Also: Gandolfini in 'Zero Dark Thirty,' and revisiting the best of the 90s
Attention, "Django Unchained" pre-fans! Please note that we're leading off today's roundup with the film -- all brownie points will be graciously received. Anyway, it's looking likelier that a rumor I first heard at the Venice Film Festival a month ago may come to pass: Tarantino's latest could have its world premiere at the rapidly growing Rome Film Festival. Fest director Marco Mueller, who was dumped by Venice last year, certainly sounded confident when he announced the screening of two surprise films in the Italian capital next month: "You will see Tarantino soon, here. You will see him here soon for a big surprise... This is something we will announce in detail in a few days' time, and you will see that Django will be stepping on the stage of the Auditorium." If true, that's a massive coup for a festival that never used to get much attention. Watch out, Venice. [Reuters]
An in depth video interview with the - yep - acclaimed filmmaker
BEVERLY HILLS - Ben Affleck is battling bronchitis. In fact, when he appears to introduce his acclaimed new film "Argo" at its official LA premiere a few days later, his cough and haggard voice will be even more pronounced. This day though, it's slight enough to just seem like a simple cold. Considering the love his new thriller has received since its sneak premiere at the Telluride Film Festival a month before, the momentary illness may be the toughest fight Affleck has to face at the box office or during "Argo's" expected awards season run.
The couple will both be honored with BFI Fellowships at the fest
The 56th BFI London Film Festival kicks off tonight with the UK premiere of Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie” -- it's playing as I write this, in fact -- but Burton’s moment at the festival isn’t limited to the curtain-raiser. Indeed, a couple of further showcase events have combined to make the kooky London-based director the festival’s unofficial mascot – in tandem with his personal and professional partner in crime, Helena Bonham Carter.
Indeed, there’s a pleasing symmetry to Burton and Bonham Carter’s presence at the LFF. While he is opening proceedings, she gets to see them out: the festival will close on October 21 with Mike Newell’s new adaptation of “Great Expectations,” in which she takes on the plum role of Miss Havisham. Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, the selections ensure that the offbeat couple could be in red-carpet attendance – in all their uncombed glory – at both ends of the fest. (It’s almost as if programmers were miffed that “Frankenweenie” is Burton’s first HBC-free project in 13 years. They mustn’t be separated, dammit.)
Fox Searchlight is releasing the Hollywood portrait in prime Oscar season
"Hitchcock" is the late arrival in this year's Oscar race, yanked forward from Fox Searchlight's 2013 slate into a prime-bait November slot. Does that mean they think they've got something genuinely special on their hands --, or just easy fodder for acting nominations, given the Academy's recent weakness for famous people playing other famous people?
A newly unveiled trailer doesn't do much to answer the question, though it does confirm what early marketing materials suggested: that "Anvil!" director Sacha Gervasi's film -- not a formal biopic, despite what the bland title promises, but a study of the making of "Psycho" -- is taking a comedic approach to the material. Given Hitchcock's own playful sene of humor, that seems the right approach to take... though let's hope the film has a black edge to it, and isn't just a puffball in the "My Week With Marilyn" vein.
Surveying the year's leading ladies as the season commences
It's an annual (if not always accurate) complaint: the Best Actress category is so much weaker than its male counterpart. Even when that does seem to be the case, however, that statement doesn't paint the full picture. Every year, there's an abundance of rich, challenging female lead performances to be found -- just not always in the kind of film Academy members are generally willing to consider. Blame them to some extent, but also blame Hollywood for ensuring that so many gifted actresses have to look to the indie and arthouse fringes for opportunities to shine.
Earlier this year, pundits suggested that the Best Actress field was looking even thinner than usual. As we crawl closer to awards season, picking up festival discoveries and critical favorites along the way, it's looking increasingly competitive -- with only one name, I'd venture, assured a spot on the ballot. Thanks to the trend described in the above paragraph, it's a varied an unusual field, with frontrunners ranging from a red-hot Hollywood ingenue to an 8-year-old amateur to not one, but two, marvelous French-language Cannes sensations. 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 Actress Contenders page.
Also: 59 world premieres at Rome, and a taste of the 'Skyfall' score
In what will be a handy boost to her Best Actress Oscar campaign for "Rust and Bone," French star Marion Cotillard will receive a career tribute at next month's IFP Gotham Independent Film Awards, traditionally the first stop on the awards calendar. Also due to receive non-competitive honors at the ceremony are Matt Damon, David O. Russell and Participant Media chairman Jeff Skoll. The ceremony takes place a little over a week after Cotillard's film lands in US theaters. Joana Vicente, director of the IFP, stated: "Marion Cotillard is not only a delight to watch, she is one of the most talented women working in cinema around the world today. Her acting choices are always challenging and rewarding, and her performances show that she is a truly skilled artist, totally dedicated to her craft. We are so honored to present this Tribute to a woman of her magnitude.” Here's hoping the Academy agrees. [Filmmaker]
Roadside will release her intimate family portrait in mid-2013
I'm a bit behind the curve on this news, but since it was rather buried beneath the surge of autumn Oscar-contender updates, I thought it worth flagging up anyway. I've recently been combing the US release calendar for possibilities in the Best Documentary Feature race, looking in particular for the slightly left-of-center contenders that routinely pop up in the branch's shortlist -- the eligibility rules may have changed this year, but we have no reason to think voters will suddenly start focusing more intently on much-hyped frontrunners.
In doing so, I found myself wondering what became of "Stories We Tell," Sarah Polley's lovely non-fiction debut -- a critical hit at the Venice and Toronto festivals that did rather well for itself by scoring a US distribution deal with a relatively high-profile indie outfit, Roadside Attractions. In recent years, Roadside has been a tidy little player in the Oscar race, scoring major nominations for "Winter's Bone," "Biutiful," "Albert Nobbs" and "Margin Call," in all cases against significant odds. However, they made their name with the Academy in the documentary race: founded in 2003, they landed their first nod less than two years later with "Super Size Me," and took the win five years later with "The Cove."
Rounding up a (very) few words from an old pro
Five years ago Alan Arkin won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work in "Little Miss Sunshine," an award many thought would end up going to "Dreamgirls" star Eddie Murphy. He's back knocking on the door of another tip of the Academy's hat with his work as a cranky, seen-it-all film producer in Ben Affleck's "Argo." But he probably couldn't care less.
"To me that's a euphemism for saying, 'I liked your work,'" he says of awards speculation by telephone. "I'm just as happy with people saying that."
Nevertheless, as short-answered and moderately cantankerous as Arkin can be in an interview situation, there's something lovable there. He's not the sort who has to work the circuit hard to get kudos because, after all, we're talking about someone whose first nomination was 45 years ago (for "The Russians are Coming the Russians are Coming"). He's been there. Done that. So the terse replies to queries become a bit of a warm blanket that lets you admit, yes, this is all rather silly.
Also: The landing of 'Lincoln,' and Variety finds a home
Pete Hammond reports that the Weinsteins have won yet another Oscar race: the annual scramble to see who can get the first formal For Your Consideration screener mailed out to voters -- an early-bird strategy that has previously paid off for under-the-radar contenders like "A Better Life" and "Frozen River." (Millennium sent out "Bernie" a while back, but it was a commercial disc that didn't comply with official Academy regulations.) The lucky beneficiary? French Oscar submission "The Intouchables" -- an obvious contender for Best Foreign Language Film, but a crowdpleaser that I think most pundits are underestimating in other categories. Omar Sy is an outside shot who shouldn't be discounted in the Best Actor race, while I recently added the film to my Best Original Screenplay predictions. [Deadline]
Tommy Lee Jones is 'exceptional'
NEW YORK - On Monday night, the New York Film Festival held their second (apparently now annual) 'Secret Screening.' Last year, at the first such screening, audiences were treated to Martin Scorsese's then merely award contender "Hugo," this year they got a look at Steven Spielberg's upcoming "Lincoln."