This week's report about Meryl Streep potentially being campaigned in the supporting actress category for her performance in John Wells' "August: Osage County" reminds of a slew of actors in a similar boat this year, dancing with category selection with arguments to be made on both sides.
Studios strategize on what's best but at the end of the day AMPAS will have its say
Also, an FYC plea for his 'Lone Ranger' score
Okay, I'm just going to put this out there: I would really, really like Hans Zimmer to get an Oscar nomination for his tremendous score to "The Lone Ranger." The film may already be a punchline in industry circles -- undeservedly so, I think -- and the film's makers haven't done themselves any favors with their silly complaints of critical conspiracy. But it's one of the most remarkable crafts showcases Hollywood has produced this year (yes, the production budget is ludicrous, but at least it's evident), and Zimmer's elaborate orchestrations are among its foremost virtues.
The director of 'Take Shelter' and 'Mud' is back at work
Jeff Nichols' "Mud" may be fresh in everyone's mind this summer, but the film -- which premiered at Cannes almost a year before its eventual release -- is old news for its eager writer-director, who's already at work on his fourth feature.
And if you thought the Southern-fried coming-of-age tale found the maker of "Shotgun Stories" and "Take Shelter" embracing a slightly brighter shade of indie, you'll note that his flirtation with the mainstream has become a commitment: backed by Warner Bros., the supernatural adventure "Midnight Special" will be his first studio production.
Elizabethan royalty porn is back in style
A couple of weeks ago, Kris and I cast an eye over a number of upcoming prestige films still seeking US distribution as they head into the fall festival season. One of the longer shots for awards consideration on that list was “MARY Queen of Scots” (no, I don’t know what the capitalization is about either), a French-made take on the life of the ill-fated 16th-century royal, in which the eponymous Mary Stuart is played by relative newcomer Camille Rutherford. It’s a role that landed Vanessa Redgrave a Best Actress Oscar nomination for 1971’s rather stodgy “Mary Queen of Scots,” and the Academy’s taste for British royalty hasn’t waned since.
The pair selected for this year's Conversations with Screen Composers series
Last year, BAFTA inaugurated its Conversations with Screen Composers series, which proved a popular one: it's always nice to see industry groups highlighting its artists outside an awards context, particularly in a forum that's open to the public. Rachel Portman, the first woman to win a scoring Oscar, was the most prominent of three composers whose work was discussed and performed in a showcase at London's iconic Royal Albert Hall. The format was successful enough that it's being repeated this year with two significant film composers: Dario Marianelli and George Fenton.
A role that won a leading Tony Award is reportedly sniffing out secondary turf
Anyone who's seen "August: Osage County" on stage knows that the role of Violet Weston, originated by Deanna Dunagan in the Steppenwolf Theatre production of Tracy Letts' play in Chicago and later reprised in a Tony-winning turn on Broadway, is catnip for any actress. Full of broad strokes and opportunity for chewing the scenery, it's a role that would have put whoever ended up with the film gig -- certainly Meryl friggin' Streep -- right in the middle of the Oscar race.
It's a clear leading role in a play with two of them (the other being Violet's daughter Barbara, originated by Amy Morton on stage and played by Julia Roberts in the film). Both, in fact, were nominated for Tonys, but the "bigger" role of Violet naturally brought in the attention and, ergo, the awards. So I don't quite know how you shuffle that performance, particularly coming from Streep, over to a supporting actress campaign, as Gold Derby is reporting, unless there has been some tinkering done with the script to make Barbara more of a fulcrum for the thing (which she kind of already is to an extent).
Could the young adult adaptation be another Oscar play for the studio this year?
Fox has made a big splash recently with materials for Ben Stiller's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," positioning it well with a New York Film Festival debut and pretty much following the "Life of Pi" playbook for what could be the filmmaker's first big awards player to date. But meanwhile, a Holocaust drama from a "Downton Abbey" director with Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson and 12-year-old lead actress has been quietly positioned in the midst of the Oscar fray and could be another player for the studio.
Neill Blomkamp's 'District 9' follow-up hits theaters today
I kept almost not liking "Elysium," but ended up being totally won over by it. Whatever that means. The thought I had coming out of the screening was that there are few filmmakers I want to keep making movies more than Neill Blomkamp. In my opinion, reviews harping on the heavy-handed message of the film miss the forest for the trees. Sometimes a point ought to be made heavy-handedly, and after all, sci-fi isn't necessarily the refuge of the subtle. Anyway, I'm a fan. I'll be interested to hear whether or not you are, too, so if you see the film this weekend, cut loose with your thoughts in the comments section and feel free to vote in our poll below. And if there's something else you've seen recently and want to discuss, consider this an open thread to do just that.
Disney drama will have its European premiere there, so is NYFF first?
Two years ago, Rachel Weisz was the unofficial mascot of the London Film Festival, as "360" and "The Deep Blue Sea" opened and closed the fest, respectively. This year, Tom Hanks finds himself in that position, and this year's festival will be bookended by both his Oscar-buzzed prestige dramas. Paul Greengrass' thriller "Captain Phillips" was announced as the opening film last week; now John Lee Hancock's "Saving Mr. Banks," in which Hanks stars as Walt Disney opposite Emma Thompson's P.L. Travers, will close things out on October 20.
Stephen Frears' film will premiere in Competition at Venice
Judi Dench was a near-annual presence in the Oscar race for a time, though it's been seven years since she scored her last nomination (her sixth) for her remarkable work as an unhinged schoolteacher in "Notes on a Scandal." I maintain that she deserved the Oscar that year, but she had no chance against fellow British veteran Helen Mirren, who won Best Actress at Venice for her turn as QE2 in Stephen Frears' "The Queen" before bulldozing her way through the season. Which is funny, since that's pretty much the narrative Dench is seeking to emulate with her titular performance in Frears' latest, "Philomena."