By this point, it's common knowledge that the Academy's voting system for Best Foreign Language Film -- or Best Foreign Language Film Approved And Selected By A National Committee That Is Also Agreeable To The Widest Academy Demographic And Was Domestically Released Within The Eligibility Window -- is, to put it gently, somewhat flawed. Everyone has different ideas about how to fix it (including, to their credit, the Academy itself), but Toronto Film Festival director Cameron Bailey's are more sensible than most. I wholeheartedly echo his statement that the idea of this being a country-based competition in this era of global co-production is archaic. Also interesting: he argues that requiring contenders to have a US release date would encourage increased distribution of foreign fare. Good points all round. [Variety]
Also: Fantastic Fest winners, and has Michael Douglas been taken for granted?
'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' will screen out of competition
At least three American awards hopefuls will have the chance to compete for some European festival hardware, as Spike Jonze's "Her," Scott Cooper's "Out of the Furnace" and Jean-Marc Vallee's "Dallas Buyers Club" are among the first four Competition selections announced for November's Rome Film Festival. They'll be joined by the world premiere of Spanish director Isabel Coixet's "Another Me," along with several others yet to be announced.
Also confirms 'The Immigrant' for quarter one of next year
Scorsese's latest could move as 'Mud' is the first screener in voters' hands
I was all set to write something in this space last week, with Toronto having wrapped, etc. But then I just stopped. It seemed like it all needed a moment to sit, and what could I add to the conversation that hadn't been hammered home for two weeks already by the time "12 Years a Slave" predictably won the festival's audience award?
What I'm noticing this year is that the media is, more aggressively than ever, trying to dictate the conversation. From the call-off-all-bets aplomb of Best Picture proclamations at Telluride and Toronto to trying to force a supporting campaign on a very strong lead actor hopeful, the whiff of being authoritative is so much stronger than usual this time of year. But I've covered that. Let's attempt to progress things a bit here; there is this and that to consider.
Also: The greatest short speeches, and the successful anonymity of Ron Howard
Being the first screener to land in Academy voters' mailboxes is a victory that sometimes brings more than just bragging rights -- especially for smaller films that might get lost in the crush later in the season. The early bird strategy has paid off handsomely for such performance-driven indies as "A Better Life" and "Frozen River" in the past, though it doesn't always get results: last year, TWC's "The Intouchables" didn't even wind up with a foreign-language nod. So, which screener was quickest on the draw this year? Jeff Nichols' coming-of-age tale "Mud" -- until recently, the year's highest-grossing art house release. Roadside Attractions are simplifying Matthew McConaughey's Best Actor drive for "Dallas Buyers Club" by running a supporting campaign for the star, who plays the title role. You can argue amongst yourselves about the rights or wrongs of that move, though the film's best shot at a nod is probably for Best Original Screenplay. Will being first pay off this year? [Deadline]
Steven Soderbergh, Jeff Daniels and James Cromwell also picked up prizes
It was a big night for prestige film personalities in front of and behind the camera at the Emmys tonight. Most notable was "House of Cards" and "Behind the Candelabra" directors David Fincher and Steven Soderbergh walking away with wins for TV Drama and TV Movie or Miniseries respectively.
In the case of Soderbergh, he joins rare air with names like Martin Scorsese, Bob Fosse and Michael Moore as one of only a handful of helmers to scoop up an Emmy, an Oscar (for 2000's "Traffic") and the Cannes Palme d'Or (for 1989's "sex, lies and videotape"). In the case of Mr. Fincher, well, I'm sure he'll get his fill of "He doesn't have an Oscar but he has an Emmy!" headlines tomorrow morning.
Ron Howard's Formula 1 biopic opens this weekend
I was late catching up with Ron Howard's "Rush," having missed various press screenings while I was in Venice. So maybe my expectations had been unduly raised by the numerous rave reviews -- including our colleague Drew McWeeny's -- that came out of Toronto. But I found the racing biopic, which details the rivalry between 1970s Formula 1 titans Niki Lauda and James Hunt, rather flat and uninvolving, its two mostly unpleasant protagonists burdened with a blunt script from Peter Morgan that hammers home its 'driving=life' metaphors for all they're worth. Howard directs proficiently in a latter-day Eastwood sort of way, without betraying much affinity for, or investment in, the source material. On the plus side, it's a handsome production, lifted by the vivid cigarette-box palette of Anthony Dod Mantle's sleek cinematography. And while's it's Daniel Brühl's Lauda who gets the angst and the makeup and the Oscar buzz, I was particularly taken with Chris Hemsworth's suave, switched-on performance as the more smooth-operating Hunt. Anyway, that's enough from me -- what did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments, and vote in the poll below.
Denis Villeneuve's studio thriller hits theaters this weekend
A pair of movies are hitting theaters this weekend that mark a distinct transition from summer entertainments to fall adult drama programming. One is "Rush." The other is Denis Villenueve's "Prisoners," a tense piece of work that I called a "tense bow of tension drawn impossibly tight" out of Telluride. I don't see it as awards caliber material, though Hugh Jackman gives a terrific performance, it makes some brave choices for a studio thriller and I have respect for Villeneuve's craft. This site seemed to find that piece bewildering in its vacillation, and really, that's kind of this movie in a nutshell to me. So it fits. (And yes, Virginia, that's a site dedicated to reviewing reviews.) So with that, let's just turn it over to you. When and if you get around to "Prisoners" this weekend, tell us your thoughts in the comments section and feel free to vote in our poll below.
Here's your chance to see a masterpiece on the big screen
Oliver Stone's "JFK" is a masterpiece. I say that unequivocally. It's masterful filmmaking of a degree few could ever hope to reach, but it's been consistently plagued and overshadowed by the whiff of conspiracy fatigue ever since its 1991 release.
This has always been strange to me. Nothing presented in the film is all that far-fetched, and depending on your opinion of Dallas journalist Jim Marrs, it was all perfectly well-reported before Stone and screenwriter Zachary Sklar came along. Meanwhile, there has been a curiously strong push lately, it seems, to ensure once-and-for-all acceptance of the lone gunman theory, which, I'm sorry, if you've ever stood in the book depository and seen that vantage point (relative, as the actual window itself is blocked off), then you know the shot was pretty tough to pull off. And "back and to the left" seems pretty significant to me.
Switzerland, the Philippines and the UK also join the race
National submissions continue to trickle in for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar race, with the tally currently sitting at 37 entries. That's a competitive number already, though when you consider that last year's longlist contained nearly double that number of films, you realize just how much more crowded things are going to get before the deadline for entries -- only 10 days away. Among the countries we're waiting to hear from are such previous nominees (some of them with heavyweight possibilities this year) as Denmark, Israel, Italy, Canada, Iran and China. So the list of predicted nominees to your right, strong as it is, could change a lot in the coming weeks.