a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Carey Mulligan’

Chita Rivera Classy as Ever in “The Visit” segment

The VisitBway Legend Chita Rivera classes up the evening with a very well-chosen series of snippets from “The Visit.” 83 years young, Rivera sang and yes, even danced, well,moved very well, to the music from Kander & Ebb’s last musical. Touching.

“Curious Case” won just about everything in sight, as I predicted.

And “Skylight” just won Best Revival of Play! Good to see Producer Scott Rudin accepting, though. This was a surprise! Rudin gave a VERY good speech, noting that this was the first time a David Hare play ever won a Tony. I guess a lot of people liked “Skylight” I didn’t so much. But Carey Mulligan was terrific. Another MCP play. Ugh. I’m so sick of the Older Man- Much Younger Woman Plot! It’s been done to DEATH! Enough is Enough!

 

Carey Mulligan Luminous in “Skylight” on Bway

Carey Mulligan 1I come from a long line of school-teachers. My mother was a school teacher. My British grand-mother was a school teacher, but I have never heard an aria, really, an ode to teaching and what it means to be a teacher so beautifully and eloquently expressed and rapturously enacted by Carey Mulligan in the revival of David Hare’s British play from the ’90’s “Skylight.”

I just thought it was an amazing monologue, and Carey Mulligan almost always amazes. I’ve been a fan of Mulligan’s going back to her Oscar nominated performance in “An Education.” And here she is nearly a decade later, clearly a young-looking 30-something named Kyra Hollis, who has left her rather posh bourgeois background to live in the far reaches of North London, and in a council flat(a British housing project) no less, where she commutes to her low-paying job as a teacher of the uber underprivileged in East Ham in the East End.

She admits that her LONNNNG commute to work on Public Transportation is the high-point of her day.

And then in comes Bill Nighy, her ex-lover, Tom Sergeant, an aging Jack-the-Lad, a successful restauranteur, to dynamite her life. For one long, cold night only in her flat that he describes as “Siberia.”

I am so not a fan of Older Man-Younger Woman scenarios on the screen or on the stage. We’ve seen so many of them. It’s trite. To the max. And the un-even writing career of playwright David Hare leaves me with a feeling of trepidation every time I go to see one of his many plays. Will I love it? Or will I hate it, too? And let me tell you the rather interminable mixed match set of Tom and Kyra in the first act left me as cold as their cold-water flat. I nearly left.

But I stayed, and then in the second act, suddenly Kyra shifts into high gear and unleashes on Tom just WHY she has chose to live the way she lives and where she lives and her unforgettable monologue about teaching occurs, and suddenly I felt “Skylight”, reaching as it does for the stars, finally MEANT something. Other than a will-they, won’t-they two-hander.

Oh, and there’s a third character Edward, Jim’s son, played engagingly and comically, by Matthew Beard, doing a very good impersonation of Billy Nighy as a teen-ager. He even looks like him, the same height, the same gestures, everything. He’s the most sympathetic, and also funniest of the three.

But the plays dismal cold council flat setting by the great Bob Crowley is spot-on, and there’s a fully functioning stove and sink(Yes, this is a classic kitchen sink working class British genre drama.) Mulligan prepares a spaghetti diner for Nighy for the entire length of the deadly first act. The tomato sauce and onion aroma wafting into the audience kept my olfactory senses alive, even as the leaden prose deadened my mind.The first act of “Skylight” smells good, then in Act II Carey Mulligan’s barefoot, East End, mother earth goddess takes off into the stratosphere into that sequence about teaching that has already burned itself into my memory and Mulligan into my heart.

Now I understood why my mother and grandmother were teachers.

 

Focus Propels Meryl Streep(again!)& Carey Mulligan into Oscar Race with “Suffragette”

Meryl Suffra !Focus Features who did SOOOOO right by Eddie Redmayne in this year’s Oscar Race, winning him Best Actor for their wonderful Stephen Hawking biopic “The Theory of Everything”, is certainly not letting the grass grow under their feet with their announcement BELOW of “Suffragette” starring 19-time nominee and three-time Oscar Winner Meryl Streep opposite one-time nominee Carey Mulligan in “Suffragette.”

This is IN ADDITION to it’s aiming Eddie Redmayne’s next tour-de-force-to-be “The Danish Girl” which features the young Oscar Winner as one of the world’s first transgenders, Lili Elbe. It’s aiming it right at Oscar with its’ Nov. 27 release date.Eddie Lili

So IOW Focus has got it hands full already of potential Oscar nominees. The fact “The Danish Girl” has Oscar Winner Tom Hooper directing it is another AMPAS  A-plus-plus.

Here’s what Focus had to say today. Cleary these are both important films.

FOCUS FEATURES ACQUIRES NORTH AMERICAN RIGHTS TOSUFFRAGETTE,

STARRING CAREY MULLIGAN, HELENA BONHAM CARTER AND MERYL STREEP

 

SANTA MONICA, CA, March 17th, 2015 – Focus Features has acquired North American distribution rights from Pathé to the drama Suffragette, directed by BAFTA Award winner Sarah Gavron from a script written by Emmy Award winner Abi Morgan, for a Fall 2015 domestic release. The cast of the U.K. film includes Academy Award nominees Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter, BAFTA Award winner Ben Whishaw, British Independent Film Award winner Anne-Marie Duff, Golden Globe Award nominee Brendan Gleeson, and three-time Academy Award winner Meryl Streep. Focus has also acquired the distribution rights for Latin America, India, South Korea, and most of Eastern Europe including Russia; Universal Pictures International will release the film in those territories. Focus CEO Peter Schlessel made the announcement today.

 

Ruby Films’ Alison Owen, an Academy Award nominee as producer of Elizabeth, and Faye Ward are the producers of Suffragette, which is directed by Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane) from a screenplay by Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady). The film’s executive producers are Cameron McCracken, Tessa Ross, Rose Garnett, Nik Bower, James Schamus, and Teresa Moneo.

 

Suffragette is a Ruby Films production for Focus Features, Pathé, Film4, and the BFI in association with Ingenious Media and with the participation of Canal+ and Cine-Cinema.

 

Suffragette is a moving drama that will empower all who are striving for equal rights in our own day and age. The stirring story, inspired by the early-20th-century campaign by the suffragettes for the right of women to vote, centers on Maud (played by Carey Mulligan), a working wife and mother who comes to realize that she must fight for her dignity both at home and in her workplace. Realizing that she is not alone, she becomes an activist alongside other brave women from all walks of life. The early efforts at resistance were passive but as the women faced increasingly aggressive police action, the suffragettes become galvanized – risking their very lives to ensure that women’s rights would be recognized and respected.

 

Peter Schlessel, CEO of Focus Features, said, “Suffragette is a story that will resonate with men and women across the generations; it is about parents and children, courage and dedication, and making hard choices. Sarah, Abi, Alison and Faye are women who represent an amazing convergence of filmmaking talent. We’re proud to partner with Pathé to bring this powerful drama to audiences worldwide.”

 

The deal was negotiated by Focus Features’ Beth Lemberger, Executive Vice President, Business Affairs, and Lia Buman, President of Acquisitions, with Cameron McCracken, Managing Director, Pathé Productions, and Muriel Sauzay, Head of Sales, Pathé International.

 

ABOUT FOCUS FEATURES

Focus Features (www.focusfeatures.com) makes, acquires, and releases movies from rising and established talent and filmmakers.

 

In addition to Suffragette, upcoming releases from Focus include Leigh Whannell’s Insidious: Chapter 3, the newest chapter in the terrifying horror series; Tarsem Singh’s Self/less, starring Ryan Reynolds and Ben Kingsley; Sinister 2, directed by Ciaran Foy; London Has Fallen, the sequel to the worldwide smash hitOlympus Has Fallen, starring Gerard Butler and directed by Babak Najafi; Academy Award-winning director Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl, the remarkable love story inspired by the lives of artists Einar and Gerda Wegener (Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander); Kubo and the Two Strings, the new family event movie from animation studio LAIKA, directed by Travis Knight with a voice cast that includes Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, Brenda Vaccaro, and Art Parkinson; Stephen Hopkins’ Race, starring Jeremy Irons, Jason Sudeikis, and Stephan James as the legendary athletic superstar Jesse Owens; and Juan Antonio Bayona’s visually spectacular drama A Monster Calls, starring Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, and Liam Neeson.

 

Focus Features is part of NBCUniversal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. NBCUniversal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment television networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, world-renowned theme parks, and a suite of leading Internet-based businesses. NBCUniversal is a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.

 

ABOUT PATHÉ

Pathé operates as a fully integrated studio and has a presence in France, the UK, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. It is involved in all aspects of filmmaking, from development and production through to international sales, distribution, and exhibition.

 

 

Re: Oscars ~ What Do the Independent Spirit Nominations mean? A lot if you’re the Coens.

In terms of Oscar, what do today’s announcements of the Independent Spirit Nominations mean? I think this year they may mean more than they’ve ever meant before, since Oscar is looking like it’s going Indie in a big way this year.

The only films that weren’t eligible were the mega-budget ones like “Gravity” and “Captain Phillips”, but also middle range budgeted films like “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “August: Osage County” and “Saving Mr. Banks.”

So that showed some surprises, like the  Best Actor category nearly matching what have been predicted all along. And they even expanded this highly competitive category to six. Wish the Oscars were flexible enough to do something like that!

Robert Redford (All Is Lost), Bruce Dern(Nebraska), Matthew McConaghey(Dallas Buyers Club), Chiwetel Ejiafor(12 Years a Slave), all turned up. As did Michael B. Jordan(Fruitvale Station) As did Oscar Issac for “Inside Llewyn Davis”. He’s the one I can tell you for sure right now will NOT turn up on the Oscar shortlist of five. Nor will Jordan.

Someone who MIGHT surprise in Supporting is John Goodman, for his blown-out, slightly comatose, drugged-up jazz musician. It’s a small part, but he steals the film. And Goodman has NEVER EVEN BEEN NOMINATED! Not ever! For shame!

Apart from Goodman’s mega-bolt jolt, I was very disappointed with “Inside Llewyn Davis”. Shockingly so. I was really psyched to see this movie that has been heaped with critical praise since Cannes.

The ending is terrible and shocking and depressing. And it has one of those Coen Brothers  abrupt endings, like in “No Country for Old Men” or “A Serious Man.” BAM! And then suddenly when you least expect it, it’s over.

I’m up and down on the Coens. And so, shockingly were the Indie Spirits,  and while nominating “Inside Llewyn Davis” for Best Feature, and Oscar Issac for Best Actor, they did not even nominate them for either their directing or writing!

I felt cheated, bitter, by “Inside Llewyn Davis” and soooo disappointed.  I felt like a great opportunity had been missed. And all that hype that’s it had! For what?

But then that’s what Llewyn, their Welsh-descent, folk-singing failure is feeling. So maybe it’s right that I felt that way. That’s what was intended. I was feeling what Llewyn was feeling. Did I over-identify with something inside myself that I didn’t want to see?

It’s their attempt to examine failure in show business and self-destruction and what happens to the middle-of-the-road talented. They end up as road kill, this film is saying.

And a contemplation of the mediocre, ends up being, well, not that interesting, really.But it’s haunting…I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Oh! But they want to identify with, to LOVE Llewyn, and by gosh, they try every cinematic trick in the book to engage you with this semi- likable, stumble-bum of a failure. He fails at EVERYthing!

Carrie Mulligan turns up almost unrecognizably as his some-time girl friend/folk singer, Jane, who simply yells at him “YOU’RE A LOSER!””You suck!” She repeats over and over.

But the film wants you to identify with his struggle, and you do, sort of, but then you get kicked in the teeth quite literally and  harshly by the quixotic conclusion. As Llewyn does.

Oscar Issac, who’s first major film role this is, has to carry nearly the whole damn thing. That and an orange-colored cat. He and the cat are the plot. The cat becomes the symbol of Llewyn’s career, and the love/hate relationship with this  cat, who isn’t even his, is meant to show us Llewyn’s best side, his humanity.

“Oh! You see he can’t be that much of a loser! He likes animals!”

But it’s not enough to hang a picture on.But that’s precisely what the Coens’ have done. They want us to examine, really examine failure.

Oscar Issac has beautiful, large, dark soulful eyes, which the Coens’ and their camera keep getting lost in. And I did too, except when you look inside Llewyn Davis, there’s not much there. He’s a middling singer. And a big-time clusterfuck. Or rather, HIS CHARACTER is. The Coens’ have set Issac an almost impossible task.

Try to play a middlingly talented, not very nice guy, bent on destroying everything around him that’s good. A great part. And a fine, dangerous line to walk for an actor. A tight tight rope balancing act between alienating everyone while not alienating the audience from yourself as a talent. Tough stuff. And you have to say that Issac gives it everything he’s got.

However, it’s nice to see Greenwich Village looking like it did in the early ’60s, when the film is set. And folk music to me is no big whoop. Never was.

And I never dug Bob Dylan, who is supposed to be lurking in the shadows, as the arbiter of change. What change? To me  there was none.

So I left this film feeling totally down on it, like Llewyn is on his whole life, not just his music. So this kind of non-traditional movie, is the sort of film that the Indies would shower nominations upon. But they seemed to feel the same way about it that I did. Mixed. Or mixed up.

And I bet the Academy does, too.  Although if, in a field of ten, the Coens’ “A Serious Man” can get a best picture nod out of AMPAS, then who knows? “Inside Llewyn Davis” could, too. The Coens have an ardent fan base of admirers in the Academy.

But like “A Serious Man”, it won’t win anything. MAYbe a “Best Original Screenplay” nod, and a Supporting Actor nom for John Goodman, too. And T-Bone Burnett was in the background taking care of all the musical numbers, which were many.

And like “Les Miserables” last year, all of the songs were sung live, and not pre-recorded, and in front of a live coffee-house audience. Who also seemed half-dead.

This is a very tricky high-wire act the Coens are trying to pull off. Making a full-blown Hollywood movie movie about an abject failure. A mediocrity, who no one loves. A singer who can sing well, but not THAT well. An unsympathetic sympathetic character is then what? Simply pathetic?

Why should we waste our time? And awards?

E.T.A. Tonight “Llewyn Davis” won Best Picture at the Gotham Awards! And Oscar Issac bounded on to the stage to accept for the Coens who were not there(They probably thought “12 Years A Slave” was going to win, and so did I, but it got NOTHING!) and Issac wowed the crowd by saying, he was so proud and happy to be accepting the award for the Coens. “It’s a movie made in New York about New Yorkers, filled with New Yorkers,” And everybody loved him.

Best Actress Race – Pre-Festivals, Pre-TIFF

So, just where are we now with the only race I feel that has some clarity this early, and on the other hand, is also wide open? Certainly compared with last year’s Best Actress race. Which was locked and loaded VERY early on in the season, if you remember. But perhaps you don’t. Rooney Mara’s sneaking in at the last-minute with “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and her star-making turn as Lisbeth Salander, was the only surprise within that top category last year.

This year, with the exit of presumptive front-runner Carey Mulligan’s “The Great Gatsby” being shifted to NEXT SUMMER! GLACK! It’s mustn’t’ve so Great after all!

With Mulligan’s departure, this leaves many, many openings, so some surprises from the Indie world, like the stunning, scary tour-de-force of  veteran character actress Ann Dowd in “Compliance.” And certainly with Qu’venzahne Wallis in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” still hanging in there in release after three months, and still making money for Fox Searchlight.  That’s two Sundance ladies, although one is only 8 years old and the other well past 50. THAT’S interesting right there, in and of itself, it’s a unique pairing…IF it happens…Sundance didn’t have any gals in the Best Actress round-up last year, now it is making up for lost time with TWO.

Then there’s the absurd rumor that BOTH could go Supporting! Uh-oh! Category confusion! The dreaded Oscar disease that killed Viola Davis’ chances last year(among many other reasons).  If NEITHER Dowd nor Wallis end up in Best Actress, the category is RRRREALLY wide open.

Remaining are the soon-to-be-seen Helen Hunt, also out of Sundance, come to think of it with “Sessions.” She’s won previously of course and that always sort of hurts. Unless it’s a category with all previous winners. That was for “As Good As It Gets” where she played a worldly-wise waitress. Opposite Jack Nicholson.

Another previous winner Marion Cotillard has a VERY strong shot, it seems, with “Of Rust and Bone” which won her screaming raves out of Cannes this year. But NOT the Best Actress Award there. Which was a surprise.

She, too, is a previous winner for her incandescent, unforgettable Edith Piaf in “La Vie En Rose”. She’s also in TDKR, too, remember this year. Something every Academy Voting member will have seen, even if it gets neglected in the nominations and I think it will…. But “Of Rust and Bone” is in French.

They COULD hold that against her. Since also acting in French this year is another Cannes contender, which DID win the Palme d’Or, Emmanuelle Rivas in “L’Amour.” TWO Best Actress nominees BOTH acting in French? I don’t think so. But if anyone can score acting in her own language once again it’s the beautiful Maid Marion.

Also soon to be seen at Toronto, along with “Rust and Bone” and “The Sessions” is Keira Knightley’s new star-turn as “Anna Karenina.” Directed by the extraordinary British helmer Joe Wright, who guided Knightley to her first and so far only Oscar nomination in “Pride and Prejudice.” Will this be a lucky charm once again for this dynamic duo? Or will she just fall short of a nod, and get snubbed, like she did for “Atonement”, which was certainly nomination-worthy in MY book.

And then there’s the darling Laura Linney, ALSO at Toronto, along with Hunt, Cotillard, and Knightley, WOW what a line-up! I’ll just be running from one Best Actress possibility to another in two weeks. Laura Linney has been picked by Tom O’Neil’s Gold Derby as the Numero Uno Best of the Best for “Hyde Park on the Hudson.” She has been nominated three times before and this would make FOUR. She’s playing a real person, FDR’s until now, unseen and unrecorded mistress. And everybody loves Laura. She’s everywhere. She got a critically lauded TV series “The Big C” AND she introduces “Downtown Abbey” on PBS with great class and style. She’s due, if anyone is!

And perhaps even more importantly, “Hyde Park on the Hudson” has now ALSO been picked up by the NEW YORK Film Festival, which doubles Linney’s(and the pic’s) prestige chances. Neither “Of Rust and Bone” nor “Anna Karenina” has scored THAT particular double festival whammy.

Well, in two weeks time all will be revealed….And unless some one pops up in a year-end movie, like for instance, Anne Hathaway being put in lead, not Supporting for “Les Miserables” By George, I think we’ve already got our Oscar lady ducks all in a row! And all at Toronto, too! I can’t wait!

Oscar Updates as Gold Derby Puts Leo at NY#1 for “Django”for Supp! Dwight Henry Is #2 “Beasts”!

The great Tom O’Neil lets us know just what is what with the Oscar race on an almost daily basis. Certainly weekly. And for sure, monthly. Now that we’re reaching the last day of June, it’s interesting to note that the race that has changed THE MOST is Best Supporting Actor!

June 1, it was wacky Jaoquim Phoenix for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Scientology take “The Master“. Now, less than a month later, Joaquim is nowhere to be found at the top of this category. Possibly because Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone of http://www.awardsdaily.com clued Tom in that Joaquim is THE LEAD in “The Master.” Lol….And who’s at #1 now? Why Leonardo DiCaprio, as a scuzzy, sleazy slave owner in Quentin Tarantino’s Civil War shoot’em up “Django Unchained!” With Harvey Weinstein at the helm, this could certainly happen.

However, right behind him, is non-actor until now, newcomer Dwight Henry playing Hushpuppy‘s abusive, alcoholic father for “Beasts of the Southern Wild”! I don’t think Dwight Henry was even on the chart last time I checked! Go Dwight! He’s a baker turned actor and really scores in this magnificent debut film of Benh Zeitlin.

Phenom-of-the-Year Zeitlin has NOT managed to crack the top five of the directors chart. Go to http://www.goldderby.com and see who the rest are. Usual suspects, all. All previous Oscar Winners.Spielberg, Tom Hooper, Ang Lee, Except Paul Thomas Anderson who tops the list, and I’m so sure won’t win. “The Master” is going not to be a loved-by-the-masses film, I’m feeling. Scientology isn’t a topic that the ticket buying public is going to warm to. Where the now critically acclaimed “Beasts of the Southern Wild” sure is.

And it’s 6-year-old heroine has cracked the top five of the Best Actress contenders. That category is still headed by my darling Laura Linney for “Hyde Park on Hudson.” #2 in Best Actress is Carey Mulligan for “The Great Gatsby” and #3 is Keira Knightley for “Anna Karenina.” Keira’s always nominatable, as of course is Laura. Previous recent winner ++is #4 for the French language “Of Rust and Bone.” And then comes Qu’venzhane Wallis at #5.

I think it speaks to the strength of “Beasts” A+++ reception that BOTH Dwight Henry and Qu’venzhane Wallis have popped into the top five since the month began! And Dwight Henry is #2! Higher than Benh Zeitlin or QW(as I will now abbreviate her). The charges of racism that were thrown the Academy’s way when Viola Davis lost(though Octavia Spenser won – albeit in Supp.) for “The Help.” Dwight Henry could be the beneficiary of the famous Academy catch-up boomerang effect.

What they don’t do right one year, they correct the next.

And it’s also interesting to note that Anne Hathaway still seems to be a mortal lock for Best Supporting Actress for “Les Miserables,.” nailing one of the best trailers in movie history, which is already playing at a theater near you.

Likewise Daniel Day-Lewis in Best Actor and “Lincoln” for Best Picture remain where they were June 1.

It’s the arrival of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” that has shaken this list up! Good! No! Great! Go Team “Beast”!

Clash of the Oscar Titans! Oscar Goddess, Oscar Grouch & Gold Derby go Head-to- Head in Historic Pod-Cast!!!

Just back in town, to find to my great joy and amazement that Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone, Oscar Grouch Jeffrey Wells and Gold Derby’s Tom O’Neil just did a historic podcast on Tom’s also historic June 1 Oscar predix list. June 1! Yes, June 1! I’ve already discussed his list in a previous posting and so I wondered just what more could be said by all three together at once.

Clash of the Oscar Titans? Well, kinda.

Sasha Stone at http://www.awardsdaily.com of course, is the person I agree with most. No surprise to my readers, dear cineasstes all, but to MY surprise, Sasha I and seemed more in sync that EVAH!

She feels, and Tom did too, and I heartily concur, that the casting of Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”, not due until the holidays, is highly tricky and  risky. The film rises and falls on his performance, needles to say, Abraham. Lincoln was not a bombastic man or a scenery-chewing role like Billy the Butcher in “Gangs of New York” or that awful creature he played in “There Will Be Blood.” And won a second (and UNDESERVED) Oscar for.

When he goes introspective or quiet as he is bound to with a subtle man like Lincoln, he is, as Sasha said, “a cold motherfucker”. Which of course is what ruined “Nine,” and also a passion project “Rose” which is uber-talented wife Rebecca Miller directed him in. Blah. This demi-god of acting is NOT infallible.

So we can safely say that the Best Actor category is still up in the air.

Even more to the point and very questionable IMHO still is playwright Tony Kushner’s screenplay for this, the saga of Lincoln’s entire life. Kushner tends to overwrite and his plays all end up VERY long. He’s not a concise, clear screenwriter. Witness “Munich” as a case in point, also with Spielberg. Sure it eeked out a Best Picture nod, in the end, but it was not the masterpiece Time Magazine’s pre-mature cover story suggested it would be. Far from it. And the numbing pain of his three-hour “Mother Courage” in Central Park several seasons back, I can’t forgive or forget. He “adapted” his own translation of Brecht’s great play, which was NEVER known to be LONG. And poor Meryl Streep gave one of her worst performances ever as she struggled to keep this corpse afloat. I thought she was going to have a heart attack right there on the stage!

Sasha also pointed out that Tom’s Gold Derby-ites had mixed up the categories for “The Master” and had Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the lead, and Joaquin Phonenix as Supporting and Tom O’Neil agreed! So there’s THAT confusion. As if we needed more.

Sasha also iterated, and again I agree with her, that the two big films to look out for for Best Picture and in many other categories are “Les Miserables” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” And again Tom O. agreed with her.And once again, I do, too. Even at this great distance in June this seems clear.

Jeffrey Wells of http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com still seemed like he was in Prague, and perhaps that’s where he was calling in from. If it was in L.A., he really did seem out of the loop indeed. And called this lively discussion “A revelation.” And added that he’d have to update his Oscar Balloon. Oy, Jeffrey. Get with the program.

Sasha felt that Oscar movies need to make you FEEL, and I couldn’t agree more. The ones thatultimately win, I mean.

And of all those out there, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (seen by all) and “Les Miserables”(still unseen until the holidays) are the two films who could go all the way.

I’m interviewing all involved with “Beasts” on Thursday there in NYC. Which I came back into town for. And I am very happy to finally be able to ask the 23-year-old Wunderkind Behn Zeitlin, the co-screenwriter and the director, of this mind-blowing milestone of a film just HOW he created this cinematic miracle.

“Beasts” may be too edgie and too Indie to WIN Best Picture. But what of it extraordinary child actress, the now eight-year-old Qu’venzhane Wallis?

This is undoubtedly the best performance I’ve ever seen by a child, but could she win Best Actress???? Sasha seems to think she could and that that is the category where she is going to end up. And again, I find myself in astonished, but delighted agreement.

She’s got EXTRAORDINARY chemistry with the camera. And her performance haunts my mind.

Sasha said “I pity the actress that is going to have to go up against her for Best Actress.”  And she and Tom discussed the others in contention in THAT category. Laura Linney for “Hyde Park on Hudson”, Keira Knightley in “Anna Karenina”, and Marion Cotillard in “Of Rust and Bone.

Maybe they’ll create a Special Oscar just for Qu’venshane. Like they did for Shirley Temple and Judy Garland back in the ’30s.

And, after reading all this, you want to hear MORE. Go to http://www.goldderby.com and you’ll find it all there. It’s really worth a listen to all you Oscarwatchers out there.

Tom and Sasha agreed more than I ever thought they would. And I agree with them more than I ever thought I would.

Oscar’s Pesky Supporting Categories. Mucho loco.

Oh, those pesky Oscar Supporting Categories! They are sooo hard to pin down, always, but this year’s there’s so much movement it makes the potential nominees look like Mexican jumping beans!

And no SAG didn’t match the Golden Globes, and they both didn’t match the  (Broadcast Film Critics Assoc.) But look who these groups REALLY represent. Look closely. And the first thing you may notice is that the Broadcast Film Critics, is made up, of mostly, well, film critics.

And there are NO film critics in the Academy. Repeat after me. THERE ARE NO FILM CRITICS IN THE ACADEMY.

And Stu Vanairsdale’s www.movieline.com excellent depiction of the Hollywood Foreign Press as “swag monkeys” is sooo apposite I want to adopt it just for my own, but yes, that defines them. ABSOLUTELY. And also, they are PRESS. And yes, repeat after me…no don’t bother. There’s no press in the Academy either….

So the fact that Michael Fassbender didn’t get a SAG nom is much more significant than it may at first seem. AND he’s urinating on-screen. Literally pissing his nomination away. And that’s how Demian Bichir got HIS SAG nom, playing a heroic Hispanic gardener. Yeah, this category this year . It’s a pisser.

But also not nominated for SAG was Albert Brooks from “Drive” and that make me wonder. He was nominated for Supporting Actor by both the BFCA and the GG, but to be left out of SAG may be fatal.

Why was Brooks not nominated for “Drive”? Maybe because THEY DIDN’T WATCH “DRIVE.” SAG gave nothing to “Drive” whereas the BFCA nominated it A LOT.

Who was nominated in Brooks’ place? Armie Hammer for “J. Edgar!” Stupendous in “The Joy of Typing” as BOTH Winklevoss twins, he’s riding a crest of good will. And Academy members keep exclaiming “I loved J.Edgar!” Which is something obviously Stu V. isn’t hearing.

And Hammer benefits by being in Leo DiCaprio’s shadow. He gets to kiss him, after all (Degree of difficulty!) And even though “J. Edgar” was left off the PGA list, it made MY Ten Best, and I STILL think it’s another Clint Eastwood masterpiece. THAT could be a surprise BP pop-up on Oscar Nomination Day, which is Tuesday Jan.24.

AMPAS members are voting right now on their choices of nominations. Yes, they are. And so what’s on their minds? Well, “The Artist” for one, which is going to get more nominations than any other film this year. And Berenice Bejo is on her way to a for sure Best Supporting Actress nomination and possibly even a win, in my book.

The Argentinian/French beauty carries as much of the film as the stalwart Jean Dujardin, who did win the Best Actor prize in Cannes this year. And she got a BFCA, a SAG nod, and also a Golden Globe nomination. So she was the triple crown of nods as it were.

And she also just won BEST ACTRESS in the Rome Film Festival which just wrapped last week.

So she’s definitely on a roll, and she’s also married IRL to “The Artist” s front-runner for Best Director Michel Hazanaviscius. And HE’S probably going to win Best Director across the board, and if she won, too, that would be the first time in Oscar history that a husband and wife team won double Oscars, a quaint touch that the Academy may very likely find too charming to resist, too. Just like their movie!

They’re French, and SOOOO in love! And so happy!

Berenice’s main competition is Octavia Spenser for “The Help.” Spencer, an unknown up until this season, also was a recipient of a SAG, BFCA & a GG nod. So she’s almost assured of a nomination. But she’s an Academy newbie. Her memorable performance as the foul-mouthed Minnie is the kind of role that gets nominated but doesn’t necessarily WIN awards.

And there was that shitting in the pie scene. Unlike Michael Fassbender, we don’t SEE her doing it, thank god, but she does do it, and then serves it to Bryce Dallas Howard, RON HOWARD’S daughter! in real life, who plays the villainess Hilly so well here in “The Help.”

Stu V. and Tom O’Neil at www.GoldDerby.com and many others have her as a frontrunner in Supporting Actress, but I wonder….

I do NOT think the Academy is open-minded enough to award TWO African-American actresses in ONE year. One of them, maybe, but not both. And Viola Davis is pictured and named as “The Frontrunner” on this week’s Entertainment Weekly annual Oscar issue. She’s pictured with George Clooney, which actually could be the kiss of death. They could BOTH not win.

And the two “Help” women, may split the “Help” vote. And neither wins.

It’s a very interesting year in that the actress categories are so up-in-the-air.

And it just goes to show that Meryl Streep’s reviews for “The Iron Lady” were sooooo bad that they vaulted Viola Davis on to the cover of EW!

And Shailene Woodley of “The Descendants” was not nominated for a SAG award either.  Too young, merely a teenager. But Janet McTeer of “Albert Nobbs” was…and Stu V. has Glenn Close of “Albert” slipping out of the locked five in Best Actress, being replaced by Rooney Mara. I don’t see that happening. But Janet McTeer has ALSO scored the trifecta of BFCA, SAG & GG.

And then there’s Jessica Chastain & her 5000 films she was in this year’s problem. What to nominate her for? Well, if it’s for “The Help” (a good perf, but not great) she’d also be splitting the “Help” vote with Spencer and then…and then…Berenice Bejo wins!

And Vanessa Redgrave could win in this category, but she’s been nominated nowhere so far and it seems like NO body is watching “Coriolanus.”

And then there’s sweet Carrie Mulligan who shows HER nether regions in “Shame.” But oh yes, since she’s a young girl, that could help her…but so far…No nominations…which is a REAL shame.

And Christopher Plummer? He won this race, Supporting Actor, the minute his marvelous film “Beginners” opened in May. The question that plagues us Oscar-ers and Oscar-ettes, is who’s going to be nominated in that category and lose to him. Plummer has never seen so, well, plummy. And he’s experiencing the most attention and love he’s perhaps ever gotten in his long and very chequered career. He’s very grand, too, as Herbert Wanger in “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” It’s his year. He’s everywhere!

SAG Nominations Out! No “War Horse”, Oldman, Brooks, Woodley or REDGRAVE!

Well, dear readers, dear cineastes, I’m back. Having major Internet issues…but I just HAVE to respond to the all-important SAG nominations which are just out this AM! For a complete list, see www.awardsdaily.com

Mainly I’m SHOCKED that “War Horse” is completely left out! This is for the SAG Ensemble Award, which is their corresponding award to “Best Picture.” Having just seen it last night at a (mainly) AMPAS screening, the audience, and myself, too, reacted VERY favorably. But the horse is the star. And the actors performances are all strangely flat. Though great actors and actresses abound. Like Emily Watson, Eddie Marsden, Peter Mullan, etc. etc.

Left IN however, is “Midnight in Paris”!!! For Best Ensemble. But also left OUT are the two main contenders from “Shame” Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan(for Supporting Actress). I think it’s because of their nudity. Period. Well, and the over abundant sex scenes.

The Actors don’t want to be turned into cartoons or stop motion characters, nor do they want to be seen naked and having sex on the screen. It’s retro thinking all around. I’m just responding to the way it is.

And no love whatsoever for “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”! AND “Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close” !!! Both those films with the latest possible release dates. And the strict embargoes, and I’m guessing just too late for most of the SAG nominators to see them. Too bad. I’m still waiting on MY invites to them. BTW!!!

However, the SAG nominators DID get Damien Bechir’s film EARLY. And they saw it and liked it and nominated the Mexican actor in the Best Actor category. Effectively knocking out Michael Fassbender and Gary Oldman.

Oldman, with the large British voting block in AMPAS, may get back in when the Oscar nominations are FINALLY announced next month! Yes, we’ve still got a month to wait!

But what they did get right was the Best Actress category with Meryl Streep, Glenn Glose, Michelle Williams, Viola Davis and TILDA SWINTON! Well…great for TILDA! With the help of master Oscar strategist, Cynthia Swartz, behind “We’ve Got to Talk About Kevin” Tilda, I think is very secure in reaching their mutual goal of snagging an Oscar nomination for this dark, difficult, challenging film, too. But I want to go on record as saying I THINK SAG Has now nailed the five Best Actress candidates down. I think all five of these ladies will duplicate their SAG noms on Oscar Nomination Morning. And Glenn Close breaks her losing streak with inclusion here by the Actors.

But Cynthia Swartz also is famously backing “Tattoo” and Rooney Mara and got NO-Thing…

“The Help” got the most noms with Best Ensemble and Best Actress(Davis) and TWO Best Supporting Actresses in Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain. So this effectively keeps “The Help” in the race and also FINALLY narrows it down to which of Chastain’s 6 or 7 or 8 performances that the Academy will also probably nominate. So it’s Chastain for “The Help” is she’s in it at all.

The Big Winner of course is Harvey Weinstein. With his nominations for Best Ensemble for “The Artist”, Best Actor, Jean Dujardin, Best Supporting Actress, Berenice Bejo, Best Actresses Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams for “The Iron Lady” and “My Week with Marilyn” and Best Supporting Actor Kenneth Branagh also for “My Week with Marilyn.”

Both Supporting categories are the ones that are going to change the  most when Oscar is announced.  They are kind of all over the place. With wildcards Melissa McCarthy “Bridesmaids” and Armie Hammer “J. Edgar” getting in. I don’t think McCarthy is going to get in for this category with Oscar. She’s a TV actress and the “Bridesmaids” as successful as it was, is still A COMEDY.

Shailene Woodley not getting in for “The Descendants” was a shocker. Another fore-gone conclusion, well, gone. And ditto Albert Brooks in “Drive.” He could replace the execrable Jonah Hill for “Moneyball.” And if Woodley doesn’t score here, who is the BABE in this category? Well, Berenice Bejo!

Yes, my friends “The Artist” continues to sweep as “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” seem not to be registering at all.

Somewhere Harvey Weinstein is laughing.

The BAFTAS predict the Oscars quite often lately

Last night the BAFTAS pretty much accurately predicted who’s going to win what in the Best Picture and Actors categories.

Before I go further, let me once again, explain that the BAFTAs voting procedures are different from the Oscars in that EVERYone, every member, votes on the categories of Best Picture and all four acting categories.

HOWEVER, the British Guilds vote for each of the other categories, like Best Director. And they gave it to David Fincher for “The Joy of Typing” and not home boy Tom Hooper for “The King’s Speech.” THAT was probably the most shocking event of the evening, as “The King” ruled over seven categories! Taking home the most BAFTAS of any film, seven, including Best Picture, Best British Picture, Best Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay and Best Score.

I bring up the directing statistic as an example of how the Brits don’t necessarily honor their own. As for instance, Anthony Minghella (“The English Patient”) and Sam Menzies(“American Beauty”) were dissed in Limey, losing in their own country, but winning the Oscar for Best Director,when Push came to SHOW!

Since Tom Hooper has already won the DGA for “The King’s Speech”. Since the Queen of England AND Andy Rooney (just yesterday, this Sunday on 60 Minutes) both endorsed TKS, I think he’s got that in the bag too.

As well as fellow “King”sters Colin (of course) Firth and Geoffrey Rush and FINALLY my fave Helena Bonham-Carter.

Rush winning over Brit bad boy Christian Bale is particularly significant, since Rush is ostentatiously Australian.

I had the pleasure last night of attending an event in his honor last night at the DGA where Rush got multiple ovations, some of them standing, but more about that later.

I have always maintained that the BAFTAs help make up undecided minds in the Academy. If AMPAS voters wait to see what the Brits do at the BAFTAS…especially in the top Acting Categories.

Had Annette Bening upset Natalie Portman(who didn’t even show up) in Best Actress, for instance, it would indicate that their was an undercurrent surging for Annette. No such luck. Natalie’s got it, as they say, locked up. And Colin(of course) Firth does, too.  No contest in either of those two categories. The same can also be applied to David Seidler, the real stutterer who penned “King’s Speech” from his heart and who won Best Original Screenplay.

I’m willing to concede (FINALLY) that Aaron Soreking will win Best Adapted Screenplay for “The Joy of Typing.” Even his constant comparing himself to Shakespeare didn’t put off the Brits, so yes, the Academy will follow suit and this may be the only award “Typing” wins at the Oscars…You heard it here first!

And Geoffrey and Helena!

Well, the category of Supporting Actress for those of you who have been following the story (and you wouldn’t be reading THIS if you weren’t) know how badly former front-runner Melissa Leo stumbled at the last yard and basically handed the award to yes, Helena Bonham-Carter!

Best Supporting Actress is a category like none other. And these year, to me, resembles the year, a few back, when it was a five-way horse race, and at the last possible minute, Tilda Swinton was anointed at the BAFTAs for “Michael Clayton” and then surprised everyone, but me, at the Oscars ten or so days later.

This year Best Supp. Actress is all over the place with two actresses both from the fighter, Leo, who wasn’t nominated by the BAFTAs AT ALL, and Amy Adams, who was. Only Amy and Helena B-C found approval from the BAFTAs and of course, she won, and gave a wacky, rambling, memorable and moving speech just as I foretold she would.

She wore a black Vivienne Westwood. And looked less bizarre than she did at the BFCA or was it the SAGs or was it the Golden Globes, when she wore two different colored shoes? It’s all starting to blur on me. And if I’M getting a bit blurry, imagine the Awards-circuit fatigue the average viewer is going through?!?

But the Oscars are STILL the Gold Standard(pardon the pun) and I really do think Helena aced this topsy-turvy category with her BAFTA win.

Geoffrey on the other hand, really has his hands full trumping Christian Bale in “The Fighter.” As good as Bale is in this popular film( I even liked it), he lost on his home turf,(yes, he IS British, too) to Rush’s supreme, stately, magnificent Speech Therapist Lionel Logue.

Rush has got his previous Oscar win in Best Actor for “Shine” and Bale is a first-time nominee.

But Rush now has the BAFTA as well as Sasha Stone www.awardsdaily.com predicting him now. And I’ve ALWAYS been predicting him. And Helena, too.

Helena’s competition is much less intense as what Rush has to contend with in Bale’s…but…

I think the BAFTAS have spoken. Last year, it was only the Supporting Categories that matched. No Bullock, no Bridges, but Christoph Waltz and Mo’Nique won BAFTAs as well as Oscars. The year previous Mickey Rourke won, over Sean Penn. But then Mr. Rourke got up and made a really crude F=== this and F=== that acceptance speech, and pretty much handed the award to Penn with that embarrassing, graceless moment.

But in the two years previous, BAFTA was four for four with the Oscar actors.

This year, well, don’t be surprised by “The King’s Speech” being the sweep of sweeps.

And one more thing, I’d like to point out. In CONCLUSION, Academy voters in ALLLLL disciplines and branches get to vote on all the awards (except Foreign Film, Documentaries, and Shorts, where you have to sign in and actually ATTEND those screenings to vote in those categories.) So the Academy Voting Ballot is something you can go, check, check, check and TICK ALL THE BOXES, as Colin and Geoffrey are both wont to say. And just vote “The King’s Speech” ticket for everything!

And not to be outdone by the Brits, I also predict that even though “The King’s Speech” won SEVEN awards, the Oscar vote count will be higher, much higher, maybe even historic. The Oscar ballot is designed for sweeps, since in the below the line categories, the technicians are listed by their names and their films are not even listed! A lot of cross-checking has to be done filling out the AMPAS ballot to vote-split. It’s easier to just look at the “For You Consideration” screener of your favorite film and just go, tick, tick, BOOM from there. And I think most do.

Harvey Weinstein is probably fuming about the seven BAFTAS his “King” didn’t win. But not me! I’m thrilled with all the events happening around this beautiful, beautiful film!

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