Grammy time is nigh. The ballots for the 2011 awards are due Wednesday, and while Awards Tracker isn't a voting member of the Record Academy, we rub shoulders with those who are, and the ballots have made their way to our desks.
Our sister blog Pop & Hiss has already begun putting them to use, posting some early Grammy procrastinating. Album of the year is the category currently under examination at Pop & Hiss, and in the first part of a two-part blog series, Pop & Hiss details five potential album of the year nominees.
Eminem's "Recovery" is considered a favorite, as it is seen as a more serious turn than his 2009 album "Relapse," and Arcade Fire had a hot-selling release in "The Suburbs." But could the 2011 awards, set for Valentine's Day Eve on Feb. 13, net Jay-Z his first-ever album of the year nod? And could this be a breakout awards for rising country star Miranda Lambert?
Well, how's this for a morbid item: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released an item Thursday stating that "all three living performers" (italics mine) who won Oscars last year will present at the 82nd annual Academy Awards. That's a somewhat carnival-esque way of saying that Sean Penn (best actor for "Milk"), Kate Winslet (actress, "The Reader") and Penelope Cruz (supporting actress, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona") will attend the March 7 ceremony; the supporting actor winner, Heath Ledger ("The Dark Knight"), sadly passed away Jan. 22, 2008, and therefore could not be included in this wince-worthy come-on. But, hey, Oscars!
Meanwhile, the London Times Online has an interview with playwright and screenwriter Ronald Harwood, who has added his voice to the growing support for director Roman Polanski. In the feature, Harwood, who won the Oscar in 2003 for his script for Polanski's "The Pianist," discusses the challenge in defending the filmmaker in the face of his 1977 criminal charge for sex with an underage girl but ultimately concludes, "He changed my life, and I support him." Harwood, who also penned 2005's "Oliver Twist" for Polanski in addition to his Oscar-nominated screenplays for "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (2007) and "The Dresser" (1983), also has choice comments on Clint Eastwood's "Invictus" (Harwood wrote 1987's "Mandela" for American television) and 2008's "Australia," which he also wrote.
Lee Daniels is also full of praise Thursday evening for a fellow filmmaker; the Oscar-nominated director of "Precious" was cited in a CBC News article as describing Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award winner and recent Directors Guild of America lifetime achievement winner Norman Jewison as a major influence on his work. In the piece, Daniels singled out Jewison's Oscar-winning "In the Heat of the Night" (1967) and "A Soldier's Story" (1984), which received three Oscar nominations, as films that changed his life and inspired him to follow in Jewison's footsteps. Both men also discuss the challenges they faced in bringing controversial images and ideas to the screen -- the sight of Sidney Poitier striking a white murder suspect in "Night" and the tragic backstory of "Precious," which involves incest and abuse.
A report from AFP notes that Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor were effusive in their praise for Roman Polanski, who directed them in the upcoming thriller "The Ghost Writer." The pair, who spoke to the media at a news conference in Paris, were quoted in report as describing the controversial filmmaker as having "a command over the whole set I've never seen before. He's like a maestro," said McGregor. Brosnan added that the 76-year-old Polanski's "energy is ferocious... he keeps everyone on their toes." Neither actor commented on Polanski's current legal woes, which find him under house arrest in Switzerland and awaiting extradition to the United States for his 1977 charge of sex with a minor. "The Ghost Writer" will have its world premiere at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival on Feb. 12; Polanski will not attend the screening.
Sublime/Ridiculous Dept.: What exactly brought together celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck and Oscar-winning rap duo Three Six Mafia for this photo -- taken during Puck's cover shoot for the new issue of The Food Magazine -- is not clear, but it does shed light on the latest doings of the men who brought us "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp." A link to a report on AllHipHop.com reports that Juicy J and DJ Paul are shopping a cooking show to various networks, which will feature the pair hosting a weekly dinner party for friends and celebrity guests. The title? Why, "Cookin' Ain't Easy," of course. Be sure to check out the video of Three Six Mafia's visit to Spago on the Food Magazine's site for some of the finest in awkward banter from Chef Puck and his staff.
Reason No. 1,858 to love the Internet: The fine folks at Cinematical unearthed this lost 1988 music video directed by James Cameron for the song "Reach" by the band Martini Ranch, which was fronted by his longtime rep player Bill Paxton ("Big Love"). "Aliens" fans will note the presence of several of that film's cast in the video, including Paul Reiser, the great Lance Henriksen (with a monkey), Jenette Goldstein (and Paxton himself, of course), and yes, that is Judge Reinhold in a split-second cameo. But what really ushers "Reach" into the pop culture curio department is the presence of Cameron's then-spouse and fellow best director nominee, Kathryn Bigelow, as the leader of a band of female gunslingers who, at one point, hog-tie and burn Paxton's grinning galoot on the keister with a martini-shaped brand. Devotees of Bigelow's early and under-appreciated vampire chiller "Near Dark" will spy that the film's leading man, future "Heroes" star Adrian Pasdar, in the video; Paxton, Henriksen and Goldstein were also featured in the film. One also gets the impression that Cameron would make a pretty fun spaghetti Western, if he wasn't so busy altering the boundaries of cinema.
The 21st Annual GLAAD Media Awards announced its nominees in a wide variety of categories today. The event, presented by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), honors outstanding entertainment programming and news about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues; among the year's 116 nominees in 24 English-language categories and 36 Spanish-language nominees in eight categories are the series "Mad Men," "Modern Family," "Glee" and "Grey's Anatomy"; the feature films "A Single Man," "Precious" and "Everybody's Fine"; recording artists Lady Gaga, Adam Lambert and Brandi Carlile; and publications Entertainment Weekly, The Advocate and the Los Angeles Times.
"Sex and the City" star Cynthia Nixon will also be feted with the Vito Russo Award, which pays tribute to an openly LGBT individual who has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights in that community. The Broadway cast of "Hair" will also receive special recognition for bringing attention to the issue of marriage equality.
The GLAAD Media Awards will take place in three cities from March through June. Nixon will be feted at the New York event, which will be hosted by Tony Award-winning actor Alan Cumming on March 13. The Los Angeles event takes place April 17 and the San Francisco ceremony June 5, with Emmy-winning writer and actor Bruce Vilanch serving as emcee for the San Francisco event. More special honorees will be named for these events in the near future.
A complete list of nominees follows after the break.
Kevin Bacon will receive the Joel Siegel Award at the 15th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards. The Siegel Award, named for the late "Good Morning America" film critic, is given to performers who use their celeb status for socially redeeming works; Bacon's Sixdegrees.org is a social networking site that allows members to support various charities. Richard Gere and Don Cheadle were the award's previous recipients; Bacon will receive his honor from Meryl Streep at this year's ceremony, which takes place on Jan. 15. This is not the first time the Broadcast Film Critics Assn., which organizes the Critics Choice Awards, has paid tribute to Bacon; he received the Best Actor trophy for "Murder in the First" at their first event in 1995.
Meanwhile, Sandra Bullock -- who's currently enjoying her new-found status as the star of the first female-led film ("The Blind Side") to break the $200-million mark at the box office -- will present her "Proposal" co-star Betty White with the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award at the 16th annual event on Jan. 23. Bullock will pull double duty that night -- she's also up for a SAG trophy for Best Actress for "The Blind Side."
Meanwhile, over at Variety, there's a fascinating collection of comments by award-winning stage directors on many of the leading contenders for best director awards this season. Here's Tony (and Oscar and Grammy and Emmy) winner Mike Nichols on "Messenger" director Oren Moverman; elsewhere, the legendary Hal Prince ("Evita," "The Phantom of the Opera") waxes on Kathryn Bigelow and "The Hurt Locker," while Bill T. Jones ("Fela!") discusses the personal impact of Lee Daniels' "Precious." Wes Anderson, Nancy Meyers and Pete Docter are also feted; the quotes are insightful from both the technical standpoint of fellow directors who also happen to be unabashed fans of these filmmakers' work.
Not Very Cool Department: Some of the most critically lauded film scores from 2009 are not eligible for the Oscar because of the academy's rules regarding multiple composers and preexisting works. The Wrap reports that among the disqualified are "Where the Wild Things Are" by Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O and Carter Burwell; "The Lovely Bones" by Brian Eno; "Crazy Heart" by T Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton (which was honored by the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.); and Jason Schwartzman and Michael Andrews' music for "Funny People." In the case of Eno and "Lovely Bones," the reasons were two-fold: the score used preexisting work, which is strictly verboten by the academy in regard to Best Original Score, and the iconic performer-producer failed to submit the paperwork for consideration. All others were declined due to the ruling that scores "assembled from the music of more than one composer shall not be eligible." Karen O, however, can take some consolation that her song "All Is Love" from "Wild Things" is still under consideration for Best Original Song.
And speaking of academy rules, are you a new academy voter puzzled by the ins and outs of the voting process in your particular category? Fear not -- BAFTA nominee and new-minted member John August ("Big Fish," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory") feels your pain. So he's provided a handy guide to casting your ballot (in his case, for original screenplay, adapted screenplay and best picture) on his website, which illustrates the changes in this year's vote (you're not picking one film, but placing all 10 nominees in a preferential order) and underscores the complexity of the rules. August's explanation is written in plain and simple terms, and he gives considerable thought to the value of the new changes and their impact on the final decision; one wishes he might extend his insight to equally challenging paperwork like, say, taxes.
Finally, Entertainment Weekly casts some light on comedian and writer Louis C.K.'s upcoming concert film "Hilarious," which debuts at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. The article rightly notes that in previous years, Sundance has not been a regular source of stand-up projects; "Hilarious," which was also directed by C.K., is in fact, its first. C.K. plans to use the fest's maiden voyage into stand-up films a jaw-dropping experience: "The goal with this one was to just knock the hell out of the audience," he told EW. More concert films are certainly not a bad thing, especially when they feature work as unbridled as Louis'; here's hoping he starts a trend at other fests. The Sundance Film Festival runs from Jan. 21-31.
Star-Studded Department: The place to eyeball celebs en masse will most definitely be the People's Choice Awards 2010. This year's ceremony, which will be broadcast live from the Nokia Theatre on Jan. 6, will feature a cross-section of talent from every medium, including Hugh Jackman, Sandra Bullock, "New Moon" star Taylor Lautner (hold those screams, please), Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Ellen DeGeneres, Jackie Chan, Hugh Laurie, Ashton Kutcher and whoever else isn't committed to another event that evening. The show also promises an opening number by host Queen Latifah and "surprise guests" as well as a performance by Mary J. Blige.
As in previous years, the People's Choice winners are determined by viewer votes, and the tally received so far is a record-breaking 60 million (!). You can still weigh in with your own two cents in two categories -- Favorite New TV Comedy and Favorite New TV Drama -- until show night by visiting the People's Choice website.
Meanwhile, the notable and quotable continue to multiply at the Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF). This year's edition -- the 21st in the fest's history -- will present "Inglourious Basterds" writer-director Quentin Tarantino with the Sonny Bono Visionary Award, while "Nine" star Marion Cotillard will receive the Desert Palm Achievement Actress Award. Both are previous Oscar winners -- Tarantino for his screenplay for "Pulp Fiction" (with Roger Avary) and Cotillard for "La Vie en Rose." They join an already impressive list of fellow honorees at the Jan. 5 Awards Gala, including Morgan Freeman, Jeff Bridges, Helen Mirren,Anna Kendrick and others.
The PSIFF has established itself as a fairly accurate predictor of the Oscars, so how might these awards affect QT and Marion's chances? Well, previous recipients of the Bono Award include academy nominees Gus Van Sant, Todd Field and M. Night Shyamalan, while the Desert Palm Actress Award can claim Oscar winners Halle Berry, Kate Winslet and Charlize Theron, as well as Oscar nominee Anne Hathaway. If you were a betting person, your money might be on Marion -- mightn't it?
-- Paul Gaita
Photo: Quentin Tarantino. Credit: The Weinstein Co./Palm Springs International Film Festival.
If quizzed on the most significant moments that impacted media in 2009, would you mention "Avatar?" Most likely. How about the "Balloon Boy" hoax and Octomom? Maybe not. But both have been selected, along with six other events, by the American Film Institute as the year's "Moments of Significance" in film, on television and on the Web. The selections are part of this year's AFI Awards, which will be handed out at a luncheon on Jan. 15.
So who -- and what -- made the cut for media significance in 2009? Well, "Avatar" was cited for its use of CGI and 3-D technologies to advance "the way stories are told" (though some might note that all that tech didn't help the film's dialogue, ahem). Animation, both CGI and traditional, received a nod for the sheer number of quality efforts in this realm, from Disney's hand-drawn "Princess and the Frog" to the computer work in "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" and "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" to the stunning stop-motion of "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "Coraline." And whatever you thought of the carnival atmosphere that followed in its wake, the death of Michael Jackson in June -- and the subsequent runaway success of the concert film "This is It" -- had a huge impact on the world at large.
AFI makes a good case for the effect of "The Jay Leno Show" on prime-time programming, citing the scorched-earth policy it laid out on the dramatic-television landscape (and the people involved in making it), as well as local news programming. And the organization is also smart to note the boom in movie ticket sales in the face of a global recession -- this year saw the highest grosses at the box office since the mass distribution of motion pictures. And as much as I am loath to admit it, one has to make room for the rise of Twitter, which made everything from base gossip to movie marketing immediate and globally accessible -- no matter how risible the statement.
I am less willing to queue up behind AFI's assessment that 2009 saw the lowering of boundaries and standards on reality television; the balloon boy hoax, Octomom and the couple that crashed the White House are just the latest in a long line of reality show refugees from the carny-geek pit unleashed on basic- cable viewers (though one might argue that "Jersey Shore" does dig a trench a few inches deeper into the bottom of the barrel). And while I agree that the change from analog to digital television broadcast is unquestionably significant, AFI's supplementary examples -- the cancellation of "The Guiding Light" and the paucity of good long-form drama -- are weak (soaps have been dying for years, and solid long-form drama has remained elusive since the '80s).
A complete list of AFI's selections can be found at AFI.com.
-- Paul Gaita
Photo: A scene from "Avatar." Credit: 20th Century Fox.
A whopping 63 songs will be considered for nomination in the Original Song category for the 82nd Academy Awards. The list, released today by the academy, includes both the expected numbers, like Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett's "The Weary Kind" from "Crazy Heart," Leona Lewis' "I See You" from "Avatar" and Paul McCartney's "(I Want to) Come Home" from "Everybody's Fine," and some left-field (and far afield) choices like "The Word Is Love" from "Oy Vey! My Son is Gay!!" (which is a real movie, by the way).
Also in the mix is "Butterfly Fly Away," the Miley Cyrus tune from "Hannah Montana the Movie," which was originally considered ineligible for the Oscars because it was written specifically for the film. Oh, and you can ignore those rumors that Adam Lambert will get his moment of mea culpa by performing his "A Time for Miracles" (from "2012") at the ceremony; the number isn't even in this sizable lot.
On Jan. 12, random clips from each song will be screened for members of the Music Branch of the academy. Nominees will be determined by a point system vote. If two or more songs (up to five) achieve a score of 8.25 or more, they will be the nominees, which will be announced, along with the contenders in the rest of the Oscar categories, on Feb. 2. The award ceremony itself will air March 7.
The complete list of eligible songs for nomination is:
"All Is Love" from "Where the Wild Things Are"
“Almost Over You” from “My One and Only”
“Almost There” from “The Princess and the Frog”
“AyAyAyAy” from “The Maid”
“Back to Tennessee” from “Hannah Montana the Movie”
“Being Bad” from “Duplicity”
“Blanco” from “Fast & Furious”
“Brothers in Arms” from “Brothers at War”
“Butterfly Fly Away” from “Hannah Montana the Movie”
“Cinema Italiano” from “Nine”
“Colorblind” from “Invictus”
“Depression Era” from “That Evening Sun”
“Don’t Walk Away” from “Hannah Montana the Movie”
“Dove of Peace” from “Bruno”
“Down in New Orleans” from “The Princess and the Frog”
“Fly Farm Blues” from “It Might Get Loud”
“Forget Me” from “I Love You, Beth Cooper”
“God Bless Us Everyone” from “Disney’s A Christmas Carol”
“Here” from “Shrink”
“Hideaway” from “Where the Wild Things Are”
“Hoedown Throwdown” from “Hannah Montana the Movie”
“I Bring What I Love” from “Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love”
“I See You” from “Avatar”
“(I Want to) Come Home” from “Everybody’s Fine”
“If You’re Wondering” from “The Lightkeepers”
“Impossible Fantasy” from “Adventures of Power”
“Innocent Child” from “Skin”
“Invictus 9,000 Days” from “Invictus”
“Legendary” from “Tyson”
“Let Freedom Reign” from “Skin”
“Loin de Paname” from “Paris 36”
“Ma Belle Evangeline” from “The Princess and the Frog”
“My One and Only” from “My One and Only”
“Na Na” from “Couples Retreat”
“Never Knew I Needed” from “The Princess and the Frog”
“New Divide” from “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”
“New Jersey Nights” from “Adventures of Power”
“New York Is Where I Live” from “Did You Hear about the Morgans?”
“No Time for Love” from “Simon & Malou”
“One Day” from “Post Grad”
“Only You” from “The Young Victoria”
“Other Father Song” from “Coraline”
“Petey’s Song” from “Fantastic Mr. Fox”
“Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea” from “Ponyo”
“Possibility” from “The Twilight Saga: New Moon”
“Raining Sunshine” from “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”
“Running Out of Empty (Make Ourselves at Home)” from “Lymelife”
“Smoke Without Fire” from “An Education”
“Somebody Else” from “Crazy Heart”
“Stu’s Song” from “The Hangover”
“Take It All” from “Nine”
“Through the Trees” from “Jennifer’s Body”
“Trust Me” from “The Informant!”
“Un Bouquet des Violettes” from “New York, I Love You”
“We Are the Children of the World” from “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”
“We Love Violence” from “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”
“The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)” from “Crazy Heart”
“When You Find Me” from “Adam”
“Winter” from “Brothers”
“The Word Is Love” from “Oy Vey! My Son Is Gay!”
“You Got Me Wrapped Around Your Little Finger” from “An Education”
“You’ll Always Find Your Way Back Home” from “Hannah Montana the Movie”
The Toronto Film Critics Assn. (TFCA) broke ranks with its North American compatriots by awarding its top prize to Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" and the Irish prison drama "Hunger." The tie stood in marked contrast to the majority of American critical associations that voted for Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker"; however, Bigelow did not go away from Toronto empty-handed, as the association named her best director. "Basterds" also split its win for best screenplay with Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner's script for "Up in the Air"; star Christoph Waltz, however, didn't have to share his trophy for best supporting actor with anyone.
Nicolas Cage bested the competition to take best actor for "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans," while Carey Mulligan continued her winning streak with best actress for "An Education." Anna Kendrick also picked up her latest award for "Up in the Air," as did Michael Haneke, whose "White Ribbon" was named best foreign film, and Wes Anderson's "Fantastic Mr. Fox," which won best animated feature. The 2009 TFCA awards will take place on Jan. 12; the winner of the Rogers Best Canadian Feature Award will also be announced on that night. The nominees are Bruce McDonald's chilling indie horror "Pontypool," "Polytechnique" by Denis Villeneuve, and "The Necessities of Life" by Benoit Pilon.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported that Jason Reitman added one more noteworthy accomplishment to his growing C.V. -- hoisting the Olympic torch. The "Up in the Air" director participated in the passing of the Olympic torch in Toronto today; he was joined in the effort by his father, director Ivan Reitman (who also serves as "Air's" co-producer). Reitman also gives his reaction to his film's six Golden Globe nominations ("I'm a little exhausted").
There is a certain degree of logic in the news that Johnny Depp will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bahamas International Film Festival -- as the star of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, he is one of the region's best advertisements. Depp will receive the award from none other than Sir Sean Connery, a longtime supporter of the fest, in Nassau. It's a mite early for a lifetime achievement award for Depp, but hey, after "Public Enemies," "Alice in Wonderland" and the upcoming "Rum Diaries," one imagines he could use an island getaway.
And word comes from MTV that Nick Jonas of Disney faves the Jonas Brothers and his new outfit, the Administration, will serve as the house band for the 15th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards on Jan. 15. It's the latest in a string of modifications for the former Critics' Choice Awards, which strives for a bigger slice of the movie award show audience. Jonas is certainly a step toward bringing in the pre-teen set, but are they genuinely interested in whether "Inglourious Basterds" or "An Education" will capture the top prize? VH1, which is airing the show, is clearly willing to gamble.
-- Paul Gaita
Photo: Christoph Waltz in "Inglourious Basterds." Credit: Weinstein Co.