And are we ready for 'School of Jazz?'
Yesterday I sat down with "Bernie" star Jack Black and director Richard Linklater to talk about their latest collaboration, which was critically acclaimed upon release but, as early releases tend to do, faded a bit as the season's big efforts took hold. But Millennium Entertainment is trying to stir a little consideration where it can, bringing the two to New York for a SoHo Apple Store conversation on Monday followed by a late-night soiree at Merc Bar downtown.
"Bernie" marks the second collaboration for Black and Linklater after 2003's "School of Rock." But, despite the fact that, as noted yesterday, Black really responded to Linklater's work as an independent filmmaker, he didn't really think of him for the film (which was written by his friend Mike White, who also stars). It was, in fact, the "stroke of brilliance" from a well-known producer that put the project together with the filmmaker, and the rest, as they say, was history.
The film will close out the New York Film Festival next week
Is Robert Zemeckis's return to live-action filmmaking a triumph? Is Denzel Washington a new, formidable contender in the ever-competitive Best Actor race? Did the New York Film Festival go out with a bang? Those are all questions that will be answered when the 50th annual fest comes to a close on October 14 with the gala presentation of Zemeckis's "Flight."
Surveying the year's leading men as the season commences
As the Oscar season slowly begins cranking up its machinery, we at HitFix are continuing our broad warm-up survey of the possible contenders in each major category, all gathered in a pretty photo gallery for your reference. We kicked off last week with Best Picture, and this week we move on to what -- at this point, at least -- looks to be the most stacked of the performance categories.
Sad to say, due to the way Hollywood works, it seems there are always more baity male roles out there to choose from, but this year looks particularly competitive, ranging from acclaimed known quantities like John Hawkes in "The Sessions" to presumed behemoths like Daniel Day-Lewis's "Lincoln" -- with alternatives including another veteran actor's interpretation of a US president, a former Oscar host looking to prove himself as a dramatic heavyweight, and no fewer than three French-language standouts. (We've left out "Cloud Atlas" only because we're waiting on category confirmation.) Check out the gallery below as we weigh up their individual pros and cons. You can also keep up with the ups and downs of this race at In Contention's Best Actor Contenders page.
Also: Ford on dressing Bond, and 'Looper' for Best Picture
As we were saying the other day, the Best Animated Feature Oscar -- usually sewn up by this time of year -- is still very much up for grabs. Chief among the contenders yet to be unveiled is DreamWorks' "Rise of the Guardians," which I'll probably stop confusing with that Zack Snyder owl movie sometime around 2015. Expectations are high, and the film has just added a small but shiny feather to its cap with the news that it will receive the inaugural Vanity Fair International Award for Cinematic Excellence at the Rome Film Festival next month -- I don't quite know what that means, but it sounds impressive enough. It's also a nice publicity opportunity for the fest itself, which is hosting the film's international premiere. Rome is under the management of former Venice head Marco Mueller, who is looking to make the lesser Italian festival a rival to the Lido in terms of prestige and press. That's a long way off, but he's going about it in the right way. [Rome Film Festival]
Plus: The Gurus of Gold make some post-TIFF predictions
Last week Ang Lee's long awaited adaptation of the popular novel "Life of Pi" opened the 50th New York Film Festival to wide critical acclaim. Richard Corliss of Time called it "a giant leap forward" for filmmaking. Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter referred to it as "gorgeous and accomplished." Justin Chang of Variety was less enthusiastic, but praised the epic as a "harrowing high-seas adventure." HitFix's own Kris Tapley called it "affecting" and praised its "univeralist heart." At the same time, Tapley also noted the picture's clunky first act, and having recently seen "Pi" I have to agree with him.
As the actress is honored at the NYFF, we round up her career highlights
It's a good week to be a fan of Nicole Kidman. First off, her deliciously scuzzy performance in "The Paperboy," Lee Daniels's ripe Southern-Gothic-meets-Southern-Comfort thriller, hits US screens on Friday -- months after hogging the headlines at May's Cannes Film Festival. While checking that out, meanwhile, viewers may be treated to the just-released trailer for another wild-looking genre outing for the actress, "Stoker," from an unlikely director who typifies her off-center taste in collaborators -- South Korean auteur Park Chan-wook.
The icing on the cake, meanwhile, comes tomorrow at the New York Film Festival, where the Oscar-winning actress will be celebrated -- and, of course, interviewed -- in a two-hour Gala Tribute, followed by the US premiere of "The Paperboy." This marks the first year the New York fest have ever done such tributes, which makes the honor all the more distinguished for Kidman, underlining her status as one of the leading actors of her generation.
How the 'Bernie' star first responded to his director's early work
Earlier this afternoon I had a quick lunch with "Bernie" director Richard Linklater and star Jack Black. Millennium Entertainment has the duo in town for a few days hitting the east coast post-DVD circuit, trying to ride some of the buzz on the film and particularly Black's performance and find a little room in the season. They could get there, at least with the Independent Spirit Awards and maybe the Golden Globes.
I'll post the full interview in a few days, but in the meantime, a couple of nuggets about this and that. Like, for instance, Black's first exposure to Linklater's work. Like most, it was the director's debut feature film "Slacker," which, along with Steven Soderbergh's "sex, lies and videotape," was a harbinger of the 1990s independent film explosion. The film also celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. For Black, though, it was also revelatory of a whole community that, for a young actor working the audition circuit, seemed like a truly inspiring place.
Also: The rise of Lionsgate, and India's complex Oscar history
Just yesterday, I was talking about the likelihood of 8 year-old Quvenzhane Wallis becoming the youngest Best Actress nominee on record -- but she's not the only child actor making waves this year. TV critic Mary McNamara goes so far as to label 2012 "the year of the kid," citing a number of young small-screen talents, alongside Wallis and "Moonrise Kingdom" leads Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, as proving the universal storytelling power of "the shared experience of childhood." Not mentioned in her piece, but tying into her argument are Best Actor hopeful Tom Holland from "The Impossible," and two young standouts from foreign Oscar contenders: Berlinale Best Actress winner Rachel Mwanza in "War Witch" and Kacey Mott Klein in "Sister." What others? [LA Times]
Quvenzhané Wallis will have to get that Oscar nod without the Guild's help
When I saw "Beasts of the Southern Wild" back in May at Cannes -- in the early stages of a festival that, for all its cinematic riches, hadn't offered awards pundits much to chew on -- I felt emboldened to make my first confident Oscar prediction of the year: that, whatever the film's fate elsewhere, 8 year-old Quvenzhané Wallis was poised to become the youngest Best Actress nominee in history, on the beguiling strength of her onscreen presence and off-screen charm.
I stand by that call, even if the category has got slightly more competitive than it seemed prior to Toronto. But if/when the young dynamo gets the nod, it'll be without any help from that prime Oscar bellwether, the Screen Actors' Guild -- which has ruled Benh Zeitlin's Sundance sensation ineligible in their 2012 awards. In addition to freeing up a Best Actress spot, that also takes the film out of the running for SAG's ensemble prize.
Plus: Thoughts on Seth MacFarlane's selection as host
What a Monday for Oscar.
First, Adele and Sony Pictures confirms the news everyone already knew, that she has recorded the title track to the new James Bond film, "Skyfall." Second, the Academy announced a somewhat surprising choice to host this year's Academy Awards, Seth MacFarlane. Combined, the duo could help Oscar hit its highest ratings in years.