Awards Tracker

All things Oscars, Emmys, Grammys and Tonys

Category: Nicole Sperling

'Miral' screening tonight to be hosted by Javier Bardem


The Weinstein Co. has taken a page out of last year's popular Oscar campaign strategy wherein a prominent actor/actress hosts a screening of a friend's film. Both Julia Roberts and Sean Penn did so for Javier Bardem's Oscar contender "Biutiful." And now Oscar nominee Bardem is playing host Tuesday evening for his friend Julian Schnabel, and his new film, "Miral." Schnabel directed Bardem in "Before Night Falls," which earned the Spanish actor his first Academy Award nomination.

The film, starring Freida Pinto as the titular character, centers on a young Palestinian woman growing up during the intifada, and depicts the complex relationship with her Israeli neighbors. Hosting the screening suggests that Bardem is endorsing the film, and he will be participating in a post-screening reception with Schnabel. There won't, however, be a question-and-answer session such as those that were so popular during awards season.

Distributor Harvey Weinstein has marketed this film masterfully since acquiring it last June prior to the film's worldwide debut at the Venice Film Festival. The company has said it was Schnabel's decision to woo the United Nations into hosting the film's U.S. premiere, but Weinstein had to know how effective such a decision would be. The controversial film, which many Jewish organizations find offensive for its negative portrayal of Israelis, garnered a slew of publicity thanks to the screening last week at the U.N. (A handful of Jewish organizations, such as the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, came out against the U.N.'s decision to screen the film in the General Assembly hall. A couple of other groups, including Jewish Voice for Peace and American Jews for a Just Peace, supported the film.) Now it should gain even more attention from Bardem's endorsement.

The movie, which has received middling reviews from the festival circuit, bows Friday in limited release. It will be interesting to see if the additional attention placed on the movie translates to a stronger box-office performance.

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Freida Pinto and Omar Metwally in "Miral." Credit: Jose Haro / The Weinstein Co.

Oscars 2012: Who's going to be on next year's best picture list?

Tree of life 
Are you as burned out on 2010's Oscar season as we are? If so, take a look into the future to see who we are going to be tired of by next February. We've compiled a completely arbitrary -- but intriguing -- list of what films could be making it to the winner's circle in 2012. Feel free to chime in with your predictions because, really, this time next year we will all likely have been proved wrong.

(Please note: these are in no particular order.)

1. "Contagion": Steven Soderbergh, Oscar winner for "Traffic," is back with another ensemble piece, this time an action-thriller centered on a team of doctors that must deal with a deadly disease outbreak. The film features an all-star cast with Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow and Marion Cotillard, along with this year's nominee in the supporting actor category John Hawkes. It may be too "Bourne Identity" for the academy but it's not a bad place to start. (Opens Oct. 21)

2. "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close": Stephen Daldry ("The Reader") helms this adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's novel about a 9-year old boy who searches New York City for a lock that matches a key left by his father (Tom Hanks), who was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks. Eric Roth ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button") adapted the book and the pedigree of cast and filmmakers has Oscar written all over it. And for that extra boost, uber-producer Scott Rudin is behind this one too. (Not yet dated.)

3. "The Descendants": Alexander Payne ("Sideways") is finally back with a new film, seven years after "Sideways" was released. Payne adapted Kaui Hart Hemmings' novel about a Hawaiian land baron, played by George Clooney, who tries to reconnect with his two daughters after his wife suffers a boating accident.(Not yet dated.)

4. "Tree of Life": Terrence Malick ("The Thin Red Line") has returned with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn starring in a story of a Midwestern family in the 1950s. The film has been kicking around a while but that seems to be more an issue of a corporate distribution shuffle than any knock against the film. (Opens May 27)

5. "The Iron Lady": Meryl Streep pairs up with her "Mamma Mia" director Phyllida Lloyd in this biopic of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The script is written by British playwright Abi Morgan and "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" writer Michael Hirst. Jim Broadbent co-stars as Mr. Thatcher. The British-financed flick does not yet have a U.S. distributor.

Continue reading »

Melissa Leo and those odd Oscar ads

Melissa Leo If Melissa Leo doesn't win best supporting actress on Sunday night, her loss will be blamed squarely on the ads she took out asking voters to "Consider Melissa." Leo donned fur in the two print ads that appeared on the back pages of Variety and were considered rather tacky by many in the industry.

The 50-year old actress was initially very vocal about why the ads were made and said that she paid for them herself as a way to fight back against the ageism in Hollywood that keeps 50-year-old women off magazine covers.

Now, it seems Leo, who has been nominated for her role as an aggressive mother-manager in David O. Russell's "The Fighter," is rather confused by the response to the ads. In an interview with the Daily Beast, one that occurred after the reporter ran into Leo at a New York restaurant, she says that she has been a good soldier for the entire campaign and thought that the ads were standard procedure. She says she's surprised by the reaction.  "I'm a little confused. This is what we're doing. This is what all the girls are doing," she says.

She adds that she conceived the ads before she was nominated and she might have done things differently had she known she was going to be nominated. But the ads actually published after the nominations were announced, which seemed very oddly timed. "It didn't seem so nomination-oriented," says Leo regarding the original concept for the ads. "It was fun." 

We called Paramount directly and they said they support their actresses 1,000% and would be shocked if people who had been planning to vote for Leo now didn't because of her ads.

We'll see what happens on Sunday night.

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Melissa Leo at the Oscar nominees luncheon. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Oscar nominations: Surprises and snubs [video]

Now that the Oscar nominations are out, what to make of it all?

"The King's Speech" leads with 12 and looks poised to duke it out with "The Social Network" for best picture, but "True Grit" proved a bit of a surprise with 10 nominations, including nods for best picture, directors Joel and Ethan Coen (who also are in the running for adapted screenplay), actor Jeff Bridges and supporting actress Hailee Steinfeld. Perhaps an even bigger eyebrow-raiser is "Winter's Bone," which premiered at Sundance a year ago and walked away with four top nominations Tuesday morning.

Among the snubs: Although "Inception's" Christopher Nolan is up for original screenplay, he didn't get a nod for director, leaving him with a career shutout in that category. Also left in the cold were the documentaries "Waiting for Superman" and "Client 9."

For more surprises and snubs, watch the video above as Times film reporters Nicole Sperling and John Horn analyze the Academy Awards.

-- Scott Sandell


'The King's Speech,' 'True Grit' top Academy Award nominations

Oscar nominees react

The full list of nominations


Sean Penn wins PGA award

Sean Penn For the first time, an individual has been awarded the Producers Guild of America's Stanley Kramer Award, with Sean Penn singled out Saturday night for his humanitarian efforts in Haiti. On hand to present the award was U.S. Army Major Brian Woolworth, who worked with Penn during the major's eight-month stint in the ravaged country.

Woolworth described in detail Penn's involvement with his JP Haitian Relief Organization that was instrumental in relocating Haitians from dangerous flood areas. He managed a camp, carried individual Haitians' belongings and worked tirelessly from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m., Woolworth said. "He demonstrates what we in the military call leadership," he added. "He's committed to elevating the human condition in Haiti."

Penn kept his speech short and sweet, indicating that he was asked to be brief, so he vowed to save the polemics and split the difference. He then recited a single paragraph, written by William Saroyan, that served as inspiration for Penn's life. And he concluded with a simple plea: "With your help Haiti will triumph. Stick it out with us. Support the Haitian people." 

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Sean Penn. Credit: Associated Press

SAG Awards: The last chance for an upset?


The Producers Guild Awards are Saturday night, and unless that group chooses to go completely against the thinking of all the critics groups and the Golden Globes, "The Social Network" should walk away with the best picture win, continuing its streak that began with the National Board of Review Award in early December. (It doesn't hurt "Social Network's" chances that its producer, Scott Rudin, is being honored with the David O. Selznick Award.)

That leaves the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Jan. 30 as the only real chance for an upset. The group, at 93,000, is the largest to vote on any guild award. Its members are also the least likely to follow the lead of the critics, because they often spend much of their careers at odds with critics.

As such, Oscar marketers are targeting the group heavily. Sony Pictures sent "Social Network" screeners to the entire membership as well as gave them an iTunes download option. Paramount Pictures, Focus Features and Fox Searchlight all courted the members with the iTunes screeners. And, according to SAG's website, both "Rabbit Hole" and "The King's Speech" have also been added to the iTunes queue.

SAG also represents the largest voting bloc of the academy, with just under 1,200 members. And should the guild go the way of "The King's Speech" or "The Fighter," there could be a small chance that "The Social Network" will get hit by an upset at the Oscars. That is, of course, a giant long shot, but it's the one the other films are still fighting for.

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo credit: Mark Wahlberg, Melissa Leo and Christian Bale in "The Fighter." Credit: JoJo Whilden / Paramount

Diane English to receive Writers Guild Paddy Chayefsky award for television writing

Murphy brown 
"Murphy Brown" creator Diane English will be given the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television, honoring her fruitful career in television writing.

In addition to "Murphy Brown," which ran for 10 seasons on CBS with Candice Bergen in the groundbreaking titular role, English wrote for "Sister Sam," starring Pam Dawber, and created the shows "Love & War," "Double Rush," with Stephen Nathan, and "Ink."

For the big screen, she wrote and directed "The Women," with an all-star cast headed by Meg Ryan and Annette Bening.

She will be honored on Feb. 5, during the WGA's annual award show.

— Nicole Sperling

Photo: Candice Bergen in a 1997 scene from "Murphy Brown." Credit: CBS.

Oscar's Top Ten: Who fills the last two spots?

The town 
Everyone's waiting for Tuesday when the Oscar nominations are announced. Even the casual Oscar watcher can name at least five flicks destined for the academy's list of the Top 10 nominees. But there seem to be 11 films essentially receiving the bulk of the recognition thus far, so the biggest surprises will come from the last two slots.

The likely shoo-ins: "The Social Network," "The King's Speech," "The Fighter," "Black Swan," "Inception," "True Grit," "Toy Story 3" and "The Kids Are All Right." That essentially leaves three films: "Winter's Bone," "The Town," and "127 Hours" angling for the last two openings.

Earlier in the race, "127 Hours" seemed as if it belonged in the shoo-in category, but in the last month, momentum on the film seems to have waned, especially as it petered out at the box office with $11 million, in comparison to "Black Swan" and "True Grit," which continued climbing critically along with their grosses. "Winter's Bone" doesn't seem to be part of the conversation lately either. Jennifer Lawrence was definitely present at the Golden Globes with her nomination for best actress, and she received an additional one from SAG, but the film was left off the Producer's Guild Top 10. Rather, "The Town," got the bump from the producer's, a nomination from SAG for Jeremy Renner and a nod for Pete Postlethwaite by his countrymen at the BAFTAs.

It will be interesting to see which way the academy goes on Tuesday. With eight slots essentially locked up, those remaining two will be the ones to watch most closely.

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Rebecca Hall and Ben Affleck in a scene from "The Town." Credit: Claire Folger/Warner Bros.

Snubs and surprises on the Oscar foreign-language film short list

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' executive committee has narrowed the 66 Oscar-qualifying foreign language films to nine, and the most surprising title to make the cut appears to be Greece's "Dogtooth," a film from Yorgos Lanthimos. Critics seem to really like the movie but also find it incredibly disturbing for its depiction of a remote family compound where the parents work to keep their young adult children locked in their home in a state of freaky pre-adolescence.

Leading the snub category is Italy's official selection, "La Prima Bella Cosa," which had become the centerpiece of some Italian controversy. Luca Guadagnino, the director of "I Am Love," who received a Golden Globe nomination, felt that Italy had made a mistake in selecting "Bella Cosa" over his movie, which stars Tilda Swinton. The executive committee, however, deemed neither worthy of the short list, a blow to Italians who were hopeful that "La Prima Bella Cosa" would be the country's first nominee since Roberto Benigni's 1997 film "Life Is Beautiful."

France's "Of Gods and Men" was also omitted. The Sony Pictures Classics release had been championed by critics worldwide for its powerful depiction of Cistercian monks who stand up for their beliefs when confronted by fundamentalists. 

Rather, the committee went with Denmark's selection,  Suzanne Bier's "In a Better World," which won a Golden Globe on Sunday, in addition to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Biutiful" starring Javier Bardem and Canada's "Incendies," all films that were expected to make the short list.

Surprising was the  addition of  Japan's "Confessions," from director Tetsuya Nakashima, and Sweden's "Simple Simon," from Andreas Ohman. Algeria's film "Hors la Loi," made the list too.

Now,  a specially invited committee will screen all nine films over a three-day period and then whittle the list to the final five Oscar contenders.

— Nicole Sperling

Photo: Hristos Passalis  and Mary Tsoni in "Dogtooth." Credit: Kino International.

Why are creators of 'Social Network' now trying to please Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook?

 Aaron Sorkin
Aaron Sorkin has said from the beginning that he intended to "do no harm" when writing the script for "The Social Network." He used court documents, first-person interviews and even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's own words from the night he created Face Mash and blogged about it. But Sorkin never had access to Zuckerberg nor any cooperation from the now billionaire when he was creating "The Social Network," which walked away with four Golden Globe wins Sunday night.

Sorkin always seemed rather content with that, emphatic that he wasn't making a biopic on Zuckerberg, that this film was much more than that. The screenwriter has spoken very highly of Zuckerberg, as a great philanthropist and a good sport for taking his staff to see "The Social Network" the day it opened, but the need for the man's approval or support never seemed to be of issue.

Yet, his acceptance speech Sunday night, along with producer Scott Rudin's, seemed to be much more than a show of respect for the man on whom the film is based. It felt like a new set of "talking points" for a group of politicians trying to get a man elected.

First, Sorkin appealed directly to Zuckerberg: "If you're watching this, Rooney Mara's character makes a [negative] prediction at the beginning of this movie. She was wrong. You turned out to be a great entrepreneur, a visionary and a great altruist."

Rudin then thanked everyone at Facebook. Adding, "For Mark Zuckerberg allowing us to use his life and work as a metaphor for us to tell a story about communication and the way we relate to each other."

It's odd considering Zuckerberg and Facebook had absolutely no involvement in the making of "The Social Network," and it's curious as to why these two men, who could simply ride high on the waves of accolades that keep piling up behind this movie, suddenly feel the need to appeal to Zuckerberg's base. Or, even worse, are they now, as the Oscars near, trying to depict their "anti-hero" lead character as a real hero instead?

Oscar campaigns have long been compared to political ones with their intense glad-handing, public appearances and quest to appeal not just to voters' minds but to their hearts as well. Is that what's going on here?

Is "Social Network" a movie people appreciate more than love? Are those behind the campaign worried that it's not enough to reward director David Fincher and his talented cast and crew for a well-made flick? Do they worry that the emotional pay-off audiences receive from the warm "The King's Speech" is going to stick with academy voters more than the "want-to-talk" factor that comes with the conclusion of "The Social Network"?

The motives for the shout-outs are still unclear. But the filmmakers' attempts to friend Facebook seem unnecessary. Check out Facebook's mild response to the praise received Sunday night.

 -- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Aaron Sorkin at the Golden Globes. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times



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