Categories
Awards Season News

Oscar Winners

Here are tonight’s winners:

BEST PICTURE
THE KING’S SPEECH (The Weinstein Co)
A See-Saw Films and Bedlam Production Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers

BEST ACTOR
COLIN FIRTH – THE KING’S SPEECH (The Weinstein Company)

BEST ACTRESS
NATALIE PORTMAN – BLACK SWAN (Fox Searchlight)

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
CHRISTIAN BALE – THE FIGHTER (Paramount)

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
MELISSA LEO – THE FIGHTER (Paramount)

BEST ANIMATED PICTURE
TOY STORY 3 (Walt Disney)

BEST DIRECTOR
TOM HOOPER – THE KING’S SPEECH (The Weinstein Co.)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
THE KING’S SPEECH, David Seidler (The Weinstein Co)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
THE SOCIAL NETWORK, Aaron Sorkin (Sony Pictures)

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Denmark, In a Better World (Sony Pictures Classics) – A Zentropa Production

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY
Inception (Warner Bros.) – Wally Pfister

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Inside Job (Sony Pictures Classics) – A Representational Pictures Production Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
Strangers No More – A Simon & Goodman Picture Company Production Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING
The Social Network (Sony Pictures Releasing) Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS
Inception (Warner Bros) – Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN ART DIRECTION
Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney) – Production Design: Robert Stromberg, Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN
Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney) – Colleen Atwood

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP
The Wolfman (Universal) Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES (ORIGINAL SCORE)
The Social Network (Sony Pictures Releasing) – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES (ORIGINAL SONG)
“We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3 (Walt Disney) – Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
The Lost Thing (Nick Batzias for Madman Entertainment) – A Passion Pictures Australia Production Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
God Of Love – A Luke Matheny Production – Luke Matheny

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING
Inception (Warner Bros) – Richard King

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING
Inception (Warner Bros) – Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick

Categories
Awards Season Thoughts

Oscar Special Mentions

As the awards season comes to a close, let’s forget about the campaigning and debate about what would or should win and reserve a special mention for some of tonight’s nominees.

In what has been a strong year these are various people I think deserve special mention, regardless of whether they win tonight.

SPECIAL MENTIONS

Javier Bardem in Biutiful: The most powerful performance of the year was Bardem’s searing portrait of a decent man on the edges of modern Barcelona.

Don’t Forget Me
Biutiful at MOVIECLIPS.com

Although the film’s relentless focus on death turned off dweeby critics, Bardem’s acting will be remembered for years to come.

Christopher Nolan for Writing and Directing Inception: The enormous commercial success of Nolan’s career has strangely obscured his very real creative accomplishments. Fashionable contrarians and elederly members of the Academy were turned off by the gorgeous labyrinth that was Inception, mainly because it was ‘too loud’ or ‘too clever for its own good’.

The fact that Nolan (as director) and his veteran editor Lee Smith were snubbed still hints that some Academy members don’t get his films. But for a generation of filmmakers it will be discussed, analysed and appreciated for years to come.

Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter for editing The Social Network: One of the crucial aspects of Fincher’s drama that makes it work is the phenomenal edit job by Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter.

It might take a couple of viewings to fully appreciate, but the criss-crossing timelines and overall construction of sequences is masterful. Some Academy voters might not have got the film on first viewing but repeated viewings highlight the dazzling, but often understated, work that went into it.

Roger Deakins’ cinematography for True Grit: Although already something of a legend for his amazing body of work, Deakins managed capture the haunting beauty of the west in True Grit whilst providing some indelible images.

Many people think it is his time to be awarded an Oscar and who would begrudge him a statuette this year?

The Visual Effects in Inception: The team at British SFX house Double Negative who worked on Nolan’s film (Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley, and Peter Bebb) deserve a lot of credit for helping build convincing dreamscapes through live action and CGI.

The inventive blend of real locations, stuntwork and CGI were stunning and in the hotel fight sequence, limbo city and the overturning of Paris have set a new standard for effects work at this level.

The score for The Social Network by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross: One of the most startling and arresting scores in recent memory was this wonderfully discordant electronic score. The way in which the dialogue driven opening scene gives way to the unsettling title sequence is one of the most memorable film transitions of the year.

Just a few minutes later the urgency of the Face Smash sequence is powered by an unforgettable frenzy of beats and noise. In some ways the score to the film is what gives the film it’s unique flavour, with no cliched strings or cliched tracks from the time, it gives the story a distinct and original feel.

The Sounds of Inception: People always get confused between sound mixing and sound editing. To simplify, editing involves how the parts are assembled, whilst mixing is about the whole soundscape is put together.

It is a crucial and often undervalued aspect of movies and in the case of Inception, Richard King did an incredible job of recreating the sounds of all the different dream levels, which involve trains, guns, explosions, punches, car chases. The construction of the audio landscape in Inception was one of the great unsung reasons as to why it worked so well.

Charles Ferguson’s Inside Job: The documentary category this year is incredibly strong but Charles Ferguson’s documentary about the financial crisis deserves special mention.

Brilliantly dissecting the way Wall Street has essentially captured a generation of politicians and held society hostage for their own ends, it is a chilling reminder of how the political orthordoxies of the last 30 years have wreaked havoc but largely gone unpunished.

Full list of Oscar nominations for 2010-11
Official Oscars site
83rd Academy Awards at Wikipedia
> Analysis at Awards Daily and In Contention

Categories
Awards Season News

Indie Spirit Awards Winners

Black Swan was the big winner at this year’s Indie Spirit Awards, claiming Best Feature, Best Director, Best Female Lead and Best Cinematography beating out the hotly tipped Winter’s Bone.

The show highlights independent films produced for under $20 million, and the list of full winners are below.

BEST FEATURE
Black Swan

BEST DIRECTOR
Darren Aronfosky, “Black Swan”

BEST FIRST FEATURE
Get Low

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD
(Given to the best feature made for under $500,000; award given to the writer, director, and producer)
Daddy Longlegs

BEST SCREENPLAY
“The Kids Are All Right”

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
“Tiny Furniture”

BEST FEMALE LEAD
Natalie Portman, “Black Swan”

BEST MALE LEAD
James Franco, “127 Hours”

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Dale Dickey, “Winter’s Bone”

BEST SUPPORTING MALE
John Hawkes, “Winter’s Bone”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Black Swan

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Exit Through The Gift Shop

BEST FOREIGN FILM
The King’s Speech

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD
“Please Give”

PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD
Anish Savjani (“Meek’s Cutoff”)

SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD
Mike Ott (“Little Rock”)

TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD
Jeff Malmberg (“Marwencol”)

Categories
Awards Season

Indie Spirit Awards on Livestream

You can watch red carpet coverage of the Indie Spirit Awards via Livestream below.

spiritawards on livestream.com. Broadcast Live Free

> Indie Spirit Awards
> Follow the action on Twitter via #spiritawards

Categories
Awards Season

Oscar Predictions

Here are my predictions for the 83rd Academy Awards which will take place this Sunday.

This year there appear to be less certainties and the only major category I would bank on would be Best Actor.

The big debate for most of the awards season has been the battle between The King’s Speech and The Social Network: whilst David Fincher’s drama about the creation of Facebook is the superior film, the moving qualities of Tom Hooper’s period piece will probably give it the edge.

However, I would be surprised if the Academy didn’t award David Fincher Best Director over Tom Hooper, even though the latter surprisingly won the DGA Award, which is usually an indicator for the Oscars.

In the major acting categories Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) is a near-certainty and although Natalie Portman (Black Swan) is still the favourite, look out for Annette Benning (The Kids Are Alright) to cause a possible upset.

The supporting acting slots are fiendishly hard to call this year, so I’m going with the obvious front-runners in Christian Bale (The Fighter) and Melissa Leo (The Fighter). However, Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech), Haileee Steinfeld (True Grit) and Helena Bonham-Carter (The King’s Speech) are strong contenders.

In other categories, Inception to seems favourite to nab a few technical awards in visual effects and sound, which will make up for it being criminally overlooked in Direction and Editing.

The Best Documentary category could see Banksy appear on stage if Exit Through The Gift Shop wins. In truth I thing Inside Job will win, but Waste Land and Restrepo are also strong contenders in a very good year for documentaries.

Make sure to check back on Monday, to see how right (or wrong) I was.

OSCAR PREDICTIONS

  • BEST PICTURE: The King’s Speech
  • BEST DIRECTOR: David Fincher (The Social Network) *
  • BEST ACTOR: Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
  • BEST ACTRESS: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christian Bale (The Fighter)
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
  • BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network)
  • BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: David Seidler (The King’s Speech)
  • BEST ART DIRECTION: The King’s Speech (Eve Stewart; Judy Farr)
  • BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: True Grit (Roger Deakins)
  • BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Alice in Wonderland (Colleen Atwood)
  • BEST FILM EDITING: The Social Network (Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter)
  • BEST MAKEUP: The Wolfman (Rick Baker and Dave Elsey)
  • BEST SOUND EDITING: Inception (Richard King)
  • BEST SOUND MIXING: Inception (Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick)
  • BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Inception (Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb)
  • BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: The King’s Speech (Alxandre Desplat)
  • BEST ORIGINAL SONG: “We Belong Together” by Randy Newman (Toy Story 3)
  • BEST ANIMATED FILM (FEATURE): Toy Story 3
  • BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM (FEATURE): Inside Job
  • BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: Biutiful (Spain)

> Full list of Oscar nominations for 2010-11
Official Oscars site
83rd Academy Awards at Wikipedia
> Analysis at Awards Daily and In Contention

Categories
Awards Season Behind The Scenes

The Sound of The King’s Speech

Soundworks have posted a lengthy interview with John Midgley on the sound of The King’s Speech.

Sound is obviously crucial to the story of the film and in this 30 minute interview the production sound mixer explains how the soundscape of the film was achieved.

Midgley worked on the first three Harry Potter films, Children of Men (2006) and Hotel Rwanda (2004) and was

The King’s Speech marks his second Oscar nomination and he was previously recognised for his work on Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999).

> My LFF review of The King’s Speech
> John Midgely at the IMDb

Categories
Awards Season Behind The Scenes

The Sound of Unstoppable

Soundworks have a new video showing how the Oscar nominated sound design of Unstoppable was done.

The action thriller, directed by Tony Scott, has been nominated for Best Sound Editing and here Mark P. Stoeckinger and his team describe how they achieved the soundscape of the film.

> Soundworks
> Unstoppable review

Categories
Awards Season Interesting

Banksy in Hollywood

In what is the most unusual awards campaign in years, if not ever, more Banksy murals have cropped up in Hollywood as the renegade street artist hopes to get Oscar attention for his documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop.

> The bizarre viral video ‘Exit Through The Pet Shop’
> Buy Exit Through The Gift Shop on Blu-ray or DVD

Categories
Awards Season video

BAFTA Backstage Interviews

BAFTA have posted a series of backstage interviews from last nights awards, including backstage chats with Colin Firth, Tom Hooper, David Seidler, Aaron Sorkin and Sir Christopher Lee.

N.B. The sound in some of these clips isn’t exactly awards worthy as Edith Bowman’s microphone doesn’t appear to be working properly.

Just click on the following links:

> Full list of BAFTA Nominations
> BAFTA

Categories
Awards Season News

BAFTA Winners

The King’s Speech was the big winner at the BAFTAs last night, winning Best Picture (twice!), acting awards for Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush, Best Score and Best Original Screenplay.

Tom Hooper missed out on as Best Director, which went instead to David Fincher for The Social Network and Natalie Portman won Best Actress for Black Swan.

Here are the results in full:

BEST FILM
The King’s Speech

BEST DIRECTOR
David Fincher – The Social Network

BEST ACTOR
Colin Firth – The King’s Speech

BEST ACTRESS
Natalie Portman – Black Swan

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech

OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM
The King’s Speech

OUTSTANDING DEBUT BY A BRITISH WRITER, DIRECTOR OR PRODUCER
Four Lions – Chris Morris (Director/Writer)

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Sweden

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Toy Story 3

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The King’s Speech – David Seidler

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Social Network – Aaron Sorkin

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
The King’s Speech – Alexandre Desplat

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
True Grit – Roger Deakins

BEST EDITING
The Social Network

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Inception

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Alice in Wonderland

BEST SOUND
Inception

BEST SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS
Inception

BEST MAKE UP AND HAIR
Alice in Wonderland

BEST SHORT ANIMATION
The Eagleman Stag

BEST SHORT FILM
Until The River Runs Red

RISING STAR AWARD (Voted for by the public)
Tom Hardy

> Full list of BAFTA nominations
> Awards season analysis at InContention

Categories
Awards Season Cinema Thoughts

Why Never Let Me Go Deserves a Second Look

How did hotly anticipated Oscar contender Never Let Me Go fall out of the race and die a box office death?

This week sees the UK release of the highly accomplished adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s acclaimed novel, which is about three children who grow up together and slowly realise their lives are not what they expected.

A prestige project financed by Film4, DNA Films and Fox Searchlight, it was only last summer that it seemed like a solid awards season candidate.

But whilst now the Oscar talk is all about The King’s Speech and The Social Network, last summer things were different.

All the right ingredients were there: a talented director in Mark Romanek, a script by Alex Garland and a promising young cast featuring Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley and Sally Hawkins.

When the first one sheet poster and trailer appeared around June, it looked like Fox Searchlight’s formidable marketing machine was clicking into gear.

Films deemed worthy of Oscar are often premiered in late August and early September at festivals in Telluride and Toronto.

The buzz established there can be the fuel that sustains an awards campaign, as was the case in 2008 when Slumdog Millionaire began its all-conquering Oscar run at Telluride.

This year the big audience favourite was The King’s Speech, which got people buzzing and pundits immediately declaring it as an Oscar front runner.

But what about Never Let Me Go?

That too screened at Telluride and Toronto and although some critics admired it, the general reaction was more muted.

There seemed to be an aversion to the actions of the main characters, especially in the final stages of the film, although to say anymore would be venturing into spoiler territory.

In one interview Garland said that some people ‘hated’ the film and Romanek even pointed people (via Twitter) to Ishiguro’s defence of why the characters act the way they do.

This mixed buzz would have been alarming for the team at Fox Searchlight who had hoped this would be one of their major Oscar contenders. But worse was to come.

Most films like Never Let Me Go are given a platform release, which means that they open gradually in major cities, hoping to build on good reviews and positive word of mouth.

On its opening weekend in mid-September, it played at 4 cinemas in New York and Los Angeles, scoring an impressive $120,830, and Sheila DeLoach of Fox Searchlight seemed upbeat, saying to IndieWire:

“It’s one of the top opening per screen averages of a limited film this year, and we feel we’ll have good word of mouth.”

But as the studio expanded the number of screens, audiences stayed away and it gradually died a box office death over the next few weeks, ultimately grossing just $2.4m in the US against a reported production budget of $15m.

In late October the LA Times published a post-mortem piece speculating as to why it didn’t catch fire citing:

  • the melancholy tone
  • mixed reviews
  • lack of appeal to male viewers
  • the high expectations set by the novel
  • issues with the release date.

It was around this time that I saw the film at the London Film Festival and remember being deeply impressed with the world created by Romanek and the performances (especially Mulligan) whilst also feeling that it was emotionally distant.

But something about it stayed with me and on a recent second viewing in anticipation for the UK release, it struck me that the film might be too effective for its own good.

The powerful, unnerving sadness baked into the story hit a profound chord as deeper themes slowly emerged.

On the surface the it deals with how precious time is, but you could also see it as a story about the way a society rationalises cruelty for the greater good.

The characters in the film could represent anyone in the unfortunate position of being deemed expendable in the eyes of the wider public, be they the homeless, the dispossessed or simple transgressors.

What really hit home on second viewing was a social resonance which Ishiguro probably didn’t intend when he wrote the novel but which the film eerily catches in the current era.

That is how the three central characters, as children and young adults, all seem represent the younger generation of today, one which will potentially pay a heavy price for the prolificacy and greed of the one that spawned them.

Two scenes drive this home: one where a teacher (Sally Hawkins) cryptically explains to her pupils what their life will be and another late on in the film where a key character quietly explains something truly devastating.

In short, you could read Never Let Me Go as a parable of the expendable or how one generation suffers for the sins of its parents.

The focus on the innocence and emotions of the central characters, gently suffocated by wider social forces, is what makes the film really affecting.

But perhaps the sci-fi framework, revealed at the beginning, along with the muted colour palette put some people off from engaging with the film.

It is largely a moot point whether or not the characters ‘accept’ their lives, because the film is – in part- about that very notion of acceptance and how people are conditioned for various reasons to accept their lot.

This is the melancholy truth at the heart of story, which makes it work artistically but not financially in the current era of austerity and gloom when audiences aren’t really up for sadness at the multiplex.

In addition the performances help keep us interested in the strange lives of Kathy, Tommy and Ruth: whilst Knightley and Garfield are good, it is Carey Mulligan’s performance as Kathy which is the emotional lynchpin of the film.

She deserved all the plaudits for her breakout role in An Education, but here she surpasses it with a performance of great emotional range.

Whilst enduring the slow-burning torment of having her one true love stolen by her best friend, she reacts to this (and worse!) by becoming a thoroughly decent and compassionate person.

This is heartbreaking to watch and Mulligan doesn’t hit a false note, especially in the key final act.

Mark Romanek also brings his considerable technical skills to the table and with the help of his DP Adam Kimmell captures the English locations with a piercing eye for detail and the haunting beauty of the landscape.

Although he has only directed two features before this – the little seen Static (1985) and One Hour Photo (2002) – he puts things together with the assurance of an accomplished veteran director.

In the build up to awards like the BAFTAs and Oscars it is easy to forget films that have fallen out of the media spotlight, as but fallen contenders like Never Let Me Go are still worth a look, even if its beautifully designed one-sheet poster has been replaced with a dumbed down UK quad.

It won’t win any major awards and will leave some audiences cold, but I have a feeling that it will find a more appreciative audience over time, as its sad insights are reflected in the wider world.

Never Let Me Go opens in the UK on Friday 11th February

> Official UK site
> Reviews of Never Let Me Go at Metacritic and MUBi
> Find out more about Mark Romanek and Kazuo Ishiguro at Wikipedia
> Mark Romanek on Twitter (He recently admitted the US cover art for the Blu-ray and DVD was lame)

Categories
Awards Season Documentaries Interesting

Exit Through the Pet Shop

A new video has surfaced, appearing to be some kind of viral spoof of the Banksy documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop.

After the raves at Sundancewidespread critical acclaim and a truly maverick indie release, the debut film of renegade street artist Banksy recently got nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar.

The big question was whether or not the reclusive man himself would turn up at the ceremony on February 27th, so when a mysterious Oscar-themed mural appeared in Los Angeles, it seemed his own renegade Oscar campaign had begin.

Now, there is this bizarre spoof trailer titled ‘Exit Through The Pet Shop‘ which plays on the internet meme of a keyboard-playing cat:

There is also a livestream of a gallery which appears to be littered with Keyboard cat art in the style of Mr Brainwash:

Watch live streaming video from petshop at livestream.com

For those unfamiliar with the film (and if you haven’t seen it, you really should), it features a filmmaker named Thierry Guetta who documents Banksy and then later becomes an artist himself, using the moniker of Mr. Brainwash.

This new cat-themed site purports to be that of a performance artist and ‘professional nose dancer’ Charlie Schmidt, the originator of the Keyboard Cat meme from a couple of years ago.

But it looks to me like this is the work of Banksy and his cohorts as they mount what is the most unusual campaign in Oscar history.

> The recent Banksy Oscar mural
> The history of the Keyboard Cat meme
Buy Exit Through The Gift Shop on Blu-ray or DVD
> Official site for the film

Categories
Amusing Awards Season News

Banksy Oscar Campaign

A recent Banksy mural in L.A. suggests that the Oscar campaign for Exit Through The Gift Shop has begun.

After being nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar last week, Banksy issued the following statement:

“This is a big surprise. I don’t agree with the concept of award ceremonies, but I’m prepared to make an exception for the ones I’m nominated for. The last time there was a naked man covered in gold paint in my house, it was me.”

It seemed only a matter of time before some relevant street art appeared, but unlike the major studios it seems the people behind the low-budget film are relying on a more grass roots approach.

> Exit Through the Gift Shop
> Banksy at Wikipedia

Categories
Awards Season News

Tom Hooper wins the DGA award

Tom Hooper was the surprise winner of the DGA award last night for The King’s Speech.

Although David Fincher was favoured by many Oscar pundits after The Social Network dominated the season so far, Hooper won the union’s prize for outstanding achievement in feature film at last night’s ceremony in Hollywood.

The nominees were David Fincher (The Social Network), Christopher Nolan (Inception), Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) and David O. Russell (The Fighter), a line-up which was mirrored in the Oscar nominations, aside from Nolan who missed out there as the Coen Brothers (True Girt) were favoured by the Academy.

The DGA is a key award as only six times in 62 years has the winner not gone on to claim Best Director at the Oscars, with the most recent exception being 2003, when DGA winner Rob Marshall (Chicago) lost out to Roman Polanski (The Pianist).

With a just a month until the Oscars on February 27th, some are now predicting that The King’s Speech is now the favourite to beat The Social Network.

After the film about King George and his speech therapist won at the Producers Guild of America last weekend, it looked like the tide could be turning against Fincher’s film which had dominated the awards season so far.

But it looks like The King’s Speech will now be entering the final stretch as the favourite, although why does a gut feeling tell me that it’s not totally over for The Social Network?

> DGA awards
> Awards season analysis at In Contention, Awards Daily and Hollywood Elsewhere

Categories
Awards Season Documentaries News

Will Banksy show up at the Oscars?

After his his film Exit Through the Gift Shop was nominated for Best Documentary, will the reclusive street artist Banksy turn up at the Oscars?

Whilst Hollywood and Oscar pundits digested the Oscar nominations yesterday, in the documentary category a small bombshell went off when Banksy’s debut film made it on to the final list.

A year after it premièred at Sundance 2010, where Banksy left this commemorative mural in Park City, it has reaped huge acclaim (98% on Rotten Tomatoes and 85 on Metacritic) and extensive speculation as to whether it is all some kind of elaborate hoax.

It purports to be the story of Thierry Guetta, a Frenchman who films street artist in Los Angeles, who comes across the reclusive Banksy and also starts making his own art under the name ‘Mr. Brainwash’.

An intriguingly constructed film-within-a-film, it is also a gleefully anarchic film with plenty of intelligence underneath the frequently hilarious exterior.

At Sundance Banksy opted not to introduce the film but got festival director John Cooper to read a statement at the premiere:

“Ladies and gentlemen, and publicists.Trying to make a movie which truly conveys the raw thrill and expressive power of art is very difficult. So we haven’t bothered.

Instead, this is simply an everyday tale of life, longing, and mindless vandalism. Everything you are about to see is true, especially the bit where we all lie.

Thanks for coming, please don’t give away the ending on Twitter. And please, don’t try copying any of this stuff at home, wait until you get to work.”

The relatively low budget nature of the film, plus its unlikely subject matter, meant that the films backers (Cinetic Media) opted to bypass the traditional indie route of trying to attract a distributor.

IndieWire explained the strategy back in April:

John Sloss – who represented rights to the film at Sundance (and then Berlin) – co-founded a distribution entity called the Producers Distribution Agency with his Cinetic partner Bart Walker.

With a team including Richard Abramowitz, Donna Daniels and Marc Schiller, the company decided that despite offers coming in the wake of “Exit”‘s acclaimed screenings in Sundance and Berlin, it was a highly unlikely project for a traditional distributor.

Sloss explained last week that this was due to the fact that not only is Banksy very controlling, but you can’t talk to him (Sloss himself never expects to meet the elusive man).

With this in mind Sloss raised a ‘sizeable chunk’ of money and created a specific distributor called the Producers Distribution Agency in order to give it a platform release.

To call this unconventional is an understatement (or is it all part of the ingenious marketing?), but the grass roots campaign worked with strong showings in April at cinemas in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

The enigma of Banksy helped build buzz and once people saw the film as it rolled out to other cities, it ended up grossing a highly respectable $3.3m in the US and $4.9m worldwide.

As Sloss explained:

“We very little P&A to work with in buying traditional awareness,” he said. “We did not have a ‘money’ New York Times review. So I think this is close to unprecedented to make this kind of film work with very limited resources.”

By November it featured on the Oscar longlist for Best Documentary and its reputation was further enhanced when it cropped up on many end-of-year films lists (including mine).

Some didn’t expect it to make the final nominations, but yesterday it did and Banksy issued this statement:

“This is a big surprise, I don’t agree with the concept of award ceremonies, but I’m prepared to make an exception for the ones I’m nominated for. The last time there was a naked man covered in gold paint in my house, it was me.”

But will he show up at the Kodak Theatre on February 27th?

I’m expecting that another Banksy mural might be seen outside the morning after.

> Official site for Exit Through The Gift Shop
> IndieWire on the release strategy for the film
> More on Banksy and the debate surrounding the film at Wikipedia
> Buy Exit Through The Gift Shop on Blu-ray or DVD

Categories
Awards Season News

Oscar Nominations

The King’s Speech leads the field for this year’s Oscars with 12 nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Colin Firth, whilst True Grit has 10 and The Social Network has 8.

Earlier today Mo’Nique and Tom Sherak, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, revealed the nominations in Beverly Hills.

On first glance, there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of surprises, but here are a few things worth noting.

  • The King’s Speech is firmly back in contention for Best Picture: Even though The Social Network has swept the critics awards so far, the sheer amount of nominations for The King’s Speech (especially in the technical categories) indicates that it could now be the front runner. The Social Network is still a strong candidate but the feel-good, across the board appeal of Tom Hooper’s film may now be starting to show with Academy voters.
  • The Social Network team will be concerned: Despite all the critical love and awards season buzz for this film, the big question always was whether the 6,000 Academy members would embrace a contemporary film like this over the traditional Oscar bait of The King’s Speech. Whilst Fincher’s drama has been on a roll in recent weeks, the amount of nominations for The King’s Speech indicates Academy voters may be backing the more traditional candidate. It’s tempting to see comparisons with 1981 when plucky Brit drama Chariots of Fire won Best Picture whilst the more cerebral Reds nabbed Best Director, or even 2000 when Traffic won Best Director and Gladiator won Best Picture.
  • Christopher Nolan misses out for Best Director: Despite enormous critical and commercial success with Inception, he’s missed out again for Academy recognition, which after The Dark Knight snub in 2008 will raise a few eyebrows.
  • Javier Bardem gets in for Best Actor: Despite the mixed reaction at Cannes for Alejandro Gonzalez Innarritu’s drama, the central performance has deservedly got raves and made it on to the final list.
  • True Grit proves the Globes aren’t all that: For anyone who thinks that the Golden Globes isn’t just celebrity-obsessed foreign journalists second-guessing the Oscar race, look at the nominations for The Coen Brothers’ western, which they snubbed outright. Newcomer Hailee Steinfeld is one to watch in the Best Supporting Actress race.
  • Winter’s Bone keeps the indie flame alive: The nominations for Best Picture, Jennifer Lawrence (Best Actress) and Debra Granik (Adapted Screenplay) prove that serious indie dramas can still get recognition in a harsh environment for independent film. Roadside Attractions will be thrilled.
  • Blue Valentine is (sort of) snubbed: Although Michelle Williams got a Best Actress nomination, The Weinstein Company will be disappointed that the acclaimed indie drama missed out on Best Picture and Best Actor for Ryan Gosling.
  • Technical Snubs: The major technical shocker is the omission for Inception’s Lee Smith in Best Film Editing (arguably one of the best edit jobs in recent cinema history) and Tron: Legacy for Best Visual Effects.
  • The Banksy dream is still alive: Ingenious indie documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop made it through to the final nominees, which means that we could conceivably see Banksy at the Oscars (or at least some kind of mural outside). However, Inside Job remains the favourite for Best Documentary, especially with the shock omission of Waiting for Superman.

The Oscars take place on Sunday 27th February and here they are in full:

BEST PICTURE

  • 127 Hours
  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • Inception
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • The King’s Speech
  • Winter’s Bone
  • True Grit
  • The Social Network
  • Toy Story 3

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Darren Aronofsky – Black Swan
  • David O Russell – The Fighter
  • Tom Hooper – The King’s Speech
  • David Fincher – The Social Network
  • Joel Coen and Ethan Coen – True Grit

BEST ACTOR

  • Colin Firth – The King’s Speech
  • Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network
  • James Franco – 127 Hours
  • Javier Bardem – Biutiful
  • Jeff Bridges – True Grit

BEST ACTRESS

  • Annette Bening – The Kids Are All Right
  • Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole
  • Jennifer Lawrence – Winter’s Bone
  • Natalie Portman – Black Swan
  • Michelle Williams – Blue Valentine

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Christian Bale – The Fighter
  • John Hawkes – Winter’s Bone
  • Jeremy Renner – The Town
  • Mark Ruffalo – The Kids Are All Right
  • Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Amy Adams – The Fighter
  • Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech
  • Melissa Leo – The Fighter
  • Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit
  • Jacki Weaver – Animal Kingdom

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • Biutiful – Mexico
  • Dogtooth – Greece
  • In a Better World – Denmark
  • Incendies – Canada
  • Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi) – Algeria

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Mike Leigh – Another Year
  • Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson (screenplay), Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson (story) – The Fighter
  • Christopher Nolan – Inception
  • Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg – The Kids Are All Right
  • David Seidler – The King’s Speech

BEST ANIMATION

  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • The Illusionist
  • Toy Story 3

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy – 127 Hours
  • Aaron Sorkin – The Social Network
  • Michael Arndt – Toy Story 3
  • Joel Coen and Ethan Coen – True Grit
  • Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini – Winter’s Bone

BEST ART DIRECTION

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
  • Inception
  • The King’s Speech
  • True Grit

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Black Swan
  • Inception
  • The King’s Speech
  • The Social Network
  • True Grit

BEST SOUND MIXING

  • Inception
  • The King’s Speech
  • The Social Network
  • Salt
  • True Grit

BEST SOUND EDITING

  • Inception
  • Toy Story 3
  • Tron: Legacy
  • True Grit
  • Unstoppable

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  • Coming Home (from Country Strong) by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
  • I See the Light (from Tangled) by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater
  • If I Rise (from 127 Hours) by AR Rahman, Dido and Rollo Armstrong
  • We Belong Together (from Toy Story 3) by Randy Newman

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  • How to Train Your Dragon – John Powell
  • Inception – Hans Zimmer
  • The King’s Speech – Alexandre Desplat
  • 127 Hours – AR Rahman
  • The Social Network – Trent Reznor and Atticus

BEST COSTUMES

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • I Am Love
  • The King’s Speech
  • The Tempest
  • True Grit

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

  • Exit Through the Gift Shop
  • Gasland
  • Inside Job
  • Restrepo
  • Waste Land

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

  • Killing in the Name
  • Poster Girl
  • Strangers No More
  • Sun Come Up
  • The Warriors of Qiugang

BEST FILM EDITING

  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter P
  • The King’s Speech
  • 127 Hours
  • The Social Network

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

  • Day & Night
  • The Gruffalo
  • Let’s Pollute
  • The Lost Thing
  • Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

  • The Confession
  • The Crush
  • God of Love
  • Na Wewe
  • Wish 143

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1
  • Hereafter
  • Inception
  • Iron Man 2

BEST MAKE-UP

  • Barney’s Version
  • The Way Back
  • The Wolfman

NOMINATIONS TALLY

  • The King’s Speech – 12
  • True Grit – 10
  • Inception – 8
  • The Social Network – 8
  • The Fighter – 7
  • 127 Hours – 6
  • Black Swan – 5
  • Toy Story 3 – 5
  • The Kids Are All Right – 4
  • Winter’s Bone – 4
  • Alice in Wonderland – 3
  • Biutiful – 2
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 – 2
  • How to Train Your Dragon – 2

> Official Oscars site
> 83rd Academy Awards at Wikipedia
> Analysis at Awards Daily and In Contention

Categories
Awards Season News

BAFTA Nominations

Earlier this morning the BAFTA nominations were announced and The King’s Speech leads the way with 14 nominations.

It seems highly likely that Tom Hooper’s film is going to sweep the board this year, partly due to the built-in British bias of the awards and the fact that it is a special film that appeals to critics and audiences alike.

BAFTA loves the opportunity to vote for its own, but before parts of the British media start gushing too loudly we should remember that both the BBC and Film 4 turned the project down.

The full list actually feels like what the Oscar nominations will be with The Social Network, Black Swan, True Grit and Inception getting nominations in key categories.

As to what this means for the Oscars, it is worth noting that Hailee Steinfeld has been nominated in the Lead Actress category for True Grit (technically correct, but will Academy voters do likewise for someone so young?) and Annette Benning and Julianne Moore have both been nominated for lead in The Kids Are Alright.

As for some glaring omissions, check out the absence of Winter’s Bone from Best Actress and Adapted Screenplay, The Social Network from Original Music, Tron: Legacy from Visual Effects and The Illusionist from Animated Film.

All of which seem to point to the flaws in the BAFTA voting system whose differences to the Academy system sometimes lets odd choices slip through.

With that in mind here is the full list:

BAFTA NOMINEES

BEST FILM
Black Swan
Inception
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM
127 Hours
Another Year
Four Lions
The King’s Speech
Made In Dagenham

OUTSTANDING DEBUT BY A BRITISH WRITER, DIRECTOR OR PRODUCER
The Arbor: Clio Barnard (director), Tracy O’Riordan (producer)
Exit Through The Gift Shop: Banksy (director), Jaimie D’Cruz (producer)
Four Lions: Chris Morris (director/writer)
Monsters: Gareth Edwards (director/writer)
Skeletons: Nick Whitfield (director/writer)

DIRECTOR
127 Hours, Danny Boyle
Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky
Inception, Christopher Nolan
The King’s Speech, Tom Hooper
The Social Network, David Fincher

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
127 Hours
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit

FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
Biutiful
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
I Am Love
Of Gods And Men
The Secret In Their Eyes

ANIMATED FILM
Despicable Me
How To Train Your Dragon
Toy Story 3

LEADING ACTOR
Javier Bardem, Biutiful
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours

LEADING ACTRESS
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Noomi Rapace, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christian Bale, The Fighter
Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
Pete Postlethwaite, The Town
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech
Barbara Hershey, Black Swan
Lesley Manville, Another Year
Miranda Richardson, Made in Dagenham

ORIGINAL MUSIC
127 Hours
Alice In Wonderland
How To Train Your Dragon
Inception
The King’s Speech

CINEMATOGRAPHY
127 Hours
Black Swan
Inception
The King’s Speech
True Grit

EDITING
127 Hours
Black Swan
Inception
The King’s Speech
The Social Network

PRODUCTION DESIGN
Alice In Wonderland
Black Swan
Inception
The King’s Speech
True Grit

COSTUME DESIGN
Alice In Wonderland
Black Swan
The King’s Speech
Made In Dagenham
True Grit

SOUND
127 Hours
Black Swan
Inception
The King’s Speech
True Grit

SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS
Alice In Wonderland
Black Swan
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1
Inception
Toy Story 3

MAKE UP AND HAIR
Alice In Wonderland
Black Swan
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1
The King’s Speech
Made In Dagenham

SHORT ANIMATION
The Eagleman Stag
Matter Fisher
Thursday

SHORT FILM
Connect
Lin
Rite
Turning
Until The River Runs Red

THE ORANGE WEDNESDAYS RISING STAR AWARD
(voted for by the public)
Gemma Arterton
Andrew Garfield
Tom Hardy
Aaron Johnson
Emma Stone

> BAFTA
> Awards season coverage at In Contention and Awards Daily

Categories
Awards Season

Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes

Here is a neat edit of the barbed jokes Ricky Gervais told at the Golden Globes last night.

Targets included the HFPA (that’s the organisation who hired him to host the event), The Tourist, Scientology, Heather Mills, Robert Downey Jnr, Hugh Hefner, Sylvester Stallone and Tim Allen.

For what it is worth, I think part of the shocked reaction amongst some in Hollywood was that they didn’t realise that Gervais’ stand up comedy is much more barbed than the gentler humour of his TV and film work.

Philip Berk, the president of the HFPA was less than pleased:

“Some of the things he said were totally unacceptable”

I guess some were puzzled that he plunged head first into awkward Hollywood subjects some snark about in private, but would never dare talk about in public.

> Reactio to Gervais at the LA Times, Hollywood Elsewhere and The Wrap
> Golden Globe winners

Categories
Awards Season News

Winners at the 68th Golden Globes

The Social Network, David Fincher, Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo were among the winners at the 68th Golden Globes last night.

Though the Globes might be something of an industry joke (a relatively small group of celebrity obsessed journalists second guess what might win at the Oscars) this year they appear to be an accurate forecaster of what might win at the Oscars.

The momentum of The Social Network to win Best Picture has now gathered even more steam, whilst Fincher, Firth and Portman now appear to be locks for their respective categories at the Academy Awards.

Here are the film and TV winners in full:

FILM

MOTION PICTURE, DRAMA
The Social Network

ACTRESS , DRAMA
Natalie Portman – “Black Swan”

ACTOR , DRAMA
Colin Firth – “The King’s Speech”

MOTION PICTURE, COMEDY OR MUSICAL
“The Kids Are All Right”

ACTRESS, COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Annette Bening – “The Kids Are All Right”

ACTOR , COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Paul Giamatti – “Barney’s Version”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
“Toy Story 3”

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“In A Better World” (Denmark)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, MOTION PICTURE
Melissa Leo – “The Fighter”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, MOTION PICTURE
Christian Bale – “The Fighter”

BEST DIRECTOR, MOTION PICTURE
David Fincher – “The Social Network”

BEST SCREENPLAY, MOTION PICTURE
Aaron Sorkin – “The Social Network”

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE, MOTION PICTURE
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross – “The Social Network”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG, MOTION PICTURE
“You Haven’t Seen The Last Of Me” – Burlesque

TELEVISION

DRAMA
“Boardwalk Empire” (HBO)

ACTRESS, DRAMA
Katey Sagal – “Sons Of Anarchy”

ACTOR, DRAMA
Steve Buscemi – “Boardwalk Empire”

BEST COMEDY OR MUSICAL
“Glee” (FOX)

ACTRESS, COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Laura Linney – “The Big C”

ACTOR, COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Jim Parsons – “The Big Bang Theory”

BEST MINISERIES OR MOTION PICTURE
“Carlos” (Sundance Channel)

ACTRESS IN A MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE
Claire Danes – “Temple Grandin”

ACTOR IN A MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE
Al Pacino – “You Don’t Know Jack”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE
Jane Lynch – “Glee”

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE
Chris Colfer – “Glee”

> 68th Golden Globes at Wikipedia
> Awards Season coverage at InContention and Awards Daily

Categories
Awards Season News

BAFTA Orange Rising Star Nominees 2011

The nominees for this year’s BAFTA Rising Star Award have been announced and the list features Gemma Arterton, Andrew Garfield, Tom Hardy, Aaron Johnson and Emma Stone.

It is the only accolade at the Orange British Academy Film Awards that is voted for by the public and was created in honour of the late casting director Mary Selway, who passed away in 2004.

Officially renamed the Orange Wednesdays Rising Star Award, voting takes place both at www.orange.co.uk/bafta, on the mobile portal Orange World and via text.

To see them in action and cast your vote just click on the relevant links below:

The winner will be announced at the BAFTAs on Sunday 13th February.

Previous winners of the award include James McAvoy in 2006, Eva Green in 2007, Shia LaBeouf in 2008, Noel Clarke in 2009 and Kristen Stewart in 2010.

Potential rising stars were proposed by BAFTA members and leading film industry insiders to create an initial list of contenders.

> Official Orange BAFTA site
> Orange Film on Twitter and Facebook
> BAFTA

Categories
Awards Season

DGA Nominees Announced

The DGA nominees have been announced for this year and they include Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), David Fincher (The Social Network), Christopher Nolan (Inception) and David O’Russell (The Fighter).

The Coen Brothers are the surprise omission for True Grit, although I don’t imagine it will seriously dent that film from being a multiple nominee at the Oscars.

The DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film is traditionally a good barometer for who will win the Best Director Oscar.

Only six times have the DGA Awards not matched with the corresponding Academy Award:

  • 1968: Anthony Harvey won the DGA Award for The Lion in Winter while Carol Reed took home the Oscar® for Oliver!
  • 1972: Francis Ford Coppola received the DGA’s nod for The Godfather while the Academy selected Bob Fosse for Cabaret.
  • 1985: Steven Spielberg received his first DGA Award for The Color Purple while the Oscar® went to Sydney Pollack for Out of Africa.
  • 1995: Ron Howard was chosen by the DGA for his direction of Apollo 13 while Academy voters selected Mel Gibson for Braveheart.
  • 2000: Ang Lee won the DGA Award for his direction of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon while Steven Soderbergh won the Academy Award for Traffic.
  • 2002: Rob Marshall won the DGA Award for Chicago while Roman Polanski received the Academy Award for The Pianist.

The winner will be announced at the 63rd Annual DGA Awards dinner and ceremony on 29th January 2011 at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland.

As of now, David Fincher seems the favourite for The Social Network.

> Official DGA Site
> Awards Season analysis at In Contention and Awards Daily

Categories
Awards Season Behind The Scenes Interesting

How the King Got His Speech Back

After rave reactions on the festival circuit The King’s Speech finally opens in the UK today and the story of how it came to the screen is a fascinating one.

The film traces the relationship between Prince Albert (Colin Firth) and an unconventional speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), who helped him overcome a crippling stammer as he eventually assumed the throne – as George VI –  and helped rally his people during World War II.

Directed by Tom Hooper, it is a superbly crafted period piece but also a genuine crowd pleaser with surprising levels of humour and emotion.

Already a frontrunner for the Oscars, Colin Firth follows up his performance in A Single Man with another reminder of how good he can be in the right role, whilst Rush is equally good as the man who helps him.

This is the kind of film that might appear on the surface to be another British costume drama beloved of middle class, Telegraph reading audiences but it is actually much more than that.

By exploring the pain and anguish behind the King’s stutter, it is not only a surprisingly emotional film but also a sneakily subversive one.

Not only does it allows us to see how Logue’s irreverent treatment stripped the ultimate aristocrat of his social hang ups, but how two people from different backgrounds eventually became friends.

But the story behind the film is equally fascinating, involving a veteran screenwriter with a stutter and the late Queen Mother.

At 73 David Seidler is considerably older than many of his screenwriting peers, with previous films including Tucker: The Man and his Dream (1988), directed by his high school classmate Francis Ford Coppola, and The King and I (1999).

What makes the film uniquely personal for the writer is the fact that as a child he grew up with a stutter and found inspiration in how King George VI overcame similar difficulties.

Although born in England, Seidler was raised in America in Long Island and underwent speech therapy over a number of years before managing to cope with the condition at the age of 16.

But the experience left its mark, and speaking to Newsweek recently he said:

“You carry it within you for a long time. I’m still a stutterer, but I’ve learned all the tricks so that you don’t hear it”

It was over thirty years ago that he first started work on a script for what would eventually become The King’s Speech and in his research the enigmatic figure of Lionel Logue kept cropping up.

Even years after the King had died, Logue was still a figure of whom little was known as the issue was still a painful one for the royal family and, in particular, the Queen Mother.

After some detective work Seidler eventually tracked down Dr Valentine Logue, a son of Lionel who was now a retired Harley Street brain surgeon.

In 1981 they met in London and Logue Jnr showed the screenwriter the notebooks his father had kept while treating the monarch.

However, Logue wouldn’t do the film unless the writer secured written permission from the Queen Mother. After writing to Clarence House, he received the following request:

‘Please, Mr Seidler, not during my lifetime, the memory of those events is still too painful.’

It wasn’t until 2002 that the Queen Mother passed away at the age of 101 and in 2005 Seidler struggled with a bout of throat cancer.

As part of his recovery he resumed work on his script for The King’s Speech and after an early draft decided to turn it into a stage play in order to focus on the characters.

It was eventually picked up by Bedlam Productions, who optioned it and then joined forces with See-Saw Films who felt that a film project could work.

Geoffrey Rush became attached early on and a staged reading of the play in Islington, North London was seen by the parents of a British director named Tom Hooper, who was then filming the HBO mini-series John Adams.

After being sent the script, and persuaded by his Australian mother that it was really good, he eventually got around to reading it and was keen to direct it as a film, which like John Adams, explores them interior lives of famous historical figures.

When Colin Firth came on board, the production – after nearly 30 years – was finally going to happen.

Weeks before filming began, Hooper and the production team got their hands on Logue’s original diaries which informed the sequences between Rush and Firth.

After filming in the UK last year it got its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in early September where it got a rave reaction from the audience and was immediately talked of as an Oscar contender.

A week later at the Toronto Film Festival it got similar reactions, winning the Audience Award, and for Seidler it was an emotional moment:

“I was overwhelmed because for the first time ever, the penny dropped and I felt I had a voice and had been heard. For a stutterer, it’s a profound moment”.

The King’s Speech opens in the UK today and is currently out in the US

> My LFF review of The King’s Speech
> Find out more about Lionel Logue at Wikipedia
> Early reactions to The King’s Speech at Telluride and Toronto
> InContention interview with Tom Hooper, Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush at Telluride
> An interview with writer David Seidler at Stutter Talk

Categories
Awards Season News

BAFTA Long List

The official longlist for this year’s BAFTAs have been announced with The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, Another Year, Black Swan, The Fighter and The Social Network amongst the leading contenders.

The Longlist comes together after the first round of voting by BAFTA members as they whittle down the 207 films entered this year.

The first round of voting reduces the list of eligible films to fifteen in each category.

The second round of votes, which opens today, will then reduce these fifteen contenders down to the five nominations in each category. (Just being on the longlist does not constitute a nomination).

Over 6300 BAFTA members vote in three rounds to decide the Longlist, Nominations and Winners.

All members vote in the first two rounds and in the final round, winners are voted for by specialist Chapters in all categories except for Best Film, the four performance categories and Film Not in the English Language, which are voted for by all members.

The full list of nominations will be announced on 18 January 2011.

LONGLIST

N.B. * Denotes Chapter selection from Round One

Best Film

  • 127 Hours
  • Another Year
  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  • Inception
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • The King’s Speech
  • Made In Dagenham
  • Shutter Island
  • The Social Network
  • The Town
  • Toy Story 3
  • True Grit
  • Winter’s Bone

Director

  • 127 Hours *
  • Alice In Wonderland
  • Another Year
  • Black Swan *
  • The Fighter
  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  • Inception *
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • The King’s Speech *
  • Made In Dagenham
  • Shutter Island
  • The Social Network *
  • The Town
  • Toy Story 3
  • True Grit

Leading Actor

  • Aaron Eckhart (Howie) – Rabbit Hole
  • Ben Affleck (Doug MacRay) – The Town
  • Colin Firth (King George VI) – The King’s Speech *
  • James Franco (Aron Ralston) – 127 Hours *
  • Javier Bardem (Uxbal) – Biutiful *
  • Jeff Bridges (Marshal Reuben J Cogburn) – True Grit *
  • Jesse Eisenberg (Mark Zuckerberg) – The Social Network *
  • Jim Broadbent (Tom) – Another Year
  • Johnny Depp (Mad Hatter) – Alice In Wonderland
  • Leonardo DiCaprio (Cobb) – Inception
  • Leonardo DiCaprio (Teddy Daniels) – Shutter Island
  • Mark Wahlberg (Micky Ward) – The Fighter
  • Paul Giamatti (Barney Panofsky) – Barney’s Version
  • Robert Duvall (Felix Bush) – Get Low
  • Ryan Gosling (Dean) – Blue Valentine

Leading Actress

  • Andrea Riseborough (Rose) – Brighton Rock
  • Annette Bening (Nic) – The Kids Are All Right *
  • Carey Mulligan (Kathy) – Never Let Me Go *
  • Gemma Arterton (Alice) – The Disappearance Of Alice Creed
  • Gemma Arterton (Tamara Drewe) – Tamara Drewe
  • Hailee Steinfeld (Mattie Ross) – True Grit
  • Jennifer Lawrence (Ree) – Winter’s Bone
  • Julianne Moore (Jules) – The Kids Are All Right *
  • Michelle Williams (Cindy) – Blue Valentine *
  • Natalie Portman (Nina Sayers / The Swan Queen) – Black Swan *
  • Nicole Kidman (Becca) – Rabbit Hole
  • Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander) – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  • Rosamund Pike (Miriam Grant-Panofsky) – Barney’s Version
  • Sally Hawkins (Rita O’Grady) – Made In Dagenham
  • Tilda Swinton (Emma Recchi) – I Am Love

Supporting Actor

  • Andrew Garfield (Eduardo Saverin) – The Social Network *
  • Andrew Garfield (Tommy) – Never Let Me Go
  • Ben Kingsley (Dr Cawley) – Shutter Island
  • Bill Murray (Frank Quinn) – Get Low
  • Bob Hoskins (Albert) – Made In Dagenham*
  • Christian Bale (Dicky Eklund) – The Fighter *
  • Dustin Hoffman (Izzy Panofsky) – Barney’s Version
  • Geoffrey Rush (Lionel Logue) – The King’s Speech *
  • Guy Pearce (King Edward VIII) – The King’s Speech
  • Jeremy Renner (James Coughlin) – The Town
  • Justin Timberlake (Sean Parker) – The Social Network
  • Mark Ruffalo (Paul) – The Kids Are All Right *
  • Matt Damon (La Boeuf) – True Grit
  • Pete Postlethwaite (Fergus ‘Fergie’ Colm) – The Town
  • Vincent Cassel (Thomas Leroy / The Gentleman) – Black Swan

Supporting Actress

  • Amy Adams (Charlene Fleming) – The Fighter *
  • Barbara Hershey (Erica Sayers / The Queen) – Black Swan *
  • Ellen Page (Ariadne) – Inception
  • Geraldine James (Connie) – Made In Dagenham
  • Helena Bonham Carter (Queen Elizabeth) – The King’s Speech *
  • Helena Bonham Carter (Red Queen) – Alice In Wonderland
  • Lesley Manville (Mary) – Another Year *
  • Marion Cotillard (Mal) – Inception
  • Melissa Leo (Alice Ward) – The Fighter
  • Mila Kunis (Lily / The Black Swan) – Black Swan
  • Miranda Richardson (Barbara Castle) – Made In Dagenham *
  • Olivia Williams (Ruth Lang) – The Ghost
  • Rebecca Hall (Claire Keesey) – The Town
  • Rosamund Pike (Lisa Hopkins) – Made In Dagenham
  • Winona Ryder (Beth Macintyre / The Dying Swan) – Black Swan

Adapted Screenplay

  • 127 Hours *
  • Alice In Wonderland
  • Barney’s Version
  • Brighton Rock
  • Despicable Me
  • The Ghost
  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  • Never Let Me Go
  • Rabbit Hole
  • Shutter Island
  • The Social Network *
  • The Town
  • Toy Story 3 *
  • True Grit *
  • Winter’s Bone *

Original Screenplay

  • Another Year
  • Biutiful
  • Black Swan *
  • Blue Valentine
  • The Disappearance Of Alice Creed
  • The Fighter *
  • Four Lions
  • Get Low
  • Hereafter
  • I Am Love
  • Inception *
  • The Kids Are All Right *
  • The King’s Speech *
  • Made In Dagenham
  • Of Gods and Men

Make Up & Hair

  • 127 Hours
  • Alice In Wonderland *
  • Black Swan *
  • Brighton Rock
  • The Fighter
  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  • Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1 *
  • I Am Love
  • Inception
  • The King’s Speech *
  • Made In Dagenham *
  • Never Let Me Go
  • Shutter Island
  • The Social Network
  • True Grit

Editing

  • 127 Hours *
  • Alice In Wonderland
  • Black Swan *
  • The Fighter
  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  • Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1
  • Inception *
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • The King’s Speech *
  • Made In Dagenham
  • Shutter Island
  • The Social Network *
  • The Town
  • Toy Story 3
  • True Grit

Special Visual Effects

  • 127 Hours
  • Alice In Wonderland *
  • Black Swan
  • Chronicles Of Narnia: Voyage Of The Dawn Treader
  • Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1 *
  • Hereafter
  • How To Train Your Dragon
  • Inception *
  • Iron Man 2 *
  • Kick-Ass
  • The King’s Speech
  • Monsters
  • Shutter Island
  • Toy Story 3
  • Tron Legacy *

Costume Design

  • Alice In Wonderland *
  • Black Swan *
  • Brighton Rock
  • Chronicles Of Narnia: Voyage Of The Dawn Treader
  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  • Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1
  • I Am Love
  • Inception
  • Kick-Ass
  • The King’s Speech *
  • Made In Dagenham *
  • Never Let Me Go
  • Shutter Island
  • The Social Network
  • True Grit *

Sound

  • 127 Hours *
  • Alice In Wonderland
  • Black Swan *
  • Brighton Rock
  • The Fighter
  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  • Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1
  • Inception *
  • The King’s Speech *
  • Made In Dagenham
  • Shutter Island
  • The Social Network
  • The Town
  • Toy Story 3 *
  • True Grit *

Production Design

  • 127 Hours
  • Alice In Wonderland *
  • Black Swan *
  • Brighton Rock
  • The Fighter
  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  • Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1 *
  • I Am Love
  • Inception *
  • The King’s Speech *
  • Made In Dagenham
  • Never Let Me Go
  • Shutter Island *
  • The Social Network
  • True Grit *

Cinematography

  • 127 Hours
  • Alice In Wonderland
  • Black Swan *
  • The Fighter
  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  • Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1
  • I Am Love
  • Inception *
  • The King’s Speech *
  • Never Let Me Go
  • Shutter Island *
  • The Social Network
  • The Town
  • True Grit *
  • Winter’s Bone

Original Music

  • 127 Hours
  • Alice In Wonderland *
  • Biutiful
  • Brighton Rock
  • Despicable Me
  • The Ghost
  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  • Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1
  • How To Train Your Dragon *
  • Inception *
  • The King’s Speech *
  • Made In Dagenham
  • Never Let Me Go
  • The Social Network *
  • The Town

Animated Film

  • Chico & Rita
  • Despicable Me *
  • How To Train Your Dragon *
  • Illusionist, The
  • Toy Story 3 *

Note: As there were ties in the Chapter vote in Production Design and Sound, seven and six achievements are flagged in these categories respectively

> BAFTA
> Awards season coverage at InContention and Awards Daily

Categories
Awards Season

The Hollywood Reporter Director Roundtable

The latest Awards Watch roundtable discussion from The Hollywood Reporter features the directors Peter Weir (The Way Back), Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine), Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), David O’Russell (The Fighter), Lisa Chodolenko (The Kids Are Alright).

> Awards Watch at The Hollywood Reporter
> Oscar analysis at In Contention and Awards Daily

Categories
Awards Season News

SAG Nominations

The SAG nominations have been announced and Colin Firth, Jesse Eisenberg, Annette Benning, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale and Hailee Steinfeld are among the nominees.

Give or take a few actors here and there, this is likely to be the same group nominated for Oscar nominations in January.

The main surprises would appear to be the exclusion of Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Ryan Goslin (Blue Valentine) and Lesley Manville (Another Year).

If pushed for potential Oscar winners I’d still say that Colin Firth, Natalie Portman and Christian Bale are frontrunners, although Best Supporting Actress is hard to call at this point.

Here are the nominations in the film category:

Best Male Actor (Leading Role)

  • Jeff Bridges (True Grit)
  • Robert Duvall (Get Low)
  • Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)
  • Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
  • James Franco (127 Hours)

Best Female Actor (Leading Role)

  • Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)
  • Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole)
  • Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone)
  • Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
  • Hilary Swank (Conviction)

Best Male Actor (Supporting Role)

  • Christian Bale (The Fighter)
  • John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)
  • Jeremy Renner (The Town)
  • Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right)
  • Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)

Best Female Actor (Supporting Role)

  • Amy Adams (The Fighter)
  • Helena Bonham-Carter (The King’s Speech)
  • Mila Kunis (Black Swan)
  • Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
  • Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)

Best Ensemble (Cast)

  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • The Kids Are All Rigth
  • The King’s Speech
  • The Social Network

Stunt Ensemble

  • Green Zone
  • Inception
  • Robin Hood

> Full list of nominations at the SAG Awards site
> Analysis from Scott Feinberg, In Contention and Awards Daily

Categories
Amusing Awards Season

Robert Duvall is upset at Stanley Kubrick

In a recent round table interview Robert Duvall expressed his anger at director Stanley Kubrick for making actors do so many takes.

The veteran actor was taking part in an awards season discussion for The Hollywood Reporter with fellow actors Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Colin Firth, Ryan Gosling and James Franco.

When he heard David Fincher made Eisenberg do fifty takes in The Social Network he seemed aghast (at 0.53) and put forward his views on Kubrick and the performances in The Shining and A Clockwork Orange (at 2.37).

The discussion of Fincher continues in this second video with Franco chipping in with his opinion and Ruffalo explaining how Fincher’s process worked in Zodiac.

Duvall admits that Fincher got good performances in Seven (1995) and even reveals that he turned down a part in the film.

Presumably he was referring to R. Lee Ermey‘s role? (Ironically, Ermey worked with Kubrick in Full Metal Jacket).

UPDATE: The full video of the round-table discussion is here:

> Robert Duvall at Wikipedia
> The Hollywood Reporter Awards Watch

Categories
Awards Season Behind The Scenes

The Production Design of Black Swan

Fox Searchlight have released a new video for Black Swan detailing the production design by Thérèse DePrez.

She and director Darren Aronofsky discuss their ideas behind the look of the Swan Lake set, the colour palette and the extensive use of mirrors in the film.

Some Oscar pundits have felt that Black Swan is too dark a film to get widespread Oscar recognition, but although more conservative viewers may be put off by the wilder aspects, it deserves to be a strong contender across multiple categories.

Not only is Natalie Portman now gaining serious traction for Best Actress, but the sheer quality of the technical aspects (cinematography, costume and production design) may well give it a boost as audiences in the US finally get to see it.

Plus, in recent years haven’t Academy voters increasingly gone for darker and more contemporary films such as The Hurt Locker, No Country for Old Men and The Departed?

[Video via InContention]

> Official site for Black Swan and the other one
> More Awards season discussion of Black Swan at In Contention
> My LFF review of Black Swan

Categories
Awards Season Documentaries

Best Documentary Short list Announced

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced the 15 films which will compete for the Documentary Feature category at this year’s Oscars.

The Documentary branch of the academy viewed all the eligible documentaries for the preliminary round of voting and members will now select the five nominees from among the 15 titles below.

The films are listed in alphabetical order by title, along with their director and production company:

The major omissions would appear to be Tabloid (Dir. Errol Morris), Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Dir. Werner Herzog) and Last Train Home (Dir. Lixin Fan).

The nominations are announced live on Tuesday, 25th January and the Oscars themselves follow on Sunday 27th February at the Kodak Theatre.

> Official site for the Oscars
> Previous winners for Best Documentary at Wikipedia

Categories
Awards Season Thoughts

127 Faintings

The intense nature of 127 Hours has led to a slew of reports that audience members have fainted at screenings – but is it just part of a brilliant marketing plan?

During the awards season, a lot of time and money is spent positioning films for contention and Fox Searchlight are past masters at the game.

Since their birth in 1994 they have excelled in securing key wins or multiple nominations for films such as The Full Monty (1997), Boys Don’t Cry (1999), Sideways (2004), Little Miss Sunshine (2006), The Last King of Scotland (2006), Juno (2007), Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and Crazy Heart (2009).

Danny Boyle’s last film was a notable triumph, given that it was in limbo and heading for a straight-to-DVD release before Fox Searchlight picked it up.

The fact that they spotted its potential and managed to turn it into their first Best Picture win made it an especially stunning triumph.

Similarly, they spotted the potential of Crazy Heart last year and mounted a highly effective campaign that propelled Jeff Bridges to his first Best Actor Oscar.

With 127 Hours, they have Danny Boyle’s follow up to Slumdog Millionaire and a tricky proposition: this is a film that centres around a single character stuck in a remote canyon in Utah, before he conducts some unconventional surgery with a penknife.

Given that the story of Aron Ralston (played by James Franco) is fairly widely known, the studio also face the challenge that many audience members will know the resolution of the film involves a fairly gruesome act.

When it first screened on the festival circuit at Telluride in early September, Anne Thompson of Indiewire reported that medics were called to attend to audience members at separate screenings.

A week later in Toronto, The Wrap reported that there were:

“three faintings and one seizure”

By mid-October Deadline were reporting that two more people had passed out at a screening at Pixar hosted by Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich.

The pattern continued at various screenings in Mill Hill Valley, New York, London and Los Angeles to the point where Movieline started a running tally, entitled ‘A Comprehensive Timeline of Everyone Who’s Fainted (Or Worse) at 127 Hours’.

At the LFF press screening I could feel some of the audience tense up during the climactic sequence – a few near me looked away – so I don’t dispute that it is a tough sequence to sit through (although curiously transcendent in the context of the film).

After hearing the initial reports of faintings at Telluride, it seemed that the marketing folk at Fox Searchlight would have a job on their hands trying to convince people that 127 Hours wasn’t a new horror franchise from Lionsgate.

But now, with the film in platform release and selected audience members dropping like flies, it seems like a brilliant marketing plan.

Danny Boyle’s latest is not the traditional comfort food for the elders members of the academy but a much more contemporary tale of survival.

Is it being positioned for the younger and members of the academy?

Over the last 25 years the Best Picture winners were nearly always period films (the exceptions being Rain Man, The Silence of the Lambs and American Beauty), but the trend over the last few years has been towards darker and more contemporary material.

Think about the winners since 2004:

  • Million Dollar Baby (2004): Contemporary drama involving euthanasia.
  • Crash (2005): Contemporary drama about racism in LA.
  • The Departed (2006): Contemporary crime drama filled with violence.
  • No Country For Old Men (2007): Not exactly contemporary (it is set in 1980) but is surely one of the darkest films ever to win Best Picture.
  • Slumdog Millionaire (2008): Mostly set in the present, it includes scenes of poverty, child torture and the central character enduring all manner of physical and mental hardships.
  • The Hurt Locker (2010): Released before the Iraq War had ended, this featured U.S troops dying in combat and getting hooked on the drug of war.

Whilst some of the above films certainly have their uplifting moments, none of them are exactly Driving Miss Daisy.

What does this say about the Academy voters?

Could there have been a gradual generational shift towards darker films that reflect contemporary anxieties, like there was in the late 60s and early 70s when Midnight Cowboy, The French Connection and The Godfather triumphed?

Which brings us back to 127 Hours.

Are Fox Searchlight positioning this film for a younger generation of voters who embraced the darker leaning films of the last few years?

It is almost as if they are converting their initial fear about the film and turned it into a key selling point.

Want a costume drama about a posh guy stuttering? Vote for The King’s Speech.

Want a drama about geeks feuding over a website? Vote for The Social Network.

Want a confusing action film about dreaming? Vote for Inception. (I should interject that I’m a big fan of all of the above films)

But a story about the basic struggle to stay alive against impossible odds?

Well, there is this film about a guy stuck in a canyon that is so extreme, people are fainting at screenings!

After an ambulance was spotted outside a cinema showing the film in Georgia, noted Oscar watcher Scott Feinberg posted the theory that Fox Searchlight may have embraced the ‘fainting narrative’.

If it is indeed the case, this marketing strategy is almost daring the audiences to experience the film and feel better about themselves for having endured it.

It also builds up a must-see factor, which increases the buzz at a time when 127 Hours increasingly seems like Fox Searchlight’s best shot at the Oscars.

Two of their potential contenders coming in to the awards season – Never Let Me Go and Conviction – have effectively fallen out of the race, whilst Black Swan is something of a dazzling wildcard who’s dark tone and wild sensibility are likely to divide Oscar voters.

Not only does the fainting meme spread the word about Danny Boyle’s film, but it actually nudges people into wanting to see it and to prove themselves as modern, hardened cinema goers.

But will it work with Academy voters? We’ll have to wait and see.

> Movieline timeline of faintings at 127 Hours
> Reviews of 127 Hours at Metacritic and MUBi
> My take on 127 Hours at the LFF

Categories
Awards Season

The Early Oscar Contenders

The early contenders for this year’s awards season have emerged with films about King George V, Facebook and a mountain climber amongst the front runners.

How does a film end up winning an Oscar? In simple terms, Academy voters see a bunch of films in a given year and then vote for the pictures and performances they like best.

But the road to Oscar recognition is obviously a larger and more complicated affair. It really begins when a studio or production company greenlights a project which they think could have a shot at awards recognition.

Once completed, films are often ‘positioned’ for a run at a major film festival in order to gauge buzz, critical reaction and its chances in the autumn awards season.

Things really come in to focus in late August and early September when Oscar hopefuls screen at Telluride, Venice and Toronto.

Telluride in Colorado is the smallest of the festivals but eagerly watched for buzz (Slumdog Millionaire began its run to Oscar glory there back in 2008).

Venice is the second largest European festival and often a launchpad for contenders, whilst Toronto is the most important festival in North America.

Aside being a big marketplace where independent films are acquired, Toronto is also where many Oscar hopefuls are deemed worthy by the buzz from critics and audiences. Out of these festivals a general picture of what films have heat gradually emerges.

The other factor to bear in mind at this point is the cost of a campaign: consultants, marketing, screenings and parties for voters can get expensive, so the studios want to be sure they have at least a shot at getting nominated.

The dynamic slightly changed last year when the Academy increased the Best Picture slots from five to ten. This was intended to include more commercial fare, but also means that more left field choices can sneak in to.

So with the proviso that things can always change, who are the big winners in this first phase of the awards race?

THE EARLY FRONTRUNNERS

The King’s Speech (Dir. Tom Hooper): This historical drama about King George VI (Colin Firth) and speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) went down a storm at Telluride and Toronto. Directed by Tom Hooper (who previously directed The Damned United and the HBO series John Adams), it got great reviews, won the People’s Choice Award and seems like it will appeal to traditional Oscar voters and a broader audience. The Weinstein Company will be hoping the word-of-mouth continues

The Social Network (Dir. David Fincher): It might seem an unlikely subject for an Oscar hopeful, but the creation of Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and resulting conflicts that followed has been scoring rave early reviews. The talent behind the camera (Fincher, producer Scott Rudin and writer Aaron Sorkin) is A-grade and it has already led to a flurry of articles about the film, Facebook and how close it is to the truth. Whether it will prove a turn off for older voters remains to be seen.

127 Hours (Dir. Danny Boyle): After the success of Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle has attempted another challenging subject: the story of  of Aron Ralston, the American mountain climber who was trapped by a boulder in Utah in 2003. Re-teaming with the key players behind his previous film – screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, producer Christian Colson and DP Anthony Dod Mantle – it made an impact at Telluride and Toronto despite the tough subject matter.

ALSO IN THE RUNNING

The Kids Are Alright (Dir. Lisa Cholodenko): This comedy-drama about a lesbian couple (played by Julianne Moore and Annette Bening), who each gave birth to a child using the same anonymous sperm donor, opened in the summer to universal critical acclaim. Moore and Benning seem dead certs in the acting categories and it would seem likely to get a Best Picture slot too.

Another Year (Dir. Mike Leigh): After a very positive reception at Cannes the latest drama from Mike Leigh explores a collection of friends and families over the course of the year. To some  US viewers it might seem like parochial material, but it could repeat the crossover success of Secrets and Lies, which scored multiple nominations back in 1996-97.

Black Swan (Dir. Darren Aronofsky): This psychological drama about a New York ballerina (Natalie Portman) under intense pressure was very well received at Venice and Cannes, with many tipping Portman for Best Actress. Like The Wrestler, some have expressed the concern that it is too dark and modern for Oscar voters but with ten slots seems like it could make an impact in the major categories.

Never Let Me Go (Dir. Mark Romanek): This adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel about three young people (Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley) leaving a mysterious boarding school seemed like a heavyweight going in to Telluride and Toronto. However, the decidedly mixed reactions to the film will have given Fox Searchlight pause for thought. That said, they might ride out the storm and see how things go over the next month or two.

Made in Dagenham (Dir. Nigel Cole): Based on the real life tale of striking female workers at the Ford plant in Dagenham, this British drama might emerge as a plucky underdog that makes a serious point with charm and wit (like The Full Monty did back in 1997). Starring Sally Hawkins, Miranda Richardson and Bob Hoskins it was well received in Toronto and seems likely to feature in the broader race.

Toy Story 3 (Dir. Lee Unkrich): One of the outcomes of expanding the slots for Best Picture was that a heavyweight animated film would likely feature in the category as well as in the dedicated slot for animation. Last year Pixar’s Up bagged it and given the enormous critical and commercial love for the final Toy Story film, this is a dead cert to get a Best Picture nomination.

Inception (Dir. Christopher Nolan): Some speculated that the exclusion of The Dark Knight from the Best Picture nominations in 2008 was a factor in it rising to ten and Christopher Nolan’s latest film seems highly likely to feature this year. It got great reviews, made a lot of money for an original blockbuster and is almost certain to feature in the screenplay and technical categories.

POSSIBLE LATE RUNNERS

True Grit (Dir. The Coen Brothers): Adapted from the Charles Portis novel (previously filmed in 1969 with John Wayne), this promises to be a more faithful adaptation from the Coen Brothers. The story involves a 14-year old girl (Hailee Steinfeld) who persuades a drunken lawman (Jeff Bridges) to pursue the man who murdered her father. With Matt Damon and Josh Brolin rounding out a stellar array of acting talent, this could feature if the Coen Brothers deliver the goods. It doesn’t open until Christmas Day, so will presumably start screening in the next month or two.

The Fighter (Dir. David O’Russell): This boxing drama about a fighter named “Irish” Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his older brother Dickie (Christian Bale) has an alarmingly conventional trailer. But if the talent, which includes Amy Adams in a supporting role, is on form then this could have a shot, and provide some kind of redemption for O’Russell after the bizarre situation surrounding his unfinished film Nailed.

As ever, there are bound to be surprises over the next few months as the different guilds and critics associations vote for their favourites.

Once the marketing campaigns and further reactions really bed in, the overall picture will change. But first impressions can also linger until the end of the awards season.

The nominations are announced on Tuesday 25th January and Oscar night is on Sunday 27th February.

> The 83rd Academy Awards at Wikipedia
> Awards Daily
> In Contention
> Gold Derby at The LA Times
> Pete Hammond at Deadline
> Oscar Coverage at The Wrap
Oscar Talk podcast with Kris Tapley and Anne Thompson

Categories
Amusing Awards Season

Nicolas Chartier Accepts His Oscar

Producer Nicolas Chartier should have been on stage at the Kodak Theatre on Sunday night for producing The Hurt Locker, but had to make other arrangements after being banned from the Oscars.

As the race for Best Picture heated up Chartier broke Academy rules by sending out a mass email urging members to vote for his film over a certain sci-fi epic with blue aliens, saying:

“If everyone tells one or two of their friends, we will win and not a $500M film.”

Once AMPAS caught on they flipped out and demanded he send an apology to the entire Academy, which he duly did, before also banning him from the ceremony.

So as his fellow producers Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal and Greg Shapiro walked up to collect their Oscars for Best Picture, what was Chartier doing?

It turns out he was at a viewing party in Malibu which was organised by producers Lynette Howell, Mike Fleiss and WME Global chief Graham Taylor.

They even had a poster of the producer with the word ‘banned’ designed in the colours of the French flag.

When Tom Hanks announced on the Oscar stage that The Hurt Locker had won Best Picture the place erupted and Chartier was given a replica Oscar, before making an alternative acceptance speech.

Someone was smart enough to film it and post the footage online:

According to Howell, it was longer than he would have been permitted at the Kodak and after that he headed off into Hollywood to all the post Oscar parties to celebrate even further.

Categories
Amusing Awards Season Images

The Oscars in one image

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If there is one image that sums up this year’s Oscar race, it is this hilarious shot of Avatar director James Cameron and The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow from last night’s ceremony.

They were once married, but contrary to a lot of lazy media coverage in the build up to the awards, remain friends and even consult each other on their respective film projects.

Cameron urged his ex-wife to do The Hurt Locker after reading the script and even screened Avatar for Bigelow several times in post production to solicit her opinion on the sci-fi blockbuster.

Also, both films were – in their different ways – about the Iraq War as Cameron pointed out in an interview with CBS recently.

Someone has also done a nice Muckety map of the connections between the two directors.


In a way, it all worked out nicely as Avatar scooped the technical awards it deserved, as well as becoming the biggest grossing film of all time.

Meanwhile The Hurt Locker went from a film that almost no major studio wanted to make or release to a  Best Picture winner that also made Bigelow the first woman to get a Best Director Oscar.

Categories
Awards Season News

Oscar Winners

Here is the full list of winners for the 82nd Academy Awards, which saw The Hurt Locker win Best Picture, Kathryn Bigelow become the first woman to win Best Director, whilst Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock won in the major acting categories.

  • BEST PICTURE: The Hurt Locker
  • BEST DIRECTOR: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
  • BEST ACTOR: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
  • BEST ACTRESS: Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Mo’Nique (Precious)
  • BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: El Secreto de Sus Ojos – The Secret of Their Eyes (Argentina)
  • BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker)
  • BEST ANIMATION: Up
  • BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire)
  • BEST ART DIRECTION: Avatar
  • BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Avatar
  • BEST SOUND MIXING: The Hurt Locker
  • BEST SOUND EDITING: The Hurt Locker
  • BEST ORIGINAL SONG: The Weary Kind (theme from Crazy Heart) from Crazy Heart by Ryan Bingham, T Bone Burnett
  • BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Up (Michael Giacchino)
  • BEST COSTUMES: The Young Victoria
  • BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: The Cove
  • BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: Music by Prudence
  • BEST FILM EDITING: The Hurt Locker
  • BEST MAKE-UP: Star Trek
  • BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Avatar
  • BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM: Logorama
  • BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM: The New Tenants
Categories
Awards Season Thoughts

Why The Hurt Locker will win (even if it loses)

Tonight could see the Iraq war drama The Hurt Locker win the Oscar for Best Picture, but even if it goes to Avatar, the real winner is a film which has gradually found widespread acclaim and recognition.

After it first premiered at the Venice film festival back in September 2008, the idea that it would have ended up as a heavyweight Oscar contender in 2010 would have seemed highly unlikely.

The climate for Iraq themed films back then was not a good one. Films such as Redacted, In the Valley of Elah and Body of Lies had underperformed at the box office.

An independently-financed drama about a bomb squad in Baghdad during 2004 might have seemed to many observers as one that would struggle to find an audience. The fact that several studios had turned down the script suggested what they thought of its potential.

Despite that it was acquired at the Toronto film festival soon after its Venice premiere by the newly formed mini-studio Summit and by this point was attracting some serious critical acclaim from those who had seen it on the festival circuit.

Summit made the decision to release it the following summer – effectively taking it out of the 2008-09 Oscar race which was dominated by Slumdog Millionaire – and to some this looked like they were effectively dumping the film.

After all, when you actually see it, this isn’t some hand-wringing polemic about US troops in the Middle East, but a visceral drama which takes you inside the tension of what certain troops have to go through.

Seeing last summer I felt strongly that it had genuine mainstream potential and was disappointed that Summit went for an unusual platform release.

After opening in major cities like New York and LA, where it achieved terrific per-screen grosses, the studio went for a curious ‘rolling’ distribution where it went around the country gradually.

Perhaps as a smaller outfit, without the marketing dollars of a major like Warner Bros or Paramount, they felt this was a way of building on the huge critical acclaim and igniting word of mouth.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work (in the short term at least) and a talking point amongst film sites last summer was why something as good as The Hurt Locker could perform so badly whilst something as bad as Transformers 2 could be such a hit.

At this point, it also seemed odd that Summit’s release strategy wasn’t more attuned to delaying  it closer for the awards season.

Most of the films contending for the Oscars open in the final three months of the year, before the late December deadline, so that they are fresh in voters minds although there have been exceptions like The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and Gladiator (2000).

When I walked in to a studio to interview director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal about The Hurt Locker on its UK release last August, the Oscars seemed far away.

At the time, it seemed like a genuinely important film was going to be painted as an acclaimed box office failure.

But in the autumn something remarkable happened. The Hurt Locker started to pick up a slew of critics and guild awards and when the Academy announced that it was expanding the Best Picture slots to 10 films it seemed a given that it would find a place.

What surprised me was how it slowly began to become the front runner as early contenders like Up in the Air began to fizzle slightly.

By the time Avatar arrived at Christmas and quickly smashed box office records, it quickly established itself as the rival for Best Picture whilst Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) and Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) became the frontrunners in the acting categories.

The battle tonight between Kathryn Bigelow’s war drama and James Cameron’s sci-fi epic is interesting.

One is gritty, contemporary and earned just over $21 million dollars worldwide; the other is a futuristic fantasy that has grossed over $2.5 billion worldwide to become the most successful film of all time.

Despite their differences, thematically they both speak in different ways to the present conflicts in the world. Intriguingly, Cameron and Bigelow – who were once married – remain friends and even solicited opinions from each other on their respective films.

Personally, I think The Hurt Locker will win Best Picture tonight as it has the momentum of winning so many awards this season (the Golden Globes can be discounted as the votes of 90 celebrity-obsessed journalists based in LA).

Strangely, Summit’s release strategy – criticised by some – will ultimately be vindicated if it wins one of the major categories tonight.

Even if Avatar scoops Best Picture, it is The Hurt Locker which has benefited most from this awards season.

As a film that finally found wider acknowledgement in the awards season, it is a potent sign of how the Oscars can remind Hollywood and audiences around the world that quality still matters.

Categories
Amusing Awards Season

Sandra Bullock accepts Razzie Award

Sandra Bullock is in the rare position of winning a Razzie and an Oscar in the space of 48 hours.

Last night she turned up at the Razzies to collect her award for Worst Actress, in the widely panned comedy All About Steve.

Given that she is almost certain to win the Oscar for Best Actress tonight, for her performance in The Blind Side, she was a good sport to turn up and make fun of herself.

Quick bit of trivia: Who was the last person to win a Razzie and an Oscar in the same weekend? (Clue: He has a film out very soon)

Categories
Awards Season Thoughts

Oscar Predictions

Here are my predictions for who is going to win at the Oscars tomorrow night.

  • BEST PICTURE: The Hurt Locker
  • BEST DIRECTOR: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
  • BEST ACTOR: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
  • BEST ACTRESS: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Mo’Nique, Precious
  • ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
  • ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
  • ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: Up
  • ART DIRECTION: Avatar
  • CINEMATOGRAPHY: Avatar
  • COSTUME DESIGN: The Young Victoria
  • DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE): The Cove
  • DOCUMENTARY (SHORT): The Last Truck: The Closing of a GM Plant
  • FILM EDITING: The Hurt Locker
  • FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: The White Ribbon (Germany)
  • MAKEUP: Star Trek
  • MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE): Up
  • MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG): ‘The Weary Kind’ (Theme from Crazy Heart), from Crazy Heart, Music and Lyric by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett
  • SHORT FILM (ANIMATED): A Matter of Loaf and Death, Nick Park
  • SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION): The Door
  • SOUND EDITING: Avatar
  • SOUND MIXING: The Hurt Locker
  • VISUAL EFFECTS: Avatar

> The full list of nominations for this year
> More on the 82nd Academy Awards at Wikipedia
> Print out your own ballot

Categories
Amusing Awards Season Posters

Spoof Best Picture Posters

College Humour have had some fun with the posters of this year’s Best Picture nominees, including Avatar, The Blind Side, Inglourious Basterds, District 9, A Serious Man, Up in the Air and Up.

Whilst snarky, they are also very funny – especially the one for Up.

The rest can be found here.

 

Categories
Amusing Awards Season Viral Video

Oscar Thank Yous

An amusing montage of famous actors and directors saying who they’d like to thank at the Oscars.

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Categories
Awards Season Interesting

The Numbers Behind The Oscars

An interesting infographic about the Oscars from Business Pundit.

[Via /Film]

Categories
Awards Season

BAFTA Backstage Interviews

Here are some official backstage interviews with tonight’s BAFTA winners including Kathryn Bigelow, Colin Firth, Carey Mulligan, Mark Boal, Pete Docter and the Avatar effects team (Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham, Andrew R. Jones).