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This year's Best Actor race is an odd bird indeed. There are so many wonderful performances out there, but so few seem to fit into the (unfortunate) Oscar paradigm. Hopefully that will mean studios will recognize some opportunity and/or Academy members will venture outside of their comfort zones. But in many ways, the race seems decided.
Four performances have been seen already and are considered formidable. Let's start there.
It all started with Jean Dujardin's award in Cannes for Michel Hazanavicius's "The Artist" (which was inserted into the competition line-up at the last second). As the film has continued to play the festival circuit, it has consistently charmed audiences and few can find reason to argue that Dujardin won't find room in the lead actor race. But it'll take a little extra effort as he isn't a known commodity in Hollywood and often has to charm via translator. But he's looking good for now.
Popping up at Telluride was Alexander Payne's "The Descendants" and the undeniable work from George Clooney. Some consider his performance in the film to be a career best (I think I might agree with them). The added exposure of his directorial effort (in which he has a small but significant role), "The Ides of March," is merely added fuel. Chalk him up.
We're continuing the daily build to our big Albert Brooks interview on Wednesday. Friday we touched on Pixar and the actor's work on "Finding Nemo." Today it's all about Steven Soderbergh and that sudden prospect of retirement that was put out into the ether a number of months back.
In case you're unaware, Matt Damon dropped a bomb on the film world back in January when he told the Los Angeles Times that Soderbergh -- who has been talking about retirement for a number of years -- really was planning to hang it up after completing a handful of projects in the pipeline. The story took on a life of its own for the next six months until Soderbergh, while promoting his film "Haywire" at Comic-Con in July, claimed Damon was "about as discreet as a 14-year-old girl."
So things have been in a bit of a retreating state since then, with Soderbergh saying it's more like he needs to "recalibrate" and telling Reuters to "call it whatever you want," suggesting a sabbatical. "It's been non-stop since 'Out of Sight.' That's a lot of work," he said at the time.
Sales at the Toronto Film Festival have become a complex card game over the years as production companies and talent hit the fest with films they want to see in that year's Oscar race. The goal for many is to land, make a big splash, come out of there with a deal and initiate a campaign to capture the lightning. And often, if the plan isn't to release that year, well, no deal.
The problem is, films can get lost at Toronto. They can get suffocated. And sometimes, films don't put their best foot forward by, say, holding for Sundance and stretching things out, rather than attempting to mobilize something as intensive as an awards campaign in three measly months.
Oren Moverman's "Rampart" is a film I think should have waited for Park City, much like the director's last effort, "The Messenger." It's very much a Sundance film and it could have milked things throughout the year after kicking up steam there in January. But as it stands, it was looking for a Toronto deal and a 2011 release. And now, it has one.
"The Good Wife" is back for a new season, and I have a quick review of the premiere coming up just as soon as I stick with retail rules...
Any time an Oscar contender comes along that dabbles in real-life situations and circumstances, you can see the take-down measures coming from a mile away: accuracy gripes. It's a story as old as time. Films like "The Hurricane," "A Beautiful Mind," "The Hurt Locker" and, just last year, "The Social Network" have come under fire during the Oscar race for liberties taken with the narrative, and it's always just such a tiresome, tedious argument. So you can bet baseball fan Steve Pond's recent piece, linked in today's round-up, which addresses the gripes from the sports world, will be the king of logic used by a smear campaign if one is even deemed necessary by "Moneyball" competition this year. Let me be clear that Steve is fair in his piece, but it simply reminded me of how touchy true stories can be for many, and how limp the ammunition of "but it didn't happen that way" can truly be. It rarely passes the smell test because, the fact remains, if people like a movie, they like a movie. Whether it "happened that way" or not. Now, let's see what's going on in the Oscarweb today...
The production travails of FOX's "Terra Nova" have been chronicled so publicly and for so long that it's starting to feel like the show has been in development since the dinosaurs walked the earth. At one point, the series was going to debut at mid-season last year, then with a special two-night airing of the pilot episode in May, before finally being pushed to tonight at 8. There were issues with the weather on location in Australia, and the special effects process to create the show's prehistoric setting took longer than anticipated.
Along that long, complicated path, I've seen multiple versions of the "Terra Nova" pilot. Each time, the effects have gotten better, and the version of the dinosaurs you see tonight should look pretty darned spiffy.
But "Terra Nova" isn't just a time travel show where people are chased by dinosaurs; it's also a family drama. And as one of the show's many executive producers, Jon Cassar, put it to critics last month, "If you don’t tune in and love this family after the first hour, it doesn’t matter how good the dinosaurs look."
And the family remains much less interesting so far than the dinos - and, in fact, has gotten progressively less interesting with the tweaking.
When I was 11 years old, I conned my mom into taking me to see "Comin' At Ya" in the theater. I knew it was rated R, but I neglected to mention that in the pitch I gave when I asked her to take me to see it. I knew the game back then, and i knew how I had to play it. I had to convince one of my two parents that they NEEDED to see whatever movie it was that I wanted to see. If not them, then someone else who resembled a responsible adult enough to take me to see the film. Uncles, aunts, older brothers of friends… anyone was fair game in the "I want to see that R-rated movie" sweepstakes.
In this particular case, all I cared about was "3D" and "Western." I was determined to get into the film, and I forget how I managed to convince my mother that it was something she wanted to see as well. What I do remember, quite clearly, was being yanked out of the theater by my arm, my mother positively livid as she yelled at an usher about the content of the film, and I remember that we ended up seeing the Dudley Moore comedy "Arthur" instead. Because there's nothing more appropriate for an eleven-year-old than non-stop hilarious intoxication.
Well, many of us expected Michel Hazanavicius's silent-cinema homage "The Artist" to take the Audience Award at Toronto last week. That didn't come to pass, but it has just taken the equivalent prize at the San Sebastian Film Festival -- a less high-profile honor, certainly, but one that further proves the film's crowd-pleasing chops.
What's perhaps most notable about the award is the number of high-profile films it beat to get it: also in the running, in a selection of 2011's finest the festival dubs the Zabaltegi Pearls section, were "Le Havre," "The Tree of Life," "Drive," "A Separation," "Pina," "Martha Marcy May Marlene," "Shame" and others.
It's interesting, given the strength of the competition, that surprise Toronto champ "Where Do We Go Now?" placed second in the audience balloting by only a handful of votes; for a film that stirred very little buzz on its Cannes debut, the Lebanese Oscar hopeful sure is making its presence felt now.
A review of tonight's "Breaking Bad" coming up just as soon as I feel sorry for your tastebuds...
I already posted my review of ABC's "Pan Am." Now it's your turn. Whether you're a fan of "Mad Men," watched "The Playboy Club" or not, what did you think of the new drama from Jack Orman, Tommy Schlamme and company? Were you surprised by the minimal amount of Christina Ricci? Did you like all the flashbacks, or would you rather the show stay in the passenger cabin? And will you be watching again?
Have at it.