The Envelope Logo

Gold Derby

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

Category: Will Smith

'The Dark Knight' dominates Saturn Awards with 11 nods while 'Twilight' is almost shut out

March 11, 2009 |  4:39 am

"The Dark Knight" dominates the competition at the upcoming Saturn Awards, leading with 11 nominations, including a best picture bid as well as acting nods for leads Christian Bale and Maggie Gyllenhaal and supporting players Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhart. Three years ago, "Batman Begins" won three of its nine Saturn Awards races — fantasy film, lead actor (Christian Bale), and writing (Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer).

The_dark_knight_saturn_awards

This 35th annual edition of the awards honors films across four genres — sci-fi, fantasy, horror and action/adventure/thriller. That last catch-all category is where "The Dark Knight" is competing against "Changeling," "Gran Torino," "Quantum of Solace," "Traitor," and "Valkyrie."

"Valkyrie," directed by sci-fi veteran Bryan Singer, earned mixed reviews but did surprisingly well in terms of the Saturns. Besides that best picture bid, the film's seven Saturn nods include one for leading man Tom Cruise and another for Singer. Cruise is a previous seven-time Saturn nominee with one win for "Vanilla Sky" back in 2001, while Singer is a five-time contender winning for "X-Men" in 2000.

As the acting races span all four genres, Cruise's competition besides Bale (a two-time nominee) includes Oscar nominee Brad Pitt, who picked up his third Saturn nod with his bid for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." That epic time-traveling fantasy earned nine nods in total. Sci-fi hit "Iron Man" scored eight including a lead actor nom for Robert Downey Jr., who won this award in 1993 for "Heart and Souls" and had one other nod. Harrison Ford contends for his work in the sci-fi romp "Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," which has six nominations in total. Ford won lead actor for "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in 1982 and has now been nominated for all four films in the franchise.

Heartthrob Robert Pattinson was snubbed for his leading role in "Twilight." Did past four-time nominee Will Smith, who won the award last year for "I Am Legend," edge him out with his nod for "Hancock"? That critical flop but commercial hit also landed a bid for best fantasy film as well as a second supporting actress nod for Charlize Theron. The only nomination for "Twilight" came in the fantasy film race where it faces off against "Hancock" as well as "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Spiderwick Chronicles" and "Wanted."

Pattinson's "Twilight" love interest, Kristen Stewart, was likewise left off the list of lead actress nominees. Oscar contender Angelina Jolie competes here as "Changeling" earned her a third Saturn nod. Among her competiton are two other Oscar winners — Cate Blanchett, who picked up Saturn nod No. 4 for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," and Gwyneth Paltrow, who landed her second Saturn nom for "Iron Man" — as well as four-time Oscar nominee Julianne Moore, who is now a four-time Saturn nominee with her bid for "Blindness," newbie Emily Mortimer ("Transsiberian"), and one-time past Saturn nominee Gyllenhaal.

Continue reading »

Oscars predix: Richard Jenkins, Sally Hawkins and Will Smith zoom forward | Leo DiCaprio and Clint Eastwood fall back

November 4, 2008 |  1:08 pm

What a difference a day and a new gang of Oscar gurus make! Proof of how wide open the derby is can be tracked in the vast differences between our newest pundit predix (below) and the rundown we published yesterday (CLICK HERE). Six seers participated in both juries. Our new group: Patrick Day (LATimes.com), Kevin Lewin (World Entertainment News Network), Michael Musto (Village Voice), T.L. Stanley (Gold Rush, Hollywood Reporter), Peter Travers (Rolling Stone) and Jeffrey Wells (Hollywood-Elsewhere.com).

Oscarsnoop154

Richard Jenkins ("The Visitor") proves to be a dramatic dark horse, zooming from far beyond the pack of best-actor rivals (no votes yesterday) to leading it, being tied with Sean Penn ("Milk") and Mickey Rourke ("The Wrestler") for reaping unanimous support now.

Another notable leap ahead: Sally Hawkins ("Happy-Go-Lucky") from 3 votes to 5. Darting onto the derby track after no support yesterday: Melissa Leo ("Frozen River") and Will Smith ("Seven Pounds").

Notable fallbacks: Clint Eastwood ("Gran Torino") dropped from 5 votes to 2 and Leonardo DiCaprio ("Revolutionary Road") from 4 to 1. Falling out completely: Nicole Kidman ("Australia") and Benicio Del Toro ("Che").

BEST PICTURE Day Lewin Musto Stanley Travers Wells
'Australia'  

X

 

  

   
'Benjamin Button'

X

X

 

X

X

X

'Changeling'

 

X

       
'Dark Knight'

X

 

X

X

X

 

'Doubt'

     

X

 

 
'Frost/Nixon'

X

X

 

 

X

X

'Gran Torino'    

X

     
'Milk'

X

 

X

X

X

 

'Revolutionary Road'

 

X

 

 

X

'Slumdog Millionaire'

X

 

X

X

X

X


BEST ACTOR Day Lewin Musto Stanley Travers Wells
Leo DiCaprio, 'Revolutionary Road  

 

 

 

 

X

Clint Eastwood, 'Gran Torino'

 

 

X

 

X

 

Richard Jenkins,

'The Visitor'

X

X

X

X

X

X

Frank Langella, 'Frost/Nixon'

X

X

X

X

X

 

Sean Penn, 'Milk'

X

X

X

X

X

X

Brad Pitt, 'Benjamin Button'

 

 

 

X

 

X

Mickey Rourke, 'The Wrestler'

X

X

X

X

X

X

Will Smith, 'Seven Pounds'

X

X

       

BEST ACTRESS Day Lewin Musto Stanley Travers Wells
Cate Blanchett, 'Benjamin Button'

 X

 

     

 

Anne Hathaway, 'Rachel Getting Married'

 

X

X

X

X

X

Sally Hawkins, 'Happy-Go-Lucky'

X

X

X

X

 

X

Angelina Jolie, 'Changeling'

X

X

 

  

X

 

Melissa Leo, 'Frozen River'          

X

Meryl Streep, 'Doubt'

X

X

X

X

X

X

Kristin Scott Thomas, 'I've Loved You So Long'

 

 

X

X

X

X

Kate Winslet, 'Revolutionary Road'

X

X

X

X

 



Will Smith aims for his third Oscar nomination with 'Seven Pounds'

September 29, 2008 |  9:04 am

When blockbuster superstar Will Smith stars in a serious movie, all Oscarologists should take his award chances seriously. In the past, Will Smith proved to be a heavyweight academy contender by scoring nominations for "Ali" and "The Pursuit of Happyness."

Now here's the trailer for his December release, "Seven Pounds," a title that refers to the weight of the human heart. It features Will Smith as a guilt-ridden IRS agent who helps seven strangers while trying to redeem his own sordid past. Among them is a woman (Rosario Dawson) with a heart condition with whom he falls in love.

Photo credit: Columbia Pictures


Eavesdrop on bloggers dishing who should host the Oscars

September 26, 2008 |  4:37 pm

Yesterday I emailed a gang of my blogger cohorts who track the Oscars derby and asked: "Who agrees with me that Will Smith would make the bestest Oscars host? Let's start the drum beat! "

Among the people I cc'd in the email: David Carr (NYTimes.com), Scott Feinberg (AndTheWinnerIs), Lou Lumenick (NYPost.com), T.L. Stanley (HollywoodReporter.com), Sasha Stone (AwardsDaily.com), Kris Tapley (InContention.com), Anne Thompson (Variety.com), Jeff Wells (Hollywood-Elsewhere.com). And YOU gentle reader can jump in and vote in our Envelope poll HERE.

Will_smith_oscars_host

SASHA STONE: Ricky Gervais. Will Smith might feel compelled to rap the opening number. He might even call Jada and the kids out to rap along. Ricky Gervais, Steve Carell, Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert.

ANNE THOMPSON: "1.) Steve Martin, 2.) Billy Crystal, 3.) Jon Stewart. Gervais can't even open a movie. I have fantasies of Hugh Jackman doing a musical medley at the top of the show. With the new producers I hope the show will continue to be classy and insider smart. Smith might be fine but don't think his stardom necessarily changes the equation. The movies need to be popular, like 'Dark Knight.'" READ MORE

SCOTT FEINBERG: "I agree 100% that Smith would be great, but why on Earth would he do it? He's on top of the world right now, so why put himself out there? An Oscar host hasn't been able to generate good reviews from the majority of critics or good ratings from viewers in years. I'm afraid it's as thankless a job as being president these days! What do you think about the Gervais buzz, though? I think it would be worth the gamble for him, as someone who is a revered comedian in the UK but who is a much lesser-known quantity in the US, and I suspect he would be very good! "

LOU LUMENICK: "No, no, no to Will Smith; he's becoming the new Tom Cruise. If the new producers really want to think outside the box, I say Kal Penn and John Cho. The latter is a killer impressionist; he does the best Brando I've ever seen on the new Godfather box set."

DAVID CARR: "Colbert. Hands down. Genially savage appearance at WHCD should put everyone on notice that it won't be pretty, but will be pretty funny."

KRIS TAPLEY: "I've always thought Nathan Lane would be a great outside-the-box choice."

T.L. STANLEY: "Not that I don't love me some Fresh Prince, but he's broken my heart with all the Scientology shiznit, though people outside of NY/LA probably couldn't care less about that. I'm not convinced he'd be the right choice. Jon Stewart: played out, obviously. Carell? Good. Colbert? Better." READ MORE

TOM O'NEIL: "Will Smith will haul in the most eyeballs, which the Oscars desperately need. Ricky Gervais would be socko, but, as a draw, he's a zero. Jon Stewart? You're kidding, right? Maybe so he can co-host with David Letterman and Chris Rock? Do we believe that there's death in threes? Stewart's hosted twice so far, let's recall."

SASHA STONE: "Recall, are you kidding? There is only one way to save the Oscars. Nominate films people have seen and are invested in. "Titanic," "Gladiator," "Return of the King," "The Dark Knight." No one cares about the host. Well, unless they're reality TV show hosts and then it's like the Sarah Palin of hosts: you didn't know how bad it could be until you saw how bad it could be. Will Smith is still trying to rescue his film career. He wants to be Denzel Washington not Billy Crystal. Steve Carell."

Continue reading »

Oscars derby 2008-2009 front-runners

July 12, 2008 | 11:58 am

Click on the film titles below to learn more about each Oscars contender. Obviously, things will change. There are rumors, for example, that "The Reader" may move to 2009 so that two Kate Winslet flicks don't compete against each other. Also, some of these films don't have a distributor yet, including "Two Lovers," "Grey Gardens," "Synecdoche, New York" and "The Argentine." Many thanks to my Envelope colleague and pal Pete Hammond for his input to this list.

Happygolucky_sally_hawkins_mike_lei

BEST PICTURE
"Appaloosa"
"Australia"
"Body of Lies"
"Burn After Reading"
"Changeling"
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Dark Knight"
"Defiance"
"Doubt"
"Gran Torino"
"Happy-Go-Lucky"
"Frost/Nixon"
"Milk"
"Miracle at St. Anna"
"Mamma Mia!"
"The Reader"
"Revolutionary Road"
"Secret Life of Bees"
"Seven Pounds"
"The Soloist"
"Vicki Cristina Barcelona"
"The Visitor"
"Wall-E"
"W"

BEST ACTOR
Eric Bana, "The Time Traveler's Wife"
Josh Brolin, "W"
Benicio del Toro, "The Argentine" or "Guerrilla" *
Leo DiCaprio, "Revolutionary Road" or "Body of Lies"
Robert Downey Jr., "The Soloist," "Iron Man"
Clint Eastwood, "Gran Torino"
Harrison Ford, "Crossing Over"
Jamie Foxx, "The Soloist" (supporting role?)
Richard Jenkins, "The Visitor"
Philip Seymour Hoffman, " Synecdoche, New York" * or "Doubt"
Hugh Jackman, "Australia"
Tommy Lee Jones, "In the Electric Mist"
Frank Langella, "Frost/Nixon"
Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight" (supporting role?)
Derek Luke, "Miracle at St. Anna" (supporting role?)
Viggo Mortensen, "Appaloosa," "The Road"
Sean Penn, "Milk"
Joaquin Phoenix, "Two Lovers" *
Brad Pitt, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" or "Burn After Reading"
Michael Sheen, "Frost/Nixon"
Will Smith, "Seven Pounds"

KEEP READING - CLICK HERE!

Continue reading »

MTV Movie Awards wrap-up: How hot were they?

June 2, 2008 |  8:45 am

Mtv_johnny_depp

Reax to the MTV Movie Awards show is pretty good, which is impressive considering that the gala was under fire or, rather, just a few hundred yards above when a scary blaze raged on the Universal lot just earlier in the day.

I'm on vacation this week out in Ohio with my family, so I missed the gig. Check out the thorough coverage elsewhere on the site: list of winnahs, dishin' on the best and worst of the show, photos of arrivals, red carpet rewind, report on the fire aftermath.

Also, check out other media reports: Associated Press , Reuters, USA Today , E! Online.

Below are some snarky comments from our forum posters. To read more, CLICK HERE.

booyahboy: Ugh, seriously. Can't people get over their obsession long enough to realize (Johnny Depp's) actually right when he says he isn't even funny.

Pacinofan: "Transformers" winning over "Juno" or "Superbad"!!??!! No sir. Didn't see that coming. The show was worth it for the Ben Stiller/Jack Black/Robert Downey Jr. sketch.

Continue reading »

POLL - VOTE: Who should host next year's Oscars?

February 27, 2008 |  4:35 pm


How to fix the Oscars: No more rented TV clowns from NYC!

February 27, 2008 |  3:45 pm

While I enjoyed reading Patrick Goldstein's terrific tirade against the Oscarcast, I think a certain concession must be made to the fact that Hollywood's annual high holy event is a lot like church. Sometimes the priest changes, but it's basically the same dull show all the time. But that's what church is supposed to be. Painful. It's good for the soul. And I can't think of a group of people more needing punishment and redemption than those rascally Hollywooders.

Patrick urges: "The show could add star appeal by doing interviews with stars preparing for the big show the following night, playing fun clips from the Independent Spirit Awards or having a live remote from an industry Saturday-night party."

Will_smith

No! There's already enough of that silly babble from airhead celebs on the red-carpet pre-shows. I say let's lock the door and keep that outside, please. Inside, there's a real awards show going on. Is it too much to ask that the most important award show of all take itself seriously and not turn itself into a Vegas act like the Grammys and MTV awards, which Patrick recommends?

"The technical awards — sound editing, sound mixing, visual effects, makeup and costume design — have to go," he adds. "No one outside of the academy wants to hear acceptance speeches from people they've never heard of, no matter how heartfelt."

Actually, many do. If the others don't like it, tough beeswax. They can do what Patrick did: TiVo the whole thing and just skip over the parts they don't want to watch. I think it's great that the academy dares to put the spotlight on the deserving, unseen heroes behind the tinsel.

As for Patrick's suggestion to hand over the telecast's production to ESPN hipsters: wrong! About 20 years ago the Emmys gave the ceremony to those hip producers of "Saturday Night Live," who delivered a few fun moments, but otherwise turned it into a variety show of ho-hum skits. It was hard to find the Emmys in the mix.

Yes, the Oscars need to add more edgy comedy, lots of it, but they know that and have done so in the past. This time they had eight days to toss a show together.

Continue reading »

Will secret prejudice hurt 'Dreamgirls' at the Oscars?

November 17, 2006 | 11:05 am

Last weekend I had a long, leisurely breakfast with one of Hollywood's most notable studio chiefs. While we chatted casually, he said, in between the lattes and bagels matter-of-factly, what we all know but seldom admit out loud: "Of course, 'Brokeback Mountain' didn't win best picture because of the gay thing."

He's an academy member, seasoned Oscar veteran, a "str8" chap, as the lingo goes, and not affiliated with "Brokeback."

"I couldn't believe how many academy members even refused to watch it," he added, shaking his head. "There's no doubt in my mind that we saw the secret, ugly side of Hollywood when the best picture winner was announced. I'm not saying 'Crash' wasn't a great film, no, no, but that's not why they voted for it. Look, I've been in this Oscar game long enough to know how to read these things. Believe me. What we saw was a disgusting display of anti-gay bigotry. Yep, in so-called liberal Hollywood."

Raysounder_1

There's much evidence to back up this studio boss' assertion. Many academy members both hip (Sarah Jessica Parker) and old school (Ernest Borgnine, Tony Curtis) admitted they didn't watch "Brokeback" before voting. In toto, "Brokeback" received more best-picture awards from kudos organizations than any other film in history — 26 — but not the film academy. Odd, eh?

"Brokeback" had the most Oscar nominations. That usually translates into a best-pic victory in the vast majority of cases. Like most best-pic winners, it won Oscars for best director and screenplay. Voters admired the film enough to give it all that, but, when the time came to decide the top prize, they just couldn't, in the privacy of their own home or office while no one was watching, give that gay movie the best-picture trophy. Many Oscar voters have admitted this to me. Over all, it's clear to me how they think: It's OK to give Oscars to straight stars portraying gays assaulted with violence or AIDS (Hilary Swank, Tom Hanks), but, come on, "Brokeback" was a love story. By installing that into Oscar's best-picture pantheon, they'd be embracing gay love itself. Yeowsa, those old, straight white guys who comprise the vast majority of voters absolutely refused to do it. Quite a few of them even told me, brazenly, how much the whole thing disgusted them. Just like the studio boss mentioned above, I encountered dozens of voters who admitted to me that they refused to watch their DVD screeners. It didn't matter how good the film was, they weren't going to consider it.

So how did it win the other races?

"They saw Larry McMurtry's and Ang Lee's names on the ballot and thought, 'Oh, OK, I can vote for them,'" said the studio chief. "It eased their consciences a bit so they didn't feel so bad about screwing 'Brokeback' elsewhere."

Colorpurple

So, wow, if all of that's true . . . shouldn't that make us worry about the possibility of secret anti-black bigotry being an issue in the current derby with "Dreamgirls" now the frontrunner?

It's no secret that the academy has been stingy to black films in the past. Prior to the 2001 derby when race became a big issue at last, African-Americans had claimed a lead-acting award only once (Sidney Poitier, "Lilies of the Field") and only 5 had prevailed in the supporting races (Hattie McDaniel, "Gone with the Wind"; Whoopi Goldberg, "Ghost"; Louis Gossett Jr., "An Officer and a Gentleman"; Denzel Washington, "Glory"; and Cuba Gooding Jr. , "Jerry Maguire"). When all of this erupted into a major hubbub five years ago and academy members were publicly accused of being prejudiced, voters scrambled to make good for past oversights and they gave both the lead-actor and actress trophies to black stars in the same year, shocking everybody: Denzel Washington ("Training Day") and Halle Berry ("Monster's Ball").

Now, for the first time ever, it looks like an African-American movie can not only win, but romp across most categories: "Dreamgirls." Oscarologists everywhere are declaring it to be the clear frontrunner. If so, it should have an easy time of things at the Golden Globes, which have always embraced black artists and musical movies warmly.

But, hmmmm, what about those weird Oscars? Will voters display another secret flash of ugly prejudice?

This question not only applies to "Dreamgirls," but to "The Pursuit of Happyness," "Catch a Fire" and "The Last King of Scotland," too. This year we see so many great films featuring African-Americans in the lead that we could actually see something that's never occurred at the Oscars: three black nominees in one acting race — Will Smith, Derek Luke and Forest Whitaker all up for best actor.

Hopes now run high that this could be a milestone year for African-Americans at the Oscars. Much like hopes ran high among gays at the last derby. Will the same outcome occur?

There's one hopeful sign that things may work out just fine this time. Let's recall that the film that beat "Brokeback" was about secret racial prejudice. Voters embraced "Crash" enthusiastically, but it featured many white stars like Matt Dillon, Sandra Bullock and Ryan Phillippe. If many white voters feel shut out of "Dreamgirls" like many straight voters felt about "Brokeback," they might respond selfishly again. But will they? Click on the "Comments" link below and pipe in!

Photos: On rare occasions, films with a mostly black cast have broken into the best picture race: "Ray" (2004) and "Sounder" (1972). "The Color Purple" reigns as the biggest loser in Oscar history (tied with "The Turning Point") with 11 snubbed nominations.
(Universal/ 20th Century Fox)


Top 10 lead the Oscar best picture race

November 3, 2006 |  6:39 am

At this early point in the derby, the dash for best picture has already narrowed considerably to a pack of 10 lead ponies.

Out front: "Babel," "Bobby," "The Departed," "Dreamgirls" "Flags of Our Fathers," "Little Miss Sunshine," "The Pursuit of Happyness," "The Queen," "United 93" and "Volver."

Others in the running, but yards behind (more on that later): "Blood Diamond," "Borat," "The Painted Veil," "The Good German," "The Good Shepherd," "Last King of Scotland," "Little Children" and "World Trade Center."

Dreamgirlsonesheet1

My biggest track bet stays on "Dreamgirls" for now because it's a Broadway-proven, heart-squeezing, feet-tapping dramatization of a real showbiz story that was important to most academy voters during their youth, however much it winks its denial that it's not really about the Supremes.

Best picture winners usually must have a strong corresponding contender for best director — that's Bill Condon, who is emerging, finally, center stage among Hollywood helmers deserving a bow.

It helps that his arrival is relatively new (although I think he was cheated out of due recognition for "Kinsey") because voters like to crown big talent on the rise (Peter Jackson, "Lord of the Rings," Sam Mendes, "American Beauty") when they're not trying to make up for past snubbings of veterans (Ron Howard, "A Beautiful Mind," Steven Spielberg, "Schindler's List").

It also has what most best picture winners have: a cast of A-Listers (Beyonce, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson).

In addition, it'll certainly nab gads of noms across many categories — that's key because the movie with the most nominations usually wins.

Beware: The best-pic victory of another musical, "Chicago" (which Condon adapted from the stage as screenwriter, but didn't direct), may be a fluke.

Other Broadway hits recently flopped when transferred to the Hollywood screen ("The Producers," "Phantom of the Opera") and no film with a black cast has yet won over the vastly white academy electorate.

Furthermore, it will need to prove itself at the box office, which is chancy. Musicals seem so old-fashioned today and so does its story line, although, happily, its telling is updated with hip new stars.

Even if it does well domestically, a black musical faces tough odds at theaters overseas, which could derail it at the Golden Globes where it's up against steep competish in that musical/comedy race opposite "Little Miss Sunshine", "Stranger Than Fiction" and "Borat."

In fact, two members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association have told me — with sour, disapproving faces — that they don't think it'll sell overseas, period, which may affect how those foreign journalists vote.

Last, one of its strongest plusses and minuses is that it's about showbiz. Sometimes that helps ("Shakespeare in Love"), but usually, and quite strangely, that topic is a curse at showbiz's top awards — from the defeats of best-pic nominees "Sunset Boulevard" to "Nashville," "All That Jazz," "Coal Miner's Daughter," "The Aviator" and "The Turning Point" (Oscar's biggest loser, tied with "The Color Purple") and many others.

That means we must take rivals seriously like "The Queen," which not only has a hotshot overdue director (Stephen Frears), but features the best actress frontrunner (Helen Mirren) in a real-life role.

Often voters like to pair their best-pic choice with a lead-acting winner ("Million Dollar Baby," "Gladiator," "American Beauty," "Shakespeare in Love," "Rain Man"). Oh, yeah, and it's British (too many examples to cite!). Its reigning magnificently at the box office right now, although in shrewdly restricted release (only 152 theaters).

Pursuitofhappyness4

"Babel" has a hot helmer (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu) and the A-List cast in a story relevant to today's headlines (hysteria over terrorism).

"Volver" has the strong director advantage, too (Pedro Almodovar) and the possible best actress winner (Penelope Cruz has The Babe Factor in a race crowded with older gals), although being in Spanish probably dooms its chance to win.

"The Departed" has surprising b.o., A-List celebs galore and the woefully overdue-director element (Martin Scorsese), but it's an actioner without an important message.

If "Flags of Our Fathers" gets into the top five, it will be given a major push soon after noms come out by the release of its Japanese mirror, "Letters from Iwo Jima," but Clint is so been-there-done-that right now and "Flags" is drooping commercially.

"Little Miss Sunshine" may seem too lightweight.

"United 93" came out too early and doesn't have a shot in the acting races, which is often key, but it does have behind it one of the most aggressive Oscar campaigners in the biz, a graduate with honors from The Harvey School.

Speaking of Harvey Weinstein, "Bobby" not only has major stars in a story of historic importance, but, yeowsa, it has that voracious Oscar conqueror, hungry for a comeback, mapping its academy onslaught.

Drawbacks: Its characters are mostly fictitious, Hollywood is a bit skeptical of its heartthrob director/writer (Emilio Estevez) and film critics aren't cheering it on. However, some audiences sure seem to be.

Pete Hammond reports at HollywoodWiretap.com, "At the AFI Film Fest's "Bobby" opening, applause was so enthusiastic it was hard to hear the rousing, just-recorded, end-credits song co-written by Bryan Adams and duetted by Aretha Franklin and Mary J. Blige."

Advance buzz over "The Pursuit of Happyness" grows louder every day and it features a guaranteed best-actor nominee who could win (Will Smith), but it may be too sappy and its director is an unknown neophyte.

But sappy is good at the Oscars, as we know. Movies that move voters the most emotionally usually win ("Million Dollar Baby"). So far that looks like "The Pursuit of Happyness," even "Bobby" to some extent and certainly "Dreamgirls."

If the contest comes down to "Dreamgirls" and "Pursuit of Happyness", it would be a vindication for the academy, which, prior to the recent same-year wins by Denzel Washington ("Training Day") and Halle Berry ("Monster's Ball"), had been accused of being stingy to African-American films.

For now "Dreamgirls" has the most over-all advantages at this point, but it's still unseen and, frankly, if it's true that Bill Condon has played down the Effie/Florence Ballard role (Jennifer Hudson) as rumor has it, that could be catastrophic.

Even though the "Dreamgirls" spotlight is mostly on Deena Jones/Diana Ross (Beyonce) in both stage and screen versions, Effie stole the Broadway show so much so that its performer (Jennifer Holliday) stole the Tony Award for best actress away from the show's lead star (Sheryl Lee Ralph).

If Deena eclipses Effie too much in the movie, "Dreamgirls" loses its soul.

Of the movies in that second tier, "Blood Diamond" has doubters because director Ed Zwick failed to deliver on "The Last Samurai" and because it looks so commercial and because of rumors that Leo DiCaprio departs too often from his South African accent into South Bronx and Confederate South.

(If true, Warner Bros. may need to boost Leo up pronto to the lead race from supporting for "The Departed.")

"The Good Shepherd" suffers from skepticism about Robert DeNiro as a director and the fact that it's not a heart-tugging tale, but early buzz about the script is aces and the topic is a politically urgent one.

"The Good German" looks good, but a bit too commercial/suspense-driven and, strangely, George Clooney is making everybody worry about what he means with his oft-heard remark, "This is Cate's movie!" (Cate Blanchett, of course. Is that a compliment? Or dismissal?)

Like "United 93," "World Trade Center" came out early, too, and there's no huge groundswell behind it at this point.

"Borat" may become a monster hit, but it's too silly.

"Last King of Scotland" and "Little Children" aren't exploding at the box office and it doesn't look likely that "The Painted Veil," however good it is, will either, being a slow-paced period piece.

So, for now, "Dreamgirls" it is.

Photos: Two African-American movies are stand-outs in the best picture race. "Dreamgirls" is the early frontrunner because it's loaded with heart, superstars, a popular emerging director and it's likely to reap wide support across many academy branches. And it was a proven hit on Broadway, where, alas, it lost the Tony Award for best musical to "Nine" in 1982.

Many early viewers of "The Pursuit of Happyness" say that its potential is far beyond just a best-actor bid for Will Smith, since it's a well-crafted weepie based upon a real-life person in the tradition of past champs like "A Beautiful Mind."
(DreamWorks/ Sony)


Best-pic buzz builds for 'Happyness'

October 15, 2006 | 10:30 am

Pursuitofhappynesscomposite

It seems hard to believe the growing buzz for "The Pursuit of Happyness" as a serious best-picture contender since it looks like such a commercial, feel-good film. But — egads — it may be real. Rebounding from the crushing disappointment and embarrassment it suffered over "All the King's Men," Sony is suddenly bursting with, well, happyness over the enthusiasm its execs and Oscar warriors witness for the Will Smith-and-son charmer at early screenings.

In it, Will permits himself to get all emotionally vulnerable and tender starring opposite his real-life son Jaden Smith while portraying a down-and-out dad who suddenly must become upstanding when he's left with the solo responsibility of rearing the boy. Will struggles hard to maintain his dignity on screen as the chaps get evicted from apartment and hotels and end up sleeping in homeless shelters and on a men's room floor while dad pursues the seemingly impossible dream of becoming a stock broker.

"Happyness" is unabashedly schmaltzy. It's written by the guy who penned Nic Cage's all-wet "Weather Man" and directed by an obscure Italian (Gabriele Muccino). Can it really be taken seriously as the kind of high-minded art Oscar voters usually demand?

Yes, perhaps. Oscar voters do make exceptions for inspiring films about real people who transcend hardship or illness. This one is based upon the life of Chris Gardner, who started out in San Francisco as a homeless dad who became a millionaire stock trader after heeding advice from his world-weary momma who once told him, "You can only depend on yourself. The cavalry ain't coming."

Previous best-pic nominees of the same triumph-over-tragedy ilk include "Awakenings," "My Left Foot," "Shine" and "Erin Brockovich" or winners like "A Beautiful Mind." Most of those are shamelessly schmaltzy, too. Yeah, yeah, sure, macho academy members and film critics usually eschew sap with an angry spitting sound, but, come on, they get all gooey-faced and savor same when it comes from a macho Hollywood dude they admire like Clint Eastwood ("Million Dollar Baby").

Bestpics

That's Will Smith, too, and he's likely going to have an academy member supporting him who turned out to be a key player in last year's Oscars — Oprah Winfrey, who helped to fuel the "Crash" juggernaut. There's nothing Oprah likes more than inspiring, rise-from-the-depths stories of human heroics, so she'll surely crank up ballyhoo over this pic about a fellow Chicago resident. (That's where Gardner lives now.)

Expect lots of other big media attention, too, because it's tailor-made for mass coverage and wrapped in warm fuzzies.

Gardner's story was first discovered by the media in 2002 when a San Francisco TV station shot a segment about him doing volunteer work at Glide Memorial Church where he formerly came for free food. ABC's "20/20" got wind of it and dug deeper, producing a segment on his whole rags-to-riches story, which was noticed by film-production company Escape Artists ("Weather Man," "Alex and Emma," "A Knight's Tale"), which showed it to Will Smith.

A topnotch, academy-friendly team was recruited to help execute the final film, which includes Steve Tisch (producer of best pic winner "Forrest Gump"), costume designer Sharen Davis (Oscar nominee, "Ray"), film editor Hughes Winborne (Oscar winner, "Crash") and sound mixer Kevin O'Connell (academy governor and Oscar's biggest loser with 18 past nominations, including "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Terms of Endearment") and others.

Responses to early screenings of "Happyness" have not only been fantastic, but fanatic, which probably shouldn't come as a surprise. There's nothing academy members like more than a good cry, which begins on screen and ends up as tears of joy shed at a podium at the Kodak Theatre. Certainly, it looks like Will is a shoo-in for a best actor bid (he was nommed for "Ali" five years ago) and it's starting to look likely that some of his crafts folks will pop up on the Oscar ballot again. With enough trans-academy support, "Pursuit" can dream of pursuing more lofty categories. And more than just striking it rich on Wall Street. There's nothing like striking academy gold, too.

Photos: "Pursuit of Happyness" is based upon the true story of Chris Gardner and son, who fled creditors and chased big dreams while sleeping on a bathroom floor at the MacArthur Rapid Transit station in San Francisco. Below is a roundup of best-pic nominees based upon real stories of human heroics (clockwise from top left: "My Left Foot," "Ray," "Erin Brockovich," "The Killing Fields," "A Beautiful Mind," "Awakenings.")
(Sony)


Connect

Advertisement

In Case You Missed It...

Stay Connected:


About the Blogger


Pop & Hiss



Categories


Archives
 



In Case You Missed It...