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“The Artist” Takes the Producers Guild

January 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Well, folks, I’m sorry to say that this Oscar race just keeps getting more and more boring by the minute. After taking a lion’s share of the critics awards (including the televised Critics Choice) and three Golden Globes, “The Artist” has began its domination of this industry’s guilds, as well. While one wants to discredit the circulating logic that this year’s frontrunner has had the big award sealed up since Cannes, it becomes more and more difficult to deny it, everyday.

Much like “The Hurt Locker” did, two years prior, “The Artist” defied a certain common logic by taking this prize, being the lowest money-earner of the group. The most profitable of said nominees would be “The Help,” which grossed around $160 million dollars, domestically. Second is “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” which is steadily creeping up on the $100 million mark. yet, following a similar (though not as rushed) release schedule as last year’s Best Picture winner, “The King’s Speech,” which at this point in its theatrical run had already earned around $46 million, “The Artist” has scored a measly $9.2. Much of this can be due to relatively low word of mouth, a lack of stars, a foreign origin, it’s black and white print and…oh yeah…IT’S SILENT. Not exactly a recipe for monetary success.

However, while Harvey Weinstein isn’t always the best at making money, there’s one thing he is the boss at. That skill can be referred to as quietly rigging the Oscars. Granted that he never performs any illegal activities to do so (at least none that have been proven), the man always finds the right buttons to press to make everything go his way. One would like to believe that if a movie is smart, entertaining and an extremely well-maid endeavor, it would have a fighting chance for Oscar gold. Yet, in reality, we all know that this race was over before it began.

This was widely considered the last stand for many films, trying to peck out a piece of the precursor pie. A win here for “The Descendants,” “The Help” or “Hugo” would show that this is more than just a one-horse race. However, it looks as though they will all have to find comfort and satisfaction in a nomination. That’s pretty much all one can ask for in a race against “The Punisher” (Weinstein’s new nickname, endowed by Michelle Williams). True, “The Help” is still the frontrunner for the SAG Ensemble Award and we can all hope that Martin Scorsese takes the DGA if for no other reason than to shake things up, but soon might be time to accept the inevitable. This Oscar season…sadly…is over.

Here’s the full list of film winners from the Producers Guild Awards, announced late last night:

Producer of the Year Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures: “The Artist”

Producer of the Year Award in Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures : “The Adventures of Tintin”

Producer of the Year Award in Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures: “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels Of A Tribe Called Quest”

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18 Official Contenders in Best Animated Film

November 7, 2011 2 comments

According to the Academy’s press release, there are 18 full length films that have been submitted in the category of Best Animated Feature, this year. As some of you know, there are certain Oscars (including Visual Effects and Documentary Feature) which actually get narrowed down to a series of finalists before the big event. Here is the list of films that have a shot of being nominated in this column:

“The Adventures of Tintin”
“Alois Nebel”
“Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked”
“Arthur Christmas”
“Cars 2″
“A Cat in Paris”
“Chico & Rita”
“Gnomeo & Juliet”
“Happy Feet Two”
“Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil”
“Kung Fu Panda 2″
“Mars Needs Moms”
“Puss in Boots”
“Rango”
“Rio”
“The Smurfs”
“Winnie the Pooh”
“Wrinkles”

This list is pretty significant for two reasons. For one, the number of eligible films will dictate that there will be five nominees instead of just three. In order for that number to be assured, the Academy dictates that there must be at least fifteen qualifiers. Therefore, as long as all of these films meet their 2011 release dates, five of these films will be going to the Oscars. Since the award’s inception in 2001, we’ve only seen five nominees once in 2009 when “Up” took home the gold (wrongfully, in my opinion, over “Fantastic Mr. Fox”).

Another significant update this news seems to unveil is that “The Adventures of Tintin” will apparently compete as an animated film. Steven Spielberg and Paramount originally put up a fuss that the film should have it’s own category of motion capture media. In response, I like to quote Morgan Freeman from an Oscar round table in 2009 when he qualified “Avatar” and all motion capture projects as “basically cartoons.” Way to be a boss, Red. In the end, I suppose the film’s director conceded, perhaps realizing the film’s real potential at winning the Animated Feature award. It will likely be in a showdown with the year’s other major contender, the gorgeous yet creatively flawed “Rango,” if only since that seems to be the only other likely challenger that isn’t a hodgepodge sequel to a former winner or nominee.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this year’s race is that, for the first time in five years, it appears that Pixar will not be taking home the gold. To find the last time that another studio was able to take down that juggernaut, one must go all the way back to 2006 (the year “The Departed” won Best Picture, to put things in perspective) when “Happy Feet” narrowly beat out “Cars” for the Oscar. Ironically, both films have sequels competing against each other again this season. Since then, Pixar has kept knocking down the competition like bottles in a shooting gallery with films like “Ratatouille,” “WALL-E,” “Up” and “Toy Story 3.” I guess they will have to keep their seats this year and let the mantel pass to someone else.

The way this is shaping up now, I’d say our field will look like:

1. “The Adventures of Tintin”
2. “Rango”
3. “Cars 2”
4. “Puss in Boots”
5. “Happy Feet 2”

Alt 1: “Arthur Christmas”
Alt 2: “Winnie the Pooh”

In reality, the race really is down to those top two. “Cars 2” will make it in just based on the clout of it’s studio. Six months ago, “Puss in Boots” seemed like an odd choice for a contender. Yet the film is performing extremely well, barely dropping a dime in its second weekend from its opening gross. The “Happy Feet” sequel is very much up in the air right now. It will probably need to break the bank in order to stay ahead of the other dark horses.

Keep reading The Edge of the Frame for more updates to this year’s Oscar race. The finalists for Best Documentary Feature shouldn’t be too far away.

First Look at Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse”

March 12, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s funny to pay attention to world-class director Steven Spielberg’s working schedule. The man has a habit of going on two to three year hiatuses without releasing any films. Then, suddenly he will compete against himself by releasing upwards of two films in a very short time frame. He performed this act in 2005 with “War of the Worlds” and “Munich,” in 2002 with “Catch Me If You Can” and “Minority Report,” in 1997 with “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and “Amistad,” and, perhaps his most acclaimed and successful year, in 1993 with “Schindler’s List” and “Jurassic Park.”

Now, 2011 will become another such “year of Spielberg.” Will it be a good one? Who can tell at this point. Everyone has heard quite a bit about the auteur’s animated venture with Peter Jackson, “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn.” I am personally not looking forward to this project at all, however, without a highly profile Pixar release this year (I consider the idea of a “Cars” sequel to be laughable), the Best Animated Feature category at the Oscars is really kind of wide open, this year. And how hilarious would it be to see Steven Spielberg accept and Academy Award for the animated medium?

Meanwhile, Spielberg’s other project, “War Horse” has been largely secretive in its production phase. The film is adapted from both a 1982 children’s novel and highly acclaimed stage play from the current decade. It tells the story of a teenage boy and his horse who share a very strong connection of friendship. However, that relationship is separated when the horse is conscripted into service in World War I. The film sounds to me like sentimental-city, but it is Spielberg paired up with a story of war, a subject he has definitely reached some level of expertise at directing.

Anyway, the first stills from the film have been released. One is above and the rest are below. The movie is currently entering the cutting room and is slated for a December release. I am highly anticipating it.