OSCAR: No T-Day Slowdown For Contenders

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.)

  1. Second consecutive year of strikingly average films as nominees.

    Seems like most on here qualify as “good, not great”, except for The Ghost Writer, which sucked. And “Real Genius” was a better film than “The Social Network”.

    1. your swipes at Social Ntwrk and Ghost Writer should preclude you from making value judgments about films. go back to rewatching Real Genius or Star Wars for the umpteenth time and leave the comments section to the adults. cheers.

      1. Hey, what’s wrong with “Star Wars” and “Real Genius”? Plenty of mature grown-ups I know swear by those movies.

  2. Was at the Tangled screening Sunday morning, there were more than 200 people there (granted many were children). It’s a great film and Disney is right to push it as hard as they can. It deserves a Best Animated Film nomination.

  3. Mark my words, The Social Network will end up like Up In The Air did last year: nominated for many, winner of none.

    1. “Social Network” should at least win Adapted Screenplay…but I said the same thing about “Up in the Air” last year, too!

    1. Almost 180 million dollars in international ticket sales against a 50 million dollar budget. If it hasn’t turned a profit even with the marketing tab accounted for it’s pretty damn close by now.

  4. Ghostwriter sadly could have been a great movie – it just sort of fell apart, midway point to ending was terrible. Sorry even Roman Polanski can make a bad movie. That and add a certain blond’s fake English accent that coming and going was just madness, go back to the City and mannequins. Now on the other hand, the overall look of that film is fantastic. And…locations/set design… I want that house, please tell me it’s real somewhere and wasn’t a set.

    1. I agree with your assessment of Ghost Writer. At its conclusion I had an “Is that all there is?” shrug. But I don’t think that actress deserves any particular blame. (And by the way, she actually has a British and Canadian background.) The story simply was not very compelling or particularly interesting..

    2. If you’re speaking about Kim Cattral, she was born in Liverpool and thus is English.

      Why are titles constantly dumbed down for Americans?

      Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone> Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone

      Nanny McPhee and The Big Bang> Nanny McPhee Returns

      The Ghost> The Ghost Writer

      I’ve met many Americans both living in the UK and the US and there are some very intelligent ones. Why does the film industry patronise them so much? Is there really such a low ebb of social strata who would need a film to be named by the occupation of the main protagonist to understand its premise. Does ‘Ghost’ really confuse THAT much?

      1. The Ghost just doesn’t send the right message to American audiences who would most likely expect a supernatural pic. Bad titles can sink good movies, also. Witness The Shawshank Redemption, which doesn’t exactly come off the tongue trippingly. The movie did not do great business and I’m convinced it needed a title change for the movie houses.

    3. Agree with you about the house! It’s not a set (for most parts), it’s a modern beach house in… Germany.

      I disagree with you about the actual film, though! I thought it was fantastic. I loved the feel, the mood of the film. Polanski is a modern master of suspense (though this was no Chinatown). Great score, wonderful cinematography, all-around a very entertaining film. Definitely Oscar winner material (if this isn’t, I don’t know what is).

  5. Five Oscar worthy films that i have seen so far

    1) Leaves of Grass
    2) The Ghost Writer
    3) Mother and Child
    4) The American
    5) The Social Network

  6. Must say, Social Network was disappointing. Yes, I enjoyed it. Ultimately though it is a forgettable piece of work. Seems to have already faded from consciousness. Seems to be our times. Mediocre is hyped as great. Many fall for it. Then it fades away.

    Think…Obama…John Edward…You who were singing praises of Edwards faded away. Then Obama. Now fading away.

    Same with film, tv, music. Kanye West. Brilliant, unreal, a master…I don’t by/buy it. He will be long forgotten in the not to distant future. If you listen to his new CD and you didn’t know about the hype, he is awful. Sounds like some guy on the street trying to rap. It really is quite silly.

    Cheerio.

  7. Hey, Hollywood. Here’s a clue why “women don’t go to movies”: because you insist on releasing all your grown-up movies at exactly the time of year when we have no time to go. The holidays — with shopping, house guests, travel arrangements, and kids off from school — are a time when many women barely get any sleep, much less free time to go to the theater.

    I would LOVE to go see these movies in the theater. But it’ll be yet another year of having to settle for Netflix months later.

    P.S. That’s partly why Oscar telecasts are so low-rated. We haven’t had a chance to see the movies yet!

  8. I wouldn’t practice my Oscar speech just yet if I were Mr. Sorkin. Nobody saw Jason Reitman be blindsided last year in the same category. Let’s see how those Coen boys, for example, do with “True Grit.” This race is far from over.

    1. The thing that people seem to be forgetting with Reitman’s snub was that the academy had the opprotunity to make history with that category last year and they went for it. Given Sorkin’s competition, I don’t think he really has to worry about losing at the moment whether it be either creative or political reasons.

      1. oh come on. many of us saw reitman losing because we all know the funny business of him claiming to have written his draft with no prior knowledge of sheldon turner’s screenplay.

        And timberlake is still terrible in the social network even with 99 takes of each scene. he should keep quiet about that. it doesn’t make him look good.

        1. Very funny Jason. Can’t say I recall Reitman ever claiming that but I’ll waste my time on checking for you. But if you’re being saracastic, I would not advise sketch comedy as a career.

          To each there own, but I thought Timberlake was terrificly charismatic and immensely engaging to watch as Parker. A perfect piece of casting that everyone doubted. Love to know why you didn’t like him. Then again, you probably won’t give much of a response.

          As for the multiple takes, it’s not necessarilly for the sake of perfection as much as experimenting with what result you will have with an actor over an extended period of filming a scene.

  9. The Social Network is an entertaining movie with a lousy message, which could hurt its chances. The lead character is obnoxious, egotistical, chauvinistic, juvenile and he steals an idea and forgets to support the people who brought him to the party. I don’t see the main Hollywood stream, especially the veteran Hollywood voters, supporting a movie with that kind of message. So consider The Social Network, despite its hipness, a longer shot.

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