2014 Oscar Nominations Announced; AMERICAN HUSTLE and GRAVITY Lead with 10 Nominations Each [Updated with Commentary]

by     Posted 282 days ago

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The nominations for the 86th Academy Awards have been announced. American Hustle and Gravity lead with 10 nominations each, while 12 Years a Slave isn’t too far behind with 9 nominations.  Looking over my predictions, there weren’t actually too many surprises this morning–at least no genuine “snubs” on the scale of Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow last year.  Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale made the Best Actor cut over Robert Redford and Tom HanksHer, Dallas Buyers Club, and Philomena all got Best Picture nominations over Saving Mr. Banks, and Sally Hawkins landed a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her work in Blue Jasmine, seemingly taking Oprah Winfrey‘s spot from Lee Daniels’ The Butler.  Also, the Academy apparently did not take a liking to Saving Mr. Banks, as the film missed out on a Best Picture nomination and a Best Actress nomination for Emma Thompson.

Hit the jump to take a look at the full nominations list.  The 86th Oscars will be broadcast March 2nd on ABC. [Update: I've added my commentary on some of the categories after the jump.]

2014 Writers Guild Nominations Include HER, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, WOLF OF WALL STREET, and LONE SURVIVOR

by     Posted 295 days ago

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The Oscar precursors are in full swing.  Yesterday we got a look at the nominations for the Producers Guild Awards—a solid predictor for the Best Picture Oscar category—and today the Writers Guild of America has unveiled its nominations for the 2014 awards.  The Best Original Screenplay nominees include Nebraska, Her, and American Hustle, while the Best Adapted category is filled out by the likes of Before Midnight, Captain Phillips, and The Wolf of Wall Street.  The major surprise in today’s WGA announcements is the inclusion of Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor script for Best Adapted Screenplay and the befuddling absence of Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis for Original Screenplay.

Hit the jump for more, including the full list of WGA nominations and my analysis with regards to what this means for Oscar.  The 2014 WGA Awards will be held on February 1st.

Best Documentary Shortlist Announced; Includes THE ACT OF KILLING, STORIES WE TELL, and 20 FEET FROM STARDOM

by     Posted 326 days ago

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The Academy’s rules for Best Documentary are so arbitrary and asinine that I always hold my breath when it comes to their shortlist.  A list of final nominees is frustrating in any category, but it’s infuriating when a good film doesn’t even get a chance to compete.  Thankfully, there are plenty of good choices among this year’s shortlist.  The films eligible for a Best Documentary Oscar nomination include The Act of Killing (I’d be ballistic if this wasn’t in the running; my review), Cutie and the Boxer, God Loves Uganda, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, Stories We Tell (my review, although the movie didn’t hold up as well on a repeat viewing), and 20 Feet From Stardom (my review).  If you have HBO GO, you can check out Pussy Riot along with other shortlisted docs The Crash Reel, First Cousin Once Removed, and Life According to Sam.  As far as snubs go, I wish Casting By was in the running, but considering that it directly criticizes the Academy for not having an award for casting directors, I’m not surprised by its exclusion.

Hit the jump for the full shortlist.  Nominations for the 86th Academy Awards will be announced on January 16th.

Director Richard Rowley Talks DIRTY WARS, Navigating Dangerous Cities and Countries for the Sake of Journalism, and More

by     Posted 1 year, 135 days ago

Director Richard Rowley’s riveting new documentary film, Dirty Wars, tells a complex story about the dark side of U.S. foreign policy and exposes the ugly reality of U.S. counter-terror operations.  Rowley follows investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, who is both the film’s narrator and central figure, as he embarks on an unexpected journey to explore the expansion of covert wars and the rise of the secretive, extremely powerful Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).  The film takes an uncompromising look at the clandestine Global War on Terror, its lack of oversight and accountability, and how it’s being conducted in our names without our knowledge.

In an exclusive interview, Rowley talked to me about the commitment to unembedded journalism he shares with Scahill that often means taking great personal risks to track down a story, why they wanted to make this documentary to try to begin a discussion in the U.S. about what this global war is and how it’s changing the world and us as a people, how they used press releases as a road map to the hidden war, the logistical challenges they encountered getting in and out of dangerous places like Mogadishu, the vital role that the community of war reporters and journalists played in their security, and how the war has affected them personally.

Journalist Jeremy Scahill Talks DIRTY WARS, Using a Personal Narrative to Immerse the Audience, and the Current Media Climate

by     Posted 1 year, 136 days ago

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In one of the most powerful documentaries I’ve seen this year, investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill takes audiences on a chilling ride as he chases down the hidden truth behind America’s expanding covert wars and targeted killing program.  Directed by Rick Rowley, Dirty Wars reveals how the War on Terror has fundamentally changed the rules of the game and the rules of engagement as it traces the rise of the Joint Special Operations Command, the most secret fighting force in U.S. history.  Today drone strikes, night raids, and U.S. government–condoned torture occur in corners across the globe, generating unprecedented civilian casualties.

I recently landed an exclusive interview with Scahill who talked about what inspired the film, his collaboration with Rowley, the personal narrative they used to immerse the audience in the investigative reporting process, the current media climate and challenges it poses independent journalists, and the hope that the film will contribute to a much needed debate about civil liberties, drone policy and human rights.  Scahill also discussed the role journalists play in the pursuit of truth and his views on Pfc. Bradley Manning’s treatment in the media and the importance of his upcoming trial.

FRUITVALE Wins 2013 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award

by     Posted 1 year, 271 days ago

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Ryan Coogler‘s Fruitvale made audiences at this year’s Sundance Film Festival weep with the true story of Oscar Grant, who was murdered by BART Station police in 2009.  At last night’s awards ceremony, Coogler’s debut feature was awarded with both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award, which made it the first film to win in both categories since 2009′s Precious.  The Weinstein Company picked up the movie for $2 million after a heated bidding war, and I would expect a release sometime later this year.  Click here for my review.

Other winners included This Is Martin Bonner for “Best of NEXT” (voters must have connected with a movie where nothing happens), best screenwriting for Lake Bell for In a World… (click here for my review), and Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley for their tremendous performances in The Spectacular Now.  Hit the jump for the full list of winners.

Sundance 2013 Doc Acquisitions: TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM, DIRTY WARS, PUSSY RIOT, THE BITTER BUDDAH, and WILD IN THE STREETS

by     Posted 1 year, 277 days ago

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Several Sundance documentaries found a distribution deal this weekend:

  • Radius-TWC picked up Twenty Feet from Stardom, a documentary about the back up singers to the world’s greatest industry legends.  Read Matt’s review here.
  • Sundance Selects acquired Dirty Wars, which “follows investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill on an unexpected journey as he chasesdown the truth behind America’s covert wars.”
  • HBO Documentary Films made a deal for Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer, about the feminist band Pussy Riot, who was arrested after they performed a “punk prayer” inside Russia’s main cathedral.
  • Gravitas Ventures picked up two documentaries.  The Bitter Buddah centers on “comic’s comic” Eddie Pepitone and features original animation and interviews with admiring peers like Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman, and Zach Galifianakis.  Wild in the Streets chronicles Shrovetide Football, a truly unique 8-hour sports game that two small towns in England compete in each year.  Gravitas also acquired Michael Urie‘s comedy He’s Way More Famous Than You, about a struggling actress who sets out to make a movie that will revitalize her career.

Hit the jump for the press releases with all the details.

Sundance 2013: First Images from BLOOD BROTHER, CUTIE AND THE BOXER, DIRTY WARS, and GIDEON’S ARMY

by     Posted 1 year, 329 days ago

The first batch of films that will be playing at the upcoming 2013 Sundance Film Festival were recently announced, and today we’ve got the first images from a few films that will be screening in competition as part of the U.S. Documentary category.  Briefly:

Hit the jump for the images and synopses.  The 2013 Sundance Film Festival runs January 17 – 27.

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