Why there’s no Gosling “dilemma”

Posted by · 6:40 am · September 13th, 2011

Kris wrote a thorough piece yesterday on the vast number of hard-working actors this year who seem to have two or more dogs in the Oscar hunt — one to which many of you responded with even more names to add to the conversation.

In many cases, talk drifted away from serious awards potential and toward the less unusual occurrence of actors who simply had more than one film out this year: lord knows we all love Marisa Tomei, but nobody’s pretending she has more than a 0-for-2 shot at a nomination this time round.

The name that everyone seems to be zeroing in on, however, is Hollywood’s current man of the hour, Ryan Gosling: with three prominent films to go with his endless portfolio of magazine covers, style-page paeans and blogosphere valentines, many are quick to assume the Academy will naturally fall in line, despite (or, some will reason, because of) their failure to acknowledge his career-best turn in last year’s “Blue Valentine.”

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Wenders on why ‘Pina’ needs 3D

Posted by · 5:22 am · September 13th, 2011

Since seeing the film in February, I’ve been something of a broken record saying that Wim Wenders’s marvellous performance film “Pina” — which has been drawing rave responses at Toronto, and was recently submitted as Germany’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar — single-handedly restates the case for 3D, a technology that any number of recent Hollywood blockbusters have tarnished somewhat.

While even the most well-executed 3D narrative films have hardly depended on the gimmick for anything more than bonus effect, 3D actively enhances the audience’s understanding of the subject in “Pina,” where movement patterns and spatial deconstruction in the late Pina Bausch’s choreography are brought to the fore, replicating the immediacy and interactivity of live performance.

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Mark Harris joins the discussion with fringe lead actor picks

Posted by · 10:26 pm · September 12th, 2011

Two years ago author and journalist Mark Harris wrote what I think is one of the most salient Oscar season observances ever squeezed out of this unnecessary corner of the web. I always look to him for one of the most above-the-fray, but smart and informed, perspectives on a given season. And this piece over at Grantland is a great example, too.

He reduces these early days of the awards season to the echo-chamber they’ve come to represent. And I don’t count myself out of the insanity he cuts everything down to with this precise paragraph:

If you’re like most moviegoers, or most Academy voters, you don’t attend any of these festivals. So “buzz” is really code for a two-way conversation conducted between a handful of awards handicappers eager to anoint or dismiss potential contenders, and a handful of studio publicists and independent firms who are listening for the dog-whistle frequency that tells them that somebody thinks their movie might be in the running.

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Tailoring ‘Tailor’

Posted by · 5:56 pm · September 12th, 2011

One craft aspect I didn’t get around to praising in last week’s review of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” is the immaculate costuming by Jacqueline Durran — a designer with only 11 feature credits under her belt, yet one who already seems something of an institution.

Durran is one of those rare designers capable of equal deftness and creativity in period and contemporary work: her reputation will likely forever rest on that green evening gown from “Atonement,” but she was also responsible for the highly idiosyncratic thrift-store ensembles worn by Sally Hawkins in “Happy-Go-Lucky.” (Indeed, she’s been a loyal member of Mike Leigh’s crew for the last decade.)

Her male-centric work on “Tinker, Tailor,” meanwhile, falls somewhere in between. Set in 1973, the film is a highly specific period piece, but one whose costumes call for the subtle character focus and practicality of her modern-day work. The gentlemen’s game of British espionage calls for some dapper suiting, and the film is every bit as stylishly dressed as you’d expect one that thanks Sir Paul Smith first in its closing credits to be.

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‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ US trailer

Posted by · 11:49 am · September 12th, 2011

I’m hoping to see Tomas Alfredson’s “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” soon-ish. It has a solid track out of Venice for a spot as the thinking man’s Best Picture play (especially considering the British vote). The US trailer sets up the intrigue nicely for those on these shores, nevertheless opting to go back to the international teaser and that awesome music from Danny Elfman’s score for “The Wolfman” at the top. Lots more Tom Hardy, too. Check it out via Yahoo! Movies by clicking the image below, or watch an embed after the jump.

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OFF THE CARPET: Strong year for double-dippers

Posted by · 8:58 am · September 12th, 2011

We find ourselves right in the middle of the big Toronto press junket, er, film festival, where 200-plus films are landing, many of them as world premieres, and the landscape of this year’s Oscar race is really beginning to take shape.

As I looked out at the various films in play this year, it suddenly occurred to me that, perhaps more than ever, there are a lot of double-dipping actors and actresses in the hunt. Not all of these performances are or will be awards bait necessarily, but there could still be cases for more than a few saddling up to dual nominations this year.

At the top of that list would have to be Brad Pitt. After already giving what many believed to be his best performance to date in Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” the paparazzi-hounded star found himself the recipient of a lot of great ink for his work in “Moneyball” when it screened in Toronto at the end of the week. Wisely, Fox Searchlight will be planning a supporting actor push for the actor in Malick’s film, which is both practical (given his clear lead in the other film), and organic (given that, at least in my opinion, he is supporting to Hunter McCracken’s lead in “The Tree of Life”).

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Iran’s ‘A Separation’ latest to enter Oscar race

Posted by · 8:15 am · September 12th, 2011

I’d say this was a no-brainer, but one should never underestimate the ability of countries to shoot themselves in the foot when selecting their submissions for the foreign-language Oscar. Happily, Iran has done no such thing, picking Asghar Farhadi’s critically beloved festival sensation “A Separation” as their pony this year.

It’s a choice that I suspect will pay off handsomely. I’ll be astonished if the film doesn’t at least make the January shortlist — it should play well enough with general voters, but the executive committee should swoop in if it doesn’t. It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine this smart, humanistic marital drama going all the way to the podium, particularly with Sony Pictures Classics — unmatched campaigners in this category — steering the film.

Ecstatic critical notices at Toronto and Telluride (Kris’s take here) are merely the newest feather in the film’s cap: it already nabbed the Golden Bear (plus Best Actor and Actress) at February’s Berlin fest, and was released to a shower of acclaim in the UK this summer. If the buzz continues to build for this late-December release, could Sony even angle for extra attention in the highly pliable Best Original Screenplay category? A far-fetched suggestion, perhaps, but I wonder.

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9/12 OSCARWEB ROUND-UP: Clooney on self-competition, Woodley ready for her close-up, genre movies at the Oscars

Posted by · 8:03 am · September 12th, 2011

Bill Desowitz calls “The Lion King 3D,” which hits theaters Friday, “a noteworthy achievement for post-converting hand-drawn animation.” Agreed. He also talks to those responsible for it. [Thompson on Hollywood]

Clooney: Clooney vs. Cooney just hype. [Variety]

Shailene Woodley, meanwhile, is ready for her close-up in Toronto. [The Guardian]

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Toronto reception takes ‘360’ back to zero

Posted by · 6:10 am · September 12th, 2011

The warning signs were there for “360.” An umpteenth reworking of “La Ronde” didn’t seem an obvious fit for either Fernando Meirelles or Peter Morgan — a pretty dispassionate writer even on his best form, he came badly unstuck last year when he veered from his fact-based template with “Hereafter.”

Meirelles, too, is seeking to bounce back from a flop (2008’s “Blindness,” in case you’ve forgotten), and ensemble members Anthony Hopkins and Jude Law have of late been unreliable indicators of quality.

Interest in the film seemed to hover mainly in how it might serve Rachel Weisz, whose multiple lead roles this year — including an acclaimed turn in “The Whistleblower” and a buzzy one in “The Deep Blue Sea” — have many wondering if a second Oscar nod could be on the cards. It might be, but tepid reviews following the film’s premiere suggest it won’t be for “360.”

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Mixed reaction to Moverman’s ‘Rampart’ in Toronto, some measured praise for Woody Harrelson

Posted by · 6:04 pm · September 11th, 2011

One of the more anticipated Toronto bows, for me, is Oren Moverman’s “The Messenger” follow-up, “Rampart.” I was a big fan of his last effort and have been intrigued by the possibility of Woody Harrelson bubbling up in the Best Actor race (assuming a studio bites on the film).

But things aren’t looking stellar for the film just yet, as most of what I’m reading is negative, with a few positive bursts here and there. (Just judging by the cross-section, though, I expect to be on board.) More reactions will come throughout the fest, so this early glance isn’t necessarily meant to establish the overall perception.

Starting with the trades, Variety’s Justin Chang calls the film “well-wrought,” singling out Harrelson by offering that the actor “is excellent as a cynical, trigger-happy officer oblivious to the fresh winds of change and accountability sweeping through his embattled department.” He nevertheless found the film on the whole to be a “not entirely satisfying character study.”

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(UPDATED) Coppola’s ‘Twixt’ under serious fire in Toronto

Posted by · 5:30 pm · September 11th, 2011

I stand by my (out of context) excitement for Francis Ford Coppola probing the outer reaches of what we expect of cinema, but it appears “Twixt” nevertheless came and underwhelmed (to say the least) in Toronto, failing to fully reach its aspirations.

Tweets Motion/Captured’s Drew McWeeney:

It is appropriate that they screened Coppola’s “Twixt” today, because it is a freakin’ disaster.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Kirk Honeycutt:

The pity is that the narration has got it all too right: His writer’s story is indeed third-rate.

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Venice awards make a stand

Posted by · 11:05 am · September 11th, 2011

To judge from the press reaction to yesterday’s Venice Film Festival awards, you could be forgiven for thinking that Michael Fassbender won every single one of them, plus an extra certificate for full attendance.

That’d hardly be surprising in any circumstances, given Fassbender’s growing celebrity and the media’s reliable aversion to world cinema. Best Actor was the only major prize handed to an English-language film, after all — prompting cries of “Boring!” in many a comment board, for what in cinema is more boring than subtitles and faces you don’t immediately recognize?

But I’m being unfair. Surely one reason for Fassbender hogging last night’s Lido headlines — with Golden Lion winner “Faust” generally relegated to a grudging postscript — is that his was one choice made by the jury that nearly everyone could agree upon, and had indeed agreed upon since “Shame”‘s first screening a week before. I’d have been equally happy with an award for quick-witted “Carnage” savior Christoph Waltz, but I’m pleased the more exciting film got indirectly honored.

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Day of rest

Posted by · 9:50 am · September 11th, 2011

Now, if you’ll excuse me…

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BOX OFFICE: ‘Contagion’ finally stops ‘The Help,’ ‘Warrior’ stumbles in the first round

Posted by · 9:15 am · September 11th, 2011

I don’t pretend to be a box office expert, but I have to think five million for “Warrior” on opening weekend is a disaster for that film. What’s the ceiling when you start out there? It has to be low. Money was always going to be the difference for its Oscar chances. If it hit, there would have been a lot of potential. But now it’ll be lucky to eek out that nod for Nick Nolte. Meanwhile, “Contagion” and its all-star cast predictably took the weekend. It’s a smart but entertaining segue from summer to fall. And “The Help” is still chugging along, nailing down the #2 spot and cruising toward $150 million.

(Courtesy: Exhibitor Relations)

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10 years

Posted by · 8:45 am · September 11th, 2011

I don’t want to really dig in here or anything. It’s just a mark of time. There was an open sore in lower Manhattan tied up by bureaucracy, partisan nonsense and greed that became embarrassing, a symbol for a country so gridlocked by internal machinations that perhaps the truly poignant thing would have been to leave things undone. Because so much is still undone and unaccomplished and halted that a formerly proud beacon of progress is being lapped.

I hear the aircraft flying in formation above my house. I know as soon as I flip on the TV it will be wall-to-wall coverage, lazy and disingenuous in its stance of looking back, remembering and reflecting. But the only reflection I can muster is on a country that thinks it’s special for the tragedy of 2001. Welcome to the world, America, where terrible things happen every day.

That’s more negative than I really want it to be. But I’ve already mourned. I’ve already reflected. And I’m just bracing myself for a day that is used as an excuse to fill broadcast time and empty column inches (like these). We cover the world of filmed entertainment here, and even in that frame, I find it fascinating that it’s been nearly nine years since a truly impactful piece built on the specter of that day has landed. Paul Greengrass’s “United 93” was brave but clinical. Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center” was moving but rote. Mike Binder’s “Reign Over Me” was thoughtful but contained.

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‘Take Shelter’ and Jessica Chastain win in Deauville

Posted by · 12:42 am · September 11th, 2011

In the midst of early-season festival madness (and sometimes lost in the clutter) is the Deauville Film Festival, which concluded this weekend. Top honors went to Jeff Nichols’s “Take Shelter,” a film of which I’m a big proponent.

To start the festival, though, one of the film’s stars, Jessica Chastain, shared the “New Hollywood” award with Ryan Gosling. It’s notable as the second festival notice for the actress, following the Gucci Award for Women in Film at the Venice fest.

I know Sony Classics will be positioning films like “Midnight in Paris,” “Carnage” and “A Dangerous Method” for awards attention, not to mention another healthy slate of foreign film hopefuls. But I hope this gem isn’t lost in that fray this year. It’s clearly a film people are responding to (having already taken the Grand Prix at Cannes earlier in the summer.) My fingers crossed for it. More reactions will land out of Toronto as it screens throughout the week. Check out the trailer after the jump.

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R.I.P. Cliff Robertson

Posted by · 11:04 pm · September 10th, 2011

Actor Cliff Robertson passed away this evening. Most younger audiences will instantly recognize him from Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” franchise. A Columbia Pictures scandal in the late-1970s saw him blacklisted for sheer honesty. He won an Oscar over 40 years ago for his work in “Charly.” I’ll always remember him as one of the many faces of “Midway,” one of Dad’s favorites growing up. He will be missed.

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Plummer threatening to break into lead actor race

Posted by · 5:07 pm · September 10th, 2011

I’ve been hearing for a little while about “Barrymore,” Erik Canuel’s adaptation of a one-man show featuring Christopher Plummer as the great actor John Barrymore. Assuming a distributor gambles on the film in Toronto (it’s tough to sell a one-man show, no doubt), it’s entirely likely Plummer will be thrust into the Best Actor field (depending on who picks it up, naturally).

Jeff Wells is singing the film’s (and Plummer’s) praises (with another big helping of definitives):

[A]fter seeing Plummer charm and electrify and ham it up and speechify in gloriously boozy Shakespearean fashion in Barrymore, which I saw a couple of hours ago at the Bell Lightbox, I’m all but convinced he has the Oscar in the bag…As long as the Academy sees this low-budgeted Canadian film, that is. Once they all see it, the game will be pretty much over.

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