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Oscars 2017: Why Canada Threw Away Their Foreign-Language Submission on Xavier Dolan

23 September 2016 2:54 PM, PDT

“It’s Only the End of the World,” from Canadian bad-boy Xavier Dolan, polarized critics in Cannes. The family drama starring Marion Cotillard, Lea Seydoux, Nathalie Baye, and Vincent Cassel was largely shot in intense close-ups, and many Cannes attendees found the film overly theatrical.

Still, the director took home the Cannes Grand Prix. And now it’s his home country’s submission for the foreign-language Academy Award.

Canada is being loyal to one of its anointed auteurs. They tend to stick with their favorite sons, from four-timer Denys Arcand (whose films have been nominated thrice and won once), to three-timers Denis Villeneuve (nominated once) and the yet-to-be nominated Dolan.

Read More: Xavier Dolan Won’t Submit ‘John F. Donovan’ To Cannes Next Year; Points To ‘Trolling’ Nature Of Criticism

It’s understandable for a country’s film culture czars to take a top festival into prize consideration when picking their foreign-language Oscar submission. »

- Anne Thompson

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2017 Oscar Predictions: Best Foreign Language Film

23 September 2016 1:43 PM, PDT

The official submissions for the foreign language Oscar are trickling in from around the world. Last year, 81 submissions were released theatrically in their home countries between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015. (This year’s deadline for submissions is October 3, 2016; the Academy announces the accepted eligible films later that month.)

Several Academy foreign committees comprised of members from all the branches whittle down the films to a shortlist of nine and finally, five Oscar nominees. (Last year’s winner was Cannes prize-winner “Son of Saul, ” directed by Lazlo Nemes.) Many countries pick films that do well on the festival circuit as their strongest Oscar contender; others do not.

Politics often intervene: Brazil’s submission was expected to be Cannes competition film “Aquarius,” starring Sonia Braga, but it was embroiled in controversy over filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho’s support of outgoing impeached president Dilma Rousseff. Bruno Barreto’s Brazil selection committee went instead »

- Anne Thompson

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2017 Oscar Predictions: Best Documentary

23 September 2016 12:53 PM, PDT

While best documentary conversations start to take shape in January at the Sundance Film Festival, making the transition from rapturous festival play to awards-season contender is a harrowing road. A documentary must be truly extraordinary to make the final Oscar five.

The number of Sundance docs with awards potential is breathtaking: Breaking out of Sundance 2016 were U.S. Grand Jury Prize winner “Weiner” (IFC), an entertaining portrait of a politician brought down by his weakness for sexting, which turned into a summer hit; U.S. Documentary Directing Award winner “Life, Animated” (The Orchard), a moving portrait of an autistic child who grows up with Disney movies; and HBO’s Audience Award winner “Jim: The James Foley Story.”

Scoring great reviews were Ezra Edelman’s five-part movie “O.J.: Made in America” (Espn), an exhaustive examination of O.J. Simpson and race relations in Los Angeles from the ’60s through the Trial of »

- Anne Thompson

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Oscars: Here’s Why Britain Has A Foreign-Language Submission With ‘Under the Shadow’

22 September 2016 4:27 PM, PDT

Wait a second. Can the U.K. submit a film for consideration for the Best Foreign Language Oscar?

Sure. As long as it’s not in English. Take last year: Ireland, not Cuba, submitted Spanish-language film “Viva.” And France controversially chose the Turkish “Mustang” as its official entry over a list of top French auteurs.

If the submitting country paid for the movie and supplied key personnel, it doesn’t matter what language it’s in. The French produced “Mustang” and its director Deniz Gamze Ergüven, born in Turkey, is based in Paris. (Her next movie is English-language.) And the Irish produced “Viva,” even though director Paddy Breathnach shot with local actors in Havana.

And thus the UK’s selection organization, BAFTA, has submitted writer-director Babak Anvari’s well-reviewed Sundance mother-daughter drama “Under the Shadow” (October 7, Vertical Entertainment and Xyz Films), a 1988 Iran-Iraq War thriller shot in Farsi starring Narges Rashidi, »

- Anne Thompson

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‘Queen of Katwe’: How Mira Nair Merged a Gritty African Slum Story with a Disney Movie

22 September 2016 8:00 AM, PDT

We all know what a heartwarming Disney sports drama feels like. Glossy, sentimental, going for rousing win moments. When Ugandan-Belizean Disney executive VP production Tendo Nagenda read Tim Crothers’ 2013 Espn magazine feature about Phiona Mutesi, a chess master who rose up from selling corn in the Kampala, Uganda slum of Katwe, he knew he’d found the right story. But he knew that if it was going to resonate, this couldn’t be soft-focus or glib. He had to find a director with the sensibility to keep it real.

For that, he approached veteran New York filmmaker Mira Nair, who has also lived in the Ugandan capital of Kampala for 27 years. He invited himself to tea, and she jumped on board.

They developed “Queen of Katwe” (September 23) with writer William Wheeler. Nair finally met Mutesi when she was in New York to play against Kasperov, she told me in our interview. »

- Anne Thompson

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Oscars: How TV and Streaming Emmy Contenders Are Changing the Documentary Race

21 September 2016 1:51 PM, PDT

By the time Ezra Edelman’s “O.J.: Made In America” aired on Espn in June, receiving near-universal acclaim from critics, Espn Films—which produced the documentary as part of the network’s popular “30 for 30” series—was already angling for attention from an Academy that, on the face of it, has nothing to do with TV. With one-week qualifying engagements at New York’s Cinema Village and Los Angeles’ Laemmle Monica Film Center, the exhaustive five-part portrait of O.J. Simpson’s life and times entered the campaign for Oscar.

It’s not alone. Of the eight other films Indiewire identifies as frontrunners in the race for Best Documentary Feature besides “O.J.: Made in America,” several have prominent connections to TV networks or streaming services: “Command and Control” (PBS); “Gleason” (Amazon); “Into the Inferno” (Netflix); “The Music of Strangers” (HBO); “Weiner” (Showtime); and “Zero Days” (Showtime). More than ever before, the resources »

- Anne Thompson and Matt Brennan

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A Brutally Honest Festival Breakdown: Winners, Losers, and Oscar Frontrunners

20 September 2016 10:00 AM, PDT

Three weeks of film festivals and hundreds of movies later, one stands as the clear winner. Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” won a prize for Emma Stone in Venice, wowed Telluride, and walked away with the Audience Award in Toronto —and by the end of that festival, people paid “Hamilton”-premiums for tickets to the last screening,

Now, that’s word of mouth.

Of course, “La La Land” isn’t alone in its accolades. Here’s how the players came out at the end of the three festivals.



Established studio players like Sony Pictures Classics aim their sights at the loyal theatergoers who tend to be older; getting younger cinephiles to come to a theater is harder than ever. Nevertheless, A24 seems to have figured out a way. They acquire movies like excoriated Cannes entry “The Sea of Trees” to go out via their deal with DirectTV and iTunes, »

- Anne Thompson

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