a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Animal Kingdom’

5 SAG men and 5 SAG women poised to score Oscar noms

At this juncture, the first post of the New Year 2012, I’m beginning to think of the Oscar landscape as sort of a roiling seascape. It’s most fascinating aspect is the tides, their ever-changing ebb and flow. And it does change, this Oscar race, we are all so avidly following. And if you’re not, why are you reading this???

So what’s changed since yesterday? Well, certain box office numbers came in, and came in lower than expected. Like for instance, the holiday numbers of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” which are OK, but not the blockbuster figures Sony was hoping for with a $100 million budget. This hurts Rooney Mara’s nascent Oscar campaign, I’m afraid. Right at the time the voters have received their ballots in their homes.

Most send them RIGHT BACK, making sure that they are counted. You can check out the stats at www.boxofficemojo.com And “The Iron Lady” opened strong, but not THAT strong. Everybody these days feels that the first weekend is everything, and especially in the middle of the Oscar campaigns, that is not necessarily the case.

But “Dragon Tattoo” is not measuring up, and I think that dooms Rooney Mara’s chance to crack that locked and loaded Five SAG women, who are nominated for Best Actress. I think that on Oscar morning, we’ll find out that Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Viola Davis, Michelle Williams and yes, Tilda Swinton, are going to repeat their SAG nomination victories. If you consider the SAG nominations a victory. And they are of sorts.

Of course, it’s an honor. It is after all your peers voting for you here. And it’s the first glimpse we get into what the all important Hollywood guilds are actually thinking and feeling right about now. And the above ladies are who they are feeling for.

Rooney Mara is the newbie, the upstart outsider trying to get in, but…with those numbers at the B.O. I’m afraid “Dragon Tattoo” is not going to make  it into that very locked-up-for-ages category.

You always wish they could expand the category just a LEEETLE bit, but, of course, they never do. It’s against the rules.

Then there’s the Five SAG men. And last night I finally got a chance to watch Demian Bichir’s out-of-the-blue nominated performance in the leeetle-seen Indie “A Better Life.” It starts slow, but then BANG! It blew me out of the water and Bechir held me in the grip of his powerful, moving performance as a Mexican father, an illegal immigrant in today’s L.A., who is working as a gardener and trying to make “A Better Life” for his son. He was heroic. No anti-hero here. And troubles galore do ensue, as he is always trying to do the right, moral thing in the immoral, or amoral world of the hispanic underclass.

It’s a terrific film and a great performance by Bichir. Summit Entertainment, the film’s distributor, did the smart & impossible that usually is associated with Sony Pictures Classics or Lionsgate,  by sending out the DVD screeners of this film to the entire SAG membership, and most especially the 2100 members of their nominating committee EARLY. REALLY EARLY. Like SPC did last year with “Animal Kingdom” that just as unseen-in-theaters film that got Australian actress Jackie Weaver an Oscar nomination in Supporting Actress last year. She didn’t win, but in her very unlikely case, it was a honor just to be nominated. And like Lionsgate did so famously with “Crash” upsetting “Brokeback Mountain.” That was in 2005. And the strategy still works.

Oh! Those September screeners! Those first out-of-the-box DVDs to arrive at a time when the voters have time to watch them. Like in the REALLY early fall. Like Labor Day. And it seemed EVERYone in SAG watched “A Better Life” and were equally wowed, as I was, by Bichir’s heart-wrenching performance.

He didn’t repeat this at the Golden Globe awards. He was replaced there by Michael Fassbender for “Shame” And much as I adore Michael F. and his constant full frontal nudity didn’t faze me in the least, I think it WILL faze the S.W.O.R.M, The Straight White Old Rich Men, who make up the Academy. Yes, as I’m always pointing out, THEY are the majority. Like it or not, that’s what we’re dealing with here. ALWAYS.

And sadly, the double standard is still in effect. The naked young girl, like for instance, last year’s Natalie Portman, almost always wins over the older actresses who are also nominated. I think, as I’ve said many times, this “Babe Rule” is going to apply once again this year in a close race for Best Actress between Michelle Williams and her older cohorts.

But oh no! MEN can’t be seen naked in Hollywood films! Especially not from the front! And especially when shown urinating! And yes, you don’t just HEAR it happening! You see the actual, physical process taking place RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU! Michael Fassbender is facing upstage(and totally naked, again, natch) but you get the picture.

But the Academy won’t get this picture. They are nothing, if not closet prudes and homophobes as we know (See “Brokeback Mountain” NOT winning in 2005) So no, to Michael Fassbender, and yes, to Demien Bichir. As the SAGS have already said.

Also, “Shame”s box-office is not registering with movie-goers despite the constant sex scenes and the as-noted nudity. See BoxOfficeMojo, again. Which is, well, a shame.

What is doing WELL at the Box Office surprisingly is “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” which is a British film that boasts a terrifically understated performance by the great actor Gary Oldman, who has never ONCE been nominated. He could sneak in here and replace Bichir, if the large British voting bloc within the Academy votes for him and not Mexican  Bichir. But George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jean Dujardin of “The Artist” I think are as equally locked and loaded in their category of Best Actor, as the five aforementioned ladies are in their category.

The Supporting races, especially Best Supporting Actress, are usually not SAG matches and are usually all over the place. So much so that I will discuss them separately. But the SAG 5 & 5 rule!

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Melissa-gate gets worse. Paramount cuts her out of TV ads.

I feel so awful for Melissa Leo. This situation just keeps getting worse and worse and at the worse time possible, right in the middle of the Oscar campaign season, i. e. the voting itself. Which is going on right now.

It’s one thing to take out personal ads. A move, it must be said that has won NO ONE an Oscar doing it.

It’s gotten people nominations, but it’s never gotten anyone an Oscar win.

Sally Kirkland’s name keeps being brought up, and yes, there is a resemblance. Sally’s own self-financed Oscar ads for “Anna” a great film, that was a teeny tiny indie that started at the Montreal Film Festival in 1987 did lead to her getting a nomination for the Best Actress Oscar, then the Golden Globe, which she one for Best Actress, Drama. But she lost the Oscar to Cher. Sally was roughly Melissa’s age, and “Anna” was her only Oscar chance. She never had a shot like that again. And I know Sally. She never got over this loss.

Melissa Leo was in a completely different position this year being the front runner in the Best Supporting Actress category. And having won the Broadcast Film Critics, then the Golden Globe, then the SAG awards all in that category. She seemes unstoppable until she took out those self-bought ads.

People think they’re tacky. But Melissa is even more beautiful than those ads. They were a bit “Dynasty”-esque…but the point is Who told her to do this? Where was her management? Did she have a personal publicist who TOLD her to do this? If so, WHO WAS THIS IDIOT!?!

But I maintain that it wasn’t just the ads, it’s what she then started saying to of all people Nicki Finke’s www.deadlinehollywood.com via Pete Hammond. That article really did her in. Why? Because the ads and this Hammond/Finke rant blindsided Paramount, who is the distributor of “The Fighter.”

And then she says it all over again to The Hollywood Reporter’s Tim Appello. www.hollywoodreporter.com

Read it and weep.

I totally sympathesize with her personally. She’s 50. The same age, BTW as Best Actor Frontrunner, Colin Firth(the King of “King’s Speech”) and she can’t get a magazine cover. In fact, she’s not even PICTURED or MENTIONED in Vanity Fair’s must-buy Hollywood Issue.

Hailee Steinfeld gets a paired color PAGE, paired with Elle Fanning, under the headline “The Old Souls”. Helena Bonham-Carter gets a whole page to herself, looking quite bananas, but then that’s her thing these days evidently. But she can get away with it. She’s British. She’s eccentric.

But the most shocking reaction to this is the speed with which Paramount yanked their “Fighter” ads, which DID feature Melissa as heavily as they featured Christian Bale, who, sorry to say, is the frontrunner in Best Supporting Actor.

Christian is no walk-in-the-park in terms of his relationship with the press. But at this moment Melissa-gate is making him look like Bambi.

So then last night, the ads made a sudden re-appearance, withOUT Melissa!?!?! But WITH Christian!!! IOW, Paramount cut her out of their own pictures promotion!!!

Paramount, meanwhile, to those not paying attention to this sort of thing, Paramount has THREE of the Best Supporting Actress nominees out of five this year. Hailee Steinfeld from “True Grit” and ALSO Amy Adams from “The Fighter.” The other two nominees are Helena Bonham-Carter for “The King’s Speech” and Jackie Weaver from “The Animal Kingdom.”

Melissa Leo’s Self-Bought Oscar Ads=Career Suicide?

Oh, no, she didn’t!

Yes, she did.

Supporting Actress frontrunner Melissa Leo has just taken out a considerable amount of personal ads for herself in Hollywood Trade Papers and on movie news sites like “Deadline:Hollywood” where she talked to their Pete Hammond and basically blindsided Paramount, then slammed them(specifically studio execs and publicists) to Hammond for her not landing on magazine covers at this crucial time of the year.

You can read the entire run-down and blow-by-blow history of what Melissa just did to her almost assured Oscar win (she won the Golden Globe, the Broadcast Film Critics and the Screen Actors Guild Award)at www.deadlinehollywood.com and the article is entitled “Melissa Leo Goes Rogue with her own Oscar ad campaign.)

Pete Hammond in a very well researched piece runs down the history of actors who have done this and upon re-reading it, I noticed that not one of these results in an Oscar win. Nominations, yes. But not a win.

But Melissa already HAD the nomination.

And she says she “discussed it with my management” and I can’t imagine her manager, Jason Weinberg, who is considered one of the best in the business, letting her do this. But perhaps he couldn’t stop the determined fire-brand.

I knew Melissa when she was young and a great beauty, and a fiery red-head and ALREADY, I thought, a great actress. And she still is. She’s just grown and grown. But she’s 50 now and quite brilliant, but over-the-top in “The Fighter” as Alice Ecklund, the monstrous manager mom with an innumerable brood of bruising offspring, including fighters Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale.

It’s considered, FYI, by the Academy, who is sometimes very prim and proper about these delicate issues of acting nominees advertising themselves, it’s considered bad form.

It’s not illegal, according to their rules, but it’s just- well- not done.

And I don’t think it’s EVER been done by someone who already has a stash of precursor awards already on her shelf.

Why why why did she do this? And THEN knock Paramount, who has taken out TV ads, very expensively,  which highlight her performance and Christian Bale’s?

And blind side them, and then knock Paramount and Relativity Media and their publicists to NICKI FINKE?????

I guess, as I re-read the article that her management just couldn’t stop her or thought that it wouldn’t matter. But she just lost ALLLLL of Paramount’s substantial studio support in terms of their AMPAS members voting for her and that ESPECIALLY includes their publicists, who are probably FURIOUS about this, to them, seeming betrayal. And all these people are probably voting members of the Academy.

Not smart.

And perhaps fatal.

A few votes in a four way Oscar category that is now blown wide open by this, a few votes this way or that  could go to her OTHER Paramount Supporting Actress nominees, Amy Adams, also for “The Fighter” and Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit.”

At Movieline, with their funny, interesting Oscar graphs, www.movieline.com

I was surprised to find Melissa and Hailee Steinfeld listed as a TIE!?!

Everyone thought she was a front-runner, except Melissa herself.

I noticed she wasn’t on the cover of Entertainment Weekly’s Oscar Issue. It had a banner across the top which contained YES! Amy Adams AND Hailee Steinfeld AND Natalie Portman, but no Melissa!!!!

THEN, on the cover of Vanity Fair’s always much-hyped and extremely popular Hollywood(read Oscar issue) once again, Melissa is no where to be found. But visible, past the first fold, is an unrecognizable Jennifer Lawrence, who is nominated for(but doesn’t deserve it)”Winter’s Bone” as Best Actress, then also-rans Mila Kunis, Olivia Wilde and then on the third fold, Rashida Jones(WHO????) and finally right on the edge and about to fall off Noomi Rapace in a dazzling purple gown, when everyone else is wearing black and white.

But no Melissa.

Also on the inside I couldn’t easily find her, although there were plenty o’ Oscar nominees VERY beautifully photographed. Colin Firth, for instance, driving a car, in a beautiful color-desatureated  Cary Grant close-up, with the caption “The King of Pain” There’s full-page, distinguished-looking CU, too of a bearded but cleaned-up Christian Bale called “The Shape Shifter” and a full-color close-up shot of an embracing HAILEE STEINFELD and Elle Fanning entitled “The Old Souls”, and entire article on Mark Walhberg with pictures. many pictures, but NO MELISSA ANYWHERE!

That, coupled with this weekend’s coming BAFTA awards in London, where Melissa was famously snubbed, but Amy Adams and Hailee Steinfeld made it in, probably sent Melissa over the edge and into her “rogue”(Nicki Finke’s word) mentality, to do this…

Amy Adams, in must be said, is also not pictured, in VF. That I could easily find. And it is Amy Adams who gets the first layout and two page color spread in “Entertainment Weekly” in the Best Supporting Actress section of their Oscar issue.

These exclusions and magazine placements send coded messages to the Academy like “THESE are the stars.” and these other are not…

And David Karger of EW, who if Sasha Stone is my Oscar Goddess, then Dave is my Oscar God, has switched his Best Supporting Actress pick from Melissa to Hailee Steinfeld!

Uh, oh…

And at the BAFTA Helena Bonham-Carter will win in the Best Supporting Actress category for “The King’s Speech”(it;s expected to sweep all 16 categories that it’s nominated in) and she WILL make a moving, funny, quirky acceptance speech( a la Tilda Swinto) that will be televised and You Tube-ed round the world. Helena is the one to beat in this category, IMHO. Not Hailee, Not Amy. And Melissa isn’t even nominated. (and how many times have I typed Hailee Steinfeld, in the article, and I CAN’T STAND HER. What’s happening to me?)

And I just wish Melissa had not done this. She didn’t need to.

But with three strong competitors in Supporting Actress, Amy Adams in her own movie, Hailee Steinfeld and Helena Bonham-Carter, Melissa has done herself a great disservice.

Oh, Melissa, what have you done? You don’t bite the hand that hypes you.

OSCAR NOMINATIONS OUT! “King’s Speech” rules with 12!

So I feel pretty generally pleased this morning with the announcement of this year’s Oscar Nominations which gave 12(!!!!!) nominations, the most of any film this year, to “The King’s Speech”! Bravo!

This massive nomination haul + the PGA win this weekend puts “King” right where it’s meant to be! To rule! And to win! Bravo!

But not only was it nominated in ALLLL the major categories where it was eligible…Best Picture, Best Director (YAY for Tom Hooper! I told you so! You didn’t believe me, but…you did say I was your Oscar Messenger, and the name has stuck!), Best Actor, of course, the King of Kings, Colin Firth, who has won everything else this year, Best Supporting Actor, Geoffrey Rush, (Geoffrey I told you so, too, at Toronto) Best Supporting Actress (Helena Bonham-Carter), Best Original Screenplay(David Seidler) and on and on all the way down through every single branch of the Academy including SOUND MIXING!!!!!!! YIKES! That’s what they call across-the-board, or more accurately, across the guilds, support. It bodes, very, very, very well for a Best Picture win. People are already calling it an “upset” to me it was the Academy’s favorite right out of the box at Toronto! Bravo TIFF! It really was the the Oscar race not only launched, but also more or less landed in the sense that “The King’s Speech” ALSO won the Audience favorite this year. Bravo! What’s the plural of Bravo? Bravos!

And Michelle Williams got nominated for Best Actress for “Blue Valentine”! YAY! Michelle! Again I TOLD YOU SO! Like I told you you were going to be nominated five years ago for “Brokeback Mountain” and you didn’t believe me, but I WAS RIGHT! Brava! Diva!

I feel awful for Ryan Gosling however. DUDE! You totally deserved this!

You should have replaced that horrible non-actor Jesse Irritatingberg for “The Joy of Typing” who STILL gives me a headache everytime I hear his grating, staccato voice.

Also was UNhappy to see “Winter’s Bore” get FOUR nominations(and perhaps more, I haven’t finished counting) and I won’t bore you any further with that.

NO LESLIE MANVILLE ANYWHERE! I HOPED that wouldn’t happen! But it did. Category confusion and a too-late release date(Dec.31) for this little film that at least scored a screenplay nod for Mike Leigh, but nothing else.

This was SUCH a beautiful movie, and NOT a bore like “Winter’s B.”….

I guess the snubs have upset me more than anything else. And no Noomi Rapace or “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” anywhere. Guess that is the American Producer(Sony?) blockading against its’ Oscar chances so that the dreaded American Remake with David Fincher and Rooney Marra that is slated for next Decemeber can rule Oscar then And it probably will….grrrr…If by some strange fluke of fate and David Fincher does NOT win the Best Director Oscar for “The Joy of Typing”, he undoubtedly will for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” next year. The late author Steig Larsson must be turning over in his grave.

Well, Noomi could still triumph at the BAFTAS, where she is nominated for Best Actress and the film for Best Foreign Language Film.

Not surprised(although I predicted him) that Christopher Nolan was left out of the Best Director Five although he received a DGA nomination. There almost always is a four v. five situation there with the directors. And the Coens got in. AND I must mention that “True Grit” followed “The King’s Speech” with 10 nominations. Including that brat Haillee Steinfeld(who I predicted would end up in Supporting, and she did although she really belongs back in middle school in 1000 Oaks, or doing “Blingatude” commercials. She was totally believable as a Valley Girl brat…but that’s the extant of her believable range.) And Jackie Weaver got in for the unwatchable “Animal World”! Which is a shocker! And neither Barbara Hersey OR Mila Kunis! So while “Black Swan” was shaking a bit, Natalie Portman DID get in for Best Actress and Aronofsky for Best Director. Good.

Check out www.awardsdaily.com of course, for alllll the nominations. And David Karger, my hero, who stuck out with me on the limb of “The King’s Speech” ALLLLL season and now you see, along with Anne Thompson of “Indiewire” ‘and our Fearless Leader David Poland of “Movie City News” that we were right all along. They are at www.ew.com

www.indiewire.com

www.moviecitynews.com

And if there is toooo much traffic at Awardsdaily, which is one of the MOST popular Oscar sites in the world, and you can’t access it, as I couldn’t earlier this morning. There’s those three Pro-“King’s Speech” addresses and also Steve Pond’s excellent “The Wrap” at www.thewrap.com

DAVID!!! PUT ME BACK AS A GURU O’ GOLD!!! PLEASE!!!

Parsing the BAFTA’s Long List’s Supporting Asterisks

Ok, we continue. With the BAFTA’s Long List and their Supporting Actor and Actress asterisks. OK. Once again I have to thank www.awardsdaily.com and Sasha Stone for putting up the whole she-bang so that we can react to it. In astonishment or wonder or delight or all of the above.

The BAFTAs once again, I know I’m repeating myself, but yes, this IS an odd system. I lived in England for many, many years and went to school there, too. So yes, EVERYthing is a bit odd. A bit eccentric. But the British LIKE eccentrics. In fact, they are cultivated there and even celebrated.

I was told when I lived there that I was a British eccentric, too. And I thought that they were perhaps overstating the case, but now, I think they were completely right.

But I digress…

So the BAFTAs publish this LONNNNNNNNNNNNNNG list first (see www.awardsdaily.com Everyone MUST see Awardsdaily. It’s a must-read, especially that now that we are in the heat of Awards season.) And for the first time this year, since I am now writing this blog on almost a daily basis.

I now have the platform to write about these little details, these minutae of the Awards Seasons. I guess this is something I’ve always wanted to do, but never did. But now I am. It’s like a damn bursting.

And I never noticed it before, but the BAFTAs put an asterisk on the names of five actors and actresses in their LONNNNNNG lists in each category, of who gets the most votes.

I don’t know why THEY JUST DON’T PUBLISH the darn nominations, goshdarnit! And let up the suspense. But then, that’s probably precisely WHY they do it this way. To build up suspense. Interest. It’s Hitchcockian. But then of course, Alfred Hitchcock was British.

So in Supporting Actor we have ~ WITH asterisks ~

ANDREW GARFIELD – For that movie I will not name. He also got a Golden Globe nod, but NOT a SAG, which is probably more significant, in that he IS British, and so you’d expect him to turn up here. And the Hollywood FOREIGN press would go for him, too. However, the ACTORS did not which is significant. Garfield was also long listed for “Never Let Go” but not asterisked. And that film, as well done as it was, bombed on both sides of the Atlantic. But Andrew is this year’s Hot Young Brit, so yes, he’ll be nominated here, but I don’t think he’s going to be nominated for an Oscar. And I don’t think he’ll win the Globe either.

BOB HOSKINS– “Made in Dagenham” A beautiful, sensitive performance as the union guy who’s SYMPATHETIC to the women strikers. And no,  not  a chance. No Globe nom seals it.

CHRISTIAN BALE-“The Fighter” Yes, of course, he’s in. And he’s also British. Yes, he is.

GEOFFREY RUSH– “The King’s Speech” Yes, of course he’s in. Superb career performance

MARK RUFFALO-“The Kid’s Are All Right”- Well, yes, of course. A SAG and a Golden Globe nom, too, make him ALMOST a slam-dunk. But if the BRITISH are voting for him, yes, I guess he’s in. Though will the SWORM(Straight White Old Rich Men) like his kinda negative male character back in Hollyweird. We’ll see.

Also listed but not asterisked Jeremy Renner for “The Town” the SAGs switched him out for Andrew Garfield. Last year the SAGs were 19 for 20 matching the Oscar Nominations. Except for Maggie Gyllenhaal and I HAD HER!!!!!

Vincent Cassel is long listed to in this category for “Black Swan.”AND NO MICHAEL DOUGLAS!

 Justin Timberlake was long-listed but no Armie Hammer! Is Armie the total dark horse now? Guess so. His Winklevoss Twins is STILL the Best Performance in that goddamn whatzit.I really thought they were two different actors playing both twins!! I DID!

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

This is the one category that even stumped the New York Times’ Oscar section. So much so, they didn’t even write about it in their OSCAR section of the Arts & Leisure section this past Sunday! This is reminding me of the year that Tilda Swinton won, in that it is a race that is all over the place. Tilda was the only actress to keep appearing on everyone’s lists, although she was never on the top. But she was on every list.

Do the BAFTAs asterisks clear things up? Well, yes, and no.

AMY ADAMS– gets an asterisk and for the first time we see her in this category this year WITHOUT Melissa Leo’s companion performance in “The Fighter” glued to her side. She’ll get an Oscar nomination for sure now. Though it looks like Leo MIGHT not get a BAFTA nod, when they FINALLY announce it. But it looks like Amy will. Good for her.

BARBARA HERSHEY-“Black Swan” !!!! Turning up for the first time on a serious list, she’s the performance that the Academy is more likely to honor than the SAG and Golden Globe nominated Mila Kunis. Hershey had a rangey, multi-faceted performance. Is SHE driving her daughter insane or is it vice versa? It’s the real central conflict and Hersey’s dynamic, frightening MOM-FROM-HELL makes it work. Think “What would the “Black Swan” be without her performance?” So she’s on her way to a BAFTA nod it seems. She’s got an asterisk.

HELENA BONHAM-CARTER – “The King’s Speech” Natch. The one to beat. Everybody LOVED the Queen Mum. EVERYBODY. And that love will lead Helena to the Bafta podium. She’s certainly going to be Oscar nominated and I hope will win.

LESLEY MANVILLE “Another Year” BRILLIANT performance, much lauded, FINALLY turns up somewhere. Neither the Globes, nor the SAGs nommed her. She was totally left out. Small British Indie, but the Academy LOVES Mike Leigh. Sony Pictures Classics has been campaigning her in lead and it’s been the biggest mistake of this year’s Oscars. BAFTA her own country says she’s Supporting. Maybe the Academy will too. And nominate her FINALLY. But so far she’s only won the National Board of Review for Best Actress then NOTHING ELSE. Poor Leslie Manville. ANOTHER victim of category confusion.

And FINALLY~ MIRANDA RICHARDSON in “Made in Dagenham” Much pre-season heat, but not nommed by either the Globes or the SAGS. BAFTA has asterisked her. So maybe she could turn up as a surprise, too.

LOOKS like there’s going to be A LOT of surprises in the Supporting Actress category. Melissa Leo is not even asterisked here. Though she’s listed. Ditto Jackie Weaver. Ditto Mila Kunis.

AND HAILEE STEINFELD IS LISTED AS A BEST ACTRESS CONTENDER!?!? Though she is NOT asterisked….So you see, she’s already splitting her own vote. The Academy might leave her off completely and I wish they would. But “True Grit” is a hit and it’s blowing up so big…

As we go into the final weeks, before the Oscar Nominations…

As we go into the final weeks before the Oscar Nominations, things to me seem to be more fluid than they’ve ever been in years, in that so much keeps changing.

“Rabbit Hole” bombed at the box-office and was snubbed by of all groups, the Writer’s Guild! And it was a Pulitzer Prize winning play that on the stage I just loved. And voted for in all categories for the Drama Desk Awards.

And Dianne Wiest’s rather flat, colorless performance as the mother of the grieving wife kinda shocked me compare with the vivacity of how Tyne Daly attacked the role on Bway. Cynthia Nixon won the Tony and the Drama Desk for playing the character Nicole’s playing so memorably onscreen, but…that may be the only nomination “Rabbit Hole” gets.

The best actress race has solidified into a group of four Natalie Portman, Annette Bening, the aforementioned Nicole Kidman, and the Shouldn’t-Be-There-At-All Jennifer Lawrence.

The fifth slot is up for grabs with I think Michelle Williams of “Blue Valentine” leading the pack for it. And she’s got Harvey Weinstein behind her. And now we hear that Hailee Stanfield, who also doesnt belong there, might be nominated in LEAD! Instead of Supporting.

The runaway box-office train of “True Grit” has surprised everyone, and given more heft to the films Best Picture chances, though if they are going nominate a Coen Brothers film every year, then hey, why not get on the bandwagon? They nominated “A Serious Man” a MUCH better film last year for Best Picture, but none of its’ actors…but with “True Grit” they’ve got a terrific Jeff Bridges and then the problematic Hailee Stanfield who may end up splitting her own vote, by those that want her in lead and those that will go along with Paramount’s supporting campaign.

She deserves to be left out in my opinion. And however, LISTENING to what all are saying, she’s probably IN in one or the other category.

But if the Academy is being inventive with where they write down the names of the nominees, and it really is up to the Academy where to place whomever they want to place, they may also start to think outside the box and nominate people who haven’t turned up in precursor awards at all.

Like I’m thinking Barbara Hersey, whom they all adore. As the crazy mother in “The Black Swan.” Don’t be surprised to see her replace Mila Kunis also from the same movie. Kunis was just hot and bitchy. No depth there. Hersey may trump Kunis, I think.

And then there’s the Best Director race which the Coens may be back in again, and so will first timer Darren Aronofsky for “Black Swan.”

Falling and failing at the Box-Office is also one of MY year’s Ten Best “127 Hours”. People aren’t going to it. But Franco will probably be in.

Also left off the Producer’s Guild Top Ten was the indie film that everybody loves except me, “Winter’s Bone” The PGA likes big STUDIO movies, not tiny indies.

I wish they’d dump Jennifer Lawrence, too. They just seem OBSESSED with teenage girls. But now if everything is true about Hailee Steinfeld…Well, she’s just thirteen. With no background in acting whatsoever, but that didn’t stop Gabourey Sidibe for scoring a nom last year…Hailee Stanfeld seems to be the Girl-of-the-Moment, although I don’t think she deserves this at all.

Melissa Leo AND Amy Adams of “The Fighter” both seem very solid though in Supporting Actress, as does, of course Helena Bonham-Carter of “The King’s Speech,”the ultimate supportive, long-suffering, devoted wife, a role that the Academy loves to reward in this category.

Supporting Actor seems to have gained the great Jeremy Renner of “The Town”. With “The Town”s Producers Guild Nod, and Renner’s nomination for the SAGS, I think he’s in and Andrew Garfield is out. Renner was also surprisingly nominated at the last minute for “The Hurt Locker” last year. He’s like cat-nip to the Academy. Geoffrey Rush, Michael Douglas and Christian Bale also look solid to me. At to most everyone else Oscar-watching this. That leaves one more slot in Best Supp. Actor up in the air. Could it be Armie Hammer’s double-trouble Winklevoss Twins for THAT film? Stranger things have happened. But THAT film may have too many Supporting Actors in the race – three. Garfield, Hammer and the fabulous but maybe to famous to be taken seriously Justin Timberlake.

Hailee Steinfeld seems to be upstaging them all as the girl of the hour. Sorry to say. It’s her film being released last. And THEN the surprise of its’ box-office success. I’m giving her far too much ink. But she’s who everybody is SUDDENLY talking about. So Strange.

I think Andrew Garfield, the only sympathetic character in the Film-I-Will-Not Name has fallen out. He was not nominated by SAG. And Jesse Irrititatingberg is IN.*gag me* So are of course Colin Firth of “King’s Speech” and Franco, the Oscar co-host . But will the fourth person be Ryan Gosling of “Blue Valentine”or the super-ancient Robert DuVal, in a REALLY bad performance. in “Get Low.” The audience I saw it with at the Provincetown Film Festival this summer actually laughed through his big, final monologue spiel.

So many of these people seem to be really seriously in the mix and they don’t deserve to be at all.

And no Leslie Manville anywhere to be seen. And no Jackie Manville, the odd-as-can-be Aussie actress didn’t get a SAG nom, either. Though she got a Golden Globe and was inexplicably replaced by Hailee Steinfeld. Yes, her again. Oy Vay,

I wish somebody like Kristen Scott-Thomas could surprise…but…for “Nowhere Boy.” It’s people like her, and performances like hers that could come out of nowhere and get a nomination for the Oscar without any precursor notice. Except the BAFTAS last year. She and Barbara Hersey could be the surprises, and so could I think “Alice in Wonderland” for Best Picture.

I Finally See “True Grit” A Wordy Woodpecker of a Western

Well, I guess Paramount did hear my blog screams and they sent me quite unexpectedly a DVD screener of “True Grit.” FINALLY!

“True Grit” is the latest oeuvre from the redoubtable Coen Brothers, and it’s…Ok…sort of…I mean, it’s good. Although some parts of it strain credulity. Especially the overwrought, arch script, which Jeff Bridges manages quite, quite well. And Matt Damon, too. But poor 13-year-old newcomer Hailee Stanfield has the most demanding role, verbally, that perhaps has ever been written for a tween actress.

It is to her credit that she ALMOST pulls it off. But I was always aware that it was DIALOGUE being written and spoken, and not the character’s own voice speaking.

Her child/woman dichotomy is also, paradoxically, the most unusual part of this western. Yes, the Coen’s are doing a Western. A real traditional attempt at the genre in the classic John Ford manner. And Roger Deakins’ masterful cinematography is up the task at hand. And so is Bridges. But Ms. Stanfield…well, I’m of two minds about her “performance.”

Either it’s one of the most impressive screen debuts of an ingenue ever in a very challenging role that has already netted her a SAG nomination for Best Supporting Actress, though she is ostensibly the lead. OR it’s a career ender. It’s the beginning AND the end for her. Which one is it?

Like her or not, and I’m not totally sure that I do, you can’t get away from her in this film that is mostly, as the British would say, a  three-hander. That is a three person play. And again, the script does seem overly theatrical, for a Western. The three hands being Bridges, Matt Damon and Ms. Stanfield.

We’ve never seen or heard any Oater where people talked in such highfalutin rhetorical terms. Sheesh! They could’ve almost been in a Restoration Comedy some scenes are soooo over-written. Especially at the beginning of the film. Which is very slow getting started and a lot of that is due to the clusters of almost unspeakable, and certainly almost unpronounceable verbiage  the  Coens have saddled their three leading actors with. Or in Ms. Stanfield’s case, crippled with. I know we’re supposed to believe that SHE has “True Grit.” But talk about overkill!

With the surprise SAG nomination for Stanfield, her fellow actors are obviously Haillee-ing her arrival, big time. You do feel sorry for her in that she has scene after scene after scene where her voice is Woody Woodpeckering the screen, with its’ rat-a-tat ryhmns. And you feel like I always felt like with Woody Woodpecker that I need to watch his cartoons like a need a hole in the head.

Let’s face it, the Coens are not known for their work with child actors.

But they have to take pains at the beginning of the film, to established her hard-headed, stubborn as a mule character, so that we believe and care about her all the way through the film. It’s her journey. And the coda at the end of the film, which I won’t give a away as it’s a semi-spoiler, but the film visual images are striking. And rather unforgettable.

And then there is the unvarnished delight of Roger Deakins’ breath-taking scenic vistas of the wild west. Between this film and “Meek’s Cut-Off” I feel like I’ve actually BEEN there and back this filmic fall season.

Matt Damon is very funny as a Texas Ranger named Le Bouef, but which they all pronounce “Le Beef” as in meathead. He’s the comic relief. And Bridges’ scenes with Mr. LeBeef are just terrific stuff.

I don’t know WHAT the John Wayne version of this was like. I’m sure this is a thousand times better and Rooster Cogburn won Wayne his only Oscar and it is to Bridges’ everlasting credit that he really does excel in this part, as well.

It’s sooo close to his Oscar-winning turn as Bad Blake in “Crazy Heart.” A has-been boozing singer v. this time a has-been boozing gunman. That Bridges’ makes the Coens stick-in-the-mouth dialogue that HE has to say look and sound effortless as a horses’ snorting. Well, that’s the sign of a consummate actor at the top his craft.

Is it almost tongue-twistingly unprounceable? Well, Bridges attacks each line like his eating a mouthful of steak. Chewing the scenery has never been such a sumptuous meal. And if Oscar remembers “True Grit” for anything, it’s bound to be Bridge’s excellent crowing Rooster of a performance.

If SAG, the Screen Actor’s Guild, hadn’t voted l’il Miss Woodpecker a Supporting Actress nomination, I would say she didn’t have a chance. She knocked out Jackie Weaver of the dreadful Australian “thriller” “Animal Kingdom.” But since the 2ooo plus members of the SAG nominating committee hadn’t included her, I would say she didn’t have a chance in hell of getting in. She’s no Sairose (sp?) Ronan.

But they do like nominating under-age actresses, esp. in this category and especially lately. Think Abigail Breslin of “Little Miss Sunshine.” as well as the aforementioned Ronan.

I think Roger Deakins’ superb cinematography is the strongest  award element here as well as Jeff Bridges stellar performance. Deakins could actually win in this category and I’m also sure that “True Grit” as mixed as my reactions were to it, is going to be nominated for one of the Ten Best Picture slots.

No, though, to Best Director chances of the Coens, for this Western mishmash. But if they can get nominated for “A Serious Man” last year, then they could get nominated for this — in a field of Ten, sure. Why not?

Hollywood, unbelievably, has come to love the Coens. But you can’t help compare this too well-spoken Western to their other trip West which was “No Country for Old Men.” Now, THAT was a masterpiece and won the Oscar…But “True Grit” is not NCFOM. Not by a mile there, pard’ner.

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