Best Picture Winners Based On or Inspired By Real People and Events ... Oscar-Winning Original Songs Split Between Part of Plot and End Credits ... SAG Awards: ‘Birdman’ Weekend Continues As Eddie Redmayne Shocks the World (Analysis) ... PGA Awards: ‘Birdman’ Upsets ‘Boyhood,’ Creating a Real Oscar Race (Analysis) ... Benedict Cumberbatch, Stephen Fry Call for Pardons for Gays Persecuted Alongside ‘Imitation Game’ Subject ... Debbie Reynolds Reveals Another Family Connection to ‘Star Wars’ ... The Top 25 Oscar Documentary Snubs of the Past 30 Years ... Few No. 1 Billboard Hits Win Big at the Oscars ...
Countdown to Oscars

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Best Picture Winners Based On or Inspired By Real People and Events


By Anjelica Oswald
Managing Editor

The Imitation Game features Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, a mathematician and computer science pioneer who, along with his fellow code-breakers, broke the Nazi Enigma code to help end World War II. Though Turing was hailed as a hero, he was eventually arrested and prosecuted for homosexuality, along with 49,000 other British men and women. Turing chose to be chemically castrated rather than face imprisonment, so he could continue his work, and it is believed that he committed suicide a few years later. Queen Elizabeth II posthumously pardoned Turing in 2013.

On Jan. 21, Stephen Fry led a discussion about the The Imitation Game following a screening of the film for BAFTA voters, discussed Queen Elizabeth’s pardon and suggested that the 49,000 persecuted men and women should be as well. Chad Griffin, the president of Human Rights Campaign, which is honoring The Imitation Game at its Human Rights Gala on Jan. 31, also endorsed the campaign with an ad which ran in The New York Times on Jan. 22.

The Imitation Game is one of eight best picture nominees for the 87th Academy Awards and is one of four films to depict real people and events. American Sniper depicts the life of Chris Kyle, America’s deadliest sniper; Selma is based on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights marches from Selma to Montgomery; and The Theory of Everything portrays the love story between Stephen Hawking and his ex-wife Jane Hawking.

The remaining films — Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash — are entirely fictional, though director Damien Chazelle did say he was inspired by real-life experiences to write Whiplash.

Four of the past 14 best picture winners are based on actual people and events, two of which won last year and the year before, and three others were inspired by real events.

Read the rest of this entry »

Monday, January 26, 2015

Oscar-Winning Original Songs Split Between Part of Plot and End Credits


By Anjelica Oswald
Managing Editor 

Of the five Oscar-nominated original songs for the 87th Academy Awards, Selma’s “Glory” and Beyond the Light’s “Grateful” are the only songs that solely play over the end credits of their respective film. The other three songs — “Everything is Awesome” from The LEGO Movie, “Lost Stars” from Begin Again and “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me — are all performed at some point during the film.

Now, that’s not to say that the end-credits songs aren’t relevant to the plot. Both “Grateful” and “Glory” stick with the themes of their respective films and summarize relevant events, even if they aren’t integral to each plot’s progression.

“Everything is Awesome” from The LEGO Movie is featured in the film as a popular song in the LEGO universe, one the characters sing along to, but the complete song plays over the end credits.

In Begin Again, ”Lost Stars” is performed three times in the film. Gretta, (Keira Knightley) is a singer-songwriter who wrote the song “Lost Stars” as a folky love song she composed for her ex-boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine) one Christmas. Dave, a pop star, ‘popifies’ the song and creates a commercial hit, but Gretta thinks the song has lost its meaning. Later, Dave tells her to come listen to him play the song, and he then performs her version.

Glen Campbell’s “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” is featured at the end of the documentary on his life, which chronicles his final tour as he struggles with Alzheimer’s. The final clip unites him with former players of The Wrecking Crew.

Is a song that is part of the plot more likely to win an Oscar? For songs that have won in the 21st century, there isn’t a particular benefit for songs that appear in the film versus songs that played over the credits.

Read the rest of this entry »

Monday, January 26, 2015

SAG Awards: ‘Birdman’ Weekend Continues As Eddie Redmayne Shocks the World (Analysis)


By Scott Feinberg
The Hollywood Reporter

What a weekend! Less than 24 hours after Birdman upset Boyhood to win the top prize at Saturday’s 26th PGA Awards, Alejandro G. Inarritu’s quirky dramedy held serve by topping Richard Linklater’s unprecedented 12-year project to win the top prize at Sunday’s 21st SAG Awards, as well. And, in a development just as surprising as Birdman’s PGA win, The Theory of Everything’s Eddie Redmayne upended Birdman’s Michael Keaton — the heavy favorite — to win the best actor SAG Award, stopping in its tracks any real threat to his Oscar hopes.

The other winners on the film side were all heavy favorites: Still Alice’s Julianne Moore won best actress, Whiplash’s J.K. Simmons won best supporting actor and Boyhood’s Patricia Arquette won best supporting actress.

Why does any of what happened on Sunday tell us anything about what will happen at the 87th Oscars on Feb. 22?

Read the rest of this entry…

Sunday, January 25, 2015

PGA Awards: ‘Birdman’ Upsets ‘Boyhood,’ Creating a Real Oscar Race (Analysis)


By Scott Feinberg
The Hollywood Reporter

The Golden Globe Awards, Critics’ Choice Awards and Hollywood Film Awards, like the many other awards ceremonies that took place this season prior to Saturday night, were fine and dandy, but their winners were chosen by foreign journalists, film critics and an unnamed committee, respectively. They were not chosen by people who actually make movies, like those who are represented in the Academy. The people who work in the business tend to reveal their leanings at the various guild awards that precede the Oscars. And the first of those — the 26th Annual Producers Guild of America Awards — took place in Century City on Saturday night.

And that is why it is big news that the PGA awarded its Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures to Birdman, not Boyhood, which had previously won just about everything for which it was eligible. In just 24 hours, the 21st Screen Actors Guild Awards will follow the PGA Awards, and the result could be the same.

Read the rest of this entry…

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Benedict Cumberbatch, Stephen Fry Call for Pardons for Gays Persecuted Alongside ‘Imitation Game’ Subject


By Scott Feinberg
The Hollywood Reporter

If the presumptive best picture Oscar frontrunner Boyhood has an Achilles’ heel, it is that its story, about 12 years in the life of a fictional family, is not about anything of a greater social or historical import, as most previous recipients of the prize have been. The same, of course, is true of Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Whiplash, The Theory of Everything, in that they focus on imagined stories or, in the case of Theory, the personal life of a historical figure — but not, most would argue, Selma, American Sniper or The Imitation Game. And with Selma and Sniper immersed in controversy about the accuracy of their depictions of historical events, that may leave an opening for The Imitation Game.

To that end, a number of developments in recent days — largely organic, and then subsequently amplified by the savvy Weinstein Co. — have served to remind people about the social and historical significance of Imitation Game subject Alan Turing, the gay British mathematician-turned-war hero who died in 1954, disrespected or forgotten by many of the countrymen whose lives his code-breaking saved.

Read the rest of this entry…

Friday, January 23, 2015

Debbie Reynolds Reveals Another Family Connection to ‘Star Wars’


By Scott Feinberg
The Hollywood Reporter

This story first appeared in the Jan. 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Announcing Debbie Reynolds as this year’s recipient of the SAG Life Achievement Award, SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard saluted her as “a tremendously talented performer with a diverse body of screen and stage work, live performances and several hit records.” But that’s something of an understatement. Reynolds, 82, has been performing since age 16, when she won the title of Miss Burbank. That led to a contract at Warner Bros., where she spent two years before she was scooped up by MGM, the mecca of musicals. On Jan. 22, Turner Classic Movies will salute her by airing five of her films, and Jan. 25, it’s a safe bet her fellow actors will rise to their feet to applaud her, and her longevity, at the SAG Awards.

Read the rest of this entry…

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Top 25 Oscar Documentary Snubs of the Past 30 Years


By Anjelica Oswald
Managing Editor 

After narrowing the Oscar documentary feature shortlist to five at the 87th Academy Award nominations Jan. 15, a number of notable exclusions were featured, particularly Al HicksKeep on Keepin’ On, which documents the mentorship and friendship of a jazz legend and a blind piano prodigy, and Steve JamesLife Itself, about the life and career of famed film critic Roger Ebert. (James is no stranger to snubs and the exclusion of his 1994 film Hoop Dreams led to rule reform within the documentary category.)  Both films hold 97 percent positive ratings on Rotten Tomatoes.

Some films surprised when they didn’t even land a spot on the shortlist, such as Red Army, which examines the rise and fall of the Soviet Union’s hockey team from the perspective of its coach. That film holds a 100 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

In light of these best documentary feature snubs, here are the top 25 shocking omissions by the Academy’s documentary branch over the past 30 years:

Read the rest of this entry »

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Few No. 1 Billboard Hits Win Big at the Oscars


By Anjelica Oswald
Managing Editor 

From the 79 original songs on the Oscar shortlist, five were nominated a week ago on Jan. 15: “Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie, “Glory” from Selma, “Grateful” from Beyond the Lights, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me and “Lost Stars” from Begin Again.

Following a recent trend, none of the nominees have made it to the top of the BIllboard Hot 100 chart, which tracks the success of  singles by looking at radio play, online streaming and sales.

Following the announcement of the nominations, “Glory” made its debut at No. 25 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart dated Jan. 31 and is currently No. 92 on the Billboard Hot 100.

When “Everything Was Awesome” debuted in January 2014, the song debuted at No. 7 on the Dance/Electronic Songs chart and peaked at No. 57 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

“Lost Stars” didn’t hit the Billboard charts until Adam Levine performed the song live on The Voice with his team member Matt McAndrew. Following this performance, the song peaked at No. 83 on the Hot 100.

Glen Campbell’s final song made it to No. 90 on the Hot 100, which marked his first Hot 100 song since 1981. “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” also jumped from No. 50 to No. 21 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart in October, which made it his highest-ranking song in 25 years.

Songwriter Diane Warren received her seventh Oscar nomination for her song “Grateful” from Gina Prince-Bythewood’s Beyond the Lights. The film’s soundtrack peaked at No. 11 on Billboard’s Top Soundtracks, but the song didn’t break onto the charts.

While nominees in the early ‘80s were successful on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, few No. 1 singles have been nominated in recent years and only seven have won in the past 30 years.

Read the rest of this entry »

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Oscars: Should ‘Selma’ and ‘American Sniper’ Be Penalized for Taking Liberties With the Truth? (Opinion)


By Scott Feinberg
The Hollywood Reporter

Is it okay to like Ava DuVernay’s Selma even though by some accounts it misrepresents the role that President Lyndon Johnson played in the Civil Rights movement, portraying him as more an impediment than a facilitator of progress? And is it okay to like Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper even though it basically disregards overwhelming evidence that Chris Kyle was not quite as upstanding he appears in the movie?

I hope so because, in both cases, I do.

Read the rest of this entry…

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sundance: How the Fest’s Quirky Indies Have Won Over the Academy


By Scott Feinberg
The Hollywood Reporter

This story first appeared in the Jan. 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Films that are first screened in January are often forgotten by awards season later that year — unless they screen at Sundance, which for the past 25 years has served as a springboard for small but accomplished films, helping them to find distributors which, in turn, help those films find Oscar buzz toward year’s end.

Read the rest of this entry…