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

Category: Woody Allen

Toronto Film Festival lineup loaded with Oscar hopefuls

July 27, 2010 | 10:45 am

TIFFlogo-1024x309 The 35th annual edition of the Toronto Film Festival is scheduled to include the world and North American premieres of a slew of awards contenders. This year's festival is to kick off on Sept. 9 and run for 11 days.

Among the 50 titles announced Tuesday are the following films that could well figure in the contests for kudos this year:

"Another Year" -- The latest domestic drama by Mike Leigh ("Happy Go Lucky") is centered on a middle-aged couple (Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen) and their assorted friends and family, including a saucy alcoholic (Lesley Manville).

"Biutiful" -- Oscar champ Javier Bardem won best actor at Cannes for his portrayal of a dying father looking for redemption in this film from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ("Babel").

"Black Swan" -- Darren Aronofksy's psychological thriller revolves around a dancer (Natalie Portman) in competition with a young upstart (Mila Kunis) for the prima ballerina position.

"Casino Jack" -- Two-time Oscar champ Kevin Spacey portrays jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff in this political drama from George Hickenlooper.

"The Conspirator" -- Robert Redford's film about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln features James McAvoy as a war hero defending a mother (Robin Wright) accused of aiding her son in the plot to kill the president.

"Conviction" -- Tony Goldwyn's stirring biopic stars two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank as the crusading Betty Anne Waters, who worked tirelessly to free her wrongfully imprisoned brother (Sam Rockwell) .

"The Debt" -- Oscar champ Helen Mirren joins forces with "Avatar" star Sam Worthington for John Madden's thriller about Israeli agents on the hunt for a Nazi in 1965.

"The King's Speech" -- Colin Firth plays King George VI and Helena Bonham Carter his supportive wife, Elizabeth, in Tom Hooper's historical drama, which focuses on the work of a speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) who boosts the king's confidence.

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Gold Derby nuggets: Sigourney Weaver blasts Oscars over 'Avatar' snub | Behind the scenes drama at Pulitzers | 'Polytechnique' sweeps Genies

April 13, 2010 |  2:27 pm

James Cameron Sigourney Weaver Avatar • Actress Sigourney Weaver certainly believes in standing by her director, telling the Brazilian news website Folha Online that her good friend James Cameron was snubbed at the recent Oscars due to reverse sexism. "Jim didn't have breasts, and I think that was the reason [he didn't win]," she said in this candid interview. And Weaver thinks that the record box office takings of "Avatar" kept it from collecting more gold. "In the past, 'Avatar' would have won because they [Oscar voters] loved to hand out awards to big productions, like 'Ben-Hur.' Today it's fashionable to give the Oscar to a small movie that nobody saw."

Meryl Streep may also have been snubbed at this year's Oscars -- as she has been with 13 of her 15 other  nominations -- but she made history Monday as the first person extended honorary membership in the 112-year old American Academy of Arts and Letters solely for their acting work. Other screen notables admitted -- including the late Orson Welles and current member Woody Allen -- worked behind the camera as well as in front of it. Streep admitted, "I have to say that I was stunned, and when they sent me the roster of people in the academy I just burst into tears. I couldn't believe that I'd be even allowed in the kitchen." AP

• For the producers of the 2006 Tony-winning "Jersey Boys," imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery. They "have sued a touring stage show called 'The Boys,' labeling it a 'copycat' production that competes unfairly with the original musical." As per the lawsuit filed in Manhattan, the producers are seeking "an injunction against further performances of 'The Boys' that make use of copyrighted or too similar materials, and asked for $150,000 in damages for each copyrighted song 'The Boys' might have used." REUTERS

Pulitzer Prize • The fall-out from yesterday's announcement of "Next to Normal" as the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for drama continues. First the jury chair -- Los Angeles Times theater critic Charles McNulty -- vented about the board overruling the recommendations of his panel, chiding them for "geographical myopia, a vision of the American theater that starts in Times Square and ends just a short taxi ride away." (The last work to win the Pulitzer without a New York run was "Anna in the Tropics" in 2003.) Now Patrick Healy reports that since none of the jury's three finalists failed to earn the requisite approval by the majority of the board last Thursday, the 20 members looked further afield among the 70 or so works submitted for consideration. It seems "a lot of them" went to see "Next to Normal" that night and voted it the winner the next day. NEW YORK TIMES

• The Grammy Awards are shifting back to their traditional February time slot next year. The 53rd annual edition of these top musical awards will take place on Sunday, Feb. 13 at the Staple Center in Los Angeles and air on CBS. This year, the Grammys were handed out on Jan. 31 so as to avoid competing with the Winter Olympics for viewers. That strategy paid off as the kudocast earned the best ratings since 2004. However, as that earlier date meant abbreviating the eligibility period by one month, next year's awards will reward discs released from Sept. 1, 2009, to Sept. 30, 2010.

• The 13th annual Teen Choice Awards will air on Monday Aug. 9 on Fox. These kudos -- honoring teen icons in movies, TV, music, sports and fashion -- are voted on by the public. Last year, "Twilight" won a record 11 surfboards -- including two for star Robert Pattinson -- while the Jonas Brothers took home five awards and Miley Cyrus won an even half dozen times.

• Oscar nominee Kristin Scott Thomas ("The English Patient") will be mistress of ceremonies once more at the Cannes film festival this year. This English rose is equally at home in France and will emcee the opening ceremony on May 12 as well as the closing festivities and awards presentation on May 23. She also performed these hosting duties back in 1999.

Polytechnique Genies • "Polytechnique" -- a black-and-white docudrama about a 1984 Montreal school shooting that left 14 women dead -- swept the 30th annual Genie Awards Monday winning nine of its leading 11 nominations. The film made simultaneously in both French and English dominated Canada's version of the Oscars taking home best picture, director (Denis Villeneuve), lead actress (Karine Vanasse), supporting actor Maxim Gaudette, screenplay (Jacques Davidts), cinematography (Pierre Gill), editing (Richard Comeau), overall sound and sound editing. Joshua Jackson won lead actor for "One Week" while Martha Burns won supporting actress for "Love & Savagery." The full list of winners can be found at the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television website. GENIES

Don Mischer will once again be involved in the staging of the academy's Governor awards this year. At the event set for Saturday, Nov. 13, one or more of the kudos approved by the academy board -- the Thalberg and Hersholt awards and the honorary Oscar -- will be presented.

Top photo: James Cameron and Sigourney Weaver on the set of "Avatar." Credit: Fox

Middle photo: Pulitzer prize medals. Credit: Pulitzer Prizes

Bottom photo: "Polytechnique" poster. Credit: Don Carmody Productions


'Next to Normal' wins Pulitzer Prize for drama

Can Conan O'Brien get back in the race for the Emmys?

'Pyramid' to rise again on CBS daytime sked?

'Treme' -- HBO's next fierce Emmy juggernaut?

Tina Fey on 'Saturday Night Live': Give her another Emmy!

Emmy battle over best drama actor: Michael C. Hall vs. Bryan Cranston?

Tony Awards predix: 'American Idiot' and 'Enron' are front-runners to win best musical and play

David Sheward's gutsy, early Tony Award predictions

Photo gallery: Emmy's biggest snubs

'Lost' Emmy mystery solved: Terry O'Quinn returns to the supporting-actor race

Emmy gamble: 'Mad Men' star Elisabeth Moss drops to supporting

Again, Showtime ships first campaign mailer to Emmy voters

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Gold Derby nuggets: Campaigners crash after the Oscars | Did Jennifer Aniston snicker when Brad Pitt lost? | Will Penelope Cruz fall into Carmen Miranda's trap?

March 3, 2009 | 11:17 am

• After winning the lead actor award at the Oscars for "Milk," Sean Penn has joined the campaign to have Harvey Milk's birthday, May 22, recognized as "a day of significance" in California. VARIETY

Woody Allen's "Whatever Works" will open the next Tribeca Film Festival. It's the first movie he's made set in New York City since 2004. HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

Anne Thompson reports that the early exit of programmer Peter Scarlet from the Tribeca Film Festival "is an act of protest indeed." THOMPSON ON HOLLYWOOD


• "Penelope Cruz won the best supporting actress Oscar for a role that lampooned her foreignness," notes a London paper. "Let's hope she doesn't fall into the trap that claimed Carmen Miranda." GUARDIAN

• There are lots of groans over the news that Ed Zwick will make another movie: "In the Heart of the Sea," based upon the destruction of the ship Essex by a sperm whale in 1820. His last, "Defiance," had high Oscar hopes but crashed after it got panned by Variety, the New York Times and the L.A. Times. Produced for $32 million, it earned only $27 million domestically. Lately, it's becoming popular to bash Zwick movies. The reason: His films have compelling subject matter and are well directed and acted, but they're terribly written. Dialogue is clunky. Characters are cookie-cutter cliches. Zwick should stick to directing, period. For his upcoming flick, he's the co-writer, along with the accomplished Marshall Herskovitz, but that's little reassurance, since together they gave us the clunkily penned "Last Samurai," which also fell far short of Oscar expectations. VARIETY

• While the Oscar success of "Slumdog Millionaire" marks a triumph for films made in India, the local film industry is suffering an all-time low in ticket sales. THE AUSTRALIAN

Oscar consultants are suffering battle fatigue and planning a wrap-up party. L.A. TIMES

• "'Slumdog Millionaire' child star Azharuddin Ismail has fallen ill as fears grow about the psychological state of the two young Indian actors," reports a London paper. TELEGRAPH

Scott Feinberg has been busy counting up fascinating Oscars stats. Here's an interesting factoid, for example: "Slumdog Millionaire" is the 10th best-pic winner that received most of its financing outside the U.S. FEINBERG FILES

• The Associated Press tally is wrong! While reporting on "The Simpsons" being extended two more TV seasons to become the longest-running series in prime-time TV history (surpassing "Gunsmoke"), the wire service counts 22 Emmy victories for that crazy Springfield cartoon clan. Hey, they've actually won 24. Most impressive: 10 of those were for best animated program. "The Simpsons" needs 13 more wins to tie "Frasier" as the weekly series with the most Emmys. ASSOCIATED PRESS

• Wake-up call to the Tonys? The 1993 hit film "Sleepless in Seattle" is coming to Broadway, adapted by original screenwriter Jeff Arch, who's working with composer/lyricist Leslie Bricusse ("Stop the World—I Want to Get Off," "Jekyll & Hyde," '"Victor/Victoria"). The original film was nominated for two Oscars. Arch was up for best original screenplay with co-writers Nora Ephron and David S. Ward (they lost to "The Piano" writer Jane Campion), and the film tune "A Wink and a Smile" was up for best song (losing to Bruce Springsteen's "Philadelphia"). PLAYBILL

• Fox News claims that the TV camera caught Jennifer Aniston snickering at the Oscars when her ex Brad Pitt lost lead actor and also claims you can see Brad being forced to his feet by Angelina Jolie when Kate Winslet beat her for best actress. Yeah, Brad's late getting up when everyone else stands around him, but he claps on cue when the winner's announced and, a short time later, he does rise. See the top video below. As for Jennifer, well, judge for yourself. See the bottom video. She's sitting right behind Sean Penn. She smiles when he wins. It's kind of a tilted, crooked smile. Is it really a snicker? FOX NEWS

Photos: The Weinstein Co., 20th Century Fox

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Can Woody Allen win 'Slumdog Millionaire' star Freida Pinto an Oscar?

February 24, 2009 |  2:29 pm


Freida Pinto — the love interest in the Oscar-winning "Slumdog Millionaire," — is now the newest young beauty to be cast as Woody Allen's muse. Pinto joins Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins ("The Silence of the Lambs") and Oscar nominees Josh Brolin ("Milk") and Naomi Watts for this untitled project.

Woody Allen's last film — "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," — marked a return to form for the one-time perennial Oscar contender. And while he missed out on a 15th writing nomination, Penelope Cruz became the 15th performer to earn an Oscar nod under Allen's direction. And she was the fourth of Woody's women to win when she took the supporting actress Academy Award for her serio-comic portrayal of a woman on the verge.

The other three actresses who owe their Oscars to Woody Allen are: Diane Keaton, lead actress, "Annie Hall" (1977); Mira Sorvino, supporting actress, "Mighty Aphrodite" (1995); and Dianne Wiest, supporting actress, "Hannah and Her Sisters" (1986) and "Bullets Over Broadway" (1994). Michael Caine — supporting actor, "Hannah and Her Sisters" (1986) — is the only man to be directed to an Oscar by Allen.

The 10 more who earned Oscar nods are: Woody himself, lead actor, "Annie Hall" (1977); Judy Davis, supporting actress, "Husbands and Wives" (1992); Mariel Hemingway, supporting actress, "Manhattan" (1979); Martin Landau, supporting actor, "Crimes and Misdemeanors" (1989); Samantha Morton, supporting actress, "Sweet and Lowdown" (1999); Geraldine Page, lead actress, "Interiors" (1978); Chazz Palminteri, supporting actor, "Bullets Over Broadway" (1994); Sean Penn, lead actor "Sweet and Lowdown" (1999); Maureen Stapleton, supporting actress, "Interiors" (1978); and Jennifer Tilly, supporting actress, "Bullets Over Broadway" (1994).


While there are no details of this new project, it is possible that it will be made in Europe as it is being financed by MediaPro, the same Spanish company that funded "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." However, Allen's next film — the forthcoming "Whatever Works" — is set in Greenwich Village with Larry David ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") as the Allen stand-in and Evan Rachel Wood ("The Wrestler") as the catalyst for a series of love stories.

Woody Allen is one of the academy's longtime darlings. After ignoring him throughout the first decade of his blazing career ("Bananas," "Sleeper"), members more than caught up with him afterward. In fact, Woody holds the record for most screenplay nominations (14), compared with 12 for Billy Wilder. However, both Allen and Wilder have 21 nominations overall. And while Wilder won six Oscars for his efforts — screenplay, directing, "The Lost Weekend" (1946); screenplay, "Sunset Boulevard" (1951); screenplay, directing, producing, "The Apartment" (1961) — Allen has only two Oscars for writing and directing 1977 best picture champ "Annie Hall." and a third for his 1986 script for "Hannah and Her Sisters."

Woody Allen didn't bother to show up to accept those honors. In 1978 (for the '77 awards), it was far more important to him to remain in New York to play his clarinet in the New Orleans Marching and Funeral Band at Michael's Pub. Back then he scoffed, "I have no regard for that kind of ceremony. I just don't think they know what they're doing. When you see who wins those things — or who doesn't win them — you can see how meaningless this Oscar thing is."

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Spirits regain some independence from Oscars

February 21, 2009 |  6:30 pm

After flirting with the Oscars for much of its 24-year history, this year's edition of the Independent Spirit Awards struck out on its own somewhat. For the first time in six years, none of the best picture contenders at the Spirits went on to reap an equivalent Oscar bid, though the ultimate winner — "The Wrestler" — was in the mix. By snubbing "Milk" as a best-picture nominee in favor of fare like "Ballast" and "Wendy and Lucy" that had no chance of making it into the final five at the Oscars, the Spirits regained a degree of their one-time independence.


However, while the acting nominees — as selected by screening committees — also had their fair share of unlikely Oscar hopefuls, the winners as chosen by the members of Film Independent are either Oscar contenders — Mickey Rourke ("The Wrestler"), Melissa Leo ( "Frozen River") and Penelope Cruz ("Vicky Christina Barcelona") — were also Oscar nominees or were from a film with eight Oscar nominations, albeit not one for him — James Franco ("Milk"). But don't make too much room on your mantle just yet, Mickey. The Spirits have taken on the status of consolation prize for Oscar acting contenders. As the saying goes, "Win on Saturday, lose on Sunday." That's not always true. Recent Spirit champs like Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Capote") and Charlize Theron ("Monster") repeated on a day later, but those victories tend to be the exception, not the rule.

"Milk" scripter Dustin Lance Black won the first screenplay prize at the Spirits while Woody Allen won the regular screenplay award for "Vicky Christina Barcelona." That Black is a contender at the Oscars for his original script for "Milk" is no surprise but that Allen was not Oscar nominated after 14 previous bids, including two wins, was quite the jaw-dropper. Oscar frontrunner "Man on Wire" won best documentary. And Oscar nominee "The Class" won foreign film, but I do not believe it will repeat tomorrow night at the Oscars. Read the Associated Press report on the winners here.

Oscar winning scripter Charlie Kaufman won the first feature prize for helming "Synecdoche, New York" while Thomas McCarthy took the directing award for "The Visitor." And Maryse Alberti won cinematography for "The Wrestler."

The Spirits are handed out in a very spirited daytime party held in a tent on the Santa Monica beach. As Variety once reported: "Many celebrities mused that they could think of no other Hollywood awards show where the guests had to wait in line for portable toilets while facing hordes of autograph-seeking fans." The wine flows almost as freely as the profanities. Just how will AMC edit Mickey Rourke's F-bomb laden acceptance speech for the rebroadcast tonight? The free-wheeling nature of the event has led to many other memorable moments over the years. One that sticks with me still is when director Kevin Smith won for the screenplay of "Chasing Amy" in 1997 and said in his acceptance speech: "This makes up for every chick who ever told me I had a small d**k."

The Spirits declared itself to be just that with the first best film back in 1985 — Martin Scorsese's "After Hours," described by Variety as "a nightmarish black comedy [in which] the cinema of paranoia and persecution reaches an apogee." But the award went mainstream the following year and opted for "Platoon," which went on to win best picture at the Oscars as well. From then on, most of the Spirits' picks for best pic would be players to one degree or another at the Oscars.

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Really the best picture of 1977?

October 26, 2008 | 11:22 pm


Of course "Annie Hall" received lots of rave reviews, but — in honor of Woody Allen's pending big comeback in some top Oscar races this year -- here's a curious one of opposite opinion by the notoriously grumpy John Simon, who wrote in the New Republic: "With 'Annie Hall,' Woody Allen has truly underreached himself. ... His new film is painful in three separate ways: as unfunny comedy, poor moviemaking, and embarrassing self-revelation. It is everything we never wanted to know about Woody's sex life and were afraid he'd tell us anyway. And now he does. ... It is a film so shapeless, sprawling, repetitious and aimless as to seem to be for oblivion."

In the Oscars race for best picture of 1977, "Annie Hall" beat "Star Wars," "Julia," "The Goodbye Girl" and "The Turning Point." Did it really deserve to win? It raised a bit of a fuss when it debuted in theaters in spring 1977, but mostly due to the funky male duds that Diane Keaton donned, sparking a new fashion trend. But it was largely forgotten by the end of the year. Certainly wasn't generating major Oscar buzz. It was suddenly thrust into the derby, however, when the National Society of Film Critics did something it rarely does. It jumped out in front of the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., insisting upon having the first say about the year's best flicks. NSFC also wanted to break from tradition and get attention by picking a comedy, preferably one that was snarkily counterculture . . . . READ MORE.

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Hmmm . . . are these the Oscar nominees?

October 26, 2008 | 10:27 pm

Below are the preliminary results of polls that Sasha Stone's running over at AwardsDaily in the lead and supporting acting races. Results looks pretty solid, at least in terms of who'll be nommed. There are a few squirrely things here and there on the lists. Cate Blanchett is listed in supporting, but Paramount insists that she's lead in "Benjamin Button." Dev Patel is listed in lead, but Fox Searchlight claims he's supporting in "Slumdog Millionaire." Of course, since Oscar voters can ignore campaigns and put thesps wherever they please (here's your cue to pipe in if you're reading this, Keisha Castle-Hughes), so these rundowns could turn out to be correct. Personally, I don't buy the Weinstein Co.'s insistence that Kate Winslet is supporting in "The Reader." I'm making a wild guess right now that she'll end up in lead for that, not "Revolutionary Road." But it's just a crazy guess backed up by the observation that, in "The Reader," we'll see her age dramatically over decades in a Holocaust pic.

Sean Penn, "Milk" - 16%
Mickey Rourke, "The Wrestler" - 14%
Brad Pitt, "Benjamin Button" - 12%
Leonardo Di Caprio, "Revolutionary Road" - 12%
Frank Langella, "Frost/Nixon" -10%

Kate Winslet, "Revolutionary Road" - 16%
Anne Hathaway, "Rachel Getting Married" - 15% 
Meryl Streep, "Doubt" - 15%
Kristin Scott Thomas, "I've Loved You So Long" - 11%
Sally Hawkins, "Happy-Go-Lucky" - 9%
Angelina Jolie, "Changeling" - 9%

Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight" - 20%
Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Doubt" - 11%
Robert Downey Jr., "Tropic Thunder" - 9%
James Franco, "Milk" - 8%
Josh Brolin, "Milk" - 8%

Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" - 15%
Marisa Tomei, "The Wrestler" - 10%
Amy Adams, "Doubt" - 9%
Kate Winslet, "The Reader" - 9%
Cate Blanchett, "Benjamin Button" - 8%
Debra Winger, "Rachel Getting Married" - 7%

Gold Derby nuggets: Oops, Britney Spears won't do it again at the MTV Video Music Awards | Woody Allen satirizing diarizing | Humanitas scripting nods include 'Juno' scribe

August 26, 2008 |  4:58 pm

• The New York Daily News reports  Britney Spears will not perform on the MTV Video Music Awards. Says a spokesman for her manager, Larry Rudolph, "She did the promo for them, but there never were any Britney_spears_mtv_vma_2plans for her to appear on the show," which airs on Sept. 7.

While Britney is still expected to attend as a regular contender for "Piece of Me" (nominated for three awards, including video of the year), there was widespread hope that Britney Spears would redeem the performance she gave last year when she fell to pieces while staging "Gimme More." The Daily News adds, "The spokesman said it was 'wishful thinking' when Britney's hair colorist told E! News that he might be working on a look for her VMA performance."

• "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" is already one of Woody Allen's best reviewed films in years, boasts a buzz-worthy performance from Penelope Cruz, and continues to do good business at the box office. Last weekend, Allen penned a fanciful series of diary entries for the New York Times that remind us why he has racked up a record number of Oscar screenplay nods (14), compared with 12 for Billy Wilder.


• While the Tony Awards celebrate the best of Broadway, regions around the country have their own versions of these stage kudos to salute homegrown productions. In Chicago, these awards, named for Joseph Jefferson — one of America's most popular touring actors of the 19th century (photo as Rip Van Winkle, left) — are celebrating their ruby anniversary this year. The burgeoning theater scene there has prompted a division of nominees for the Jeff Awards into large and midsize categories. Last year's big winner was the Steppenwolf Theatre production of "August: Osage County," which went on to sweep this year's Tonys. Tracy Letts, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of that epic family drama, returns to the competition this season with a much more low-key comedy "Superior Donuts." For the full list of nominees, CLICK HERE.

• The Humanitas prize was established in 1974 to "encourage, stimulate and sustain the nation's screenwriters in their humanizing task, and to give them the recognition they deserve." To that end, winners will be honored Sept. 17 with both a trophy and a cash prize. This year's nominees, drawn from film and TV, include two Oscar-nominated screenwriters — Ronald Harwood ("The Diving Bell and the Butterfly") and Nancy Oliver ("Lars and the Real Girl") — as well as Diablo Cody, the Oscar-winning scripter of "Juno." For the full list of nominees in all nine categories,  CLICK HERE.


Variety reports on the death of Fred Crane, pictured at right, who made his screen debut uttering the first line in the epic 1939 classic "Gone With the Wind." As one half of the Tarleton twins, (the other being George Reeves, best known as TV's "Superman"), Crane clamored for the attention of Scarlett O'Hara, (Vivien Leigh) who dismissed them both with "Fiddle dee dee!" The film, which won eight Academy Awards including best picture, is still thought to have sold more movie tickets than any other.

• Those wags at New York Magazine's Vulture blog are eagerly awaiting next week's release of "Shine Through It," the debut album of Oscar-nominated actor Terrence Howard. They showcase a recent promotional appearance of his and promise that this album may, indeed, be "something special."

• The Oscars just sent out an e-mail blast reminding filmmakers that Tuesday, Sept. 2, is the deadline for the submission of short subject and feature documentaries. Read about the rule requirements HERE and HERE.

(Photos: MTV, Denver Public Library)

Oscars for 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona,' Penelope Cruz and Woody Allen?

August 17, 2008 | 12:09 pm

Timing of its release couldn't be better for the Oscars prospects of "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," which comes just months after its star Javier Bardem, sporting the creepiest hairdo this side of Donald Trump and Jacko, terrified Hollywood into handing over piles of academy gold to "No Country for Old Men."

At the previous Oscars, Penelope Cruz ("Volver") posed the most serious threat to usurp Helen Mirren ("The Queen") in the best-actress race but, having failed, now seems due to reign too. At the derby before that, many Oscarwatchers thought Woody Allen would finally have his big comeback, but "Match Point," despite nabbing a screenplay nomination, didn't catch fire, so the three-time winner is now sparking new heat.


"Vicky Cristina Barcelona" is a more appropriate vehicle to return Woody Allen to Oscars glory since it's what he does best. "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" is a comedy, and Woody Allen's career could sure use a smile. His flicks have mostly fizzled this decade. The Hollywood Reporter was among the media that lambasted his previous film "Cassandra's Dream" (2007): "As writer, Allen offers lazy plotting, poor characterization, dull scenes and flat dialogue."

If Woody Allen wins a screenplay Oscar for "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," it'll be his first since "Hannah and Her Sisters" (1986) and his third overall after best-picture champ "Annie Hall" (1977) earned him gold for writing and directing. But let's recall that Woody Allen didn't bother to show up to accept those honors. In 1978 (for the '77 awards), it was far more important to him to remain in New York to play his clarinet in the New Orleans Marching and Funeral Band at Michael's Pub.

Back then he scoffed, "I have no regard for that kind of ceremony. I just don't think they know what they're doing. When you see who wins those things — or who doesn't win them — you can see how meaningless this Oscar thing is."

But lots of stars have blasted the Oscars just like that, then turned around and — in the grand tradition of Hollywood hypocrisy — accepted the golden statuette with glee. Think Glenda Jackson, who denounced the kudofest as "a public hanging," and Dustin Hoffman, who pooh-poohed it as "an obscene evening."

Woody Allen did his flipflop in recent years, actually attending the ceremonies in 2002 (for the 2001 awards) and 2007 (for 2006 kudos). Voters may have been reluctant to embrace him with victory after he was tainted with a sex scandal, but they recently forgave Roman Polanski (best director, "The Pianist," 2002), who battled similar woes.

After all, Woody Allen is one of the academy's longtime darlings. After ignoring him throughout the first decade of his blazing career ("Bananas," "Sleeper"), members more than caught up with him afterward. In fact, Woody holds the record for most screenplay nominations (14), compared to 12 for Billy Wilder. However, both Allen and Wilder have 21 nominations overall.

Woody Allen directed 14 actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Michael Caine ("Hannah and Her Sisters"), Judy Davis ("Husbands and Wives"), Mariel Hemingway ("Manhattan"), Diane Keaton ("Annie Hall"), Martin Landau ("Crimes and Misdemeanors"), Samantha Morton ("Sweet and Lowdown"), Geraldine Page ("Interiors"), Chazz Palminteri ("Bullets Over Broadway"), Sean Penn ("Sweet and Lowdown"), Mira Sorvino ("Mighty Aphrodite"), Maureen Stapleton ("Interiors"), Jennifer Tilly ("Bullets Over Broadway"), Dianne Wiest ("Hannah and Her Sisters," "Bullets Over Broadway"), and himself ("Annie Hall"). Caine, Keaton and Sorvino won Oscars — Wiest did so twice.

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Will the 'Pineapple Express' gang ever be up for Oscars?

August 9, 2008 |  2:29 pm

Of course, Oscar voters don't usually take comedy seriously, but sometimes they do, so it's no laughing matter that the comic wizards behind today's hottest gut-busters ("Pineapple Express," "Knocked Up," "Superbad," "The 40-Year-Old Virgin") are pooh-poohed by the academy. Makes you wonder: Will Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen ever get deserved notice?

After all, voters hailed comedy break-outs Diablo Cody ("Juno," winner) and Paul Hogan ("Crocodile Dundee," nominee) right away. Other funny films have received screenplay nominations like "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Big." Heck, three lighthearted cartoons even received bids: "The Incredibles," "Finding Nemo" and "Ratatouille."


But when academy voters acknowledge comedy films with writing nominations, they usually prefer work by members of Hollywood's inner circle.  Nora Ephron had already proven herself as a dramatic writer (nommed for "Silkwood," 1983) when she nabbed nods for comedies "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle."

James L. Brooks already had an Emmy-proven TV track record with "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" when he segued into films, winning Oscars for writing, directing and producing best-picture champ "Terms of Endearment" (1983) and earning nominations for "Broadcast News" (1987) and "As Good as It Gets" (1997).

Yes, some famous comedy writers got saluted right away, but that's rare, looking back at Oscar history. For example, Billy Wilder started earning Oscar noms soon after he began penning Hollywood laffers, but that's because he teamed up with Charles Brackett, who was a key member of the town's clique. He was president of the Screen Writers' Guild when he and Wilder wrote their first screwball comedy, "Ninotchka," nominated for best screenplay of  1939.

If the "Pineapple Express" gang continues to prove their chops, it's possible they'll repeat the experience of Woody Allen, who was snubbed ridiculously during his early heyday: "What's Up, Pussycat" (1965), "What's Up, Tiger Lily?" (1966), "Take the Money and Run" (1969), "Bananas" (1971), "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask" (1972) and "Sleeper" (1973).

Finally, in 1977, the academy got the joke and "Annie Hall" swept five Oscars (best picture, director, screenplay and actress). But there was sad news for the king joker in one category: Woody lost best actor to a guy in a Neil Simon comedy (Richard Dreyfuss, "The Goodbye Girl").

Curiously, if Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow do get nominated this year, they'll probably compete against Woody Allen, who seems likely to reap his 15th screenplay nomination for "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."

(Photo: United Artists )

Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem join non-premiere premiere of 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona' in New York

August 7, 2008 |  5:42 pm

It sure looked like a film premiere to me last night when stars Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Patricia Clarkson strutted the red carpet outside Cinema 2 in Manhattan, spinning and mugging for paparazzi minutes before the East Coast debut of Woody Allen's new flick "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."

The event was billed just as "a screening," mind you. The official premiere was in Los Angeles on Monday night. But this event was obviously the New York equivalent for "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" even though reps for the Weinstein Co. kept downplaying the hoopla.


Hey, when did Harvey Weinstein start downplaying hoopla? He has every right to crow now because it looks like he's back in the Oscar game — at the very least with nominations for Woody's screenplay and an acting bid in the supporting slot for Penelope Cruz as a psycho ex-lover of Javier Bardem's who crashes his love affair with Scarlett Johansson.

And Harvey, yes, did a bit of crowing just before the screening started (20 minutes late) as he welcomed attendees personally, then later presided over a private dinner at the Plaza Athenee Hotel. As I entered the fete, I was blinded by glitterati: Cruz, Bardem and Clakson, plus rockers Eddie Vedder and Anthony Kiedis, John Patrick Shanley (author and director of "Doubt," Oscar winner for penning "Moonstruck"), Nora Ephron (Oscar bids for writing "Sleepless in Seattle," "When Harry Met Sally" and "Silkwood").

Woody and Johansson couldn't make it — they're still lingering (oops, make that "working") in L.A. after the official premiere.

The film unspooled at the Cannes filmfest in May to rave reviews. Back then, Envelope contributor Pete Hammond declared it to be Woody Allen's "funniest film in years" and said that "absolutely hilarious" Penelope Cruz is a shoo-in for a supporting Oscar nod. (See Pete's video report on "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" straight from Cannes here.) Our pal Lou Lumenick of the New York Post was equally enthusiastic. While Lou said Cruz was "already generating Oscar buzz," he thought the performance to watch for may well be that of Rebecca Hall, who "scores a breakthrough as Johansson's neurotic fellow American pal, who succumbs to Bardem's charms even though she's engaged to another man."

Woody Allen certainly has an impressive track record of showcasing supporting players with the following actors winning Oscars for their efforts:
Michael Caine ("Hannah and Her Sisters," 1986)
Dianne Wiest ("Hannah and Her Sisters," 1986; "Bullets Over Broadway," 1994)
Mira Sorvino ("Mighty Aphrodite," 1995)

And then there is the longer list of those who were at least nominated:
Maureen Stapleton, "Interiors" (1978)
Mariel Hemingway, "Manhattan" (1979)
Martin Landau, "Crimes and Misdemeanors" (1989)
Judy Davis, "Husbands and Wives" (1992)
Chazz Palminteri, "Bullets Over Broadway" (1994)
Jennifer Tilly, "Bullets Over Broadway" (1994)
Samantha Morton, "Sweet and Lowdown" (2000)

Continue reading »

Gold Derby nuggets: Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem at 'Vicky' L.A. premiere ... Carpetbagger goes gunning for redemption ... Early Oscars predix ... See peeks at 'W.' and 'Appaloosa'

August 5, 2008 |  6:07 pm

Last night saw the Hollywood premiere of "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," the new comedy by Woody Allen. All four of the film's stars -- Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall -- were in attendance, as was the writer-director himself, seldom seen on the West Coast. This Wednesday's Gotham premiere is being billed as a "private screening," but Gold Derby will be in attendance and report on the behind-the-scenes hoopla (Cruz and Bardem will be with us at the dinner afterward), plus we'll dish the awards potential of this hoped-for return to form for Allen.

"With its sprawling ensemble of Oscar nominees and winners, from Forest Whitaker to Jennifer Hudson, 'Winged Creatures' has the appearance of a movie designed to be Oscar bait," notes Anne Thompson at her blog. But don't expect it to take flight -- READ MORE.


Scott Feinberg of AndTheWinnerIs blog has issued his early Oscar predix rundown, which is full of shockeroos already causing grumbles of "Scott's got 'Frost/Nixon' in first place for best picture and has snubbed 'Milk'!"

"The Night of the Gun," the shockingly honest confessional memoir by New York Times Carpetbagger blogger David Carr, just hit bookstores. This confession of a former crackhead is so potently written that it's addictive. Get hooked HERE by reading this excerpt in the New York Times magazine. It's devastating to read the details of his dance with death, but here is where Carr plunges his syringe in deepest, when summing up the moral of his ordeal: "What I deserved: hepatitis C, federal prison time, H.I.V., a cold park bench, an early, addled death. Here is what I got: the smart, pretty wife, the three lovely children, the job that impresses."

Below, the teaser poster for Oliver Stone's "W.," starring Josh Brolin as America's current commander in chief.


Below, the trailer to "Appaloosa," a western that debuts next month at the Toronto International Film Festival with the Oscar-friendly cast of Viggo Mortensen, Renee Zellwegger, Jeremy Irons and Ed Harris (who directs and also co-wrote the script).

Photos: Simon & Schuster, Lionsgate



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