20 Weeks Archive for September, 2010

26 Weeks To Oscar: The Year Of… Patience

The awards season has gotten off to a rousing “uh, okay.”

Yeah, the festival season is upon us and there is a lot of drool dripping over some of these films – including my own happy salivations – but it is easy to mistake strong players using the fests to launch their long, complex, and expensive awards plans and the notion that festival excitement is, in and of itself, an answer. It’s not… at least, not to the positive.

Films will die at VeniTelluRonto™, but even the most robust winners/survivors cannot assume they’re set. Some actors will lock in, probably… but not Picture. Two of last year’s ten nominees premiered at one of these festivals in the year they were released. (The Hurt Locker is the third… which was in Toronto in 2008… and almost failed to sell.) Slumdog was the only one of the five the year before. 2007 saw 4 of 5. But that was the exception that reminds us of the rule. In 2006… 1 of 5.

I’m not saying that these festivals are not a great tool for movie marketers to grab a great deal of attention. (And the Oscar race is a marketing event first and an artistic event second, make no mistake.) And who knows? There are those who feel that TIFF 2010 will have more than half the nominees in its theaters. No reason it can’t be the case. But again… it’s the start of a marathon, not a sprint where the first winners get automatic byes.

There are plenty of players in the game for Oscar 2010, but for the first time in a very long time, there are virtually no “you can lock that in from months away” candidates sitting there. You have Eastwood and you have The Coens and Sony over the moon about Fincher’s The Social Network. After that, even amongst pedigree players, it is hard for anyone to get a realistic temperature out there.

In the immortal words of Nancy Meyers, something’s gotta give. But what?

Danny Boyle has his golden statue and a movie that’s a thriller and a crowd pleaser… but is it Oscar? Mike Leigh is always a threat, but one never knows which film will leap up. Jim Brooks has batted .600 overall, with 3 of his first four films getting BP nods… but it’s been 13 years and a flop since he went to The Carpet.

The next group is pretty muscular, but still, a bit aspirational. Ed Zwick is always around The Money, so maybe a lighter film will get him to gold. Julian Schnabel hasn’t made a movie that didn’t get serious awards interest, but Miral may or may not be “good for The Jews.” Julie Taymor may get Shakespeare back in the game for the first time since Ken Branagh. (You remember Ken… director of Thor… right?) Randall Wallace has been to the dance, but is his horse movie too Disney to be embraced as seriously as it will need to be?

David O. Russell is one of the most storied young directors… but has never been nominated… is The Fighter his The Wrestler? And what of young Aronofsky? Is his thriller too thrilling for The Senior Circuit? Also challenging voters with fresh intensity are Mark Romanek, Anton Corbjin, and Ben Affleck (back, this time starring in his sophomore, somewhat more conventional but still very 70s, directorial effort).

Right in what seems like The Oscar Pocket are Tony Goldwyn with a period overcoming-the-odds flick, Calendar Guy Nigel Cole with a warmer Norma Rae, Tom Hooper segueing from John Adams and the well-liked but unrewarded The Damned United to something more Queen-erific, and Roger Michell doing another turn on classic Jim Brooks.

And the Really Young Set… or at least, young to The Academy: Cholodenko, Boden/Fleck, Cianfrance, and Schneider. All in play for real… but still a bit of a mystery to the voters, who, in reality, are not cineastes, but industry pros, as given to whims as any other large group.

Debra Granik is a remarkable director and undeniably a starmaker, but Roadside Attractions needs to leap into the Oscar game with both feet is her Winter’s Bone is to get out of summer and take a firm position in the awards season. RA also picked up the Bardem-starrer from Alejandro Gonzalez-Inarritu, making them The New Awards Player in town. They have earned a taste for all this, after winning Oscar last year for Best Doc. They just picked up the new Ondi Timoner doc, hoping for a repeat. Roadside certainly doesn’t want to follow too closely in the footsteps of Sidney Kimmel and Bob Yari, as both men have, ahem, narrowed their film interests since they were seen chasing awards. They don’t have the support of horny vampires, a la Summit. But in the land of 10 Best Picture nominees and extremely strong candidates for Actor & Actress, it may be their time.

And who has the fullest stable of contenders? Harvey Weinstein… natch. But damned if I know whether he has the cash, staff, and will to grab what, from a distance, could easily be 2 BP slots out of 10.

Of course, there are the pictures that have already done their big theatrical releases: Toy Story 3, Inception, and Shutter Island. Plus we’ll see pushes from Alice in Wonderland and How To Train Your Dragon.

Floating out there are a new Peter Weir film (aka, the Scott Rudin movie that has no distribution) and a first from screenwriting Oscar winner William Monahan. But who wants to jump onto a moving train to get them into the race in the next 3 months?

And Tyler Perry’s presence is now official. And if he doesn’t get some love, Academy members could just find themselves Madeaed. Watch out.

Does any of this make you feel more settled about what happens next?

Thing is… it will turn into some solids as we move forward. It always does. And those sure bets are often not as sure as we all like to think. But right now, there is a lot more passionate churning about every category but Best Picture. And I have to say… kinda cool for a change.

44 Comments »

Quote Unquotesee all »

“I always thought that once I had lived in Chicago for a while, it would be interesting to do a portrait of the city – but to do it at a significant time. Figuring out when would be the ideal time to do that was the trick. So when this election came around, coupled with the Laquan McDonald trial, it seemed like the ideal time to do the story. Having lived in Chicagoland for thirty-five-plus years and done a number of films here, I’ve always been struck by the vibrancy of the city and its toughness. Its tenderness too. I’ve always been interested in the people at the center of all the stories. This is a different film in that regard, because we’re not following a couple of individuals over the course of the project in the way that a lot of the films I’ve done have, but I still feel like people’s voices and aspirations and hopes are at the center of this series.

It wasn’t easy. We started back in July 2018, it was actually on the Fourth of July – that was our first shoot. It’s like most documentaries in that the further you go along the more involved and obsessed you get, and you just start shooting more and more and more. We threw ourselves into this crazy year in Chicago. We got up every day and tried to figure out if we should be out shooting or not, and what it is we should shoot. We were trying to balance following this massive political story of the mayor’s race and these significant moments like the Laquan McDonald trial with taking the pulse of people in the city that we encounter along the way and getting a sense of their lives and what it means to live here. By election day, Zak Piper, our producer, had something like six cameras out in the field. You could double-check that, it might have been seven. We had this organized team effort to hit all the candidates as they were voting, if they hadn’t already voted. We hit tons of polling places, were at the Board of Elections and then were at the parties for the candidates that we had been able to follow closely. Then of course, we were trying to make sure we were at the parties of the candidates who made it to the runoff. So, yeah, it was kind of a monster.”
~ Steve James On City So Real

“I really want to see The Irishman. I’ve heard it’s big brother Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece. But I really can’t find the time. The promotion schedule is so tight, there’s no opportunity to see a three and a half-hour movie. But I really want to see it. In 2017, right before Okja’s New York premiere, I had the chance to go to Scorsese’s office, which is in the DGA building. There’s a lovely screening room there, too, with film prints that he’s collected. I talked to him for about an hour. There’s no movie he hasn’t seen, even Korean films. We talked about what he’s seen and his past work. It was a glorious day. I’ve loved his work since I was in college. Who doesn’t? Anyone involved with movies must feel the same way.”
~ Bong Joon-ho