Awards Tracker

All things Oscars, Emmys, Grammys and Tonys

Category: Film

International Documentary Assn. names ‘Waste Land’ best feature doc

Waste Land 

Lucy Walker’s “Waste Land,” the story of artist Vik Muniz’s transformative journey from his home in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world’s largest garbage dump there, was the big winner Friday at the International Documentary Assn.’s 2010 IDA Awards.

“Waste Land” won the feature documentary award as well as the IDA Pare Lorentz Award, which had been announced earlier in the week.

Kiran Deol’s “Woman Rebel,” the story of a female soldier in Nepal’s People’s Liberation Army who becomes an elected government official, won the Distinguished Short Film Award at the ceremony held at the Directors Guild of America and hosted by documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me”).

The ESPN series “30 for 30,” which told 30 stories from the network’s 30-year history, received the Continuing Series Award. Connie Field won the Limited Series Award for her seven-film project, “Have You Heard from Johannesburg,” a look at the history of the international attempt to end South African apartheid.

Oscar winner Barbara Kopple (“Harlan County U.S.A.,” “American Dream”) was this year’s recipient of the Career Achievement Award. Individual honors also went to Jeff Malmberg, who earned the Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Filmmaker Award; Oscar winner and USC film professor Mark Jonathan Harris, who received the IDA Preservation and Scholarship Award; and the veteran documentary team Alan Raymond and Susan Raymond, who were given the Pioneer Award.

Several special awards that were announced Monday were also handed out at the ceremony.

— Susan King

Photo: "Waste Land." Credit: Arthouse Film.

'Conviction' filmmakers struggled with tragic ending to their real-life story


It took nine years to get "Conviction" made and one question writer Pamela Gray and director Tony Goldwyn grappled with the entire time was how to deal with the tragic death of Kenny Waters.

For those of you who haven't seen "Conviction," which has grossed $6 million since it came out in October, the film is based on the real-life story of Betty Anne Waters, played by Hilary Swank, who spent nearly 20 years trying to win the release of her wrongly convicted brother, Kenny (played by Sam Rockwell), from prison. She put herself through college and law school, sacrificing her marriage and her role as primary caregiver to her two young sons in her exhaustive endeavor.

Just six months after she finally won Kenny's release and was reunited with him, he fell off a wall in a freak accident that left him in a coma; he died shortly thereafter.

There was never a question, says Gray, that she would include Kenny's death in the film. "It ultimately wasn't what the story was about and, structurally, it would be starting the movie over," says Gray. "The big dilemma through all the years, up until Fox Searchlight became the distributor, was what to say in the crawl" — the text after film.

Prior to Searchlight coming onboard, Gray says they tested the film with a focus group, with the crawl reading, "Tragically, Kenny Waters died six months after release from prison." Says Gray, "You could hear the moans from the focus group, and afterwards that was all they wanted to talk about. It was as if the last two hours meant nothing."

Over the years, the team debated. At the last screening Gray attended, the crawl read "In Memory of Kenny Waters," but even that mention was changed prior to the film's release. "I guess between the studio and the financier and the producers there was a decision made to not even raise the question," she says. "I wanted it to say 'For Kenny' at the end. It's 10 years later, so a lot of things could have happened."

— Nicole Sperling

Photo: Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell in "Conviction." Credit: Fox Searchlight


National Board of Review rewards a slew of Oscar dark horses


The National Board of Review has never been the best predictor of what academy voters choose. Though the two did line up in 2008 and 2007, when the NBR chose "Slumdog Millionaire" and "No Country for Old Men," respectively, as its big winners. Last year, it picked "Up in the Air" as the best film of 2009, a film the academy all but snubbed at show time after giving it six key nominations. Before "No Country," you have to go back to 1999, when the group chose "American Beauty" as its top film, to find a correlation between the two award shows.

It is interesting though, that this group of 110 academics, film professionals and students who make up the voters picked some real underdogs in this year's race -- with one key exception. They chose "The Social Network" as best picture of the year, a move that could very well help the organization become a better predictor of the Oscar race.

What is a more far-fetched idea is the choosing of Lesley Manville as best actress of the year. She gave a very honest portrayal of a lonely single woman in Mike Leigh's "Another Year," but is up against some incredibly stiff competition from the likes of Annette Bening, Natalie Portman, Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Lawrence, who also received a nod from the NBR, for breakthrough performance.

Jacki Weaver, and her role in the Australian flick "Animal Kingdom," was also recognized, a surprise for the little-seen Sundance fave that's grossed only $1 million domestically for Sony Pictures Classics. Weaver, a veteran Australian actor, will be up against many more high-profile contenders for the Oscar, including Melissa Leo, Helena Bonham Carter and perhaps Mila Kunis from "Black Swan."

The other stand-out surprise from the NBR is its ensemble recognition for Ben Affleck's "The Town." The R-rated Boston-based heist film was a box-office success, grossing more than $90 million at the domestic box office, and it received accolades for all its performances, particularly Jeremy Renner in his role as the Affleck character's unstable right-hand man. The film has been left off a lot of best-of lists from the prognosticators thus far, but the nod from the NBR could be a solid boost for the well-playing Warner Bros. film.

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Ben Affleck and Jeremy Renner in "The Town." Credit: Warner Bros.


Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis talk about awards

Nat1 It seems Natalie Portman has been everywhere lately: Just in the last few days, she's earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination, posed on the red carpet at the Gotham Film Awards and even graced the cover of our Sunday Calendar section.

Each new appearance provides a reminder that this year's award circuit is already well underway — and that the star of "Black Swan" is in the thick of it.

"It's really wild, the whole sort of world of it," the 29-year-old actress said of award campaigning. Her biggest fear while doing the talk show rounds? That she might end up accidentally repeating the same quirky-but-tired anecdote.

"I think I've seen too many of those compilations that they do on 'SNL' news where people go on different talk shows and say the same anecdote over and over," she said. "I feel like I'm that person. But it's hard to help being that person unless you're changing your story — which would be lying. It'd be like self-plagiarism." 

While she earned a supporting actress Oscar nod for her role as a stripper in 2004's "Closer," Portman said she missed out on much of the award fanfare at the time because she was studying abroad at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

"I'm really proud of ['Black Swan'], and of course it's a wonderful honor if people acknowledge your work, but it's not the center of it," she said, sounding like the scores of other seemingly modest Oscar hopefuls from years past. "I don't think any good work could come from that, either — from wanting a pat on the back. I just want to have a meaningful experience. That way, it’s like you never go home disappointed."

Mila Meanwhile, Portman's costar in the ballet thriller, Mila Kunis, has a somewhat different attitude toward the award hoopla. The 27-year-old, whose recent film credits include the more commercial "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Book of Eli," said she was still adapting to being part of a so-called award movie.

"It's different," she said. "I'm trying to, like, absorb it, and I'm not used to it at all. It's very new to me. It's great when people appreciate a movie you've worked hard for. But I try to tune out people talking — I like to live in a bubble. A safe, comfortable bubble. No one talks in my bubble."

— Amy Kaufman

Photos: (From top) Natalie Portman; Mila Kunis. Credits: Jay L. Clendenin; Liz O. Baylen/Los Angeles Times.


'Black Swan' director ruffles actresses' feathers

Personal Playlist: Natalie Portman is 'all over the place'

The balletic side of 'Black Swan' [video]

'Winter's Bone' and 'The Kids Are All Right' top the Spirit Award nominations

Winters bone 

Oscar favorites "127 Hours," "Black Swan," "The Kids Are All Right" and "Winter's Bone" all received multiple nods Tuesday morning at the nominations for Film Independent's 2011 Spirit Awards, which will take place on Feb. 26. One suprise of the day was Noah Baumbach's "Greenberg," which received a best picture nomination, a best actor nod for star Ben Stiller and best actress recognition for Greta Gerwig.

The Spirit Awards in its 26th year recognized what a crowded field it is for actresses this year, nominating a record six women in the category. In addition to Gerwig, Annette Bening for "The Kids Are All Right" received a nomination as did Nicole Kidman for "Rabbit Hole," Jennifer Lawrence for "Winter's Bone," Natalie Portman for "Black Swan" and Michelle Williams for "Blue Valentine."

In a suprising move, Williams' "Blue Valentine" co-star Ryan Gosling was not recognized for his performance in the marriage drama from director Derek Cianfrance. Rather, the best actor nominations went to Ronald Bronstein from the teeny indie "Daddy Longlegs," Aaron Eckhart from "Rabbit Hole," James Franco from "127 Hours," John C. Reilly from "Cyrus" and Stiller.

In the directing category, Film Independent recognized two female directors among the five nominees including Lisa Cholodenko for "The Kids Are All Right" and Debra Granik for "Winter's Bone." The other three slots included Darren Aronofsky for "Black Swan," Danny Boyle for "127 Hours" and John Cameron Mitchell for "Rabbit Hole." Although Eckhart, Kidman and Mitchell were all nominated, "Rabbit Hole" itself was left off the indie awards' best picture list.

But the Spirit nods are good news for both "Kids" and "Black Swan," which were shut out of Monday night's Gotham Awards. The Film Independent committee evaluated 220 movies, all of which had a budget under $20 million.

In the supporting actor category, Bill Murray was recognized for his role in "Get Low" from director Aaron Schneider, who picked up a first feature nomination. Samuel Jackson was nominated for "Mother and Child" as was John Ortiz for "Jack Goes Boating," Mark Ruffalo for "The Kids Are All Right" and John Hawkes for "Winter's Bone."

For supporting actress, Ashley Bell picked up a surprise nomination for "The Last Exorcism," Dale Dickey was nominated for "Winter's Bone," Allison Janney picked up a nod for her role in Todd Solondz' "Life During Wartime," Naomi Watts for "Mother and Child"  and Daphne Rubin-Vega for "Jack Goes Boating."

Continue reading »

Envelope Screening Series: 'The Kids Are All Right'

Ever since it first premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, “The Kids Are All Right” has been nothing so much as one of the year’s real conversation starters.  At once a fun, kicky film that plays like a contemporary comedy of manners, “Kids” is also a more serious look at what constitutes the modern family, the connections that bind people together regardless of the configuration. The film tells the story of Nic and Jules (Annette Bening, Julianne Moore), a longtime couple in Los Angeles whose lives of quietly strained domesticity are thrown into total upheaval when their two teenage children secretly meet their sperm donor father (Mark Ruffalo). Complications of home and heart ensue.


Having gone on to be one of the unqualified indie hits of the summer, “The Kids Are All Right” is making a run at awards season. After a recent screening for The Envelope, director and co-writer Lisa Cholodenko, co-writer Stuart Blumberg and stars Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo sat down to talk about the film.


Envelope Screening Series: 'Black Swan'

Envelope Screening Series: Bringing 'Another Year' to the screen

'Tangled': Mandy Moore, Alan Menken unravel some of the back story

James Franco and Simon Beaufoy on making '127 Hours'

Behind the scenes with the 'Toy Story 3' filmmakers

Envelope Screening Series: Bringing 'Another Year' to the screen

British filmmaker Mike Leigh has a rather startling track record with the Academy Awards, with his films having racked up numerous nominations over the years for screenplay, director and best picture, as well as for his performers. In his latest film, "Another Year," which Leigh has described as his most personal, a couple (played by Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen) form the center of a social circle, with friends and family cycling through their house carrying with them all manner of problems. In some ways it's an answer film to his youthful “Happy-Go-Lucky,” with “Another Year” confronting the transitions of age head-on.

Actress Lesley Manville (who has worked with Leigh more than any other performer) and the Oscar-winning Broadbent sat down after an Envelope screening of the film to provide their firsthand insights into Leigh’s extraordinary and unusual filmmaking process. Instead of being based on a conventional script, the characters and story are built up over a long period of conversation and rehearsal involving the director and his actors.

The results, as marvelously on display in “Another Year,” create moments of insight into human behavior that often seem beyond the grasp of more conventional filmmaking. Manville in particular, as Mary, a friend of the couple coming to terms with her own loneliness and disappointment, gives a performance of rare subtlety, at once heartbreaking, relatable, slightly tragic and lightly comic. 

 -- Mark Olsen



'Tangled': Mandy Moore, Alan Menken unravel some of the back story

James Franco and Simon Beaufoy on making '127 Hours'

Behind the scenes with the 'Toy Story 3' filmmakers



Summit Entertainment goes the important-movie route for 'Fair Game' awards campaign


Doug Liman's "Fair Game," which tracks the intriguing story of Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson and their professional persecution surrounding the controversial decision to invade Iraq, hasn't made many lists in early awards betting. This is despite the fact that the PG-13-rated film bowed to a strong per-screen average and has earned close to $2 million in its two-week run. Critics have been kind to the drama, especially complimentary of  Naomi Watts' and Sean Penn's performances. Still, they have been oft-ignored by the Oscar prognosticators.

Summit Entertainment is trying to change all that. Aside from the usual industry screenings, the studio also has sent out both Plame's and Wilson's books, and most recently, the studio distributed Wilson's New York Times editorial about what he didn't find in Niger, along with Robert Novak's story, a week later, that outed Plame as a CIA operative. Perhaps Summit is hoping to capture the attention of voters by emphasizing the movie's real-world roots in recent American history over its entertainment value.

Will it work? We will know soon enough. But you can't fault the studio for trying, in what is proving to be a very competitive year for awards movies.

--Nicole Sperling

Photo: Naomi Watts in "Fair Game." Credit: Summit Entertainment


Movie review: 'Fair Game'

'Fair Game' star Naomi Watts really knows her character, Valerie Plame

'Fair Game' brings us back to the Bush years

'Fair Game' premiere: Spying on Naomi Watts and Valerie Plame in New York

Cannes Critical Consensus: 'Fair Game'

Robert Duvall charms audience of struggling actors after screening of 'Get Low'


If the struggling actor contingency had a vote in this year's Oscar race, Robert Duvall would be a shoo-in. The 79-year-old actor charmed the pants off the crowd at Back Stage West's screening Thursday night of "Get Low."  The $7-million movie from first-time feature director Aaron Schneider is looking for some awards love this year and its best chance lies in Duvall and his depiction of Felix Bush, the small-town hermit who throws his own funeral party as a cathartic act for his previous sins.

Duvall was joined at the screening by his costar Sissy Spacek, both of whom live their own rather hermitic life away from Hollywood in Virginia. (They live 80 miles away from each other and had to make a movie together in order to see each other.) The period piece, which has generated overwhelmingly positive reviews, was shot in a lightning-fast 24 days. And Duvall, who loves to improvise, says he stayed true to the script from Chris Provenzano and Charlie Mitchell because it was "such great writing." The script had been in development for six years before Schneider was able to secure the financing to make the film.

Continue reading »

Hail Britannia and its L.A. awards


Though the BAFTA film awards won't be handed out in London until February, the Los Angeles branch of BAFTA  is presenting its 19th annual Britannia  Awards Thursday evening at the Hyatt Regency Century Place.

Stephen Fry will host the event which will honor Betty White with the Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy; Christopher Nolan with the John Schlesinger Britannia Award for Artistic Excellence in Directing; Michael Sheen with the British Artist of the Year; Jeff Bridges with the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film; and Scott Free Productions (Tony and Ridley Scott) with the Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Filmed Entertainment.

Presenters include Valerie Bertinelli, Jerry Bruckheimer, Marion Cotillard, Dakota Fanning, Jane Lynch, Carey Mulligan and Kevin Spacey.

--Susan King

Photo: Betty White; Credit:  Matt Sayles / Associated Press


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