Fantastic Mr. Fox director Wes Anderson red-carpeting at a 10.30 AFIFest screening in Los Angeles. Of course. But what gets my attention (since I know the Wes/Fox rap) is the fascinating activity (i.e., a rapid progression of thoughts and moods) on the face of Fox Searchlight publicist Melissa Holloway.
Deeply sorry about the whacking of Entertainment Weekly‘s Christine Spines, as reported this evening by Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson. Spines is an A-level feature writer who used to bang out profiles and investigative pieces for the old Premiere. Further regrets for the 10 other EW staffers who got cut also.
John Lee Hancock‘s The Blind Side “is the kind of inspiring and solid upbeat studio release that could, and should, put Sandra Bullock firmly in the race for Best actress,” Envelope/Notes on a Season columnist Pete Hammond posted this afternoon.
“This could be her Erin Brockovich. Just like the film that earned Julia Roberts her Oscar, this is a true-life story about Leigh Anne Tuohy, an unstoppable force of nature who persuades her very white Southern family to take in a virtually homeless African American teen named Michael Oher (played by newcomer Quinton Aaron). This unusual adoption leads to a brand-new life for the boy and sends him on his way to eventually becoming an All-American football star.
“Aaron and the rest of the cast, which includes Tim McGraw and Kathy Bates, are just fine. But it’s Bullock, burning up the screen as an upscale Southern woman who finds her heart and soul, who should finally earn some awards attention. It’s easily her best screen work since her underrated supporting turn in Crash.”
In Contention‘s Kris Tapley saw Crazy Heart earlier today, and is now proclaiming that Jeff Bridges has bounded or barrel-assed into the Best Actor field, or words to that effect. I’m about to watch The Last Station and I can’t embed links with an iPhone, but now I’m ever more envious of the L.A. crowd.
“It’s not just Jeff Bridges who leaps onto the Oscar landscape with Scott Cooper‘s Crazy Heart,” Tapley writes. “It’s [also] possible in a few months that we’ll be talking pretty seriously about Maggie Gyllenhaal in the supporting actress race and, most certainly, T-Bone Burnett‘s contributions as the film’s music supervisor.
“[It’s] a slow burn that settles warmly in the tradition of Tender Mercies or Nobody’s Fool. While it might be unfair to reduce it to a ‘country-music Wrestler‘ (as the Hollywood Reporter‘s Steven Zeitchik did yesterday without having seen the film), that is nonetheless a pretty streamlined way of describing the narrative.
“More importantly, however, that ‘performance of a lifetime’ from Bridges that Fox Searchlight was on about when the studio bought the film nearly four months ago? I think it could be this year’s Oscar-winning lead actor turn walking away.
“Bridges fully embodies the broken but spirited Bad Blake, an alcoholic country singer touring the Southwest in his 1970-something Suburban, playing any dive that’ll have him. He brings every inch of charisma and charm he has to a role that certainly doesn’t seem made for him on the surface, but somehow ends up entirely owned by the actor come film’s end.
Bridges haunts the stage behind a dark pair of aviator sunglasses, under a silvery, unshampooed mane, unmistakably conjuring the image of Hank Williams Jr. as he belts out a number of tunes from gig to gig. He shares the screen with Gyllenhaal, who plays Jean, a journalist and single-mother love interest. Gyllenhaal holds her own and provides a complex, emotional core to the story that could also nail down a few kudos here and there.
“Colin Farrell has something of a glorified cameo as Tommy Sweet, a famous modern country star who owes his career to Blake, while Robert Duvall (who also serves as one of the film’s producers, along with Burnett, in fact) offers a small but meaningful supporting turn as Blake’s confidante.
“From where I sit, I’m having a hard time arguing with Bridges’ potential as this year’s Best Actor Oscar winner — especially when you look at the competition. George Clooney, Daniel Day-Lewis, Morgan Freeman — they all have their Oscar. The potential for a big awards comeback from Robert De Niro was considerably muted when Everybody’s Fine landed with a thud at AFI Fest last night, while other contenders just won’t have the strength of ‘the story’ that a Bridges campaign will have.
“The man is one of the great unrecognized American actors. Crazy Heart will give voters a chance to both remember his consistency, recognize that he remains Oscarless and, best of all, feel good about checking the box next to his name. Because this really is one of his finest moments.
“I imagine we’ll be talking about Crazy Heart more and more in the coming weeks and months, but those hoping for a last-minute shake-up certainly look to get their wish. These are the moments I live for in an Oscar season.”
L.A. Times columnist Patrick Goldstein echoed my own dismay when he criticized Envelope/Gold Derby columnist Tom O’Neil on 11.2 for posting an anonymous Oscar voter’s opinion that This Is It, the Michael Jackson documentary, will grab an Oscar Best Picture nomination.
Engaging as the film is, the voter’s claim is absurd given the obvious fact that This Is It (a) is first and foremost a cash-grab enterprise that (b) obviously has no theme or under-current due to its total lack of interest in portraying the Jackson back-story or any of the circumstances behind the “This Is It” rehearsal footage — it’s strictly a sizzle show. Best Picture contenders can and must be made of sterner stuff.
I also shook my head when O’Neil posted a forecast by World Entertainment News Network’s Kevin Lewin about Guy Ritchie‘s Sherlock Holmes looking like a Best Picture nominee, which Goldstein also made fun of. The Academy rulebook does not state that “humungously-budgeted, big-studio features directed by cravenly-on-the-make directors, especially such films that use florid CG compositions and cruise through their narratives with a smirking jocular tone, can be allowed the honor of a Best Picture nomination” — but such a rule does exist in the minds of most reasonable-minded Aademy members.
“Call me old-fashioned,” Goldstein wrote, “but these postings are another good reason why all of our nutty Oscar pundits should be required to actually watch a movie before being allowed to publicly predict its Oscar fortunes.”
On the other hand, O’Neil made a fair point earlier today when he said “this certainly wasn’t Goldstein’s policy back in the old days, before the recent proliferation of award pundits, when he still held this terrain largely to himself, issuing racetrack odds on Oscar front-runners long before even the National Board of Review kicked off the derby with its first award.
“In 2001, Goldstein issued his earliest odds on the best-picture race, betting on Ali in August — long before he saw it and seven months before the Oscar ceremony took place — with 4-to-1 odds. Ali wasn’t even nominated; A Beautiful Mind triumphed.
“In 2003, Goldstein issued his odds in early November — before he saw Cold Mountain or Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. His odds on best picture: Mystic River (6-1), Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (8-1), Cold Mountain (10-1), Finding Nemo (14-1) and House of Sand & Fog (15-1). Mystic River didn’t win, of course, and 60% of his picks for best-picture weren’t nominated.
The fact, says O’Neil, is that “Goldstein’s racetrack odds used to be an annual attraction. But now he refrains from making firm predix, preferring to take potshots at others who do. Last year he blasted me and cohorts as a ‘gang of daffy, clown-suit-clad Oscar bloggers’ who have ‘hijacked’ the Academy Awards. He thrills at taking aim at me personally. He’s written in the pages of the L.A. Times that reading Gold Derby is ‘a high camp experience,’ like watching a Joan Crawford movie (a compliment, actually, which he meant as insult, of course) and blasted me personally as ‘the poster boy for the trivialization of Oscar coverage.’
“The one person who seems to be safe from Goldstein’s public ridicule while Oscar blogging is Goldstein,” O’Neil concluded. “Two months ago, on Sept. 1, he fumed at me for commencing Oscar discussions too soon over movies none of us had seen yet. Then, just two days later, he announced at his blog that the Oscar hopes of The Road — which he hadn’t seen — had taken ‘a big dive’ after Variety‘s review came out. Seven days later, after a few more reviews surfaced, a headline at his blog advised readers to “Put The Road back on your Oscar contender ballot.”
It struck me when I first saw the trailer for John Lee Hancock‘s The Blind Side (Warner Bros., 11.20), an adaptation of Michael Lewis‘s 2006 book “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game,” that it seemed like a more affluent, white-middle-classy, economically upbeat version of Lee Daniels‘ Precious.
The rough shorthand is that both are about compassion and nurturing offered to a young African American — an obese female teen in Precious, a mountain-sized homeless teenaged male in the Hancock film — grappling with poverty and self-esteem issues that would choke a horse.
Based on a true story, The Blind Side is primarily about a good samaritan — a middle-aged Republican/Christian wife and mom named Leigh Anne Toulhy (Sandra Bullock) — who takes in the homeless Micheal Oher (Qunton Aaron) — 16 years old, 78 inches tall, weighing 350 pounds — and gets him enrolled in a Memphis-based Christian school, which quickly leads to opportunities to play college football. Oher is now an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens.
So Hancock’s film is mainly about goodness and charitableness shown by well-to-do white folk in a well-heeled environment, while Precious is set in modest, down-at-the-heels (in some cases squalid) Harlem locales, and is pretty much an African-American tale about African-American characters and culture. But they’re both about coming to the rescue of damaged youths, and good people extending a hand.
No one seems to have written about The Blind Side except L.A, Times columnist Patrick Goldstein, who called it a “wonderful new film” in a column posted yesterday. With the film opening in two and a half weeks and no one else saying anything just yet, it may be that Goldstein is himself being compassionate. I’m told it’s not Best Picture material, but that Bullock registers quite strongly and convincingly as Toulhy.
I do know that Hancock is a first-rate director (The Rookie being one of my all-time favorite G-rated films) and if it turns out to be a truly heartwarming thing…well, let’s see.
Here’s a video of Lewis talking about Oher’s story:
Fox Searchlight is suddenly screening Crazy Heart, the Jeff Bridges character drama that Hollywood Reporter columnist Steven Zeitchik has described as a country-music version of The Wrestler, and frequently — two showings today and a couple more tomorrow and/or Friday, a friend reports. But so far no screenings are slated for the New York crowd. Or so I’m concluding due to a lack of response after writing Fox Searchlight’s Manhattan p.r. crew this morning.
Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal in Jeff Cooper’s Crazy Heart.
L.A. Times columnist Patrick Goldstein reported yesterday that the film, directed and written by Jeff Cooper, is opening limited in NY and LA on 12.11. FS is looking for reactions from key blogger/columnists to see if it has the heft and the chops to be an awards competitor. Look for posts later today from the usual online suspects.
I know if I was running the Fox Searchlight show I’d want to hear from the Manhattan crowd concurrently. I probably speak for many of us in expressing a feeling of being under-appreciated.
This episode underlines the unfortunate fact that New York-based handicappers are often at a distinct advantage at this time of year. If I could have swung it I would have bunked in Los Angeles all during November and into early December, because that’s where most of the action is during this awards-contention period. Bicoastal-ness is too often a myth in this respect. Apart from the long-lead monthly screenings for big-time editors and feature-profile writers, the New York pulsebeat crowd often seems to get sloppy seconds, certainly around this time of year.
Adapted from Thomas Cobb‘s 1989 book, the downbeat drama (country music, alcoholism, parenting, looking for closure) costars Bridges, Colin Farrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Robert Duvall.
The film was produced by Cooper, Duvall, Judy Cairo and Rob Carliner. The film has an original soundtrack by T-Bone Burnett.
Here’s a Library Journal summary of Cobb’s book, which may or may not have been strictly followed by Cooper’s script:
“Singer and guitarist Bad Blake (Bridges) was once a first-rate country-and-western star, but now he’s 57, an alcoholic, a failure at four marriages, and playing in third-rate clubs. The biggest gig he can get is opening for Tommy Sweet (Farrell), the kid Bad got started and whose career has now eclipsed Bad’s.
“Bad meets Jean Craddock (Gyllenhaal) when she comes to interview him and they fall in love. Her little boy, Buddy, inspires Bad to search for his own long-lost son, but there’s no happy ending there. And when Bad, hungry for a drink, loses Jean’s son, things take a downturn, despite Bad’s fling with AA.”
Envelope/Dish Rag columnist Elizabeth Snead suggested yesterday that Alec Baldwin’s m.c. performance at the 10.21 Elle Awards may have cinched his just-announced Oscar gig (i.e., co-hosting with Steve Martin). Especially with Oscar co-producer Adam Shankman in the audience that day.