Also: 'War Witch' wins at Camerimage, and Ang Lee's 'Life of Liberty Valance'
Oscar buzz is a strange, unscientific and totally intangible thing -- even contenders being left out of the precursor can generate their own conversation with some assistance from the blogosphere. Nathaniel Rogers calls it The Noise, and right now he's hearing it for Nicole Kidman, whose Oscar chances for a brilliant out-of-character turn in Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy" initially seemed to be shot down with the film's critical savaging. But Kidman's doing a stealth campaign, calling up sympathetic interviewers (including our own Greg Ellwood) herself, and it's paying off with some press at just the right time. Could she crack a still-thin Best Supporting Actress category? Though I think she's really a lead in "The Paperboy," I hope so, and so does Rogers: "You'd have to bring Daniel Day-Lewis's Honest Abe into the room to give her a worthy opponent for impossible commitment to the role," he writes. [The Film Experience]
'Tabu' and 'Amour' take medal positions in poll of over 90 international critics
The awards season has already begun to some extent, but the critics are about to add their collective voice to it: tomorrow, the New York Film Critics' Circle announce their picks for 2012's best, kicking off a long, long run of critics' awards that won't finish until January. So it's apt that Sight & Sound magazine have neatly foreshadowed this turn of events with their own annual critics' poll -- one of the largest and most internationally inclusive of the lot.
And though you may already have heard this, it's good news for "The Master" -- one of the films, as it happens, that has the most to gain from the upcoming bevy of critics' honors. Paul Thomas Anderson's remarkable Scientology-inspired dual character study has acquired a reputation for being a difficult, divisive beast -- but it still united enough opinion to score the most votes in S&S's survey of over 90 critics, academics and programmers. It wouldn't surprise me to see it emerge similarly triumphant with certain leading US critics' groups, reasserting its status as a potential Oscar player.
Europe's Oscars capture a rich film culture at a crossroads
VALLETTA, Malta -- There’s a certain advantage to holding an awards ceremony in a different city every year: with the practical and cultural conditions of the event different each time, tradition doesn’t quite congeal into formula. This was my first trip to the European Film Awards, but this year’s Malta-set edition of the continent’s translation of the Oscars had details to surprise even seasoned attendees, whether it was the rowdy Maltese house band – a Gogol Bordello-type collective whose lead singer bore a striking resemblance to Captain Haddock – jamming on stage at regular intervals, or the venue itself, a cavernous former hospital at the sea’s edge, its dense stone walls roughened with several centuries’ worth of harder use than a mere red-carpet shindig.
If the surroundings rather humbled the awards themselves, then, that seemed appropriate in an intelligent, enjoyable ceremony that nonetheless seemed torn between honoring European film culture and reading its last rites – leaving a solemn aftertaste that coincidentally complemented a top-category sweep for Michael Haneke’s stern mortality study “Amour.”
Scenes featuring Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried, Hugh Jackman and newcomer Samantha Barks
NEW YORK -- Having just come from interviewing the cast of "Les Miserables," I can tell you there is a genuine excitement in the air. Tom Hooper's adaptation of the long-running and now classic musical was a difficult gig for everyone involved and the almost unanimous enthusiasm over the finished product has clearly lifted a weight off their shoulders (you'd have to assume Hooper's as well, but he was still in Los Angeles where he attended last night's Governors Awards).
Many moviegoers don't like to watch clips before seeing a film, but if you're still unsure what the hype is all about these four should make it incredibly clear. Hooper's decision to have his actors sing live is close to a game changer and are one reason "Les Miz" is going to be part of the Oscar discussion for quite some time. Universal Pictures was also smart in making sure each preview was over a minute long so viewers could appreciate the performances and music at work.
Will Smith, Quentin Tarantino Steven Spielberg and more turn out
HOLLYWOOD -- The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored its own tonight in the fourth annual Governors Awards. A satellite ceremony dedicated to Honorary Oscar presentations (voted on by the AMPAS Board of Governors), the program was moved off the annual Academy Awards telecast in 2009 and given its own space in the middle of awards season.
This year's Honorary Oscar recipients were documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker, AFI and Kennedy Center Honors founder George Stevens Jr. and stunt coordinator Hal Needham, while Jeffrey Katzenberg received the Jean Hersholt Award for his fundraising and philanthropy.
The evening began with Pennebaker's presentation, as Senator Al Franken took to the stage to assist in the introduction. "We have big issues to confront," Franken said, noting many of the pressing matters of today -- fiscal crisis, healthcare, etc. "And we can't do it unless we're willing to tell the truth…[Pennebaker's] films succeed because of his commitment to telling the truth."
The Oscar hopeful wins for Film, Director, Actor and Actress of the Year
VALLETTA, Malta -- As predicted, it was a very big night for "Amour" at the European Film Awards, as Michael Haneke's universally revered Palme d'Or winner swept the four top awards at the ceremony: European Film of the Year and Director of the Year, plus the two acting prizes for its octogenarian leads Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva.
Neither of the actors, sadly, were in attendance (Riva, stricken with flu, is unable to travel), but Haneke was -- "jubilant" could never be the appropriate word to describe the solemn Austrian formalist's reaction to anything, but he looked close to overcome as he accept the night's final award, limiting his acceptance speech to a simple "thank you, thank you, thank you."
The cinematographer and production designer discuss their work on Steven Spielberg's latest
As "Lincoln" enters its fourth weekend at the box office, numerous commentators have noted how realistic the film is in its portrayal of politics and history. It resonates even today.
That realism didn't end with the story and performances, as the look of the film meticulously recreated a sense of time and place. Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski and production designer Rick Carter were responsible in large part for that realism. The duo, who have three Oscars and eight nominations between them, are longtime collaborators with Steven Spielberg and I recently spoke with them about their work on the film, with Spielberg and with each other.
'The Island President,' 'The Other Dream Team' and 'A People Uncounted' round it out
Anne and I discussed the documentary feature category at length on yesterday's podcast, commenting on a wide array of movies. Naturally, then, most of them were featured in the PGA's list of nominees in the category.
The two that were -- "The Gatekeepers" and "Searching for Sugar Man" -- are easily two of the best in the field this year. The former, though, hasn't gotten a lot of discussion, but with a qualifying release this week, talk should start circulating. I saw it at Telluride in September, noting that it "provides an invaluable perspective on evolving methods of anti-terrorism while treading the philosophical waters of playing God and having the power to extinguish another life with the push of a button."
"Searching for Sugar Man," meanwhile, is potentially the most popular film of the lot this year, and that actually counts this time around, as the documentary feature category's process now allows for that kind of wide-spread appeal to register.
What will win, and what should, at Europe's answer to the Oscars
I'm writing this from my hotel suite in Valletta, Malta, where the view from my balcony is foregrounded by scattered yachts sleeping on a still sea as the sleepy Maltese capital -- all hybrid Euro grandeur in honey-colored stone -- turns silently in for the night. Earlier, I spotted Michael Haneke and Mads Mikkelsen, among others, enjoying a gentle nightcap in a neighboring hotel bar, unbothered by press or publicists.
All told, it's hardly the circus you'd encounter the night before a major awards ceremony across the pond, but the European Film Awards have a very, well, continental way of doing things. Voted for by the European Film Academy, they may commonly be described as the transatlantic equivalent of the Oscars, but the EFAs have far less of an industry built around them. For one thing, they're something of a travelling celebration, the venue alternating every other year from their Berlin base camp to a range of more far-flung locales: it's a nifty way of honoring the continent's cultural diversity even when the nominees themselves center mostly on major European nations.
And yeah, 'The Others' is pretty good too
When Lee Daniels’ “The Paperboy” debuted at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival last May, the reviews were hardly glowing. The Twitterverse was full of salacious tweets of crude acts by an Oscar winning actress and snarked about over-the-top Southern campiness – all out of context, of course. Even In Contention’s own Guy Lodge seemed torn over the film seemingly want to like it, but only rewarding it with a B- (and that was one of the more initial positive reviews). In fact, so few of my peers seemed to champion it (and those who didn’t like it hated it), that I tossed it in the back of my mind as a disappointing misfire for Daniels. Financier Millennium Entertainment decision to distribute the picture themselves seemed to be the final nail in the coffin. If no mini-major was going to take the time to acquire a “sexy melodrama” starring a mostly shirtless Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack and Matthew McConaughey it wasn’t worth rushing to see, right?