Other formidable contenders include 'Life of Pi' and 'The Impossible'
Every year, it seems as though summer blockbusters try to outdo each other in the realm of visual effects. The rise of 3D has made visual effects even more of a selling point for many films, with two of the last three winners in this category (“Hugo” and “Avatar”) employing such technology.
The Academy Award for Best Visual Effects awards up to four of the hundreds of individuals who create the these elements. More than any other category, being a blockbuster that has made a lot of money helps immensely (though largely that's because blockbusters that make a lot of money tend to be effects-heavy). That said, being a Best Picture nominee certainly helps. And, as I pointed out last year, it helps even more at the win stage.
Until a few years ago, there were only three nominees in this category, chosen from a pre-announced list of seven finalists. This practice was changed effective 2009, and now there are 10 pre-announced finalists, from which five nominees are chosen.
'The Master' and 'Silver Linings Playbook' also recognized
The awards season is "officially" under way today as the first awards show of the season has announced its list of nominees. The Gotham Independent Film Awards are typically good for establishing certain independent films in the race early on, films that hope to maintain a profile throughout the season as the bigger titles do battle. Beneficiaries of Gotham recognition have included "Beginners," "The Tree of Life," "The Descendants," "Winter's Bone," "Black Swan," "The Kids Are All Right," "The Hurt Locker" and "A Serious Man" in recent years.
The 22nd annual slate could prove helpful to a film like Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom," which picked up two nominations including Best Feature, as the film looks to turn summer release goodwill into a Best Picture Oscar nomination. (It landed on DVD/Blu-ray yesterday, which also helps.) Richard Linklater's "Bernie," meanwhile, also nominated for Best Feature, can ride an early wave like this and perhaps more voters will put in the screener and give it a look. This after Millennium Entertainment brought Linklater and star Jack Black to New York and Los Angeles for a few soirées to get the engine humming.
Also: R.I.P. Koji Wakamatsu, and Mendes talks Bond
There may still be a question mark over how well "The Master" goes over with the Academy, but there's little doubt that Joaquin Phoenix is primed for a nomination (at least) for his blazing performance in it. When he gets it, however, it'll be without any help from the actor himself, who has made it quite clear he has no interest in the whole ritual of awards season whatsoever. His interview with Elvis Mitchell touches on many interesting areas, but here are his thoughts on the Oscar-chasing business: "I think it's total, utter bullshit, and I don't want to be a part of it. I don't believe in it... Pitting people against each other . . . It's the stupidest thing in the whole world. It was one of the most uncomfortable periods of my life when 'Walk the Line' was going through all the awards stuff and all that. I never want to have that experience again." Guess he won't be coming to the ceremony, then. [Interview]
If there's one movie she could leave behind it might be this one
BEVERLY HILLS - Helen Hunt may be incredibly nervous on the inside, but she projected an unexpected regal confidence during our short interview for her work in "The Sessions" last week. Obviously, playing a real life character is always daunting. Playing a real life person who was a sexual surrogate to a disabled poet hoping to have his first sexual experience in his late 30's is something else.
The director's 27th theatrical feature is a marvel of design and performance
While Guy is shrewdly noting the potential for British voting contingents to rally behind this or that (particularly "Les Misérables") in this year's Oscar race, I've just emerged from what is undeniably one of the most quintessentially American efforts of the year: Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln." Though the irony of the fact that the titular Commander-in-Chief and the leader of the Union army are portrayed by Brits in the film is not lost on me, I assure you.
Nevertheless, the film -- which has seen a staggered press screening roll-out since its "surprise" New York Film Festival bow last week -- pumps with the blood of a nation and one of its darkest chapters. It's Spielberg's most performance-heavy work to date, and indeed, features a cross-section of character actors and star-caliber players all spouting off dialogue thick with the drama of the moment. Every inch of the frame feels heavy with Importance (with a capital "I"), and for good reason. It's a crucial moment and the need to emboss that fact is never lost on Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner.
In a weak year for UK film, 'Les Mis' carries the Limeys' Oscar hopes
"I'm not going to be narrow enough to claim these fellows can't act,” wrote acidic industry columnist Hedda Hopper in 1964. “They've had plenty of practice. The weather's so foul on that tiny isle that, to get in out of the rain, they gather themselves in theaters and practice 'Hamlet' on each other.”
“These fellows” were, of course, the British – who, much to the chagrin of Hollywood loyalists like Hopper, enjoyed a golden streak at the Academy Awards consistent with the all-purpose ‘British Invasion’ of the mid-60s. When she wrote this, the UK had claimed back-to-back Best Picture wins with “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Tom Jones,” while victories for such British stars as Julie Christie, Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison and Paul Scofield lay ahead.
It’s a love affair the Academy has maintained over the decades, in some periods more passionately than in others: Colin Welland’s cry of “The British are coming!” as underdog “Chariots of Fire” claimed the 1981 Best Picture Oscar signalled another mini-surge. More recently, after a lengthy stretch of American domination, triumphs for “Slumdog Millionaire” in the 2008 race, and “The King’s Speech” two years later, suggested another invasion might be afoot.
Veteran actor is seeking his seventh Oscar nod for 'Silver Linings Playbook'
Though he's still revered as one of his generation's finest, it's been an awfully long time since Robert De Niro's name came up in any kind of awards conversation. Over 20 years have passed since the actor's last Oscar nomination -- his sixth -- for "Cape Fear," and give or take some Golden Globe comedy attention, awards voters have shared in the general consensus that the great man has gone off the boil in his later years.
That dry spell, of course, looks to end this year, with probable Best Picture contender "Silver Linings Playbook" a likely bet to land De Niro his seventh nod -- and his first in supporting since he entered the Oscar fray nearly forty years ago in "The Godfather Part II." With the Weinsteins set to campaign hard for the Toronto fest favorite, De Niro's campaign is already picking up steam: he's getting the Supporting Actor honor at the Hollywood Film Awards (for whatever that's worth, but it's still a publicity opp), and is now set to receive the Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
Also: Carax on Kylie's 'Holy Motors' number, and Foxx talks slavery in 'Django'
Variety's Jon Weisman has fallen a little bit in love with "The Perks of Being a Wallflower." As have many people, including us here at In Contention. Yet the film isn't even being mentioned as a dark-horse Oscar player in most circles. Why so? Because, Weisman, argues, it wasn't tapped for awards glory sight-unseen. Referring to awards season as being run a bit like a high school clique: "[S]ome pics get a head start and others a hurdle based on little more than their loglines. This is true even though movies don't need to please everyone to reach the Dolby Theater in February." (He points to the recent Best Picture nomination for the poorly received "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" as an example of the latter.) What other gems are fighting to be considered awards material? [The Vote]
2013 Best Supporting Actor Oscar Contenders: Leonardo DiCaprio and Tommy Lee Jones round out a crowded field
Is it a wide open field or a battle for two slots?
Predictably, awards season begins with almost every major category either being characterized as too competitive or more wide open then you could possibly imagine. The 2012 best supporting actor field is somehow an intriguing mix of both (at the moment).
One of Sundance's favorite sons comes into full leading man bloom
NEW YORK -- The first time actor John Hawkes heard about Mark O'Brien, the polio-afflicted author, journalist and poet he portrays in the new film "The Sessions," it was due to the Oscars. Documentary filmmaker Jessica Yu had just won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short for 1996's "Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien." Hawkes read a quote from her in the newspaper basically noting that the dress loaned to her for the evening cost more than the budget for her film, and he enjoyed a chuckle over that.
Hawkes knows a little something about low-budget filmmaking, too. After working consistently for years as a character actor on screen and TV, he's become something of an indie darling. "The Sessions" in fact marked his third-straight trip to the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year (at which point the film was titled "The Surrogate"). And 16 years after the Oscars managed to put O'Brien on his radar, he looks entirely likely to pop up on Oscars' radar for his performance of the man.