Traditionally, most Hollywood businesses grind to a halt for the 5-day Thanksgiving holiday. But not this wide-open awards season. Tangled had its official Academy screening last Sunday morning but only drew about 200 people. Instead, the holidays actually seem like a good time to push an animated Disney musical. So Disney isn’t even taking Turkey Day off: instead, the studio has skedded screenings of Tangled at the DGA open to all Guild and Academy members. This isn’t actually a new practice. In the past, Oscar hopefuls like Dreamgirls, The Lord Of The Rings, and others have done the same thing at the DGA theater drawing surprisingly strong crowds of potential voters on a day most people are thought to stay at home. Disney also sent a note warning some early voting groups that they wouldn’t be able to send screeners of the film before deadlines for ballots (piracy concerns are part of that problem), so the T-Day screenings take on even greater import.
Tangled aside, distributors have been rushing to get screeners in as many voter hands as possible before Thanksgiving when they think people will have more time on their hands to pop a DVD in the player before the real crunch comes in December. Among those sent in the last few days are The Social Network, Made In Dagenham, Inside Job, Stone, Let Me In, 127 Hours, Black Swan, Conviction, Never Let Me Go, Toy Story 3, Winter’s Bone, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, The Town, Inception, Hereafter, Legends Of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole, and The Ghost Writer.
Meanwhile, campaign season continues. Over the weekend, American Cinematheque also proved why it can be a very useful tool during awards season by hosting two sold-out events for Oscar hopefuls. Saturday night, there was a tribute to Pierce Brosnan at the Aero in Santa Monica with a double feature of Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer and Matador. Inbetween, Pierce appeared for a nearly hour-long Q&A (I moderated) in which he discussed his career from TV’s Remington Steele to James Bond to an Roman Polanski’s Ghost Writer in which he plays ex-British Prime Minister (Tony Blair, anyone?) now writing his controversial memoir. Summit Entertainment is hoping the pic will land him in the Best Supporting Actor conversation. Its early February release is a hindrance but by having a toney organization like American Cinematheque create these little tribute evenings, studios believe they can get the “right” kind of association for their contenders.
It was completely sold out, as was the next night at the same venue which hosted a Q&A session with writer Aaron Sorkin and stars Justin Timberlake, Andrew Garfield and Armie Hammer following a special screening of Sony Pictures’ The Social Network. All were talking about the genius of Director David Fincher (away on location in Sweden shooting The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo remake) and the number of takes he would require of his actors. “Sometimes there would be 99 of them, but not 100, never 100,” Timberlake said. In an encouraging sign for writerly respect, most of the audience questions from the predominantly young crowd were surprisingly directed at Sorkin who said dialogue-heavy movie might have been written by Paddy Chayefsky in another era. Not bad company to be in since Paddy won no less than three screenwriting Oscars. Some are asking if there is any way Sorkin can lose the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar this year? Especially after The Social Network opened to near-unanimous acclaim and strong business for a drama.
Other Best Picture competitors were also active over the weekend with the official Academy screening of The King’s Speech and several rollicking Q&As for The Fighter. Neither has officially opened in theatres yet but their Academy campaigns are well under way. The Weinsteon Co’s Speech reportedly played to a near-full house Saturday night for Oscar voters at the Goldwyn. Response was said to be predictably terrific with heavy applause at the end. Of course if it doesn’t play with this crowd, it doesn’t play anywhere.
But The Weinstein Co and Sony Pictures might want to look out for Paramount’s The Fighter which packed several different Guild screenings in the last of couple of days. Saturdays’s SAG unspooling at the WGA theatre was as raucous as a prize fight and featured Standing O’s when the cast of Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Melissa Leo along with director David O. Russell were introduced. Monday night, it was the producers turn with another filled-to-the-max screening for the PGA membership featuring Wahlberg (again) and five other producers including Relativity’s Ryan Kavanaugh and Mandeville’s Todd Lieberman and David Hoberman. Fighter was several years in development until Kavanaugh came in with the financial plan that finally got it before the cameras after Paramount basically had hit a wall. Now it is back in Paramount’s hands for release and everyone is talking Oscar. Funny how these things work out.
And last Friday night, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival handed out its annual Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film at a black tie dinner at the Four Seasons Biltmore. This year’s receipient was Harrison Ford, currently earning some of his best reviews ever for Paramount’s Morning Glory. Actually Douglas, 93, was almost a no-show when his wife Anne became ill and couldn’t attend. But trouper that he is, Kirk appeared, sat with Ford through dinner, and presented the award himself. “When I was a little boy, I only wanted to be Indiana Jones. Harrison got there first. Originally Harrison was a carpenter and, if he’d stayed that way, I might have ended up being Indiana Jones!” Kirk said. Ford was accompanied by wife Calista Flockhart and his Cowboys & Aliens director Jon Favreau and was his usual low-key self in accepting. “I was lucky to be in an exciting time in this business, and, if luck would have it, I still get a job from time to time.” He also apologized for the young-looking movie star photo of himself hanging on the stage taken, he said, when Calista was just 11 years old. (By the way, the bar was serving drinks labeled “Morning Glorys”. One guest from South Africa said that’s the nickname in many parts of the world for a man’s early day “arousal”. Wonder if Paramount knows this.)