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Awards

Daniel Day-Lewis Eyes Record 4th Oscar with Swan Song

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Yesterday’s shock Hollywood announcement came from the one man who notoriously avoids the spotlight, but is nonetheless one of cinema’s most successful and lauded working actors.

But not for long, confirmed his agent, as the three time Oscar winner is set to retire following the release of his final project, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, due for release on Christmas Day in the States.

Though this season is still in its infancy, an Oscar nomination for Day-Lewis would come as no surprise as Phantom Thread is already picking up a lot of buzz for Best Picture, Best Director and other top awards. However, up until now Gary Oldman was looking pretty strong as the favourite, for a highly anticipated portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.

Let’s run with this for a second and just assume that the Oscars give out acting awards entirely on the basis of the individual performance. Oldman (left) is playing one of the most famous figures of the 20th Century in a biopic about World War II at a time when tension on the international political stage is high and Americans, particularly liberals who comprise a hefty part of the Academy membership, are majorly disenchanted with Trump. Darkest Hour is coming at just the right time and the last time a war drama did exceptionally well at the Oscars was Argo, and that’s very tenuous. The film, and by default the performance on which all publicity will be based, is poised to do very well.

Oldman is clearly the early frontrunner, though it is often hard to translate such early buzz into votes next February, so who else is in the running?

Hollywood and box office favourite Hugh Jackman has been distancing himself from Wolverine and critical flop Australia with a string of dramatic roles that has made him a credible nominee once again. This year he’s back with The Greatest Showman, playing policitian, hoaxer and circus master P. T. Barnum. The role looks to be in the vein of The Prestige, and though the film itself may struggle to break into the other majors Jackman is well placed to campaign. The Academy love eccentric, albeit normally in a supporting capacity, but we can at the moment expect a nomination here in lead.

But if it’s eccentricity the Academy want, look no further than Joaquin Phoenix and Jake Gyllenhaal. The former is getting buzz for You Were Never Really Here in which he plays a war veteran trying to rescue a girl from sex traffickers, but he is also playing Jesus in the upcoming Mary Magdalene, and nobody has ever won an Oscar for playing Jesus before. Meanwhile, Gyllenhaal plays a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing, which is bound to pull at the heart strings of many voters. Not to mention Gyllenhaal is well overdue an Oscar.

Which brings me on to the main point of this article.

It’s all well and good assuming the Academy vote entirely in isolation, based on a single performance by an actor in a single film, but we know that’s not the case. Lets factor in some justifiable behavioral assumptions.

  1. Actors and actresses arguably win Oscars for lesser performances, as compensation for a career for under-recognised performances that are deemed award-worthy in hindsight. Sandra Bullock, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jeff Bridges to name a few recents.
  2. Actors and actress find success much easier if they are either former winners (veterans) or looking for their first nomination (newbies).
  3. Personal circumstances tend to factor substantially on ballot papers. E.g. Heath Ledger posthumously winning for The Dark Knight – superhero movies are never recognised in the acting categories, or Matthew McConaughey’s career comeback with Dallas Buyers Club.

The first point is perhaps the biggest driver for older nominees winning Oscars. Look at Kevin O’Connell’s recent award for Hacksaw Ridge – the sound guy had 21 previous nominations to his name, and though it was an entirely credible film to win for it was considered very overdue. The acting categories are much the same. However in Daniel Day-Lewis’ case, with three Oscars already to his name, this could go against him.

Other contenders this year including Joaquin Phoenix (3 previous nominations), Jake Gyllenhaal (1 previous nomination), Andrew Garfield (1 previous nomination) and Benedict Cumberbatch (1 previous nomination) could all claim it’s their time and are yet to find themselves on the winners list. But this brings us on to point two…

The shortlist above may have a lot of support, but until they’re getting towards the back end of their career they may not have a winning story to sell. On the other hand, Day-Lewis may have been there and done it, but after Phantom Thread he will never have the chance again. His retirement creates a narrative that literally gives voters a now or never choice to put him alongside Katharine Hepburn with four leading Oscars.

A retirement is not enough to seal an Oscar for someone who already has one, but when that Oscar gives voters the chance to make history and create the single most successful actor of all time (at least in terms of Oscars)… well that’s a hard one to turn down.

Of course until the end of the year we live in a land of speculation, but Daniel Day-Lewis has created the perfect campaign platform that will have publicists frothing at the mouth. The performance will be key, and for the first two reasons Gary Oldman also has a great shout this year, but right now DD-L has the trump card. After all, Oldman can win his Oscar another year.

So we are calling it out, right now: Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread will win the Oscar for leading actor in 2018.

And what the hell, re-read the three assumptions and place an early bet on Bradley Cooper for leading actor and/or director (A Star is Born) in 2019

Awards News

Black Panther Aiming For Best Picture, Not Best Popular, According To Chadwick Boseman

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It’s Hollywood’s worst-kept secret; Marvel Studios’ chief Kevin Feige wants an Oscar. And not just a technical Oscar either. Following in the footsteps of Walt Disney, Feige’s ultimate goal is for one of his movies to win Best Picture. With Black Panther being a cultural juggernaut, the producer-extraordinaire sees it as his best chance yet and has reportedly hired veteran award strategist Cynthia Schwartz’s company – Strategy PR – to push for the nomination.

However, The Academy themselves threw a spanner in the works last month, when they announced the introduction of a brand new category at next year’s awards ceremony: Best Achievement in Popular Film. With Black Panther presently the highest-grossing film of the year domestically, and the second-highest internationally, it’s the clear favourite to win in the new category (at least, to the best of everyone’s knowledge – The Academy have, frustratingly, refused to define the new award). However according to King T’Challa himself, Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman, that’s not the goal.

“We don’t know what [Best Popular] is, so I don’t know whether to be happy about it or not,” Boseman told The Hollywood Reporter, “What I can say is that there’s no campaign for Popular Film; like, if there’s a campaign, it’s for Best Picture, and that’s all there is to it.”

“A good movie is a good movie,” the Get On Up star continued, “and clearly it doesn’t matter how much money a movie makes in order for it to be ‘a good movie’ because if [it did], the movies that get nominated and win [predominantly low-grossing, highly-praised art-house fare] wouldn’t get nominated; and if it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter on both sides. For my money, the only thing that matters is the level of difficulty.”

“What we did was very difficult. We created a world, we created a culture … we had to create a religion, a spirituality, a politics; we had to create an accent; we had to pull from different cultures to create clothing styles and hair styles. It’s very much like a period piece. … So, as far as that’s concerned, I dare any movie to try to compare to the difficulty of this one. And the fact that so many people liked it — if you just say it’s [only] popular, that’s elitist.”

Chadwick has a point – the gross of a film has never, and should not, affect a film’s chances at winning Best Picture. However, whilst The Academy has made clear that a film can be nominated for both Best Film and Best Popular (frustrating many members who have then rightfully asked what the point is), they have somewhat written themselves into a corner when it comes to Black Panther. See, through a very specific sequence of events, The Academy have manufactured a situation where the most likely events to play out on the night will be Damien Chazelle’s buzzy First Man, a movie with an all-white cast and crew, winning Best Picture… whilst the all-black cast and crew of Black Panther accept the new ‘separate but equal’ award for Best Achievement in Popular Film. Yikes.

Black Panther is available on Digital, DVD, Blu-Ray and 4K now, and is rated 12A.

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Awards News

Danny DeVito To Receive Lifetime Achievement Award At The San Sebastian Film Festival

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Batman Returns star Danny DeVito is set to receive the coveted Donostia Award, honouring him for his career achievements, at the sixty-sixth annual San Sebastian Film Festival this September.

“The award recognizes a career of almost five decades related to acting in theatre, film and television, telling stories as an actor, producer and director,” the Spanish festival’s organisers said in a statement, “The Golden Globe and Emmy Award winner is known for his roles in television series Taxi and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and movies such as One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Terms of Endearment, Romancing The Stone, Twins, Ruthless People, and Tin Men.”

“He has also directed – and starred in – hugely emblematic films, including The War of the Roses (1989), Hoffa (1992), Death to Smoochy (2002), Throw Momma From the Train (1987), Curmudgeons (2016), Duplex (2003), The Ratings Game (1984), and The World’s Greatest Lover (1977).”

The San Sebastian Film Festival will run from the 21st to the 29th of September. Danny DeVito can next be heard in animated children’s flick Smallfoot, which will premiere on the 23rd at the Festival.

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Oscars 2018

THE BURDEN OF OSCAR: POLITICS AND FILM.

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2017 was not overly kind to Hollywood. A drop in cinema audiences. Dismal summer box office. Increasing competition from the rise of Netflix and compelling television shows. Decreasing ratings for movie awards shows. Justice League.
And please, nobody even mention Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey.

In short it all went a bit Pete Tong for La La Land last year.
In fact the La La Land /Moonlight mix up at the Oscars in February now seems a rare bright spot in the 2017 tinsel town calendar. Reading out the wrong best picture winner? Light relief! Oh, how we can laugh now at a ‘wrong envelope mishap’ in the wake of #metoo and #sheknew

So, where and when did the rot start?
I’d suggest November 2016. On 8th November to be precise. Hollywood was tux and gown ready to celebrate the presidential victory of the woman whose campaign many A listers had funded to the tune of millions. However, 60 million Americans had a different plan. Enter the Donald!
The rest is outrage history.

Hollywood has since used Twitter, late night chat shows the press and most of all, awards shows to bash Trump……….and by association the 60 million who voted for him. 60 million potential movie fans.

Some love the political content of awards shows. Some are infuriated by it. But for many the politics has just got old really quickly. All they want from their movie and tv stars is entertainment. Yet the one industry that has the power to bring polarised communities together isn’t managing it. Nor does the entertainment media help.

The dumbest question on the movie red carpet in 2017 was one that was repeated the most, earnestly each time as if it was something unbelievably profound: what do you think will Trump voters make of your film?
Alexander Payne when asked it at the Venice film festival was one of the few who refused to be baited. He said he hoped that he made films for everybody. Unfortunately for him, his film Downsizing didn’t exactly please everybody but at least he recognised that his role is as a filmmaker not political campaigner. Similarly, while other stars have lost fans due to their relentless political tirades, Frances McDormand has been gaining them by being funny, entertaining and making it clear that her politics are her private business. But Payne and McDormand are rare. Too many stars and filmmakers take the media bait or can’t resist lecturing the world on the cause du jour when it isn’t the time and place to do so.

That is the issue. There is a time and place to make earnest speeches, to berate, to demand change, to highlight injustice. The Oscars podium isn’t it.

I’ve been lucky enough to go to the Oscars. It was a terrific experience. It was everything I’d imagined the Oscars to be; glamorous, fun, starry and an escape from the norm. The dresses were colourful and gorgeous. The jokes were funny. Everyone was out to party!
Was it frivolous, unreal and superficial. Yep. And it was all the more wonderful for that because I’d come to the event from conducting a 15 day case in the High court about a paedophile ring. So I know about the real world, thank you. And so do the millions who watch the Oscars on television around the world. The Oscars is their escape from the real world, as it was mine.

Yes, the Oscars has always been political to a degree; Marlon Brando sending a Native American woman to collect his Oscar for The Godfather, Michael Moore leading the charge against President Bush and the Iraq war, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon highlighting Haiti and many more issues. But those were moments in a lengthy ceremony. The rest of the show remained light and fun. The atmosphere overall wasn’t somber, even funereal. In the last 3-4 years the politics has completely overshadowed the films and the film stars.

The Oscars now seems to be first about race, sexuality, political affiliation, hashtag movements with the actual work second.

The #oscarssowhite in 2016 campaign was the first year that I can remember when a cause dominated the coverage, pushing the films and actors in contention for the awards out of the limelight. But it has continued. Last year the subject was President Trump. This year it’s #metoo and #TimesUp.
Around Oscar time I get asked 3 main questions: which of the nominated films do I recommend? Who do I think will win? Who had the best dress?

The first suggests that being nominated/winning really does help a film’s box office. And since the Oscars is essentially an industry event at which the film business shows off its wares, that’s a good thing. The second shows that humans are a competitive lot at heart. It’s why we love sport. No one truly likes ‘participation prizes’. We want there to be a ‘best’ so we can endlessly argue about it for evermore afterwards.
And yes, the third question is every bit as legitimate as the first two. Hollywood is the epitome of glamour. Fashion is big business that employs many people. The Oscars brings the two together on a world stage. And yes, women get asked about their dresses because it’s what many people tune in to see. The men’s tuxedos are the same each year. They aren’t the draw.
Funnily, the questions that don’t crop up are ‘what does Chris Hemsworth think about Brexit’ or ‘ What are Rebel Wilson’s views on the fiscal crisis’.
Maybe, just maybe, people don’t really care.

As I write this, some media outlets are reporting that Jennifer Lawrence and Jodie Foster will present the best actress award this year instead of Casey Affleck. He withdrew recently from the tradition of the previous best actor winner presenting the new best actress winner with her gong, most likely, because he didn’t want or need the media coverage that would have dogged him in respect of allegations of sexual misconduct which were subject to an agreement between him and two women. None of the trio are legally allowed to speak publicly about the agreement. No one outside their respective close circles and legal advisers knows what the terms of the agreement were. Affleck could have agreed terms because he’s guilty as hell and didn’t want a court trial to prove it. The women could have been lying through their teeth and didn’t want a court trial to prove it.

Or, you know, the truth could lie somewhere in the middle. As it often does. Point is, we will never know.

That, of course didn’t stop hysterical speculation last year on social media of what Casey Affleck was ‘definitely, absolutely, 100% guilty of” – because – wait for it- he always plays creepy guys on screen! And it wouldn’t have stopped it this year, specially in the wake of #metoo. So Affleck stepped aside.

If it’s true that Lawrence and Foster will replace him, has the Academy really thought it through? What’s the message here:

That it takes two women to replace one man?

That there are no men left in Hollywood who can even safely present a woman with an award?

That only women can present an award to a woman because gender segregation is where we’re at in 2018??!!

See, this is what happens when you add politics to the mix. You may think you’re doing something right but it can come out all wrong.

On Oscar night on Sunday, armed police and security guards will protect stars who will go on stage and speak passionately against guns. Actresses who cheered and gave standing ovations to convicted child rapist Roman Polanski will now speak passionately against sexual predators. The list is endless of hypocrisies Hollywood can be called out for, so the wise thing to do might be to leave politics outside the door and, you know, entertain on the biggest night of the glamour industry.

However, I’m not betting on it.

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