Monday, February 16, 2015

And Down the Stretch They Come/The Film Awards Clearinghouse: Less than a Week to Go/Writers Guild Awards/Berlin Winners/Birdman, Wild and Imitation Game Pieces/ Cannes Serious Speculation

Good Monday World...


Well...we're less than a week from answering all the Oscar questions.  Some categories are locked up (Best Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress).  Some categories are really thrilling: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Screenplays.  Some are obscure: Shorts: Feature, Documentary, Animated. Nevertheless, by this time next week, I'll be posting the annual Oscar aftermath/analysis and we'll all find things about which to be pleased, puzzled and outraged.

Then it'll start up again.

Honestly, it's really already started again with the Berlin fest concluding (see report below) and Cannes peeking around the corner.  We've already had a slew of "most anticipated" film lists for 2015 to chew over.  Once Oscar 2015 is in the rear view, we'll have some peeps that'll begin the early speculation about Oscar 2016.  Also coming, and in earnest, speculation about what films make the Cannes lineup and with that my Telluride #42 analysis/speculation will get more serious as well.

It's been a truly intriguing season and fun too.  When Telluride #41 was over, my favorite film of the weekend was Inarritu's "Birdman".  My belief at the time was that Keaton was going to be really hard to beat for Best Actor and that Inarritu might be have a real shot at Best Director and Original Screenplay but that the film itself might just be outside of The Academy's Best Picture comfort zone.  Morten Tyldum's "The Imitation Game" seemed like the most likely BP film from Telluride.

Now, at less than a week before the envelopes are open, it appears to be a two film dead heat between The Bird and The Boy (Richard Linklater's "Boyhood").  You'll see how tight it looks on the chart below.  After last year's down-to- the- wire battle between "12 Years a Slave" and "Gravity" I anticipated that we'd have a much less competitive race this year and for most of the season, it looked that way as almost every prognosticator thought "Boyhood" was the inevitable Best Picture winner. But with "Birdman's" strong Guild showing, the calculations have changed and it is, again, very, very close.

"Boyhood's" BAFTA wins last weekend seem to have turned the pundits away from a wholesale stampede to crown "Birdman" Best Picture and so, here we are.  It's a squeaker, it would seem, and The Academy's use of a preferential ballot will tell the tale.  Where do the votes go from the down ballot films once they're eliminated?  If this week's FAC is to be believed, "Whiplash" looks like the first film that'll drop off the ballot...what will its supporters have in that #2 spot?  Those votes will be re-apportioned to remaining films.

There is a threshold percentage that a film has to maintain in each round to stay in contention (I'm not certain what that is) but this process goes on until some film hits 50% plus one of the total #1 votes after a round of re-apportioning and that's your winner.

So, if all the "Whiplash" voters put "Birdman" at #2...the Bird gets much closer to flying.

A number of the real Oscar blogger types have run simulations.  I believe InContention and The Wrap have.  So, if you have an interest in a deeper look at the process, you might look at both of those blogs.  They're in my list of linked sights to the right of this column.

Personally, I still haven't caught "Boyhood".  It might really send me over the moon and I know I'll get there eventually (I actually nearly watched it Friday night but opted for "Nightcrawler" instead.  Was not disappointed.  A very good film and Jake Gyllenhaal gives what might be his best performance).  So, it doesn't make a lot of sense that I'm hoping for a "Birdman" win on Sunday night.  Maybe, with a "Boyhood" viewing, I might conclude that it really is the best film of the year.  But I doubt it.  I said in T-ride last Labor Day that I thought "Birdman" was a masterpiece and Inarritu's best film and I still think that's true.  Besides, I want the Telluride string to continue...

Last note and then it's onto the FAC for the eight major categories...

Right at this minute, I've got a warm feeling about The Bird's chances and I mean beyond Best Picture.  I have a feeling it might have a big night: Picture, Director, Actor, Original Screenplay and Cinematography.  Maybe one other.  Of course, that feeling could just as easily pass by tonight and go through multiple permutations by Sunday night...


Here's the latest Oscar snapshot from The Film Awards Clearinghouse for the eight most anticipated categories.

The FAC uses the published predictions of the following to develop its list of likely Oscar winners:

Kristopher Tapley/InContention/HitFix
Sasha Stone/Awards Daily
Bred Brevet/Rope of Silicon
Anne Thompson/Thompson on Hollywood
Peter Knegt/IndieWire
Clayton Davis/Awards Circuit
Scott Feinberg/The Hollywood Reporter

Telluride #41 films are Bold.  Telluride has 18 nominations form these eight major categories.


1) Birdman
2) Boyhood
3) The Imitation Game
4) American Sniper
5) The Grand Budapest Hotel
6) Selma
7) The Theory of Everything
8) Whiplash

Comment:  "Birdman" and "Boyhood" swap spots at the top of the chart as a result of "Birdman" guild wins in the past few eeks (PGA, DGA, SAG) but it is soooooo close.  The metric I use, has them separated by one point...ONE.  Four experts say "Bird": Feinberg, Brevet, Davis and Knegt. Stone, Tapley and Thompson have "Boyhood" on top.  It's a nail biter.


1) Richard Linklater/Boyhood
2) Alejandro Inarritu/Birdman
3) Wes Anderson/The Grand Budapest Hotel
4) Morten Tyldum/The Imitation Game
5) Bennett Miller/Foxcatcher

Comment:  Linklater stays on top here but, again, the separation is ONE POINT between he and Inarritu.  Inarritu's DGA win weighs heavily in the closeness of this race as well.  There is an increasing speculation that The Academy may well split picture and director again this year as it did last year.  That'd be weird, but the season has been weird.  What's weirder is that buzz cuts both ways with some in the biz suggesting a Bird BP win with a Linklater directing Oscar and others doing a "180" and suggesting a "Boyhood" BP win and the directing trophy to go to Inarritu.  My personal feeling, as mentioned above...and perhaps only transitionally, is that Bird/Inarritu are going to win both.


1) Eddie Redmayne/The Theory of Everything
2) Michael Keaton/Birdman
3) Bradley Cooper/American Sniper
4) Benedict Cumberbatch/The Imitation Game
5) Steve Carell/Foxcatcher

Comment:  Redmayne's lead has opened up a bit over the last couple of weeks but it's still not enough to declare him a lock for Oscar on Sunday night.  I still think Keaton has a shot.


1) Julianne Moore/Still Alice
2) Felicity Jones/The Theory of Everything
3) Reese Witherspoon/Wild
4) Rosamund Pike/Gone Girl
5) Marion Cotillard/Two Days One Night

Comment: One of the three acting trophies that are locked up.  Moore wins.


1) Patricia Arquette/Boyhood
2) Emma Stone/Birdman
3) Kiera Knightley/The Imitation Game
4) Laura Dern/Wild
5) Meryl Streep/Into the Woods

Comment:  Ms. Arquette will have an Oscar to take to the CSI: Cyber set next week.


1) JK Simmons/Whiplash
2) Edward Norton/Birdman
3) Ethan Hawke/Boyhood
4) Mark Ruffalo/Foxcatcher
5) Robert Duvall/The Judge

Comment: JK wins.


1) Whiplash
2) American Sniper
3) The Imitation Game
4) The Theory of Everything
5) Inherent Vice

Comment:  This is a competitive category with "Sniper" moving up the chart strongly over the past couple of weeks.  I could see this landing for any of the five.


1) The Grand Budapest Hotel
2) Birdman
3) Boyhood
4) Nightcrawler
5) Foxcatcher

Comment: Also an uber competitive category.  "Budapest"  edges past "Birdman" but it's very, very close.  Also, don't count out a "Boyhood" win here.

Other notes:

There's some talk that "Whiplash" could come out of the night with the most Oscar wins.  Best Supporting Actor is a lock and Editing looks fairly likely.  A win for Adapted Screenplay isn't out of the question and it has to be a serious contender for Sound Mixing.  That's four of the five it's nominated for and that might be the biggest haul of the night (last year that honor went to "Gravity").

There's another school of thought that all eight of the Best Picture nominated films might walk away with at least one trophy on Sunday night.  That would be really unusual but I can see it happening.

I still can't grasp how "Foxcatcher" missed a Best Picture nomination.  Noms for direction, screenplay, actor and supporting actor...but not Best Picture.  It doesn't make a lot of sense.  But, then it IS Oscar..."sense" don't figure into it...pardon the grammar.



The Writers Guild of America announced the winners of their awards for 2014 Saturday.  TFF #41 film "The Imitation Game" by Graham Moore won Best Adapted Screenplay.  Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel" won Best Original Screenplay.  The WGA isn't always the best predictor of the Oscar winner in those categories due its stringent eligibility rules.  For example, "Birdman" was ineligible for consideration making "Budapest's" win less definitive.  Writers Guild coverage is linked here:


The Berlin Film Fest came to an end Saturday with the announcement of award winners.  The Golden Bear was won by guerrilla Iranian film maker Jafar Panahi's "Taxi".  The film maker whose work is banned in Iran and yet continues to make films and smuggle them out of the country was recognized for his docu-drama.  Pablo Larrain's "The Club" was winner of the Silver Bear while acting prizes went to Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay for Andrew Haigh's "45 Years".

Frankly, I think all three films mentioned above, in addition to Bill Condon's "Mr. Holmes" all have a real shot to make the trip to Telluride over Labor Day.

Linked below is some serious Berlin Awards coverage:


As noted above, we're coming down the Oscar homestretch and I have linked some more of the late-in-the-game pieces for "Birdman", "Wild Tales"  and "The Imitation Game" here.

The first "Birdman" piece focuses on an extended clip from the film.  Variety has that here:

Meanwhile, Kristopher Tapley at InContention "digs a little deeper" into the film here:

The New York Times published this "Making of" piece about Damian Szifron's Oscar nominated "Wild Tales" which is wildly considered the only film with a shot to deny "Ida" the Foreign Language Oscar.  It's here:

Finally, two pieces both focused on "The Imitation Game" helmer and Oscar nominated Morten Tyldum.  One from IndieWire and the other from Gold Derby:


And as mentioned above as well, the serious speculation about what will unspool at Cannes is heating up and took the form of this post from Cineuropa this week.  It's interesting but is also such an enormous list as to be not all that illuminating.

Titles that grabbed my attention included:

Stephen  Frears' "Icon" (his Lance Armstrong film)...though it is currently and ambiguously set for an August release in the U.S. which would mean no Telluride.

Thomas Vinterberg's "The Commune".  The article also mentions Vinterberg's "Far from the Madding Crowd" but that already has a U.S. release set for May 1st.

Matteo Garrone's "The Tale of Tales".

Todd Haynes' "Carol" starring Cate Blanchett

Jacques Audiard's "Erran".  Sundance Selects has already locked up the U.S. distribution for the film which should keep it in the Telluride conversation.  Last year the company was represented at Telluride by Ethan Hawke's "Seymour: An Introduction" and The Dardennes Brothers' "Two Days, One Night.

Denis Villeneuve's "Sicario" He's been programmed Telluride recently with "Prisoners" and "Incendies".

Justin Kurzel's "Macbeth" with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.  The Weinsteins ("The Imitation Game") are distributing and See Saw Films is the production company ("Shame", "Tracks").

Sean Penn's "The Last Face" starring Charlize Theron, Javier Bardem and Adele Exarchopolous.  Penn' last directing effort "Into the Wild" played Telluride in 2007.

Barbet Schroeder's "Amnesia".  Schroeder has had a long relationship with Telluride but hasn't been represented at the festival since 2007's "Terror's Advocate".

There are a lot more titles to mull.  Look here:

More coming on Thursday including the complete 24 category Film Awards Clearinghouse Nearly Final Oscar Predictions.

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