There are two things that Oscar voters adore: 1) overdue, cool directors with edgy new films and 2) movies based upon books that have a fanatical following.
That combo bodes well for David Fincher's new release this Oscar season: "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." The helmer is considered to be so hip with academy voters that his last two flicks earned nominations for best picture and director: ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Social Network"). Both were also based upon notable published material: a classic short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald ("Button") and a bestseller about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg ("Social Network").
"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" is a crime thriller based upon the hit "Millennium series" of books by Swedish author Stieg Larsson. A Scandinavian film version was directed in 2009 by Danish director Niels Arden Oplev. The new English-language screen version was penned by Steven Zaillian, who won an Oscar for "Schindler's List" and was nominated for "Awakenings" and "Gangs of New York." It stars Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer and Rooney Mara, who is considered to be a strong Oscar contender for lead actress.
Thank goodness there's a detective on the Oscar case — and the granddaddy of them all, no less: J. Edgar Hoover.
A senior sleuth is needed. As Warner Bros. releases the trailer to "J. Edgar," Clint Eastwood's latest flick starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the patriarch of the FBI, we're reminded of the lousy luck both have had at the Academy Awards of late. The mystery is why. Their work and reputations are impeccable. One of them did spectacularly well at Oscars past. Can they rally now with this impressive collaboration delving into the complex drama of one of America's most beguiling leaders?
DiCaprio has been nominated three times by Oscar voters: twice in lead ("Blood Diamond" in 2007 and "The Aviator" in 2005) and once in supporting ("What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" in 1994). He probably could've ridden "The Departed's" best picture wave to win for lead actor in 2006, but he campaigned in supporting, not wanting to compete against his rival turn in "Blood Diamond" (in which, granted, he had more screen time) — and that bid fell between the Oscar cracks. He deserved nominations for "Catch Me If You Can" (2002) and "Gangs of New York," but got skunked.
Clint Eastwood has won four Oscars, for both producing and directing best pictures "Million Dollar Baby" (2004) and "Unforgiven" (1992). He was last nominated for directing and producing best picture contender "Letters From Iwo Jima," which lost to "The Departed." Despite high expectations, Eastwood's other recent flicks failed to generate much Oscar heat: "Hereafter" (2010), "Invictus" (2009), "Gran Torino" (2008), "Changeling" (2008) and "Flags of Our Fathers" (2006).
When the Producers Guild of America doles out its laurels at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Jan. 21, a special honor will be bestowed to Steven Spielberg: the David O. Selznick Award.
The prize recognizes "a producer's outstanding body of work in motion pictures," notes the press release. "The honor has a rich and distinguished history with past recipients including such legendary producers as Stanley Kramer, Saul Zaentz, Clint Eastwood, Billy Wilder, Brian Grazer, Jerry Bruckheimer, Roger Corman, Laura Ziskin, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, John Lasseter and last year's 2011 recipient Scott Rudin."
Before his death in 1965, Selznick reigned as one of Hollywood's greatest producers, working at MGM, RKO and independently. He produced two Oscar best picture champs: "Gone with the Wind" (1939) and "Rebecca" (1940). Spielberg's long list of producing credits includes "E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial" (1982), best picture winner "Schindler's List" (1993), "Saving Private Ryan" (1998) and "Memoirs of a Geisha" (2005).
Producers Guild Awards co-chairs Paula Wagner and Michael Manheim issued this comment: "As one of the most prolific filmmakers of all time, Steven's continued genius, imagination and fearlessness in the world of feature film entertainment is unmatched in this industry. Steven has produced some of the most iconic films in the history of cinema and we have no doubt he will continue to bring thrilling adventures, emotionally moving story lines, thought-provoking characters and cult classics to audiences across the globe. We're extremely proud to recognize Steven's contributions to the producing craft as well as the entire film industry with the David O. Selznick honor."
Melissa McCarthy's amazing upset in the Emmy race for lead comedy actress proves that she has strong support across Hollywood, support that many observers have probably underestimated. Most "experts" had bet on Laura Linney ("The Big C") or Amy Poehler ("Parks and Recreation") to take the prize, and they pooh-poohed McCarthy's hopes.
In large part, McCarthy's Emmy victory was probably helped by her recent starring role in the comedy blockbuster "Bridesmaids." Hey, if she's got that much Hollywood award support for "Bridesmaids," it may mean she might be a stealth Oscar contender next. Possible? Don't scoff at the idea that she can make the cut for a comedic role. Look at how many stars have won best supporting actress for comedic turns: Penelope Cruz ("Vicky Cristina Barcelona"), Mira Sorvino ("Mighty Aphrodite"), Dianne Wiest ("Bullets Over Broadway"), Marisa Tomei ("My Cousin Vinny") and others.
The choice of Eddie Murphy as Oscar host gets strong approval in the Awards Tracker poll that went up earlier today. About 64% of respondents said they believe he is a great selection, or at least a satisfactory one, while only 17% (551 votes out of 3,055) replied "Noooooo way."
Nearly half of respondents -- 48% (1,492 votes) –- say Murphy is a "fantastic" choice. Slightly more than 15% (478 votes) say he's an "OK" selection. Other poll options: "Maybe. Let's see if someone comes up with a better idea" (13%) and "I don't feel strongly about Murphy one way or the other" (5%).
Sample reader comments in reply to the poll:
Cari Kotcher: "Yes! No brainer!"
Cliffor Correll: "If Eddie Murphy or Billy Crystal host it's sure to be funny!"
Craig Ballard: "Too bad he wasn't cast to host it during the apex of his career. Regardless, he couldn't be worse than any of his predecessors."
Ray Zirkle: "Eddie Murphy stopped being funny in a 'live' situation 20 years ago. If it was the Eddie from 'SNL' or 'Beverly Hills Cop' then."
Now that many Oscar-contending films have been seen at the Venice and Telluride film festivals, here's how the race for best picture is shaping up, including some still unseen but highly anticipated contenders. Coming soon: Reactions from the Toronto Film Festival, which starts Thursday.
FRONT-RUNNERS "The Artist" "The Descendants" "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" "The Help" "J. Edgar" "The Ides of March" "The Iron Lady" "Midnight in Paris" "War Horse"
POSSIBLE "Albert Nobbs" "Carnage" "Coriolanus" "A Dangerous Method" "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2" "Hugo" "Martha Marcy May Marlene" "Moneyball" "My Week with Marilyn" "Like Crazy "The Rum Diary" "The Skin I Live In" "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" "The Tree of Life" "We Bought a Zoo" "We Need to Talk About Kevin" "Young Adult"
It's obvious why Oscarcast producer Brett Ratner would want Eddie Murphy to host the next Academy Awards ceremony: to hype their upcoming flick "Tower Heist," which doesn't exactly look like a major kudos contender. And it's clear why Murphy may want to take the gig, even in the aftermath of last year's wipeout by James Franco and Anne Hathaway: His career badly needs a kick-start. But is Murphy right for the job?
He has two strong pluses. A good Oscar host should be 1) a notable Hollywood veteran (like Bob Hope, Steve Martin) with 2) expert comedy chops. Also, let's be honest: It'd be great to see the Oscars put a minority in the spotlight again.
But Murphy can be smug (he reportedly stormed out of the Kodak Theatre when he didn't win the Oscar for "Dreamgirls") and not exactly a team player. Let's not forget how he interrupted the presentation of the best picture Oscar in 1988 to fume at Hollywood over its lack of recognition for black films.
And as the Oscarcast's Nielsen TV ratings continue to slip year to year, is it realistic to believe that an over-the-hill star such as Murphy can turn it around? Should someone more hip and relevant be cast?
Oscar voters' love of art-house flicks will get the ultimate test with "The Artist," a black-and-white silent film. We know that it'll be a serious rival in the next derby because (1) it's being ballyhooed by the Weinstein Co., (2) it reaped huzzahs at Cannes, including best actor laurels for Jean Dujardin, and (3) it's a heart-tugging riff on "A Star Is Born." Two past "Star Is Born" versions reaped top nominations. William Wellman's 1937 rendition starring Fredric March and Janet Gaynor scored seven bids, including best picture, director, actor and actress. George Cukor's 1954 classic earned six bids, including nominations for James Mason and Judy Garland, but it came up with scratch.
"The Artist" is set in 1920s Hollywood as a swashbuckling fading star (Dujardin) resists the advance of talkies while flirting with a pretty girl (Berenice Bejo) who becomes a superstar of the new medium. It's directed by celebrated French helmer Michel Hazanavicius, whose "OSS" spy movie parodies featured Dujardin.
The committee will review all entries carefully and then vote in December to make recommendations to the academy's board of governors, which will make the final award decisions. The scientific and technical prizes will be presented at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills on Saturday, Feb. 11. For further info, contact Awards Administration Director Rich Miller's office at (310) 247-3000, ext. 1131, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As regards flirtatious relationships, Marie Claire has a warning for us all, and one of particular significance to Billy Crystal: "Playing hard to get is bad news, period — both in the short run and in the long run."
Crystal has held the Oscars at arm's length for years. After hosting eight times between 1990 and 2004, he pooh-poohed invitations to return, but with a wink. Maybe someday, he'd say, but not now. Then at this year's ceremony in February, he received a standing ovation when he appeared on stage to deliver a brief salute to Bob Hope, the ultimate Oscar host. The warm reception made him "itchy" to come back in the lead role, but is it too late?
Last year Oscar chiefs made it clear that they want young and sexy film stars to hold forth. Alas, Anne Hathaway and James Franco bombed. Have the chiefs changed their minds? Maybe the disaster was Hathaway's and Franco's fault and the idea of sticking with hot trendoids is still valid? If so, the 63-year-old Crystal, whose movie heyday seems long past, won't be wooed for a comeback. TV ratings of the Oscarcast have tumbled in recent years and it doesn't seem logical to believe that he can turn that around. Maybe, if he'd continued to host now and then since 2004, he could've proved his drawing power, but he chose to push Oscar away every time he was wooed.
Before Crystal mentioned that he might agree to return, we ran a poll that included him among more than a dozen host possibilities. He came in second place (21%) behind Neil Patrick Harris (23%). After the news broke that Crystal might be willing to sign up again, we asked readers merely whether or not he should do the job. Response: yes (78%), no (22%).
But Sasha Stone offers what might be a reality check at AwardsDaily: "Somehow I doubt if they’re going to all the trouble to hire the presumed “young and hip” Brett Ratner to produce, it seems unlikely they will veer off that path and head into more traditional waters with Crystal. More likely, Ben Stiller might be the best choice. Stiller is starring in Ratner’s upcoming 'Tower Heist.' I have my money on Stiller hosting." She posts this reminder of Crystal's stellar talents in 2004 when he emceed the last time.