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The ACE, CAS and Scripter…Oh, my!

February 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Seven days left, folks. It’s the deep breath before the plunge. The last of the ballots are being finalized and pundits are making their final predictions. And while most of the race seems like a done deal, sealed and locked, there’s always the chance of a few upsets around the bend.

Aside from what I already mentioned, another event occurring in this final week is the rush for precursors to get their awards out before last call of the year. This weekend is a hornets nest of accolades being dished out almost faster than I can report them. While the Writers Guild is set to announce tonight, the other major screenplay award declared its winner yesterday evening. The USC Library Scripter, awarded each year to the finest example of adapting a film from another medium, went to Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash and novelist Kaui Hart Hemmings for “The Descendants.” Not at all a surprise, given the quality of the work. Personally I was predicting “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” to take this down. Also, the Scripter has absolutely no affiliation with the Academy or any other guild, so aside from common taste, this win has no impact on the Oscar outcome.

While “The Descendants” winning the Scripter was fairly expected, what was not was it’s simultaneous win with the American Cinema Editors. Forgive me, but this has to be one of the more outrageous and, more or less, absurd victories of the year. Going up against “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “Hugo,” “War Horse” and, for god’s sake, “Moneyball,” the actual winner was the least deserving of any of the dramatic nominees. It’s the only film in which the editing really adds no level of complexity or character. I really have no idea what this group was thinking. In the musical/comedy category, “The Artist” very expectantly took home the prize. Originally, this award seemed like a tight race between said frontrunner and either “Hugo” or “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Yet, with this turn of events, it seems as though “The Artist” has a huge advantage next weekend. Add it to the pile.

The final award issued last night was the Cinema Audio Society, the guild equivalent of the Best Sound Mixing Oscar. As was largely expected, “Hugo” took this award home. This year presented a fairly odd situation, with the CAS and Oscar nominees only lining up 2/5 (only the second time in the CAS’ existence that their opinions differed so radically). However, going with statistics, NEVER since the formation of the CAS has a film won Best Sound Mixing without even being nominated by the guild. That would leave “Moneyball” and “Hugo.” With the latter winning the support from the guild, it has more than confirmed its frontrunner status. In fact a sweep of both sound categories is becoming more and more likely, but we’ll wait on the Motion Picture Sound Editors to announce, tonight.

With the WGA hours away, weighing extremely on the adapted screenplay field, I’ll make a prediction. However, my choice is definitely a lot more wishful thinking than common sense. If “Moneyball” takes this award down, it will reassert itself at the head of the pack (making me one happy pundit), although “The Descendants” is a steep wall to climb and the odds are definitely in its corner. I’ll stick with my favorite horse, though, but whatever wins here, will likely go on to Oscar gold.

Interestingly, while the adapted field will likely be decided tonight, the WGA’s Best Original Screenplay award will have little to no impact on the Oscar’s equivalent, barring any unforeseen upset. “Midnight in Paris” will likely take this award in a walk, but still move on to a dogfight next Sunday. That’s because the film’s stiffest opposition will not even be competing tonight. “The Artist,” which has basically become either the frontrunner or a threat in all of its categories, fell victim to the WGA’s strict eligibility rules. Therefore, even if Woody the Great is the winner tonight, “The Artist” just might be the odds-on favorite in seven days. It will be one of the night’s closest races for sure.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for updates from tonight’s awards, as well as the announcement of the 2nd Annual Edgy nominations. It’s about to get interesting.

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The DGA Nominations! Fincher In, Spielberg Out

January 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Well, as it turns out, I was 100% correct on David Fincher making it in, here. I pat myself on the back for that. What I was wrong about was who he would replace. It looks as though Steven Spielberg’s reign of dominance among his peers in the Directors Guild has finally come to an end. In a weird way, it’s almost like a changing of the guard, with David Fincher taking over that mantel.

As I figured, Hazanavicius, Scorsese and Payne had all secured their spots a while ago. However, I stand fully corrected in regards to my comments about Woody Allen. Looks like his comeback work on “Midnight in Paris” was enough to pull him through after all. Personally, I don’t think Allen or Spielberg deserve a mention this year, and a lot of fantastic young talent in the form of Bennett Miller, Nicholas Wending Refn and Steve McQueen got the shaft.

Well, not much else to say. I still believe that this race is securely a two-horse one between Hazanavicius and Scorsese. We’ll see what turns up.

Here are the nominees:

Woody Allen – “Midnight in Paris”
David Fincher – “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
Michael Hazanavicius – “The Artist”
Alexander Payne – “The Descendants”
Martin Scorsese – “Hugo”

DGA Predictions 2012

January 9, 2012 Leave a comment

I really didn’t even feel like doing this. In fact, I’ve always had an aversion to predicting the DGA. Trying to correctly predict these five nominees feels a bit like shooting fish in a barrel with an unloaded gun. Sure, there’s the chance that they’ll be exactly what people are expecting, but…no…they never are. there’s always that fifth slot that never does what you want it to do.

The one nice thing about the DGA is that it makes things infinitely clearer in the actual Oscar race. I can recall only twice in the last ten years that the DGA hasn’t lined up with the Academy’s five Best Director nods with at least 4 out of 5 slots, and twice in those ten years, it’s been a perfect match. Ever since the Academy altered the number of Best Picture nominees, using the DGA as a predictive tool has changed a bit, as well. Instead of using it as a guide for the five nominees, the lucky directors now point to which films are absolute locks. Ironically, during the age of five nominees, the DGA was actually a better predictor for Best Picture then for its own category.

All right, well, here’s how I see the cookie crumbling. I would say that the two locks are Michael Hazavanicius and Martin Scorsese. Of the major contenders, they’ve divvied up nearly all of the critics awards and just seem to have the most clout, right now. Next on that list would be Alexander Payne. While his direction isn’t the strong point of the movie, the film is just too strong of a contender, thus far, for him to simply be left out.

The last two spots get kind of tricky. Despite the difficult time “War Horse” is having with the guilds, Spielberg shouldn’t have much trouble making his way in here. The same was happening with “Munich” in ’05 (a much superior film to “War Horse,” I might add) and he still handled the DGA. This seemed to single-handedly resurrect it back into the Oscar race. To be honest, the DGA has always drooled over Spielberg. Ten career nominations, three wins and a lifetime achievement award. When he has a film in contention, it’s simply more likely to see him nominated than not.

So for the final spot, I am going to make my “out on a limb” choice by saying that Woody Allen will miss. This will be the decision that I’ll likely be kicking myself for tomorrow, but as you are about to read, I have my reasons. At this point in Allen’s career, even if this is somewhat of a comeback film, I feel that the industry will be satisfied with just recognizing his writing. As it has been since the early nineties, nominating the film’s screenplay should suffice, making his directorial efforts easy to overlook.

As for who’s taking his spot, there’s plenty of choices. It’s quite possible Terrence Malick’s clout might carry over into the guild of his peers, yet I get the feeling that “The Tree of Life”‘s support will likely remain among the critics. Until this past week, near-rookie Tate Taylor seemed like a long shot, but the overwhelming love for “The Help” in the guilds has made said nomination more and more of a possibility. If wishing made it so, I would enjoy seeing Bennett Miller show up here in recognition for his steady and assured crafting of “Moneyball.” After all, not many saw his previous nomination coming for “Capote.” Yet, the young artist’s failure to bring in even a single nomination this season has left that option unlikely. One choice that would certainly throw a wrench in the mix would be the stellar Nicholas Wending Refn, who’s work on “Drive” earned him this award at Cannes. But, lack of a PGA mention for the film makes his chances less promising.

That leaves me with the one and only David Fincher. While his re-adaptation of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” isn’t turning quite as many heads as the studio had hoped, the film’s director has something going for him which puts him a step ahead of his competition. That factor is the enormous amount of residual respect leftover from last year’s awards season. After both the DGA and the Oscars incomprehensibly snubbed the master of his much-deserved awards for “The Social Network,” I imagined that there had to be a fair amount of guilt churning around the industry. And while “TGWTDT” isn’t quite as extraordinary as the former, it’s certainly good enough for his peers to throw him an apologetic bone. I’ve had this aching feeling all year long, and with the film nabbing unexpected nominations from the PGA, ADG and WGA, said scenario seems now more likely than ever before.

My Predix:
1. Martin Scorsese – “Hugo”
2. Michael Hazavanicius – “The Artist”
3. Alexander Payne – “The Descendants”
4. Steven Spielberg – “War Horse”
5. David Fincher – “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Alts:
6. Woody Allen – “Midnight in Paris”
7. Tate Taylor – “The Help”
8. Bennett Miller – “Moneyball”
9. Terrence Malick – “The Tree of Life”
10. Nicholas Wending Refn – “Drive”

Well, there you have it. Check back tomorrow afternoon to see which choice (or choices) I’ll be crying over.

2011 Venice Film Festival Lineup = WOW

There are four major film festivals that occur in the world which Oscar pundits eagerly anticipate. Sundance kicks things off in Utah during January. Springtime brings about the prestige and glory of the Cannes in southern France. The season is then capped off with bicoastal festivals in Venice, Italy and Toronto, Ontario, both occurring in the month of September.

Presently, we’re halfway through the year and September is fast approaching. While the TIFF announced its lineup last week, Venice has recently joined the club. Both showings are killer and contain more than a few likely contenders. Expect “The Ides of March,” “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and “A Dangerous Method” to develop as Oscar contenders (as well as a good horse to bet on for the Festival’s prize). However, don’t count out “Carnage” (featured below) directed by European favorite Roman Polanski or “Shame” the sophomore effort by Steve McQueen to take home the Venice gold.

Here is the lineup for the 2011 Venice Film Festival:

Venice 2011  Competition

The Ides Of March – George Clooney (US) [opening film]
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – Tomas Alfredson (UK, Germany)
Wuthering Heights – Andrea Arnold (UK)
Texas Killing Fields – Ami Canaan Maan (US)
Quando La Notte – Cristina Comencini (Italy)
Terraferma – Emanuele Crialese (Italy/France)
A Dangerous Method – David Cronenberg (Germany/Canada)
4:44 Last Day On Earth – Abel Ferrara (US)
Killer Joe – William Friedkin (US)
Un Ete Brulant – Philippe Garrel (France/Italy/Switzerland)
A Simple Life (Taojie) – Ann Hui (China/Hong Kong)
The Exchange (Hahithalfut) – Eran Kolirin (Israel)
Alps (Alpeis) -Yorgos Lanthimos (Greece)
Shame – Steve McQueen (UK)
L’ultimo Terrestre – Gian Alfonso Pacinotti (Italy)
Carnage – Roman Polanski (France/Germany/Spain/Poland)
Chicken With Plums – Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud (France/Belgium/Germany)
Faust – Aleksander Sokurov (Russia)
Dark Horse – Todd Solondz (US)
Himizu – Sion Sono (Japan)
Seediq Bale – Wei Te-Sheng (Taiwan)

Out of Competition

Vivan las Antipodas! – Victor Kossakovsky
(Germany/Argentina/Holland/Chile/Russia) [opening film]
Damsels In Distress – Whit Stillman (US) [closing film]
La Folie Almayer – Chantal Akerman (Belgium/France)
The Sorcerer And The White Snake (Baish Echuanshuo) – Tony Ching Siu-Tung (China/Hong Kong)
Giochi D’estate – Rolando Colla (Switzerland/Italy)
La Desintegration – Philippe Fauchon (Belgium)
The Moth Diaries – Mary Harron (Canada/Ireland)
Alois Nebel – Tomas Lunak (Czech Republic/Germany)
W.E. – Madonna (UK)
Eva – Kike Maillo (UK)
Scossa – Francesco Maselli, Carlo Lizzani, Ugo Gregoretti, Nino Russo (Italy)
La Cle Des Champs – Claude Nuridsany, Marie Perennou (France)
Il Villaggio Di Cartone – Ermanno Olmi (Italy)
Wilde Salome – Al Pacino (US)
Tormented – Takashi Shimizu (Japan)
Contagion – Steven Soderbergh (US)
La Meditazione Di Hayez – Mario Martone (Italy) (short)
Tahrir 2011 – Tamer Ezzat, Ahmad Abdalla, Ayten Amin, Amr Salama (Egypt)
The End – Collectif Abounaddara (Syria)
Vanguard – Colleftif Abounaddara (Syria)
Evolution (Megaplex)(3D – Marco Brambilla (US)

Out of Competition Events


Questa Storia Qua – Alessandro Paris, Sibylle Righetti (Italy)
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel – Lisa Immordino Vreeland (US)
Golden Career Lion – Nel Nome Del Padre – Marcho Bellocchio (Italy)

The Toronto Fest includes some of the same titles, but in addition will also feature some stellar contenders such as:

“The Descendants” by Alexander Payne,
“Albert Nobbs” by Rodrigo Garcia
“360” by Fernando Merielles
“Moneyball” by Bennett Miller
“Corolianus” by Ralph Fiennes
“Drive” by Nicolas Winding Refn
“Machine Gun Preacher” by Marc Forster
“Melancholia” by Lars von Trier
“Rampart” by Oren Moverman
“The Skin I Live In” by Pedro Almodovar
“Take Shelter” by Jeff Nichols
“Twixt” by Francis Ford Coppola

There are more than a few that I did not even bother to mention, so, just from looking at this list, I’m beginning to realize that this movie season has potentially quite a bit to offer. I look forward to covering it.