OFF THE CARPET: Getting to know you

Posted by · 7:19 am · November 17th, 2008

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Revolutionary RoadThis is the first season I can think of, at least since I’ve been covering this crazy beat on the west coast, that studios have become so terrified by the media that guild screenings are preempting press screenings with such consistency.

Some have whined about “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” screening for SAG 10 days before the media at large gets a look (with the usual brand of entitlement that turns the stomach).  Others actually snuck into the screening, surely freaking out a few publicists desperate to unfold the film at their own pace (and the pace dictated by the meticulous David Fincher).  I’m just waiting.

Plenty have taken the altered ending story behind “Australia,” not to mention the film being held from the press until two weeks before it opens, as a sign that the movie is in trouble.  I’m just waiting.

Lots of anticipation has suddenly been blown into “The Reader”‘s previously deflated balloon.  I’m just waiting.

But I have to say, seeing a couple of the year’s contenders last week with big industry audiences proved to be just the breath of fresh air this incredibly stifling season needed.

“Milk” enjoyed a lavish premiere at the Academy Thursday night, bringing out a spectrum of stars: Jack Nicholson, Harry Dean Stanton, Oliver Stone, Marisa Tomei, Woody Harrelson, David Gordon Green, Bruce Vilanch, and of course Sean Penn, James Franco, Gus Van Sant and Emile Hirsch.  Gay rights advocates held a candlelight vigil across the street on Wilshire Boulevard as flashbulbs went off along the red carpet.

The crowd clearly loved the movie.  “What an important film,” I heard one producer say.  “I’ve never seen a performance like that.”  After a lengthy ovation, most of the crowd stayed all the way through the credits roll, a rarity considering we could all smell the San Francisco-inspired cuisine laid out in the lobby below.

Diego Luna in MilkSaturday the press at large (and a massive SAG crowd) got it’s first peek at “Revolutionary Road.”  Spillover crowds had to see the film in the nearby Sherry Lansing Theatre while plenty of guild members had to be turned away.

The SAG crowd couldn’t get enough of the acting clinic put on by the film’s ensemble, but I’d say Michael Shannon stole the show in the post-screening Q&A.  I even found myself a bit irritated when Pete Hammond cut him off to move on to a new topic, no matter how much I might understand the plight of a deadline-bound moderator.

The dinner party that followed the screening was a much more intimate affair than the “Milk” reception, 30 or so people mingling about Larchmont grill across the street from the Paramount lot.  David Harbour was led around the room by his hard-working publcist it what might be his first real Hollywood whirlwind, taking it all in stride and having nothing but glowing things to say of co-star Kate Winslet (with whom he shares a couple of notable scenes in the film).

Kathryn Hahn, meanwhile, carried a bouyant sense of humor throughout the evening that left you wondering how she could tap into the repression of Milly Campbell on screen with such visceral authenticity.  Kathy Bates prefered the more casual hues of the front patio, engaging in this intimate conversation or that, while Kate Winslet and hubby Sam Mendes fielded queries and adoration inside.  Ditto lenser Roger Deakings and composer Thomas Newman.

Michael Shannon leaning against the bar, quite affable and a guy you;d like to bullshit with into the night; Leonardo DiCaprio knocking a surprisingly flawless George W. Bush impersonation out of the park (his blood boiling at the Commander-in-Chief’s most recent on-air gaffs); just a delightful spread in the service of a film Paramount Vantage hopes can cross the finish line outside of the obvious expectations.

In both cases, it was a moment’s relief in a season that has become incredibly stifling.  The ability to simply delight in conversation about the movies with a few smart people, both with and without vested interests, outside the unbearable vacuum than tends to build up around this time of year, it was just what the doctor ordered.

Clint Eastwood in Gran TorinoThe only films that will be left to unveil on the other side of the Thanksgiving holiday are Columbia Pictures’ “Seven Pounds” and Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Gran Torino.”  Both of them have a play at the big race in a still somewhat uncompetitive year, if for no other reason than they have the unknown in their favor.  But I already sense our five falling into place, even if I’m a bit wary of how safe that line-up appears to be.  So who knows?

I’m just glad we’re getting somewhere, even if this column clearly isn’t.  Let’s just get to what you want:

Main Category Charts
Technical Category Charts
The Contenders
Oscar Prediction Archives

→ 20 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Featured · Off the Carpet

20 responses so far

  • 1 11-17-2008 at 8:28 am

    AJ said...

    What I have to say do these people is stfu. You get in for free.

    Last Chance isn’t a song from HSM3

  • 2 11-17-2008 at 9:10 am

    Casey said...

    wow. hostile.

    anyway i feel pretty good about these right now for bp.

    Benjamin Button
    Revolutionary Road
    Slumdog Millionaire
    The Dark Knight

    with Milk and Revolutionary Road appearing to be the real deal, if Ben Button or Australia is a hit then Frost/Nixon will be very shaky. if both are successful, Frosy/Nixon might be fuly out

  • 3 11-17-2008 at 9:16 am

    Liz said...

    Look at that Best Actress list. In a weaker year, any of them could have ended up in the top five.

    It’s interesting that, in a weaker year overall for film, a number of actresses found great roles. It’s a nice reversal from the usual.

  • 4 11-17-2008 at 9:23 am

    John said...

    I still think the big 7 contending for multiple, multiple nominations will be:

    The Curious Case Benjmain Button
    Revolutionary Road
    TheDark Knight
    Slumdog Millionaire
    The Reader

    I’m talking no less than 5 noms, prob no more than 9 or 10.

    Doubt, Frost/Nixon, Happy-Go-Lucky, Wrestler, Rachel Getting Married, Wall-E on the outerbands … though, Wrestler could sneak up and surprise one of my 7 above.

  • 5 11-17-2008 at 11:14 am

    JAB said...

    I don’t understand Frost/Nixon over Dark Knight for a Best Picture nomination.

  • 6 11-17-2008 at 11:30 am

    Mr. F said...

    Nice to see “the fall” finally breaking into the top-five of something. In a just world it would get nominated and win for costumes, make up, art direction, and cinematography

  • 7 11-17-2008 at 11:32 am

    The InSneider said...

    Isn’t it David Harbour, not John? And don’t forget Valkyrie, Kris. That one could wind up surprising a lot of people.

  • 8 11-17-2008 at 11:34 am

    Aaron said...

    After reading this, I’m really excited about seeing Revolutionary Road. It could make the final five. But I have to agree with JAB, that I think Frost/Nixon is much more vulnerable than most people think. I feel like Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay nominations are more likely. And I also feel that, should Benjamin Button receive a best picture nomination (which I think it will), it seems hard to imagine Brad Pitt or Cate Blanchett not getting a lead nomination. I think one of them will make it. I would say Pitt, but ultimately Blanchett might make it in with the incredible amount of respect she has with the Academy.

    Right now, best picture could be:

    The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    The Dark Knight
    Slumdog Millionaire

    ***(but it seems like Revolutionary Road actually might make it to the final five)

  • 9 11-17-2008 at 12:16 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Thanks for the correction, Sneider. John Lesher was also hanging out at the party, probably mixed names in my over-stuffed head.

    Regarding Frost/Nixon, I’ll wait until more people see the film and start bandying about it’s chances before I start saying it’s vulnerable, based on nothing more than gut feelings (which I’ve seen the film, so obviously I’m not shooting from the hip here). The studio knows how to get Oscar nods, so we’ll see.

  • 10 11-17-2008 at 12:17 pm

    John said...

    My late-breaking thoughts ….

    The Reader may not have quite enough buzz to get up, up, up, and over the hump for Top 5 of Best Pic (maybe Director, Supp. Actress, Screenplay, Make-Up).

    And Slumdog Millionaire could be huge, OR not have widespread support from the older AMPAS folks, plus the actors branch (huge). LMS and Juno were small, but had acclaimed actors in them. I could see Slumdog getting ‘only’ (director, screenplay, editing, cinematography, song) or maybe even less than those 5.

    That leaves Dark Knight (huge to ingnore), Australia (AMPAS loves Lurhmann), Revolutionary Road (Kate, Leo, Mendes, Bates, Shannon, loved novel … bam), Curious Case of BB (with insane hype and likely many technical nods), and Milk (wonderful reviews, thus far).

    My thoughts for now.

  • 11 11-17-2008 at 12:38 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Question: If AMPAS loves Luhrmann, why did “Strictly Ballroom” and “Romeo + Juliet” get goose eggs while the director himself wasn’t even nominated for helming “Moulin Rouge?”

  • 12 11-17-2008 at 1:28 pm

    yopla said...

    Leonardo DiCaprio knocking a surprisingly flawless George W. Bush impersonation out of the park (his blood boiling at the Commander-in-Chief’s most recent on-air gaffs)
    That’s actually not surprising since many people who know him said that dicaprio was a great imitator.
    He loves to imitate the directors he works with and others people too.


    you can read :
    “Monahan loved his Nicholson impression best but said that DiCaprio does everybody equally well. Michael Gaston remembers DiCaprio’s imitation of director Ridley Scott. French actor Mehdi Nebbou burst out laughing at the thought of — wait for it — DiCaprio’s impression of Nicole Kidman, which he describes as both a physical and vocal impersonation. Oscar Isaac says DiCaprio does a “great, great” Denzel Washington.”

    “Ridley Scott’s favorite DiCaprio impression? “He took the piss out of me regularly with a very good impersonation of me,””

  • 13 11-17-2008 at 2:05 pm

    John said...

    Kristopher Tapley, I stand corrected and take back what I said.

    Upon perusing imdb, I saw the Oscar nod for Best Picture (not Director).

    He does have a nice record with BAFTA’s & GG’s, though.

    Don’t know if that would translate.

  • 14 11-17-2008 at 3:34 pm

    McGuff said...

    This is out there, but since we’re still far out, indulge me for a moment…

    When Kris updates the sidebar, one thing I like to do is go back to last year, and see where his predictions aligned in that week with what ultimately happened. It’s a good way to realize that, hey, this is mid-November, and this time last year, we thought Tom Hanks was in line for another Oscar.

    In looking through the charts, though, I can’t help but wonder if Benjamin Button might follow the Sweeney Todd path. A year ago, Todd was third on Kris’ Best Picture predictions, Johnny Depp was first at Best Actor, Tim Burton sixth for Best Director (having just fallen out of the top five) and even Helena Bonham Carter was eighth for Best Actress.

    This was an adapted movie from an old tale with an odd premise with a director/actor combo working together again … it all just seemed so perfect. And then … well, it wasn’t perfect. Just wondering if anyone else wonders if the same is in store for Benjamin Button.

  • 15 11-17-2008 at 4:18 pm

    Aaron said...

    Although it’s entirely possible that Benjamin Button could fail drastically, which I hope it doesn’t, I don’t know if I would exactly equate it with Sweeney Todd.

    To be fair, both directors are known for making visually daring and dark films (Fincher–Seven, Zodiac), Burton (Sleepy Hollow, Batman, the list could go on…) Sweeney Todd was an incredibly dark, dark film. First of all, it was a horror-musical film with countless throat-slashings, the score was not the typical “musical-theatre” singing AMPAS usually goes for (aka Chicago, My Fair Lady, Music Man, Oliver!, etc.) —all this coupled with the fact that the Academy was ultimately going to honor No Country for Old Men (a very violent film), and the macabre There Will Be Blood, made it a tough sell…and personally I found Sweeney Todd to be lacking the excitement it had on stage…

    Personally, Benjamin Button feels more Academy-friendly to me. It’s based on a classic F.Scott Fitzgerald story. It’s a love story (although I guess you could say Sweeney Todd was—a demented one at least haha). It’s (supposedly) a big tear-jerker. It’s epic. It has Cate Blanchett (sorry—that’s a big plus).

    Ultimately, I don’t think it’s too relatable to Sweeney Todd, but you never know what might happen…

  • 16 11-17-2008 at 4:40 pm

    McGuff said...

    Oh, absolutely, the differences are huge, and in terms of pathos, Button already has a huge edge. I think it’s telling that it’s atop Tapley’s board, rather than in the middle of the top five. In each of the last two years, Kris’ top choice in November made the Oscar Final Five. I pointed out the similarities merely as a way to acknowledge some interesting correlations, rather than making any statement about correlation.

    However, in that vein, I should caution you when you said this: “it was a horror-musical film with countless throat-slashings, the score was not the typical “musical-theatre” singing AMPAS usually goes for (aka Chicago, My Fair Lady, Music Man, Oliver!, etc.) —all this coupled with the fact that the Academy was ultimately going to honor No Country for Old Men (a very violent film), and the macabre There Will Be Blood, made it a tough sell…”

    My point is that’s revisionist history — a year ago, we rationalized the problems we now have Sweeney Todd, and saw a real Oscar contender. Perhaps, more than anything, the comparison serves nothing more than to say, hey, before we see a movie (like Button, like ST), we really don’t know. And that’s what the point of Kris’ whole column was…

  • 17 11-17-2008 at 6:09 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    McGuff: No doubt, a lot can change. But once we had seen all the movies, we knew what was what. I think this time next week, answers will start to really surface.

  • 18 11-17-2008 at 7:21 pm

    McGuff said...

    I look forward to it.

  • 19 11-18-2008 at 9:25 am

    Rob said...

    One similarity between Sweeney Todd and Button is that both were being predicted in part because there was a feeling that the director was “due”.

    But looking back over the recent history of AMPAS, you’ll find so little love for either Burton or Fincher, that it’s hard to make a case that the Academy thinks they’re due, or even likes them much. Contrast this with someone like PT Anderson whose films garnered several acting and writing nods, thus making There Will Be Blood look like a good bet.

    For Fincher or Burton, no such major nods… none. Of course that doesn’t mean the film itself won’t be good enough to make the cut. But it won’t get in on the bases of AMPAS generosity.

    I hear odd unsettling things about Button. Last week the word was “well made dud” and recently I hear Forrest Gump comparisons.

    I’m starting to wonder if this year, the Oscar competitors will eventually be whittled down to nothing.

  • 20 11-18-2008 at 9:43 am

    Ivan said...

    These are my choices for film editing
    The Dark Knight
    The Reader
    Slumdog Millionaire

    I think only 4 will get a best picture nominee
    the fifth slot belongs to Revolutionary Road