No one needs awards coverage this deep
Major local productions jostle with the likes of Alicia Keys for audience attention
Edda Magnason in "Waltz For Monica."
Credit: StellaNova Film
GOTHENBURG, Sweden - Every film festival comes with its own set of perks and difficulties, but I've only been to one so far where my chief scheduling challenge has been squeezing a Public Enemy gig in between a screening and an interview, wading in wellingtons across muddy parkland, through a sea of lanky twentysomethings in impossibly skinny jeans and Doc Martens, to do so. (It's still easier than traversing the Croisette in full flow, I'll have you know.)
Or where the evening's festivities have ended not at a midnight premiere or cocktail-suited industry party, but at a beery bolthole at 3am, watching the aptly named New York punk outfit Pissed Jeans tear the tiny stage a new one. Or, indeed, where you run into Alexander Skarsgard at the bar, and the off-duty star for once has nothing to promote but his love for Swedish electro-eccentrics The Knife. (Their daftly thrilling set later that evening, all boiler-suited dance troupes and disembodied vocals, more than justifies his enthusiasm.)
A New York year felt like it was over in a New York minute
"It really is a knock-out, you know?
Credit: United Artists
On a bit of a personal note this weekend, it's been more or less 12 months since my wife and I said, "Hey, let's try New York for a year." The sheer luck of being able to make such a decision isn't lost on us and the experience, one I've dreamed of for some time, was a fruitful and rewarding one. And in just a few days, it'll all come to a close.
The Sundance-endorsed drama opens in New York and Los Angeles today
Credit: Karlovy Vary Film Festival
EDINBURGH - As we sit down in the appealingly tatty coffee shop of Edinburgh's Filmhouse – the stone-built base camp of the city's venerable film festival – Chad Hartigan admits feeling pleasantly bemused at being interviewed for In Contention. As well he might do. It's not that long ago that Hartigan's name appeared in bylines rather than headlines on this site – one of several where he plied his trade as a box office analyst for five years, while laying the foundations of an independent filmmaking career.
I'm half-tempted to ask Hartigan for a projected gross for his own film; after all, it's not every scrappy indie writer-director who can boast such cool-headed commercial instincts, even (or perhaps especially) with regard to blockbusters fare a million miles from their own. “A lot of people wonder if all that work has given me some kind of like secret code,” he says, with a dry laugh. “Like I could make the failsafe blockbuster. After five years, I still don't know what exact science makes a hit. But I do know that 'This is Martin Bonner' is not it.”
The writer/director's 'I Am Not a Hipster' follow-up is already an award winner on the festival circuit
'Short Term 12' director Destin Cretton
NEW YORK - While attending film school at San Diego State University some years ago, Destin Cretton would always take note of an annual poster calling for script submissions. It was a contest held by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences called the Nicholl Fellowship. He never tried applying for it until a script called "Short Term 12," which was inspired by his time working at a foster care facility for at-risk teenagers. He never thought there would be much of a chance at winning but he gave it a shot and went right back into working out the kinks of his script.
A short time later, he was incredibly frustrated with those kinks, as well as the rejections the script was getting at other outlets, and he was just about ready to throw in the towel. Then he received an email notifying him that he had landed in the quarterfinals of the competition. The good news gave him further encouragement to finish his rewrite (which, three years later, would finally make its way to the screen with him behind the camera). Before long, the circuit ended with "Short Term 12" being one of the 10 winning finalists for the honor, and Cretton still can't believe that's how it panned out.
Do you have time for one more superhero movie this summer?
Chloë Grace Moretz in "Kick-Ass 2."
Credit: Universal Pictures
As a critic, it's my job to see most major releases that come down the pike -- but everyone's allowed a few passes, and when it became clear to me that I wasn't required to review "Kick-Ass 2" for any outlet, I had no regrets about skipping all screenings. That may be my loss. But the first big-screen outing for self-made superhero Dave Lizewski rubbed me the wrong the way in 2010, and I can't imagine warming to its smugly ironic violence and queasy fetishization of Chloë Grace Moretz's Hit Girl this time round, particularly when reviews, by and large, have been less enthusiastic than those of its predecessor. (HitFix's Drew McWeeny, however, found plenty to enjoy in it.)
Still, I know the franchise has plenty of fans out there, and many may be curious to see what Jim Carrey brings to the equation in the sequel. After a summer where many superhero films have taken flak for being too po-faced, perhaps the timing is right for a jokier effort. Either way, we want to know what you think. Once you've seen the film, come back here to share your thought, and be sure to vote in the poll below.
Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey stir the early Oscar talk this weekend
Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker in "Lee Daniels' The Butler"
Credit: The Weinstein Company
Well, after a hard fought title dispute and a wave of passes from critics, the wait is over for audiences who might be eager to take in "Lee Daniels' The Butler." I've more or less had my say on this one. Whitaker is good. Winfrey is great. The film itself is a bit soft but lands its share of emotion here and there. The curiosity right now is box office. Will it turn the corner and beat out some of the higher concept competition? Will it start out quietly and build steam with legs? Or will it just be a whispered memory by the time the awards season really kicks into gear? Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised by any of those outcomes. But now it's your turn to speak up. So when and if you see the film this weekend, head on back here with your thoughts and feel free to vote in our poll below. And if there's something else you've seen recently and want to discuss, go right ahead -- open thread.
Our first podcast of the season dives deep
Welcome to Oscar Talk.
In case you're new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is a one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is broadcast in special installments 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.
On the docket today…
Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and Steve Carell star in Bennett Miller's latest
Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo on the set of "Foxcatcher."
Credit: Sony Classics
Over the past few months, we've had a lot of queries from readers as to the release plans for Bennett Miller's star-studded, stranger-than-fiction biopic "Foxcatcher." The film has long looked like prime Oscar fodder, but it wasn't clear who would be distributing it, or whether it would be released this year at all. Back in June, Kris pondered its prospects, mentioning the possibility that the film could wind up as part of Sony Pictures Classics' 2013 awards slate.
And so it is. The speculation ended today with Sony Classics' announcement that they will be distributing "Foxcatcher," with a release date set for December 20.
Mads Mikkelsen drama is the safe bet, but the controversial doc would turn heads
Credit: Drafthouse Films
As a rule, I don't tend to report on the shortlists of films being considered by individual countries for their Best Foreign Language Film Oscar submission -- the process is protracted enough without dwelling on the films (many of them low-profile) that might enter the race. However, when the shortlist presents a choice as intriguing and diverse as the one revealed by Denmark's selection board this year, it's worth making an exception. The Danish Film Institute today announced that the final three films in the running are Thomas Vinterberg's "The Hunt," Joshua Oppenheimer's "The Act of Killing" and Michael Noer's "Northwest."
Will it boost the film's fortunes ahead of its August 23 release?
Zhang Ziyi in "The Grandmaster."
Credit: The Weinstein Company
Ever since it landed slightly softly at the Berlin Film Festival back in February, it seems The Weinstein Company has been doing its best to re-engineer “The Grandmaster” less as an art house item than as a crossover piece. It’s probably for the best. Wong Kar-wai devotees, hungry for the film after years of protracted waiting, will catch the film regardless, whether or not its critical reception improves upon its US release. Genre enthusiasts, however, will need more persuading on a film that, given Wong’s trademark flourishes of woozy romanticism, is still far from conventional martial-arts fare.