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2017 Oscar Predictions: Best Actress

15 hours ago

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It’s one of the most competitive Best Actress races in years.

“Birdman” nominee Emma Stone came out of Venice (winning Best Actress), Telluride and Toronto with raves for her role as a singer-dancer-actress in Damien Chazelle’s  Tiff audience-winner “La La Land.” Amy Adams also broke out at Telluride (which gave her a tribute packed with clips of her Oscar-nominated performances in “American Hustle,” “The Master,” “The Fighter,” “Doubt,” and “Junebug”) in sci-fi thriller “Arrival,” ably carrying her starring role as an empathetic linguist able to communicate with alien visitors. She also stars in a more glamorous vein in Tom Ford’s divisive “Nocturnal Animals.”

Breaking out at Venice and Toronto, where Fox Searchlight snapped it up for a December 9th release, was Pablo Larrain’s “Jackie,” starring Natalie Portman as the grieving widow of John F. Kennedy in the aftermath of his killing. Critics raved. »


- Anne Thompson

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2017 Oscar Predictions: Best Picture

15 hours ago

With Sundance and Cannes behind us and the fall festivals in progress, the Oscar race is under way. Distributors are in full campaign mode for the 2016-17 awards season.

Read More: 2017 Oscar Predictions

After earning strong reviews, a standing ovation and the two top awards at the Sundance Film Festival, Nate Parker’s “The Birth of A Nation” was an early frontrunner for Best Picture. The Academy not only loves a well-told true story (see “Spotlight,” “Argo” and “12 Years A Slave”), but last year’s diversity controversy promised to shine an even greater light on “Nation” this year. The film will be released via Fox Searchlight, which has notched 13 Best Picture nominations in the past 12 years, more than any other company. They proved victorious with “Birdman” two years ago and were positioning “Nation” as their top contender this fall. But Parker is dogged by a college rape scandal that keeps »


- Anne Thompson

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2017 Oscar Predictions: Best Foreign Language Film

29 September 2016 10:33 AM, 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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4 Reasons Distributors Should Buy Errol Morris Gem ‘The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography’

29 September 2016 8:22 AM, PDT

Errol Morris is best known as an influential and Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker (“The Fog of War”), but he’s also a master of the short form who commands big bucks shooting commercials and episodic television. Then there’s the New York Times op-docs and essays, his many deep dives into photography and the bestsellers such as “Believing is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography” and “A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald.” However, none of this prepared me for his latest gem of a film,”The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography,” a gentle exploration of a woman who’s also one of Morris’ best friends.

Read More: New York Film Festival Announces 2016 Documentary Lineup, Including New Films by Errol Morris and Steve James

Dorfman started out photographing the Beats in the early ’60s and became friends with poet Allen Ginsberg, who she shot many times over the decades. »


- Anne Thompson

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‘Weiner,’ Yes; ‘The Eagle Huntress,’ No: The 15 Documentaries on the Doc NYC Short List

28 September 2016 2:11 PM, PDT

That wailing you hear is all the best-documentary aspirants who did Not make the Doc NYC “Short List.” It’s considered one of several key steps for landing on the Academy doc branch’s eventual short list – which, like the Doc NYC list, also numbers 15.

The stats are impressive: In each of the past three years, the Doc NYC Short List had nine or 10 titles that overlapped with the subsequent Oscar Documentary Short List. For the last five years, Doc NYC screened the documentary that went on to win the Oscar: “Amy” (2015), “Citizenfour” (2014), “20 Feet From Stardom” (2013), “Searching for Sugar Man” (2012), and “Undefeated” (2011).

With such a wide field of contenders, respected festivals wield even more than their usual influence in turning movies into must-sees. Oscar documentary branch voters have to see more than 130 movies released theatrically in 2016; inevitably, the movies nabbing the best reviews and most attention move to the top of the queue. »


- Anne Thompson

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Lupita Nyong’o Finds Her Strength in ‘Queen of Katwe’ (Video)

28 September 2016 8:00 AM, PDT

Kenyan native Lupita Nyong’o is known for not only winning the Oscar for Supporting Actress for playing slave Patsey in “12 Years a Slave,” but also for doing it it with astonishing style.

But since her 2014 win, she has done more modeling (Mui Mui, Lancome), social media, and theater (playing a 15-year-old Liberian rape victim on Broadway in “Eclipsed”) than high-profile film parts (“Non-Stop”). Turns as Maz Kanata in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and Raksha in “The Jungle Book” were voice roles.

So “Queen of Katwe” marks a welcome return to the big screen, working with her mentor Mira Nair, whose husband and Nyong’o’s father were friends at university. When Nyong’o voiced an interest in working in film, she was surprised to find out that her dad’s Uganda pal was married to Nair. “I interned for her at Mirabai films and worked at the lab, »


- Anne Thompson

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‘The Shallows’: 6 Steps to Deliver the Perfect Summer Sleeper

27 September 2016 8:00 AM, PDT

Fall is the season for Oscar movies; cheap summer thrillers are long forgotten. However, it’s a good time to honor the sleeper success that is “The Shallows.” Today is the film’s DVD release, the final platform for a little $17 million movie that stars Blake Lively, a shark, and a coral reef, and grossed $116 million worldwide.

There’s a sophisticated intelligence behind this movie, manipulating suspense with unexpected twists. This does not happen very often. So what did the producers and the studio do right?

1. Target women. 

In fall 2014, veteran production executive Lynn Harris (“Man of Steel,” “Gravity”) founded indie production company Weimaraner Republic Pictures with her fellow dog-loving husband, Matti Leshem. Their goal: produce high-concept movies on modest budgets, aimed at the under-served women’s audience. Leshem brought Anthony Jawinski’s script for “The Shallows” to Harris.

“It was a true thriller and had that surfing and escape thing, »


- Anne Thompson

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Mike Mills’ ’20th Century Women’ Gets a Christmas Day Release

26 September 2016 2:55 PM, PDT

Now that studios are finalizing their late-year bookings, we can see just how insane the Christmas release season will be.

Paramount slotted Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” on December 23—he was always expected to hand in the film, as he did with “Wolf of Wall Street,” just before year’s end—while A24 chose December 25 as a limited launch for Mike Mills’ “20th Century Women,” which will make its world premiere October 8 at the New York Film Festival. His last film, 2010’s “Beginners,” scored an Oscar win for Christopher Plummer.

Both movies will widen in the less-competitive January time frame, and are expected to compete for awards. “Silence” offers the second high-profile performance of the year from Andrew Garfield. (The other is Mel Gibson’s well-reviewed Venice title, World War II drama “Hacksaw Ridge.”) “20th Century Women” is a ’70s family dramedy starring Oscar perennial Annette Bening (who is overdue with »


- Anne Thompson

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R.I.P. #OscarsSoWhite: Why 2017 Will Be The Most Diverse Awards Season In Decades

26 September 2016 12:01 PM, PDT

Late September is usually far too early for definitive Academy Award predictions, but on this one I’m solid: This year’s film slate will inevitably yield an Oscars Less White.

Some small credit can go to the Academy, which pushed the diversity needle just a tad by adding twice as many new voters as last year (683, almost half of whom were women or people of color).

However, the most significant reason we’re unlikely to see a repeat of last year — when every single one of the 20 acting nominations went to white thespians — is the movies. Last year, films like “Beasts of No Nation,” “Straight Outta Compton,” “Concussion,” and “Creed” boasted diverse ensembles before and behind the screen, but they were less-than-Academy-friendly. In 2016, there are at least 8 films that present as strong awards candidates with diverse talent, and they are a far more formidable selection.

Read More: Oscars: Diversity »


- Anne Thompson

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France Picks Paul Verhoeven’s Sexy Thriller ‘Elle’ For 2017 Best Foreign Language Oscar Submission

26 September 2016 9:02 AM, PDT

Sony Pictures Classics, Isabelle Huppert and Paul Verhoeven are very happy.

Bravo to France for taking a risk by picking their official foreign language Oscar submission, “Elle,” over shortlist contenders “The Innocents” by Anne Fontaine, “Frantz” by François Ozon and “Cézanne and I” by Danièle Thompson. Spc took a chance that the Cannes competition entry would make the cut when they acquired “Elle” out of Cannes.

Why the risk? Well, it’s one thing for the movie to play well with sophisticated audiences and critics in Europe, and another in North America, where the psychosexual thriller may run into a different set of reactions, especially from politically correct sensibilities such as Women in Hollywood’s Melissa Silverstein. (Post Cannes and Toronto, “Elle” sits at a very high 87% on Metacritic.)

Read More: ‘Elle’ Exclusive Clip: Isabelle Huppert Takes Revenge On An Attacker In Paul Verhoeven’s Latest Thriller

Always enjoying stirring »


- Anne Thompson

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