January 02, 2015
        A January Oscar Predictions Update                American Cinema Editors (ACE) Announces Nominees                2015 releases to look forward to                The best films and performances of 2014                A look at the second spot in each of the main Oscar categories                The late breaking major Oscar contenders of 2014                Golden Globe post nomination predictions for December                Cinematic gifts from 2014                Spotlight on the Stars: Bradley Cooper                Which film will lead the nomination totals for Oscar this year?                A look at some potential first time Academy Award nominees this year                A Mid-December Oscar Predictions Update                Oscars: 9 Foreign Language Films Advance in Oscar® Race                Audiences are missing out on a funny film in Seth Rogen's "The Interview"                Spotlight on the Stars: Christian Bale        

Tag Archives: Independent films

Spotlight on the Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

This week, I’m turning my attention and the spotlight in the title of this article to one of my favorite actors working today…Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t appreciate this talented multihyphenate. The rare child actor to successfully transition into a respected adult performer, Gordon-Levitt is widely considered to be one of the best young actors that we have in the business. He’s constantly chosen interesting projects and almost never does anything you’d consider to be just a paycheck job. He’s yet to receive an Academy Award nomination, but one suspects that it’s only a matter of time in that regard.
Gordon-Levitt got his start at a young age, first working in television at the tender age of just seven. He’d continue with small parts on the small screen up until he got a few tiny roles in films, including A River Runs Through It. He got his first lead in the remake of Angels in the Outfield, where he was first noticed. If not there, it was when he became a part of the hit TV show 3rd Rock from the Sun. Gordon-Levitt was beginning to make his mark in entertainment, though unlike many child stars, this wasn’t the pinnacle of their careers.
JGL’s screen presence was limited until he won over hearts in 10 Things I Hate About You. He and Heath Ledger made plenty of girls swoon, but critics took note of the talent they had. This film launched many a career, including our subject Gordon-Levitt’s. Plenty of people were excited to see where JGL’s career would go from there, and they weren’t about to be disappointed. He next made an underrated indie called Manic that served as his first pairing with Zooey Deschanel. He worked with Disney after that, voicing the lead in Treasure Planet, then wowed audiences again in Mysterious Skin. He followed that up the next year with another wonderful performance in Brick for Rian Johnson (who’d he’d work with again) and then the under seen crime tale The Lookout. Among his next projects is the underrated Stop-Loss, but at this point, Gordon-Levitt was about to become the star we know him to be now.
It’s impossible to deny how great he is in (500) Days of Summer. I maintain to this day that it was a crime that the flick was snubbed for Oscar love, including for JGL, as well as his […]

Richard Linklater: Writer and Director

For this week’s spotlight piece, I wanted to take a look at a bit of an indie A-lister, though far from an unknown. It’s filmmaker Richard Linklater, a writer and director who has managed to consistently do things in a unique way and bring audiences along with him at the same time. As heralded as he already is (especially this week with Boyhood hitting theaters), he still sometimes seems underrated to me. For a man with a pair of Oscar nominations, he still manages to work decidedly outside of the box and still cultivate an audience. Even his studio outings have been memorable. Frankly, Linklater is one of a kind.
Linklater has always done things his way, from his fly on the wall debut Slacker to Dazed and Confused to the Before trilogy (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight). Throw in Boyhood and you have five near classics from one filmmaker, and that doesn’t take into account the almost dozen other movies that he’s made over the years. He’s done everything from animated flicks (A Scanner Darkly and Waking Life) to studio comedies (Bad News Bears and School of Rock), with plenty of interesting work in between.
If you take a close look at his oeuvre, he’s done very compelling things with even his less regarded work. From Bernie (which I find to be incredibly underrated) to Fast Food Nation to Tape, with plenty of others in between, Linklater has managed to take whatever premise he’s working with and do things in such a simple yet unique way that sometimes it’s not until the flick ends that you realize just how special his work is. The two Adapted Screenplay nominations he has for Before Sunset and Before Midnight are nice bits of recognition, but he really needs to get a Best Director nod under his belt soon, not to mention a nom for Best Picture.
This weekend, Boyhood begins its national roll out and it’s among the best films of the year so far. Tomorrow I’ll be talking about it as an awards contender, but what Linklater did with that movie is downright amazing. Filming a coming of age story with the same cast over a dozen years captured some real truth that’s almost impossible to get otherwise. It’s a work of art, plain and simple. Again, I’ll get into its Oscar prospects in my What’s Up with the Awards Race piece […]

Oscars®: Noah – What’s up with the 2015 Awards Race

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Written by: Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel
Main Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Ray Winstone, Douglas Booth, Marton Csokas, Nick Nolte, Mark Margolis, and Frank Langella
Past Oscar relations: Crowe won Best Actor for Gladiator and has two other acting nominations, Hopkins won Best Actor for The Silence of the Lambs and has three other acting nominations, Connolly won Best Supporting Actress for A Beautiful Mind, Nolte has three acting nominations, Langella has one acting nominations, Aronofsky has a nomination for Best Director, and DP Matthew Libatique has a nomination for Best Cinematography
Here we go now with our first true article in this new series on 2014 contenders. First up is Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, which again brings him together with the likes of Jennifer Connelly, composer Clint Mansell, co-writer Ari Handel, and cinematographer Matthew Libatique, along with newcomers like Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, and Logan Lerman. It’s a retelling of the story of Noah (shockingly enough), though apparently more in line with Aronofsky’s prior work like The Fountain than more straightforward biblical tales to date.

What this movie has going in its favor is quite simply Aronofsky. He’s a visionary director and this has long been a passion project of his. I’ll have a bit more to say about passion projects this weekend, but I’m someone who’s always interested in them and how much potential they have. Aronofsky finally caught the Academy’s attention last time around with Black Swan (though both Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler scored acting citations), so if Oscar voters are now on his wavelength, we could see them look to honor his ambition here.
Working against Noah is publicity that the flick will get because of its origins, as opposed to the final product itself. Early reviews have been mixed but mostly positive, so it’s not a question of if the film is any good or not, but if it’ll be given a real chance. My heart wants to say that folks will look past the potential protests from the religious right, but my head thinks that it’ll become something all too easy to ignore for voters. Taking into account that it’s an early year release as well, and the movie clearly will have an uphill battle for any major recognition, to say the least.
So, can this be a player at all? My gut says […]

‘Noah’ debuts a new TV Spot

If there’s one new release this month that I’m really looking forward to in a big way, it’s Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, which has long been a passion project of his. The last time he had one of those on his mind, we got The Fountain, which is a divisive film, yes, but also one of my five favorite films of all time, so suffice to say, I’m 100% in for this one. Aronofsky has a top notch cast on hand too, including Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connolly, Emma Watson, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Logan Lerman, and Nick Nolte, among others. I’m not usually big on biblical epics, but this could be an exception. A new look at the movie has arrived today in the form of a 30 second TV Spot, and I’ve got that for you all to check out momentarily. The flick comes out in theaters at the end of the month and is a must see in my book based on the filmmaker’s reputation alone, for whatever that’s worth. Decide for yourself though below…
Here’s the new TV Spot that dropped today:

This will likely either be a huge hit or a huge flop, financially at least, but one thing is for certain, it won’t be for lack of ambition on Aronofsky’s part. Either way, for me, March 28th can’t come soon enough!

Oscars®: Get to know a Best Picture nominee: “12 Years a Slave”

12 Years a Slave
Directed by: Steve McQueen
Written by: John Ridley
Main cast members: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Scoot McNairy, and Alfre Woodard
Number of Oscar nominations in total: Nine
Other nominations besides Best Picture: Best Director (McQueen), Best Actor (Ejiofor), Best Supporting Actor (Fassbender), Best Supporting Actress (Nyong’o), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ridley), Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, and Best Film Editing
Notable precursor wins: Tied for Best Picture at the Producers Guild of America Awards, won Best Drama at the Golden Globe Awards, won Best Supporting Actress at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, won Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards and and USC Scripter Award.
Chances at winning Best Picture: One of the top three contenders and main frontrunners for the award
Chances at other Academy Award wins: Frontrunner in the Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay races

12 Years a Slave is the first film in my “get to know a Best Picture nominee” series, and it’s one of the main contenders in the category. The film is about the true life tale of Solomon Northrup, a free black man who was tricked into slavery and kept for the dozen years that gives the movie its name. Ever since it was announced that the film was being made, pundits like myself speculated that it was going to be an awards juggernaut. Well, it didn’t disappoint and after being the most cited flick among the precursor season, it’s now one of the most nominated films by the Academy and deep in the fight for Best Picture.
Working in 12 Years a Slave’s favor is that it is basically a universally beloved film. There might be more passionate support for other contenders, but it’s almost impossible to find someone who doesn’t think that the movie is at least very good, if not great. That creates a situation where voters are basically assured of placing it high up on their ballot. Consensus is the key to victory in this category, and this is a flick that will not want for number one votes. The question is simply if the other two main competitors (American Hustle and Gravity) can amass a wider range of Academy members to vote for them as opposed to this one.
If you’re looking for something that’s not in this film’s favor, it’s […]

Kudos for ‘Before Midnight’ Writers Linklater, Delpy and Hawke

The 17th Annual Hollywood Film Awards announced today that it will be honoring Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater, with the “Hollywood Screenwriters Award,” for their screenplay for Sony Pictures Classics’ Before Midnight.
The announcement was made today by Carlos de Abreu, founder and executive producer of the Hollywood Film Awards. He said: “It is a privilege to honor such multi-talented screenwriters.”
The award will be bestowed at the Hollywood Film Awards Gala Ceremony on Monday evening, October 21, 2013 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.
This is the third film in the series, preceded by Before Sunset in 2004, also written by the trio, and Before Sunrise in 1995, written by Linklater and Kim Krizan. In the latest film, we meet Celine and Jesse nine years after their last rendezvous. Almost two decades have passed since their first encounter on a train bound for Vienna, and we now find them in their early forties in Greece. Before the clock strikes midnight, we will again become part of their story.
The Hollywood Film Awards honors cherished stars, filmmakers and up-and-coming talent, and traditionally kicks off the film awards season with the biggest stars and top industry executives in attendance.
“We are very proud to be the first stop of the awards season. In the last ten years, a total of 96 Oscar® nominations and 34 Oscars® were given to the honorees of the Hollywood Film Awards,” said de Abreu.
Last year’s awards show received more than 41 million media impressions, in addition to more than 300 million online and print readers’ impressions.
ABOUT JULIE DELPY
After graduating from NYU’s Tisch Film School, Delpy’s film Blah Blah Blah debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 1995. That year she also starred in Richard Linklater’s film Before Sunrise, with Ethan Hawke. The film received glowing reviews, and lead to a follow-up with the characters nine years later with Before Sunset in 2004. Delpy co-wrote the script with Hawke and Linklater, and it earned them an Academy Award nomination for Adapted Screenplay. Delpy has also been recognized for her work by the César Awards, having been nominated three times, and is well-known for an additional film series she has written, directed, edited and co-produced; 2 Days in Paris and 2 Days in New York.
ABOUT ETHAN HAWKE
Ethan Hawke is an Academy Award nominated actor and screenwriter who has starred in over 40 films that have spanned […]

DRINKING BUDDIES starring Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Ron Livingston and Anna Kendrick acquired by Magnolia

Magnolia Pictures announced today that they have acquired North American distribution rights to writer-director Joe Swanberg’s DRINKING BUDDIES, starring Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston.
Produced by Dark Arts’ Alicia Van Couvering and Andrea Roa; Burn Later?s Paul M. Bernon and Sam Slater; and Swanberg, the film premiered this month at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival. The film was executive produced by Mike Witherill, Ashley Bernon, Jessica Klapman, David Kaplan, Anish Savjani, and Wilde. Magnolia Pictures is planning a theatrical release for later this year.
DRINKING BUDDIES follows the lives of Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) who work together at a craft brewery. They have one of those friendships that feels like it could be something more. But Kate is with Chris (Ron Livingston), and Luke is with Jill (Anna Kendrick). And Jill wants to know if Luke is ready to talk about marriage. The answer to that question becomes crystal clear when Luke and Kate unexpectedly find themselves alone for a weekend.
“Joe Swanberg has been evolving steadily as a filmmaker, and with DRINKING BUDDIES, he’s delivered his best work yet?a truly funny, smart and insightful film about real adult relationships,? said Magnolia President Eamonn Bowles. “Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson and the rest of the cast also deliver some of the best work of their careers. We’re raising an imperial pint in celebration.?
“I feel tremendously privileged to work with such a smart, energetic and exciting company,” said Swanberg. “I had an amazing time working with the Magnolia family on V/H/S and I can’t wait to be their drinking buddy again. I just know they will do great things with the film.?
The deal for the film was negotiated by Magnolia SVP of Acquisitions Dori Begley and Director of Acquisitions Peter van Steemberg, with CAA on behalf of the filmmakers and producers.
Swanberg’s prior films include HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS, ALEXANDER THE LAST, UNCLE KENT, SILVER BULLETS, and V/H/S.
Photo by PRPhotos.com
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Tribeca Film Festival announced the lineup for the 7th annual Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival

The Tribeca Film Festival (TFF) today announced the lineup for the seventh annual Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival. Founded to broaden the audience for independent film through stories about sports and competition, this year’s Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival will consist of nine films, including four titles from ESPN Films’ highly anticipated “Nine for IX” series which celebrates the fortieth anniversary of Title IX with nine documentary films about women in sports directed by outstanding female filmmakers.
The 2013 Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival will run during the 12th edition of TFF, presented by American Express, April 17 – April 28 at locations around New York City.
The Festival revealed that the world premiere of Big Shot, directed by Kevin Connolly, will serve as the gala premiere of the program on Friday, April 19. Connolly is returning to Tribeca having debuted his feature film Gardener of Eden in 2007. In Big Shot, Connolly chronicles John Spano’s fraudulent purchase of the New York Islanders. In 1997, Spano bought the New York Islanders for a staggering $165 million. The scheme behind Spano’s acquisition of the team is revealed as Big Shot takes viewers behind the scenes of the biggest fraud in hockey history.
“The sports film offerings at this year’s Festival give sports fans and movie buffs tremendous opportunities to experience the many ways that sports intersect with our culture,” said Genna Terranova, Tribeca Film Festival Director of Programming. “We are excited that Big Shot, which chronicles one of the most infamous sagas in professional sports management history, will kick-off this year’s Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival, and to share the range of these personal stories seem through the lens of sports.”
“I’ve always thought the expression ‘passion project’ was kind of a cliché until I started working on Big Shot for ESPN,” said Kevin Connolly. “Working side by side and spending time with guys that I literally grew up idolizing has been a once in a lifetime opportunity. The whole experience, including having the film premiere in New York at the festival, has been a dream come true.”
“There are many vibrant, independent voices out there telling incredible sports stories and we’re honored to be involved with the Tribeca Film Festival where together we can shine a light on these documentaries and filmmakers,” said Connor Schell, vice president of ESPN Films. “We produce our films with the intention of capturing both the glory and the heartbreak of […]

“MACHETE KILLS” – Deadly New Poster – Sofia Vergara, Lady Gaga

Prepare for the epic return of Danny Trejo as the ultimate badass in Robert Rodriguez’s highly anticipated MACHETE KILLS. Recruited by the government for a mission which would be impossible for any mortal man, Machete must take down a madman revolutionary and an eccentric billionaire arms dealer who has hatched a plan to spread war and anarchy across the planet.
Get a load of Sofia Vergara as the deadly Desdemona in the latest MACHETE KILLS poster

With an all-star cast including Michelle Rodriguez, Sofia Vergara, Amber Heard, Charlie Sheen, Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Jessica Alba, Vanessa Hudgens, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Mel Gibson, and Danny Trejo as the legendary Machete, MACHETE KILLS will be in theaters everywhere September 13th.
Get a load of Sofia Vergara as the deadly Desdemona in the latest MACHETE KILLS poster
FACEBOOK/MacheteKills
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Andy Samberg hosts the 2013 Film Independent Spirit Awards

The Exclusive Canadian Broadcast of the 2013 Film Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday, February 23 rd at 10pm ET, will take place on Sony Movie Channel.
All of the action unfolds a day before the Academy Awards® from a beachside tent in Santa Monica, California with comedian and SNL alumni Andy Samberg hosting the 28th annual awards. The Spirit Awards celebrate artist-driven filmmaking and recognize the finest achievements of today’s independent filmmakers and is the premier awards event for the independent film community.
The Spirit Awards ceremony brings together top talent from independent film and Hollywood. 2013 nominees include Silver Linings Playbook and Moonrise Kingdom for Best Feature, Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom) and David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) for Best Director. Nominees in the acting categories include Jennifer Lawrence & Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Matthew McConaughey (Killer Joe), Helen Hunt (The Sessions) and Bruce Willis (Moonrise Kingdom). Additionally, War Witch from Canada’s Kim Nguyen has been nominated for Best International Feature. Visit www.spiritawards.com for a full list of nominations.
Photo by PRPhoto.com
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