Oscar History

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Brilliant Subliminal FYC for "Unbroken"

During awards season the mail stacks up like crazy. Check out this FYC ad cover of The Hollywood Reporter. 

All my life I had always finished the race."

Very sly! Even if Unbroken can't win, Louie Zamperini wants to finish the race, you know?! Let him finish the (Oscar) race. He always finished the race!  American Hero. Also if you squint: Chariots of Fire (1981) flashback. That one finished the race much to Reds dismay!

Oh, and while we're on the subject of subscriptions, sign up for our newsletter when we need to give you important info (never more than once weekly - won't clog your inbox!) and so that you miss none of the movie fun we have here.


Imitation Game vs. Whiplash. All in Good Fun

Tonight's Oscar event, another ritzy event with movers and shakers and Oscar winners present, was in celebration of The Imitation Game. But we'll backtrack to that in a moment. Just before heading out, I spotted Damien Chazelle the young/writer director of Whiplash fame and his friend, a composer, in the corner. I popped over to say hi, since they'd been so friendly at a Christmas party for Nightcrawler. Who were they chatting with but Graham Moore who wrote The Imitation Game! 'I guess this is the writer's corner,' I say and congratulated them on their WGA nominations earlier in the day. Imitation will be competing with the writers of American Sniper, Gone Girl, Guardians of the Galaxy (interview), and Wild. Whiplash will be competing with the writers of Boyhood, Foxcatcher, Grand Budapest Hotel, and Nightcrawler.

It suddenly occurred to me, and I verbalized it, that they'll be competitors with each other instead should they both be Oscar nominated on the 15th, considering the Whiplash switcheroo to Adapted. 'Can you tell how much we dislike each other?' they said, laughing, and the joke escalated 'it's even worse now that we're rivals!.' Chazelle is very very nice so I tried not to be disgusted (I kid I kid) at how young he is to be in the thick of the Oscar race. Imagine being an Oscar nominee, before you're even 30! I split hairs: Chazelle turns 30 a few days after Nomination Morning so it'll be quite a birthday present for the big 3-0 should it come to pass.

Bloomberg addresses producer Teddy Scharzman (cast and crew behind them). Photo © Kristina Bumphrey, StarTraks

As for The Imitation Game event...
Mayor Bloomberg spoke as did the producer Teddy Schwarzman and the director Morten Tyldum (who I'd earlier bombed with while trying my broken Norwegian out on him. You can't win them all and I promise I'm not as obnoxious as I sound in these write-ups. I exchange niceties and move on so as not to hog the luminaries since reporters who hog them are The.Worst.) Their speeches stressed frequently that Alan Turing changed the world and mourned the tragedy of his life and persecution due to his homosexuality. They also stressed the team effort, a labor of love with everyone being overworked and underpaid. Bloomberg attempted a joke about that last bit -- at least I hope it was a joke but, you know, card carrying pinko liberal here --  suggesting to the director and producer that that's what you're supposed to do 'overwork and underpay people. How the world works'


The films SAG nominated ensemble was not present but for three: Allen Leech (better known as "Tom" on Downton Abbey) who seemed genuinely grateful about how well his career is going and excited about the SAG nomination in particular. He told me he'd just wrapped an action picture with Sam Worthington and referred to Downton amusingly as 'the big house' but was cagey about whether he'd be back for another round. But the most fun was meeting the two youngest cast members from the film Alex Lawther (the young Alan Turing) and Matthew Beard (Peter Hilton, the codebreaker with the brother at sea). I remarked that they looked just like brothers which they'd heard more than once that night. 'We're standing together so that some producer will see us. Somebody's got to have a brothers picture!' The Imitation Game was Lawther's first movie ... he thinks... 'maybe it was X+Y' he's been very busy very quickly, hence the confusion. He confirmed to my delight that Sally Hawkins (also in X+Y) is just as amazing as you'd think she'd be. 'She's just like her Happy-Go-Lucky character. Well, not really.'

Allen Leech, Moten Tyldum, Matthew Beard and Alex Lawther at the event. Photo ©Kristina Bumphrey Star Traks

Beard, a little more seasoned in the movies, had previously co-starred in An Education (2009). I pointed out that by this time next week he'll already have two Best Picture nominees on his filmography. He hadn't realized it but quickly warmed to the idea, demanding that future scripts comply: 'I only do Best Pictures!'

related: Selma Luncheon, Unbroken party, A Most Violent Year afterparty


Soderbergh's Viewing List Includes "Magic Mike XXL" Three Times! 

By now you've probably heard mention that Steven Soderbergh, he who is officially retired but not really because nobody totally believes it and he still works in various capacities, just posted his list of everything he watched and read this past year. I love Soderbergh's List-Mania more than I even love Soderbergh because I relate. This is now my favorite celebrity listing tradition of each year, not that there are very many consistent ones.

 The whole list is worth reading but I wanted to share nine highlights in the order in which they delighted me.


09 He watched Lisa Kudrow's The Comeback the same day he watched Birdman... a very meta Hollywood day was November 9th.

08. I can't imagine what his Oscar ballot looks like since it appears in the middle of all his TV viewings and plentiful 1970s movies, he only watched nineteen 2014 movies (in order): The Monuments Men, Gone Girl (twice), Under the Skin, Pioneer (the Norwegian film), Finding Vivian Maier, Boyhood, Citizenfour, Birdman, Whiplash, The Babadook, Ida, Nightcrawler, American Sniper, A Most Violent Year, Foxcatcher, Unbroken, Inherent Vice, Selma, The Interview and Top Five. Given that that's all he watched

Let's guess what his Director ballot looks like... Maybe:

  1. Fincher - Gone Girl
  2. Inarritu - Birdman
  3. Linklater - Boyhood
  4. DuVernay - Selma
  5. ...????????? Gilroy? Chazelle? Miller? Anderson?

07. While his TV preference are very typical (all the acclaimed stuff) he seems to really appreciate funny women since he watches:  Inside Amy Schumer, Getting On, Girls, and Veep regularly.

06. Like me and many of you, he read Mark Harris's "Five Came Back" this summer

05. Since he watched American Graffiti again right before our 1973 Smackdown with Dana Delany we're free to pretend that he did it in preparation for enjoying our event! 

04. I can't fathom a double feature of Selma and 2001: A Space Odyssey just before Christmas which is why it's fun.

03. But nothing beats the double feature of Poland's awesome Ida followed by... wait for it... Peter Pan Live! 

02. On Valentine's Day he watched Ice Castles (1978). Love it. Okay maybe it was Ice Castles (2010) but it's more fun to imagine the earlier film. Take it away Melissa Manchester

Please, don't let this feeling end
It's everything I am
Everything I want to be
I can see what's mine now
Finding out what's true
Since I found you
Looking through the eyes of love

01 Look at how many times he's already watched Magic Mike XXL (2015). JEALOUS. Looks like he saw the first cut just five weeks after shooting began. And then twice more within another month. (If you missed our interview with an actress who appears briefly in Magic Mike XXL and told us about it, click here.) For the record, though Soderbergh isn't directing the sequel, he's still involved in multiple aspects including (according to IMDb) as cinematographer, editor, and executive producer. So it's still very much a Soderbergh picture... especially since his long time first assistant director/producer Gregory Jacobs is in the director's chair this time.


The Cinematography Guild's Nominees 

The American Society of Cinematographers chose the following five films as the best shot of the year. According to Twitter The Imitation Game is the odd man out. It was shot by Oscar Faura who is definitely talented (see The Orphanage and The Impossible) but discussions around this film rarely concern themselves with the quality of its cinematography (which can't really be said for the other nominees here). 

1 of roughly 1,890 amazing shots in Mr Turner



It does remind slightly of when The King's Speech got that perplexing actual Oscar nomination for Cinematography over at least a dozen (at least it bears repeating) well shot and more inspiring choices from 2010. Of the ASC nominees only Lubezki has previously won an Oscar (for Gravity) and Roger Deakins is of course ever the Bridesmaid, never the Bride (which we used to be able to say about Lubezki). Dick Pope has one previous nomination to his credit (The Illusionsit) 

Assuming the Oscar race is between Lubezki and Deakins, who do you think will win? Do you think this will be the Oscar list and if you don't which film with acclaimed cinematography (no matter what one thinks of each film) sneak in?  Selma? Interstellar? A Most Violent Year? Wild (interview)? Gone Girl? The Homesman? or something else entirely? My write-in vote is Yorick LeSaux's work on Only Lovers Left Alive.

P.S. My final Oscar predictions are coming next week. Obviously I need to rethink my chart - way off there! We're just waiting for Oscar nomination balloting to close up shop (which happens tomorrow evening). 


Selma Luncheon was a "Glory" 

In the last few days of Oscar voting (balloting ends tomorrow at 5 PM PST) campaigns have been running at full bore with events for numerous films ongoing here in NYC were TFE is based. None of them have been greater than the Selma luncheon yesterday which was a beauty from start to finish. The luminaries really turned out for this one: several former Oscar nominees and winners, famous TV journalists, and Harry Belafonte himself, who we recently honored here to coincide with his Jean Hersholt Huminatarian Award and who was so instrumental in the events of Selma and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

Common, Ava DuVernay, and David Oyelowo at the NBR gala later that evening

I worried at first during the opening speech (my apologies but I forget the name of the man who introduced the event) that the righteous politics and the "importance" button were being pushed with too much force. I should explain: Selma is indeed tremendously important and a political drama. But it's also an extremely good movie and, all too often, the quality of actual movies, gets lost in the Oscar race. Which is to say that a movies execution, and not its concept of subject matter, is what awards should be based on. Anybody can address an important topic or theme or historical event, only visionary talented artists can render it as beautifully and potently as Ava DuVernay has.

My worries were unfounded. Soon all hint of stridency disappeared once the filmmaking team was speaking and humor, humility, tenderness, empathy, universality were also flooding the room. David Oyelowo, interviewed by Oprah's bestie Gale, told a wonderfully moving and funny story wherein he imitated his father's heavy Nigerian accent and shock and glee reacting to Brad Pitt's recent sing-a-long of "Oyelowo"

Our name is on the map now!

...and also his father's reaction to him playing the King of England on stage. His father had moved to the UK decades earlier when racism was prevalent.

I cannot believe that they let a black man play the Kind of England. And that black man is my son.

Recent attacks on Selma's accuracy were addressed both subtly and pointedly. Famous former New York Times reporter Gay Talese, who turns 83 next month, was interviewed about his first screening of the film. He had reported from Selma during the mayhem of that "Bloody Sunday" that is so horrifically dramatized in the film. He admitted that he had sat down to screen the film with considerable skepticism and was stunned that this woman who wasn't even there had captured it just as he remembered it. He urged those who were interested to watch the actual footage that the networks displayed in a moment that he said changed journalism and the country forever.

I loved Ava DuVernay, opening speech.

If you believe in justice and dignity our effort is you. What we tried to do is deconstruct heroes. No one is all saint. No one is all sinner. There are grey areas inbetween: it's called being a human being. And so what we try to do is unencase people from marble, take them out of the pages of a history book, allow them to breathe and become complex. For us to question who they are debate who tehy are. That was our intention and in doing so illuminate this beautiful time, a time that really changed this country. The fact that we can all be in this room together, celebrating as we are as equals, is the direct result of the events we chronicle. 

She also addressed, with some noticeable sadness, the complaints that she had not depicted LBJ correctly and reminded people that it's a distraction from the resonance of the film: that LBJ's great legacy, the Civil Rights Voting Act has recently been dismantled. That's what people should be angry about.

But for all the fine speeches, the highlight of the event was most definitely a live performance of the Original Song contender "Glory". Common's humble opening speech set the inspiring tone. His stillness and hand gestures as he rapped with John Legend's passionate piano and voice on the chorus combined with the sonic depth that the back-up singers and strings behind them supplied made for an exquisite if ultra-short concert (just one song!).

I recorded it for you and saved it at the highest quality my phone could handle and you can listen right here. Common's speech is the first two minutes. The song begins thereafter. This won't approximate how moving it was to be there (it's only the third time they've performed the song live) but the song is too beautiful not to share.




CDG Nominations: The Theory of Wild Budapest Hotels of the Galaxy

The Costume Guild Nominees have been announced. It's worth noting, always, with guilds that their memberships are much broader than their correlative branch within the Academy. Neverthless they often stick closely to whichever movies are being talked up for Best Picture, regardless of their guild-specific merits. Note some of the nominations below.

Excellence in Contemporary Film
Birdman - Albert Wolsky
Boyhood - Kari Perkins
Gone Girl - Trish Summerville
Interstellar - Mary Zophres
Wild – Melissa Bruning

Albert Wolsky is a legend and Trish Summerville has been killing it lately so no complaints there. But the contemporary categories, as with all guilds, are where you can see how distracted people get with their feelings for the movie at hand and not with the [insert field]. My point is this: These are five strong movies but did they even consider, say, Mommy, Only Lovers Left Alive, Neighbors, Begin Again, 22 Jump Street, or Lucy? And if they didn't, shouldn't they have? (At least they didn't nominate Sniper's fatigues or Gyllenhaal's baggy shirts in keeping with the other guilds lockstep devotion to those pictures.)


Click to read more ...


Nicole Kidman ♥ed Jimmy Fallon (Emphasis Past Tense) 

This is going on my list of greatest talk show moments of all time. 

Nicole Kidman once had a crush on Jimmy Fallon and their first meeting was disastrous. Hilarity ensues. They have an extremely difficult time getting back on topic: Paddington, her new film opening in one week's time. Love Nicole's honking laugh. I'll never understand the perception of her as chilly - so warm and funny in person. Maybe she needs a great romantic comedy to shift perceptions?