Gary Oldman writes up Coppola across the pond

Posted by · 12:10 pm · September 15th, 2011

Here’s a nice change of pace. On the occasion of the UK opening of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” London’s Telegraph newspaper has commissioned actor Gary Oldman for his thoughts on director Francis Ford Coppola. It’s kind of random, though. Yeah, Oldman starred in Coppola’s 1992 film “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” but there’s no real connection otherwise. Coppola has “Twixt” at Toronto right now, so there’s that, but whatever, I’m not complaining. It’s always nice to get this kind of perspective from an actor. Here’s a taste:

For me, Apocalypse Now is the peak of his career. So much so that I used a bit of it when I directed Nil By Mouth [1997] — that sequence when Dennis Hopper goes to Willard, who is Kurtz’s captive, and starts telling him about Kurtz (“What are they gonna say? That he was a kind man? That he was a wise man?”). Francis gave me that footage for free, which was very kind of him.

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‘Barrymore’ trailer

Posted by · 9:40 am · September 15th, 2011

It’s been a bit slow on the whole for acquisitions at Toronto, but one film I’ve kept an eye on is “Barrymore” (which we pointed to over the weekend as a potential Oscar play for Christopher Plummer). It absolutely seems like a powerhouse performance, but man, it’ll be hard to sell a one-man show. I imagine that’s partly what’s stalling a sale. In any case, the trailer is available via TIFF’s YouTube channel. Check it out by clicking the image below or watch an embed after the jump.

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Taking questions for Oscar Talk

Posted by · 8:54 am · September 15th, 2011

You know the drill. Fire off your queries and we’ll try to address a few. Keep in mind we’ll surely be talking plenty about Toronto so try to be specific otherwise. And since we didn’t get to any last week due to the rushed session, feel free to re-post something you really want addressed. If things pan out, this will likely be the last Oscar Talk under this roof. But we’re 60 episodes deep and we’ll keep going strong at HitFix, so don’t you worry.

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Jon Stewart on Eddie Murphy as Oscar host

Posted by · 8:42 am · September 15th, 2011

I have to be honest and admit that sometimes I forget that Jon Stewart hosted the Oscars. Part of that is because the host is just so rarely memorable (everything that’s not novel starts to become a blur). And Stewart’s done it TWICE, mind. The first time (2006 ceremony), his dry “Daily Show” writers failed to hit the mark (though, now that I think about it, I was in the aisles over that Wylie Stateman bit). The second time, two years later, went over better but he had obviously dialed some things down.

Still, anyone who has hosted the Oscars twice is a go-to guy for advice any day of the week. It’s a demanding gig, not for the faint of heart. And if you do it twice, well, you’re probably a little crazy, but you also clearly love the showmanship of it all. Billy Crystal is generally associated with the job (he’s done it eight times and almost made it a ninth this year). But Bob Hope is of course the real king, having taken the stage on 18 occasions in his time.

So the news that Eddie Murphy was tapped as this year’s Oscarcast host is naturally a hot topic to cover with prior emcees. And over at Rolling Stone, Eric Bates has done just that, probing Stewart for his thoughts.

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‘Oranges & Sunshine’ trailer

Posted by · 8:10 am · September 15th, 2011

I feel like Guy was talking up Emily Watson’s performance in “Oranges & Sunshine” earlier in the year. I can’t remember. But the film tells the true story of the 300-year practice of sending poor or orphaned children to British settler colonies to help alleviate the shortage of labor. It’s the other pony in Cohen Media Group’s Oscar stable (after yesterday’s acquisition of “The Lady”), and today, courtesy of Thompson on Hollywood, we get our first look at the trailer. Click on the image below to see it or watch an embed after the jump.

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9/15 OSCARWEB ROUND-UP: Flamboyant ‘Drive’ strategy, Oscilloscope nabs ‘Heights,’ eight minutes of ‘Dragon Tattoo’

Posted by · 7:45 am · September 15th, 2011

John Horn talks to FilmDistrict honcho Bob Berney about the flamboyant advertising of Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive.” [24 Frames]

Dana Harris chats with “Albert Nobbs” stars Glenn Close and Janet McTeer. [indieWIRE]

Oscilloscope picks up Andrea Arnold’s “Wuthering Heights” in Toronto. [Variety]

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Cohen Media Group nabs Besson’s ‘The Lady’

Posted by · 5:22 pm · September 14th, 2011

Everyone’s just been waiting to see who would pick up Luc besson’s “The Lady” out of Toronto, just for an excuse to go ahead and shuffle Michelle Yeoh over to the pile of likely Best Actress contenders. Yeoh stars in the film as Burmese opposition politician Aung San Suu Kyi and David Thewlis has a meaty part as her husband. Well, Mike Fleming reports at Deadline that a deal has been struck:

The Oscar race just got a little more interesting. EuropaCorp has made a U.S. distribution deal with Cohen Media Group for the Luc Besson-directed The Lady…to release the film for an Oscar-qualifying platform release late this year.

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Lurie’s ‘Straw Dogs’ finds its own way

Posted by · 4:48 pm · September 14th, 2011

I should really write something about Rod Lurie’s “Straw Dogs” remake, which, naturally, has been met with a lot of skepticism ever since it was announced. “How dare someone tinker with Peckinpah,” etc. As if Peckinpah is beyond reproach. He’s not, I’d argue, and Lurie’s version of the novel that Peckinpah’s film was based upon — Gordon Williams’s “The Siege of Trencher’s Farm” — works in ways that film didn’t really want to.

The film features some dynamic acting from James Marsden and particularly Alexander Skarsgård (recognizable to most from TV’s “True Blood”). Marsden finds a lot of interesting rhythms in the re-purposed Dustin Hoffman role, this time set as screenwriter David Sumner, who heads off with his wife, Amy (Kate Bosworth), to her bayou hometown for a change of pace and scenery. And he carries the overall theme of the film well: fighting for one’s principles (which, interestingly enough, is a recurrent theme in Lurie’s work going way back).

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Summit hits the ground running with first screener of the season: Chris Weitz’s ‘A Better Life’

Posted by · 2:37 pm · September 14th, 2011

Deadline’s Pete Hammond already reported that this was imminent, but since it arrived on my doorstep this morning, it seemed worth conveying here. Summit Entertainment is first out of the gate this year with FYC screeners aimed at drawing attention back to Chris Weitz’s “A Better Life.”

I was a big fan of Weitz’s film, which hit the counter-programming slot this summer, particularly Demián Bichir’s affecting lead actor performance (which Mark Harris recently spotlighted in his first on-going season column). You’ll recall I spoke to Weitz about the film back in June, around the occasion of the film’s Los Angeles Film Festival bow. He noted at the time that he was very keen on pushing for some year-end kudos recognition for Bichir.

I started to get worried that the film would be lost in the shuffle after it failed to find much life at the box office. But Summit is really smart to push this out there now, after such campaigns for Melissa Leo (“Frozen River”), Jacki Weaver (“Animal Kingdom”) and Fox Searchlight’s “Once” in recent years got a big leg up by being first on the doorstep. Oscar recognition will be tough but I definitely think some Indie Spirit attention could be in the cards. Any awards season attention at all is a big win, of course, as it just means more people will see the film.

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‘We Bought a Zoo’ trailer

Posted by · 11:38 am · September 14th, 2011

Just in time to capitalize on Scarlett Johansson’s nude photo scandal (that was low, sorry), the trailer for Cameron Crowe’s latest, “We Bought a Zoo,” hits the web. The first half of this early glimpse really makes it look like a return to character study form for Crowe, while the second half lays on the heavy saccharine (I winced at “I like the animals, but I love the humans”). So the proof will be in the pudding, as they say, but Matt Damon looks to be giving a solid performance here and, well, I’ll try to remain positive. The last Crowe outing frankly took a lot out of me. Check out the trailer via Apple by clicking the image below, or watch an embed after the jump.

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Posted by · 10:07 am · September 14th, 2011

I’m elated to see that this morning’s news has been so warmly received, both by the readership here and behind the scenes in the industry. In Contention has been — as my quote mentions in the press release — a labor of love since I opened the doors (on an unassuming Blogspot domain) back in August of 2005. It was never intended to go where it went and its yearly growth and success has been heartening to say the least.

When HitFix CEO Jen Sargent asked me for that quote, by the way, I made it a point of mentioning our community here. Because rest assured, you’re all a very important part of HitFix’s decision to reach out to us. We share some overlap in audience, but they recognized this as a community alive and engaged, and something they were interested in adding to their pie. It’s win-win all around as we’ll be reaching a bigger audience with an array of new tools, and that exposure will obviously be a significant commodity going forward.

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Moverman’s expressive ‘Rampart’ offers tour de force performance from Woody Harrelson

Posted by · 8:26 am · September 14th, 2011

Oren Moverman’s “Rampart” is absolutely fantastic. Top to bottom, it’s a considerable directorial achievement, and an exciting, brazen departure from his excellent 2009 debut, “The Messenger.”

The film — from an original screenplay by James Ellroy, re-written by Moverman — uses the 1999 Los Angeles Police Department Rampart corruption scandal as a frame, a state of mind, a narrative hook, an atmosphere for conveying an intense, probing, yet curiously vague character study in the form of LAPD officer “Date Rape” Dave Brown (Woody Harrrelson).

“Date Rape” got his nickname from his own scandal, the murder of an alleged serial rapist, which he explains away at a bar with a casual, “I may or may not have done it but he’ll never hurt another woman again.” That gives you an idea where this guy is coming from. The world is black and white for him (or so he’d like it to be). But he’s haunted by its inherent grays.

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‘Le Havre’ tapped to represent Finland in foreign film race

Posted by · 7:52 am · September 14th, 2011

I finally caught up with Aki Kaurismaki’s “Le Havre” at Telluride two weeks ago. “I don’t count myself as the biggest Kaurismäki fan,” I wrote at the time, “but it’s very difficult to argue with the heart in this film. It should melt you a bit, if you have warm blood pumping through your veins.” I should also note, though, that André Wilms’s performance is sensational, and much of the film’s emotional undercurrent is owed to his work.

According to Variety, the film has now been chosen by Finland to represent the country in the best Foreign Language Film race:

“Le Havre,” directed, written and produced by Aki Kaurismaki, will rep Finland in the foreign-language film Oscar race…The pic was selected by a jury supervised by the Finnish Film Chamber. Jury members included actress, singer-songwriter Kaija Karkinen, director Aku Louhimies, producer Liisa Penttila and director-scriptwriter Ville Suhonen…The film had its world preem in the official selection of Cannes Film Festival, where it was awarded with the Fipresci prize and the special mention of the Ecumenical Jury. It also won best international film at the Munich Film Festival.

Onto the on-going list of titles it goes.

[Photo: Pandora Filmproduktion/Pyramide Productions/Sputnik/Yleisradio]

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Clooney on ‘Descendants’ at Telluride, with clips

Posted by · 7:40 am · September 14th, 2011

Via our new partners at HitFix, specifically Greg Ellwood’s Awards Campaign blog:

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9/14 OSCARWEB ROUND-UP: Plays storm the screen in Toronto, Liddell acquires ‘Killer Joe,’ Barker on Calley

Posted by · 7:30 am · September 14th, 2011

Michelle Kung writes up Toronto from the perspective of plays taking to the screen en masse, like Tracy Letts’s “Killer Joe”… [Speakeasy]

…which Liddell Entertainment, by the way, picked up at the fest. [Variety]

Sasha Stone on life after the 2011 fall festival circuit. [Awards Daily]

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Posted by · 4:03 am · September 14th, 2011

I’m happy to forward the following exciting news via press release. I’ll get into the details of all of this later today, but for now…


LOS ANGELES, September 14, 2011HitFix, a leader in entertainment news, today announced a strategic partnership with film and awards season blog, In Contention. This mutually beneficial alliance will provide readers and Academy Members with multiple perspectives on compelling content about the upcoming awards season.

“By partnering with In Contention, HitFix is adding another strong voice to our already acclaimed team of Gregory Ellwood, Alan Sepinwall, Drew McWeeny, Melinda Newman and Dan Fienberg,” said CEO Jennifer Sargent. “The combination of Awards Campaign and In Contention makes HitFix the premier destination for anyone interested in awards season.”, spearheaded by Owner and Editor-in-Chief, Kristopher Tapley, is a premier film blog with an awards focus that provides unparalleled access and expert commentary about all aspects of Academy Season.’s Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Gregory Ellwood, currently pens Awards Campaign, a popular awards season blog that provides behind-the-scenes and in-depth analysis of Hollywood’s yearly strategic march to the Academy Awards., meanwhile, brings a distinctly unique voice and perspective on awards season, as well as invaluable insights from festivals and industry events throughout the year. Combined, the two blogs cover every angle, providing the best and most accurate up-to-date awards coverage.

“It’s so very gratifying to see my six-year labor of love plugged into an impressive infrastructure like HitFix,” Tapley said. “In Contention has always been about establishing a conversation throughout the awards season, with fans and industry insiders alike, and as a part of HitFix, that conversation will only grow. I look forward to tapping an even wider audience and bringing the In Contention community into this new and exciting phase.”

“Kris and his longtime contributor Guy Lodge are smart and insightful pundits who are respected throughout the industry. I’m incredibly excited to have their cinematic opinions incorporated into the HitFix mix,” Ellwood said. “This partnership will make HitFix the premier destination for awards season coverage online.”

In Contention was founded by Kristopher Tapley in 2005. Formerly a seasonal outlet purely focused on the Oscar race, the site bridged the gap with consistent off-season commentary and industry coverage in early 2008 after exclusively covering the film awards season for three years on the web. Regular contributors include Guy Lodge and Gerard Kennedy.

About HitFix
Profiled in BusinessWeek as one of “America’s Most Promising Start-ups,” Los Angeles-based HitFix brings the world of entertainment news and events to discerning fans that prefer entertainment journalism and events to celebrity scandal. The site reaches more than 2 million unique users each month and is designed for an 18-34 year old demographic. HitFix calls on the talents of renowned entertainment commentators and journalists such as Alan Sepinwall, Drew McWeeny, Daniel Fienberg and Melinda Newman to produce wide-ranging news, interviews and commentary on all aspects of entertainment. For more information visit,, or

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The writing shines in dense and rewarding ‘Moneyball’

Posted by · 11:53 am · September 13th, 2011

Bennett Miller’s “Moneyball” is a tightly constructed piece of work, thematically layered, rich in substance, hard work from two of the best writers in the business clearly evident. And the last thing it is is a sports movie.

The film is about so much. It’s a David vs. Goliath story of changing the status quo. It’s a journey through the hardship of self-confidence. Most importantly, though, for me, it’s a story about the quest for the unattainable being the reward.

Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane, a former hot baseball prospect out of high school who passed on a Stanford scholarship for a chance to go pro. He was smooth-talked by scouts who knew, with every fiber of their being, that this guy had what it took. And anyone in their right mind would have paid handsomely for him to come to their team and prove them right. But Beane’s journey through the sport became one of understanding that no one knows anything about another man’s destiny.

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9/13 OSCARWEB ROUND-UP: Madonna in Toronto, SPC’s would-be ‘Shame’ plan, Clooney overexposed?

Posted by · 9:12 am · September 13th, 2011

Michael Cieply reports from the “W.E.” press conference in Toronto, where Madonna is doing slightly better than she did over in Venice. [Arts Beat]

Speaking of Toronto, Tilda Swinton keeps hitting the press rounds at the fest. [Speakeasy]

Pete Hammond hears that Sony Classics wanted to lay the groundwork for a Michael Fassbender win next year in “Shame” (had they acquired it) by pushing “A Dangerous Method” ahead of it this year. I’m not sure that would have worked out. [Deadline]

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