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Category: Black Swan

Gold Derby nuggets: SAG Awards sets calendar | Evening Standard long list includes budding stage star Keira Knightley

October 25, 2010 |  1:48 pm

• The Dec. 16 nominations announcement for the Screen Actors Guild Awards will air live on TNT from the Pacific Design Center. Nominees are determined by the 4,200 SAG members who sit on separate film and television screening panels. In the wake of the success of other awardscasts going live nationwide, the 17th annual edition of these kudos will follow suit. TNT and TBS will beam the Jan. 30 festivities from the Shrine Auditorium live from coast to coast beginning at 5 p.m. PT. SAG AWARDS

Scott Kraft chats with "Fair Game" star Naomi Watts and Valerie Palme, the real-life subject of the film. L.A. TIMES

Erik Childress surveys the lead actor field and speculates on a last-minute entry by Christian Bale ("The Fighter"). MOVIEFONE

Sasha Stone points out a clever marketing trick pulled off online by "The Social Network" and "Black Swan." AWARDS DAILY

Keira-Knightley • The long lists for one of the top three West End kudos have been released and, as Natalie Woolman notes, "Judi Dench, Gemma Arterton, Sheridan Smith and Keira Knightley are among the nominees for the Natasha Richardson Award for Best Actress." Knightley made her West End debut in a production of Moliere's "The Misanthrope" last spring and received generally good notices. Also in the mix is "Another Year" star Lesley Manville for her performance in "Six Degrees of Separation." The final list of nominees will be released on Nov. 21 with the winners announced at a ceremony one week later. THE STAGE

• Knightley is set to return to the West End in the new year headlining a revival of Lillian Hellman's provocative 1934 play "The Children's Hour" opposite Elisabeth Moss ("Mad Men"). The subject was quite shocking at the time -- two schoolteachers whose close friendship subjects them to the scurrilous rumor that they are lesbians. And, as per Patrick Healy, with all going well in the West End, American audiences will see Knightley make her Broadway debut next fall. ARTS BEAT

Anne Thompson dismisses the notion that Tyler Perry could get into the game for his screen adapatation of the 1977 Tony-nominated play "For Colored Girls." THOMPSON ON HOLLYWOOD

Greg Ellwood catches up with Jennifer Lawrence, lead actress hopeful for "Winter's Bone," during her whirlwind visit to L.A. during a break in filming "X-Men: First Class" in London. HIT FIX

Jeff Wells wonders why more pundits aren't predicting that Anne Hathaway in "Love and Other Drugs" will be in the awards mix. HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE

Photo: Keira Knightley in "The Misanthrope." Credit: Comedy Theatre.


One year ago: What Oscar pundits prophesized

October 21, 2010 | 12:29 pm

Up in the air oscars newsLet this be a lesson to all of us smug Oscar seers who insist that they know how the current derby will play out. Most of us now say that it's "The Social Network" versus "The King's Speech" for best picture, Colin Firth ("The King's Speech") versus James Franco ("127 Hours") for lead actor and Natalie Portman ("Black Swan") versus Annette Bening ("The Kids Are All Right") for lead actress. But true?

One year ago today, we weren't even talking about the eventual winners of lead actor and actress: Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart") and Sandra Bullock ("The Blind Side").

BEST PICTURE: Last year in mid-October we had a decent grasp of the best picture race in terms of leading contenders, but nearly all Oscarologists were betting on "Up in the Air." Just weeks earlier "Precious" had the most buzz. Expectations were building for "Avatar" but also for "Nine," "Invictus" and "The Lovely Bones." "Bright Star," which had already been seen, still shone brightly. Ditto: "An Education," "Up," "A Serious Man," "Julie & Julia," even "District 9." A surge was building for "Inglourious Basterds." "The Hurt Locker" was among top rivals, but it hadn't made its surge to the head of the pack. 

LEAD ACTOR: Fox Searchlight had not announced that "Crazy Heart" was about to ambush this contest, so all eyes were on George Clooney ("Up in the Air") as lead pony. Matt Damon ("The Informant") and Daniel Day-Lewis ("Nine") seemed like good bets for bids. Other top rivals: Colin Firth ("A Single Man"), Jeremy Renner ("The Hurt Locker"), Tobey Maguire ("Brothers"), Viggo Mortensen ("The Road"), Morgan Freeman ("Invictus"), Sharlto Copley ("District 9"), Robert Downey Jr. ("Sherlock Holmes"), Robert DeNiro ("Everybody's Fine"), Mark Wahlberg ("The Lovely Bones"), Peter Sarsgaard ("An Education"). Final nominees turned out to be Bridges, Clooney, Firth, Freeman and Renner.

Continue reading »

Latest Oscar predictions: Lead actress

October 20, 2010 |  9:23 am

Two contenders seem to be out front to win the Oscar for lead actress: Annette Bening ("The Kids Are All Right") and Natalie Portman ("Black Swan"). Both rivals have the Cool Factor and significant camps rooting for them to win.

Oscars best actressBening's performance as a lesbian momma is low-key compared with her flamboyant turns in the films that earned her past nominations: "The Grifters," "American Beauty" and "Being Julia." Ordinarily, this role wouldn't reap an Oscar bid, but Bening is so overdue to win that she could ride the same wave that resulted in victory for previous overdue veterans such as Helen Mirren ("The Queen"), Susan Sarandon ("Dead Man Walking") and Shirley MacLaine ("Terms of Endearment").

Also in Bening's favor: playing gay. That worked for Sean Penn ("Milk") and Tom Hanks ("Philadelphia").

However, the old academy boys usually love to crown ingenues, especially if they're sexy (we call it the Babe Factor) like recent champs Charlize Theron ("Monster") and Halle Berry ("Monster's Ball"). Natalie Portman is truly hot in "Black Swan" — with steamy girl-on-girl and masturbation scenes. Portman is not unknown to Oscar voters, who gave her a nomination in the supporting actress race of 2004 ("Closer").

Also see our handicapping of the Oscar races for lead actor and best picture.

BEST LEAD ACTRESS
(Front-runners)
Annette Bening, "The Kids Are All Right"
Nicole Kidman, "Rabbit Hole"
Lesley Manville, "Another Year"
Jennifer Lawrence, "Winter’s Bone"
Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"
Michelle Williams, "Blue Valentine"

Continue reading »

Poll: Will 'Winter's Bone' be nominated for best picture at the Oscars?

October 18, 2010 |  4:20 pm

Winter's bone gotham awards news

Now that "Winter's Bone" leads with the most nominations at the Gotham Independent Film Awards (three), its Oscar hopes brighten. But how much? Only three previous Gotham champs were nommed for best picture in the past: "The Hurt Locker," "Capote" and "Sideways."

"Winter's Bone" faces a crowded field at the upcoming Oscar derby. Currently, there are 13 front-runners competing for the 10 best-picture slots: "127 Hours," "Black Swan," "The Fighter," "Hereafter," "How Do You Know," "Inception," "The Kids Are All Right," "The King's Speech," "The Social Network," "The Town," "Toy Story 3," "True Grit" and "The Way Back."

Jockeying right behind: "Alice in Wonderland," "Another Year," "Blue Valentine," "For Colored Girls," "The Ghost Writer," "How to Train Your Dragon," "Made in Dagenham," "Love and Other Drugs," "Rabbit Hole," "Secretariat" and "Shutter Island."

Can "Winter's Bone" break through?

 

Photo: "Winter's Bone" (Roadside Attractions)

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Latest Oscar predictions: Best picture

October 11, 2010 |  4:32 pm

The Social Network Toy Story 3 Oscars news

Since "The Social Network" has not disappointed at the box office, it retains its status as the front-runner to win best picture at the Oscars. However, buzz builds fast for "The King's Speech," which is just the kind of grand historical drama that academy voters used to adore. Normally, royal film pageants don't do well at the early film-critics' awards, though, and nowadays those critics' kudos seem to matter more than ever.

Critics' trophies certainly helped to propel "The Hurt Locker" Oscar bound last year. What's possible this year? Anything. Journos often like to shake things up by making oddball calls. This year that could mean victory by, say, "Toy Story 3" at the New York Film Critics Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., Critics Choice or National Society of Film Critics. "Toy Story 3" has a high cool factor, high critics' score (92 at Metacritic), and it has strong appeal to those male-dominated gangs who yearn for boyhood days.

"Babe" won best picture from the national society in 1995, and in more recent years, "Shrek" (2001) came close to winning best picture from the New Yorkers. "Babe" also won best comedy/musical picture at the Golden Globes, by the way — just like "Toy Story 2."

"127 Hours" will trigger intense national attention upon its release in November and will draw lots of votes at the critics' awards one month later. Enough to triumph? Maybe. Don't count out "Black Swan" — it's the most artistically daring flick of the year and also very sexy. "True Grit" and "The Fighter" are still unseen by us journos.

Here is my current ranking:

1. "The Social Network"
2. "The King's Speech"
3. "Toy Story 3"
4. "127 Hours"
5. "True Grit"
6. "Black Swan"
7. "Inception"
8. "Hereafter"
9. "The Fighter"
10. "The Kids Are All Right"

Of course, one or two other films are likely to sneak in. From the choices in the poll below, which one has the best chance of breaking in?

Photos: Jesse Eisenberg in "The Social Network" (Columbia), "Toy Story 3" (Pixar)

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Gold Derby nuggets: EW covers 'The Social Network' | 'Tangled' unfurled | Anderson Cooper to daytime

September 30, 2010 | 11:46 am

Social-network-entertainment-weekly-coverDave Karger chats with the cast of "The Social Network" including this week's EW cover boys Justin Timberlake, Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield as well as screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. In the print interview, Timberlake talks about his dormant music career, admitting, "Does a painter make a painting because he has to make it by December 21st? No, he doesn't. It happens when it pours out of him. That’s how music is for me." And when pushed about future projects, Timberlake responds, "All I'm saying is, in very simple terms, I'll know when I know. And until I know, I don't know." EW

• In a provocative article, Gregg Kilday and Matthew Belloni ask, "Will white be the only color on the red carpet at the 83rd Academy Awards?" Their answer: "Although Oscar contenders are just lining up at the starting gate for the annual run for the gold, there's a real possibility that for the first time since the 73rd Oscars 10 years ago, there will be no black nominees in any of the acting categories at the February ceremony. In fact, there are virtually no minorities in any of the major categories among the early lists of awards hopefuls." THR

Paul Bond writes that the marketing of "Secretariat" has taken a page from "The Blind Side" playbook by targeting Christian audiences. As he notes, the film "even opens with a lengthy quote from the Bible, a portion of God's speech to Job. A trailer that includes those lines is on Christian websites all over the Internet, and some of those sites contain the earliest reviews of the film and offer users a chance to see advanced screenings." Director Randall Wallace told THR that the Bible quote is "transcendent" explaining, "I wanted to capture that timelessness and majesty. The idea that courage prevails." THR

• Friday at 5 p.m. PDT is the deadline for submitting entries in three of the 24 competitive categories at the Oscars: foreign-language film, animated short and live-action short. Each country can enter only one foreign-language film. Last year, 65 nations competed for the five slots. AMPAS

• The Santa Barbara filmfest is celebrating the career of Harrison Ford on Nov. 19 with a gala where he will receive the 5th annual Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film. In a statement, the 93-year-old screen legend for whom the prize is named said, "I'm delighted to give this award to Harrison Ford. It's always a pleasure to honor these young actors who do so well." SBIFF

Tangled poster For Steve Pond, Disney's newest film, "Tangled," is "the likeliest Animated Feature nominee this side of 'Toy Story 3' (and perhaps 'How to Train Your Dragon'), and you can probably reserve a Best Song slot for one of the Alan Menken/Glenn Slater songs -– maybe the heroine’s statement-of-purpose anthem that comes early in the film, or the big romantic ballad from later on." Pond attended a preview of the film Wednesday and reports that "Disney rarely shows its work to press and guests before the films are finished but in this case, the product clearly warranted a sneak peek. Even with portions of the movie in storyboards or incomplete form, one thing was clear: 'Tangled' is a vibrant, touching film that feels fresh even as it hearkens back to the classic Disney animation of the early 1990s." THE ODDS

Anthony Breznican reports that the six films in the "Star Wars" saga are being converted into 3-D. The first of the films in chronological order -- "The Phantom Menace" -- will be the guinea pig for this highly technical task and should be re-released sometime in 2012. As Lucasfilm spokeswoman Lynne Hale told him, "The process is really extensive, and we want to make sure each of the films gets the attention it needs, so we're not ready to talk about the release patterns of the other films." USA TODAY

• Four-time Oscar champ Katharine Hepburn is the subject of a new exhibition at Ohio's Kent State University. The school bought her extensive collection of costumes that range from stage appearances in the 1930s to TV movies in the 1980s. Designers represented include Adrian, Cecil Beaton, Coco Chanel, Edith Head, Irene and Walter Plunkett. KSU

Scott Feinberg passes along this sad news: "Joe Mantell, one of Hollywood’s most prolific character actors for over half a century, has passed away at the age of 94, his family informed me this evening. Mantell is probably best remembered for 'Marty' -- both the landmark live television version that aired on 'The Philco Television Playhouse' in 1953, with Rod Steiger, and the best picture winning film version in 1955, with Ernest Borgnine -- in which he portrayed the title character’s best friend Angie, who famously asks him over and over again, 'Well, what do you feel like doin’ tonight?' (He was nominated for the best supporting actor Oscar for the latter.)" SCOTT FEINBERG

• The 20th annual Gotham Awards will fete Darren Aronofsky, Hilary Swank, Robert Duvall and Focus Features exec James Schamus during the Nov. 29 ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street. Says Oscar sage Sasha Stone, "Robert Duvall is up for the Oscar this year with 'Get Low.' Swank is under consideration for 'Conviction.' And Aronofsky is all the rage this year for 'Black Swan.' James Schamus and Focus Features bring to the table 'The Kids Are All Right,' 'Somewhere,' 'The American' and 'It’s Kind of a Funny Story.' The Gothams can sometimes herald in contenders -- my first pass at this is that it breathes life into Robert Duvall’s campaign, and possibly Hilary Swank. They are the two that benefit most from this." AWARDS DAILY

Cooper.anderson.b • Looking to fill the void when Oprah Winfrey leaves the airwaves, prime-time CNN anchor Anderson Cooper is picking up a day job as well, hosting a weekday talker beginning in the fall of 2011. In the statement making the announcement, Cooper said, "Over the course of the past few years, I've had the opportunity to work on a number of daytime programs. It's fun and interesting to work in daytime television. The format is unique and you can really go in-depth on a wide range of fascinating and compelling stories. With this new program I hope to relay important information and relate to people and the audience in a completely different way. It's an exciting opportunity to show another side of myself and create something worthwhile and special in daytime." DEADLINE

•"Modern Family" mates Cam and Mitchell shared their first kiss on Wednesday's episode. As Willa Paskin observes, "The kiss was both frustratingly and admirably understated. On the one hand, seriously, that's what you call a kiss?! On the other, 'Modern Family's' creators didn't bow to the pressure to make Cam and Mitchell's kiss a huge deal, sacrificing character and story line in the process." VULTURE

• "The Flintstones" began its six-season run on ABC on this date back in 1960. To celebrate the golden anniversary, cablecaster Boomerang is airing the first episode in the 8:30 p.m. time slot, as it originally ran. The show contended for an Emmy in the field of humor for its first season, losing to "The Jack Benny Show." Rich Keller has compiled eight fun facts about the cartoon classic and peppered them with must-see clips. TV SQUAD

Ben Stiller is coming full circle for his return to Broadway by starring in a revival of "The House of Blue Leaves" next spring. He made his only appearance on Broadway in the 1986 Lincoln Center production of John Guare's 1971 dark comedy. Back then, Stiller played the sane son in a family of daydreamers, while John Mahoney and Swoozie Kurtz were his less-than-understanding parents. Now, Stiller takes on the role of the father while Emmy champ Edie Falco will play his wife. Mahoney and Kurtz both won Tonys for their efforts in the featured races. Will Stiller and Falco stay in these races or bump up to lead like Viola Davis did successfully this past season for the revival of "Fences." PLAYBILL

Upper photo: Entertainment Weekly cover. Credit: Entertainment Weekly

Middle photo: "Tangled" poster. Credit: Disney

Lower photo: Anderson Cooper. Credit: CNN

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The social relevancy of 'The Social Network' is key to its Oscar hopes

September 27, 2010 |  8:18 am

Forget for a moment that "The Social Network" is a superb film, scoring 100 at Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. The American movies with the highest scores at Metacritic in 2008 and 2007, "Wall-E" and "Ratatouille," weren't even nominated for best picture at the Oscars.

The Social Network newsBut "The Social Network" has a quality that gives it an edge in the current derby: It reflects the national zeitgeist during this Age of Facebook.

Academy voters want their best pictures to feel important, to provide special insight into the world (or cyber world) we inhabit today. One of the reasons that "The Hurt Locker" scored so powerfully with voters last year was because it enabled them to feel firsthand the terror of U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan

Still, in a way, it's remarkable that "The Hurt Locker" won best picture while those wars still raged. "The Deer Hunter"(1978) didn't claim the top Oscar until three years after the fall of Saigon. "Platoon" (1986) triumphed more than a decade after the Vietnam War was lost. Nonetheless, those movies were politically relevant in their day because America's war wounds still hadn't healed.

Several Oscar best pictures were painful reflections of what's happened to the American family in modern times: "American Beauty" (1999), "Ordinary People" (1980) and "Kramer vs. Kramer" (1979).

Others addressed the sexual revolution and dating scene in post-World War II America: "The Apartment" (1959) and "Annie Hall" (1977).

Some focused on racial tension: "In the Heat of the Night" (1967) and "Crash" (2006).

It's surprising that Watergate drama "All the President's Men" (1976) lost best picture so soon after Richard Nixon's resignation, but the film was released during America's bicentennial celebration. Oscar voters preferred the zeitgeist reflected in the positive, inspiring fable of an average Joe getting his shot at the world heavyweight boxing championship in "Rocky."

Continue reading »

Is the Oscar derby already over?

September 23, 2010 |  6:08 am

At this point, it sure looks like we have solid Oscar front-runners for best picture ("The Social Network"), best actor (Colin Firth, "The King's Speech") and best actress (Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"). It's very possible that all three could trot across the derby finish line without tripping en route.

The Social Network Black Swan The King's Speech Oscars newsHowever, we must remember how these top races appeared at this point last year. We knew that "The Hurt Locker" might be nominated for best picture, but that wasn't a certainty, and the front-runners were presumed to be "Up in the Air," "Invictus" and "Avatar."  There were still high hopes for "Nine" and "The Lovely Bones," even "Brothers."

Looking forward on this year's derby track, what can beat "The Social Network"? "The King's Speech" may be more to the taste of those older chaps in the academy, but "Social Network" is more to the taste of the edgy film critics who are likely to heap best-picture prizes on it in early December, giving it the same early momentum that paid off for "The Hurt Locker" last year. But, wait! Isn't it a terrible thing to be the early leader? That's a widely believed fallacy, yes, but, in fact, that wasn't a problem for "Titanic," "American Beauty," "The English Patient" and many other eventual champs.

BEST-ACTOR RACE: "Crazy Heart" wasn't even scheduled to be released in 2009 at this point on last year's calendar, so Jeff Bridges wasn't yet in the running. The contest seemed to be a slugfest between George Clooney ("Up in the Air"), Daniel Day-Lewis ("Nine"), Morgan Freeman ("Invictus"), Tobey Maguire ("Brothers") and Viggo Mortensen ("The Road"). Only Clooney and Freeman ended up with nominations.

Right now, it looks like the only contender who can topple Colin Firth for best actor is James Franco ("127 Hours"), but Jeff Bridges will be back in the derby, this time starring in Joel and Ethan Coen's "True Grit." The last version earned John Wayne the Oscar, of course, so we shouldn't rule out the possibility that Bridges could join the ranks of those few thesps, such as Tom Hanks and Spencer Tracy, who won back-to-back trophies. Also in this year's best-actor bout are Javier Bardem ("Biutiful"),  Robert Duvall ("Get Low"), Jesse Eisenberg ("The Social Network"), Ryan Gosling ("Blue Valentine") and Mark Wahlberg ("The Fighter").

BEST-ACTRESS RACE: We knew "The Blind Side" was coming out late in 2009, but no pundit except Pete Hammond (formerly of The Envelope, now at Deadline) took it seriously as a contender. In late September of last year, the leading contenders for best actress were Marion Cotillard ("Nine"), Abbie Cornish ("Bright Star"), Penélope Cruz ("Broken Embraces"), Vera Farmiga ("Up in the Air"), Helen Mirren ("The Last Station"), Carey Mulligan ("An Education"), Saoirse Ronan ("The Lovely Bones"), Gabourey Sidibe ("Precious"), Meryl Streep ("Julie & Julia") and Hilary Swank ("Amelia"). Nominees turned out to be Mirren, Mulligan, Sidibe, Streep and winner Bullock.

Continue reading »

Gold Derby nuggets: TIFF premieres Oscar hopefuls | 'The Fighter' contends | Foreign language film hopefuls

September 20, 2010 |  1:18 pm

TIFF-Logo1Nicole LaPorte recaps the race for the Oscars in the wake of the Toronto film fest, including an analysis of a best actress bout between Hollywood vet Annette Bening ("The Kids Are All Right") and the ingenue Natalie Portman ("Black Swan"). As Nicole writes, "With the acquisitions mood relatively low-key -- long gone are the days of all-night bidding wars, thanks to the economy and the slimmed-down independent film market -- the focus was almost entirely on predicting this season's 'The Hurt Locker.' No one seemed to mind that it's still relatively early, and that a number of films already looming large in the Oscar race, such as David Fincher's Facebook movie, 'The Social Network,' and David O. Russell's 'The Fighter,' a boxing drama with Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, have yet to be released." THE DAILY BEAST

Steve Pond delivers a crackerjack report from Toronto as well, highlighting 10 key moments. Leading off his list: "'The King’s Speech' shows that it's for real. Even before it won the People's Choice Award, Tom Hooper's drama about King George VI's reluctant ascension to the British throne had proven its point at Toronto. With an opening-Friday gala whose rapturous reception matched the one it had reportedly received in Telluride, the dramatic, surprisingly funny and intensely emotional film clearly proved that it has what it takes to win over audiences and remain a major player throughout awards season. Even beyond getting a towering lead performance from Colin Firth and a wry supporting turn by Geoffrey Rush, Hooper shows a light, deft touch, and keeps his film distinctive and quirky enough that it never seems old-fashioned despite a subject matter that could seem a bit dusty. 'The King's Speech' came into Toronto in the top echelon of Oscar contenders, and leaves in the same spot." THE WRAP

The Fighter Bale Wahlberg • While many awards contenders are already in the mix, Paramount isn't releasing "The Fighter" till December. And says Greg Ellwood, "What's expected to seriously assist "Fighter" and make it a true contender is Christian Bale's transformative performance and excellent turns by previous nominees Amy Adams and Melissa Leo (or at least what is being whispered about town). What hasn't been heard is significant buzz for Mark Wahlberg. That doesn't mean 'The Departed' star isn't good in 'The Fighter,' but he may be unfortunately overshadowed by his counterparts. That means he'll most likely need the movie to be a major triumph to land his second nomination." HIT FIX

• The 37th edition of the People's Choice Awards will air Jan. 5 on CBS with Queen Latifah once again hosting. As always, public votes will determine both nominees and winners. And this year, the public will get to choose their favorites among 15 potential new categories. PCA

Lady Gaga and Katy Perry lead with five nominations apiece at this year's MTV Europe Music Awards. The two songbirds compete for best pop, female and song awards, with Rihanna also in the running for those three races. Miley Cyrus also contends for best pop and female, while Usher rounds out the pop field and Shakira completes the female category. The kudocast originates from Madrid on Nov. 7.

Oscars Academy Awards Statues • As always, Nathaniel Rogers is aces at keeping track of all the possible nominees for best foreign language film at the Oscars. He neatly summarizes the announced entries as well as those still in the running for the nod from their respective countries. In addition, he handicaps the likelihood of each film making the final five, including a list of awards already won as well as the history of each country in this highly competitive category. THE FILM EXPERIENCE

Guy Lodge highlights the awards bestowed by the international critics' association FIPRESCI. At Venice they went for the Russian film "Silent Souls" while in Toronto they opted for "L'amour Fou." And, as Guy reports, "once a year, they poll their collected membership to elect a Grand Prix winner for Film of the Year. A list of past winners of the prize, awarded since 1999, reads rather like a greatest-hits compilation of recent arthouse cinema: 'There Will Be Blood,' '4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,' 'All About My Mother' and so on. So, what's their Film of the Year for 2010? Roman Polanski's 'The Ghost Writer.'" IN CONTENTION

• The tuner version of "Catch Me If You Can" has set an opening date of April 10, 2011, at a Nederlander Broadway house. This musicalization of the movie brings together three Tony champs from "Hairspray" -- songwriting team Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and director Jack O'Brien -- as well as choreographer Jerry Mitchell. Tony-winning playwright Terrence McNally has crafted the book based on the film and autobiography of Frank Abagnale.

Top image: Toronto International Film Festival logo. Credit: TIFF

Middle photo: Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale in "The Fighter." Credit: Paramount

Bottom photo: Academy Award statues. Credit: AMPAS

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Thelma Adams: 'Black Swan' is the Oscar front-runner

September 18, 2010 | 10:10 am

Black swan

Thelma Adams (Us Weekly, Thelmadams.com) sends us her Oscar scouting report from Canada: "Out of Toronto, 'Black Swan' is immediately the front-runner in the Oscar race, the one to beat. That means best picture, best actress Natalie Portman, best director Darren Aronofsky, best screenplay, best supporting actor Vincent Cassel (who’s about to get a lot more work in America), and possibly even a campaign for best supporting actress for Barbara Hershey -– a campaign but not necessarily a nomination."

Photo: "Black Swan" (Fox Searchlight)

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Oscar derby update: Race for best picture

September 14, 2010 |  8:38 am

Now that many Oscar contenders are being widely seen by media and industry wags, I think the race for best picture is becoming clearer. Here's my snapshot of the track as I see it now from my box seat at the Toronto International Film Festival. I won't get to see "The Social Network" until I return to New York on Thursday, but early reviews are in. And they're great, suggesting that we have an official front-runner.

Social network 127 Hours news

BEST PICTURE
(Front-runners)
"127 Hours"
"Black Swan"
"Inception"
"The King's Speech"
"The Social Network"
"Toy Story 3"
"The Kids Are All Right"

(Possible)
"Blue Valentine"
"Hereafter"
"How to Train Your Dragon"
"Never Let Me Go"
"Secretariat"
"The Way Back"
"Winter's Bone"

MAJOR CONTENDERS STILL NOT SEEN:
"How Do You Know"
"The Fighter"
"For Colored Girls"
"Love and Other Drugs"
"True Grit"

Photos: "The Social Network" (Columbia), left, and "127 Hours" (Fox Searchlight)

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Natalie Portman is the official Oscar front-runner

September 10, 2010 |  2:21 pm

"That's it! The best actress race is already over!" gasped a notable Oscar-tracking journo after witnessing Natalie Portman's dazzling diva turn in Darren Aronofsky's ballet thriller, "Black Swan," at the Toronto International Film Festival.

I was equally wowed and tempted to agree with that Oscar assessment except for one cautious reminder. At this point on last year's calendar we didn't know that the eventual winners of the last Academy Awards for best actress and actor -- Sandra Bullock ("The Blind Side") and Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart") -- were even in the running.

Natalie Portman Black Swan-1

That said, it's still fun to make fierce pronouncements, so let's leap as boldly as Portman does on screen while she performs "Swan Lake": Yes, she's out front. Yes, Portman will be very hard to beat because she's got many strong advantages.

1) DIVA APPEAL: In "Black Swan," Portman gives in dance what many past winners did in song -- the full-throttle diva performance: Barbra Streisand ("Funny Girl"), Liza Minnelli ("Cabaret") and Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose"). Unfortunately, ballet has played only a minor role at Oscars past, so it's hard to look backward for guidance to what will happen ahead. "The Turning Point" spawned two best actress nominees (who probably canceled each other out in the voting), Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft, but they played dancers past their prime, not bouncing ferociously and constantly on stage.

2) GET PHYSICAL: Throughout the two hours of "Black Swan," Portman gives an even more athletic performance than Hilary Swank did when boxing her way to an Oscar victory for "Million Dollar Baby."

3) THE BABE FACTOR: Those notoriously frisky good ol' boys in the motion picture academy have clearly turned the best actress competition into a beauty contest in recent years: Sandra Bullock ("Blind Side"), Charlize Theron ("Monster"), Nicole Kidman ("The Hours"), Halle Berry ("Monster's Ball"), Julia Roberts ("Erin Brockovich"), Gwyneth Paltrow ("Shakespeare in Love") plus many more examples in between and earlier. Portman is knockout gorgeous in "Black Swan."

4) THE SEX FACTOR: Overt eroticism used to be a turnoff at the Oscars in more prudish times, but nowadays we're seeing those academy gents get excited by sexy roles. Some cynics say Kate Winslet ("The Reader") and Halle Berry ("Monster's Ball") wouldn't have won without their brazen sex scenes. In "Black Swan," Portman has steamy masturbation and lesbian scenes.

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