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.
The 'Ted' director brings a fresh spark to the show
If you saw the Seth MacFarlane-hosted season premiere of Saturday Night Live a few weeks back, you likely got a little taste of what to expect at the Oscars this year. The Academy has announced that MacFarlane will emcee the 85th edition of the film awards ceremony, hot off a hit summer movie in "Ted" and, of course, years of success with television's "Family Guy."
"It's truly an overwhelming privilege to be asked to host the Oscars," said MacFarlane via press release. "My thoughts upon hearing the news were, one, I will do my utmost to live up to the high standards set forth by my predecessors; and two, I hope they don't find out I hosted the Charlie Sheen Roast."
Newly minted Academy president Hawk Koch added, "Seth is unbelievably talented. We couldn't be happier with the creative team we've assembled. With Craig [Zadan], Neil [Meron], and now Seth, we're off to a great start." It should also be noted, this will be MacFarlane's first appearance on the Oscar stage.
Best Picture hopefuls look to sustain early season buzz
Here's what I think happens. A film is seen. It's genuinely loved. Like minds attract and in the intimate atmosphere of a film festival, the love grows. But with the love comes a desire for others to love, too. So the selling starts. The passion takes hold. And soon, even defenders of the film are damaging it, taking defensive positions, not allowing it to breathe freely and make its way unsuspectingly to fresh eyes like it did theirs.
This, I think, happens every year. And I'm not above it. A number of films are getting the advocacy treatment early on, siphoning precious gas needed to run the course. And favorites are being chosen, aggressively, by those fortunate enough to get the early, taste-making look. But fans of "Argo" won't concede the film's thinner-than-most thematic structure while knocking "Life of Pi" or "Silver Linings Playbook." Fans of "Silver Linings Playbook" won't concede its formulaic rom-com tendencies while knocking "Argo" or "Life of Pi." And fans of "Life of Pi" won't concede its clunky framing and extraneous elements while knocking "Argo" or "Silver Linings Playbook."
Plus: Awards for Spain's Oscar submission, and the Reel Geezers return
As if you ever thought otherwise, film critics are not an easily satisfied people, but we seem particularly agitated lately. In the past two weeks, we've had David Denby decrying the state of American filmmaking, Stephanie Zacharek questioning her colleagues' notions of importance, and now Andrew O'Hehir has jumped in to declare film culture dead. While conceding that plenty of good films are being made today, he wonders whether anyone outside of specialised cinephile circles really notices or cares anymore, as TV grows in water-cooler status: "I’m looking in the mirror and thinking about the purpose of what I do, which is supposed to be communicating with people, sharing ideas and generating discussion." Are film critics still doing that? And does it matter if that's becoming a more intimate, but equally impassioned conversation? I say yes and no. [Salon]
The film has had a rocky reception since premiering earlier this month
Arguably no film has suffered a steeper fall on the autumn festival circuit than Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder." The usually slow-working director's unexpectedly prompt follow-up to last year's Palme d'Or winner "The Tree of Life" entered the Venice Film Festival, together with Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master," as its prime attraction. By the time it moved on to Toronto, however, many critics seemed to be wishing he'd taken a little more time.
The Venice premiere was by no means disastrous. Inevitably, as with "The Tree of Life" at Cannes, some boos greeted the closing credits at its morning press screening, and were swiftly, even gleefully blown out of proportion by the media, but it had its fair share of admirers, too -- of which I was one. (Indeed, I'm one of the very few who thinks the film a step up from "Tree.") The Toronto reception, however, was rockier: with expectations already dampened by the mixed advance word from Europe, a lot of critics positively seemed to revel in sticking the boot in, while claims to the effect of "Malick's worst film" rapidly became consensus.
Rian Johnson's latest hits theaters this weekend
- Critic's Rating B+
- Readers' Rating B+
I've said plenty about "Looper" in the podcasts but haven't really had a chance to sit down and write something up. I'll get to it, maybe, but I'm content in loving this film whether I get around to writing about it or not. And I'd love to hear the readership's thoughts, too, so if/when you make it out to see it this weekend, do come on back here and give us your take.
Also: Surveying the Best Actor field and disagreeing on 'Silver Linings Playbook'
Welcome to Oscar Talk.
In case you're new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is a weekly kudocast, your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is weekly, every Friday throughout the season, charting the ups and downs of contenders along the way. Plenty of things change en route to Oscar's stage and we're here to address it all as it unfolds.
This week the New York Film Festival is launching and October is right around the corner. We're catching up with this and that along the way and have plenty to mull over as always, so with that, let's see what's on the docket today...
The visionary filmmaker taps a narrative of soul and spirit
NEW YORK -- Translating Yann Martel's award-winning novel "Life of Pi" to film has proven to be a daunting task for filmmakers kicking the tires on it for the better part of a decade, but in the hands of someone like Ang Lee, it was already getting off on the right foot. While the film, which opens the New York Film Festival this evening, takes some time revving past a clunky first act, it eventually settles into a visionary sweet spot for well over an hour. Messy though it may be, it's affecting on the whole for the truths with which it concerns itself and the journey it so passionately suggests.
The story of the film is the visual scope of the endeavor, and Lee's work with visual effects artists and cinematographer Claudio Miranda ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "TRON Legacy") has produced some of the most awe-inspiring images likely to grace a screen this year. And indeed, Lee wanted that extra power, so much so that he was basically thinking of 3D before he was thinking of 3D, as he put it at a press conference this morning. "I didn't think it was possible without 3D," he said. "It needed another dimension."
Also: 'Life rights' in 'The Hurt Locker,' and Kylie talks 'Holy Motors'
The New York Film Festival kicks off its golden-anniversary edition tonight with the world premiere of Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" -- Kris will be on hand to offer his thoughts. In the meantime, A.O. Scott shares his notes on the films he's seen from the lineup, including "Pi," which he describes as "a lavish reminder that film nowadays is sometimes not film at all, but rather a rapidly evolving digital art form." He also notes that it's an unusually large-scale choice of opener for an arthouse-dominated fest that kicked off with an Alain Resnais film three years ago. Have they sold out? Scott discusses. [New York Times]
A 1928 Best Picture nominee by Ernst Lubitsch is still at large
Fixating as we do on the seasonal ins and outs of the Oscar process, it’s easy to forget that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a purpose beyond handing out gold stars to the industry’s great and good. As an organization dedicated both to the development and preservation of the medium, they have fostered a wealth of films and archive materials that have scant relationship to the Academy Awards. Little wonder they warmed so to the film-preservation paean that was “Hugo” last year.
Still, when their archiving obligations overlap with celebration of the awards that made them famous, it’s an irresistible promotional opportunity for AMPAS. Hence the launch of their Oscar’s Most Wanted movement, which seeks to complete their library of every single film, short or feature-length, that was once graced with the golden man’s touch.