Let's start with a broad assessment that may or may not be true, but can be taken as close enough for the purposes of this column: there are four Best Actor slots spoken for. What are they? Steve Carell in "Foxcatcher," Benedict Cumberbatch in "The Imitation Game," Michael Keaton in "Birdman" and Eddie Redmayne in "The Theory of Everything." Only one of those films, mind you, has opened and screened for the Academy ("Birdman"). But if I were a betting man, I'd say that quartet is secure. So who slides in besides?
BEVERLY HILLS — Fox Searchlight's "Birdman" flew into limited release this weekend with a fantastic $103,750-per-screen average and plenty of Oscar potential. This comes on the heels of a New York press blitz built around a closing night New York Film Festival berth for the film and with the expectation for limited availability from the ensemble and key crew members during the upcoming awards season (and in lieu of a proper Los Angeles premiere, to boot). At the film's official Academy screening Sunday afternoon, Alejandro González Iñárritu's thematically rich, formally inventive opus drew a sizable turnout (800 or so people in the 1,000-seat venue) and a warm reception that seemed to indicate this one will do well with voters.
"Birdman" flies into theaters this weekend, and with it comes one of the year's most finely tuned and vibrant ensembles. Indeed, as wonderful as Michael Keaton is in the leading role, and as much as actors like Edward Norton and Emma Stone stand out on the periphery, one of the unsung stories of the film is how well the cast jumped through the hoops of production, turning out an incredibly organic community performance.
David Ayer's World War II actioner "Fury" with Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman and Shia LaBeouf has arrived in theaters nationwide. The film enters the awards season without bothering with a festival bow (aside from this weekend's post-release closing night London Film Festival slot). It might be an Oscar contender at the end of the day, it might not, but surely Sony is mostly concerned with finding some box office capital before worrying too much about that.
One of the unique fixtures of an opening weekend in Los Angeles, whether it's an art house release or a studio blockbuster, are filmmakers and sometimes stars popping their heads into a theater to see how their baby plays. Well, if you're going to a screening of the new animated feature "The Book of Life" in the Southland this weekend, there's a good chance you might see Jorge R. Gutierrez dropping by your theater.
The conversation around "Birdman" has shifted a little bit since early raves out of the Venice and Telluride film festivals. Maybe as expected, a number of writers are taking umbrage with a certain critic depiction in the film. Some reviews go so far as to read like performance art based on that depiction. Nevertheless, there was always going to be a bend in that road, and I'm fine with that. But I want to talk about something else. I want to talk about how Michael Keaton deserves the Oscar for Best Actor walking away.
After a quiet bow at the Toronto International Film Festival, a distributor is finally coming to the rescue of writer-director Mike Binder's racially charged drama "Black and White." Excuse me, "Black or White," because someone owned the rights to the former and producers couldn't get it cleared. Sharing a title with a Michael Jackson track is easier, apparently.
The 18th Hollywood Film Awards will mark the first time the pre-season awards bonanza's history airs for public viewing. Because the world needs another televised awards show. They do! Someone does.
With the ceremony's promotion comes a host with a personality worthy of the screen: Queen Latifah. The Oscar-nominated actress, musician and talk show host will will play ringleader to the event, which CBS will air in mid-November.
As massive and business-minded a corporation as it is, Walt Disney Animation leaves room in their pipeline for experimentation. Each year, crew members on any and every rung of the bureaucratic ladder have the opportunity to pitch short films to John Lasseter and the WDA "story trust," a group of the company's veteran directors, writers, and artists. The goal: Push story and animation technology to places where the feature slate can't go (at least, not until the shorts lay the groundwork). Animator Patrick Osborne pitched "Feast" as a living work of concept art — graphic, fluid, and nostalgic — that also fell into the Disney mold, a sweet story of a dog that loves food. Lasseter took to it, and this November, the fully rendered short hits theaters in front of "Big Hero 6."