It won't shock anyone to say that Judi Dench is considered a favorite of the Academy. A half-dozen Oscar nominations later (including a win for her Supporting turn in Shakespeare in Love), pretty much anything that Dench involves herself in is given a feeling of prestige and looked at as something in the running for awards. Hell, remember last year when Dench was rumored to be on the cusp of an Oscar nod for Skyfall? Academy members love them some Dench. At the same time though, she hasn't had a nom in over a half decade (a Best Actress citation for Notes on a Scandal), so this year, many voters are surely thrilled that Dench is back in play with Philomena, which opens on Friday. But is she a likely nominee?
After what felt like a solid month or two of back and forth (plus a few weeks of letting this news settle), we can now safely say that Martin Scorsese's latest film, The Wolf of Wall Street starring Leonardo DiCaprio, is going to hit theaters this holiday season. Instead of a Thanksgiving timeframe for its release, the Oscar hopeful now is heading to cinemas on Christmas Day. Basically, Scorsese's flick went from a November release to nearly a 2014 release and now a Christmas debut, so what does that mean for the film? Well, despite the fact that the film will be one we're excited to see in a few weeks, it will have to distinguish itself in a bigger way than initially planned, due to the end of the year clutter that always happens. Read on!
I always enjoy getting to talk to members of this industry, specifically the rare times when a veteran actor is made available, but every so often you just get blown away by someone. It doesn't happen too often, but last week it happened when I got the chance to speak to Bruce Dern at Paramount's offices in New York City. Obviously, the interview opportunity came about because of Nebraska, which begins its theatrical run this week, but honestly, wouldn't you use any excuse to talk to a legend like Dern? The man didn't disappoint, as he told some incredible stories (including a few about Alfred Hitchcock!), and paid me a rather stunning compliment. All-in-all it's one of the best interviews and most memorable film-related moments of my life.
Hopefully you've been paying attention to our awards expert Joey Magidson and all his Oscar analysis and predictions, and you're aware of some of the films and directors in the running for some Academy Awards love for the year in film that is 2013. Well, as part of the awards season gamut, The Hollywood Reporter usually features several roundtables with the prominent figures and likely nominees from some of these film. Right now, we've decided to highlight their director's roundtable featuring a 54-minute chat with Steve McQueen, Paul Greengrass, David O. Russell, Ben Stiller, Alfonso Cuaron & Lee Daniels.
Much like the latest version of Romeo & Juliet slunk into theaters last month with barely a mention (and was gone just as quick), this past weekend a new incarnation of Great Expectations hit screens, but you'd barely know it (the poor box office only further proves that point). Yes, despite some solid reviews, a highly regarded filmmaker at the helm in Mike Newell, and Oscar nominees like Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes in the cast, virtually no one is aware the movie is coming, which in turn, cripples its awards chances. Why is it getting the same fate as other Oscar non-starters we've discussed like The Counselor and Diana, instead of being in the mix for awards season? There's a reasonable explanation. More below!
There are a lot of ways to go about appealing to the Academy when trying to score Oscar nominations. One way to is blanket Oscar voters with all aspects of the movie, hoping that they vote up and down the line for it. Another way is to just zero in on one small feature of it, be it a performance, the writing, or a technical category. For most independent awards contenders though, they use what I like to call a "targeted Oscar campaign". It's a mix of those two aforementioned methods, basically amounting to shooting for the big categories you think you can score a nod in and all but ignoring the long shot nominations. For a while now, that's been how Alexander Payne films have gone about campaigning, Nebraska is the latest example. The flick begins its theatrical run this coming weekend, but the Oscar voters are already getting charmed.
As I mentioned when talking about the now delayed film The Monuments Men, one surefire way to get Academy members to notice your film is to center it around World War II. Oscar voters have a penchant to pay more attention when the antagonist of your movie happens to be Nazis. Even when you're not considered to be an absolutely amazing film (cough, The Reader, cough), being a World War II flick is a real trump card. Opening this weekend in limited release is the latest movie of this ilk, The Book Thief, and my response is a resounding shrug of the shoulders. The movie is fair, but nothing special and not too deserving of Oscar attention. Still, it's got Nazis, so a bit of attention must be paid, at least in some way.
A little bit of a silly misnomer about me (but a somewhat understandable one considering my line of work) and many of the other folks who write about the awards circuit is that we only care about Oscar contenders and don't look at movies on their own terms. Yes, I make my living mainly writing about the awards season and how certain films will make a play for the Academy Awards but I'm also just a lover of cinema in general. I'm a sucker for a solid Judd Apatow laugh riot or even a good romantic comedy, maybe moreso than top notch promising Oscar players like 12 Years a Slave or the awards-baiting biopics like Lincoln.
Ladies and gentleman, we're now entering a critical and (at least for me) fascinating section of the awards race which is known as the precursor season. Between now and when Oscar night roles around in about five months, nearly every awards body, critics group, and guild will chime in with their best and worst in 2013 cinema. Some unexpected films will rise in the Oscar race, while some will surprisingly tumble. Mostly though, things will begin to crystalize, so I felt that it was prudent to explain what's about to go down and how to properly filter it. That way you don't get too high or too low depending on how the new season goes.
I can hardly believe that it's November already! We're only weeks out from some major precursor awards that will begin to show just what shape the Oscar race will take at the start. Basically, this is the final calm before the storm, so an update to my predictions is due. There hasn't been a massive shift since my previous update last month, but more than enough has changed. What follows is a quick rundown of some of the major movements in the race to prep you for the how and why of some of my predictions. You'll see the predicted nominations after that, but once again, don't read too much into them yet. Moves are still being made, so it's going to be somewhere in December before one can get a concrete sense of some categories.
Much like our recent talk about how Ridley Scott's The Counselor was a trendy, early Academy Award prediction, another one of that ilk was Oliver Hirschbiegel's much hyped biopic Diana, which opened in theaters this weekend. Once presumed to be a Best Actress contender for Naomi Watts as the princess that gives the film its name, the movie is now in theaters with absolutely no buzz or fanfare. It's gone from being thought of as possibly one of the year's top films to an absolute laughingstock. Watts is basically out of the Best Actress race and Razzie awards are probably more likely than Oscars at this point. So what happened?
About a month or so ago, I wrote about if the Academy would be able to resist George Clooney's newest directorial effort The Monuments Men. Well, it looks like we won't have to find out, at least this year. Yes, in case you somehow haven't heard the recent news, the film is being delayed until next year. Apparently, it has nothing to do with quality, but just about getting the film right, so this isn't likely some hidden disaster being kept from our discerning eyes. However, it's a major event in the Oscar race. Crossing Clooney's movie off of your predictions will impact the Academy Awards up and down the line, but how?
Last year, there was an unexpected movement to get Matthew McConaughey recognized with an Academy award nomination. Yes, the same guy who'd been criticized mercilessly for his shirtless performances and lack of effort was now a critical darling of sorts for the one-two punch of Killer Joe and Magic Mike in 2012 (plus the festival run of Mud, which was seen by Alex at Cannes, continued into this year at Sundance, and then came out earlier in 2013). While the former was a lead performance in an NC-17 flick destined to be ignored by Oscar, the latter was a scene stealing supporting turn in an unexpected hit. While McConaughey ultimately missed out, the stage has been set for him to perhaps build on that this year.
One of the benefits of hindsight when it comes to the awards season is to periodically look back and see just what some of us were predicting would be Oscar contenders at different points throughout the year. For example, remember when The Great Gatsby was, sight unseen, thought of as a Best Picture lock? I certainly do. Especially now, when nearly all the awards contenders have screened at film festivals or some form, I always like to see which titles currently stick out like a sore thumb. Now we're able to add one more to the list, and that's Ridley Scott's The Counselor. Oh boy, is it ever one to add to the list. More below!