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Best Actress -- Who will be nominated?
Davis? Blunt? Adams? Chastain?

"I'm glad everyone is cheering Fences on, but I feel that people are overestimating its Oscar potential. The furor reminds me of when people were going ga-ga for August: Osage County. " - Jes

"Davis  in Fences. I saw it on Broadway ... it is a true blue supporting role." - Charlie G

"I really hope it's Amy Adams year, only because some of her stans are so insufferable and will never shut up if she loses again. " - Laura

 

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Saturday
Dec282013

20:13 for 2013 Screencap Fun: Ghosts, Zombies, Flappers

icymi here's part one.

Screencapping fun! We've frozen early 2013 releases* at the 20th minute and 13th second of their running times. Here's what we found. How many of these have you seen and do you think this moment is telling of the whole?

I had been drunk just once twice in my life and the second time was that afternoon."

In case you are illiterate, Baz Luhrmann's got you covered in his version of The Great Gatsby! (He sure is good at shooting party sequences, though. No filmmaker can touch him in that ultra specific place.)

This next screencap I had to lighten a bit so you could actually see it... Bed sheets are being yanked down... but by what/who?

Click to read more ...

Friday
Dec272013

Oscars Postponed Pleasures (?)

[Here is guest columnist Matthew Eng to remind us of four films we may have forgotten. But they'll be back - Nathaniel R]

Postponements happen every year to a few among the many films on Oscar’s selective radar, to movies whose prospects look both bright and, well, bleak. It very nearly happened to Wolf of Wall Street, but for the skilled hands of Thelma Schoonmaker, who rescued the film from both a rumored four-hour running time and a dreaded NC-17. In cleaning up its act, though the film is still dirty, Wolf pushed Chris Pine’s Jack Ryan reboot Shadow Recruit out of its prime Christmas release date, but I’d wager that that project’s Oscar chances were already on the slim side. Let’s take a look back (and forward) at the four deferred features that tried to make it in time this year in order to win Oscar’s attention.

Foxcatcher (Dir. Bennet Miller)
Oscar Prospects: Picture, Director - Miller, Actor - Carell, Supporting Actor - Ruffalo, among others

Foxcatcher pretty much looked like a sure thing this Oscar season, considering the strangely fascinating true crime story at its center (the murder of Gold medal-wrestler David Schultz by a schizophrenic benefactor), as well as the main talent involved: director Bennett Miller, coming right off of Moneyball and reunited with Capote scribe Dan Futterman; star Steve Carell, transformed and intriguingly un-typecast as Schultz’s killer John du Pont; the ever-reliable and similarly-transformed Mark Ruffalo as Schultz; and a newly-revivified/post-Magic Mike Channing Tatum as Schultz’s brother/fellow Olympic wrestler. Following lots of general intrigue (primarily around Carell) albeit minimal buzz aside from an opening slot at the 2013 AFI Fest, Foxcatcher was moved by distributor Sony Pictures Classics from its late December release to a 2014 date that’s still TBD, in order to, you know, finish the movie. It’s a move thatseems pretty wise in retrospect, considering the already over-stuffed Best Actor line-up that the criminally under-sung and under-rewarded Carell (not even the Emmy?) would’ve definitely had to fight for a spot in. I expect that we’ll all be talking about Foxcatcher this time next year, but in the meantime, continue carefully placing needles in your Jim Parsons voodoo dolls and hope that that fantastically taut teaser reemerges on the web.

 

Grace of Monaco (Dir. Olivier Dahan)
Oscar Prospects: Actress - Nicole Kidman

On Oscar Sunday earlier this year, the Weinstein Company made news by buying domestic rights for La vie en Rose helmer Olivier Dahan’s latter-day Grace Kelly biopic for a planned December 27th limited release, building instant buzz around Nicole Kidman’s star performance as the late Princess of Monaco. Flash forward to today, December 27th, and here we are: Graceless. What happened? Aside from a rumor that footage from the film, completed nearly a year ago, would be premiering at Cannes, it seemed as though Grace of Monaco might have been nothing more than an actressexual’s giddy pipe dream, as Harvey Weinstein spent the greater part of the year stumping for seemingly every other movie on his already crowded docket, including Best Actress heavies Philomena and August: Osage County. Add in some early, pre-Weinstein criticism from Kelly’s children over the film’s presumed subject matter and a suspiciously delayed trailer that resembled a Dior commercial more than, um, an actual movie, and the odds weren’t looking so great for Grace and Nicole. Then, a week after the trailer’s release, Weinstein and Co. announced that they would be postponing the film until spring 2014, putting an end to any and all award buzz for Kidman, and subsequently rendering a dishy, ill-timed Vanity Fair cover story on the actress all but pointless. Meanwhile, in October, Dahan gave an embittered interview to a French newspaper, in which he bashed the trailer and called Harvey Scissorhands’ re-edit of the film a “pile of shit.” (Maybe Dahan can start a support group-cum-rebel rally with Bong Joon-ho and Wong Kar-wai?) It has yet to be seen whether Grace will be a spring treat or trifle, but it seems increasingly unlikely that Nicole will be a contender for a project with an such an already-dubious history behind it. One can only hope that Dahan doesn’t pull a Diana and further embarrass Our Darling Nicki.


The Immigrant (Dir. James Gray)
Oscar Prospects: Actress - Marion Cotillard; Cinematography - Darius Khondji

After a mixed reception at Cannes, the Weinsteins picked up acclaimed but Academy-ignored auteur James Gray’s period piece about the personal travails of a newly-arrived Polish immigrant in 1920s New York, with a promising lead performance by Cotillard in the titular role. The Immigrant seemed poised for an Oscar-qualifying release this year, only to find its admittedly modest chances temporarily squandered when Weinstein announced that the film would be delayed until 2014. It’s hard to say if The Immigrant (whose release date is still TBA, despite making its way to festivals in Toronto and New York) was ever really going to be a true-blue awards contender outside of the continually captivating efforts of oft-ignored cinematographer Darius Khondji, as well as Cotillard. After that dazzling La vie en rose win she has become something of a perpetual Oscar afterthought, with, in order of likelihood, Rust and BoneNineMidnight in Paris, and Inception all failing to make Oscar's lineups And even if The Immigrant isn’t the film to bring her back to Best Actress glory, Marion still has her upcoming, David Michôd-directed, Fassy-married, presumably fierce-as-all-get-out Lady Macbeth to potentially get her there.


The Monuments Men (Dir. George Clooney)
Oscar Prospects: Uh, every category Columbia can buy a campaign for...? 

Let’s be honest: this was either going to be a monumental crowd-pleaser for Oscar to bear-hug, orit was going to be a larkish, star-filled period piece, potentially all-dressed-up with nowhere-but-Goodman to go. (Is anyone else getting a whiff of Leatherheads from over here?) Based on its new February release date, not to mention those highly doubtful and groaningly self-serious trailers, it seems that Columbia may have settled the confusion, but not before we were subjected to the baffling sight of George Clooney talking about the trials and tribulations of being a screenwriter in Hollywood, while sitting at the same Hollywood Reporter roundtable as Julie Delpy and Nicole Holofcener. But who knows? Maybe The Monuments Men will be the surprise hit of 2014 and not just a studio-sponsored Eurotrip for Clooney & Co. Maybe it’s the art-saving, Nazi-evading baby in the early winter bathwater. Or maybe it’s just the bathwater.

Friday
Dec272013

Randomness: Grandmaster, Paddington, Catwomen and Babies

Can you develope ADHD suddenly as an adult? I'm hating it but as with last weekend, I can't concentrate at all, starting multiple blog posts and never actually finishing any of them. Hours go by and I'm staring at the screen still and WHERE DID THE DAY GO. Nothing. I got nothing. Like, I'm watching The Grandmaster last night and as Tony Leung and Zhangi Ziyi stare at each other for minutes on end, immobile in some badass mixed martial arts yoga pose, all I could think was "such powers of concentration!"

I did NOT expect that movie to be all about Zhang Ziyi's vow to avenge her father and refuse Tony Leung's heretofore unrefusable sexual advances. i thought it was going to be a biopic of Ip Man (Leung) but he's kind of an afterthought once Zhang starts tearing up and reflecting from her opium haze. Once the movie goes back to Ip Man, it seems to give up suddenly. Like, "yeah, we know this isn't half as interesting, kthx bye. Closing credits - bam!" Zhang Ziyi won Best Actress at the Golden Horse Awards (as previously discussed) and though I wouldn't go that far, she sure can hold a movie camera. 

So herewith some random thoughts on everything from overheard drug store movie chatter to that awful silhouetted lone-man back-turned movie-poster plague we can't stop hating on. If you follow me on twitter, and you should, some of this will be familiar. 

Click to read more ...

Friday
Dec272013

Link is the Warmest Blog Post

The Awl the year in topless Geraldo Rivera. Super good read.
Deadline an FYC video for Adèle Exarchopoulus... can she sneak into the locky-locked-up Best Actress lineup?
Badass Digest 10 best alternative old movie posters of 2013 vintage
Thompson on Hollywood great movie quotes of the year - #1 is a moment I'm personally obsessed with already
Badass Digest thinks American Hustle will be destroyed by winning the Oscar. Which, yeah, most films are but it's not going to win. And also. Will people please stop comparing it to Wolf of Wall Street. I hate this comparison and especially hate that people think Wolf is better. Er, no. Or by better did you mean longer? In which case, yes. 

HuffPo FYC another August: Osage County interview in which everyone understands that Julia Roberts is the lead. Now, if only Oscar will follow suit and save the supporting category for supporting ladies
The Advocate Blue is the Warmest Color and other great LGBT graphic novels of the year. I love Artifice, too (wrote about it here)
Cinema Blend Gail Gadot begins training for 'body mass' to play Wonder Woman in that probably very ill advised Batman vs. Superman movie
SPR Kurt's top ten list - he's still bravely mad for Lee Daniels' The Butler and Spring Breakers
i09 on breakout stars of genre television. Some good choices though they have weird conceptions of who is "new"... like Norman Reedus (Um, he's been around a LONG time in film and television)
Newsweek internet predictions circa 1995 in a piece called "why the web won't be nirvana" a great find from twitter that's wrong about virtually everything except this:

 Your word gets out, leapfrogging editors and publishers. Every voice can be heard cheaply and instantly. The result? Every voice is heard. The cacophany more closely resembles citizens band radio, complete with handles, harrasment, and anonymous threats. When most everyone shouts, few listen. 

It's a Wolf Wolf Wolf Wolf World 
Business Insider Scorsese's film already inspiring future Belforts as the financial industry cheers it on 
The Informer Wolf of Wall Street victim speaks out  
Antagony & Ecstacy has a smart take down of the film a lot of people don't want to hear taken down -- wear protective gear, Tim! 
Some Came Running a defense of Wolf of Wall Street against readings that Scorsese has no point of view on the characters. (Critics who love this one are very riled up about its detractors, like they've just come from a Belfort fist-pumping retreat... only, like, way more articulate about their 'fuckyeahs!') 

And on this same topic, today's must watch...

It's a Wonderful Life on Wall Street

Friday
Dec272013

Oscar Voting Begins! Three Suggestions for Academy Members

And so we've come to it! Oscar ballots go out today and voting begins. That's potentially great timing for The Wolf of Wall Street and (maybe) Saving Mr Banks neither of which have done well in the "precursors" -an awful reductive name, sure, but an accurate one since we're long past the days when awards groups weren't primarily existing to either influence or predict the Oscar race. Both of those late blooming films could still find Oscar favor if voters are taken with them over this holiday break. The timing is also probably good news for American Hustle which is doing strong box office and doesn't have that 'shrugged off' by precursors feeling to overcome. 

But, if early predictions from the vast array of pundits hold, this is going to be yet another year that reminds distributors that October is a really great time to release Oscar contenders (Captain Phillips, 12 Years a Slave, Gravity) and maybe not everything needs to wait until the last week of the year. 

THREE SUGGESTIONS FOR THOSE BLESSED WITH BALLOTS

01 Watch two more screeners before voting. You can do it. For those in the acting branch might I suggest Short Term 12 and Enough Said? For those in technical fields, why not try Spring Breakers or The Grand Master or something else off the beaten path? Sometimes the small, weird or foreign movies that can't afford huge campaigns have incredible performances and brilliant craftsmanship. Gravity doesn't need your votes anyway. It's safe.

Throw in a couple more screeners. You can find 3 and a ½ hours this week.

02 PLEASE STOP CATEGORY FRAUD IN ITS TRACKS. The only cure for this madness is for you, the most important movie awards voters on the planet, to reject it. You have the power. If you think Julia Roberts is brilliant in August: Osage County vote for her in Best Actress. Even the author of that film refers to her as "the protagonist" Remember that when you pretend that leading movie stars are supporting, you are in point of fact, penalizing the hardworking character actors for whom the supporting categories were created in 1936. And with so many great supporting ladies available to you this year (Sally Hawkins, Léa Seydoux, Sarah Paulson are all under-loved and why is that?) why waste one of the five spots on a leading performer. Leading ladies have their own category. Vote for Julia there! 

03 Ignore the precursors. If you want to vote for James Franco in Spring Breakers or Blue is the Warmest Color for anything or, if you're in the costuming or production design branches and really believe in the work that's happening in a contemporary or out of time film like Stoker or Her or The Bling Ring or whatever but you feel like you're wasting your vote, do it anyway! Longshots can win Oscar nominations but they only can when people like you go with your true favorites and not with whatever high profile accomplishments are happening within the presumed Best Picture nominees. 

What three things would you ask AMPAS to consider?

Thursday
Dec262013

Previewing the animated features of 2014

Tim here. It’s the last edition of my weekly animation essay for 2013, which would ordinarily be the best time for a year-in-review piece. However, the year has been so rough for animation (remember Escape from Planet Earth? Are you happy about that fact?) that it seemed better just to quickly move beyond it and pretend it didn’t happen. Let us instead look with clear eyes and hopeful hearts to the future, and take a quick preview of the animated features that will be scattered throughout 2014. This isn’t meant to be comprehensive, but if I missed anything big, feel free to point it out in comments.

Films to maybe hold out hope for:

-The Lego Movie (February 7). The concept, and the cameos by DC superheroes, scream “branding exercise”, but with Phil Lord and Chris Miller on-hand as writers and directors, there’s reason to be hopeful. The duo has gone 2-for-2 so far with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street, and that’s not a track record to idly dismiss. Besides, the trailer reveals that its laziest sins (a “Chosen One” narrative, celebrity voice cast) looks to be applied with a more playfully ironic touch than usual. And the random sense of humor looks different from the usual family fare, at any rate: the bit with Wonder Woman’s invisible jet gets me every time.

Dragons, Boxtrolls and more after the jump

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Dec262013

Year in Review: Best Ensembles & Best Casting

To the tune of Madonna's "Music" ♫

Hey Mr Director, get your ensemble on, all the guys & ladies
And once the movie starts
don't ever let them stop, they're gonna drive me crazy

People make the movie come together - yeah


As annoying as it was in 2003 when Mystic River was attempting to halt the inevitable Lord of the Rings coronation with a sort of 'people are the best special effects!' Oscar campaign, the sentiment was true and remains so. I've been going to all kind of movies my whole life and  I've yet to see anything that's as remarkable as the happily regular occurence of weird electricity and true magic sparking when fine actors collide, collude, combust or cooperate.

So as we're all celebrating the holidays with our own personal ensembles of friends and family, I thought it would be a good time to honor the most special collections of players in 2013.  I can never let the Screen Actors Guild have the last word on this matter because, though acting is their raison d'etre, they never get this category right, opting for popular Oscar bound films with big casts and not really thinking about the WHOLE cast, and how all those players are interacting and bouncing off or working together. This year, they chose August: Osage County, American Hustle, Dallas Buyers Club, 12 Years a Slave, Lee Daniels' The Butler, and I think two of those are really poor choices (though I like all five films) when you're thinking about the acting collective as opposed to just one or two performances within it. SAG's past history suggests that they're only comfortable with "star" ensembles so they were never going to go for fine teams like Frances Ha and Short Term 12 but why not Prisoners which is a sharp example of stars NOT connecting with each other on purpose. Everyone in that cast is alone since all the characters are horrified by each other (and sometimes themselves), trapped in their own personal grief and grievances.

When you're talking about great ensemble work I think you're also talking about fine direction and smart casting, though there are exceptions. Two fascinating examples of how complicated this all gets in that you can have one without the other(s) are August: Osage County and 12 Years a Slave. A:OC has a lot of fine actors in it but the director John Wells can't figure out how to see all of them at once, opting too often for shot / reverse shot when he needs to widen the camera or choreograph them differently so we can watch them together. I've never understood why so many contemporary directors have trouble absorbing this concept since their peers who are skillful at shooting group scenes are hardly obscurities. Just watch a couple of movies by David O. Russell and Paul Thomas Anderson (or classic departed directors like Wyler or Altman) and you'll instantly be smarter about ensemble vision; They know exactly when to go to or stay with a two-shot or a three or four or even five shot... Hell, get everybody in there -- the more the merrier! As for 12 Years, I'm on record as complaining about the casting. Too many of its (white) supporting players are too familiar as  faces go which, in a lesser movie, would really derail the existential horror. But there's no denying that when this cast is acting together it's absolutely electric... I still get chills thinking about the way Michael Fassbender leans on his co-stars like they're his furniture and the way the various actors playing the slaves freeze up whenever they're being observed and the multiple nuances of when the actors are willing to look at each other and when they're too scared or smart to. It's all top notch work but if the director wasn't wise enough to let you see this -- and many directs aren't, just stiching 90 minutes of establishing shots and close-ups together and calling it a movie -- the ensemble probably wouldn't be winning as much praise.

Without further ado... My Nominations for Best Casting & Best Ensemble

And, in case you haven't seen THR's Casting Roundtable. I watched it only after making my lists since I didn't want to be unduly influenced but it's completely interesting. 

I only wish they could have found room for Rich Delia and Douglas Aibel, since I'm honoring both this year.