Friday, December 30, 2005

The end and the beginning...LET THE AWARDS BEGIN!


Oscar ballots en route to voters
Nomination ballots for the 78th Annual Academy Awards were mailed Thursday to the 5,798 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Completed ballots must be at PricewaterhouseCoopers by 5 p.m. Jan. 21.

Ballots received after the deadline will not be counted.

To ensure that all aspects of the balloting process are conducted with fairness and accuracy, PricewaterhouseCoopers is tabulating all nomination and final award ballots. As part of the process, each ballot is numbered to guarantee that it goes to the correct Academy voter. PricewaterhouseCoopers also makes sure no duplicate ballots are mailed and that none are missing EDITOR'S NOTE: SO....NO CHEATING!

311 make best-picture list
For the first time in 32 years, more than 300 films will vie for the Academy Award for best picture, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Wednesday.

Marking a 16.5% increase from last year, 311 feature films will compete for cinema's biggest prize of 2005.

Academy credits coordinator Howard Loberfeld cited an increase in the number of feature-length documentaries playing theatrically (35 vs. 15 in 2004) for the spike, as well as industrywide distributor reorganizations, which led to the release of an unusual number of long-delayed projects. EDITOR'S NOTE: IRONIC, HUH? THE LARGEST NUMBER OF MOVIES, AND THE SMALLEST NUMBER OF MOVIE-GOERS. (BY THE BY, OF THE 311 POTENTIAL MOVIES, DOESN'T IT FEEL LIKE 298 OF THEM WERE RELEASED IN THE PAST TWO WEEKS?)

Conti named musical director for 78th Academy Awards
Marking his 18th Oscar stint, composer Bill Conti will return to the podium as musical director of the 78th Annual Academy Awards, telecast producer Gil Cates said Wednesday.

Conti, who won an Oscar in 1983 for scoring "The Right Stuff," also earned nominations in the original song category in 1976 for "Gonna Fly Now" from "Rocky" and in 1981 for the title song from "For Your Eyes Only." Additionally, he received 11 Emmy nominations and is a three-time winner for his work on Academy Awards telecasts. His other film credits include 1999's "The Thomas Crown Affair," "The Karate Kid," "Broadcast News," "Private Benjamin," "Rocky II," "Rocky III" and "Rocky V." The Academy Awards ceremony will be broadcast live March 5 on ABC from the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland.

10 questions for Oscar
By Scott Bowles, USA TODAY
Forget the season of giving. In Hollywood, this is the season of getting.

Sure, many of the movies that are considered Academy Award contenders haven't made it to your local multiplex yet. But as far as Tinseltown is concerned, the Oscar gold grab is on: Ad campaigns are raging, favorites are emerging, and some movies are already fading from contention.

To help make sense of the upcoming awards frenzy, USA TODAY's Scott Bowles raises a few questions and answers surrounding the Oscars. Nominations will be announced Jan. 31 and awards given out March 5.

Who's in
Brokeback Mountain is the early film to beat. The story of two gay cowboys has swept early critics awards and sits atop many prognosticators' lists, including USA TODAY's Oscar Oracle, which handicaps the race based on earlier awards.

Of course, the contest is still wide open. Remember Sideways? Last year's road-trip comedy was invincible early in the awards season and took the Golden Globe for best comedy or musical. By Oscar time, however, it took only one statuette, for best adapted screenplay.

Brokeback's fate may be entwined with that of Munich, the Steven Spielberg film about the aftermath of the 1972 Olympics massacre. If that movie gains box-office momentum and wins critics over, "it could hit all the right notes among the academy," says Sasha Stone of "Spielberg can always be a spoiler."

Who will host?

It's getting late in the game, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hasn't tipped its hand as to a master of ceremonies.

By mid-October last year, the academy had announced that Chris Rock would be host. Last month, Rock's publicist said the comedian would not be back, feeding speculation that old hands such as Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg or Steve Martin would return.

But some say the show may again seek a youthful comedian. "The academy got a lot of attention with Chris Rock," says Tom O'Neil, author of Movie Awards and head of the Los Angeles Times' awards site, EDITOR'S NOTE: OF COURSE, AFTER THE FACT, MOST OF THAT ATTENTION WAS NEGATIVE....."They'll try to stay in the headlines with someone out of the pool of favorites."

Does sexual orientation matter?
Gender and sexuality twists are all the rage, at least in Hollywood. In Transamerica, Felicity Huffman plays a man preparing for a sex change. Truman Capote's relationship with the killer Perry Smith is at the heart of Capote. In Brokeback Mountain, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal struggle with homosexuality.

Filmmakers concede that sexual issues can be a hard sell. "I know these themes have obstacles," says Brokeback director Ang Lee. "They have to be promoted carefully."

That includes selling the movie to academy members. "They won't admit it, but Oscar voters blow in the commercial wind," says Jeffrey Wells of "If a movie bombs at the box office, they'll look harder at it." EDITOR'S NOTE: "BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN" IS A VERY WELL-MADE FILM. IT SHOULD CERTAINLY BE A CONTENDER FOR THE OSCAR. BUT THERE ARE SEVERAL OTHER MOVIES WITH A VIABLE SHOT AT THE GOLD STATUE. AND IF IN THE END THE NO.1 SLOT GOES TO SOMETHING OTHER THAN "BROKEBACK", AND IF THERE IS THEN A LOT OF WHINING ABOUT HOMOPHOBIA, I THINK I WILL START TO SPANK PEOPLE.

Who will be Oscar's darling?

Last year it was Foxx for Ray and Charlize Theron for Monster. The year before that, Peter Jackson was the award's poster boy.

This year has a few candidates. "I'd be surprised if George Clooney didn't get three nominations," says Entertainment Weekly's Dave Karger. Clooney directed Good Night and starred in and produced both that film and Syriana.

Another fave could be Terrence Howard, who stars in Crash and Hustle & Flow. Among actresses, it will be Witherspoon, Karger says. "She's going to be the Halle Berry of the season. She's got the charisma, the look. People will be watching what she wears, how she handles the pressure." EDITOR'S NOTE: TWO OBSERVATIONS. 1. MS. WITHERSPOON ALWAYS SEEMS TO HANDLE THE PRESSURE WITH A GREAT DEAL OF CLASS AND ELAN. SHE ALWAYS LOOKS REFINED AND LOVELY AT THE AWARDS SHOWS. 2. THERE IS A MAJOR DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WITHERSPOON AND BERRY. (RAISE YOUR HANDS IF YOU KNOW WHAT IT IS....AND NO, SKIN-COLOR ISN'T INVOLVED).

Will singers and Oscar make beautiful music?

Oscar likes its dash of tunes, from Chicago to Moulin Rouge to Jamie Foxx in last year's Ray. Though Rent and The Producers have received a lukewarm reception from critics, the Johnny Cash biography Walk the Line seems destined for Academy Awards nominations.

"It's a slam dunk, at least in the acting categories" for stars Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, who already has won three critics awards for best actress, O'Neil says. "And it's one of the few movies that has big public support," with more than $83 million at the box office.

Can Peter Jackson return as king?

When his 2003 film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King collected 11 Oscars, Jackson became the do-no-wrong helmsman in Hollywood.

And it's his clout that makes King Kong a contender. Without Jackson, Kong is just a monkey movie, "but no one does action like him," says David Poland of movie "So, right now, anything he touches is taken seriously."

The film's box-office debut last week, however, could take the air out of the ape. The movie made $50 million in its debut weekend, $15 million below expectations. If it doesn't soon recoup its $207 million budget — it's now at $77 million —Kong probably will vie for mostly technical awards.

Can early films make a late run?

Oscar is notorious for its short-term memory. Of the best-picture candidates, up to 70% are released in November and December, says Inside Oscar author Damien Bona. EDITOR'S NOTE: YES, I SENSED THAT....... GIVEN HOW MANY MOVIES I'VE FELT COMPELLED TO TRAIPSE TO IN THE PAST WEEK. SHEESH!

But there are notable early releases catching voters' attention: Crash, released in May, August's The Constant Gardener, and A History of Violence, out in September. EDITOR'S NOTE: BLOCKBUSTER VIDEO'S WEBSITE IS WORTHLESS; DOES ANYONE KNOW WHEN "A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE" IS COMING OUT ON DVD?The films captured early critics awards and are receiving heavy Oscar pushes from their studios.

"It's a chess match," says Violence director David Cronenberg. "The last two months get so crowded, you have to come out earlier. So you need to time your DVDs, have a well-planned campaign and hope people don't forget you can turn out good movies any time of year."

Will small films play big?

For the first time in the Golden Globes' history, all five best-drama candidates cost less than $30 million each to make. Small films such as Brokeback, Good Night and Match Point will shape the Academy Awards race as major studios shy away from the Oscar game.

"Big studio conglomerates are concerned about the bottom line, not awards," says Terry Press, marketing chief for DreamWorks, which is releasing Match Point. "It used to be that a studio would make a movie that appealed both commercially and artistically. That's not the case now."

Nor is it necessarily a bad thing, says Jeff Daniels, star of The Squid and the Whale. "One of the more noble things the Oscars can do is pay attention to movies no one knows about," he says. "Blockbusters don't need much help." EDITOR'S NOTE: NOBLE? HOLLYWOOD? WHAT HAPPY PLACE IS MR. DANIELS LIVING IN?

Will politics rule?

Take a look at the early front-runners, and most aren't pulling any punches.

Syriana is a searing take on the relationship among the U.S. government, oil companies and Mideast leadership. Good Night, and Good Luck is an examination of the press' will to stand up against big government. Munich takes a cold look at eye-for-an-eye justice when it comes to terrorism.

"Politics are all around us, you can't escape it," says Jeff Goldstein, a distribution executive with Warner Bros., which released Syriana. "It's natural that the best movies are going to reflect what's going on in people's everyday lives."

Will anybody care?

This is what has the academy most concerned. For the third straight year, movie attendance has fallen. Last year's Academy Awards drew 42 million viewers, the second lowest since 1997.
If small films dominate the awards, ratings will again be a challenge. The show's highest ratings came when blockbusters such as 1997's Titanic were in the mix. EDITOR'S NOTE: I'D SAY LOW RATINGS FOR THE OSCAR BROADCAST ARE A FOREGONE CONCLUSION THIS YEAR. THERE ARE SOME WONDERFUL MOVIES IN THE RUNNING, BUT ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WITH POPULAR APPEAL.

"People have too many options for their entertainment, and we've got to work to get people excited about movie business," says Elizabeth Gabler, president of Fox 2000, a division of 20th Century Fox.

And the Oscars, Clooney says, are a good place to start. "Winning an Oscar is fine, but it's not what the awards should be about," he says. "They should be about showing people the kind of work you're capable of. That will get people interested in seeing more of it."


Post a Comment

<< Home