Last night's New York Film Critics' Circle awards dinner have already made industry headlines for the wrong reasons -- Armond White's regrettable outburst was already covered in this morning's roundup -- which has thus far obscured talk of the awards themselves. Which is doubly unfortunate, since it would appear that there were a number of valuable takeaways from that side of the evening -- and none more so than Harry Belafonte's eloquent address to Steve McQueen.
86-year-old legend delivered a heartfelt speech praising '12 Years a Slave'
The Coen brothers and Spike Jonze miss in the significant precursor
The nominees for the 66th annual Directors Guild of America (DGA) Awards were revealed today, narrowing the Oscar race considerably as the industry precursor has long been an indicator for which way the Academy might fall. So those who missed the cut this morning — the Coen brothers, Spike Jonze, Alexander Payne — will be facing a steep uphill climb after today.
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Another year, another Armond White controversy. The famously against-the-grain critic routinely gets people's backs up with his reviews, but he's also taken in recent years to making a nuisance of himself at the New York Film Critics' Circle Awards, denigrating his colleagues' choices in the presence of the winners themselves. Last night saw his ugliest display yet, as he disrupted Best Director winner Steve McQueen's speech by calling him "an embarrassing doorman and garbage man." McQueen classily ignored him; the NYFCC, of which White is a former chair, should not do the same. A critic's opinions are his to freely express in print; personal public abuse is another matter. [Variety]
The filmmaker has a long and rich history with the festival
Filmmaker Jane Campion has found herself in the Palme d'Or mix three times at Cannes: for 1989's "Sweetie," 1993's "The Piano" (which one the prize in a tie with Kaige Chen's "Farewell My Concubine") and 2009's "Bright Star." She also won a prize for her short film "An Exercise in Discipline - Peel" in 1982. Suffice it to say, she has a rich history with the fest, and now she adds one more notch on her Croisette belt: she'll be heading up the 2014 edition's jury.
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It was a pretty good weekend for Harvey Weinstein and his crop of awards season hopefuls. On Saturday, "August: Osage County" — coming off a dominant showing at the Capri, Hollywood Film Festival in Italy — was recognized at the annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala with honors for stars Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. The Weinstein Company honcho also held a private little after-soiree that was full of talent not just from his films but others as well.
Sunday night, it was a Kirk Douglas Award presentation for "Lee Daniels' The Butler" star Forest Whitaker in advance of the 29th annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival (which will feature another accolade in the form of the Montecito Award for, well, Montecito resident Oprah Winfrey). A big boost of visibility for the SAG nominee.
The legendary awards strategist — who recently placed number one on HitFix's inaugural Oscar Power List with ease — has a typically loaded slate of films this year and he's making all the right moves on their behalf. "August," "The Butler," "Fruitvale Station," "Philomena" and "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" have all been represented on the circuit (though perhaps the best of them, in my opinion — "Mandela" — has received short shrift). Yet despite SAG and WGA attention, it seems more and more like Weinstein will have his first off year in the Best Picture ranks since finally cutting through with "The Reader" in 2008.
Actress to star in 'Blackbird' opposite Isaiah Washington
Nearly four years since she took home an Oscar for her devastating performance in "Precious," Mo'Nique is finally reemerging with a new film.
The actress has signed on to star in "Blackbird," an adaptation of the 2006 coming-of-age novel by Larry Duplechan that she will also executive-produce through her and husband Sidney Hicks' Hicks Media production banner. Also onboard for the film, which is set to be directed by Patrik-Ian Polk ("Noah's Arc," "The Skinny"), are Isaiah Washington ("Blue Caprice"), Terrell Tilford, Gary L. Gray, Kevin Allesee, Torrey Lamaar, Nikki Jane, D. Woods and newcomer Julian Walker.
Wes Anderson's latest premieres in exactly one month's time
We have exactly one month to go before Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is unveiled on the opening night of the Berlin Film Festival. We recently featured the film in our Most Anticipated Prestige Films list, but if your appetite still needs whetting, Fox Searchlight have unveiled another two clips from the all-star comedy, both focused principally on the dashing manager of the titular hotel, played by Ralph Fiennes, and his wide-eyed new lobby boy Zero, played by Tony Revolori.
'Mud' finds some Southern support
The Georgia Film Critics' Association is a young and fairly small group: they've been going three years and have 10 members, which means their nominee list is a bit less groupthink-influenced than most. "12 Years a Slave" might lead the field with 11 nods, but there are unusual choices elsewhere: while "American Hustle" and "Inside Llewyn Davis" share second place with seven mentions, so does Shane Carruth's "Upstream Color," which landed Carruth nods for directing, writing, cinematography and score. Meanwhile, "Mud" found some Southern comfort with a Best Picture nod. Full list below; everything else at The Circuit.
The late producer won three Oscars from 10 films
I had a busy weekend, and in the rush of it, somehow missed the news that producer Saul Zaentz passed away at the age of 92. As well as being an accomplished producer and industry figure, Zaentz is a name familiar to seasoned Oscar-watchers, having won the Best Picture award on three occasions: for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975), "Amadeus" (1984) and "The English Patient" (1996).
Also: Dressing '12 Years a Slave,' and January wasteland gems
"It makes no sense to me that Hollywood distributors mark off particular times of year as no-go zones for major theatrical releases. That practice serves only to tell our audiences to stop paying attention at certain times of the year -- and that benefits nobody." So writes National Association of Theater Owners president John Fithian, in a piece where he looks over the 2013 release calendar, and calls for distributors to be more creative with their scheduling, citing "Blue Jasmine" and "Gravity" as examples of films that bucked conventional programming wisdom to great effect, and the summer animation glut as an example of tentpole excess. [Hollywood Reporter]