Things haven't exactly gone swimmingly for Paul Haggis since he won that contentious Best Picture Oscar for "Crash" nearly eight years ago. Clint Eastwood's "Letters from Iwo Jima" nabbed him another writing nod a year later, and a pair of new-model Bond films kept him ticking over, but on the directorial side of things, it's been a case of diminishing returns. Only a surprise Best Actor nomination for Tommy Lee Jones kept "In the Valley of Elah" from sinking without trace, while the Russell Crowe-starring thriller "The Next Three Days" was pretty unmemorable pulp. Reviews out of Toronto for his latest, "Third Person," didn't exactly suggest the slide had been reversed.
The Oscar winner's latest met with a tepid response at Toronto
But do Disney and Idina Menzel have it wrapped up with a 'Frozen' showstopper?
We're a little ways off yet from the Academy unveiling its long list of eligible contenders in the Best Original Song Oscar race. But in the meantime, and particularly since we finally started populating the category's Contenders section with entrants in the last week or so, it doesn't hurt to put a finger to the wind and see what's what.
Does Disney have this in a cake walk or is that just the benefit of marketing?
The Academy has announced this year's short list of Best Animated Short contenders, and as always, it's a varied crop of tone, form and style.
'It made me feel like you’ve got to put everything into a movie.'
The production of the Warner Bros. western "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" is a unique entry in the annals of cinema history. The studio had been courting Andrew Dominik for some time, eager to work with the director of 2000's "Chopper," and he had a gem of a project for them to consider: a film about the outlaw Jesse James, based on a dense novel he found at a second-hand bookstore in Melbourne, Australia, with Brad Pitt in the iconic role.
Surely the studio saw dollar signs. Brad Pitt as Jesse James? It must have felt a few steps removed from a Batman movie. Batman in the wild west. But what Dominik had in mind wasn't a Batman movie. It was a deeply ponderous, Malickian thing that would speak to themes of celebrity and a dying age. This would not be Jesse James in his prime. This would be, as the title lays bare, the end of a legend, and all the artistry such an unconventional take on that legend would suggest.
It's a bigger hit than you think
A little surprise happened at the art house over the past few months. Fox Searchlight's late addition to the September release schedule, "Enough Said," has become one of the biggest indie releases of the year.
Also: The cult of 'The Counselor,' and a plea for non-suffering black characters
You've got to feel a bit for Naomi Watts. Her 2013 started so promisingly, with a second Oscar nomination for "The Impossible." She'd waited pretty long, and fought pretty hard, for it -- cue a second wind for her career, right? Wrong. Well, not yet, at any rate. Only days after the nomination announcement, Watts' silly romantic drama "Adore" (yes, the one where she and Robin Wright shag each other's sons) was laughed out of Sundance. And that wasn't the worst of it: once talked up as a possibility for Oscar nod #3, "Diana" has been humiliated by critics and ignored by audiences. And there was "Movie 43"... Nathaniel Rogers considers her briefly triumphant nightmare year, and wonders what she can do to put it behind her. [The Film Experience]
Another awards season orbit in LA
Alfonso Cuarón returned to Los Angeles this week as "Gravity" completes another awards season orbit. The critically acclaimed phenomenon is battling "12 Years a Slave" for this year's frontrunner status (not that either of them want it) and Warner Bros. took some time Tuesday night to celebrate the $428 million-plus global box office hit.
Sarah Polley's 'Stories We Tell' lands three top nods
So far, "The Act of Killing" is shaping up to be the most celebrated documentary of this awards season. Joshua Oppenheimer's sobering one-off about Indonesian genocide has yet to miss a stop on the circuit: it landed a number of top nods last week for the IDA Awards, and has also landed Best Documentary nods at the Gotham Awards and European Film Awards. Today, it extended its streak with five top nods for the Cinema Eye Awards, which stand alongside the IDAs as the most significant documentary-centered ceremony of the season.
Do we really need a five-wide Animated Feature category?
Yesterday, the news landed that 19 films have been entered for consideration in the Best Animated Feature Oscar race -- a small pool that could get smaller once the Academy starts vetting the submissions for eligibility. (Hard to see the significantly live-action "The Smurfs 2" meeting with their approval, for example, but don't lose heart -- there's always the chance of a history-making Best Actress nod for Katy Perry's voice performance.) The number all eyes are focused on, however, is 16 -- the number of qualifying contenders required for a five-wide nomination field. Fewer than that, and it's down to four; fewer still, and we're looking at three.
Also: Emma Thompson's BAFTA tribute, and studios' co-lead problem
Hans Zimmer will very likely receive the tenth Oscar nomination of his career for his robust, striking score to "12 Years a Slave"; he may well even get his second win. (Yes, he's only won for "The Lion King.") It'll be a suitable capper on what's been a busy year for the German composer: I think he's equally Oscar-worthy for "The Lone Ranger," and there's "Rush" and "Man of Steel" besides. Anyway, the subject of the day's best online read, as he reflects (and gossips) on a range of films he's scored in his career, from "My Beautiful Launderette" to "Inception." On the Oscars, meanwhile, he says, "[They're] incredibly seductive. You see people who you admire and who you think have incredible artistic integrity make complete fools of themselves on that stage. Me included.” [Vulture]