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November 30, 2006
"I'm gonna go have a smoke right now. You want a smoke? You don't smoke, do you, right? What are you, one of those fitness freaks, huh? Go fuck yourself."
"Borat" Bash

The stars turned out in droves last night for a cocktail reception in honor of the success of "Borat" at Fox honcho Jim Gianopulos's abode. I remain the last guy on earth who hasn't seen the film, I might add, but I did catch quick glimpses of the DVD playing non-stop in the guest house.

"Entourage"'s Jeremy Piven, Geena Davis, "School of Rock"'s Mike White, David Arquette, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"'s Nia Vardalos (with husband Ian Gomez), "Mr. Show"'s Steven Odenkirk, Gary Shandling, "Lost"'s Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, "Scrubs"'s Donald Faison, "South Park"'s Matt Stone (lots of comedians turned up) - you name it, they were probably lurking in the wings. And of course, the Pete Hammonds, Jeff Wellses, Sasha Stones and Anne Thompsons of the world were in various nooks and crannies, all in honor of the evening's guest, Sacha Baron Cohen, weathering the storm of a crowd of ogling admirers. Wife to be Isla Fisher was also there to support her man.

All in all a classy evening. Loved the band belting the festive "borat" tunes. I also loved the fact that John C. Reilly and Catherine Keener closed the joint down like true pros!

November 29, 2006
Wrong-o, Tom O...

A blog entry today at Tom O'Neil's Gold Derby claims the following:

How soon those gurus have forgotten a November just a few years ago when no one saw that dark horse "Moulin Rouge!" dashing into the derby, still maintaining a steady trot from its impressive run the previous summer when it earned $56 million. As of the eleventh month of that year, Hollywood film snobs had dismissed it as featherweight fluff, certainly no threat to the lofty, snooty Academy Awards. But, yeowsa, suddenly Nicole Kidman & Co. came out can-can kicking onto the derby track when the National Board of Review named it best pic in early December. "Moulin Rouge!" gathered substantial steam in subsequent weeks, earning the second-most Oscar noms and it darned near won best pic when "A Beautiful Mind" came under attack for sugar-coating the life of its main real-life character.

It's understandable Tom might not have realized that I nailed that prediction down in August of 2001 when I initiated OscarCentral.com. After all, I didn't have much of a readership yet. But some of us DID see that "shocker" coming.

The last bit about "Moulin Rouge!" nearly taking the win...well, that's just a bit of Tom O justification for that infamous prediction of his. You know, the one he stood by all the way to the opening of the envelope, that Baz Luhrmann's film would take the prize. We all have our missteps (I've got more than a few dooseys), but I'd say it's pretty clear the silver went to "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" that year. But all the same, it was a trippy ride for that vibrant musical - the best film of the year.

He also goes on to call the nominations for "Ray" and "Seabisuit" surprises as well. I'm not sure what race you were watching Tom, but those were fairly certain in the final stretch as well.

ANYWAY, it's a valid entry nontheless because it points out the culture of proclamations and "shoo-ins" in the world of Oscar prognostication.

"It's very amusing," O'Neil says, "to hear this question echo so commonly among top Oscarlogists, who should know better: 'Hey, whatcha think is the fifth best-picture nominee?' The assumption is that the following four are slam-dunk, shoo-in, definite nominees: 'Dreamgirls,' 'The Departed,' 'The Queen' and 'Little Miss Sunshine.'"

Tom O'Neil's Gold Derby (The Envelope)

Isn't this a bit hypocritical?

Two days after staking a claim that it is foolish to criticize filmmaking via peripheral criticisms, David Poland takes "Children of Men" and its proponents to task by saying it "isn't" the film many critics have found it to be.

Children of Men is not a movie about an intelligent species dealing with the pressing fear of its own extinction.

Children of Men is not a movie about the inhumanity of man to man, though that is a constant theme, as Cuaron evokes every historical memory of state oppression from the jewish holocaust to Abu Gharib.

Children of Men is not a movie about how people who desperately need to share in hope in order to survive are too caught up in their petty daily grind to see that it is about more than that, and in the process destroying the hope they are so desperate for.

Children of Men is not a satisfying action movie, moving the McGuffin from one place to another against all odds, to a satisfying conclusion.

"Children of Men" is actually all of these things in small or large ways, but specifically it is about the necessity of hope in the universe. It is about what Pandora captured in her box at the very last moment, and the idea of a world where that fleeting notion escaped with all the other ideals of the world. At its core, that is the horror "Children of Men" explores. And it does so brilliantly.

This was actually a pretty good column until this willful digression, which ironically recalled Monday's proclamation from Poland: "...I will continue to struggle with my tone and theme until I actually go to web-print." Well, keep up the good fight, then.

And who in the hell is still touting "Blood Diamond" as Oscar bait?

David Poland on "Children of Men" (The Hot Button)
In Contention's review of "Children of Men"

November 28, 2006
Story in Today's Variety

From the annual Talent Preview issue:

"Worldly Women Entice"

No IFP commentary today. They tend to bore me, to be honest. Though that $20 million cut-off is painfully apparent this time around. I'm glad some of those films could get awards notices.

November 27, 2006
Will "Letters" show up at the IFPs?

Anyone know the budget on "Letters from Iwo Jima?" I believe it might be at or below the $20 million cut-off for Independant Film Awards consideration. In today's Oscar column I brought to light my view that this film could be the sleeping giant waiting to burst onto the 2006 Oscar scene, and that maybe we'll get an indication in two weeks from the Golde Globe nominations, as the film made the deadline for consideration there. But maybe it'll turn up tomorrow? Just thinking out loud...

November 25, 2006
Independent Spirit nods on Tuesday

The unveiling of the nominations of the so-called first precursor is in less than 72 hours.

So what will we see? I'm not altogether sure, primarily because I don't know if "Little Children," "Notes on a Scandal," "Venus," and "The Queen" are eligible. Moreover, the body does surprise us. Many eventual Oscar nominees who were eligible here failed to even garner nominations from this body last year (including the Best Picture winner!).

Nevertheless, I'll toss out thoughts on who I expect to show up.

"Half Nelson"
"The Last King of Scotland"
"Little Miss Sunshine"
"The Queen"
"Thank You for Smoking"

Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris – "Little Miss Sunshine"
Stephen Frears – "The Queen"
Kevin Macdonald – "The Last King of Scotland"
John Cameron Mitchell – "Shortbus"
Jason Reitman – "Thank You for Smoking"

Gael Garcia Bernal – "The Science of Sleep"
Aaron Eckhart – "Thank You for Smoking"
Ryan Gosling – "Half Nelson"
Peter O'Toole – "Venus"
Forest Whitaker – "The Last King of Scotland"

Maggie Gyllenhaal – "Sherrybaby"
Sienna Miller – "Factory Girl"
Helen Mirren – "The Queen"
Gretchen Mol – "The Notorious Bettie Page"
Emily Rios – "Quinceanera"

Supporting Actor
Ben Affleck – "Hollywoodland"
Alan Arkin – "Little Miss Sunshine"
Steve Carrell – "Little Miss Sunshine"
James McAvoy – "The Last King of Scotland"
Michael Sheen – "The Queen"

Supporting Actress
Abigail Breslin – "Little Miss Sunshine"
Toni Collette – "Little Miss Sunshine"
Shareeka Epps – "Half Nelson"
Jodie Whitakker – "Venus"
Someone I'm totally overlooking (Phyllis Somerville if eligible)

"Half Nelson" – Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
"The Last King of Scotland" – Peter Morgan, Jeremy Brock
"Little Miss Sunshine" – Michael Arndt
"The Queen" – Peter Morgan
"Thank You for Smoking" – Jason Reitman

"Hollywoodland" – Jonathan Freeman
"The Last King of Scotland" – Anthony Dod Mantle
"The Queen" – Alfonso Beato
"Science of Sleep" – Jean-Louis Bompoint
Someone I'm totally overlooking

Terrible, I know. I realize I'm overestimating virtually every major title. I have no confidence in anything apart from the fact that "Half Nelson" will get a good deal of love and "Little Miss Sunshine" will get nods up the wazoo (and I still feel I'm overestimating it). And I'm all off if "Little Children" is eligible (which it may very well be).

But we find out on Tuesday; and that's exciting.

November 22, 2006

...I definitely wouldn't say it left a "crater."

Memo to Warners...

Mum's been the word, but seriously, enough's enough. "Blood Diamond" is not a good film. Allegiance to Edward Zwick and his film or no, a better performance is a better performance, and Leonardo DiCaprio deserves due recognition in the lead actor category for his work in "The Departed."

Someone's got to say it...

"As the sound of the playgrounds faded, the despair set in. Very odd, what happens in a world without children's voices."
No one's worded it better...

From Susan Thea Posnock at Oscarwatch:

When I met and interviewed Robert Altman just a few weeks ago for OscarWatch I didn't see a man who, like a character from his swansong A Prairie Home Companion, was about to get a visit from the angel of death. Instead I saw a vibrant, quick-witted, slightly cranky film genius.

At 81, there was no denying he still had it. In the last five years of his life he brought one great film, Gosford Park and two good ones, The Company and the aforementioned Prairie to the screen. He was right when he guaranteed me that he would never win an Oscar in competition, but it wasn't for lack of quality. He just ran out of time.

And so the film world is a little less colorful today. A renegade and auteur, who had lived half his life by the time he became known as such, will no longer grace the world of cinema with his presence.

I was truly stunned when I heard the news of his death, even as I now recall how it took him a little bit longer to reach the stage at the Museum of Television & Radio event on Oct. 31. In fact, rather than just climbing directly onto the platform, he made his way to the stairs at the end, momentarily standing in front of the podium.

"I didn't come all the way to the microphone to say anything, I needed the stairs," he quipped to the audience, turning applause into laughter.

My interview with him that night felt too short and I was nervous and rushed. But now, I just feel honored to have had the opportunity. I think about a comment he made in those fleeting moments.

"Everything, including this interview is history. Or half of it is because we've already done half of it. But I don't think about those things," he told me.

And he didn't, he was already on to his next project.

It's sad that there will never be another Robert Altman film. But even if he wasn't one to look back, at least we can.

The Link.

Congratulations, Mr. Ballhaus

Variety is reporting that Michael Ballhaus is the recipient of the American Society of Cinematographers' 2007 International Achievement Award. Kudos are definately due.

At 71, his filmography is quite astounding with his collaborations with Scorcese being particularly noteworthy. I always find it amazing how he's able to make such memorable imagery in circumstances which don't necessarily scream out as being opportunities to create such unforgettable shots. "The Departed" is just the latest example of this.

Here's hoping this award won't be the only one he receives this year.

November 21, 2006
Bleak. Bold. Brilliant.


O'Connell in there for "Apocalypto?"

In researching the sound design category for his column this week, Gerard pointed out to me that one of Oscar's all time biggest "losers," sound engineer Kevin O'Connell, is responsible for the mix on Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto." I would have had him slated for a nod here long ago had I been privy to the info, but the sound participants are rarely mentioned on IMDb until very close to release for some reason. But, there it is. With "Apocalypto" being positioned as a major action endeavor, I think O'Connell is solid for another nomination this year.

Also, I didn't notice this information mentioned in Tom O'Neil's recent interview piece with O'Connell (if it is, I apologize). That's a good piece nontheless, so give it a look.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Altman

I thank the Gods you took your leave on one of your warmest and finest films to date. ADDING SOMETHING HERE, and that is, it pains me to know that I was set to have Mr. Altman on the phone in the coming days, as the Oscar campaign around "A Prairie Home Companion" is really heating up. I never got the chance, and for that I'm sorry.

RIP Robert Altman

I haven't been this saddened by a celebrity death in a very very very long time. His love of the movies truly shined through in all his films (look how many he made!). And at his best, was he ever great.

Rest in peace.

November 20, 2006
"Every once in a while can we get something to eat around here that's not the God damned, fucking chicken!?"
Crazy Sunday

One of those nights where you wish you were Michael Keaton in "Multiplicity."

So a great little reception for Marc Forster at the MGM building in Century City went down nicely. A big turnout and Marc was charming and reserved as always. He said he just flew in from, I believe, near Afghanistan where he's working on the upcoming "The Kite Runner," and soon to go back. He told me he felt like he was getting a touch of what Francis Coppola might have gone through on "Apocalypse Now" or Werner Herzog on "Fitzcarraldo" working in that environment. These filmmakers work extremely hard during the awards season. It's surprising they don't pass out mid-stream.

Then - shuffle over quickly to the Fox lot to moderate a Q&A with Richard Eyre for "Notes on a Scandal." "Quickly" isn't exactly the right word, seeing as I spent a good half hour looking for my car in the parking garage (that NEVER happens). But I mae it just as the credits rolled, same with Richard, and we got on with it.

Now THIS film was received extremely well. I didn't hear a disagreeable notion regarding the performances, the direction, anything. And the Q&A was a lengthy one to say the least (Richard presents very measured, considered answers). Lots of applause when discussing the score (I contend it to be one of Philip Glass's best to date). A great response on the whole.

November 18, 2006
Right...about "Page to Screen"

"Help Wanted"

So, the elephant in the In Contention room has been the bust that was "Page to Screen." I did that feature much more successfully four years ago, but this year, damn if things didn't get extremely busy, extremely quick. About six entries in the column later, and I ran out of gas.

I've been hoping to expand things next year to feature another contributor or two, if possible, and so I thought maybe I'd send out a "calling all cars." The feature, which you can check out here, is a weekly look at the adapted screenplay race in the form of analyzing source materials in varrying instances. If it sounds like something you'd be interesting in trying out, let me know. Obviously, it's all about reading the book or play, what have you, giving a personal assessment of the story and cranking out a column with proposed Oscar prospects given that unique familiarity with an upcoming project. If you're a big reader and it sounds like something you're interested in, drop a line: ktapley@incontention.com.

"Casino Royale"

I held off on this one until seeing it with an audience last night. The 11:45 Burbank crowd was rowdy and stoked (and sent over the edge by the "Spidey 3" trailer).

Anyway, I hate the Bond movies. More often than not, they bore me to tears. The one time I actually sat down to watch one with any sort of critical eye was "Tomorrow Never Dies," in preparation for an interview with Julian Fellowes. These films just don't work for me. The camp value of the old stuff is - sometimes - beneficial, but it's just not my bag, baby.

"Casino Royale," however, kicks a whole lot of ass. All over the place. The action in this film is extremely creative (though handled in a clunky fashion at times by director Martin Campbell), and Daniel Craig is the real deal. Stone cold badass, the way Bond is supposed to be. It's a fantastic movie-going experience through and through, until the last act just unravels like a loosely-knit sweater. At least one of those "cutesy" endings needed to be cut if, for no other reason, because of repetition's sake. But the otherwise solidly hammered out script just boils down in those final scenes, leaving an awkward taste in the mouth.

In addition, the second act bogs down after a while, and if you aren't a fan of poker, you might be shifting in your seat. Sure, there's plenty of plot to push this section of the film forward, but I don't know - some more "adapting" needed to be in the mix.

I think "Casino Royale" is a solid enough actioner, however, and a great re-boot for the franchise. It establishes the character nicely and forces him into that "trust no one" state of mind that is applicable throughout the franchise.

November 17, 2006
Eric Roth story in Sunday's New York Times

This was by far my favorite piece for the paper so far. It's left me with a decent acquaintance, if not friend, in Mr. Roth, and it was a day in class for this aspiring screenwriter:

"Eric Roth's Screenplays Get Made, Except the Ones That Don't" (NY Times)

"The Dark Knight": July 18, 2008

So Warner Bros. has set a date for Chris Nolan's "Batman" sequel. July 18, 2008.

I'm kind of bummed the flick won't stay in the June slot like all the past "Batman" efforts. I always consider June peak summer movie season, and July seems to bring up the end of the pack. Especially after July 4.

I haven't given a hard look at what's opening that summer, but I hope this gets pushed forward three weeks.

One on One Battles

With the exception of "The Good Shepherd", every upcoming title has now been seen. While I personally always find the race for nominations more exciting than the race for wins, I'll nevertheless toss out what I'm expecting to be perceived as the real battles for the statuettes (barring "The Good Shepherd" coming up and surprising everyone).

Obviously everything is wide open at this time but some categories already have races seeming to develop. Though the two ladies categories need some excitement assuming categorizations don't change.

"The Departed" vs. "Dreamgirls"

Martin Scorsese vs. Bill Condon

Peter O'Toole vs. Will Smith

Helen Mirren vs. Meryl Streep

Supporting Actor
Eddie Murphy vs. Jack Nicholson

Supporting Actress
Abigail Breslin vs. Jennifer Hudson

Original Screenplay
"Little Miss Sunshine" vs. "The Queen"

Adapted Screenplay
"The Departed" vs. "Dreamgirls"

Art Direction
"Dreamgirls" vs. "Marie Antoinette"

"Dreamgirls" vs. "Flags of Our Fathers"
Though I think this race is very very wide open

Costume Design
"Dreamgirls" vs. "Marie Antoinette"

Film Editing
"The Departed" vs. "Dreamgirls"
An enlightening race indeed

"Apocalypto" vs. "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"

Music - Original Score
"The Good German" vs. "Notes on a Scandal"

Music - Original Song
"Dreamgirls" vs. "An Inconvenient Truth"

Sound Editing
"Cars" vs. "Flags of Our Fathers"

Sound Mixing
"Dreamgirls" vs. "Flags of Our Fathers"

Visual Effects
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" vs. "Superman Returns"

Foreign-Language Film
"Pan's Labyrinth" vs. "Volver"

Animated Feature
"Cars" vs. "Happy Feet"

Documentary Feature
"An Inconvenient Truth" vs. "Shut Up and Sing"

November 16, 2006
Thank You for Screening

You know, I didn't really give a lot of credence to a "Thank You for Smoking" adapted screenplay nomination prior to seeing it pop up on David Poland's charts a few weeks back, but the more I think about it (and take it in subsequent times), the more it seems a likelihood. And if writer/director Jason Reitman keeps charming the circuit like he did for an intimate WGA screening this evening, things should pan out nicely.

I moderated the Q&A that followed the screening, and it was one of my favorites so far this year. That has a lot to do with Jason being closer to my age than most of the folks I've had the opportunity to share the stage with this season, and our sensibilities and senses of humor being similar as well. But he's just got a lot of charisma and can have fun with things in a loose manner that really leaves a great, un-fussed-over impression.

And checking out the film on DVD recently brought back fond memories. It really is one of the best films of the year, certainly one of the best comedies. And Aaron Eckhart remains a golden god.

While you're reading these "Dreamgirls" raves today...

...do so knowing there is a decent contingent that has been left cold by this film. I've heard Jeffrey Wells's reaction and worse from an array of sources this week (some coming on the heels of that HFPA screening Sunday night). Don't drink the kool-aid just yet, that's all I'm saying. The "frontrunner" might well be the underdog in the end...

I'll see the film when I see it.

November 15, 2006
Documentary Contenders

The Academy announced today that there will be 15 films competing for the Best Doumentary Feature Award. They are:

“Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?”
“Deliver Us from Evil”
“The Ground Truth”
“An Inconvenient Truth”
“Iraq in Fragments”
“Jesus Camp”
“Jonestown: The Life and Death of People’s Temple”
“My Country, My Country”
“Shut Up & Sing”
“Sisters in Law”
“Storm of Emotions”
“The Trials of Darryl Hunt”
“An Unreasonable Man”
“The War Tapes”

"An Inconvenient Truth" is obviously the favourite here and Barbara Kopple's name will probably see to it that "Shut Up and Sing" gets nominated as well. I think I'd bet on "Jesus Camp", "Deliver Us from Evil" and "Iraq in Shambles" for the last three spots but I'll freely admit that I always find this category difficult to predict.

I also often wonder at what films like "The U.S. vs. John Lennon" do to miss out here. I don't love the film but it seems like the sort of thing they'd go for. There are a couple of surprising omissions from this list every year.

Golden Globe Predictions

As of yesterday, the HFPA announcement is a month away. Here's my second stab at Golden Globe predictions for the year. Things might shake out differently as more and more HFPA screenings take place, but as of now it's looking like:

Best Picture - Drama
"The Departed"
"The Queen"
"World Trade Center"

Best Picture - Comedy/Musical
"The Devil Wears Prada"
"Little Miss Sunshine"
"Thank You for Smoking"

Best Actor - Drama
Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Departed"
Ryan Gosling, "Half Nelson"
Peter O'Toole, "Venus"
Will Smith, "The Pursuit of Happyness"
Forrest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland"

Best Actress - Drama
Cate Blanchett, "The Good German"
Penelope Cruz, "Volver"
Judi Dench, "Notes on a Scandal"
Helen Mirren, "The Queen"
Kate Winslet, "Little Children"

Best Actor - Comedy/Musical
Sacha Baron Cohen, "Borat"
Aaron Eckhart, "Thank You for Smoking"
Will Ferrell, "Stranger Than Fiction"
Jamie Foxx, "Dreamgirls"
Greg Kinnear, "Little Miss Sunshine"

Best Actress - Comedy/Musical
Annette Bening, "Running with Scissors"
Toni Collette, "Little Miss Sunshine"
Beyonce Knowles, "Dreamgirls"
Meryl Streep, "The Devil Wears Prada"
Renee Zellweger, "Miss Potter"

The supportin gcategories are confusing me somewhat lately. Well, supporting actress anyway. I'll deal with that at a later date.

HFPA has an animated film category this year?

Am I the only one who skipped over this news? Anyway, "Happy Feet" is definitely out of the musical/comedy competition now. And gone are the days when brilliant animated films could grab a notice for Best Picture from the HFPA.

Happy Birthday, Kris

The editor of this site is now a quarter of a century old. Have a blast, Mr. Tapley. May you feel as passionately about movies for the next 25 years.

November 14, 2006
"Casino Royale" Reaction?

I've heard from two separate sources that "Casino Royale" received the best reaction they'd seen of films that have screened at the Academy this year. That's very interesting. I' haven't seen the film yet, but I've been anticipating it for some time. It would be interesting to see a Bond film in the heat of an awards race. Personally, I think the series has sucked from the get-go. Bond has always been portrayed as far too suave and handsome in the films, not rough-and-tuble enough, etc.


Paramount Vantage has a great site up featuring its two awards hounds, "Babel" and "An Inconvenient Truth." There's some nice "making of" stuff going on and such, so give it a look.

November 13, 2006
"Happy Feet"

Nails on a chalkboard. But the sound was phenomenal. A threat for a comedy/musical Best Picture nod at the Globes, too.

November 11, 2006
"The Good German"

Steven Soderbergh's latest effort is one of those films you kind of have to see twice before you make any sort of specific comment on it. Whatever the initial reaction, positive or negative, it really might be best to go back to the thing once you know its intentions. Even when the Warner Bros. publicst sent me a note yesterday asking what I thought, my reaction was to hold back and request the screening schedule. I need to take another look.

This isn't a review by any stretch. Call it thinking out loud if anything. But I sat in the Clarity screening room last week at the BFCA/LAFCA screening following a lush little reception (Soderbergh and composer Thomas Newman were in attendance) just like everyone else. And from what I can gauge, not a lot of critics can get into this thing.

Personally, it was a sort of chaffing experience that I wasn't prepared for. Prior to the screening, I had no idea Soderbergh emulated the films of the 40s in his technique to the extent finally outlined by David Kehr in the New York Times today, and neither did a couple of other viewers I know. So the cold water to the face is a bit much to start.

I've made some comments here and there that I have to say I stand by. Tobey Maguire's over-the-top portrayal still doesn't work, for instance. But in addition, Cate Blanchett's performance is a certain shade of spectacular, while Thomas Newman's score is one of his finest to date, and certainly his most soaring work since "The Shawshank Redemption" (it's between Newman and Philip Glass's career-best work for the win, methinks). George Clooney still has zero chemistry with his co-star, however, and is kind of laughable as the leading man he's there to portray, but again, I need to smooth it all out.

It was an interesting exercise, to say the least. I look forward to another viewing.

"The Painted Veil"

“The Painted Veil” is a complicated but delicate film. It really is a lasting sort of story, however, and credit seems to be best served to writer Ron Nyswaner. I personally have never read Maugham’s novel, so if the first act structure of the film is apparent therein, forgive my ignorance. But my assumption is that is not so and it was the clever creation of Nyswaner to comment directly on the Fanes through a simple but purposeful structure from the first frame of the film. Whoever is responsible, the device is a brilliant one because it works on so many levels. Nyswaner (who was nominated for an Oscar in 1993 for his original screenplay “Philadelphia”) also takes a certain care to pace the story with a sense of measure, but never at the expense of interest. A film that might seem boring to some is in fact quite engaging throughout.


For the record, this is the sort of film the Miramax of old could have pushed, EASILY, to nominations across the board: Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Screenplay, Art Direction, Costume Design, Cinematography, Film Editing, you name it.

I suspect Ron Nyswaner's condensation of a dense novel and his implementing the use of clever structuring techniques will garner him an adapted screenplay nomination at the very least, especially with "The Good German" beginning to stink up the joint. Watts could follow suit if the lead actress category begins to finally loosen up, and Alexandre Desplat's score has a real shot should he not ride in on the coat tails of "The Queen"'s buzz wave.

Globe Comedy Thoughts

EDIT (5:28 PM EST): Tom O'Neil is reporting that Peter O'Toole is switching to the Drama race to avoid competition with Borat. This strikes me as an odd move. But O'Neil does get the inside buzz from within the HFPA so I've adjusted accordingly.

I always love that there’s a place where performances like Billy Bob Thornton's in "Bad Santa" can get some awards love. Whatever one thinks of the HFPA, they know how to put on a party. And I really doubt that party would be as good without the comedy nominees.

So I'll put out my thoughts on who I expect to be invited to said party.

"The Devil Wears Prada"
"Little Miss Sunshine"
"Stranger than Fiction"

“Borat” and “Little Miss Sunshine” are both locked for nods here. “Dreamgirls” is the sort of film they’ll eat up with a spoon. It’s bound to get a ridiculous number of HFPA nods.

Thereafter, things get tricky but with a likely Globe-winning performance and its big hit status, I’d wager “The Devil Wears Prada” makes it in.

“Stranger than Fiction” is very very iffy but it comes with more prestige than the average comedy and it’s the sort of clever thing the HFPA goes for even when AMPAS doesn’t.

Sasha Baron Cohen – "Borat"
Johnny Depp – "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest"
Aaron Eckhart – "Thank You for Smoking"
Will Ferrell – "Stranger than Fiction"
Jamie Foxx – "Dreamgirls"

With O'Toole apparently exiting this race, Cohen seems very likely to take the statuette. There’s also no way “Stranger than Fiction” can get a BP nod without Ferrell getting cited here. They love Depp and he’s in the year’s biggest hit. And, as I said above, “Dreamgirls” will likely be something the HFPA will lose their shit over, despite Foxx not really having a baity role.

I've gone with Aaron Eckhart in the last slot over two other thespians whose campaigns depend on Fox Searchlight, Greg Kinnear and Richard Griffiths. A nod for Ewan McGregor would not shock me, though, given the HFPA's love for the Weinsteins.

And does anyone else think Steve Carrell might be classified as lead here?

Annette Bening – "Running with Scissors"
Jennifer Hudson – "Dreamgirls"
Beyoncé Knowles – "Dreamgirls"
Meryl Streep – "The Devil Wears Prada"
Renée Zellweger – "Miss Potter"

Streep is obviously a lock and we know the Globes love both Zellweger and the Weinsteins. Bening ought to make it in as well, critically maligned film or not.

The trouble after these three becomes the issue of where the women from “Dreamgirls” end up being categorized. But I’m betting they won’t say no to a superstar like Knowles (who will surely be lead) while also deeming Hudson, in the more awards-friendly role, to be a leading player as well.

Yet one could make cases for Toni Collette and/or Abigail Breslin being classified lead by the HFPA and scoring here.

The women from “The Holiday” are also possibilities. The film looks awful but that doesn’t always matter with awards bodies, especially for the HFPA when have big stars are involved.

Party at The Geisha House

Following the premiere of his new film "Fast Food Nation," Wilmer Valderrama threw a hell of a party last night in the upstairs club of his Geisha House restaurant last night. Cary Elwes, Avril Lavigne, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Richard Linklater and a host of Searchlight troops were in attendance for a very nice change of affairs where the Oscar season event typicality is concerned.

Personally, my heart nearly lept out of its chest when I met Ms. Moreno, stunning as ALWAYS. This girl should be a movie star. Seriously.

Valderrama was warm and accompanying as he was surrounded much of the night by star-hungry female persuasion, and Mr. Linklater seemed laid back and into the groove of a dance-heavy Friday night. The usualy meet-and-greats were drowned out by loud music, so shouting at the top of one's lungs when speaking to these individuals was the norm. Luckily, it didn't seem like business so much as simply hanging with these folks on a weekend in Hollywood. Very cool.

I must say, though, having your name on "the list" of a Valderrama party and seeing the look on numerous girls' faces who are dressed-to-the-nines and hoping to slide in on your coat tails is hilarious indeed. I slipped past the curtain along with my guest and heard a few of them trying the "I'm with him" schtick, but to no avail.


November 10, 2006
Criticisms that Bother You

Every so often, people criticize films for the most bizarre reasons. "Charlie Kaufman-lite" seems to be a tag that a number of people have tried to stick to "Stranger than Fiction."

First, the film bares little semblance to any of Kaufman's work. More importantly, are there rules out there saying only Andrew Niccol and Charlie Kaufman can come up with clever, original concepts? Or do we want all our films to be formulaic to the nth degree?

I don't think "Stranger than Fiction" is any sort of masterpiece, if it has aged well in my mind in the last few days. It's just that dumb criticisms like this really bother me. But I suppose fancy catchphrases make one look clever!

They always come in threes...

...but sadly we now have a fourth.

Rest in peace Leonard Schrader, Basil Poledouris, Ed Bradley, and now, Jack Palance.

November 09, 2006
Let's talk Spidey 3

This trailer is all kinds of phenomenal. It's operatic, it's largess, it's balanced and it gets the fucking job done. It still pains me that, at the hands of David Koepp and with a shitty villain portrayal, "Spider-Man" was such a God-awful film, but thankfully, "Spider-Man 2" more than made up for that, and the third installment seems to be on the right track.

I'm still not sure about Topher Grace as Venom, who it seems will show up EXTREMELY briefly in the third act. Using Grace seems to follow the "ultimate" Spider-Man mentality, but Raimi is no fan of the character and looks to be utilizing him for a small time in any case.

I'm also not sure about this situation with Sandman being responsible for Ben Parker's murder, unless that's just some red herring. But regardless, he looks absolutely STUNNING, and Thomas Haden Church looks choice in the role.

In the wake of a retched (and thankfully brief) performance this year in "The Good German," I'll welcome Mr. Parker with open arms in this thing next summer.


Movies, movies, movies...

"The Good German" tonight, "The Painted Veil" tomorrow, "Happy Feet" over the weekend, "Blood Diamond" Tuesday and yep, I'm skipping "Dreamgirls" on Wednesday, but more on that in Monday's column. Regardless, GOD I'm ready to get this slate behind me...

A Discovery While Looking Ahead

While looking towards potentially interesting 2007 releases, I went to see what John Williams has coming up; he's not exactly one to work with any old hack. Then I realized...he has no films slated for 2007!

Imagine...two straight years without John Williams at the Oscars? That would be only the second time in the last four decades?!?

Yet it's also indicative that he's probably slowing down. At 74, it's deserved. But also a little sad.

November 08, 2006
About Faith

Why is it people are reporting on this thing as if there is a story there? It was a joke, she obviously was acting. She knew the camera was there. MOVE ON...

November Winner Predictions

Best Picture: "Dreamgirls"
Best Director: Martin Scorsese, "The Departed"
Best Actor: Peter O'Toole, "Venus"
Best Actress: Helen Mirren, "The Queen"
Best Supporting Actor: Jack Nicholson, "The Departed"
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls"
Best Adapted Screenplay: "The Departed"
Best Original Screenplay: "Babel"
Best Art Direction: "Dreamgirls"
Best Cinematography: "Apocalypto"
Best Costume Design: "The Curse of the Golden Flower"
Best Film Editing: "Dreamgirls"
Best Makeup: "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"
Best Music - Original Score: "Notes on a Scandal"
Best Music - Original Song: "Dreamgirls"
Best Sound: "Dreamgirls"
Best Sound Editing: "Flags of Our Fathers"
Best Visual Effects: "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"



Searchlight's getting it done...

"The Last King of Scotland" and "Thank You for Smoking" came in the mail yesterday, which presumably means the same set went out to Academy voters as well. "Little Miss Sunshine" a few weeks back. They're really getting ahead of the curve this year and will likely reap the benefit of plenty of awards notices as a result.

See ya, Rummy

I love waking up to news like that.

November 07, 2006
Our long national nightmare might be over...

But until we get real results rather than politicians jumping the gun on victory speeches, we just won't know if both houses will end up under Democratic control. And I have to go to bed eventually. I feel better sleeping on it this time around than I did two years ago, believe me.

Oscarwatch's New FYC Gallery

Sasha Stone has an awesome new FYC gallery going this year (something she's been rocking out for as long as I've been kicking around this beat). It's fancy-schmancy with neat navigational tools, so give it a look!


So many individuals in this world don't have the right to do so. Almost all individuals in this world don't have their representatives affecting the rest of the world (in addition to their homeland). And besides, if you neglect this duty, you're really in no position to complain.

Further thoughts on the fall slate...

This thing is turning out to be a melodramatic piece of garbage. Seriously, I'm feeling burned for being seven episodes deep and having that commitment to keep watching.

Caught up on these the last few weeks, and, well, it just doesn't seem to be going anywhere. And again, what's with these shows that don't seem to have a life after season one? Speaking of which...

The Nine
Ugh. I stopped caring. I still watch, but I stopped caring. Are you still watching? Were you ever?

Anyway, I've bailed on the horrid "30 Rock" and still need to catch up on all the episodes of "Friday Night Lights" (for some reason, I'm not itching to do that). "Studio 60" is proving itself uneven, with a fantastic show always being followed by a scattered one for some reason. "Shark" is still a good episodic for my money and "Lost" has convinced me they're making this shit up as they go along.

Ah well, "24" isn't far off. Let's hope it's a better season than last, though. Season 5 was just a sharp turn downward from Season 4, I felt. But the ending leaves Season 6 with a bevy of possibilities.

November 06, 2006
That Animated Category

Oscarwatch broke this last week so this isn't exactly news. But nevertheless AMPAS says there are 16 films competing for the annual animinated feature statuette this year...

“The Ant Bully”
“Arthur and the Invisibles”
“Curious George”
“Everyone’s Hero”
“Flushed Away”
“Happy Feet”
“Ice Age The Meltdown”
“Monster House”
“Open Season”
“Over the Hedge”
“A Scanner Darkly”
“The Wild”

I, for one, am opposed to this category. There are simply not enough quality animated films every year to warrant three nominees. And with 16 contenders, there will likely be five this year! Is getting a nomination really that meaningful?

And all it does, at the end of the day, is ghettoize films which deserve Best Picture nods. Does anyone believe that a film like "Finding Nemo" won't age far better than most BP nominees? Is this a rant? Probably. But this bugs me every goddamn year.

November 04, 2006
R.I.P. Leonard Schrader

A great screenwriter, probably responsible for much pf his brother's success. He had a cush job teaching up-and-coming screenwriters at Chapman University in Orange County, California. And now, he's gone.

Rest in peace.

Jim Carrey in "The Number 23"

A few things jump out when viewing the trailer for Joel Schumacher's latest thriller. The first is, can we, as an audience, buy Jim Carrey in a role like this for nearly two hours? It's strange how, had the role gone to any of a number of typical thespians (Aston Kutcher and Eliza Dushku, let's say, rather than Carrey and Virginia Madsen), that no one would pay attention. And maybe no one is paying attention, but I have a strange desire to see this thing now.

Carrey reportedly has his own fixation with the number 23 and all of its signification. So he likely wanted to be a part of this script very much. He's also teaming up with Joel Schumacher here again, following their collaboration on "Batman Forever" in 1995. Carrey was also originally cast in the Colin Farrell role in "Phone Booth." So yeah, it makes sense that he's on board, but then again, it's got an undeniable odd quotient. Odd like Johnny Depp and Frank Langella starring in what would have been considered an otherwise rote thriller (and might still be considered as much by some) for Roman Polanski: 1999's "The Ninth Gate."

Carrey's career is going to be interesting for the next few years regardless, following the disintegration of various projects and his relocation of representation to CAA. All two years after giving arguably his best performance to date in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." Interesting indeed.


November 03, 2006
Anyone else find it brilliant...

...that "Borat" is now, without any question, one of the best reviewed films of the year? This is crazy (in the best way possible).

November 02, 2006
"Pursuit of Happyness" at the Egyptian

EDIT (1:19PM): In today's Hot Button column, David Poland does a very nice job of conveying the same atmosphere of the Q&A I described last night.

EARLIER: Gabriele Muccino's "The Pursuit of Happyness" played to a SAG crowd tonight at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. I'm not able to give my personal opinion of the film as of yet, but the crowd ate it up - can I say that at least? I guess I'll find out soon enough.

Anyway, Will Smith charmed the pants off those in attendance (as always) in the follow-up Q&A. This guy answers questions like no one else I've ever seen. He's always had the spark, but seriously, no hesitation, no pulled punches and no lack of preparation is to be found.

Smith told wonderful stories about how son Jaden, who co-stars in the film, taught him things he had forgotten as an actor. He also commented that working with Muccino joins the experience of working with Michael Mann as a significant turning point in his career. He now feels that he will never allow himself to dip below a certain artistry, and that kind of obvious awakening is really something special to witness.

Smith really is a dream for any PR team pushing a film during the Oscar season. He works extremely hard for his films, even when it isn't necessary, and without saying anything about the actual performance, a few more appearances like this will certainly keep him in the place I've considered him to be for some time: Peter O'Toole's true competition for the Best Actor victor this year.

"Breaking and Entering" for the SAG and WGA

Another Pacific Design Center event, and it was a peculiar one in some ways. Moderating the Q&A with Anthony Minghella and Robin Wright Penn after the screening (no, I don't sleep much these days), I noticed a strange divide in the audience.

Some really and truly loved the film, the atmosphere it creates and the view of relationships it presents. Most of these people were older and had more life experience (said the 24-year-old blogger). The other half of the crowd seemed a little more affected by skepticism and an unwillingness to accept what Anthony was attempting to present. Curious.

I didn't get a lot of time to chat with Anthony and Robin (stunning as always) because they had to scoot to another Q&A in Sherman Oaks. But Anthony is such a hypnotic speaker, I have to say. As he would answer question with that measured quality of his, I would at times catch Robin looking on with that certain sense of warm wonder that is impossible to avoid. I could personally listen to him talk about love, heartbreak, emotional scar tissue and hope all day long.

I really hope this film finds a comfortable place int he awards season. Or at least in the hearts of those who understand everything it has to say.