We’ve seen at least one previous teaser for Luca Guadagnino‘s A Bigger Splash. I wasn’t all that stirred before but now I am. The perverse erotic thriller premiered last September at the Venice Film Festival but won’t open stateside until 5.13.16. (It popped commercially in Italy last November and will arrive in English theatres on 2.12 — maybe I’ll be able to buy a Bluray soon.) Tilda Swinton as Romy Schneider and Matthias Schoenaerts as Alain Delon; costarring Ralph Fiennes and Dakota Johnson.
Last night I attended a reception for Trumbo star and Best Actor contender Bryan Cranston. It happened at the Ross house, a spacious, overwhelmingly swanky abode located high above Laurel Canyon (2155 Mount Olympus Drive). The party followed a screening of Jay Roach‘s film, which began at 7:30 pm. Cranston, who looked a good 20 years younger and a whole lot healthier than he does in his Dalton Trumbo guise, was gracious and friendly to all. The film played as well as it did when I caught it last September in Toronto. “There’s nothing wrong with being an intelligent, pruned-down, HBO-level biopic — an above-average portrait of the Hollywood blacklist era, and a better-than-decent capturing of one the most gifted and industrious blacklisted screenwriters ever. A moustachioed, sandpaper-voiced Cranston portrays the stalwart titular hero; I felt completely at home with the guy. Trumbo was one of the most gifted wordsmiths in Hollywood history — a winner of two screenwriting Oscars (Roman Holiday, The Brave One) during his under-wraps period, and also the author of A Guy Named Joe, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Cowboy, Spartacus, Exodus, Lonely Are The Brave.”
Trumbo director Jay Roach, star Bryan Cranston — Monday, 1.4, 9:45 pm.
From McCabe and Mrs. Miller‘s Wikipedia page: “Robert Altman‘s film was originally called The Presbyterian Church Wager, after a bet placed among the church’s few attendees about whether McCabe would survive his refusal of the offer to buy his property. Altman reported that an official in the Presbyterian Church called Warner Brothers to complain about having its church mentioned in a film about brothels and gambling. The complaint prompted a name change to John Mac Cabe but it was finally released as McCabe & Mrs. Miller.”
This morning Hollywood Reporter award-season analyst Scott Feinberg offered five suggestions that would make the Oscar awards “even better” — i.e. less infuriating, less old-fogeyish, a little speedier. Here they are along with my yay-nay remarks:
1. Guarantee 10 best picture nominees culled from two separate periods — January 1st to June 30th and July 1st to year’s end. Right now almost all award-contending films are released after Labor Day, in part because the blogaroonies are often reluctant to favor any award-quality films released in the spring or summer (Ex Machina, Love & Mercy, Mad Max: Fury Road). Feinberg says this would “incentivize studios to release quality films throughout the year, since a movie would have just as much of a shot at being remembered for a best pic nom in March as it would in September.” HE comment: Good idea but how many nominees would come from period #1 and how many from period #2? HE correction: The first period should be from January 1st to August 31st, and the second from Labor Day to New Year’s Eve.
2. Tighten the Academy membership rolls by withholding voting priveleges to members who haven’t worked in ten years. This addresses the same old “get rid of the deadwood” problem that has dogged the Academy for decades. HE reaction: Taking away voting priveleges would be seen as disrespectful or even insulting to veterans. Two or three years ago I suggested that all members should be allowed to vote, but that ballots should be weighted based upon work history. If a member has worked within the past decade, he/she gets three points per vote. If he/she hasn’t worked in over a decade but less than 20 years ago, he/she gets two points per vote. If a member is a major-league dinosaur and hasn’t worked in over 20 years, he/she gets one point ver vote.
Has there been a foreign-language film more praised by American critics and industry groups than Laszlo Nemes‘ Son of Saul? 11 critics groups have honored this narrowly focused but hugely unsettling Holocaust flick as 2016’s finest foreign language entry, and general expectations are that more honors are likely. It has a 93% and 89% rating from Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, respectively. On 12.18 The Guardian‘s Andrew Pulver asserted that Saul was the flat-out best of the year. Before I saw it last May in Cannes my attitude was “another one?” But Saul flattened me. It’s a mind-blower, a groundbreaker. Everyone recognizes this.
Except, to go by recent scuttlebutt, the Academy’s Foreign Language general committee, which numbers 300 or thereabouts. The rumor is that in mid-December the general committee declined to include Son of Saul on their short list of contenders, and that it had to be “saved” by Mark Johnson‘s executive committee (numbering 20), which added Saul and two others film to the general committee’s short list of 6 for a grand total of 9.
Two well-placed sources — Johnson along with Sony Pictures Classic co-president Tom Bernard — have cast doubt upon this story. Bernard, whose company is distributing Son of Saul, offered a four-word reply: “Don’t fall for rumors.” Johnson, who is obliged to respect the confidentiality of the process, says the following: “I guarantee you nobody actually knows which ones we added. I’ve heard all kinds of speculation. Trust me, nobody knows, and I would be very suspicious of whoever was talking to you last night.”
Johnson would only confirm that, per custom, three 2015 foreign language films were added by the executive committee to the short list of 6.
Johnson emphasizes that the general committee, of which he is also a member in addition to his executive committee duties, “saw 80 movies this year in a period of just over two months,” and that “we finished our screenings in mid-December.”
Within the past week or so the Best Picture Oscar narrative has changed from “it’s probably going to be won by Spotlight, not out of unbridled passion but out of respect and a kind of default attitude” to “The Big Short is coming on strong and nipping at Spotlight‘s heels.” This morning’s Producers Guild of America motion picture nominations, generally considered an Oscar nomination bellwether, have more or less fortified the second narrative along with a little Mad Max injection.
But what everyone is mainly talking about this morning are two eyebrow-raisers — a film that wasn’t expected to be PGA-nominated and one that some handicappers were sorta kinda thinking would be…maybe. But finally wasn’t.
The PGA has nominated Alex Garland‘s Ex Machina, and in so doing has thrust this admired sci-fi drama into the Best Picture narrative, although more as a last-minute oddity than anything else. Up until this morning Ex Machina has been almost universally regarded as a critically respected also-ran that opened last spring and which launched Alicia Vikander. Now it can be honestly handicapped as “definitely in the game” to some extent.
The PGA has also declined to nominate Lenny Abrahamson‘s Room, and that, as Robert Blake used to say, is the name of that tune. Room hadn’t been seriously regarded as a Best Picture nominee by anyone in weeks, and now the situation is down to what everyone has presumed it would be all along, which is that likely Best Actress nominee Brie Larson will be the standard-bearer and not Abrahamson.
The PGA’s film nominations: The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Ex Machina, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Sicario, Spotlight, Straight Outta Compton.
What about Todd Haynes‘ Carol (fully HE-supported) and Quentin Tarantino‘s The Hateful Eight? Not a good day for the Weinstein Co. Sorry, guys.
I wasn’t that surprised that Denis Villenueve‘s Sicario and F. Gary Gray‘s Straight Outta Compton being on the list. They’ve had plenty of supporters all along, and both have benefitted from well-run campaigns.
The PGA awards will be handed out on 1.23 — three days into Sundance ’16. Academy Award nominations will be announced nine days hence, or on Thursday, 1.14.