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Tom O'Neil has the inside track on Oscars, Emmys, Grammys and all the award shows.

Category: Telluride Film Festival

Oscar derby update: Front-runners to win best picture

September 8, 2010 |  8:37 am

Now that some of the top Oscar contenders have been spied at the Telluride and Venice Film Festivals, it's time to take a snapshot of the derby track for best picture. Below are the 15 front-runners for the 10 slots in the lead race, plus a rundown of other ponies in the contest.

Kings speech the social network

Steve Pond (The Odds, The Wrap) correctly predicted last year that "The Hurt Locker" might end up winning. Now he's forecasting "The King's Speech." Most other pundits believe "The Social Network" is out front. Keep in mind that many top contenders still haven't been seen, like Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter," James L. Brooks' "Everything You've Got" or "How Do You Know" (title still uncertain), Joel and Ethan Coen's "True Grit," David O. Russell's "The Fighter" and Edward Zwick's "Love and Other Drugs."

Gold Derby will be at the Toronto Film Festival later this week to report the latest industry and media reax to derby rivals.

"Another Year"
"Black Swan"
"Blue Valentine"
"Everything You've Got" (or "How Do You Know")
"The Fighter"
"The Kids Are All Right"
"The King’s Speech"
"Love and Other Drugs"
"Never Let Me Go"
"127 Hours"
"The Social Network"
"Toy Story 3"
"True Grit"

"How to Train Your Dragon"
"The Tempest"
"The Town"
"The Tree of Life"
"The Way Back"
"Winter's Bone"

Left photo: A scene from "The King's Speech." Credit: Weinstein Co.

Right photo: A scene from "The Social Network." Credit: Columbia Pictures

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Oscar mystery surrounds 'Black Swan'

September 7, 2010 |  6:08 am
Black Swan natalie portman news

"Natalie Portman’s dazzling tour de force makes her an instant leading contender in every best-actress race," Pete Hammond (Deadline Hollywood) proclaimed about her performance in "Black Swan" after its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival.  The London Times decreed Portman so "astounding" in Darren Aronofky's ballet thriller that "awards are sure to follow."

Portman is so lovely that she could certainly fit this year's "The Babe Factor" at the Oscars, where the best-actress race has largely been a beauty pageant for more than a decade (Sandra Bullock, Marion Cotillard, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Halle Berry, Julia Roberts, etc.). It can't hurt that she has a steamy lesbian scene in "Black Swan" that will surely get noticed by those notoriously frisky good ol' boys in the motion picture academy.

But is Portman really such a shoo-in for best actress? And what about "Black Swan" getting into the best picture race? Aronofky's "The Wrestler" didn't make the cut for best picture of 2008, but there were only five nominees back then.

Anne Thompson (Thompson on Hollywood, Indiewire) includes "Black Swan" on her list of top 13 strongest rivals to be nominated for the top 10 best-pic slots, but she's not confident about its chances. She says, "I wonder how 'Black Swan' will fare on the academy side. It may be painful for older voters to watch" because of its violence on screen. Nonetheless, Thompson believes "actors may laud Portman."

Continue reading »

Oscar hopes soar for 'Up in the Air' and 'An Education'

September 6, 2009 |  5:07 pm

Telluride film festival up in the air george clooney

"Anticipation for a major Oscar-level movie triumph was so high, almost nothing could live up to it," reports Pete Hammond at his Notes on a Season blog about Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air," starring George Clooney as a lonely suit having a mid-life crisis. "But this came close, preserving the Telluride Film Festival's impeccable recent record of launching award-season magnets (the most recent being last year's 'Slumdog Millionaire').

Pete says a best-actress nomination is "assured" for Carey Mulligan as a British schoolgirl smitten by a rich older playboy in "An Education," which won the word cinema audience award at Sundance. Alfred Molina has a shot at best supporting actor, being "wonderful as her father," adds Pete.

Photos: Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Classics

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Telluride Film Festival to debut 'Bright Star' and 'The Road' (which 'leads nowhere,' says Variety)

September 3, 2009 |  6:59 pm

The Road Telluride Film Festival Oscars entertainment news

Films to unspool at the Telluride Film Festival, which begins tomorrow, were announced today: Jane Campion's "Bright Star," John Hillcoat's "The Road," Lone Scherfig's "An Education," Todd Solondz's "Life During Wartime" and Michael Haneke's Palme d'Or champ at Cannes "White Ribbon." Curiously missing: "Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air," which was rumored to be among the offerings. Nonetheless, it will make its official debut the following week at the Toronto International Film Festival. Read Variety's report here. Also check out the preview by L.A. Times scribe John Horn, which was penned before the official announcement was made that "Up in the Air" would not be included.

Unfortunately, it looks as if "The Road" may be derailed in its Oscar path. Last year, its release was bounced from the previous derby when it looked as if the screen adaptation of the novel by Cormac McCarthy ("No Country for Old Men") had hit some creative bumps observed during early screenings. "The Road" took a u-turn into the editing room. Today Todd McCarthy said in his Variety review, "'The Road' leads nowhere.... Except for the physical aspects of this bleak odyssey by a father and son through a post-apocalyptic landscape, this long-delayed production falls dispiritingly short on every front." 

Photo: "The Road" (The Weinstein Co.) 

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Pete Hammond says 'Slumdog Millionaire' and 'I've Loved You So Long' reaped the most Oscars buzz at the Telluride Film Festival

September 2, 2008 |  7:22 pm

When is it OK to relay the reax of trusty sources to a film if you actually haven't seen it yourself? That's the crux of a cyber-smackdown that erupted over the past few days after Jeff Wells of blabbed the views of some witnesses to the unspooling of a 20-minute preview of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" at the Telluride Film Festival. Anne Thompson of tut-tutted Jeff's account by insisting that it "played well in the Opera House with the folks who actually saw it."


Meantime, in our podcast chat, Pete Hammond admits to siding with Anne Thompson. CLICK HERE to download the MP3 file and listen to our chat. (Note: You may need to hold down your computer's control key while clicking.)

Pete also shares that view in his "Notes on a Season" article for "Voracious movie bloggers, with a need to be first rather than right, took shots at the film over the weekend on the basis of the modest Telluride peek. They would be advised to hold their reviews a few months until the other 2 hours and 25 minutes can be seen." READ MORE

Well, that caused Kris Tapley over at to pop off in the headline, "Pete Hammond can’t resist sticking it to the blog-o-sphere." In the article, Kris obviously sides with Wells as he harrumphs, "I can’t help but be irritated at the gall of Pete Hammond . . . . The buzz is the buzz, and if a couple of guys didn’t dig it, they’re opinion is valid."

"I talked to (director) David Fincher and asked him why he cut the (preview) the way he did," Pete says. "What he did was he created these little scenes, then cut them off right in the middle. Well, you can't judge a movie when you've got each scene cutting off like that. He's giving you a taste, a tease of the film. I think these voracious bloggers need to slow down, calm down, don't poison the word yet. 

What side of this hubbub do you take? (I'm staying out of it.)

What other big news was there at the Telluride Film Festival?


Echoing what Pete says in his "Notes on a Season" column (click here to read), he adds here in this podcast, "I think, without question, the big surprise of this festival is Danny Boyle's 'Slumdog Millionaire.' That's the one with potential. It took me by surprise! It's a nail-biting movie. It's very suspenseful. It's really funny. It's really dramatic. The buzz on the street was over the top, over the moon."

All across Telluride during the festival, there was also terrific buzz about another flick "when you spoke to people going up in the gondola or walking about town," Pete says. "They were talking about 'that French film' " — meaning "I've Loved You So Long."

"Kristin Scott Thomas is phenomenal," he says. "It's a slow, small movie, but it's an emotional grabber, and it's very suspenseful."

Another likely Oscar best-actress nominee was the talk of Telluride even though she couldn't be there in person because of a broken collar bone: Sally Hawkins of Mike Leigh's "Happy-Go-Lucky." "There's unanimous praise for its lead star, who's just irresistible," Pete says. "The movie's Oscar potential is with her."

"Flash of Genius" generated awards buzz in the best-actor race, but Pete warns: "It's a studio-type movie, a standard Hollywood biopic. But Greg Kinnear's wonderful in it. It's the best performance he's ever given."

(Paramount, Fox Searchlight)

More Oscars buzz from the Telluride Film Festival

September 1, 2008 | 12:04 pm

At the L.A. Times' entertainment news blog, John Horn reports on the Telluride Film Festival, fretting over "the near complete absence of American movies in this Colorado mountain hamlet may underscore a more worrisome trend: that some of the highest-quality movies are being made far from American soil. Among the best-received Telluride titles are 'I've Loved You So Long,' a French drama about estranged sisters starring Kristin Scott Thomas; and 'Gomorrah,' an Italian crime story set in the world of toxic waste disposal and garment manufacturing." READ MORE

Anne Thompson of gives a smart report on awards buzz surrounding pix at the Telluride Film Festival.


Meantime, she gives a tweak of the cheek to Jeff Wells of for reporting negative gossip about the 20-minute audience reax to "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" at Telluride Film Festival. She insists that it "played well in the Opera House with the folks who actually saw it . . . . No matter how the film turns out, the buzz on Brad Pitt — who was impressive in the Fincher clips of 'Seven' and 'Fight Club' — is getting louder. It could be his turn.

"Among the relative unknown pics with Oscar hopes on their sleeves are 'Flash of Genius,' a heart-tugging David-and-Goliath story starring Greg Kinnear in a moving performance as the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper who takes on Ford and loses everything in the process," Anne Thompson adds. "Mike Leigh's 'Happy-Go-Lucky' comes out of Telluride with some heat for actress Sally Hawkins, yet another relative British unknown like 'Vera Drake's' Imelda Staunton, who went on to win an Oscar nomination (along with Leigh for writer and director)."

Speaking of Cinematical, blogger Kim Voynar gives this report on the Telluride Film Festival: "I'm hearing strong positive buzz so far for 'I've Loved You So Long,' 'Hunger, Flame & Citron,' The Good, the Bad and the Weird' and 'Happy-Go-Lucky, all of which will play Toronto. Folks here are enamored of Sally Hawkins, who plays the lead in 'Happy-Go-Lucky'; sadly, she broke her collarbone while shooting a stunt for her latest film, and isn't here in Telluride, but she will be at Toronto."

IndieWire gives this report on the fest's panel discussion about film distribution and criticism, which included Anne Thompson, Paul Schrader, Jonathan Sehring, Annette Insdorf, Danny Boyle, Michael Barker and Scott Foundas.

(Photos: Sony Pictures Classics, Miramax)

Oscars buzz at the Telluride and Venice Film Festivals

August 31, 2008 |  5:38 pm

Jeff Wells of reports the response of two chums who saw the 20-minute preview of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (photo, right) at the Telluride Film Festival: "Their reactions to the 'Button' footage, and, frankly, the Benjamin_button reactions of others they spoke to as they left the theatre (including a couple of journo-critics and a respected director of an '07 political documentary), were not all that good." Cinematical echoes that report, saying the 20-minute preview "wasn't so compelling."

• At Telluride, Hollywood Reporter's Risky Business blog notes: "Fox Searchlight will try to mount another derby ambush like it did over the previous two years with those crowd-cheering indies "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Juno." Based upon wild audience huzzahs to "Slumdog Millionaire" at Telluride, the studio is excited about this tale of a contestant on India's TV version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" and it is planning "an elaborate campaign for the smart but feelgood dramedy (which, incidentally, was shot in India and features an all-Indian cast)."


• Upping the best-actress hopes of Kristin Scott Thomas at Telluride Film Festival, Cinematical swoons over "I've Loved You So Long," (photo, left) hailing the first feature of French novelist-turned-director Phillipe Claudel "art at the level that makes independent cinema worthwhile." It's a drama about a woman caring for her sister (Kristin Scott Thomas) who has just been released from prison after serving a 15-year sentence for murder. "Thomas's performance here has been generating Oscar buzz for a while now, and deservedly so," says the site. "She will almost certainly garner a Best Actress Oscar nod for this film."

• Ever since the split-up of writer Guillermo Arriaga and director Alejandro González Iñárritu ("Amores Perros," "21 Grams," "Babel"), Arriaga's debut as the director of his own next script has been highly anticipated. So far verdict on "The Burning Plain," which debuted at the Venice Film Festival, is split. Screen International loves it, calling it "a powerful contemporary melodrama, more restrained but also much cleaner, in dramatic focus and emotional thrust, than the three films Arriaga penned for Inarritu."

However, Variety blasts "The Burning Plain": "Multicharacter head-scratcher, yo-yoing between New Mexico and Oregon, and back and forth in time, doesn't finally reveal much beneath the emperor's clothes to repay viewers' concentration during the first half. Despite an OK-to-good cast led by Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger, plus a handsome tech package, this remains an elaborate writing exercise with few emotional hooks." READ MORE So does the Hollywood Reporter, calling it "an ambitious, visually handsome production which fails to ignite. The star power of Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger may attract initial business for the directing bow of Guillermo Arriaga . . . but the two actresses' sensitive performances don’t make the emotional connection to audiences that the story yearns for."

(Photos: Paramount, Sony Pictures Classics)



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