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Monday
Dec052011

The Girl With the Embargoed Reviews

Mikael Blomkvist: What are you doing?
Lisbeth Salander: Reading the reviews.
Mikael: But they're embargoed!
Lisbeth: ... 

 

Perhaps you've heard about the kerfuffle with the breaking of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo embargo? Usually these behind-the-scenes details are kept private but what happened was simply that David Denby ran his review of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo early since he works for a weekly magazine rather than a daily blog and according to this thorough roundup at The Hollywood Reporter he felt he had to cover some of the important Christmas movies early (space and time limitations) else wait til January for some of them. Sony got very very angry even though the review was positive and basically a love letter to Rooney Mara who I can confirm --- no wait, I can't... I'm under embargo! In the end this amounts to nothing so much as free publicity for Dragon Tattoo and free publicity for David Denby and The New Yorker so everyone wins... though you'll surely read differently elsewhere since people like to get on soapboxes about such things.

Scott Rudin claims that Denby will be banned from his future movies but embargos are broken every year and nothing happens to anyone who breaks them. The studios are so inconsistent about how they handle them from movie to movie -- and even often from journalist to journalist on the same movie -- that it's not always easy to take them seriously. I always obey them but this is only because I'm polite and from the Midwest. But I wish I didn't ;) Playing by the rules generally doesn't help you and you may have heard that 'there is no such thing as bad publicity'? You've heard it because it's true.

Monday
Dec052011

DC Critics Love Movies About Movies... And Dogs

This year marked the 10th anniversary for the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association. What a mouthful their name is. Henceforth WAFCA which omits the DC part but they like it that way.  In their very first year they picked an odd duck for Best Picture by way of the Stiff With Prestige Adaptation Road to Perdition but since then they've hewed much closer to Oscar, only giving two top prizes to films that weren't eventually Best Picture nominees or winners (Eternal Sunshine and United 93). This year they went crazy for movies about movies... with dogs.

DC Film Critics are Dog People. The Artist and Hugo win big.

Let me be clear... In no way does my happy photoshopping imply that President Obama is a member of WAFCA though the Obamas are dog friendly. It's just me thinking 'bout DC and the movies.

Here are the WAFCA prizes...

Film The Artist
Director Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Actress Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
Actor George Clooney, The Descendants
Supporting Actress Octavia Spencer, The Help
Supporting Actor Albert Brooks, Drive


Acting Ensemble Bridesmaids
Adapted Screenplay Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash  The Descendants
Original Screenplay Will Reiser for 50/50
Animated Feature Rango
Documentary Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams 

"Skeletor" is a real healer in Original Screenplay winner 50/50

Foreign Language Film Pedro Almodovar's The Skin I Live In
Art Direction Dante Ferretti and Francesca LoSchiavo for Hugo 
Cinemagotraphy Emmanuel Lubeszki for The Tree of Life
Score Ludovic Bource for The Artist  

The Artist and Hugo are certainly starting the awards season off well. Given that they both opened for the Thanksgiving Holiday does this mean next Thanksgiving we'll see an even larger clusterfuck than this year's insanity?

How long do you think it'll be before one of the critics groups gives the Supporting Actress prize to one or all of the Bridesmaids? Monty didn't totally go for Bridesmaids but then he's not a dog person... er, cat. 

Monday
Dec052011

Which Annie Nominee Has Your Vote For Animated Feature?

The New York Film Critics Circle recently opted out of honoring a best animated feature (and unless I'm mistaken it was an afterthought win for Rango at the NBR since it wasn't in the first wave of articles). Will awards bodies lose their keys to this category since realizing Cars 2 was a lemon? If you stop to think about it for more than two seconds it's decidedly ungenerous at best and horribly offensive at worst. It sheds an unflattering light on the initiable embrace of the animated ghetto categories, suggesting they were only created to honor Pixar to begin with. Which is... rather shameful if you ask me. If the only reason you created a category was to honor Pixar, you shouldn't have created a category. Nobody gives out prizes for "Best Paramount Pictures Release of the Year", you know? Nobody gives out prizes for "Best Weinstein Co. Release of The Year" ["The Academy does!" cried the anonymous heckler. *rimshot*]

What? Rango wasn't good enough for a badge of honor?

So, even if this wasn't the single greatest year for animated film, if you're going to honor the medium, honor the medium. If you change your rules every year who will respect you? (That's a general warning to wishy washy committees, The Golden Satellites, and to the Oscar board of directors themselves who are weirdly starting to act like all their imitators these past few years by second guessing themselves constantly).

But, since the Annie Awards have been honoring animated work for 38 years -- long before Oscar or the critics groups ever thought to honor it --  they'll continute to do just that. They've selected ten "Best Picture" nominees for their 39th annual awards. And even if they felt the need to include Cars 2 to get there, at least they didn't cancel their ceremony when they realized it wasn't revving anyone's engines. I promise to brake break with the car puns no. So sorry!

Annie Awards Best Animated Feature Nominees

 

  • A Cat in Paris - Folimage
  • The Adventures of Tintin - Amblin Entertainment, Wingnut Films and Kennedy/Marshall
  • Arrugas (Wrinkles) - Perro Verde Films, SL
  • Arthur Christmas - Sony Pictures Animation, Aardman Animation
  • Cars 2 - Pixar
  • Chico & Rita - Chico & Rita Distribution Limited
  • Kung Fu Panda 2 - Dreamworks Animation
  • Puss in Boost - Dreamworks Animation
  • Rango - Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present a Blind Wink/GK Films Production
  • Rio - Blue Sky Studios

 

And even if he isn't nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor, Gary Oldman could still win an Annie Award. He's up for best voice acting as "Lord Shen" from Kung Fu Panda 2.

Find this... 'panda'... and bring him to me.
FIND this 'Panda'. And bring him to me.
FIND THIS PANDA AND BRING HIM TO ME!!!"

A complete list of their nominations is after the jump if you'd like to dig deeper. (I was sad that this year they didn't include the info as to which animated characters the individual animators are being honored for designing or animating. If I recall correctly they used to specify which characters, just as in the voice acting honors.)

Click to read more ...

Monday
Dec052011

War Horse Premiere. Oscar Updates Soon.

Just a quick note that tonight -- er, last night -- was a big night. It was the World Premiere of War Horse here in NYC. After I sleep on it, I'll finish updating the Oscar charts for the week. The red carpet was long but, as you know, most of the War Horse cast are relative newcomers.

And most of them took to the stage to introduce the film. It was particularly exciting to see Emily Watson looking great and Tom Hiddleston being ridiculously sexy in what I think was a velvet suit (?). Steven Spielberg apologized that he didn't bring the horse "Joey" on to the stage to introduce the movie but joked that it would not be fair since several horses played the role.  The audience was filled with luminaries as well. Spotted: Phyllicia Rashad, Tyler Perry, Celia Weston, Stephen Daldry (adorably huggy with David Kross who he directed in The Reader and who appears in War Horse), Stephen Lang, Cathy Moriarty and many more but the names or faces are escaping me since there was free liquor. What?

Yesterday it was The Iron Lady. Today War Horse. Tomorrow, it's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo... though as you may have heard online today that one is under strict tetchy embargo. So we'll just pretend I'm not seeing it yet, okay? In short: It must be December. So many movies. So little time to write about them but I'll get to everything as soon as I can! Thanks for your patience.

What did you see this weekend? 

Sunday
Dec042011

Parties: "The Help" Are Singing a Happy Tune

This year I've had the pleasure of attending a few celebratory events for movies. At these luncheons or cocktail parties the filmmakers mingle with media types and Academy members. The most recent was a lunch for The Help held at Desmond's which is quite rectangular like a railroad apartment albeit one with very high ceilings. This gave the event a distinct bottleneck frenzy feel once Oscar buzzing actresses Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer were making the rounds... or in this case walking the aisle. Conversation became next to impossible. After a quick exchange with Octavia (in very high spirits) we both did a double take of mutual fandom; the hilarious Anna Deavere Smith (Nurse Jackie, Rachel Getting Married) was squeezing past us saying a string of goodbyes. By the time I was face to face with Viola Davis, utterly gorgeous and much younger looking in person, she was ending a conversation with a time-hogging reporter in which she was trying to work her way around and straight out of a Meryl Streep as Competition' question. (Viola's take: It belittles the work to view it like that.) I was flustered and not uttering coherent sentences when it was my turn for "hello".

Octavia & Viola speaking to the crowd © Nathaniel Rogers

The highlight of the event found Viola and Octavia and the art direction team addressing the crowd (which included André Leon Talley of Vogue fame - a fan of the movie. who knew?!). There was an awkward moment of silence as they lined up as if on stage. Octavia Spencer broke the tension quipping "We've prepared a song for you" and started humming to tune them which sent Viola into peals of laughter. Then they were off, talking about the expectations placed on them, their nerves about the movie -- you never know if people will end up appreciating your work -- and their eventual joy at being a part of the phenomenon, which one executive called "the gift that keeps on giving". (The Help is still in theaters after 17 weeks and the 11th highest grossing film of the year). 

Viola: What we ultimately saw was something that made us so proud. It's something unlike anything else that's out there. [Pause] Just in the hues of the people! [Crowd laughter]
Octavia: [Posing] And the size!

There were two other very funny bits.

First, a guest asked them how they stopped themselves from killing Bryce Dallas Howard on set. "Well, we did beat the crap out of her one night," Viola said, with mock seriousness to more big laughs. But they quickly launched into a heartfelt discussion of how sweet she is in real life and they thought it would be hard to hate her onscreen. Second, another guest dared asked about the negative response from some pockets of the African American community. There was a beat of silence before Viola stepped to the side with a deadpan "Octavia..." handing her the hot potato question. The two actresses are born entertainers off screen as well. Ultimately they said they were proud that the movie had sparked so much discussion and that discussion was important.

As it turns out the Production Designer Mark Ricker and Set Decorator Rena DeAngelo of The Help were seated directly opposite me at lunch and fun to chat with. Rena had done the pilot for Mad Men (I restrained from freaking out about this reveal but damn). To my amusement, they revealed that they knew their way around online Oscar charts (hey, they brought it up, not me!). As a moviegoer you don't often think about the experience of movie crews leaving one set for another but it was  interesting to hear their relief at how much period fun and color they could bring to The Help after all the time spent with grey sterile interiors for You Don't Know Jack. I told them my favorite set was Celia Foote's (Jessica Chastain) house. They stripped that house bare to decorate it for Celia's tastes and said that Jessica was constantly downing soy milkshakes (she's a vegan) to gain curves for the role.

Ms. Chastain was not in attendance but when the waiters came round to ask if we had any dietary restrictions, I spared a thought for Jessica's soy milk and Celia's limited oeuvre in the kitchen.

Related: The Help review | Best Picture | Visual Oscar Categories | Best Supporting Actress | Best Actress

Sunday
Dec042011

Moët BIFA Awards Spread the Movie Wealth

The Stars gathered this evening in London for the Moët British Independent Film Awards which was ruled by one particular Tyrannosaur and also afforded Michael Fassbender his second best actor prize (following the Venice Volpi Cup) for Shame. He needs to keep nabbing these to stay in play for a very competitive Oscar race.

photo via @shamefilm

Photos and a list of winners after the jump.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Dec042011

Interview: Olivia Colman on "Tyrannosaur" and Mumsy Meryl Streep

British actress Olivia Colman speaks softly and with great modesty but perhaps that's wise. Her talent speaks loudly on its own behalf by way of ntroduction. Though British audiences have embraced her comic talent for years now, international audiences are just now getting to know her as a dramatic force. She's utterly devastating as a meek Christian shop owner in the violent drama Tyrannosaur. The film, directed by the actor Paddy Considine (In America), is gathering a small but very vocal fanbase who think Colman really ought to have a Best Actress nomination in her very near future. Later this month, she'll be onscreen again as Carol Thatcher daughter of The Iron Lady, but even if you exited the first movie only to immediately enter the latter, you'll scarcely recognize her from one film to the next.

We spoke briefly on the phone recently about her rising stardom, drama and comedy acting muscles, and having a living legend as a co-star.

Olivia Colman is a true believer in "Tyrannosaur"

Nathaniel: Have you been able to soak in all of this attention from Tyrannosaur? Your name being on the awards radar here in the US and such?

OLIVIA COLMAN: Not really. it's quite surreal. Because it's not my first job. I'm 37 and i've been working for a long time. So... [long pause]  This job means so much to me that I'm thrilled that people are liking it. That's the best thing about it, that other people are taking it to their hearts as much as we all did.

Nathaniel: Your involvement with Tyrannosaur goes way back. You were also in Paddy Considine's short film "Dog Altogether" about the same characters. Did this feel like a do-over? What was it like going back?

COLMAN: lt felt different. A lot of the scenes from the short were also in the feature and the reshooting of those scenes that we'd done years before were the hardest to film. It's weird because it's like an echo. You can hear yourself. You've already said it but years ago. It felt very different apart from that because we suddenly had a sense of a much longer journey. In the short I didn't know about Hannah's backstory at all. 

Nathaniel: This gave you a chance to dig deeper then?

COLMAN: Yes. It's lovely to get your teeth into it.

Nathaniel: In terms of Hannah's religiosity and her generous nature. How did you approach constructing her? A lot of religious characters in cinema aren't, well, sympathetic like this. 

COLMAN: It was so clear from the page. Paddy had written it so beautifully you just had to do what was written, really.  I knew who she was straightaway. Even if she hadn't been a Christian of good faith, she would still have been a good person. Her faith is sort of her protection and her armor but even without it, I would have known who she was.

Nathaniel: Paddy is such a brilliant actor but he's not in front of the camera for this one. So what it was like being directed by a fellow thespian?

COLMAN: Amazing! It made such a difference. I don't imagine all actors can direct at all. I think probably a lot of them would be terrible but he was so comfortable on that side of the camera. He knew how difficult he found it in front of the camera and he made sure we never felt like that. We always felt safe. He's an extraordinary creature. He would say exactly the right thing to get you to the right place. I've said this before but I think he could get a performance out of a log. He's amazing, just taps in. Everybody wanted to make him proud. And he's a great leader of people. A little thumbs up at the right moment would made someone feel 10 feet tall.

For those of us who don't act, we always assume that sets of intense brutal dramas like this one must be sober or difficult to be on. But maybe it's not like that exactly. 

The "jolly" Tyrannosaur team

[Olivia on working with Meryl Streep and Michelle Pfeiffer... AFTER THE JUMP.]

Click to read more ...