Posts Tagged ‘Winter’s Bone’

Anonymous Content’s Steve Golin & Alix Madigan

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

I’d Like to Thank the Academy …

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

… for announcing its nominations at such a ridiculously early hour during Sundance every year. Everyone in the business who’s already hitting their exhaustion point at the fest really appreciates getting to wake super early so we can hear nominations that rarely offer any huge surprises. But we’ll see.

… Okay, there were a few surprises, pleasant and otherwise:

I’m happy to see Dogtooth get a nomination for Best Foreign; we’ve been talking about that film since Toronto 2009, so it’s nice to see it get some love. But I’ll be rooting for my #1 film of the year, Biutiful, to win the category.

Speaking of Biutiful, how great is it that Javier Bardem got that well-deserved Best Actor nomination? In a perfect world, he would win it, but all things being what they are in Hollywood, you can give the performance of your career as he does here and still be the underdog.

No Ryan Gosling, though, which is too bad. Not sure which Best Actor nominee I would have bumped to make room for him. Bridges, maybe.

And also good to see John Hawkes get the Supporting Actor nom for Winter’s Bone. He’s my pick to win it. Fingers crossed.

On the chick side of things, I’m not unhappy to see any of the actresses who were nominated for Best Actress. It would be easy to get excited about the nominees all being from films with small budgets. Not that there’s anyone from a bigger film I would have liked to have seen nominated, but still.

As for the Supporting Actress noms, nothing shocking there, though it’s probably Hailee Steinfeld’s to lose. Here’s hoping her career survives the dreaded “child nominee” backlash, and that she has someone smart guiding her script choices post-True Grit.

Aronofsky and the Coens got well-deserved director nods. I wish Debra Granik’s name was on that list as well, but at least they tossed her a bone for screenplay. And what? No Christopher Nolan?

Nothing terribly shocking in the docs nominations. Once Exit Through the Gift Shop made the short list, it seemed likely to make the final cut. I hope it wins. And I guess I am going to have to get off my ass and force myself to watch Restrepo.

Good for The Illusionist for at least getting a nomination … maybe that will interest more parents in watching it with their kids. Okay, probably not, but a girl can dare to dream. If it actually beat out Toy Story 3 that would be probably the biggest shocker of the Oscars this year, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for that to happen.

And yay for the Roadside Attractions team for scoring noms for two films, Winter’s Bone and Biutiful. It’s been interesting to watch as Roadside has stepped up into the awards game with some smart acquisitions. Nice guys all around, and I’m happy for them almost as much as for the films, both of which I loved.

Okay, thanks Academy. Back to Sundance.

Frenzy on the Wall: If I Had a Ballot 2011

Monday, January 24th, 2011

2011 was not a very strong year for movies, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t worthy performances and filmmakers that deserve some attention.  As I do every year,  I’m going to give my picks for the Oscars in the major awards as if I had an actual ballot.  Since the Academy cannot be trusted to make the right decisions and will probably make the safe choice whenever possible, it’s fun to give my perspective.  Needless to say, I don’t see the Academy sending me a ballot anytime soon.

Best Picture

  • The American
  • Black Swan
  • Blue Valentine
  • The Social Network
  • Trash Humpers

I don’t believe in the Academy’s new(ish) rule to expand the category to ten nominees, so I’m going with five.  I think Black Swan and The Social Network are locks for spots and Blue Valentine will most likely make an appearance, but you can forgot about the Academy nominating something as deliberate as The American or something as truly avant-garde as Trash Humpers.  The Academy will pat itself on the back for nominating Black Swan, thinking that it’s an “art” film when it’s really just an amazingly well-done and dense genre picture.

I’m not knocking Black Swan at all – it was my second favorite film of the year – but what the voting bloc views as “avant-garde” and what is actually avant-garde are two entirely different things, so let’s not applaud the Academy just because they nominate a film as complicated as Black Swan; that should be the norm and we should be pushing them to go even further.

Having said that, I think all five of these films are worthy pictures of getting nominated in a field of ten in any given year.  A film like The American or Trash Humpers probably wouldn’t make it on my ballot of five in a stronger year and Blue Valentine is pushing it.  I didn’t catch the latter film until recently and I think it’s strong from start to finish, but that scene at the hospital towards the end really strained credulity.

(Spoilers)

I just don’t see how a man can go into a hospital and punch someone/wreck the place without security or an orderly coming to help.  People in hospitals are trained to subdue people who may get violent and yet, the man in question is able to walk out of the place and get in his car.  More than that: this was a film that I related to on such a deep level for almost every second of the film until that moment, when I could no longer relate to that character.  It’s a shame, because it’s a perfect film otherwise.

(End Spoilers)

But really, The Social Network is the film to beat and I don’t see anything coming close.  It’s not a revolutionary movie, it’s just a really great story told well.  It’s a profound statement about the times we live in and there are a lot of issues of betrayal, friendship, privacy, etc. that are brought up and explored in the film.  But more important than any of that is that it is exceptionally entertaining on a surface level.  The subtext of the film would not be nearly as interesting if it wasn’t for the fact that the text itself is so funny, poignant, and exciting.  It’s not perfect, but it’s close to it.  If I had any issue with the film, it’s that I wish it was at least an hour longer.  It’s the film of the year and unless the Academy is incredibly short-sighted (and they are), it will win Best Picture.

Best Director

  • Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
  • Anton Corbijn (The American)
  • David Fincher (The Social Network)
  • Harmony Korine (Trash Humpers)
  • Gaspar Noe (Enter the Void)

Ordinarily, I believe that the best five films are the five best directed films.  However, I had to make room for Gaspar Noe for his dynamic achievement with Enter the Void.  It’s not a great film because Noe’s script is a bit too trite, but the way he brings the impossible to life is something to be applauded and rewarded.  Derek Cianfrance did a fantastic job,  though I think it owes a big debt to the films of John Cassavetes, but it’s really not about the job that he did with Blue Valentine, but rather how masterful Noe’s direction was for Enter the Void.

Noe and Korine were the only filmmakers this year that sought to create something that was unique to the screen yet familiar enough to audiences.  I don’t think they were perfect because their natural impulse is to push the audience away rather than invite them in; it’s almost like they created video art rather than cinema (although that argument is a slippery slope and worthy of its own column).  Both Noe and Korine were successful in bringing their eccentric visions to life, but I can’t say they were the best because it was harder for me to engage with their works.

I think Corbijn did a fine job with The American, which has one of the most beautifully melancholic tones and a somnambulant yet charming pace.  The film it reminded me of the most was Anthony Minghella’s fantastic The Talented Mr. Ripley.  Both films are about handsome killers who hide themselves and fall in love, yet can’t escape their pasts; and both films are set in beautiful European cities that are shot lovingly and without rapid movements of the camera.  It’s really a complete 180 from Corbijn’s first feature, Control, and showed that he’s capable of all sorts of genres.  I’m excited to see what he does next.

For me, this award is a race between Aronofsky and Fincher.  These couldn’t be two more different films and both are really indicative of who each of these directors are as filmmakers.  Aronofsky’s Black Swan is hyper and emotional while Fincher’s The Social Network is controlled and tightly focused.  I think both films are touching in their own ways and both have (very different) built-in reasons to keep us from being too heartbroken by what occurs.  But for me, I have to go with what I thought was the better film and that’s The Social Network.  Having seen both multiple times, I don’t think The Social Network loses anything on repeat viewings whereas Black Swan loses the element of surprise that makes it so distressing to watch the first time around.  So, Fincher should – and will – win the award for Best Director.

Best Actor

  • George Clooney (The American)
  • Aaron Eckhart (Rabbit Hole)
  • Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)
  • Andy Garcia (City Island)
  • Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine)

To me, it’s a real shame that Aaron Eckhart isn’t getting more love for his performance in John Cameron Mitchell’s Rabbit Hole.  He and Nicole Kidman are equals in that movie, one performance doesn’t work without the other and both of them smash it out of the park.  Eckhart is understanding and sympathetic and yet flawed and on the verge of making mistakes; what makes his performance (and the film) work so well is that we relate to both his and Kidman’s characters from moment to moment.

Gosling is similarly great and for a lot of the same reasons.  Blue Valentine is also a film about a couple first and foremost and wouldn’t work if the two actors weren’t at the top of their games.  Gosling is given the more difficult role in Blue Valentine because he does quite a few things that might make us detest him, yet he more than makes up for it by playing a character who is understanding at the oddest of times – and Gosling makes it feel earned.  His character is not a particularly intelligent person and we’re given a few hints at why this might be the case, but can sympathize with his longing and with the ways in which he tries to make this relationship work.  Gosling and Eckhart both deserve to be nominated.

Clooney and Garcia are playing two completely different parts (and I just realized at this moment that they played adversaries in the Ocean’s 11 franchise).  Clooney is introverted from beginning to end and is loathe to tell his secrets to anyone.  Garcia is more manic and upbeat, anxious to get his secrets out.  People don’t give Clooney a whole lot of credit because he’s always so cool, calculated and…well, handsome as hell.  But he’s playing a difficult part in The American because so much of it is dependent on the way in which he moves rather than the way in which he speaks.  Garcia’s part in City Island is the exact opposite – it depends so much on how his speech and manner changes from scene to scene depending on who he is around.  Clooney’s part is dramatic and tragic in every sense of the word; Garcia’s part is dramatic in the hysterical sense of the word.  Both actors play their parts as perfectly as could be expected and I’d be willing to bet that if you swapped their roles, we wouldn’t be talking about either movie right now.

Finally there is Jesse Eisenberg who gives the best male performance of the year in The Social Network.  There isn’t enough I can say about this guy, who manages to make the character of Mark Zuckerberg into both villain and hero.  We cringe when he puts down his best friend because we know he’s better than that.  We believe he’s capable of redemption, that he’s not a monster.  The tragedy of the film is that he’s a person that so badly wants to connect with the people around him, that he wants to be popular, and yet he fails at every turn on a human level while succeeding on a business level.  Ultimately, at the end of the film, he’s in the Facebook offices surrounded by people and yet he’s completely alone – headphones on his ears, isolated from everyone and even his best friend can’t jolt him out of this unreality by smashing his laptop because there’s always another computer at his disposal.  Eisenberg convinces us that Zuckerberg is human and so we realte to much of what he does.  If we didn’t,  we wouldn’t be so disgusted by what he does wrong.  He should win Best Actor, but he won’t because the Academy will reward Colin Firth’s stammering performance in The King’s Speech.

(Side note: The King’s Speech is a perfectly decent film but it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.  Firth is a great actor, but this is hardly his crowning achievement.  The truth of the matter is that we can see Firth’s acting in every scene, we can see the wheels turning.  William Goldman once said that actors love playing drunks and mentally disabled people because Oscar voters can actually see them acting, knowing that the actor themselves isn’t actually disabled in any way.  But those aren’t the difficult roles at all; rather, the difficult roles are the ones where it’s hard to see the strings.  I think Firth does a good job in The King’s Speech, but I don’t think it was particularly difficult role to pull off.)

Best Actress

  • Madeline Carroll (Flipped)
  • Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole)
  • Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
  • Rachel Weisz (Agora)
  • Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)

It was difficult to leave off Jennifer Lawrence (excellent in Winter’s Bone), Annette Bening (for that one amazing scene in The Kids Are All Right), Zoe Kazan (astounding in The Exploding Girl), Tilda Swinton (heartbreaking in I Am Love), Carey Mulligan (wonderfully understated in Never Let Me Go) and Hailee Steinfeld (for carrying True Grit).  It was a strong year for lead female performances.

However, I couldn’t in good conscience omit young Madeline Carroll’s dynamite turn in Rob Reiner’s Flipped.  I don’t blame you if you haven’t seen the movie because it doesn’t look like it’s going to be nearly as engaging as it is.  It’s a sentimental and saccharine-laced story of young love in early 60s suburbia, but one of the primary reasons why it works so well is Carroll’s charisma.  She’s playing an eccentric character who is irrationally in love with the boy next door.  The only reason the film doesn’t work is because Carroll is so much more magnetic than her counterpart.  She’s so good that it almost ruins the movie because no other part of the film works as well as her performance.  Carroll is someone to watch for.

Rachel Weisz carries Agora in a way that very few actresses could.  She is powerful and dynamic as Hypatia, the mathematician and astrologer in 5th century Alexandria.  There is a fine line that Weisz navigates between being magnanimous and being a martyr, yet Weisz’s Hypatia is noble throughout without us ever feeling like we’re being given a caricature of a decent person in the face of evil.  A lot of the dialogue Weisz has to recite is a bit cumbersome, but she is able to pull it off and make it sound natural.

Nicole Kidman and Michelle Williams are fantastic for all of the reasons I mentioned above in regards to their co-stars.  Kidman does some of the best work of her career in Rabbit Hole, giving us a character who is going through unimaginable pain.  And Williams continues to prove that she might be the best actress of her generation by playing a woman on the precipice of imploding.  What makes both performances so strong is the fact that both actresses make difficult choices in order to make their characters feel real and human.  The disinterested look in Williams’ eyes as she walks past Gosling in the shower “future room” sequence in Blue Valentine or the way Kidman smacks herself in the shoulder in the climactic argument in Rabbit Hole, these are tics that the actors bring to the table that humanize their characters in unexpected ways.

But the performance of the year – male of female – is Natalie Portman in Black Swan.  It’s not just that Portman’s Nina Sayers is so fragile that she’s almost on the verge of tears in almost every scene or that she commits herself so fully to this unhinged performance that is both repulsive and attractive at the same time, it’s that in addition to all of the typical acting traits she exhibits, she is also a convincing dancer.  Let me make that clear: Portman’s dancing ability and the way in which it morphs throughout the film is integral to the development of the character.  When Portman dances at the end of the film and we see that she has finally captured the essence of the “black swan” role, I could tell that there was a difference in the way she danced.  I’m not a ballet scholar, but even I could tell that there was a different emotional tone to her dance at the end of the film.  It wasn’t just in the way she moved – although there was that – but it was in the look in her eyes.  I can’t think of another performance that I’ve seen in recent years that was so dependent on movement and I can’t think of another performer who pulled it off so well.  Portman is in nearly every frame of Black Swan and she doesn’t give a single false note.  Nina Sayers is the Daniel Plainview of this year.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Matt Damon (True Grit)
  • John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)
  • Kevin Kline (The Extra Man)
  • Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom)
  • Justin Timberlake (The Social Network)

The most difficult thing about this category was figuring out The Social Network situation.  I could easily replace Timberlake with Andrew Garfield or Armie Hammer.  And it was difficult not to put Garfield or Hammer in there in place of Kevin Kline or Matt Damon, as well.  Ultimately, I went with Timberlake in my Social Network slot because the film goes to a completely different level the moment Timberlake steps on the screen.  He is playing the most engaging character, for sure, but he is absolutely mesmerizing.  Timberlake has always been charismatic, but here he uses it to play a character who he is ruthless and villainous; he is the Iago of the film and his paranoia is always bubbling under the surface.

Kline and Damon are both playing oddball characters in their respective films and there are few actors better suited to those sorts of eccentrics than the two of them.  Kline plays a kind of greasy and unhygienic “gentleman” that I had never seen before on a film screen, yet he makes it seem familiar and comfortable.  And Damon plays a cocky and stupidly courageous Texas Ranger.  When writing about their characters, one has to use odd word pairings in order to describe them, like “stupidly courageous” or “unhygienic gentleman;”  for that alone, I think they deserve to be here.

Hawkes and Mendelsohn, for me, gave the two best performances in this category and they are surprisingly similar.  They both play shady criminals who are akin to caged animals, ready to strike at a moment’s notice despite the fact that there aren’t many scenes where they do.  It’s all in the way these actors move, the eerie calm in their eyes.  They are playing different sides of the same coin, to be sure, since Mendelsohn is truly villainous and Hawkes is surprisingly heroic.  However, if Animal Kingdom was from Pope’s perspective, perhaps he would seem more heroic and if Winter’s Bone was from Teardrop’s perspective then he might seem more evil.  I found it hard to shake either of their performances and each had a specific scene that was emblematic.  In Animal Kingdom, there was the scene in which Pope harasses one of his younger brothers and calls him gay and in Winter’s Bone, there’s the scene in which Teardrop gets pulled over by the cop.  In both scenes, we can tell from the performances of Hawkes and Mendelsohn (as well as their co-stars in those scenes) that they are capable of doing absolutely anything in that moment.  We have no freaking idea how these characters are going to react in those scenes and that’s what makes their performances so fantastic.

If I had to pick a winner, though, it would have to be Hawkes.  When the film ended, I wished I was following Teardrop on to wherever the hell he was going.  It haunted me.

(Side note: I know, I left Christian Bale off for The Fighter.  Truthfully, I really liked his performance and thought it was the best Bale has been since Rescue Dawn.  However, similarly to Colin Firth, I think Bale has the showier role and I think quite often he goes over the top.  I think he’s saved somewhat by the fact that Melissa Leo goes so far over the top that Bale’s scenery-chewing doesn’t seem so blatant, yet I found his scenes to be a bit cringe-worthy at times and for the wrong reasons.  He wasn’t terrible, and I’m certainly in the minority, but I didn’t buy into his character whole hog the way I wanted to.)

Best Supporting Actress

  • Greta Gerwig (Greenberg)
  • Rebecca Hall (Please Give)
  • Barbara Hershey (Black Swan)
  • Mila Kunis (Black Swan)
  • Dianne Wiest (Rabbit Hole)

I’m hesitant to even put Gerwig in this category because I think she’s really the lead of the film in so many ways, but I wanted to sneak her in here because she really holds that movie together.  Ben Stiller has the showier title role of the stunted adult, but Gerwig fascinated me because I know that character.  She plays the young hipster who is trying to get by and accidentally (and naively) sleeps around with all the wrong guys, including the title character.  Each of her mistakes is easily forgivable because she’s such a decent person, but despite seeming like she has her head on straight, she continues to see Greenberg, a man who is wrong in every way possible.  I really admired the way Gerwig was willing to do less in each of her scenes, knowing that the audience would be understanding her more because of her quietness.

Rebecca Hall is also playing a character that often goes overlooked by most award-givers: a nice person who does good things.  Hall plays a woman who is kind to her cantankerous grandmother and gives mammograms, often to older women.  She isn’t a dark or dangerous character, but a decent one who strives to be better.  In other words, Hall plays a character like many of us; someone who feels obligated to care for the people that she loves.

The fact that Barbara Hershey and Dianne Wiest gave terrific performances in their respective films should come as no shock to anyone who has followed their careers.  These are two wonderful actresses.  Wiest is quietly heartbroken and devastated throughout Rabbit Hole, hoping to spare her daughters the pain that she has felt.  Hershey, on the other hand, is playing a character who is almost hoping to pass on the pain she felt to her daughter.

For me, the winner of this category has to be Mila Kunis, for many of the same reasons why Portman should win her category.  Black Swan does not work if Kunis is not Portman’s equal and other in the film.  When Kunis shows up in the film, it’s that same feeling as when Timberlake shows up in The Social Network: everything becomes more electric and exciting.  Each scene with Portman and Kunis in Black Swan is ripe with tension and emotion because of the way they play off one another.  Witness that scene in the restaurant.  It’s not just that Kunis eats a burger while Portman eats her salad, it’s that Kunis derives pleasure from her food without much thought while Portman pokes around at her food meekly and painfully.  I’m sure this won’t be the last we see of Kunis in the awards conversation, but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t win this year.

The Rest

The column is running a little (okay a lot) long, so here would be my winners in some of the other categories:

Score – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for The Social Network, hands down, no contest.  One of the best albums of any kind that I heard this year.

Cinematography – Benoit Debie for Enter the Void, for doing things with the camera I never thought possible.

Best Original Screenplay – Derek Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne, and Joey Curtis for Blue Valentine.  A great screenplay for what it leaves out.

Best Adapted Screenplay – Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network.  Duh.

Best Documentary – Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop, even if it might be a gigantic joke on all of us.  A fascinating portrait of the rise of graffiti art.

Weekend Box Office Report — December 26

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

Grit and Bear It

Little Fockers and True Grit led the Christmas charge with respective opening debuts estimated at $34 million and $25.5 million that topped weekend movie going. The session also featured a Christmas day bow for the animated Gulliver’s Travels, which netted a two-day gross of $6.9 million.

Bollywood’s seasonal offering Tees Maar Khann rang up an impressive $700,000. However, several other Hindi, Telegu and Tamil releases were non-starters. China’s If You Are the One 2 opened up day-and-date (a first) with its Mainland release and chimed in with a potent $208,000 launch.

The frame also featured a clutch of last-minute releases for award season consideration. Best of the bunch was Venice-prized Somewhere with $148,000 from seven venues. The animated The Illusionist displayed comparable strength with a two-day tally of $52,600 on two screens and a four screen push for Barney’s Version in Canada proved effective with $64,400 (a single U.S. Oscar qualifying run was unreported). Lastly, Country Strong lilted $33,800 from two sneak peeks.

Overall the Christmas session got clobbered with calendar positioning that landed the eve on Friday (expect something similar with New Years). And while an estimated $155 million weekend provided an 11% boost from the prior weekend it translated into a pounding 45% drop from 2009. As the door quickly closes on the year, box office gross has slipped behind the prior year and admissions are approaching close to double digit erosion. A year ago Avatar’s second weekend grossed $75.6 million and debuts of Sherlock Holmes and The Alvin Squeakquel added $62.4 million and $48.9 million respectively.

All that said, tracking wasn’t exactly on target for new entries and holdovers. The third in the Fockers series was expected to render a first weekend of between $40 million and $45 million while the sophomore edition of TRON: Legacy was pegged at $25 million. Conversely True Grit outperformed pundits soothsaying that had it shy of $20 million.

Holiday crowds clearly voted for The Fighter, Black Swan and The King’s Speech as their Oscar favorites. Still there are seven additional slots to fill and the campaigning is apt to intensify in the upcoming weeks.
__________________________________________________

Weekend Estimates – December 24-26, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Little Fockers Uni 34.0 (9,610) NEW 3536 48.2
True Grit Par 25.5 (8,360) NEW 3047 36.6
Tron: Legacy BV 20.6 (5,960) -53% 3451 88.7
Chronicles of Narnia: Dawn Treader Fox 10.9 (3,240) -12% 3350 63.9
The Fighter Par/Alliance 8.6 (3,430) -29% 2511 27.7
Yogi Bear WB 8.4 (2,380) -55% 3515 36.3
Gulliver’s Travels * Fox 6.9 (2,700) NEW 2546 6.9
Tangled BV 6.7 (2,590) -24% 2582 143.8
Fox Searchlight 6.4 (4,390) -23% 1466 28.9
The Tourist Sony 5.6 (2,020) -35% 2756 41.1
The King’s Speech Weinstein Co. 4.6 (6,530) 317% 700 8.4
How Do You Know Sony 3.7 (1,480) -51% 2483 15.1
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 1* WB 3.3 (1,920) -34% 1732 273.1
Tees Maar Khan UTV .70 (6,780) NEW 103 0.7
Due Date WB .37 (910) -71% 404 98.3
Unstoppable Fox .36 (920) -80% 393 78.5
Megamind Par .35 (460) -49% 764 142.6
Burlesque Sony .33 (660) -77% 501 36.7
The Social Network Sony .31 (1,230) 9% 249 92.3
If You Are the One 2 China Lion .21 (9,040) NEW 23 0.21
127 Hours Fox Searchlight .20 (1,720) -64% 115 9.8
* Christmas Day opening
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $145.90
% Change (Last Year) -45%
% Change (Last Week) 11%
Also debuting/expanding
Somewhere Focus .15 (21,140) 7 0.2
Rabbit Hole Lionsgate 88,700 (2,610) 65% 34 0.16
Barney’s Version eOne 64,400 (16,100) 4 0.06
Casino Jack IDP 60,500 (4,030) 75% 15 0.11
The Illusionist * Sony Classics 52,600 (26,300) 2 0.05
Country Strong Sony 33,800 (16,900) 2 0.05
The Tempest Miramax/Maple 32,700 (2,520) -44% 13 0.19
Toonpur Ka Superhero Eros 9,600 (400) 24 0.01
Isi Life Mein Rajshri 4,500 (250) 18 0.01

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Dec. 23, 2010)

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (30) 1861 18.40%
Paramount (19) 1634.7 16.10%
Fox (19) 1442.4 14.20%
Buena Vista (17) 1349.1 13.30%
Sony (26) 1239.1 12.20%
Universal (18) 798.7 7.90%
Summit (11) 522.2 5.20%
Lionsgate (16) 519.3 5.10%
Fox Searchlight (8) 105 1.00%
Overture (8) 87.4 0.90%
Focus (7) 75.2 0.70%
CBS (3) 72.5 0.70%
Weinstein Co. (9) 65.5 0.60%
Sony Classics (22) 59.5 0.60%
MGM (1) 50.4 0.50%
Other * (317) 253.5 2.50%
10135.5 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Limited Releases * (Jan. 1 – Dec. 23, 2010)

Title Distributor Gross
Hubble 3D WB 19,359,509
The Ghost Writer Summit 15,569,712
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Music Box/Alliance 11,287,817
The Young Victoria * Apparition/Alliance 11,131,232
127 Hours Fox Searchlight 9,321,571
Get Low Sony Classics 9,106,802
Fair Game Summit 8,650,388
A Single Man * Weinstein Co. 7,935,872
The Girl Who Played with Fire Music Box/Alliance 7,848,496
Cyrus Fox Searchlight 7,461,082
Babies Focus 7,444,272
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus E1/Sony Classics 7,394,171
Conviction Fox Searchlight 6,768,063
City Island Anchor Bay 6,671,036
The Last Station Sony Classics 6,617,867
Waiting for “Superman” Par Vantage 6,410,257
The Secret in Their Eyes Sony Classics 6,391,436
It’s Kind of a Funny Story Focus 6,362,514
Winter’s Bone Roadside Attraction 6,237,371
Under the Sea 3D * WB 5,732,362
* does not include 2009 box office

Top Ten Feature Films 2010

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

I really struggled over my top ten list this year. There were maybe six films that were pretty hard locks early on, which only left four open slots for the rest of a field of strong contenders — not a lot of wiggle room in a year with a good many solid films rightfully in contention for top ten lists.

For the most part, I think the films that made the final cut onto my top ten list will not come as a surprise if you know me and the types of films I tend to like more than others.

Some of the films that did not make the final cut for me, though, may surprise you, and I’d like to say a few words about that. First, there were several other films to which I gave thoughtful consideration (and if this had been a Top 20 list, they likely would have been on it); some of them are smaller films, and not all have distribution, so I’d like to recognize their excellence.

They are, in no particular order: For the Good of Others, Secret Sunshine, Father of My Children, The Vicious Kind, The Illusionist, and Shutter Island. I Saw the Devil, which was one of my favorite films at TIFF, would have made my top ten, but since it’s supposed to be released here in March, I’ll hold off and include it next year.

And it might come as a surprise, given the number of artsy films on my list, to learn that the two films that came closest to making my Top Ten list but just missed are Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World.

And while I haven’t done a lot of Oscar prognosticating yet, I will say right now that The Illusionist is my pick for Best Animated Film over Toy Story 3, fond as I am of Woody, Buzz and the gang.

There are not any documentaries on my top ten, not because there were no good docs this year, but because I find it very hard to compare features to docs; there’s a reason fests and the various awards separate the categories. So I will have a Top 5 (maybe 10) Docs list in a day or so. Yes, yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out. Sorry. I’d rather put the spotlight on the docs separately, though.

The most notably absent of the major awards-contending feature films on my final list are The Fighter, The Kids Are All Right, and The Social Network. Of these, The Fighter came the closest to making the cut, but in the end I found that the acting, for me, was stronger than the writing, and that it was problematic for the supporting characters in the film (particularly Dickie and Alice) to be more flawed and interesting on the surface (which is what the script and director chose to show us) than the main character.

Mark Wahlberg’s younger brother Mickey was the more psychologically complex character in his quieter way, but he wasn’t as showy as Christian Bale’s malnourished crack addict or Melissa Leo’s flamboyant stage mother; that’s a writing and directorial decision that made it hard to know who we were supposed to be rooting for — Mickey? Or Dickie? Or both? Or all of them? That said, there was a subtlety to Mark Wahlberg’s performance that I found very moving, and Amy Adams, reaching outside her comfort zone, is excellent.

I enjoyed The Kids Are All Right, for the most part, but again, for me it was a film driven more by the excellent performances by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore than by the direction or script. I applaud Lisa Cholodenko for her handling of the subject matter and for the originality of the idea, but the execution I found problematic. I already devoted an entire column to this subject, though, so I’ll leave it at that.

And then we have The Social Network by far the most popular kid in the Top Ten lunchroom this year. There’s some good acting in there, and it’s an entertaining enough film, although I still take issue with the way Mark Zuckerberg is portrayed — not so much with Jesse Eisenberg’s performance, which is solid, but with the way the character is scripted by Aaron Sorkin. There are some cleverly edited scenes in there (but if you put them side-be-side with similar scenes from Wall Street 2, are they really head-and-shoulders above?).

I suppose Social Network reflects the “cultural zeitgeist,” and critics love them some cultural zeitgeist about as much as they love seeing reflections of themselves in a movie. It’s certainly true that the last 15 years or so have been a remarkable bit of our societal growth to be a part of. I get that. And as a regular Facebook user, I admit it was kind of cool watching this film and seeing the birth of a website that’s become a regular tool I use in my own work and life to stay connected with friends, family and colleagues scattered far and wide.

But Social Network did not, for me, represent David Fincher’s best effort as a director, particularly when I compare it to the sheer balls of Darren Aronofsky in making the crazy, beautiful Black Swan as a follow-up to The Wrestler, or the brilliance of Chris Nolan in conceiving and bringing to life a starkly daring and creative bit of genius like Inception. It doesn’t match the artistry with which Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy attacked what could have been a Lifetime Movie of the Week in 127 Hours, spinning a a compelling, gorgeously shot film out of a story about a guy stuck alone in a crevice in the wilderness with his arm pinned by a rock. It cannot stand against the meticulous process with which Mike Leigh worked with his cast in crafting Another Year, or the poignant honesty and deep sadness of Rabbit Hole, or the rich, full exploration of what it means to live and to die in Biutiful. These films captured raw, honest, flawed and deeply human characters acting and reacting to each other in ways that make us feel like we have been gifted with a rare and insightful mirrors that reflect back to us our own humanity.

There are some solid performances in Social Network, yes . But even looking at the acting, there’s not a performance in The Social Network that has the depth and soul of Javier Bardem’s dying father in Biutiful, the sheer guts of Natalie Portman’s tragic perfectionist in Black Swan, the anguished loneliness of Lesley Manville in Another Year, the clarity and honesty of Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit. Or for that matter, the chemistry of Chloe Moretz and Nic Cage in Kick-Ass.

You, of course, are free to disagree with what made my list and what did not, and no doubt many of you have your own thoughts to share on why you disagree with my choices and reasoning. That’s the best thing, to me, about top tens — they provide an opportunity to hone down the year and then engage in energetic debate about our choices. My top docs list is coming soon, and after the holidays I’ll break it down further with my picks for who should win at the Oscars, all political BS aside.

All that said, here are my Top Ten Feature Films of 2010:

1. Biutiful
2. Another Year
3. Black Swan
4. 127 Hours
5. True Grit
6. Winter’s Bone
7. Rabbit Hole
8. Inception
9. Blue Valentine
10. Dogtooth

Winter’s Bone And The Oath Top The Gothams

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Winter’s Bone And The Oath Top The Gothams

Weekend Box Office Report — November 28

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Tangled Up in Blues … and Reds

A quartet of new releases for Thanksgiving failed to topple Harry Potter from the top of the charts during the gobble, gobble fest. The first part of the Potter finale — Deathly Hallows — grossed an estimated $51.2 million for the weekend portion of the holiday frame. Just a cluck behind was the animated Rapunzel of Tangled with $49.2 million ($69.1 million for the 5-days).

The other three wide release freshmen clustered in positions five to seven with indifferent results. The glitzy musical Burlesque crooned $11.4 million, rom-com Love and Other Drugs ingested $9.6 million and Faster added a tortoise-paced $8.2 million.

The big noise of the session proved to be the well positioned awards contender The King’s Speech that amassed a heady $86,000 screen average from just four venues. There was also an impressive $610,000 for local hockey comedy Lance et compte in Quebec, but a dull $212,000 for Bollywood entry Break Ke Baad. And a new seasonal Nutcracker in 3D was virtually D.O.A. with a $62,700 tally from 42 screens.

Adding it all up, Thanksgiving box office was a smidgen less than last year’s result.

Industry trackers generally predicted that Deathly Hallows would prevail at the box office but few anticipated that Tangled would be truly competitive with the Hogwart’s grad. They also generally over estimated the strengths of the remaining trio of new entries; especially Faster, which was given the edge over Love and Other Drugs.

Overall weekend numbers added up to roughly $187 million that translated into a 6% decline from the immediate prior session. It was also a slight 1% decline from Thanksgiving weekend 2009 when The Twilight Saga: New Moon and The Blind Side led with respectively $42.9 million and $40.1 million. The top new entry, Old Dogs, ranked fourth with $16.9 million.

The current session also saw expansions for 127 Hours and Fair Game that were encouraging but nonetheless displayed signs of fatigue. Still with critics groups just weeks away from announcements both films could well experience second winds. The potent arrival of The King’s Speech however has put that film in the forefront and its now vying with a real royal wedding as well as a smattering of pictures yet to be seen for late year honors.

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Weekend Estimates – November 26-28, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hollows, Part 1* WB 51.2 (12,420) -59% 4125 221.2
Tangled BV 49.2 (13,660) NEW 3603 69.1
Megamind Par 12.9 (3,770) -20% 3411 130.5
Unstoppable Fox 11.7 (3,670) -10% 3183 60.6
Burlesque Sony 11.4 (3,740) NEW 3037 16.8
Love and Other Drugs Fox 9.6 (3,920) NEW 2455 13.8
Faster CBS 8.2 (3,360) NEW 2451 11.8
Due Date WB 7.2 (2,830) -19% 2555 84.9
The Next Three Days Lionsgate 4.8 (1,860) -27% 2564 14.5
Morning Glory Par 4.0 (1,630) -24% 2441 26.4
127 Hours Searchlight 1.7 (5,900) 89% 293 4.4
Fair Game Summit 1.6 (3,960) 8% 396 6
For Colored Girls … Lionsgate 1.4 (2,360) -38% 605 36.6
Red Summit 1.4 (1,540) -43% 914 86.2
Skyline Uni/Alliance 1.1 (900) -70% 1189 20.1
The Social Network Sony .73 (2,510) -22% 291 90.4
Secretariat BV .66 (1.310) -32% 502 57.6
Lance et compte Seville .61 (6,930) NEW 88 0.61
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest Music Box/Alliance .36 (1,970) -10% 184 4.2
Despicable Me Uni .35 (1,320) 31% 266 249.7
The King’s Speech Weinstein Co. .34 (86,030) NEW 4 0.34
Inside Job Sony Classics .31 (2,330) -9% 132 2.6
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $179.40
% Change (Last Year) -1%
% Change (Last Week) -6%
Also debuting/expanding
Break Ke Baad Reliance .21 (2,500) 85 0.33
Nutcracker 3D FreeStyle 62,700 (1,490) 42 0.09
Made in Dagenham Sony Classics 62.500 (5,680) 64% 11 0.12
The Legend of Pale Male Balcony 11,400 (11,400) 1 0.01
The Unjust CJ 7,200 (7,200) 1 0.01
Tere Ishq Nachaye Eros 4,200 (200) 21 0.01

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Nov. 21, 2010)

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (27) 1674.1 17.80%
Paramount (18) 1578.1 16.70%
Fox (17) 1333.8 14.10%
Buena Vista (15) 1174.6 12.50%
Sony (23) 1161.6 12.30%
Universal (18) 793.9 8.40%
Summit (11) 512.7 5.40%
Lionsgate (15) 500.4 5.30%
Overture (7) 81.8 0.90%
Fox Searchlight (7) 81.4 0.90%
Focus (7) 75.2 0.80%
Weinstein Co. (7) 62.6 0.70%
Sony Classics (21) 57.8 0.60%
MGM (1) 51.2 0.50%
CBS (2) 50 0.50%
Other * (296) 242.7 2.60%
9431.9 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Limited Releases * (Jan. 1 – Nov. 21, 2010)

Title Distributor Gross
Hubble 3D WB 18,355,494
The Ghost Writer Summit 15,569,712
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Music Box/Alliance 11,282,938
The Young Victoria * Apparition/Alliance 11,131,232
Get Low Sony Classics 9,080,285
A Single Man * Weinstein Co. 7,935,872
The Girl Who Played with Fire Music Box/Alliance 7,837,823
Cyrus Fox Searchlight 7,461,082
Babies Focus 7,444,272
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnasus * E1/Sony Classics 7,394,171
City Island Anchor Bay 6,671,036
The Last Station Sony Classics 6,617,867
The Secret in Their Eyes Sony Classics 6,391,436
It’s Kind of a Funny Story Focus 6,350,058
Winter’s Bone Roadside Attraction 6,225,414
Waiting for “Superman” Par Vantage 6,130,466
Under the Sea 3D * WB 5,504,062
Precious Lions Gate 5,085,319
I Am Love Magnolia 5,002,411
An Education * Sony Classics 4,963,224
* does not include 2009 box office

Frenzy on the Wall: How About Some Awards Buzz for These Guys?

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Every year around this time, the award-season storylines begin to take shape. You see, like in politics, it’s not always the best candidate or film that gets awarded, it’s usually the one with the best publicity, the best “story.” When Best Picture actually goes to the best film, all it means is that the best particular film that year just so happened to have a great hype machine behind it. As a result of this, a lot of really deserving films and actors don’t get the recognition they deserve.

This is where critics and film writers are supposed to come in; they are supposed to be the ones who point out the films and performances that you haven’t seen, but should.

More and more, it seems like film writers on the beat are merely “covering” the awards and prognosticating rather than offering opinions. Just because the “buzz” is telling a writer that a certain film is a “lock” to get nominated, it doesn’t mean they should just parrot back that buzz. Most of the “buzz” comes from PR folks anyway, or people with a vested interest in what gets talked about as a front-runner. As a film lover first and foremost, I will never stop proselytizing when I believe I’ve seen something noteworthy.

So, I’d like to bring your focus to a few different films and performances that should be talked about more as contendersthis awards season.

Please Give

Nicole Holofcener’s film is a wonderful little movie about what it means to be kind and caring. It follows the lives of two families in New York City: Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt are a husband and wife with a teenage daughter who live next door to a cantankerous 91-year-old woman. That old woman is cared for by her loving granddaughter, played by Rebecca Hall, who lives with her blunt and uncaring sister Amanda Peet.

There are a lot of little moments that I found especially touching, but especially the performances of Catherine Keener and Rebecca Hall. They are playing women who are good and decent, striving to be better people. What makes them so fascinating is that they aren’t portrayed as martyrs; they have flaws too, like real people.

I found it especially touching when Keener goes to a school for mentally disabled children, with the hopes of volunteering and helping, but is so overcome by sadness for these children that she breaks down crying; she cares too much, she feels too much, to help. Or, perhaps it’s knowing that no matter how much she tries to help these children, they will never get better.

Holofcener is a fantastic and underrated writer/director, who continues to get great performances from all of her actors and writes films that are filled with nuance and poignancy. So, of course, she’s never been nominated for her writing or directing. I wish I could say that it would change this year, but it probably won’t. But do yourself a favor and check out her latest movie.

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John Hawkes in Winter’s Bone

Jennifer Lawrence is justifiably getting a lot of credit and award-buzz for her lead performance in Debra Granik’s gritty, dirty film. But Lawrence doesn’t even give the best performance in Winter’s Bone and it’s not to say that Lawrence isn’t fantastic – she is – but rather that John Hawkes is so utterly brilliant that he blows everybody else off the screen.

Hawkes has long been an actor I’ve admired, one that is consistently underrated, but as Teardrop in Winter’s Bone, he really cements himself in my mind as one of the finest character actors out there. From the second he shows up on screen, he’s got this quiet ferocity that is always bubbling beneath the surface. There is always doubt as to what his motivation is or whether or not he’s a “good guy.” But one thing is certain: he is terrifying.

One of the best scenes I’ve seen all year is when Teardrop and Ree are pulled over by the Sheriff. With just a few words and that scary, unmoving presence, Teardrop not only convinces the Sheriff that it would be best for him to get back in his car, but he convinces us that the Sheriff makes a good decision by walking away.

In a better world, Hawkes would be the front-runner for Best Supporting Actor right now; as it stands, I haven’t heard any “buzz” about him at all.

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Rachel Weisz in Agora

Agora is one of my favorite films that I’ve seen this year and it came and went in a blink without anybody paying much attention. In an article I wrote earlier this year, I called it “The Great Atheist Film.” I stand by that.

It’s a film that stuck with me, a big-budget epic that decided to tackle the controversial topic of religious intolerance. Alejandro Amenabar deserves heaps of credit for not only attempting to dive into the topic, but successfully structuring an engaging story around it (not to mention the monumental task of getting it funded).

But the film doesn’t work at all if it doesn’t have the great Rachel Weisz as its lead character, the astronomer Hypatia. In my earlier column, I said about her performance: “Rachel Weisz is truly astounding in this film, as she often is. Hypatia is not an easy character to play; she must be idealistic yet intelligent, a dreamer but a realist. Weisz is such a wonderful presence, so charismatic and likable that although her character is not as fleshed-out as she could be, she is still imbued with a certain vigor and humanism.”

I’d also add that it’s a performance that is reliant on not just her words, but in the passion behind those words. Weisz has to deliver lines that might not necessarily roll off the tongue easily and she pulls them off. Weisz also does something that I love to see actors do: allow their characters to think. When Hypatia comes to a conclusion about something, Weisz lets us see the wheels turning in her head, her eyes darting back and forth.

Weisz has won an Academy Award for her exquisite turn in The Constant Gardener, but she should be getting buzz in the lead category for Agora. Alas, I don’t think anybody has seen it besides me.

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Trash Humpers

Okay, there is no world that exists where a film like Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers would get an Academy Award. This is a truly bizarre film without any coherent narrative and is probably one of the most visceral films I’ve ever seen, a film whose goal seems to be to unnerve and annoy its audience. It might not have the same pretentious attitude of a lot of Godard’s later work, but it reminds me a bit of that man’s experimental spirit … albeit with a bit more of a sense of humor.

This was a film that I saw a few months ago and wanted to write about, but I just didn’t know how. As I was watching it, I wouldn’t exactly say that I enjoyed the experience. But in retrospect, I really love what it does. It’s a film that is just a series of weird scenes where four bandits in old-person make-up just kinda fuck shit up in Nashville. They trash houses, break electronics, and yes, hump trash. And if the whole film followed that pattern, I don’t know that I would think it was anything more than an interesting – failed – experiment.

But then something happens in the last reel of the film. It changes. We no longer focus on all four of the bandits, but two. These two bandits, Herve and Momma, are played by Harmony Korine himself and his wife Rachel. It’s unclear how, but the two of them splinter off and somehow have possession of a baby. They aren’t destroying things anymore and the film ends (spoiler alert, I guess) with Momma singing to the baby as she rocks it back and forth in a pram.

Now, maybe I was in a strange mood, but I found this extraordinarily touching and affecting. It was probably the most personal moment in any of Korine’s films, at least in my eyes, because it seemed to be so much about who he is as a filmmaker (and perhaps a person). He used to be the enfant terrible of indie cinema, happy to be the wacky artist who trashed everything (including his own body for a discard comedy called Fight Harm, look it up). But now he’s grown, he’s matured and he’s moved on from being that person. And despite the fact that Trash Humpers is about people giving fellatio to trees and looks like a found VHS tape, it might be the most mature and confident thing he’s directed.

It’s not a film that will win any awards, but for the patient viewer who understands what he’s signing up for, it might be a real find … or you’ll think I’m insane.

DP/30: Winter’s Bone, actor Jennifer Lawrence

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Weekend Box Office Report – October 31

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

See … Saw … Ouch!

Saw 3D whipped into cinemas with an estimated $24.3 million to take top spot in weekend movie going. Distributors gave a wide berth to the Halloween frame when traditionally there are sharp drops in attendance; making the Saw finale the sole new national release.

A different sort of ghoul — the Millennium finale The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest — went limited wide to solid returns of $890,000, but otherwise the frame’s new entries were dominated by niche and exclusive launches. The best of the bunch was the Chinese trembler Aftershock with a single screen entry of $17,600. Other newcomers with good but not spectacular returns included indie drama Welcome to the Riley’s, Brit spy spoof Wild Target, Mexican prize winner Nora’s Will, Claude Chabrol’s final effort Bellamy and non-fiction entry Waste Land.

Overall box office saw a sharp fall from last weekend and a slight bump from 2009 results.

The seventh annual edition of the Saw franchise was hoping for an exit with bite with the addition of stereoscopic imagery. But pre-release tracking indicated that with or without gimmicks the mania was fading and its mid-$20 million weekend tally was pretty much in line with pundit’s predictions. The gore crowd would appear to be sated with current splatter fare but the past month has seen every segment of the audience unenthusiastic for the new crop of movies beyond their opening sessions.

The global juggernaut for the Millennium trilogy continued with the U.S. bow of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. The first installment, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, has racked up $99 million internationally and it and its second chapter are the top grossing foreign-language movies in America post-Pan’s Labyrinth.

Weekend revenues generated about $95 million in sales that translated into a 28% drop from the immediate prior session. It was a modest 6% improvement from 2009 when Michael Jackson: This Is It bowed to $23.2 million followed by Paranormal Activity with $16.4 million.

The fact-based Conviction expanded nationally to fair results and appears to be headed to the same sort of indifferent commercial returns as the rest of the early award season contenders. A sharp drop for last weekend’s Hereafter departs from the sort of holds associated with recent films directed by Clint Eastwood whereas the better than expected stamina of the geezer spies of RED has confounded box office mavens.

But apart from Jackass 3D (which passed a $100 million tally this weekend) such well-reviewed positive word-of-mouth entries as The Social Network and Secretariat have struggled to maintain a presence (forget about momentum) in a marketplace that has all but eliminated the possibility of a second wind.

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Weekend Estimates – October 29-31, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Saw 3D Lionsgate 24.3 (8,660) New 2808 24.3
Paranormal Activity 2 Par 16.4 (5,070) -60% 3239 65.6
Red Summit 10.9 (3,250) -28% 3349 59
Jackass 3D Par 8.5 (2,720) -60% 3139 101.7
Hereafter WB 6.4 (2,630) -47% 2424 22.2
Secretariat BV 5.0 (1,610) -28% 3108 44.7
The Social Network Sony 4.7 (1,690) -36% 2767 79.7
Life As We Know It WB 4.1 (1,440) -33% 2860 43.6
The Town WB 2.0 (1,250) -27% 1608 87.7
Conviction Fox Searchlight 1.8 (3,220) 501% 565 2.4
Legend of the Guardians WB 1.8 (880) -46% 2010 52.7
Easy A Sony 1.1(880) -37% 1262 56.3
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest Music Box/Alliance .89 (5,830) New 152 0.89
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps Fox .78 (840) -37% 933 51.2
Waiting for “Superman” Par Vantage .52 (1,580) -33% 330 4.6
Devil Uni .51 (800) -21% 635 33.1
Alpha and Omega Lionsgate .48 (710) -34% 676 24.1
It’s Kind of a Funny Story Focus .46 (960) -32% 477 5.8
You Again BV .41 (610) -37% 673 24.7
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger Sony Classics .33 (1,022) -24% 323 2.4
Toy Story 3 BV .31 (920) -34% 337 413.9
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $89.70
% Change (Last Year) 6%
% Change (Last Week) -28%
Also debuting/expanding
Stone Overture .22 (1,760) -39% 125 1.2
Nowhere Boy Weinstein Co. .13 (840) -62% 153 1
10.50 Alliance 55,800 (4,290) 13 0.06
Welcome to the Riley’s IDP 41,600 (4,160) 10 0.04
Nora’s Will Menemsha 25,300 (4,220) 6 0.03
Wild Target FreeStyle 23,200 (5,800) 4 0.02
Bellamy IFC 19,700 (9,850) 2 0.02
Monsters Magnolia 18,100 (6,030) 3 0.02
Aftershock AMC 17,600 (17,600) 1 0.02
Waste Land Arthouse 10.300 (10,300) 1 0.01
Walkaway IABA 9,400 (360) 26 0.01
Strange Powers Variance 4,800 (4,800) 1 0.01
The Kids Grow Up Shadow 4,600 (4,600) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Oct. 28, 2010)

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (25) 1436.3 16.40%
Paramount (16) 1389.1 15.90%
Fox (16) 1289.8 14.70%
Buena Vista (15) 1155.5 13.20%
Sony (23) 1142.4 13.10%
Universal (17) 774.3 8.90%
Summit (10) 473.3 5.40%
Lionsgate (12) 412.7 4.70%
Overture (7) 80.6 0.90%
Focus (7) 74.1 0.80%
Fox Searchlight (6) 73.4 0.80%
Weinstein Co. (7) 61.9 0.70%
Sony Classics (21) 54.7 0.60%
MGM (1) 51.2 0.60%
CBS (2) 50 0.60%
Other * (277) 229.7 2.70%
8749 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Limited Releases * (Jan. 1 – Oct. 28, 2010)

Title Distributor Gross
Hubble 3D WB 17,246,918
The Ghost Writer Summit 15,569,712
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Music Box/Alliance 11,270,373
The Young Victoria * Apparition/Alliance 11,131,232
Get Low Sony Classics 8,980,294
A Single Man * Weinstein Co. 7,935,872
The Girl Who Played with Fire Music Box/Alliance 7,768,761
Cyrus Fox Searchlight 7,461,082
Babies Focus 7,444,272
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus * E1/Sony Classics 7,394,171
City Island Anchor Bay 6,671,036
The Last Station Sony Classics 6,617,867
The Secret in Their Eyes Sony Classics 6,391,436
Winter’s Bone Roadside Attractions 6,204,696
It’s Kind of a Funny Story Focus 5,342,641
Under the Sea 3D * WB 5,256,073
I Am Love Magnolia 4,982,446
An Education * Sony Classics 4,963,224
The Hurt Locker * Summit 4,531,548
Solitary Man Anchor Bay 4,360,548
* does not include 2009 box office

DP/30 Sneak Peek: Winter’s Bone actor Jennifer Lawrence

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Oscars, Already?

Monday, October 11th, 2010

We have the new Gurus O’ Gold chart up, and in taking a look at the consensus votes du jour, I had a couple thoughts. I missed The King’s Speech at Toronto, so I’ll have to wait until screeners come in/Seattle screenings get set to weigh in on it. Could be the Oscar-bee’s knees like I heard from a lot of folks at Toronto, could be Colin Firth‘s year to win a statue. Or not. Time will tell.

Of the Best Pic-contending movies I have seen, I wouldn’t rank The Social Network as highly as it’s sitting right now. It’s very early for that film to be peaking, I think, and I still just don’t see its subject matter and cynicism as broadly appealing to the Academy voters. But we’ll see. Hereafter? Not so much. I wouldn’t even have that one on my Oscar radar at all except that it’s directed by Eastwood — but I personally found it to be maybe on par with Invictus, which wasn’t great, and maybe a tad below Million Dollar Baby (NOT my favorite movie) in terms of emotional manipulation.

Right now, I think my personal top Best Picture pics would be True Grit (haven’t seen that one yet either, but it’s the Coens and the trailer looks great), Black Swan, 127 Hours, Another Year, The King’s Speech (based on the buzz alone at this point) and Winter’s Bone OR The Kids Are All Right as strong outsiders.

I’m more interested at this point in the Adapted Screenplay race, where we have 127 Hours, True Grit and The Social Network as probably leaders of the pack. To this I would add Never Let Me Go, which I think, after reading the book, is a really solid adaptation — more on that one later. Unfortunately, I missed seeing Rabbit Hole (darn that weighty Toronto slate and its surprises), and I’ve heard so many things on that one (mostly positive) that I’m hoping to get to check it out soon.

Right now I’m also interested in the Best Actor and Actress races as well. For Best Actor, everyone (ah yes, the ever-mysterious, yet oddly influential “they”) came out of Toronto saying James Franco is a “lock” for a nomination, and Firth virtually a “lock” for a nom and probable win. I’ve seen Duvall in Get Low and it’s a good performance, no doubt, and one that may appeal to the Academy. Not my personal top o’ the actor heap, but I have no idea what the Academy’s temperature reading is on that film, and no one’s counting my votes anyhow.

Bridges in True Grit may (will probably be) Oscar worthy, but he’s coming off a win last year for Crazy Heart. Personally (and again, not having seen True Grit or King’s Speech yet) my sentimental favorite is Javier Bardem for Biutiful, which I think is the best performance in a career of great performances. But the artfulness of Biutiful may not be enough to lift it up above the rather bleak subject matter to put it up there in the hearts of voters.

As for Best Actress, maybe it’s just me but this feels like a slightly less competitive field this year. After barely missing out on a Best Actress nom for Happy-Go-Lucky a couple years ago, this may be Sally Hawkins year with Made in Dagenham, the kind of uplifting Brit-flick that may be appealing to the Academy. I would probably put Lesley Manville‘s really solid turn in Another Year right up there with Hawkins. and if it were me, Jennifer Lawrence would be right in the mix for Winter’s Bone. I heard really amazing things about Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole out of Toronto, too, and I am a fan of Black Swan and Portman’s performance in it. I wouldn’t count her out completely yet.

The Oscar race will start to take shape more as screeners get sent out and buzz starts to bubble up for this film and peter out for that one. This is a fall with a lot of exciting movies to look forward to and it should be an interesting awards season to watch as well. Much as we all get sick of reading and writing about Oscars, our collective obsession with it drives this business to one extent or another.

I don’t plan to write as much about Oscars as the “Oscar pundits,” more to focus narrowly on specific bits and pieces — screenplay adaptations, docs, maybe foreigns depending on what’s nominated there. After years of having my kids do their Oscar picks randomly using everything from Magic 8-Ball to Twister to Pin the Tail on the Donkey (usually with surprising accuracy) I’ve come to believe that it’s really a crap shoot anyhow.

Fun to talk about and argue about and make charts about, but at the end of the day, I don’t know that any one person’s guesses are actually more accurate or better than the randomness of the Magic 8-Ball. So it goes, let the speculating begin.

Gurus o’ Gold – A Post Toronto Look At The Field

Monday, October 11th, 2010






Updated on 10/11/10, 3p… adding Guru #15, Emanuel Levy and a few adjustments to others…

The New Gen Of American Female Directors

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

The New Gen Of American Female Directors

Gurus o’ Gold – A Pre-Toronto Look At The 2010/11 Field

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Welcome to the first Gurus gathering of this upcoming season.

It always seems a little silly to offer strong opinions before the Toronto International Film Festival has even begun. So we don’t. Consider these a gentle guide to what the buzz is, very early in the season.

We asked The Gurus to offer their 15 favorites to end up nominated for Best Picture come January. No ranking, No “sure things.” Just instinct and as much insight as is possible at this moment.

Last year, we did the same and the result was that The Gurus hit seven of the final ten in their Top Ten from this long distance. Two more were picked in the Top Sixteen. And the only film to get nominated that was nowhere to be found on this early list? The Blind Side. (Perhaps that explains the shock from the media when it got nominated… even after becoming a well-reviewed massive box office hit.) So maybe this early poll isn’t really all that silly .

Is there a stone unturned this year? Well, not Stone, which got a vote from Pete Howell. And not Tree of Life, which got 4 votes last year at this time… and just 3 votes this time around (2 of them from the same Gurus as last year).

This is not the look for the future of Gurus moving forward. But our team is designing a databased system that will launch when Gurus goes full-out in November. So, until then…

UPDATE, 9/7/10 – The last three Gurus have now chimed in.

The Participating Gurus
Anthony Breznican – USA Today
Greg Ellwood – Hitfix
Pete Hammond – Deadline Hollywood
Eugene Hernandez – indieWIRE
Pete Howell – Toronto Star
Dave Karger – Entertainment Weekly
Mark Olsen – LA Times
David Poland – Movie City News
Steve Pond – The Wrap
Sean Smith – Entertainment Weekly
Sasha Stone – Awards Daily
Kris Tapley – In Contention
Anne Thompson -indieWIRE
Susan Wloszczyna – USA Today

The Weekend Box Office Report — Four Day and Summer Charts

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Summer of Our Discontent

Domestic box office for the summer season dropped 3% from 2009 on an estimated gross of $4.05 billion. On an even graver note admissions sank at least 10% and possibly as high as 12%.  Following a fast start in early May, movie going appeared to lose steam mid-stream and though the final Labor Day holiday frame contributed a slight 5% weekend boost it was insufficient to close the gap.

Heading into the weekend, Paramount led in market share but were out-gunned at the final shoot out by Sony with the latter closing the season with a 16.5% slice of the big pie to the former’s 15.9%. The summer’s top grossing film was Toy Story 3 with a $408.8 million tally. Five of the top 10 top seasonal grossers were in the 3D format and two others — Inception and Iron Man 2 – had a significant number of large format engagements. The surge of premium price movies proved to be a ferocious audience magnet. Collectively the seven films contributed $1.82 billion to the box office, or 45% of all summer ticket sales.

Despite the potency of such conventionally formatted films as The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and unexpected results for the likes of Grown Ups and The Expendables, box office events are increasingly tilted toward pictures with higher entry fees.  And whereas the historic trend of successful films increasing attendance, the present situation appears to have limited the general publics frequency at the multiplex in what may be a factor of the slowly recovering American economy.  Gloom and doom aside, major gains were made in the independent sector.

The likes of Summit and Lions Gate chose to compete against the majors for a change and the former was a hair’s breath away from nudging Fox out of the top six. Niche titles ranging from the first two portions of the Millennium trilogy, festival favorites such as Winter’s Bone and The Kids Are All Right and critical favorite I Am Love were a significant factor in summer sales.  In all 13 films of this type grossed in excess of $4 million each — a seasonal record that indicates a growing audience for alternative fare.

Though the industry has long contended that there is an insufficient market for mid-range pictures, the absence of a breakout title on the order of The Hangover may have finally sealed that verdict. Summer 2010 certainly underlines that the multiplex comes in just two sizes — big and small.

Weekend (estimates) September 3 – 6, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
The American Focus 16.5 (6,060) New 2721 19.6
Machete Fox 14.1 (5,290) New 2670 14.1
Takers Sony 13.6 (6,170) -47% 2206 40.1
The Last Exorcism Lions Gate 8.7 (3,030) -64% 2874 33.5
Going the Distance WB 8.6 (2,840) New 3030 8.6
The Expendables Lions Gate 8.3 (2.440) -46% 3398 93.9
The Other Guys Sony 6.6 (2,520) -16% 2607 108
Eat Drink Pray Sony 6.1 (2,300) -29% 2663 70.2
Inception WB 5.8 (3,410) -6% 1704 278.4
Nanny McPhee Returns Uni 4.6 (1,690) -24% 2708 23.4
Despicable Me Uni 3.8 (2,400) -2% 1600 241.3
The Switch BV 3.8 (2.030) -32% 1885 22.2
Vampires Suck Fox 3.7 (1,520) -43% 2434 33
Toy Story 3 BV 2.6 (1,730) 89% 1520 408.8
Piranha 3D Weinstein Co. 2.9 (1,640) -46% 1789 23
Avatar (reissue) Fox 2.8 (3,480) -43% 811 758.1
Lottery Ticket WB 2.6 (1,990) -41% 1310 21
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Uni 1.9 (2,390) -38% 807 29.2
Salt Sony 1.6 (2,230) -34% 705 115.5
Get Low Sony Classics 1.5 (2,910) -26% 526 5.7
Dinner for Schmucks Par 1.2 (1,540) -45% 804 71.1
Step Up 3D BV .89 (2,050) -44% 434 41.2
Grown Ups Sony .65 (1,950) 88% 333 160.1
Cats & Dogs: Revenge of Kitty Galore WB .64 (1,410) -30% 455 42.2
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice BV .57 (1,600) 63% 357 61.7
Twilight: Eclipse Summit .54 (1,360) -18% 396 298.8
The Kids Are All Right Focus .51 (2,130) -22% 239 19.9

* percentage changes are 3-day to 3-day

Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $125.10
% Change (Last Year) 5%
% Change (Last Week) -11%

Also debuting/expanding

We Are Family UTV .32 (4,730) 67 0.32
Cairo Time IFC .22 (3,960) -11% 55 0.9
Mesrine: Killer Instinct Alliance/Music Box .16 (3,110) -38% 52 0.88
Mesrine: Public Enemy no. 1 Alliance/Music Box .15 (3,020) 143% 51 0.23
A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop Sony Classics 33,800 (6,760) 5 0.03
My Dog Tulip New Yorker 14,100 (14,100) 1 0.01
Prince of Broadway Elephant 12,300 (12,300) 1 0.01
White Wedding Mitropoulos 6,700 (1,670) 4 0.01
The Winning Season Roadside At. 6,100 (2,030) 3 0.01
16 to Life Water Dog 3,500 (1,750) 2 0.01

Domestic Summer Market Share (May 7 – September 6, 2010)

Rank Distributor Gross Mkt Share % Change Rank
(in millions) 2009 2009
1 Sony 669.2 16.50% 27% 5
2 Paramount 643.6 15.90% -18% 2
3 BV 611.6 15.10% -12% 3
4 Warner Bros. 514 12.70% -49% 1
5 Universal 499.9 12.40% 54% 6
6 Fox 362.3 8.90% -24% 4
7 Summit 360.6 8.90% 1148% 9
8 Lions Gate 178.5 4.40% 1273% 12
9 Focus 47.3 1.20% 172% 11
10 Weinstein Co. 23.9 0.60% -80% 7
Miramax 22.2 0.50% 158% 13
Sony Classics 18.8 0.50% 6% 10
Other 96.3 2.40% N/A
4048.2 100.00% -3%
% Change 2010 (Other Distributors)
Fox Searchlight -83%

Jennifer Lawrence And Autumn’s Buzz

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Jennifer Lawrence And Autumn’s Buzz

Best Picture Chart

Thursday, August 5th, 2010
BEST PICTURE
Picture
Studio
Director
Stars
Comment
The Films Most Likely (by release date)
June 18
Toy Story 3
Disney
Unkrich
-
July 16

Inception
WB
Nolan
DiCaprio
July 30
Get Low
SPC
Schneider
Duvall

Spacek

Murray

Oct 22
Hereafter
WB
Eastwood
Damon
Dec 25
True Grit
Par
Coens
Bridges

Brolin

Damon

The Next Tier Of Likely (by release date)
Dec 17
Everything You’ve Got
Sony
Brooks
Witherspoon

Nicholson

Oct 1

The Social Network
Sony
Fincher
Eisenberg
Nov 12
Morning Glory
Par
Michell
McAdams

Ford

Oct 8
Secretariat
Dis
Wallace
Lane
Nov 24
The King’s Speech
TWC
Marshall
Firth
Dec 1
The Black Swan
FxSch
Aronofsky
Portman
Nov 19
Made In Dagenham
SPC
Cole
Hawkins
Dec 25

Somewhere
Focus
Coppola

Dorff

Fanning

The Rest Of The Legitimate Contenders (by release date)
Feb 19
Shutter Island
Par
Scorsese
DiCaprio

June 11 Winter’s Bone
RdAtt
Granik
Lawrence
July 9
The Kids Are All Right
Focus
Cholodenko
Bening

Moore

Aug 13
Eat Pray Love
Fox
Stone
J Roberts
Sept 1
The American
Focus
Corbijn
Clooney
Sept 15
Never Let Me Go
FxSch
Romanek
Knightley

Mulligan

Garfield

Sept 17
The Town
WB
Affleck

Renner

Hall

Cooper

Sept 24

It’s Kind Of A Funny Story
Focus
Boden/

Fleck

E Roberts
Sept 24
Wall Street 2
Fox
Stone
Douglas

Mulligan

Oct 15
Conviction
FxSch
Goldwyn
Swank
Nov 5
127 Hours
FxSch
Boyle
Franco

Mara

Nov 24
Love & Other Drugs
Fox
Zwick
Gyllenhaal

Hathaway

Dec 1
Miral
TWC
Schnabel
-
Dec 10
The Fighter
Par/Rel
O. Russell
Wahlberg
Dec 10
The Tempest
Mir
Taymor
Mirren
Dec 29
Another Year
SPC
Leigh
Broadbent

Staunton

Dec 31
Blue Valentine
TWC
Cianfrance
Gosling

Williams

???
Biutiful
?
Gonzalez-

Inarritu

Bardem
???
London Boulevard
?
Monahan
Knightley

Farrell

30 Weeks To Go Yeah… It’s Time To Start Thinking Oscar Again

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

We’re a few weeks away from Venice/Telluride/Toronto, which kicks off the Oscar season in one 19-day period. What these festivals do is to get a few titles rolling, but mostly, they start eliminating would-be contenders from the race.

It’s not just press, fans, and reality in play here … it’s the studios too. Fox Searchlight has four Oscar-thinking films this fall, really leading the pack in density of potential. And they will throw all four at the wall and see what sticks in the next seven weeks. Darren Aronofsky and Danny Boyle, who shared the Oscar Wars of 2008, are both back with Black Swan and 127 Hours, respectively. The great Mark Romanek, who rarely makes features, lands in theaters just days after his Toronto slot with Never Let Me Go, featuring Oscar-nominated girl goddesses Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley (plus Spider-Man!). And then there is perhaps the wildest of the cards, Conviction, starring two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank as a hard-ass woman out of her depth, but unable to be deterred … sounds swanky, eh?

Searchlight, which is as good as anyone in the Oscar game, will do as they have done repeatedly in the past … put the work out there … test the waters … smell the breeze … set their real strategy for the fall. It’s ballsy, but they get the joke. There are two pushes going on for these films: the films need to work commercially, and if they can also work as Oscar-bait – especially if it improves their commercial prospects – great.

I’m not saying that Searchlight won’t honor their directors and their sense of what’s necessary. But how realistic the future for these films is in awards season will be determined under festival circumstances. Aronofsky would likely have gotten a BP nod for The Wrestler in a 10-film field … so Black Swan will be measured in that way … unless it plays badly. Is the Boyle an Oscar-bait film or just commercial? The release date says that it is probably commercial, but they will see how it plays. And Conviction could be a dark horse surprise, hitting people hard in the heart and sticking. You never know.

Rule of thumb overall, not just for Searchlight, is that you can secure acting nominations in September, but you need to ride it out for much longer if you’re looking for a Best Picture nod. So from the outside, one can assume that the September 15 release date means that they don’t really think of Never Let Me Go “that way” and would be happy if Knightley or Mulligan can stir it up. (Carey also has Fox’s Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps due nine days after Never. There is some buzz for her in Supporting there.)

Looking back at 2010 to date … well, let’s not yank chains …

Shutter Island is brilliant, but its legacy is not the strongest. Still, it’s one of the very few realistic pre-September hopefuls. Toy Story 3 will test to see whether we are now going to see a Pixar film in the ten every year. The only other 3s to get nominated were Godfather III and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

Inception, which inspires lots of debate and discussion, won’t win many critics awards (though Nolan might, for director or writing), and would be very unlikely in a field of five … but becomes likely in a field of 10. And last, but not least by any means, Get Low, a very small, intimate portrait of a man considering the end … but funny … and with sure-bet nominated performance by Robert Duvall, possibilities for Sissy Spacek and Bill Murray (a long shot), and a first-time director.

That’s it for the pre-September titles with realistic Best Picture ambitions. There are plenty of additional titles with potential for acting, writing, and other noms. Of these four, I like three to get in.

Moving back into the fall … let’s start with the surviving Dependents…

Focus Features, like Searchlight, has an interesting line-up. They have the hit indie of the summer, The Kids Are All Right, though it seems more likely to break through in acting and writing than elsewhere. They are releasing The American, a George Clooney action-drama from Anton Corbijn, the legendary short-form director who is making his second feature here. The September 1 slot would smell funny … except that that is where they launched The Constant Gardener, which won Rachel Weisz an Oscar and did surprisingly strong adult business.

Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson and Sugar), who are highly thought-of young directors, are up next with It’s Kind Of A Funny Story, which seems to be a psych ward ro-mental comedy … (500) Days of Summer with better meds. And what seems to be The Big Dog for the distributor is Somewhere, the new one from Sofia Coppola, who puts Stephen Dorff in the Bill Murray seat in what seems to be her version of Jim Brooks’ failed I’ll Do Anything … but without music being anywhere near it. (Was that an obscure and twisted enough list of references for you?)

Sony Classics always makes a big splash in Toronto. This year, their new product will feel familiar, but with no expected 95 mph fastball like Capote or Penelope Cruz on hand. Nigel Cole gives Sally Hawkins another Oscar shot with the bright & breezy version of Norma Rae in Made in Dagenham. The great Mike Leigh returns with the Cannes-launched Another Year. And Sylvain Chomet, who threatened to upset Finding Nemo (which had that year become the biggest grossing animated film of all time) with The Triplets of Belleville, will now face this year’s threat to become the new biggest-grossing animated film of all time (Toy Story 3) with L’illusionniste. Of course, SPC’s big gun for Oscar will be Get Low, mentioned above as one of the few pre-September contenders this year.

In spite of being sold, Disney’s Miramax division is still scheduled to release The Tempest, now off the table for Toronto but premiering in Venice and then centerpiecing the NY Film Festival. However good or great the film, it is hard not to imagine that NY was a much cheaper choice than Toronto and that the plan was hatched from that perspective as much as any other. Taymor’s last two films (Across The Universe and Frida) played Toronto. Titus, a Christmas Day release, did not. I LOVE Titus. Hopkins was stunning. The imagery was truly spectacular. And for very tough Shakespeare, it was very accessible. We’ll see what comes of a female Prospero, though the cast, from Mirren down, is absolutely first rate.

There are only three True Indies who have shown themselves to have Oscar firepower.

The Weinstein Company is not without ammunition this season, even if the company hasn’t released a film this year (well … one … on two screens … oy.) They’ll release The Tillman Story in a couple of weeks, in time to qualify for Oscar noms without a sneaky run in a corner of LA. But that’s a doc play only. The loudest noise for Oscar will be around Julian Schnabel’s Miral, a Palestinian-Israeli flick that is all but guaranteed to get months of stories and op-eds in the NY Times, as well as being a favorite of Fox News for not being 100% pro-Israel. Julian and his pajamas will be the hottest Fox topic since Obama’s birth certificate.

Nowhere Boy is the John Lennon bio-pic-ish film, which has left both fans and the non-plussed in its wake. Also on the docket, Sundance slow-sellers The Company Men and Blue Valentine. Blue Valentine has more heat … but also more people who HATE the film. And perhaps the dark horse for their season … The King’s Speech, a Brit tale of a stammering king, loaded with faves like Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Guy Pearce, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Gambon, Tim Spall, Derek Jacobi and so on.

Lionsgate is not scheduled to be in the Oscar game this year. The one possible last-minute entry would be Tyler Perry‘s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, a classic piece of theater converted with an all-star cast. The film is currently slotted for Martin Luther King Day weekend, but it’s hard to imagine that Perry is going to settle for this to be another commercial success. We’ll see.

Summit won Best Picture last year, but has no film in position to chase the award this year. There are a couple of interesting floaters out there – no US distributor – in William Monahan‘s London Boulevard and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu‘s Biutiful. Either could end up with Summit just before or after Toronto … or not. All that really matters for Summit is caring for the fang hags, so it’s hard to imagine the studio getting into a tough sell like Biutiful. If London Boulevard gets some heat, maybe.

And this year’s Little Indie Distributor Who Could – last year, it was Oscilliscope with The Messenger – is Roadside Attractions, who could hit an awards jackpot with Jennifer Lawrence‘s performance in and Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini‘s script for Winter’s Bone, a film that drew a lot of LA eyeballs during a slow summer for quality films. Could that convert to a Best PIcture nod? It’s a longshot… but that’s a lot better than a no shot.

Moving on to The Majors …

The two major studios deepest into this season will be Warners, Sony, and Paramount, each with at least two serious contenders and at least one interesting Maybe Something.

Paramount closes out the season with big potential films David O. Russell‘s The Fighter (via Relativity Media) and, especially, The Coen Bros’ True Grit. Not much to say about those, except, “Let me at ‘em!” A dark, dark horse for the studio is the comedy Morning Glory, directed by Roger Michell. Could it be this year’s unexpected Working Girl? It has the right players. And you never know. I know that I am looking forward to seeing Harrison Ford playing a prick for laughs. And McA still remains The Superstar Most Likely.

Sony is relying on David Fincher, who scored 13 nominations with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, to deliver some golden action with The Social Network. The studio is very high on the film and decided to open the film at the New York Film Festival, precluding every festival before it. On either side of this one is Eat Pray Love, a film in the same slot as Julie & Julia, with similar awards aspirations and higher commercial expectations, and Everything You’ve Got, a James Brooks film with Oscar winners Nicholson and Witherspoon and princes-in-waiting Paul Rudd and Owen Wilson.

Warner Bros has Inception already in play and I think it’s safe to assume that they will push it. They also have the new Affleck film, The Town. The release date makes me nervous, but his first feature behind the camera was so promising, this film has to be considered. Also, they have a slightly more veteran director, Clint Eastwood, with what sounds like an Arriaga-esque triptych of stories involving death. Hereafter. The biggest surprise on this one is that it is not opening or closing NYFF? So the studio will know where they are before October is over – their commercial onslaught begins in December – and decide how into the Oscar game they are.

One additional potential player for WB is Due Date, the new comedy from the director of The Hangover 2 … and Robert Downey, Jr., who they could chase acting nods for after he managed to be nominated for being funny in blackface once before.

he other three majors are not going into the season with a deep awards line-up … but that doesn’t mean they can’t get nominations or even the Big Win.

“Big” Fox’s only real Oscar play this year is Ed Zwick’s Love and Other Drugs. If any director should be excited about 10 nominees, it’s Zwick, who has been right there and missed the cut a number of times in his career. Ironically, his two BP nominations are for Traffic and Shakespeare In Love … OPF … Other People’s Films. Of course, this is a romantic comedy, so not the serious turf of Glory or The Last Samurai or Blood Diamond. But who knows? Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps will be touted … but the September release date is not a good sign. Acting campaigning is the most likely trend here.

Besides Pixar’s Toy Story 3, Disney is also in the Oscar hunt with Secretariat. The owner is too female, the jockey’s from Entourage, the trainer’s too scary, and the audience is too forgetful to remember that Seabiscuit was only seven years ago … they hope.

And Universal is pretty much out of the Best Picture game this year. They will focus on a Best Animated Film push for Despicable Me … which will be most interesting because Universal stalwart Tony Angellotti handles Oscar for Disney for animation only. Universal will soldier along in-house with a hand from a consultant or two while Tony does his very successful thing for Disney.

So, there you go … a starting point. Things will change – including the design of this page after seven seasons – as we get through Toronto and into October. But you have to start somewhere, right?