Monday mega-roundup: Jeff Bridges honored at Palm Springs Film Fest; 'Moon' wins big at BIFAs; changes afoot for Critics Choice Awards; 'Up in the Air' tops D.C. Critics Awards
You can add Jeff Bridges to the growing list of prestigious names -- and possible Oscar contenders -- who are receiving an honor at this year's Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF). The actor -- who received four prior Oscar nominations for "The Last Picture Show," "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot," "Starman" and "The Contender" -- will receive the festival's Desert Palm Achievement Award for his turn as a down-on-his-luck country singer in "Crazy Heart" at its awards gala on Jan. 5. Joining Bridges at the event are such fellow buzzworthy talents as Morgan Freeman,Helen Mirren, Anna Kendrick and Mariah Carey, who will each receive awards.
The PSIFF award is the second major acclaim for Bridges' performance in recent weeks, following his Independent Spirit nomination on Dec. 1. But does it improve his chances at academy gold? One may look at last year's Desert Palm Achievement winner, Sean Penn, who subsequently won the Oscar for "Milk," as a positive indicator, but, as is always the case, all bets are off until Feb. 2, when the academy announces its noms.
Duncan Jones' meta-sci-fi feature, "Moon," took top honors at the British Independent Film Awards (BIFA) on Dec. 6. The drama, which stars Sam Rockwell (who was nominated for best performance by an actor but lost to Tom Hardy in "Bronson"), also earned Jones the Douglas Hickox Award for best debut director. Andrea Arnold's "Fish Tank" continued its winning streak by claiming best director for Andrea Arnold and most promising newcomer for star Katie Jarvis; previous awards include the Jury Prize from the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and honors from the Chicago and Edinburgh fests. "Let the Right One In" took best foreign film, while Daniel Day-Lewis and Michael Caine received the Richard Harris Award (for outstanding contribution to British film) and the Variety Award, respectively.
In an attempt to boost their profile during award season, the Broadcast Film Critics Association is making changes to its Critics Choice Movie Awards show. The title change is the most immediate -- in previous years, the show was known as the Critics Choice Awards, which organizers believe may have not indicated to audiences that it was an Oscar-style event -- as is the addition of eight categories for technical achievements, such as cinematography and art direction. The show has also moved from the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium to the hipper Hollywood Palladium. The hope is that the new direction, combined with the wealth of talent the show attracts (note the glossy gallery of celebs on its home page) will give ratings a jolt with broadcaster VH1, which has aired the show for the last three years. The Critics' Choice Movie Awards will air on Jan. 15.
"Up in the Air" led the Washington Area Film Critics Assn. Awards (WAFCA) today; the pic landed three of the top awards, including best film, best actor for George Clooney and best screenplay (adapted) for director Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner.
"Precious" earned wins for Mo'Nique and Gabourey Sidibe as best supporting actress and best breakthrough performance, respectively, while "The Hurt Locker" claimed best director (Kathryn Bigelow) and best ensemble. Christoph Waltz continued his winning streak with the supporting actor nod for "Inglourious Basterds," while his director, Quentin Tarantino, was awarded best original screenplay. It was also a big weekend for Carey Mulligan, who doubled her awards for the weekend with a lead actress win on the heels of her BIFA honor on Sunday. Walt Disney/Pixar's "Up" and "Food, Inc." were the day's other winners for best animated film and best documentary.
So how will this affect the honorees' chances this award season? Glad you asked: the 2008 WAFCAs accurately predicated last year's Oscar wins for best picture ("Slumdog Millionaire"), director (Danny Boyle), supporting actor (Heath Ledger), adapted screenplay (Simon Beaufoy), animated feature ("Wall-E"), art direction ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button") and documentary feature ("Man on Wire"). So place your bets accordingly.
And lastly, here's an interesting list of the 100 best films "beyond the canon" -- that is to say, beyond the popularly accepted roster of best films ever made -- from Iain Stott of The One-Line Review. Stott rounded up a solid list of participants to aid him in building his list, including Sean Axmaker, "People vs. Larry Flynt" co-author Larry Karaszewski and Mike White of Cashiers du Cinemart; the result is an ambitious and unquestionably polarizing lineup, as evidenced by its top choice -- Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut." The remainder is a tantalizing list of cult favorites, oddities, personal obsessions and quite a few great films -- I'm personally pleased to see "Suspiria," "Eyes Without a Face," "Seconds," "Dead Ringers" and "Point Blank" represented here -- which should incite passionate pro and con debate for nearly every single title. Which is, of course, part of the reason we love the movies, isn't it?
-- Paul Gaita
Photo: Jeff Bridges in "Crazy Heart." Credit: Lorey Sebastian.
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