a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Oprah Winfrey’

What Happened to “Selma”? “Nightcrawler” continues to rise…

Nightcrawler 3Selma Poster 1WHAT HAPPENED TO “SELMA”?!?! This is the question the blogosphere and Oscarologists in particular are asking across the online universe this day of the Producer’s Guild Annoucement of its’ ten Nominations for Best Picture. The list is below in the last post.

There’s a one word answer “Screeners.” Paramount, the major film company, did the incredibly lamentable thing in not sending screeners to this group. Or any of the guild groups. Which explains in a tweet, why this wonderful, timely film that I just loved, is being ignored every where.

Well,they did evidently send the All-Important-These-Days Screeners of “Selma” to the Academy members. Which is 6,000 or so right there. But if they wanted to build momentum for “Selma” (and also by the way for “Interstellar”) they SHOULD’VE sent out the screeners! It’s 2015 now ladies and gentlemen, and that’s how you win an Oscar. You’ve GOT to send out screeners to the guilds as well as  to the aged Academy membership, who just simply DON’T get out to see all the movies they SHOULD, in a theater, but who SEEM to watch them at home. On their DVD players. Which is usually how and where they make their Oh-So-Important Decisions. In the comfort, and privacy, of their Bellair/Aspen/etc. homes.

I can’t believe this egregious oversight on Paramount’s part. It’s not as though it’s an INDIE after all. I mean, Paramount is a major studio, for cripe’s sake. It’s like they want their films to fail this year.

Or they think they don’t have a chance anyway. But it damages “Selma” particularly in that a film that SEEMED to be on its’ way to making history with the nomination of the first African-American female director, is now probably NOT going to happen for Ava DuVernay. And this makes David Oyelewo, the rising Black British star who plays Dr. Martin Luther King, also extremely vulnerable in the over-crowded Best Actor race, and leave room for Jake Gyllenhaal of “Nightcrawler” to creep in. Once you lose the Zeitgeist, it’s very hard to put the lightning back in the bottle.

“Nightcrawler” surprised everyone, in a good way today. It’s good news for Indie distributor Open Road films and for Jake Gyllenhaal and maybe also for Renee Russo in the Best Supporting Actress race. Perception is everything. If a film is PERCEIVED to have awards heat, as “Nightcrawler” and also Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” which seems to be killing it at the box-office, too, well then everyone involved in those films prospers. What is the phrase “A high tide raises all boats”?

But there is a glimmer of hope in that the PGA nom list has in the recent past NOT MATCHED perfectly with the Academy’s list of Ten. Or more accurately, nine. There’s usually one film different. At least.

So I’m hoping the Academy does the right thing, as Spike Lee once opined, and votes in “Selma” for Best Picture. I wonder if though the Director’s Branch and the DGA will include Du Vernay after this. The DGA, BTW, ALSO did not get sent screeners of “Selma” so probably not.

Sad for DuVernay’s chances. The Director’s Guild and the Director’s Branch are VERY quirky and idionsyncratic. VERY hard to predict. Like for instance, I think Damien Chazelle’s the VERY young director of “Whiplash” could pull at Behn Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”s 20-something director) and get an Oscar nod. And Ava DuVernay doesn’t. Oprah, you’re the producer of “Selma”, weren’t you paying ATTENTION?!?

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Oscar Changer “Selma” Gets Standing O at AFI Fest

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Last night’s double whammy of a double bill at the AFI Fest in LA netted a standing ovation from the industry/cinephile crowd for “Selma,” reports Steve Pond at the Wrap. http://www.thewrap.com. And a kind of meh reaction to Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” which followed it.

Chris Tapley of HitFix http://www.hitfix.com one of the foremost Oscarologists(and one of the youngest,too) thinks that this could be an Oscar game changer and that “Selma” a Martin Luther King biopic, co-produced by Oprah Winfrey and starring David Oyelowo could be a best picture contender as well as a Best Actor nomination in that crowded race. Oyelowo plays Martine Luther King.His star has been consistantly rising in the past two years.

Also interesting and exciting is filmmaker Ada DuVernay’s chance at a Best Director nod. This would be the first and only time an African-American woman could be up in that male-dominated category.

“Selma”s standing ovation was in stark contrast to the rather tepid reaction to Eastwood’s Oscar ontender “American Sniper” which immediately followed it.

So on the Oscar roller coaster, I would have to say that “Selma” is definitely on an Up this morning, and “American Sniper” is a Down.

Tapley praised Bradley Cooper’s performance in “Sniper” but aren’t we being Bradley Cooper’ed to death recently? With Oscar nominations in the past two years. for “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle”? And “Elephant Man” opening shortly on Broadway, starring again, yes, Bradley Cooper.

We shall see. And I’ll still be surprised if Steve Carrell makes it into the over-crowded Best Actor race with his rabbity, two-dimensional Henry E. DuPont in “Foxcatcher.” Too many Oscar seeking movies with leading actor wannabees and virtually no actresses. As usual…

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She’s Everywhere! Lupita and I

She's Everywhere! Lupita and I

I sat down to have a coffee in a favorite, unprepossessing coffee shop thinking about the Oscar Race this year. When am I ever thinking about anything else as Oscar Day grows closer and closer? Next Sunday, March 2 is the Awards themselves. Tuesday at 5pm the AMPAS voting closes. FINALLY! Has this been the longest Oscar year ever or what?

Well, it’s still the same two movies battling it out til the end, “12 Years a Slave” vs. “Gravity”. It’s been like this since TIFF’13.

Exactly like this, with a little “American Hustle” thrown in.

And as I sat there sipping my excellent cup of non-starbucks coffee, I glanced up, and there she was again! Lupita Nyong’o!!!! On ANOTHER cover! This time the theatrical newspaper Backstage! She’s everywhere!

She’s on the cover this week of EW, also New York Magazine, also Vanity Fair. I can’t keep up with it all.

She is extraordinarily photogenic. The camera loves her.

In reality, she’s tiny. So she’s always looking up at you with those big, dark soulful eyes.

I’ve met her twice. Once when she finished doing her “Leagues” or actor’s “Scene Night” or “The Actor’s Presentations” with her graduating class of the Yale School of Drama less than two years ago this past May.

She had an incredibly talented class, BTW. Michael Place being the actor who jumped out at me, but there were QUITE a few others, Fisher Neal, William DeMerritt. And of course Lupita herself.

We spoke briefly after it was over and she’s was polite and poised and I asked her to send me a picture and resume and she did, with a charming hand-written note, thanking me, which I still have. Her penmanship BTW was perfect. She charmed me instantly.

Then again we met at the Toronto Film Festival this past September, where “12 Years a Slave” was making a tumulutous debut, after she held what was to be the first of many, many press conferences that were to come her way this Awards Season.

She seemed overwhelmed. And most of her castmates and director Steve McQueen did all of the talking. I asked him about Lupita’s audition. And I believe he said, “It was like a dream walking into the room” or “My dream walked into the room” or something like that. “And there she was. I knew immediately, it was her.”

After the press conference was over, I got to talk to her again VERY briefly and I’m sure she remembered me from the post-Yale audition, and I complimented her profusely.
Telling her performance was “beyond words” and “Lupita,I’m known as the Oscar Messenger and I’m here to tell you that you are going to the win the Oscar and beat Oprah” Well, it’s true so far. Oprah wasn’t even nominated.

And Lupita’s response? She just giggled!

Best Supporting Actress Oscar Nomination Predictions

Following on from my earlier Oscar Nominations Predictions here are my Best Supporting Actress nominations. 

This is the wacky category which is always unstable and where ALWAYS surprises turn up. Even to me. Like for instance last year Jackie Weaver getting nominated for “Silver Linings Playbook.” Even SHE didn’t expect it, she has said.

Why, in a rather weak performance, did she get in? Well simply put she was in a film every Academy voter was watching, to look at the other eventual nominees Bradley Cooper, Robert DiNiro and eventual winner Jennifer Lawrence, and they saw Weaver playing mother hen to all of them, and so out of sheer laziness, I feel, they just wrote her name down as well. Instead of looking at a separate DVD screener (even if they were sent one) on Magnolia Films Indie starring Ann Dowd.

Weaver replaced Dowd in the final Nomination line-up. Even though she was NOMINATED for a Broadcast Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress and WON the National Board of Review.

Weaver was also in a film the Weinstein Co. were pushing. As always, DON’T UNDERESTIMATE HARVEY!

So who does Harvey have in his Supporting Actress stable this year? Well, Julia Roberts, in the best performance of her career in “August:Osage County” so I think she’s in. And so are his other ladies, Opran Winfrey in “Lee Daniels The Butler” and also Octavia Spenser in “Fruitvale Station.”

Adding in Lupita Nyong’O’s breakout debut performance in “12 Years a Slave” and Golden Globe winner and last year’s Best Actress winner Jennifer Lawrence in “American Hustle.”

And 84-year-old June Squibb gets in for “Nebraska.”

Also, I don’t think the Academy can resist making history this year by nominating THREE African American actresses in the same category! That would be Oprah, Lupita Nyong’O, and former winner in this category Octavia Spenser.

ETA: I just realized I predicted SIX nominees! Well, that can’t be right!
Sorry! So who gets left out. Unfortunatley, it’s either Octavia Spenser, but because she’s got Harvey behind her, and he’s ALSO got to do some heavy lifting for Julia Roberts in this category AND Oprah, too, who surprisingly is not a slam dank(She didn’t get a Golden Globe nomination! SHOCK!). He may split his infinity here. And “Fruitvale Station” as worthy as it is, is NOT “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”Or Octavia gets in and June Squibb does not. Last year, Ann Dowd didn’t.

SAG Awards Nominations ~ Tricky or True?

So FINALLY after months and months of hot & bothered, heated & cool Awards speculation, the Screen Actors Guild Awards announced their 2013 nominations. In film, that’s five categories only, Best Actor, Actress, Supp. Actor & Supporting Actress, and Best Ensemble, which is their euphemism for Best Picture.

Since these are card-carrying actors and actresses voting for their own, and since their membership overlaps(albeit only slightly)with the Academy Voters, this is the first GUILD, and a very important and large one, to announce. And the surprises were few and far between.
Everything went almost by rote. The Best Actresses were The Locked Five everyone and his mother has been saying it would be. Blanchett, Bullock, Dench, Streep and Emma Thompson in “Blue Jasmine”, “Gravity, “Philomena”, “August:Osage County”, and “Saving Mr. Banks” respectively.

SHOCK OF THE MORNING! Robert Redford being left out for “All is Lost”! This is very important. The actors, if anyone, should’ve revered Redford, their suppossed idol, but no, their Idol has feet of clay, it turns out. There is no good way to parse this. Even though he is ASSURED a nomination tomorrow morning, when the Golden Globes announce. This weakens his possibility (even if he DOES got an Oscar nomination) of WINNING an Oscar highly unlikely, if he doesn’t have the SAG voters behind him. He really in effect lost the Oscar this morning with this announcement. I’m not kidding. It’s THAT important. Who SAG leaves out(even more than who they honor) is what is important, esp. this highly contested, congrested year.

The Hollywood Foreign Press(HFPA) however, is a different kettle of fish entirely. These are the 90 or so Foreign “Journalists” who give out the Golden Globes. Star struck to the max, to put it kindly, they will want Redford in that audience.(They announce tomorrow)

But the Screen Actor’s guild clearly doesn’t.

Maybe they just didn’t like that one-man film thing.

But they nominated Sandra Bullock for what is essentially a one-woman film thing, too, in “Gravity.” Which has made millions, whereas “All is Lost” has made nothing.

Zilch.

Another surprise was how poorly “Saving Mr. Banks” did. No Ensemble nomination and no Tom Hanks as Disney in Supporting. Instead in Supporting Actor we find the late James Gandolfini for “Nuff Said” and surprise(!) Daniel Bruhl of the Ron Howard racing film. for playing Hans Landa.

The Supporting Actor nominations were expected for Jared Leto and Michael Fassbender. The first time, let it be noted, that Fascinating Fassbender has been nominated by this august group. And finally, another delightful surprise Barkhad Abdi, the frightening Somali pirate in “Capt. Phillips.”

The fact that both Hanks as Philips himself and Abdi as his scary adversary bodes well for “Capt. Phillips” at the Oscars. The SAGS are notoriously American-centric so the inclusion of the German actor Bruhl and the Somali actor Abdi and the Irishman Fassbender is significant I think.

Supporting Actress was as expected Lupita, Oprah, June Squibb and JLaw and the inclusion of Julia Roberts(For August:Osage County), who knocked out Octavia Spenser, the winner of the Supp. Actress award by the National Board of Review. Confusing isn’t it?

Four nominations were the most and they were for my favorite film of the year “12 Years a Slave” Best Ensemble, Best Actor -Chiwetel Ejiafor, Best Supp. Actor ~ Fassbender, and Best Supp. Actress Lupita Nyong’O.

For a complete list go to http://www.hitfix.com

Correct pronunciations of “12 Years a Slave” and “Butler” stars’ names…

I mean this as a public service.

It’s CHEW-we-tell EDGE-ee-a-for

Chiwetel Ejiafor.

The “J” is not silent as I thought for awhile it was.

AD-a-pero OH-doo-yay. Adepero Oduye, the terrific star of “Pariah” who plays Eliza, the also kidnapped freewoman-turned-slave, who has her two children taken from her in one of the films most wrenching stories, RIGHT AT THE BEGINNING of the film.

LU-peet-ah Ne-YOUNG-go. Lupita Nyong’o. The brilliant young actress who is making her debut as Patsie, the most abused slave of them all. And the most heart-breaking. Who might just steal the Oscar from Oprah. For Best Supporting Actress. She’ll steal your heart, that’s for sure.

David OH- YELLOW-WOE. David Oyelowo. Of “The Butler” All syllables equally stressed.

Hope this is helpful in the upcoming Oscar Conversation 2013.

Oh, and Alfonso Cuaron, the director of “Gravity“s last name is pronounced KWA-roan. As if the “Cu” were a “qu”.

At NYFF, ” 12 Years a Slave”s Magnificent Achievement Dwarfs All Others

“12 Years a Slave” I’ve never really seen anything like it. I feel it is one of the greatest films of all time, Simply one of the greatest films ever made and yes, I saw it first at TIFF, where it leveled all comers, and now over a month later at the NYFF, the impact is the same. Nothing has changed. It’s a month later and really there’s nothing going to stop it.

It won the Audience Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival and this is just the first step in the many, many awards that are going to come its’ way. It’s seriousness makes “Django Unchained” look like a joke. And yes, it did win two Oscars. Both for the two white men who were nominated. Quentin Tarentino who got his second Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and Christophe Waltz, who stunned all Oscarologists (EXCEPT Tom O’Neil at www.goldderby.com) who didn’t predict it. Waltz won of course for Best Supporting Actor.

This year it will be very, very different at the Oscars I predict. But if we look at the precedent being “Django” as the only other film in recent years to have Slavery as its’ main subject , the white guy in Supporting, this time Michael Fassbender, might just get lucky and win just as Waltz did. He’s playing the evil slave owner Epps, who prides himself in “breaking” troublesome slaves. Being sold to the Eps plantation is akin to being sent to Hell.

And Fassbender, who’s star has been on the rise for years now, mainly due to his other two collaborations with British director Steve McQueen, the harrowing “Hunger” where he lost something like 40 pounds as a Irish hunger striker, based on a true story and yes, also as the lead in “Shame” playing a slightly lighter topic as a sex addict, who is naked for sooo many of the scenes in that film. Also, he’s in “X-Men:First Class” and so he’s well situated to FINALLY be nominated for “12 Years a Slave” and he may win.

The film is certainly going to win Best Picture. Despite “Gravity”s overwhelming box-office achievement this weekend, I don’t think the Academy is ready to embrace 3-D, even yet. And since so many voting members watch the nominated films on screeners or DVD copies of the nominated movies, at home on their television sets, 3-D and certainly IMAX is going to look like not much of anything, compared with the gargantuan thrill it provides on the biggest of Big Screens. It should pass $100 million domestic at the box-office in the next week or two. At most.

But all this is to say that “12 Years a Slave” is going to look just fine on DVD. It’s a film of intense close-ups, and unflinching brutality. And of course, it takes a British director to finally tell the truth of this utterly American horror story that was slavery in the pre-Civil War South. McQueen could become the first Black director to win an Oscar. I think if they give it to the film they are going to give it to him, too.

And also his leading man,  the extraordinary British actor, Chiwetel Ejiafor, who as the freeman kidnapped and sold into slavery, is called upon to do things that no actor in the history of film has ever been asked to do before. He’s breathtaking! The levels of pain AND strength, the inner resources and resilience of spirit he brings to Solomon Northrup are astounding. And his and director McQueen’s intelligence inform every shot. It’s staggering in its’ immensity. But it’s all done utterly realistically and  with total naturalism.

The unimaginable atrocities that are depicted here are ALL TRUE.

And last but not least, we have to praise the Oscar chances, and the rise from complete obscurity of its’ ingénue star, Lupita N’yong’o, the young African-American actress, who plays Patsie, the beautiful slave who endures the most unmentionable cruelty, sexual and otherwise by Fassbender’s evil Epps. She will be nominated for Best Supporting Actress for sure, and will give Oprah Winfrey a run for her money in that category.

It’s overwhelmed all comers I feel at the New York Film Festival, just as it did previously at Telluride and Toronto. You see, nothing much has changed since audiences saw it in September. And oh yes, I have seen something like it before! It was also in the capable hands of Fox Searchlight and the name of the film was “Slumdog Millionaire” which debuted and wowed at Toronto and went on to wow the world and win every prize in sight, including the Oscar. It’s one of those kind of years. The word is unstoppable.

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