January 01, 2015

Tag Archives: the Oscar

Spotlight on the Stars: Reese Witherspoon

For this week’s brand new spotlight piece, I wanted to cite an A-lister who is having one really good 2014, to say the least. It’s Reese Witherspoon, an Academy Award winning actress who only this year is finally solidifying her status not just as a star, but as a supremely talented actress as well. It’s high time too, as she’s given more top quality performances than a lot of people realize. From some of her early work to the performance that won her the Oscar, Witherspoon has become a deserving member of the A-list, though someone who doesn’t always get the credit that she truly deserves. As such, it’s only appropriate today to put the spotlight on her. Here we go…
Witherspoon got her start with a few head turning roles in smaller films, starting with The Man in the Moon, followed by A Far Off Place and Freeway, among others. Those parts began to get her noticed, something that would continue up until she broke through with the thriller Fear. Witherspoon was now a young up and coming actress that had the attention of the industry. That would lead to a role in Overnight Delivery as well as a really well regarded part in the film Pleasantville. Particularly with that last role, it set her up to have her first brush with prestige fare. With the black comedy Election, Witherspoon was fully on the cusp of stardom, along with being embraced by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which bestowed her first Golden Globe nomination upon her. Between this highly praised independent film and the pop culture drama Cruel Intentions, a star was born.
She then appeared in films like American Psycho, Best Laid Plans, The Importance of Being Earnest, Legally Blonde (which got her a second Golden Globe nomination), Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde, Little Nicky, Sweet Home Alabama, and Vanity Fair. They cultivated her status as a growing romantic comedy star in Hollywood as well as an A-list actress, but they didn’t quite challenge her in the way that she was deserving of. Then, a biopic offer came in and changed all that.
Her greatest acclaim at the time would come when she took the role of June Carter Cash in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line. Not only did it score her tons of terrific reviews, she would also go on to both receive her first Academy […]

Could ‘Interstellar’ be an Oscar winner?

Last week, I was one of the lucky first members of the press to lay eyes on Christopher Nolan’s new opus Interstellar. Now that the embargo has lifted, I can say without hesitation that it’s his best work to date, an absolutely enthralling and deeply moving science fiction drama that makes both your heart and your mind soar. More important than my thoughts though (which I’ll get into more below), is how its debut could impact the Oscar race. I know that only a few of my fellow pundits love it as much as I do and some aren’t even fans of it at all, but this is a legitimate contender folks. The only question is to what extent…
For those somehow in the dark about this, Interstellar is a sci-fi movie set in the future from Christopher Nolan. It details a dying Earth and the last ditch attempt to save it by going in search of a new planet to colonize. Matthew McConaughey stars as the pilot turned farmer/single dad turned hero, with an incredible supporting cast that includes Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, John Lithgow, Mackenzie Foy, Bill Irwin, Wes Bentley, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon, David Gyasi, Topher Grace, Ellen Burstyn, and David Oyelowo. Nolan directs and co-writes with his brother Jonathan Nolan.
Even with high expectations, I was floored by this film. It’s visually stunning, powerful, and surprisingly emotional. Nolan has never been one to move me to tears, but on more than one occasion I got choked up. Particularly in terms of how he deals with relationships between fathers and daughters (McConaughey and Chastain/Foye, as well as Caine and Hathaway), it’s actually quite beautiful and sad. That’s really something special and unique, compounded by how intelligent the science fiction is here. The details about black holes and the Theory of Relativity is handled with the sort of faith that assumed the audience will come on this journey without turning off their brains. If they/you do, you’ll be in for something amazing.
So how can it impact the Oscar race? Well, it’ll depend on how the precursors and guilds take to it, but there’s a potential narrative where it could become one of the top contenders for Best Picture as well as Best Director. If all goes perfectly for Interstellar from this point on, it could be in line for up to a dozen Academy Award nominations. Pie in […]

Joaquin Phoenix: Oscar veterans hoping for another nomination this year

Each and every single awards season, there are tons of both newcomers and veterans to the Oscar game. Tomorrow I’ll be taking a bit of a look at those seeking their first nominations from the Academy, but today I’m going to be going ahead and listing some of the major players who’ve already been nominated before, and in some cases are already winners. It’s leading up to me re-ranking the contenders in the major categories next week, but right now it’s just going to be a preview of which old hands to the Oscar ranch are saddling up for another ride on the awards season pony.
In the Best Actor race, the highest profile former nominee is Joaquin Phoenix, who will look for his first win this year with Inherent Vice. He represents the most likely non first time nominee who could win the Oscar in this category, though one level down we have Bradley Cooper for American Sniper and Bill Murray for St. Vincent, with Jake Gyllenhaal for Nightcrawler and Brad Pitt for Fury as other possibilities, plus Ben Affleck, who I’m counting here since he’s an Oscar winner, even if he’s never received an acting citation to date. Longer shots for nominations who’ve been to the dance before include Christian Bale for Exodus: Gods and Kings, Ralph Fiennes for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Philip Seymour Hoffman for A Most Wanted Man, Matthew McConaughey for Interstellar, Al Pacino for Manglehorn, Jeremy Renner for Kill the Messenger, and Mark Walhberg for The Gambler. Those fellas will be fighting it out with a bunch of first timers in this category, and it’s going to be a bloodbath.
Over in Best Actress, we have perennial bridesmaid Amy Adams hoping that this year she’ll finally be the bride with her work in Big Eyes. She’s going to be getting a challenge from both Jessica Chastain (for either The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Miss Julie, or A Most Violent Year) and Reese Witherspoon for Wild though. One level down you have Julianne Moore for Still Alice and Meryl Streep for Into the Woods, with other former nominees/winner on the hunt including Marion Cotillard for The Immigrant or Two Days One Night, Keira Knightley for Begin Again, Hilary Swank for The Homesman, Kate Winslet for A Little Chaos, and Robin Wright for The Congress. The newbies could seriously vie for a win here, but the vets have […]

The Telluride Film Festival launched some Oscar contenders

Happy Labor Day everyone, and welcome to September as well. Over the past week or so, the Telluride Film Festival has unspooled a number of Academy Award contenders, in effect launching the Oscar race ahead of the start of the New York Film Festival as well as Toronto Film Festival. Those other two festivals will screen titles over the months of September and October, but with Telluride in the books, it’s one fest that we can analyze a bit to see what’s what. With their unique format (they never announce what films are playing in advance, so you never know what will screen), Telluride is always an X factor, but this year especially they’ve had no shortage of Oscar hopeful movies in their lineup. Some flicks upped their stock, while some need to be downgraded, but overall it’s a fest well worth discussing.
First off, here’s what the highest profile films at the festival were: Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes, Sophie Barthes’ Madame Bovary, Luc Dardenne and Jean-Pierre Dardenne’s Two Days, One Night, Xavier Dolan’s Mommy, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman, Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman, Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner, Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence, Martin Scorsese’s The 50 Year Argument, Jon Stewart’s Rosewater, Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game, Jean-Marc Valleé’s Wild, and Andrey Zvgagintsev’s Leviathan. Those 14 were the big ones of note, but with Foxcatcher, The Homesman, Leviathan, Mommy, Mr. Turner, and Two Days, One Night having already played at the Cannes Film Festival, those movies didn’t see their statures change much. The flicks to really discuss are of course 99 Homes, Birdman, The Imitation Game, Madame Bovary, Rosewater, and Wild. Those six are what matters, to differing degrees.
First up is 99 Homes, which hopes to be a player for Andrew Garfield and especially Michael Shannon. The drama is without U.S. distribution right now, which could keep it from even coming out this year, but with mostly positive reviews from what I’ve seen, I’m sure someone will pick it up. Shannon would be in the conversation if that happens, so keep him in mind.
Next is Birdman (also known as Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), which easily was the biggest success story at Telluride, even if the reviews weren’t quite as rapturous as they were a few days prior at the Venice Film Festival (even if both places threw around the “Masterpiece” word more than I […]

Does the Academy need a Best Cast Ensemble category?

Whenever the subject of new Oscar categories is brought up in conversation, one of the first ones mentioned is a Best Cast Ensemble category (along with recognition for Stunt Coordinators). Personally, I’m rather intrigued by an Ensemble addition, though it really depends as much as anything on what kinds of nominees we’d have. I have no issues with any category additions at all…I say the more the merrier. The only downside is with certain categories, you wouldn’t have more diverse nominees or anything like that. You’d just get the Best Picture nominees adding one more nod to their belts. That sort of a nom is mostly meaningless, but if it cites a wider range of work, then I’m all for it.
The actual odds of a new category being added to the Oscar telecast is somewhat unlikely, due to how rushed the ceremony already is, but to me that shouldn’t matter. Whether you’re talking about Cast Ensemble or Stunt Coordinators or even Casting Directors as another example, it should be about if they’re doing the type of work worthy of a statue. That should really only be what matters.
Look at last year as an example. Let’s say the category had been in existence. If you just assume that Oscar voters will just be boring and cite five of the Best Picture nominees in this field. That would mean just another nod for the likes of 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska, and The Wolf of Wall Street, if I had to guess. That’s nothing too special. Now, if this imagined category would allow for the likes of August: Osage County, Blue Jasmine, Inside Llewyn Davis, Prisoners, and Saving Mr. Banks instead (just to throw five out there), wouldn’t that make for a more interesting lineup? Even more so if more ignored/smaller contenders like Blue is the Warmest Color, Frozen (as way to acknowledge voice work), Lone Survivor, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, or The Spectacular Now were able to get those open noms.
This year, if the category were to exist, there’d be no shortage of potential ensembles to honor. Members of the Academy will be able to choose from plenty of stacked casts in films like Birdman, Boyhood, Foxcatcher, Fury, Gone Girl, The Imitation Game, Inherent Vice, Interstellar, Into the Woods, Maps to the Stars, Men Women & Children, and Unbroken, just to name a few. […]

A third of the way through 2014 and there are no Oscar contenders

Well, this is a bit of a bummer. It just dawned on me how rare it is that we’re basically at the start of the summer movie season and we’ve yet to have a real Best Picture contender debut anywhere, even at a film festival. It’s now May and a third of the year has passed…usually by now either the Sundance Film Festival or the Tribeca Film Festival has been home to at least one or two likely contenders, alongside whatever early year releases catch our attention. That really hasn’t been the case this time around, likely leading to another situation where the final months of the year will be a logjam of movies hoping to crack the Oscar lineup.
The closest we’ve had to a contender is Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, which debuted at Sundance, but that’s such a hard film to figure out. I’m very high on it, and spoke glowingly of its potential just a matter of days ago, but there’s a strong possibility that Oscar voters will ignore it. That seemed to be Park City’s only major option, which is not the norm. Usually there’s a handful of titles hoping to transition from there to the Oscar race. Just last year we had Before Midnight, Fruitvale Station (then just called Fruitvale), The Spectacular Now, and Stories We Tell, to name most of the major awards hopefuls from that fest. This year, it seems to be Linklater’s flick or bust.
Tribeca had even slimmer pickings, with none of their debuts being on that level and only Jon Favreau’s Chef seeming like anything worth mentioning in passing as an awards player. I’m a huge fan of the film, but it’s very light and probably too simple of a movie to catch on with voters in any sort of a major way. That’s a shame, but it’s also the truth.
As for the wide releases, the best chances would have been George Clooney’s The Monuments Men and Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, but both of those movies were met with very mixed reviews, even if both are box office success stories. The films needed to be critical darlings, and neither came close to that, so the technical categories will really be the only places where they can make a mark. A shut out is just as likely for each though, especially considering the early release dates they were stuck with.
I will say that among the […]

Critics’ Choice: Joey Berlin from BFCA

Joey Berlin from the Broadcast Film Critics Association – Critics’ Choice Awards
By ROBERT W. WELKOS
In 1995, Joey Berlin and Rod Lurie, two entertainment reporters and film critics who had written for rival publications, joined forces to create the Broadcast Film Critics Assn.
While Lurie would go on to carve out a successful Hollywood career as a screenwriter and director with such films as “The Contender” and “The Last Castle,” Berlin hasn’t faired too badly, either, as the president of the BFCA.
Starting with 44 members the first year, the BFCA’s voting membership today hovers between 285 and 290 and the organization bills itself as the largest film critics group in the U.S. and Canada.
At the same time, the BFCA created the Critics’ Choice Awards, a glitzy tux-and-gown gala now televised on the CW Network that features red carpet celebrity arrivals, drawing worldwide media attention and plenty of Oscar buzz since the show coincides with the run-up to the Academy Awards.
But as the show has catapulted the broadcast critics into the Oscar conversation each movies awards season, tax records show that the nonprofit group Berlin leads has paid his privately-owned company, Berlin Entertainment, Inc., hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for production services.
Read prior Broadcast Film Critics Association story here at Hollywoodnews.com
IRS Form 990 filings list Berlin Entertainment, Inc., receiving a combined $992,270 from the nonprofit between fiscal 2009 and 2011.
Berlin notes that his members seem to be satisfied with the job he’s doing since he has been repeatedly re-elected president every two years.
The tax files show that Berlin’s base compensation and benefits were a combined $1,297,133 for the three-year period spanning fiscal 2009 to 2011. But his compensation is listed as coming from “related organizations” and not directly from the BFCA, according to the Form 990 documents, which all nonprofits are required to file with the IRS to qualify for tax-exempt status.
When asked about his sizeable compensation, Berlin told HollywoodNews.com in a recent telephone interview: “I did this for five years for zero compensation, but this is what I do all day, every day. I’m really proud of what we’ve built and accomplished….
“My compensation has grown with the growth of the show,” he adds without apology. “The television show is an incredible benefit to the members.” He notes that these benefits include such things as access and awards screeners. “That seems a comfortable arrangement for everybody.”
One […]

Oscars®: The Top 25 (Best Original Screenplay)

Continuing a new weekly series I’m doing…we’re talking the top 25 Oscar winners in just about every single one of the Academy Award categories. Aside from the shorts and something like Best Sound Mixing like I mentioned previously, I’ll be hitting them all over the coming weeks and months, including of course the big eight categories.
Today I’ll even knock off the first of those big ones, the ever interesting Best Original Screenplay category. Depending on the category in question, I may wind up discussing the individual winners I’m citing specifically or just giving more of a broad overview of the winners, but for now, I’ll still keeping it simple early on. Like I said last week though, in all honesty, you all mostly just want to see the list anyway, so I have no problem obliging you there in that particular regard. All you have to do is just be patient over the next few paragraphs…
Best Original Screenplay is personally one of my favorite Oscar categories, due to the absolute creativity that you can see on display here. Voters sometimes even go out of their comfort zone in honoring scripts written for projects that they’d never touch in the Best Picture category (though that’s begun to change a bit). I think you’ll be able to see a pattern emerging among my winners, as some of their more out there choices have been my favorites. Maybe that says more about me than it does about members of the Academy, but hey, we should all be thankful that some of these screenplays were able to win those Oscars, as they’ve inspired countless other writers in the years since.
This week, for this screenplay category, what I’m going to do is give you the list right now, with a few words about each of the top 25 victors that I’ve chosen. The big eight categories cater to this style nicely, so that’s likely how it’ll go for all of those. Here we go:
25. American Beauty (Alan Ball) – The film hasn’t aged well, but the script itself remains scathingly funny to me. A satire of middle class life and mid life crises, Alan Ball hit on something here, at least at the time. He hasn’t been able to get back to that level since then with his work, but man did he deserve the Oscar for this one, no question about that.
24. Pillow […]

Oscars®: Thinking Out Loud: Random Movie Musings

I’m trying something new here today…namely, just sort of thinking out loud about a few different topics, hence the title. Some of these musings might turn into full blown articles down the line, but for now, this is basically a look at what’s swimming around in my head. Everything will be more or less Oscar related, but it’ll all tie into movies, that much I’m sure of. For now, I’ll present things just as a series of bullet point paragraphs, but we’ll see how it evolves over the course of the weeks to come. I’m aiming to do this every Saturday, but again, we’ll see how everything goes from here. This first installment is very much just an experiment.
-Am I the only one who’s not interested in trying to make a feud between 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen and the film’s writer John Ridley? Yes, there might have been some hard feelings for a time over whether McQueen was going to be able to get a co-writing credit for the film, but does it really matter if Ridley overtly thanks him in his acceptance speeches, or vice-versa? It’s possible that I just put less stock in manufactured controversy than most, but I really don’t see what the fuss is about this. In the end, they both have Oscars and are Academy Award winners (plus their movie won Best Picture), so shouldn’t that be the trump card in this situation?
-We’re almost a week removed from the Oscar telecast, but does anyone else feel like the awards season is still going on? Maybe it’s just my brain still packed with winner possibilities, but there have been moments this week where I’ve found myself still considering the chances of upsets in certain categories. Perhaps I’m just retroactively trying to figure out exactly what went down on Sunday, but this doesn’t usually happen to me, so it’s all the more noticeable.
-Is it just me or are movies slowly getting better during the months of January, February, and March? I know that March has been steadily turning into a summer month over the past few years, but January and February have long been little more than dumping grounds. The former still has plenty of expanding Academy Award nominees to fill up multiplexes, but some interesting independent titles are popping up, while the latter month is nowhere near as porous as I remember it […]

The Oscars® were no enormous shame, a few good jokes, no great shocks

I’m a big fan of Ellen DeGeneres and her understated, often brilliant humor. This was most evident when she hosted the 2001 Emmy Awards after the horrific events in New York and Washington that year. The show was postponed twice, and when it finally aired a couple of months later the big question was how it could be entertaining?
Almost from the outset Ellen delivered. To paraphrase what she said, it was something like the terrorists could not break our spirit. Then she paused and deadpanned that only network executives could do that.

It was funny, unexpected yet absolutely true. It related to the events just passed, but broke the ice and allowed the show to go on to its true purpose after the long delay.

The Oscars Rate a B-Minus.
I wish I could say Ellen’s performance last night rose to that occasion. Though it generally retained the dignity and glamour that audiences expect, something lost in last year’s show hosted by Seth MacFarlane, it was mostly bland with repetitive jokes and occasional good moments. Having said that, I cringed a bit when Ellen repeated out loud and very slowly a compliment to Nebraska supporting actress nominee June Squibb, whom Ellen had termed the oldest Oscar nominee ever, as if the actress were almost deaf and needed careful attention to hear her remarks.

Throughout the ABC show, Ellen drew from a past playbook and redid bits from the last time she hosted in 2007, often appearing in the audience, talking with this celebrity or that and taking photos. In one segment she asked if anyone was hungry, which drew very few responses and went on much too long. However, when a pizza man arrived later in the show, though only with three pizzas, it was amusing to see how many celebrities accepted a slice, including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Harrison Ford. And that no one initially responded to Ellen’s request for donations to pay the man.
To read Michael Russnow’s latest book, “Hollywood on the Danube,” go to www.createspace.com/4497564

I’d thought sometime later it would have been funny if the delivery man, denied payment, started taking back the pizza slices from Meryl, Julia and the others. However, they eventually paid the bit off when Ellen passed a hat into which producer Harvey Weinstein threw two hundred dollars and several celebrities forked over twenty or more dollars each. By my count that was over three hundred […]

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