film yet. As it turns out, they’d entered one on September 29; national holidays had simply prevented the announcement. And for the second time in three years, China has looked to Hollywood names to give them a boost in the race: this year’s selection, “Back to 1942,” which was released Stateside last year, features Oscar-winning actors Adrien Brody and Tim Robbins in its otherwise Chinese ensemble.
Also: Mark Harris meets Spike Jonze, and Tarantino's best of 2013
The big reveal of the weekend was Ben Stiller's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," which was unveiled at the New York Film Festival to a mixed reception. Audiences seemed to respond to the whimsical romantic fantasy; perhaps unsurprisingly, critics were, on balance, a little cooler. David Hudson, as usual, does a good job of rounding up reactions to the film so far, which include warm (if not ecstatic) reviews from the trades, while the likes of IndieWire, Slant and Film.com are less convinced. (HitFix's own Drew McWeeny offered muted approval.) Too early and inconclusive, then, to draw any conclusions about its awards-season future; it may well come down to how it plays with the public. [Fandor]
And what should Sandra Bullock do next?
After three film festivals and weeks of buzz, Alfonso Cuarón's "Gravity" has finally arrived in theaters in the U.S. The film has been an awards season player for some time, but the universal acclaim has likely surprised even Warner Bros., who produced and is distributing the film.
The two-time Oscar winner will receive the award in June 2014
Let no one accuse the American Film Institute of not giving us sufficient notice on this: it won't be presented until next summer, but veteran actress/activist/workout instructress Jane Fonda has been named the recipient of the next AFI Life Achievement Award. She'll accept the honor at a gala tribute evening of June 5, 2014.
Also: The significance of Iran backing 'The Past,' and the brevity of 'Gravity'
Forest Whitaker's awards season prospects are very much in flux: his potential Oscar nomination for summer hit "The Butler" (which would be only the second of his career) is largely dependent on whether or not certain prestige films take hold in the months to come. One honor he'll definitely be receiving, however, is the Actor Tribute at the indie-oriented Gotham Awards on December 2. "Breaking boundaries and challenging audiences with complex, multifaceted roles, Forest Whitaker is a significant independent voice whose performances have only been elevated by his visionary work as a producer, director and humanitarian," says Gotham Award director Joana Vicente. Previous recipients of the tribute include Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon and Robert Duvall. [Hollywood Reporter]
Alfonso Cuarón's next-level ride hits theaters this weekend
For nationwide audiences, the wait is over. And hopefully we haven't built it up too much around here but me, Greg, Guy, Drew -- we're pretty much over the moon for "Gravity," an experience like none you've ever had in a theater. I caught it twice at Telluride and it seemed at the time that a tandem piece with "All is Lost" made sense, given thematic and narrative parallels. We've talked to the film's director, Alfonso Cuarón, as well as producer David Heyman and star Sandra Bullock. It truly is one of the great movies of our era and I'm not personally concerned about overstating it. Now, however, it's your turn. So when you get around to seeing it this weekend or whenever, please tell us what you thought in the comments section and feel free to vote in our poll. I know I'll be heading out to see it in IMAX tonight and, at some point, Dolby Atmos. It warrants multiple trips to the multiplex, I think.