Awards news: Director’s Guild and Sundance

There’s some sadness hanging over the American film world this morning due to the tragic and disturbing death of highly respected 39 year-old editor Karen Schmeer, best known for her work on Errol Morris projects as “Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control,” “Mr. Death,” and “The Fog of War.” (Shawn Levy of The Oregonian has much about piece her shockingly random death in a crime-related automotive accident, her work, and her early start in the documentary film business.)

Nevertheless, the awards beat goes on and today, as Nikki Finke points out, we can chalk up a big victory for female directors as Kathryn Bigelow of “The Hurt Locker” defeated a boys club of directors that included such ultimate mega-males as Quentin Tarantino and her one-time husband, James Cameron.  Bigelow, of course, has been a noted director since her early features, 1982’s “The Loveless,” which introduced Willem Dafoe, and 1987’s ahead-of-its-time vampire drama, “Near Dark” attracted the attention of genre friendly critics. Her best known film, ironically enough, is probably the silly action flick, “Point Break,” which has emerged as a culty guilty pleasure after its 1991 release.

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“The Hurt Locker” is the first time Bigelow has been associated a project to get this kind of near-universal acclaim. It’s a major departure stylistically from her often slick and superficial past work, looking at an unexploded bomb team with the same kind of dispassionate intensity as “The French Connection” examined police work. This award definitely makes Bigelow the apparent favorite for the Best Director Oscar. It also doesn’t hurt it’s chances at the Best Picture award either.

“Hurt Locker” also swept the Producers Guild award earlier this week. Similar to the DGA, that award is widely seen as a harbinger for the “Best Picture” category, in which the producer is the one who actually receives the award. Still, as Dave Karger reminds us, the DGA doesn’t make the award inevitable. Also with the nominees this year doubled to ten and a more complex voting system for “Best Picture” that category, at least, remains open to any of the four or five most frequently nominated films in my opinion.

In other awards, “The Cove” got a boost in the nevertheless very hard-to-predict documentary Oscar category with an award for its director, Louie Psihoyos. I usually don’t cover TV, but it is worth a mention that the winner of the award for direction in a TV drama series was also won by a woman. Lesli Linka Glatter was awarded for her work on the action-packed “Guy Walks Into An Advertising Agency” episode of “Mad Men.” Not a bad choice.

Meanwhile, over in Park City, Utah, the Sundance Film Festival presented its awards, which offer a fairly significant peak into what are likely to be some of the most acclaimed and potentially award-winning films of the next year or so. Young people with family ties to crime seemed to be a winning theme in the dramatic categories: “Winter’s Bone,” about a young girl in search of her crystal meth manufacturing father, won the U.S. Prize; the Australian crime drama “Animal Kingdom,” about a teen boy born into a crime family in 1980s Melbourne, took the international award.

The documentary award went to one of the festival’s most high profile entries, “Restrepo.” From two-first first-time directors, journalist/author Sebastian Junger (the book, The Perfect Storm) and documentary cinematographer Tim Hetherington. The film is follows a U.S. Army platoon in Afghanistan for a year. As the offical Sundance description has it, it depicts a “surreal combination of back breaking labor, deadly firefights, and camaraderie….”  Indiewire’s Eugene Hernandez has a complete rundown.

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News flash from Hollywood — it’s raining!

We Southern Californian’s are easily freaked out by this occasional phenomenon where water inexplicably falls from the skies. It’s a good thing so many of us like to ski or snowboard up at Big Bear or Tahoe, or there’d be a vast wave of weather-related depression unsettling the entire area. Of course, those of us who live on hillsides have something to worry about, but since L.A.-area seasons are basically labeled as “fire” and “flood,” it’s not like this is a surprise. Still, a good chunk of the town is going off to Park City, Utah for Sundance and its sisters festivals, where you actually need boots and overcoats and stuff like that.

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And now, here’s the big movie news, assuming this half of the state doesn’t simply slide into the ocean or anything overnight.

* Jolly Carl DiOrio writes on THR’s Heat Vision blog that Warner Brothers is trying to decide whether or not to do a 3-D retrofit on Louis Leterrier’s upcoming version of “Clash of the Titans.” This 3-D madness for genre films has been spreading. Some months back, “The Cabin in the Woods,” a collaboration between TV cult king Joss Whedon and his one-time staff writer, Drew Goddard (“Cloverfield“), was delayed from February 2010 to January 2011 to three dimensionalize the meta-horror film — and perhaps help stabilize Universal’s depleted coffers by delaying the marketing costs for eleven months.

* Despite some of the setbacks the Weinstein Company has been suffering lately with a number of commercial disappointments and too few hits and some layoffs, they’re still bringing in new people for acquisitions prior to tomorrow’s Sundance kick-off, writes La Finke.

* Meanwhile, over at CinemaBlend, Josh Tyler contemplates the possible 3-D status of “Ghostbusters 3.”

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* In case you haven’t heard it already, no, Johnny Depp will not be starring in Terry Gilliam’s upcoming second attempt at filming his “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.”

* The Oscar’s announced their nine film short list for the foreign language film category today. It’s basically a bunch of movies you have almost no chance of having seen, or even heard all that much about, if you’re not a pretty serious film festival goer — and Michael Haneke’s Golden Globe winning dark period drama, “The White Ribbon.” Even the folks at The Playlist had only seen “Ribbon” and were only familiar with a total of three of the films.

If an outstanding foreign film you’ve seen recently is not on the list and you’re wondering why, you can likely blame the extremely byzantine and highly politicized rules in this category, which involves countries selecting official entries, which often exclude seemingly obvious choices. Romania’s “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” was an extraordinary work that recently made it to the top of many Best Of lists for the entire past decade. It was not nominated last year, — along with two other widely acclaimed non-English-speaking movies of 2007, “Volver” and “Persepolis.” At least the latter film was nominated in the animation category.

  

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Live from various parts of West L.A.!

I was at a screening at Sony (it’ll always be the MGM lot to me) earlier tonight, so to avoid traffic and strike while the iron is hot, tonight’s post comes to you directly from various branches of the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. (As one closed, I was forced to migrate…)

* A little detail everyone seemed to miss yesterday: the possibly upcoming “Vlad” that I discussed last night is technically a movie about Dracula but is not, in fact, a vampire movie. It’s a tale that will to some degree hew to the historical reality of the not-quite-literally bloodthirsty Romanian ruler Vlad Dracul, it turns out. Via The Playlist, there’s an informative Entertainment Weekly interview with the screenwriter.

Another detail I personally missed last night: writer Charlie Hunnam is one of the stars of FX’s “Sons of Anarchy,” which I’ve never seen but have been hearing great things about and which, of course, our own Jason Zingale has been blogging right here at PH. “Vlad” is being compared to both “300” and “Braveheart” — two movies I personally strongly disliked partly because they both offend my sense of morality, but I’m still curious to see if this one pans out.

* “Paranormal Activityhit it in France and the UK, but not in Germany. I’m imagining a guy in a turtle neck with a look of disdain. “Your pretense at being haunted by demons grows tiresome!”

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