OFF THE CARPET: Kicking the tires on the circuit

Posted by · 8:42 am · November 29th, 2010

On the precipice of December, the season feels at once stale and fresh. We’re in the post-Thanksgiving food coma paradox that hits every year. But things are going to start heating up real soon.

The last two films out of the gate, “TRON Legacy” and “True Grit” (both ironically starring Jeff Bridges), have already started screening.  SAG ballots are already in the hands of nominating committee members and voting deadlines are approaching for various organizations.

The circuit “officially” begins Thursday with the always arbitrary National Board of Review announcement. The Washington, D.C. Area Film Critics Association will get a jump on the critics awards once again when they announce one week from today, while the Los Angeles (12/12) and New York online (12/12) and print (12/13) critics will have their say the following week, as well as the BFCA (12/13) and HFPA (12/14).

The excitement will build to the usual pre-holiday stall and pick right back up on January 4 when the writers and producers guilds announce nominees, followed the same week by the art directors and sound mixers. And the date most will have their eyes on — January 10 — will bring the DGA’s list of contenders. Before you know it we’ll be on a collision course with the January 25 Oscar nominations announcement and things will be mercifully nearing an end.

But for now…it’s still November. And I’m spending much of this week and next catching up on a number of titles I missed along the way, while re-visiting a handful of others that deserve a second (or third) glance.

I’ve delighted in titles like Ruba Nadda’s “Cairo Time,” featuring a pair of soulful performances from Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig, not to mention some unsung work below the line. The documentary “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” was an unexpectedly moving account, while Bill Plympton’s “Idiots and Angels” is a crowning achievement for the animator.

Also, “Cyrus” didn’t work for me at all, while “Restrepo” stuck out as a particularly amazing achievement.

I took a third (and first on screener) look at both “Inception” and “The Social Network” over the holiday. The former didn’t settle all that well as the magic seemed to be sucked out of the enterprise. If any film this year was meant for the cinema experience, that’s the one. The latter is as crisp as ever but I still think considering it the frontrunner in the Best Picture race is a bit foolhardy.

And another glance at “127 Hours” confirmed early ambivalence toward the film.  James Franco’s perfectly-realized performance remains astonishing even if the film labors itself raw on the edges.  I’ve wanted to dive back into it since Telluride regardless and I’m glad I did.

But that’s just a small sampling of the gaps I’m filling in service of putting a bow on 2010. In case you missed the announcement on Oscar Talk, Anne Thompson and I will be exclusively revealing our top 10 lists on the podcast Friday, December 10.  I’ll be publishing my annual top 10 column the following Monday, December 13.

But where are we as of now?

The biggest buzz builders of the moment seem to be “The King’s Speech” (opening to extremely impressive per-screen box office numbers in limited release this weekend) and “True Grit” (eager beavers spilling on Twitter and being consolidated as actual news stories).  The critical and popular success of “Tangled,” meanwhile, makes you wonder if Disney could spring for more than just animated feature and original song nods at the end of the day.

After making an impression at Toronto two months ago, the train is set to come back around on “Rabbit Hole” when the film opens in two weeks.  There is at least one spot in the Best Picture line-up that feels fluid at the moment and this film does something important: it moves you.

“The Fighter” continues to screen well, adored by many and agreeable to most, while “The Town” feels more and more like it could be the real deal (just yesterday it was Leonardo DiCaprio singing its praises to me — people love the film).

And yes, you’ll be hearing plenty about the Coens’ western very soon.

I find myself wondering lately what the five would be in a traditional Best Picture scheme, and I confess to you I’m stumped.  If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say “The Fighter,” “The King’s Speech,” “The Social Network,” “True Grit” and, honestly, “The Kids Are All Right” (indie cred).  Everything else feels dependent on “the 10” to have a foothold.

It’ll be interesting to take note as the guilds speak up and see what that upper crust quintet happens to be, and even more so to see how that is reflected in the Oscar tally; keep an eye on that film editing category.  For now, it’s one more week in the trenches and a deep breath before The Circuit’s flood gates really open.  Who will the NBR christen this week?  Who will the east and west coast critics tap as worthy of their influence?  If you think you know, tell us in the comments below.

Meanwhile, the Contenders section has been fully groomed and the predictions sidebar reflects those updates.

[Photos: The Weinstein Company, Columbia Pictures, Paramount Pictures]

→ 48 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Off the Carpet

48 responses so far

  • 1 11-29-2010 at 8:51 am

    El Duderino said...

    Kris, if you don’t mind me asking, when will you be seeing True Grit? I hear the embargo is being lifted on December 1st and hope that we will hear your reaction soon after that.

  • 2 11-29-2010 at 9:03 am

    Matthew Starr said...

    I see Nolan slipped in there at director.

    Also why do you feel HP7 will be nominated for score? I saw it last week and didn’t even realize it was Desplat, or hell that it even had a score. He did better work this year on Kings Speech and Ghost Writer.

    I also still feel that Trent Reznor is going to get in there somehow.

  • 3 11-29-2010 at 9:10 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I haven’t seen HP7 yet so that’s a full on guess. I didn’t know how much the material was tweaked and/or original, so perhaps he should get the boot for Potter and back in for Speech (which, to be honest, I can’t even remember the TKS score, though I loved what he did on The Ghost Writer).

    Cone of silence, Duderino.

  • 4 11-29-2010 at 9:21 am

    Keil Shults said...

    Had no idea people were already seeing True Grit. The suspense is killing me.

  • 5 11-29-2010 at 9:27 am

    Robert Hamer said...

    I’ll save my questions for when you ask for them, but I will say that it’s interesting to see your reactions to earlier releases after chewing on them a little longer.

  • 6 11-29-2010 at 9:31 am

    Maxim said...

    “Cone of silence, Duderino.”

    I am going to take a leap here and assume that you’d already seen it then :) .

  • 7 11-29-2010 at 9:43 am

    red_wine said...

    Kris you put Noe’s Irreversible on your Decade 10, have you seen his Enter The Void yet which I think is a visionary achievement?

    It ain’t fair to say True Grit is last out of the gate. There’s Jolie’s The Tourist too. : )

    You held out long for Weir, it seems finally you have given in. The film is simply not there excitement wise. And I think Daft Punk could totally get a score nom, what a fucking kick ass score, I now wanna see the movie just for the music.

  • 8 11-29-2010 at 9:45 am

    americanrequiem said...

    all makes sense, and true grit is looking good. one question, why so commited to never let me go in score? id be suprised if ts3 was left off for a film that small

  • 9 11-29-2010 at 10:02 am

    Graysmith said...

    Worth adding to the short rundown of season kicker-offers that the Golden Globe announce nominees on the 14th. I know you (Kris) hate them with a passion, but they’re surely no worse than the NBR and they do have influence whether we like it or not.

    Speaking of that, what date will the BFCA announce their nominees? Kris?

    As for True Grit, I saw a poll over on Box Office Mojo asking people what their most anticipated films of December were and True Grit clocked in at third with about 11% of the votes, behind Tron Legacy (40%) and Narnia (20%). So the box office prospects look good, even if the polls on BOM don’t particularly match the general public.

  • 10 11-29-2010 at 10:16 am

    Loyal said...

    You and Anne should do a special True Grit podcast on Wednesday after the embargo is lifted. Much better than a proper review.

    The word on the street is that it may be the best film of the year, watch out Social Network!

  • 11 11-29-2010 at 10:19 am

    Loyal said...

    Also, I’m excited to see Nolan back where he belongs in the Director prediction box (though I can’t remember who was there before, Aronofsky?).

    That would be 10 well deserved nominations for Inception.

  • 12 11-29-2010 at 10:20 am

    JJ1 said...

    Well, seems like True Grit went over somewhat well for you, Kris. :) Damon is in. Hmm, interesting. I still struggle with seeing how TG will be this omg event. It’s a Western remake of a film that offered little depth in the first place. But here’s hoping I’ll be thoroughly surprised.

  • 13 11-29-2010 at 11:11 am

    Kevin K. said...

    I still think the top 5 right now are The King’s Speech, The Social Network, Inception, 127 Hours, and probably True Grit, but based on what’s actually been released, I’m tempted to switch out True Grit for The Town, based on the SAG crowd’s reactions. Glad to see Nolan back in your predictions for Best Director, even if he never left mine or most people’s. I could see Aronofsky getting in over the Coen Brothers, and like you were sayign a couple of weeks ago, Black Swan seems like the film a lot of people will place at number 1 on their ballots, so it’s best Picture chances seem far greater than The Way Back, given the trajectory of that campaign, which is such a shame, considering the extraordinary quality of the film. But I suppose it was not meant to be.

  • 14 11-29-2010 at 11:14 am

    Keil Shults said...

    Kris, I won’t keep hassling you for info on True Grit, because you mean more to me than just Hollywood insider information.

    To celebrate our newfound friendship, I suggest we meet for drinks tonight. The cloudy glass is yours. :-)

  • 15 11-29-2010 at 11:39 am

    Dooby said...

    So you kicked out the Way Back out of everything except for Best Picture?
    Are you still so certain that Black Swan won’t get in over Way Back? Really?

    On True Grit, appears its one of Sasha Stone’s top 3 along with Social Network and Black Swan.

    I’m starting to think Hooper might be kicked out of director for a
    Coens, Boyle, Fincher, Aronofsky, Nolan
    line-up, and what a line up!

  • 16 11-29-2010 at 11:56 am

    Marc R. said...

    Kris, i know this might be asking for much, but if there is one non-spoiler thing that you could say to us about True Grit, whether it’s, “Deakins rules” or “second oscar for Bridges,” that would be great.

  • 17 11-29-2010 at 11:56 am

    Dean said...

    Hmm 11 nominations for True Grit?

  • 18 11-29-2010 at 11:57 am

    Keil Shults said...

    @Dooby: That would be an amazing director line-up.

  • 19 11-29-2010 at 11:59 am

    Keil Shults said...

    @Dooby: Where are you seeing that True Grit is in Sasha Stone’s Top 3?

  • 20 11-29-2010 at 12:19 pm

    BK said...

    I was also not a fan of Desplat’s HP7 score. So much of the movie was silent. I’m all for having “silent moments” in a film… sometimes they are needed. But SO MUCH of the film was silent that it became noticeable and sort of distracting. I could often hear the buzzing of the speakers because there was no score a lot of the time. That might be David Yates making that decision moreso than Desplat, but I really didn’t like it.

  • 21 11-29-2010 at 12:23 pm

    Loyal said...

    I just noticed the 11 nom prediction for True Grit. Wow. One more for Hailee Steinfeld and we get the magic dozen.

  • 22 11-29-2010 at 12:25 pm

    Kevin K. said...

    After listening to the score CD of HP7, there seems to have been a lot of music cut out that Desplat chose to keep in the release. We shall see how that works for oscar.

  • 23 11-29-2010 at 12:29 pm

    deeks said...

    Interesting to see Hailee Steinfeld dropped out of Supporting Actress (at least I think she was there up to this update).

    That change, the Damon addition and the “cone of silence” comment lead me to believe that Kris has seen the movie and judging by how many categories it’s now included in I think it’s safe to assume he loved it.

    Do we have another genuine contender on our hands?

    I, for one, am getting more excited about seeing True Grit by the day.

  • 24 11-29-2010 at 12:37 pm

    Paul Outlaw said...

    Kris might have hated True Grit and still sees it a major Oscar contender. ;-) But I doubt that.

  • 25 11-29-2010 at 12:41 pm

    El Duderino said...

    Feinberg has seen it and claims that the embargo has been lifted. He seems to think Steinfeld is the front-runner for supporting actress.

  • 26 11-29-2010 at 12:56 pm

    Loyal said...

    Embargoes only truly matter when the film sucks.

  • 27 11-29-2010 at 1:46 pm

    amanda said...

    looks like Feinberg’s post about True Grit has been taken down.

  • 28 11-29-2010 at 1:48 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Fair point, Graysmith. I honestly forgot.

    And BFCA nods are 12/13 so I forgot them, too. Oops.

  • 29 11-29-2010 at 2:16 pm

    Andrew M said...

    I’ve been predicting Damon for awhile now, so I’m happy to see him in there. Will get the taste of him being nominated for Invictus out of my mouth. Also, I won’t mind at all if True Grit will beat The Social Network for my favorite movie of the year.

  • 30 11-29-2010 at 2:29 pm

    matsunaga said...

    I think the opening sequence of HP7 film was very good… Very powerful I might say… The music was very different from Williams or any other composer of the film… AT first he will not do justice and bet that Williams is the perfect choice.. Then I was wrong.. He did a very well job in scoring HP7…

    And I’m not into the Daft Punk bandwagon… His score for TRon: Legacy is quite modern in a sense that it doesn’t sound like a musical score anymore.. I don’t know, maybe I’m with the minority…

  • 31 11-29-2010 at 3:02 pm

    ann said...

    I’m really loving this year, majority of the categories doesn’t have a clear frontrunner which makes it more of a bearable race to watch. Anyway i’m really excited about True Grit so far all I’ve heard is overwhelming praise. And Yes Kris, as a devoted Nolan fans i’m pretty happy you put him on the director list. :)

  • 32 11-29-2010 at 3:17 pm

    Eli said...

    If you include The Fighter and The Kids Are All Right in your list of five Best Picture nominees, why do you have Nolan and Boyle in for Best Director currently? Are you saying that you think there would be two Picture-Director disparities in a year of five Picture nominees, or do the dynamics of the ten-film race change the scenario?

  • 33 11-29-2010 at 3:26 pm

    Graysmith said...

    I’m a bit bummed if these predictions reflect that Kris has seen True Grit, because he’s not predicting Hailee Steinfeld. It was a longshot chance either way, but I guess this means it’s not a knock it out of the park performance from her.. But it ought to be good enough given the love for the film across the board.

    As for the BFCA, do they usually announce before the Golden Globes?? I can’t remember, maybe that’s how it’s always been..

  • 34 11-29-2010 at 3:36 pm

    Patriotsfan said...

    Looking at the categories this week, it seemed that The Town moved up in a few categories. Is there any particular reason for this Kris, or are other movies falling off?

  • 35 11-29-2010 at 4:06 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Two things:

    1) Hailee Steinfeld has actually been off the sidebar for a couple of weeks.

    2) I had not seen “True Grit” when this week’s predictions update was finalized.

    I implore you not to read opinion of a film into Oscar predictions. It’s just not how I operate.

  • 36 11-29-2010 at 4:09 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Eli: It’s not a science, but obviously, for instance, I have Toy Story 3 high on my chart. That reflects the realities of a 10 nominee voting scheme, but that scheme, and therefore the “top five,” would be different in a five nominee scheme.

    But as for director, yeah, I guess I’m saying there would be two lone director nominees in a five nominee scheme based on my view of the race. Or else maybe Russell would bump Nolan (how ironic).

  • 37 11-29-2010 at 4:47 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Just saw HP7 again. I paid particular attention to the score this time. And I gotta say, though there are long portions of the 2 hour 30 min. long movie without music, there are several superb highlights, and there IS subtle, quiet music playing in a lot of the scenes that I initially thought were without music. I think it’s a great score, overall. And I can hear the main theme in my head now.

  • 38 11-29-2010 at 7:34 pm

    Nelson said...

    No mention of Black Swan? That’s still my fave of the year.

  • 39 11-29-2010 at 7:48 pm

    Marshall said...

    I have to disagree on TKAAR being in your top 5 – I feel like that’s one of the movies most dependent on there being 10. But maybe it’s because I don’t think Cholodenko could manage a Director nomination and I consider that category most indicative of “the five.”

  • 40 11-29-2010 at 8:40 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    People just love the movie.

  • 41 11-29-2010 at 11:07 pm

    Douglas said...

    I still think Jesse Eisenberg deserves and will get a nomination. He delivers one of the best performances of the year (not to mention one of the best lines) and he is the lead in one of this year’s hottest films. I can’t see what he has working against him.

  • 42 11-30-2010 at 12:21 am

    Kevin K. said...

    Douglas: I think there’s the factor of his age and lack of serious dramatic work when compared to the rest of the Best Actor contenders. I still don’t see Robert Duvall getting in but a lot of people seem to think he’s a lock. No one is talking about Get Low AT ALL, or his performance. All I ever hear is that he was typical Robert Duvall good, but no one has been raving about it being some kind of career best. You need raves to get nominated and people have been singing Eisenberg’s praises since October. Sure, you can make the case that the character is not very likable, but when you have three years in a row of psychotic villains winning Best Supporting Actor, I can’t say I really buy into that statement. Surem they are charismatic, showy roles, but very despicable characters.

  • 43 11-30-2010 at 3:52 am

    Graysmith said...


    Ah okay, I was just going by what everyone was commenting so I blame them. I didn’t think of it myself, I wasn’t even aware of True Grit having started to screen.. I guess people’s conclusions about you adding Matt Damon made everyone think you’d seen it? But at least there’s still hope for little Hailee Steinfeld then. ;)

  • 44 11-30-2010 at 5:55 am

    JJ1 said...

    OK, you want to know what I find fascinating?

    I have not run into one person (average Joe, family member, friend, co-worker) who has seen TKAAR who has liked it.

    So then I automatically say, “Oh yeah, really? Hmm. Well, you have to admit that the performances were really, really good, right?” And the response I keep getting is, “The performances? Umm. I guess they were alright, yeah. I don’t know. I just couldn’t stand anyone. And I can’t believe how they dicked over the father character”.

    Seriously, I’ve not encountered one person who has liked the movie.

    I did. Critics have. But I feel like there’s a disconnect. Can anyone attest to my experience, as well?

  • 45 11-30-2010 at 6:30 am

    James C said...

    I agree with Kris. I think The Social Network, The King’s Speech, and The Kids Are All Right would get in. I know alot of people think The Kids Are All Right falls shorter on the top 10, but as Kris puts it the flick has the indie cred along with being that indie dramedy(whatever you want to call it) to get it in.

    I don’t think Inception or Toy Story 3 would get in as others do. Doubtful if Black Swan can make the 10, so I don’t see why it would make the 5. If The Way Back was getting a larger push and campaign, it might have snuck in, but who knows if it will even make the 10 at this point. I don’t see Another Year or The Town getting.

    So the only 3 choices I see is True Grit, 127 Hours, and The Fighter. I don’t see how the Coens could go all the way again, but it seems to have all the things to get a nomination. Looking forward to reviews. Film could potentially find box office success. Apparently Boyle’s chances were alot stronger than I thought several months ago for 127 Hours. Might have that emotional impact that would get it into the top 5. Certainly the Academy can feature one intimate film with one actor holding the movie for the majority. Plus there might be some left over love for Slumdog Millionaire. The Fighter just as a slightly more traditional film and having talented individuals behind it could have made it slip in.

  • 46 11-30-2010 at 12:43 pm

    Leocdc (Chile) said...

    I saw TKAAR this weekend, and even I have really high expectations for the movie, I ended loving it, because of the performances, because of the great dialogue, because of the terrific story that was told, and every conflict that was showed and how they really achieved to portrait family issues in a context absolutely original. So, for me is a really great contender. On a top 5 list, it’s IN.
    Greetings from Chile

  • 47 12-02-2012 at 1:02 am

    Vinod said...

    Count me in the Ariel fan club! I absolutely adore him. Loved this vid, but it would have been fun to see more of his iceuntiofs grin. Love this guy! George et al, treat Ariel well. I want to enjoy his presence for a long time to come!