Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Independent Spirit Award Nominations

Awards season is now in full swing. The Indie Spirit Awards focus exclusively on films made for under $20 million, which fortunately includes some of the year's big hitters. Here are their nominees (they shafted George Clooney & Glenn Close!) :

Best Feature:
The Artist
The Descendants
Take Shelter

Best Director:
Michael Hazanavicius - The Artist 
Jeff Nichols - Take Shelter
Nicolas Winding Refn - Drive
Alexander Payne - The Descendants
Mike Mills - Beginners

Best International Film:
The Kid with a Bike
A Separation

Best First Feature:
Patrick Wang - In the Family
Robbie Pickering - Natural Selection
Sean Durkin - Martha Marcy May Marlene
J.C. Chandor - Margin Call
Mike Cahill - Another Earth

Best Female Lead:
Elizabeth Olsen - Martha Marcy May Marlene
Michelle Williams - My Week With Marilyn
Lauren Ambrose - Think of Me
Rachael Harris - Natural Selection
Adepero Oduye - Pariah

Best Male Lead:
Demian Bichir - A Better Life
Jean Dujardin - The Artist
Michael Shannon - Take Shelter
Ryan Gosling - Drive
Woody Harrelson - Rampart

Best Supporting Female:
Shailene Woodley - The Descendants
Jessica Chastain - Take Shelter
Janet McTeer - Albert Nobbs
Harmony Santana - Gun Hill Road
Anjelica Huston - 50/50

Best Supporting Male:
Albert Brooks - Drive
Christopher Plummer - Beginners
Corey Stoll - Midnight in Paris
John C Reilly - Cedar Rapids
John Hawkes - Martha Marcy May Marlene

Best Screenplay:
Tom McCarthy - Win Win
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash - The Descendants
Michael Hazanavicius - The Artist
Joseph Cedar - Footnote
Mike Mills - Beginners

Best First Screenplay:
Will Reiser - 50/50
Mike Cahill & Brit Marling - Another Earth
Phil Johnston - Cedar Rapids
J.C. Chandor - Margin Call
Patrick DeWitt - Terri

John Cassavettes Award for films made on a shoestring budget:
Hello Lonesome
The Dynamiter

Someone to Watch Award:
Mark Jackson - Without
Nicholas Ozeki - Mamitas
Simon Arthur - Silver Tongues

Truer Than Fiction Award:
Alma Har'el - Bombay Beach
Danfung Dennis - Hell and Back Again
Heather Courtney - Where Soldiers Come From

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

NY Film Critics love The Artist, Moneyball and Meryl Streep

After postponing voting to screen Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the New York Film Critics Circle have named their favourites of 2011:

- French silent film The Artist picks up Best Picture and Best Director for Michel Hazanavicius
- Meryl Streep wins Best Actress, again, this time for The Iron Lady. Her fifth win off the NY Film Critics
- Brad Pitt wins Best Actor for his turns in both Moneyball and Tree of Life
- Pitt's co-star, and the year's biggest breakout star by far, Jessica Chastain wins Best Supporting Actress for Tree of the Life, The Help and Take Shelter. 
- Drive's Albert Brooks deservedly wins Best Supporting Actor for his gangster turn.
- And Aaron Sorkin continue his winning streak (after last year's The Social Network) by winning Best Screenplay for Moneyball, together with co-writer Steve Zallian.

Gotham Award Winners

The Gotham Awards focus on awarding low budget, independent cinema (with a seemingly higher financial threshold than the Independent Spirit Awards) as well as breakthrough actors and directors.
This is the first year that sees a tie for Best Feature - The Tree of Life and Beginners, which beat expected winner The Descendants. 
Last year's winner, Winter's Bone, went on to contend for Best Picture at the Oscars, together with two other Gotham nominees; The Kids Are All Right & Black Swan, which bodes well for the position of independent cinema. This year, Tree of Life and Descendants are already Oscar contenders. 
Winners via Gold Derby

.Best Feature
The Descendants
Meek's Cutoff
Take Shelter
The Tree of Life

Best Ensemble
The Descendants
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Margin Call
Take Shelter

Breakthrough Actor
Felicity Jones - Like Crazy
Elizabeth Olsen - Martha Marcy May Marlene
Harmony Santana - Gun Hill Road
Shailene Woodley - The Descendants
Jacob Wysocki - Terri

Breakthrough Director
Mike Cahill - Another Earth
Sean Durkin - Martha Marcy May Marlene
Vera Farmiga - Higher Ground
Evan Glodell - Bellflower
Dee Rees - Pariah

Best Documentary
Better This World
Bill Cunningham, New York
Hell and Back Again
The Interrupters
The Woodmans

Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You
Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same
The Redemption of General Butt Naked
Scenes of a Crime

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Support Crowd Funding - A Shot at the Big Time

Janet Van Eeden is making a film about her brother, the border wars which damaged the psyches of a whole generation of South African men, and the cold senselessness of conscription.

She is seeking crowd funding via IndiGoGo, which is an exciting & daunting endeavour. Check out her page on IndieGoGo, spread the word and contribute as you wish. All contributors get co-producing credits.  

Ed Burns' Newlyweds - Trailer

Edward Burns was cool once upon a time, but I think I prefer it when Julie Delpy tries to be Woody Allen.

We Bought a Zoo - Trailer

Cameron Crowe's latest looks as sentimental as Elizabethtown, but with Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson as hosts, it should be a fairly more enjoyable ride. Amazingly, this is a true story, based on Benjamin Mee's personal novel. Glad to see Scarlett, presumably, actually acting again, but I wish Crowe would revisit his fantastic earlier career. Still sweet, just less schmaltz.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Scarlett Johansson directing Capote adaptation

Scarlett Johansson has signed on to direct an adaptation of Truman Capote's first novella, Summer Crossing, about a 17-year-old Manhattan socialite who breaks away from her family and has an affair with a working class parking lot attendant in the summer of 1945. Produced by Barry Deer Hunter Spikings, it certainly holds promise.

After making a name for herself with Lost in Translation and Girl with a Pearl Earring in 
2003, Scarlett made a few good movies before settling into simply pouting and looking sexy for most of 2005 - 2009; marrying and divorcing Ryan Reynolds; releasing an album of heavily produced songs, to mild response; winning a Tony for her supporting role in Broadway play A View from the Bridge, and now this. An interesting move, to say the least, and a worthy project. 

Johansson joins the handful of actresses turned directors:

Barbra Streisand - Oscar winner for her debut, Funny Girl, in 1969 (and the only ever "tied" win, with Kate Hepburn for The Lion in Winter), and a prolific actress since, she turned to directing in 1983 with cross-dressing Jewish musical, Yentl, followed by 1991 Best Picture & Best Actor (Nick Nolte) contender, The Prince of Tides. After this she only made  charming grown up Rom Com The Mirror Has Two Faces in 1996 and a series of TV Specials about her own Concerts.

Penny Marshall - Technically, she has more acting than directing credits, but she is best known as the director of Jumpin' Jack Flash, Big, Best Picture nominated Awakenings, A League of their Own and Riding in Cars with Boys (there are two good Best Actor Oscar nominations in there) & as an actress for 70s TV sitcom Laverne & Shirley.

Jodie Foster - Oscar nominated child actor turned double Oscar winning grown up actress, Foster is also director of a trio of decent indie family dramas - Little Man Tate (1991), Home for the Holidays (1995) and, more recently, The Beaver.

Diane Keaton - 70's legend and Oscar winner for one of cinema (& fashion)'s most iconic characters, Annie Hall, Keaton has also directed a few TV movies, an episode of Twin Peaks (!!) and two feature films: Oscar Nominated (for Thomas Newman's score) Unstrung Heroes (1995) and sister dramedy Hanging Up (2000), most notable for being the great Walter Matthau's final film (in which he fittingly has a touching death bed scene). 

Sofia Coppolla - Believe it or not, Sofia has 16 acting titles to her name, but is rightly known for directing The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette and Somewhere instead. Her most notable acting credit is her dubious turn in her father's Godfather Part III (although she featured as babies in Parts I & II as well).

Drew Barrymore - Adorable ET star turned classic first Scream victim turned cutesy Rom Com star turned very deserving Golden Globe winner for Grey Gardens, Barrymore recently directed her very enjoyable and substantial debut feature, Whip It, with Ellen Page as a disenchanted young woman who falls in love with roller derby.

Vera Farmiga - Powerhouse character Actress, recently entering the Oscar crowd with Up in the Air and this year taking the helm of acclaimed indie drama Higher Ground, about a woman's lifelong struggle with her faith. She directs herself in a knockout performance to boot.

Photos from the Great Gatsby set

First Photos from the set of Baz Luhrmann's Great Gatsby. (& stylish book covers just because they're cool).

Monday, November 7, 2011

Who to watch for Supporting Actor

The supporting race is really still quite open until the first awards start rolling in, but there are a few actors who have worked their way into the Oscar conversation by grabbing the best reviews in their respective films, as a best supporting actor should. 

The biggest contenders so far:

Christopher Plummer – Beginners
The 82 year old actor plays a 75 year old widower who is diagnosed with cancer, comes out of the closet and starts hitting the clubs to make up for lost time, six months after his wife’s death. From arty indie director Mike Mills, this is much more of a heartfelt thing than a sitcom thing. Recently nominated for the first time in a long, excellent career, Plummer is currently the frontrunner to win.

Albert Brooks – Drive
The 80s funny man revels at the chance to play against type as a B-movie producer turned dealmaking gangster in Nicolas Winding Refn’s acclaimed arty thriller, stealing all the best reviews from already highly acclaimed Ryan Gosling & Carey Mulligan. Villains are supporting actor gold, and this is a bit of a comeback for Brooks, a previous supporting nominee back in 1987 for his hilarious turn in Broadcast News.  

Nick Nolte – Warrior
The Hollywood veteran draws on his rough past to play a devastatingly vulnerable recovering alcoholic trying to bond with the sons whose life he wrecked. Quietly painful with a powerful, unexpected finish. A two time Best Actor nominee (he was on the way to win for The Prince of Tides in 1991, until Anthony Hopkins & Silence of the Lambs came along).

Strong competitors:

Brad Pitt - Tree of Life
As a figment of Sean Penn's memory, Pitt's father figure is necessarily vague around the edges, but he anchors the film in his personification of "the way of nature" - his Mr O Brien an ambitious, disappointed man who dominates young Jack's childhood as a loving, but misguidedly harsh & intimidating, 1950s father. I don't quite see Pitt as a double nominee, though, and at the moment it feels like he is more likely to be nominated as lead actor for Moneyball.

Jonah Hill - Moneyball
Pre-weight loss Jonah Hill brings his every man charm and sharp wit to Bennett Miller's baseball / statistics film, proving that baseball can be won by brains as well as brawn, as he rattles off Aaron Sorkin's quickfire dialogue opposite Brad Pitt. A known comic actor turning in a serious performance in one of the year's biggest films; sounds like an Oscar contender to me.

John Hawkes - Martha Macy May Marlene
The seasoned purveyor of indie eccentrics, and recent Oscar nominee for Winter's Bone, delves into the mind and skin of a creepy cult leader. Manipulative charm a-plenty. As with Winter's Bone, his nomination is hooked on the back of his lead actress's breakthrough performance, in this case Elizabeth Olsen as Martha Marcy etc. If she misses her nomination, it is unlikely he will make it without her, unfortunately.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman - The Ides of March / Moneyball
Phillip Seymour Hoffman has always been the highlight of any film he's in. No-one can make dialogue come alive with more freshness and immediacy than Hoffman. In Ides of March, he takes on Ryan Gosling & George Clooney in a game of shady politics, in Moneyball, he has fun with Aaron Sorkin dialogue opposite Brad Pitt. Hoffman's last Sorkin-scripted film was Charlie Wilson's War, which landed him the film's sole nomination, for Best Supporting Actor. Kind of like a younger, male Judi Dench, his presence in Oscary films is just impossible to ignore.

Corey Stoll - Midnight in Paris
The biggest standout in Woody Allen's Best Picture contender (and highest grossing film ever), Stoll essays Ernest Hemingway's infamous intellectual charm, toughness & genius. A small part in a big cast, but he still has the film's best reviews and plays a legendary literary figure. The academy should be grateful after Chris O'Donnell's version of Hemingway in 1996's In Love and War, who was out "toughed" by Sandra Bullock's love-struck nurse. 

Viggo Mortensen - A Dangerous Method 
Viggo is a legend. Regrettably, his only nomination has been for the very brilliant Eastern Promises. (among his several snubs, A History of Violence is the most painful). In A Dangerous Method, he plays Sigmund Freud opposite Michael Fassbender's Carl Jung. The film has met only lukewarm response from critics, with Fassbender and Keira Knightly getting most of the attention as the film's forbidden lovers. Fassbender's Best Actor campaign is for his sex addict in Shame and Knightley is fast being edged out of the Best Actress race, but don't count out Mortensen's detailed perfection if the Academy finds themselves looking for a fifth slot nominee.

Ezra Miller - We Need to Talk About Kevin
The rising indie star plays Tilda Swinton's psycho-in-the-making teenage son. Complex family dynamics, to say the least. If Swinton's campaign pays off, Miller could tag along. If not, count him out.

Unseen contenders:
No-one's seen their performances, but great things are expected.

Max Von Sydow - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The novel's most interesting character. Legendary actor. He has been good lately, but not in English, and not in a big, tear-jerking Best Picture contender.

Tom Hanks - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close 
Oscar favourite in the film's most heart-string-pulling role as Oskar's beloved and tragically fated dad.

Jim Broadbent - The Iron Lady
Previous Oscar-winner for playing Iris Murdoch's long-suffering husband in Iris, British legend takes on another real-life background husband, this time as Denis Thatcher, husband to the better known Margaret.

Armie Hammer - J Edgar
After making a big impression as both twins in last year's The Social Network, handsome Hammer got cast as J Edgar Hoover's apprentice / alleged lover in Clint Eastwood's biopic. Probably not likely to make the top five, but should certainly show up in nominations along the way.

Not Contenders (but should be) :

Ralph Fiennes - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
Fiennes finally gets to unleash Voldemort's weird intensity, but can the Academy take a non-Tolkien wizard seriously?

Michael Fassbender - X-Men: First Class
Fassbender has more than enough Oscar contending roles in the mix, but his turn as the wounded, sharply intelligent man who will go on to become Magneto is pure perfection. Again, though, try to make the Academy take a comic book villain seriously.
Poster courtesy of
Kristin Scott Thomas has become one of Britain's finest exports (mostly via France these days). In a career full off classy gems, it's a wonder that her sole Oscar nomination was for The English Patient in 1996. 

The Academy overlooked her masterclass in understated character transition in 2008's french drama Il y a longtemps que jet'aime (I've Loved You So Long), but she is sort-of, kind-of, not really back in consideration this year for Holocaust drama Sarah's Key. Looks like quite a story, although Scott's character is a modern woman reacting to events in the past. It will be emotional, but I'm not sure her performance carries the Oscar pre-approval stamp unless she actually suffers ordeal / wears deglamourising make up.

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within

Brazil's submission for Best Foreign Language film. The apparently superior sequel to 2007's acclaimed Elite Squad.