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Entries in Monuments Men (6)

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.

Thursday
Aug082013

Yes, No, Maybe So: "Monuments Men"

Weep not for the embedded trailer I was going to use to discuss Monuments Men which vanished moments before I hit "publish". Trailers are not works of art we must protect from the Nazis so it's okay if they regularly get yanked or are seen in non-embeddable ways. They are but commercials for movies that we hope are works of art themselves. If you'd like to see the trailer to George Clooney's latest Oscar missile, click here.

I keep meaning to read the bestseller this film is based on but it basically about a group of older men on a special war time mission. They make like thieving soldiers to steal art from the Nazis before its destroyed.

YES

  • Run, Jean Dujardin, run!
  • Shoot Nazis, Bob Balaban, shoot 'em! [more...]

Click to read more ...

Thursday
May232013

Early Bird Predix: "Best Supporting Actor"

And here we go... the acting categories you've all been very impatiently waiting for in TFE's first wave of Oscar predictions for the year.

Will Previously Honored Movie Stars With Weird Character-Actor Hairdos Rule This Year?

As faithful readers know I like to keep my crystal ball risky with the bouncing and hope it doesn't shatter. In the first wave of predictions "what if" scenarios and "wild cards" are espectially compelling in the Supporting races. I mean why not? So little is yet known about future important matters like Amount of Screen Time, Nature of the Ensemble Roles, Best in Show Scene Stealing and even Post-Production "we'll fix it in post" Switcheroos where a film is rethought to better spotlight its MVPs. This early on there's no point in making boring predictions in which Oscar favorites hog all the categories though sometimes they do -- witness last year's All Previous Winner boredom in this category. Which is why I'm taking a few big risks like imagining an implausible Tim Roth comeback in a Nicole Kidman vehicle or suspecting that stage actor Sean Mahon (so charming recently as an unexplored love interest in Higher Ground) will make the most of a key role in Philomena.

I'm betting on a field of non-winners and (Oscar) newbies. For now... That said sometimes you have to go "default" as I've done by predicting Javier Bardem. From a distance his new role as an Weirdly-Coiffed Embodiment of Evil for an Oscar-friendly Director (sound familiar) seems an awful lot like his roles in No Country For Old Men & Skyfall but considering that he almost got nominated for doing this again - in a Bond film no less ! -- I decided against pretending that his fellow actors don't just worship the ground on which he walks.  

And what of the Ensembles and Potentials For Category Fraud?

Foxcatcher has three major male roles: schizo John duPont (Stave Carell) and two wrestling brothers played by Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo (not pictured)

The one I'm most curious about in terms of story structure and "best in show" business is Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, it's based on a true bizarre story about a wealthy eccentric (played by Steve Carell) who was also a schizophrenic and the two Olympic wrestling brothers (Channing Tatum & Mark Ruffalo) who he became friends with which did not end well for any of them. It's a three-handed story. Channing Tatum gets top billing but the screenplay is based on that brother's unpublished? memoirs so he might be your narrator/audience proxy (a la Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby) which means that Tatum will be demoted to supporting even if he's the lead. My guess is Carell with the showiest part is lead and the other two are relegated to supporting despite very large roles. Now pedigree-wise a movie starring Mark Ruffalo, Steve Carell and Channing Tatum who have 1 nomination and a lot of obstacles to Oscary respect between them (TV fame, light comedy history, hunkaliciousness) shouldn't scream "Oscar nominations for all!" but Bennett Miller is quality. He's only made two narrative features (Capote & Moneyball) but his favored milieu (true stories about famous or infamous men) is right in Oscar's wheelhouse and both of his previous pictures won a lead and a supporting acting nomination. 

Since Hollywood is always very focused on testosterone heavy stories there are usually multiple options of acting glory for men in any given film. Take these examples: The Counselor is headlined by Michael Fassbender but my guess is the colorful supporting cast (led by Brad Pitt and Javier Bardem) will pull focus; I know nothing (yet) about the breakdown of characters in The Monuments Men but there are A LOT OF THEM so who is to say which Friend o' Clooneys (Damon, Goodman, Balaban, Murray?) was given the best role or the most camera attention?; Wolf of Wall Street is also a sausage fest but it seems more likely to be The Leo Show - Wall Street Edition than anything else; I've noticed quite a lot of "Benedict Cumberbatch for the Oscar!" mania after the August: Osage County trailer premiere and, sure, he does emote more in the context of the trailer than anyone besides Julia Roberts but that role isn't really that big or that great and the men (Dermot Mulroney, Sam Shepard, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper) may find a hard time getting around the female driven narrative for any Oscar attention of their own in such a crowded film.

So take a look at the chart and tell me with your own crystal ball where you think mine is malfunctioning and which prophesies you also deem most likely to occur. (Up next: Best Actor)

Saturday
May182013

Early Bird Oscar Predix: The Costume Designers

Whether or not you think Catherine Martin has already won this year's Costume Design Oscar - paging pink-suited Jay Gatsby! -- the upcoming battle for Oscar nominations is hardly an easy read even if there are only four spots to sashay towards in your suit & gown finery. Costume Design is my favorite Oscar race outside of all the Actressing, not frequently for what the Academy chooses but for the breadth and depth of the competitive field each year. Here's a few questions I'm already asking myself and by extension, you. So join me in the sartorial contemplation...

Steven Noble's work on "Two Faces of January" looks just divine in stills. How's the film?

This far ahead of the nominations (only 242 days to go!) it's anyone's guess and anyone's game. 

Which frequently forgotten designer will finally get the red carpet welcoming committee? 
The possible answers are plentiful so let's talk four of them. Your guess is as good as mine why The Lone Ranger's Penny Rose, who has delivered truly iconic costumes in major Costume Parade Jobs over the years (Evita and Pirates of the Caribbean Curse of the Black Pearl being the standouts) has yet to be nominated. I actually find it quite insane. Another frequent miss is Louise Frogley, the favored costuming goddess of the Oceans gang (both Soderbergh and Clooney call on her services). She could snag an easy nomination this year for Monuments Men but then again WW II films are hardly done deals in this category since there are a) numerous options to choose from each year b) she's been ignored for this period before (The Good German) and c) this category doesnt always choose Best Picture nominees for their nominations even if they're WWII films - remember when Inglourious Basterds missed?

plunging necklines will spice up "American Hustle" this year

For now I'll make a wild guess and say that this year's frequent snubbee finally are two: Saving Mr Banks' Daniel Orlandi and/or American Hustle's Michael Wilkinson. Orlandi been passed over for blatant Oscar-bids like Cinderella Man and Frost/Nixon and though a nomination was never going to happen for his cheeky 60s homage Down With Love that doesn't mean it shouldn't have! Will this Walt Disney/Mary Poppins era behind-the-screen story feel like grotesque corporate hagiography coming from Walt Disney Pictures or will it be good and fun and visual enough to earn respect from AMPAS members? Meanwhile,  American Hustle's Michael Wilkinson is temporarily leaving the undoubtedly lucrative but respect-challenge realm of fanboy pictures (Watchmen, TRON Legacy, and 300 among others) for David O. Russell's first true period film. Will the plunging necklines on Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence catch Oscar's eye? Oscar totally stands at attention for those two beauties.

Ben Barnes and Jeff Bridges in "Seventh Son" with costumes by 2 time nominee Jacqueline West

Will any of the many genre flicks make inroads here this year? 
There are just so many to choose from. Thor, Wolverine, Supes and Iron Man will undoubtedly cancel each other out even for people who love superheroes. If voters don't feel like returning to Middle Earth for another Peter Jackson fantasy, other genre films that could catch the costuming branch's eye include Seventh Son (with Julianne Moore as an evil feather caped sorceress), the apocalyptic or cyborg-riffic (Snowpiercer and Elysium), or even Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The first Hunger Games missed a nomination despite being quite Costumey at points but the new designer is Trish Summerville and people really went for her punk edge on David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.   

Which rising stars will make it?
With Oscar's Holy Trinity (Sandy Powell, Milena Canonero, and Colleen Atwood each have three Oscars) not strongly in the discussion yet --at least at this writing -- which rising design stars might finally gain a foothold? I'm currently betting on Steven Noble whose work on Two Faces of January is drool-worthy from a distance. But will people like the film? (Patricia Highsmith adaptations are tricky things to pull off.) 

Kurt & Bart -- I'm not sure which is which... and no they are not boyfriends

And how about that Kurt & Bart team who might be the hipster favorites of the Costume world now given their club scene origins and indie entry into cinema (see John Cameron Mitchell's Shortbus). They have three films this year. Their work on Stoker already wowed (though that film will win nominations only if hell freezes over or Identity Thief competes for Best Picture) and they also did the clothes for Out of the Furnace (Scott Cooper's Crazy Heart follow up) and the showy-Leto-drag and skinny-McConaughey for Dallas Buyer's Club

and now... THE COSTUME DESIGN CHART

thoughts?

Saturday
May042013

New Oscar Predix! (And What Of Consecutive Nomination Heat?)

As I was constructing the new Best Picture charts -- yes, they're finally up. Have a looksie -- it occurred to me that I was foolishly betting against a lot of regular Oscar players. Why couldn't I find room for, say, George Clooney (Monuments Men), Joel Coen & Ethan Coen (Inside Llewyn Davis), and Martin Scorsese (Wolf of Wall Street), for example? The answer came in three parts.

Silver Linings Playbook + The Fighter ÷ 1970s = American Hustle

 

Click to read more ...