OSCAR: Private Screenings Aplenty & 'The Kids Are All Right' Campaign Heats Up

Screening rooms all over town are booked solid for the tsunami of Q&A sessions being held for WGA, PGA, DGA, SAG and countless media organizations which host their own sponsored screenings of contenders. One SAG Nominating Committee member I ran into at the Arclight said he was skipping the screenings and just hopscotching from one Q&A to another. Someone was asking me this week if I thought there were more Q&As than usual this season. It seems like it but probably not, even though publicists are running their stars and filmmakers ragged trying to get them from one part of town to the other for two and sometimes three post-screening chat sessions in one day. Wednesday night alone at the Arclight in Hollywood, there seemed to be as many “private screening” notices on the multi-screen electronic box office marquee as there were regular features playing. Paul Giamatti was being shuttled from one house to another to talk up his new Sony Classics film, Barney’s Version. And Jada Pinkett Smith and co-star Michael Vartan were also there doing a session in front of SAG nominating committee members in hopes of gaining attention for their TNT medical drama, Hawthorne. (Pinkett–Smith fielded questions like “How do I get financing for my movie?” to “Would you consider making a sports movie? I have a script.”) Despite having won every imaginable trophy several times over (including two consecutive SAG ensemble awards), Mad Men isn’t giving it a rest and will be Q&A-ing for SAG on Thursday night with several cast members. Halle Berry did a SAG screening a couple of weeks ago and is doing another Friday. Not only do actors like to see stars at the Q&As, but they’re also a good place to network. Darren Aronofsky and the cast of Black Swan including Natalie Portman crisscrossed town this week talking at one Q&A after another. Another Year‘s Jim Broadbent and Lesley Manville also combed the town. But one group that really has been making the rounds is the gang from The Kids Are All Right.

For a June release like this one it’s important to keep in the conversation. So trotting the cast out for Q&As as the awards season heats up is an inexpensive way to do it. Focus Features used the occasion of the film’s DVD release this week to get the picture maximum exposure. They were doing at least five Q&A sessions, plus a cocktail reception, plus a lunch for online influencers. At that lunch, co-star Mark Ruffalo wearily told me, “I did six days working on this film and I have done 60 days of press.” That’s the reality of being in the Oscar game, especially for a small indie like Kids. The cast can spend more time talking about the pic than it took to make it.

Still it can be a lot of fun as director Lisa Cholodenko and Annette Bening, Julianne Moore and Ruffalo found out Monday when they appeared for the SAG Nom Comm at the Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theatre in Hollywood. A turn-away crowd of actors voting for the SAG award nominations this year (there are 2000 randomly chosen members for each of the separate movie and TV committees) turned the post-screening session into a rollicking seminar on the art of acting. “Maybe two times in 20 years you get something like that,” Ruffalo told me at lunch on Wednesday. He particularly had the SAG group laughing vividly describing his very naked sex scenes with Moore. “My wife was fine with it. They’re friends,” he said. Bening really got into it, handing out advice, telling tales of forgetting lines in plays and giving real insight into the actors life. The chemistry this trio exhibit on screen was clearly evident at the Linwood Dunn as well (for the record, I moderated). And although some bloggers have been trying to stir up conflict between co-stars Bening and Moore who are both being pushed in the Best Actress race, neither star would hear of it. Some suggest it would be better for Focus to drop Moore to supporting in order to give each a better shot of winning. That ain’t happening — and it shouldn’t. Actors, who are the ones voting would never buy it. Both are lead roles. Bening and Moore seem very supportive of each other and in fact just before the Q&A they were backstage laughing as they traded stories about their kids. By the way if both were to be nominated it would be the first time since Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis landed duo Best Actress nods in Thelma And Louise in 1991. Jodie Foster won instead for Silence Of The Lambs. Bening has had three previous Oscar nominations while Moore has garnered four. Both are probably overdue but Oscar isn’t always fair. A slew of awards screeners arrived today in the mail from Focus including Kids, The American, Babies, Greenberg, It’s Kind Of A Funny Story and Sofia Coppola’s Venice Film Festival winner Somewhere. Focus is planning several things for the latter and trying to put stars Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning into acting contention (both were mingling with voters at the Governors Awards last weekend).

  1. I was overbooked out of the Black Swan screening and Q&A on Monday and then, moments later, turned away from The Kids Are All Right one at the Linwood Dunn (ended up going back to the ArcLight and actually paid – God forbid – to see Unstoppable). Sounds like I missed a great panel. Alas ~ always an RSVPer, never a viewer, at least not this past Monday.

    1. The Black Swan screening was ridiculously overbooked – SAG, DGA, WGA, etc. – everyone was invited to the same screening. It made it seem as if everyone was just dying to see the movie, which wasn’t the case.

  2. I don’t even think Kids should be nominated for anything. Maybe a Young Hollywood award for one of the teens, but that’s it. Incredibly average by-the-numbers indie drama. Benning recycled the same exact character from American Beauty. And if you listen, you can hear Moore had traces left over of her horrible Boston accent she had been doing in 30 Rock prior to production. Bold and important material, but that shouldn’t be enough to be a shoe-in for Oscar nods.

    1. Are you on crack? Bening’s character was nothing like American Beauty. In American Beauty she played a shrieking harpy. In this she played a three-dimensional, complex character. It was her best role and performance since the Grifters. The scene at the dinner table with the Joni Mitchell song, leading through her discovery in the bathroom — fantastic.

      1. Hooray, truth and eloquence! You’re *so* right! That’s her edge over the competition for the Oscar, right there.

      2. Agreed. Nothing about the movie was “by the numbers.” I’m not sure we watched the same movie. “The Kids Are All Right” is one of the best two or three movies this year, without question. An enormously rich and subtle story, and the acting is so spectacular. You’re way off.

  3. I am going to have to completely disagree with you, Sean. “Kids” was a great movie and should not only be nominated for at least six major Oscars (pic, actress, supp actor, writing, directing) but should go home with at least two (actress, writing).

    It was a great movie and refreshingly free of any Oscar-bating disabilities. It was your basic story told well with richly drawn characters brought to life by a great cast.

  4. I think kids is also on nominating since they are into the business of showbiz already. That will be their winning trophy in the business if they are nominated.

  5. The Oscar race is a game of pride, ego and greed. With rare exception (like Mark Ruffalo, who has the benefit and wisdom of life experience) few truly understand that.

  6. Somebody give a nomination to Mr. DERMOT MULRONEY for the movie INHALE please!!!! Now that’s a performance.

  7. I will never understand the love for The Kids Are All Right. I do not think, as a previous poster mentioned, that Annett Benning recycled her character from American Beauty. But the film itself reminded me a lot of American Beauty…an overhyped critical darling where the subject matter was intriguing enough for one to demonstrate their intellectual and progressive tastes by raving about it.

    Otherwise, it was a run of the mill indie comedy in the same vein of Little Miss Sunshine or Juno…both of which were kitchy, but somehow more enjoyable.

    I just found the second act of “Kids” to be contrived and dishonest. It was a manufactured attempt to create drama and to drive the “interloper” out of the family. Sadly, the movie could have been a lot better if it had remained a story about an average family with two lesbian moms and a sperm donor being somewhat accepted as a crazy uncle. Instead, we get a lesbian having sex with a man and familial drama that just felt stale. I cannot wait to see 127 Hours, Black Swan, Rabbit Hole, and True Grit. But of what I’ve already seen…if Kids beats The Social Network or The Town in any major category not related to Best Actress…I will be disappointed.

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