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Posts Tagged ‘Taxi to the Dark Side’

Wednesday January 29th, 2014

America Gets Dirty: Can ‘Dirty Wars’ Pull Off an Oscar Upset?


By Terence Johnson
Managing Editor

Given that President Obama delivered his State of the Union address last night which highlights places where America is doing well and where it could use some improvement, it seemed fitting that we’d look at the movies that attempt to do the same. There’s a rich history of documentaries taking on the issues of the times and often find themselves nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar. This year’s version of that film is Dirty Wars.

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Thursday January 13th, 2011

YOUR DAILY FIX OF OSCAR: 1/13/11

  • The Hollywood Reporter: Alex Ben Block reports that the Publicists Guild of America has announced the nominees for its 48th annual Maxwell Weinberg Showmanship Award, which honors “the creativity and enterprise that entertainment publicists apply to attract the largest possible audiences for program they represent,” according to awards committee chairman Henri Bollinger. The nominees for the award in the film category (there is also one for television) are “Despicable Me” (Universal), “Inception” (Warner Brothers), “The Social Network” (Columbia), “Toy Story 3” (Disney), “Waiting for ‘Superman’” (Paramount), and “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” (20th Century Fox). The winner will be announced at a luncheon on February 25. (I’d like to offer my congratulations to all of the nominees.)
  • New York Post: Claire Atkinson claims that sources have told her that Sony has spent $55 million to promote “The Social Network” — a film that is being distributed by its subsidiary Columbia Pictures, for which it has grossed $199.8 million worldwide, thus far — including a staggering $5 million on its awards campaign. (“A typical Oscar campaign costs between $2 million and $3 million,” she writes.) These costs reportedly cover everything from “the usual pre-Oscar nomination ads in Hollywood trade magazines to the unusual move of re-releasing the film in 603 theaters this past weekend ahead of its DVD debut.” It is believed that Sony is spending so much money on this effort because Columbia hasn’t produced a best picture Oscar winner in the 21 years since Sony purchased it in 1989; its last winner was “The Last Emperor” (1987) 23 years ago.
  • Boston Globe: Mark Shanahan learns that Alice Ward, the 80-year-old mother/former manager of the professional boxers Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund (as well as their seven sisters) who is portrayed by Melissa Leo in the recently-release film “The Fighter,” is “fighting for her own life in a Boston hospital” right now. According to Shanahan, Ward “went into cardiac arrest Wednesday and stopped breathing for more than 30 minutes… [and] was eventually placed on life support… [remarkably, however, she] regained consciousness and is now able to speak.”
  • The Wrap: Steve Pond describes the Academy’s foreign language category as one that is “full of scandal and controversy” and “snubs and surprises,” all despite years of “taking dramatic, sometimes unprecedented steps to deal with those controversies.” Pond writes that producer Mark Johnson, a member of the Academy’s board of governors who has overseen the category for a decade, has implemented changes which “have resulted in the creation of a unique three-step nominating process that puts the final decision in the hands of a carefully-chosen committee that in recent years has included actors Ryan Gosling and Keanu Reeves, directors Jonathan Demme and Nora Ephron, writer Dustin Lance Black, composer Harry Gregson-Williams, editor Thelma Schoonmaker, and cinematographer Wally Pfister, among many others.” But, Pond ponders, “by turning the major decision over to his hand-picked committee, has Johnson cut regular voters out of the process and taken too much power for himself? Or has the result — better, smarter nominations in the estimation of many — justified the tinkering?”
  • W Magazine: Lynn Hirschberg snags “an exclusive first look from the set of the year’s most anticipated film,” the English-language adaptation of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” The film’s director, David Fincher, and star, Rooney Mara, previously collaborated on “The Social Network.” Fincher tells Hirschberg, “On ‘Social Network,’ I didn’t really agree with the critics’ praise. It interested me that ‘Social Network’ was about friendships that dissolved through this thing that promised friendships, but I didn’t think we were ripping the lid off anything. The movie is true to a time and a kind of person, but I was never trying to turn a mirror on a generation… ‘Social Network’ is not earth-shattering.”

Photo: Daisy in “Waiting for ‘Superman.'” Credit: Paramount.

Sunday August 29th, 2010

2010: THE YEAR OF THE DOCUMENTARY

Since I first started covering the annual awards seasons a decade ago, one of the most striking trends I have observed has been a marked uptick in the quantity and quality of documentary features. Each November, the Academy’s documentary branch selects 15 for a shortlist from which they ultimately pick five nominees. This year, I don’t know how they’re going to do it — Fall hasn’t even arrived yet and there are already way more than 15 worthy candidates. Frankly, I don’t think it would be going out on a huge limb to declare 2010 the strongest — or, at the very least, the deepest — year yet in the history of documentary filmmaking.

Here’s a bit of commentary on each of the docs that are registering strongest on my radar at the moment…

Now in Theaters

  • “The Tillman Story” (The Weinstein Company, 8/20, trailer) — Amir Bar-Lev (“My Kid Could Paint That”) tells the true story of the man who gave up a multi-million dollar NFL contract to join the U.S. Army; who was killed in Iraq in 2004; whose “heroic” death the Bush Administration tried to use to increase public support for the war; but whose family — most of whom granted interviews for the film — ultimately discovered that the true manner in which he had been killed had been buried as part of a cover-up that led directly to the highest reaches of the military and government.
  • “A Film Unfinished” (Oscilloscope, 8/18, trailer) — The object of recents raves in Entertainment Weekly and the New York Times, Yael Hersonski‘s doc deconstructs “Das Ghetto,” a Nazi propaganda film of Jewish life in the Warsaw Ghetto that was shot in 1942, and which for 40 years was considered to be unmanipulated footage until another reel was discovered and exposes it as anything but that. The most powerful part of this multi-faceted effort to set the record straight: testimony from five Holocaust survivors who lived in the ghetto, as well as one of the cameramen who filmed it.

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