'Zero Dark Thirty' star takes on the kind of female role Hollywood lacks
Remember last year when Jessica Chastain was everywhere? It wasn't by design. After being discovered by Al Pacino some years ago during an audition, the actress made her way into the business. She was cast by Pacino (who she called her "acting godfather" at last year's Palm Springs awards gala) in "Wilde Salome" and landed roles in a slew of other films that all just happened to drop at once. So 2011 became her big coming out...to the tune of an Oscar nomination for her work in "The Help" and various precursor wins for her performances in that film, "Take Shelter" and "The Tree of Life"
Well, she arguably deserved to win the Oscar over her "Help" co-star Octavia Spencer last year, but we all figured we'd see her again. A talent like this doesn't just fade away. But who knew it would bubble up again so soon? While Sony has been busy keeping a lid on most of the details of Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty," right down to the specificity of the role Chastain would play in the film, the Best Actress race has been slowly congealing into a big bid for Chastain's fellow young ingenue Jennifer Lawrence in "Silver Linings Playbook." But I'm betting that's all about to change.
The 1988 classic will be re-released for its 25th anniversary in 2013
I briefly mentioned last week how GKIDS are swiftly establishing themselves as the first name in arthouse animation -- in large part thanks to their recent haul of three Oscar nominations in three years. (Their first-ever acquisition, "The Secret of Kells," got the nod in 2009, while "Chico and Rita" and "A Cat in Paris" both cracked the 2011 lineup.)
Arguably an even bigger coup for their reputation as an animation house, however, has been the pact they formed last year with Studio Ghibli, the Japanese giant whose films were previously distributed Stateside by Disney. Not only will GKIDS be releasing Ghibli's latest film "From Up on Poppy Hill" -- one of their four Oscar hopefuls this year -- in US theaters next March, but they've also secured the theatrical rights to 14 titles from the Ghibli library, many of them directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Those include 2002 Oscar winner "Spirited Away," 2005 nominee "Howl's Moving Castle" and enduring children's favorite "My Neighbour Totoro."
From 'Foreign Correspondent' to 'The Birds' and everything in between
With HBO's "The Girl" hitting the small screen recently and Sacha Gervasi's "Hitchcock" due in theaters this week, and with Universal's big boxed set of most of Alfred Hitchcock's great works on shelves, it seems that most identifiable of rotund maestros of the cinema is en vogue. But what has always been fascinating about "Hitch" for Oscar watchers is that, despite his legendary status -- "the premiere image-maker of the 20th century," as author Mark Cousins called him -- the man never won a competitive Oscar.
It really does seem like Oscar's big miss. Stanley Kubrick is a big deal -- my favorite filmmaker -- but there's something really strange about a guy like Hitchcock, who certainly never dallied in inaccessible realms, having never received his due. Sure, a mid-career work won Best Picture, and he received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award from the Academy in 1968, but Best Director eluded him throughout. As did the DGA prize, in fact (though the guild saw fit to bestow lifetime achievement recognition the very same year he received the Thalberg).
Also: THR's Actress Roundtable, and 'The Hobbit' faces a PETA problem
It's been 15 years since Anthony Hopkins was last in the Oscar hunt, and even with Best Actor buzz brewing around his performance in "Hitchcock," he's in no hurry to get back on the campaign trail. Though he's not as impolite as Joaquin Phoenix recently was about the institution itself, he doesn't mince words when speaking about the "disgusting" process of industry glad-handing in pursuit of a nomination: "Kissing the backside of the authorities that can make or break it... It makes me want to throw up, it really does. It's sick-making. I've seen it so many times. I saw it fairly recently, last year. Some great producer-mogul and everyone kisses this guy's backside. I think, 'What are they doing? Don't they have any self respect?' I wanted to say, 'Fuck off.'" [Huffington Post]
Will she break through in the Best Actress race?
I've been kind of waiting to see how J.A. Bayona's "The Impossible" will fare with Academy and guild voters. The film hit first at Toronto. I saw it just before that and loved it. It felt, to me, like a sure-fire Oscar play. But will it find room in the bait-infested waters of December?
An award for star Naomi Watts will sure give it some higher wattage going into the holidays, and that's just what the Palm Springs International Film Festival has done. Watts will receive the Desert Palm Achievement Award at the 24th annual fest, an award that, in recent years, has gone to Michelle Williams, Natalie Portman, Marion Cotillard, Anne Hathaway, Charlize Theron, Kate Winslet and Halle Berry in recent years.
She's more concerned with getting attention for the movie than winning an Oscar
In a recent Long Shot column, I wrote about the shabby treatment typically given by awards pundits and voters alike to the Best Actress category, a race routinely described as "weak" due to the scarcity of major female-propelled prestige titles -- despite the abundance of outstanding work on the independent, genre and foreign fringes. One of the names I highlighted as unlikely to receive the attention they deserve was Linda Cardellini, whose measured, quietly aching performance as a returning war vet in Liza Johnson's microbudget debut feature "Return" went largely unseen on its release back in February.
I'm not the only one who believes the film and the actress, still arguably best-known for her TV work in "Freaks and Geeks" and "ER," deserve a second look. Over the weekend, the LA Times reported that Cardellini herself is launching a self-financed awards campaign for herself and for the film, mailing screeners to all 2200 members of the Screen Actors' Guild nominating committee, as well as to the actors', directors' and 'producers' branches of the Academy. More power to her, I say.
She praises the "extraordinary emotional depth" of McGregor's performance
LONDON - You may remember that two years ago, Julia Roberts attracted some attention in awards-watching circles when she held a private industry screening of "Biutiful" in aid of Javier Bardem's Best Actor campaign -- not because she was in any way involved or invested, but simply because she believed the performance was worthy of recognition, and wanted more of her colleagues to see it. We'll never know how much of an influence Roberts' efforts had, but together with the attached publicity, they certainly didn't hurt: Bardem came from behind to score a nomination for a challenging, little-seen foreign film, and in a competitive category to boot.
This trend of peers effectively campaigning for each other looks set to continue, and we had this season's first instance of it last night at London's Soho Hotel, where Oscar-winner Angelina Jolie hosted an intimate reception and screening of "The Impossible" -- chiefly to talk up the performance of her friend Ewan McGregor. (Before you hit IMDb to jog your memory: no, they've never worked together.) I was lucky enough to be in attendance.
A quartet of Oscar-winning filmmakers hold out on the season
I mentioned this on the podcast Friday and in a column recently, I think, but the lull has been considerable this year, it seems. The waiting for late-season contenders, I mean. It's subjective. Maybe I'm just coming from a weird perspective. But enough of it has to do with the four big remaining entries -- "Django Unchained," "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," "Les Misérables" and "Zero Dark Thirty" -- having been watched like a hawk as they race toward completion.
There has been this and that in the interim. Since the New York Film Festival dropped "Flight," "Life of Pi" and "Lincoln" onto the season we've gotten "Hitchcock" (which I liked), "This is 40" (Judd Apatow's richest work) and "Promised Land" (which has been shown a few times -- I'm seeing it today). But mostly it's been anticipation for what the aforementioned quartet will have to offer the season.
Also: Playing down the 'Skyfall' Oscar buzz, and a look at the doc feature race
We all know genre films don't usually get the respect they deserve from the Academy, and the same goes for the actors in them: when pressed for options, voters will nominate a Sigourney Weaver in "Aliens," but they're generally more comfortable filling out the ballot with sundry biopics and prestige dramas. Geoff Berkshire wishes that would change this year, citing Liam Neeson in "The Grey," Mark Ruffalo in "The Avengers" and Christopher Walken in "Seven Psychopaths" as examples of actors who "elevated the material" with their performances. (Perhaps the problem lies in the perception that genre material even needs elevation?) I'd throw Elizabeth Olsen in "Silent House," Javier Bardem in "Skyfall" and assorted supporting players in "Killing Them Softly" into the mix -- how about you? [The Vote]
Plus: Interviews with Aaron Johnson, Domhnall Gleeson, Jude Law and Matthew Macfadyen
LOS ANGELES - Last Thursday, "Twilight" fans everywhere were anxiously getting ready to take their final bite of Bella, Jacob and Edward. And, as we soon discovered, history fans across the country were scouring to see if "Lincoln" was playing in a multiplex close by. I, on the other hand, ended up revisiting one of this season's expected awards season players, "Anna Karenina."