“Precious” tops the Indie Spirits

Gabourey Sidibe is Precious

This hasn’t been a very good year for people who like awards surprises. And, so, this year’s most high profile indie film, say it with me — “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” —  has won the lion’s share of the more high-profile awards at Film Independent’s Independent Spirit Awards, this year hosted by Eddie Izzard.

To be specific, “Precious” nabbed “Best Feature” from a field that included the very popular “(500) Days of Summer,” Berkeley-bred Cary Joji Fukunaga’s surprisingly assured directorial debut, “Sin Nombre,” and “The Last Station.” Director Lee Daniels, whose work on “Precious” has been the single most criticized aspect of the somewhat controversial film, nevertheless beat the Coen Brothers work on “A Serious Man,” Fukunaga, James Gray of “Two Lovers,” and Michael Hoffman of “The Last Station.” “Precious” also took the Best First Screenplay. The best not-first screenplay went to Scott Neustader and Michael H. Weber of “(500) Days.”

In the acting categories, Gabourey Sidibe received the Best Female Lead for playing Precious herself and, naturally, Mo’Nique proved to own her category fully across all award shows and won the Best Supporting Female category. Among the males, Jeff Bridges, took the Best Male Lead award that is deemed pretty much his due this year for the country music drama, “Crazy Heart.”

Since the $40 million dollar budget of “Inglourious Basterds” presumably put it beyond the realm of the Spirits, Christoph Waltz was not nominated for Best Supporting Male. Instead, he cut a deal in which he collected the award anyway in return for helping the show to end early. Just kidding. Woody Harrelson in his non-zombie-thwacking mode took the award for his work in the low-key stateside wartime drama, “The Messenger.” (My sympathies to Christian McKay of “Me and Orson Welles” — so much critical praise and so few awards even when this year’s male 500 pound gorilla is safely out of the room.)

Anvil! The Story of AnvilBest Foreign Film went to a film that doesn’t feel so foreign now that England is our 52nd state, “An Education.”  Best Documentary went to one some of you might actually have seen and found fun rather than upsetting, “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” defeated a list that included the highly praised “Food, Inc.” (For whatever reason, “The Cove” was not nominated.) Roger Deakins took the cinematography award for “A Serious Man.”

Among the special awards, the John Cassevettes Award, which goes to a film with a budget of less than $500,000, went to a favorite around these parts, Lynn Shelton’s “Humpday,” edging out another film we’ve kind of taken to our breast here, “Big Fan.” The latter film looked, literally, like a million dollars to me, so kudos to the penny-saving producers on that one. “A Serious Man” won the Robert Altman award for its acting ensemble.

You can see a complete list of nominees and winners here. You can also check and see if Indiewire ever corrects their typos here.

  

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Hearts and flowers to lead double-holiday weekend?

He’s been wrong very recently, but that’s what jolly Carl DiOrio confidently predicts over at The Hollywood Reporter.  A fiscally very big weekend at the movies is expected overall because we have three new high profile, high-concept films debuting in over 3,000 theaters each according to Box Office Mojo. Moreover, it’s all happening over a President’s Day weekend which also includes Valentine’s Day on Sunday.

Julia Roberts and some guy in

Everyone’s going to either try to get closer to their special someone, forget that they don’t have a special someone, or perhaps try to forget that they have to pretend like they’re want to get closer to that special someone when they really would rather be in a far away foreign land of fantasy. Movies aren’t a bad prescription in any of those cases.

Garry Marshall’s multi-stor, all-star rom-com, Valentine’s Day,” is the worst reviewed of the three critically unloved films coming out this weekend, but since when does something like a seriously lacking 14% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes stop filmgoers bent on lightly sentimental entertainment? With Julia Roberts on board and Garry Marshall’s brand of uber-schmaltz on offer, a lot of mostly female folks will be interested and their partners better be alongside them. DiOrio is expecting as much as $45 million for Warner Brothers for this one. “Avatar” shchmavatar, I guess.

Director Chris Columbus is, if anything, even less of a critical darling than Garry Marshall. (He’s absolutely no darling of this critic, I can tell you that.) Still, the latest entry in the “Precious: Based on the Noel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” ungainly title sweepstakes is Columbus and Fox’s version of “Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief.” It may look like a teen-Harry Potter knock-off to the uninterested observer, but critics are being a bit less harsh on this entry, allowing it a mixed 48% “Fresh” rating, It’s worth noting that that the Greek mythological background might make things a bit easier for English teachers the world over. DiOrio is expecting something over $30 million. Sure, I guess.

Expected to come in at the #3 spot or thereabouts is the monstrous semi-remake of “The Wolfman,” with Benecio del Toro and Anthony Hopkins stepping in for Lon Chaney, Jr. and Claude Reins in a much bloodier and more elaborate period tale. Del Toro may be the best actor to play the part so far. Still, many critics, including our own Will Harris, are only about 31% impressed with either his acting this time around or the movie as a whole.

http://www.bullz-eye.com/mguide/review_images/2010/the_wolfman/the_wolfman_5.jpgKind words mostly seem to be mostly reserved for the striking atmospherics from director Joe Johnston’s effects team including make-up genius Rick Baker, which have been getting us fanboys so riled about this long-delayed production for low these many moons. Horror and monster lovers (in a platonic way, I mean) haven’t hard much to work with lately, so that sounds about right to me. I guess.

  

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Either “Avatar” takes the weekend box office, or we’re all in big trouble

Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana in

Variety has gone behind a pay wall. Jolly Carl DiOrio of The Hollywood Reporter is either taking a night off or filing later. Still, this is one week when, if I may paraphrase Bob Dylan, I don’t need a weatherman to tell me which way the wind’s blowing. As a science-fiction adventure sure-to-be blockbuster, James Cameron‘s “Avatar” has pretty much everything going for: huge ballyhoo, much of its centered on its groundbreaking use on “performance capture” (not mere motion capture) and what everyone seems to be describing as a new and more immersive 3-D, strong advance sales (skewing male as of right now), and solid reviews.  Sure, it’s actors aren’t precisely A-listers, but we all know what good stars are these days. I’m sure people will eventually remember that Sam  Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Sigourney Weaver were in there some place.

The latest from James Cameron at this point has racked up an 82% “fresh” on the Tomatometer and a whopping 96% from the usually harder to please “top critics,” with only Village Voice‘s exacting J. Hoberman submitting a mildly negative review that is actually about as positive as a bad review can be.

Our own Jamey Codding is positive, but not quite ecstatic. Ken Turan, a critic I respect but often disagree with for his rather schoolmarmish tastes — don’t get him started on Tarantino — waxes poetic and compares the technical breakthroughs to “The Jazz Singer.” I personally hope that isn’t quite the case. 3-D is cool as an occasional treat, but I just don’t see how it’s necessary for every movie. Of course, there were people who said that about sound movies too, but don’t laugh too much because there are still people who thought they were right! (Not me. Being a word guy, I like talkies. My fogeyosity has limits) In any case, Roger Ebert might be summing things up nicely when he writes:

There is still at least one man in Hollywood who knows how to spend $250 million, or was it $300 million, wisely.

Sam Worthington in So, we know that “Avatar” will, baring apocalypse or a mass, blindness-inducing plague, win the weekend. The real question is, by how much? Well, considering it’s opening in 3,453 theaters and probably taking up nearly every higher priced regular size and Imax 3-D screen in the country, I’d say the sky is the limit for the moment. Beyond that, I really don’t have the kind of information to make these kind of assertions, but fortunately there is Daniel Frankel of The Wrap who says that the gurus have agreed the Fox film will do over $60 million at least and possibly as much as $90 or $100 million.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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New York and L.A. Film Critics make their choices

The two most noted critics groups both gave their awards today and the results are pretty interesting. Just released, we have the winners from New York. Somewhat to my surprise, even though it’s received very positive reviews so far, “Avatar” won for best picture.  Last year’s winner was not “The Dark Knight,” which however did make it into the top 10, but the politically-themed biopic, “Milk.” Genre movies and blockbusters rarely win critics awards.

Avatar

Also, the suddenly more geek-friendly critics group actually gave the most awards to “Inglourious Basterds” which picked up a cinematography award for the always superb Robert Richardson, a best screenplay nod for Quentin Tarantino and, of course, a Best Supporting Actor award and also a Best Breakthrough Performance award for Christoph Waltz’s movie-stealing work as the evil but magnetic “Jew hunter,” Colonel Hans Landa. Another unusual war film, “The Hurt Locker,” picked up the Best Director award for Kathryn Bigelow and, not at all surprising, “Up” won the award for best animation.

Meryl Streep won for Best Actress for “Julie and Julia” and Jeff Bridges won for the not yet released country music drama, “Crazy Heart.” Mo’Nique from “Precious” picked up the Best Supporting Actress award. “The Cove” won Best documentary. ComingSoon.net has the complete list of winners. It’s a pretty interesting group.

The Hurt Locker

Just a bit earlier, the Los Angeles Film Critics, on the other hand, gave the top prize to “The Hurt Locker” (“Up in the Air” was the runner up) and Kathryn Bigelow took another Best Director prize for the thriller. Jeff Bridges, Christoph Waltz and Mo’Nique once again got the Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress prizes respectively. The L.A. crickets took a different path entirely, however, on the Best Actress category and gave it to Yolande Moreau for the French-language biopic, “Séraphine.” (The runner up was Carey Mulligan, whose work in “An Education” has been generating a great deal of buzz.)

They also, interestingly, diverted from the New Yorkers in the area of animation, giving the top prize to “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” another succès d’estime for Wes Anderson. However, they followed the NYC reviewers in giving the nod to “The Cove” for Best Documentary. In a nod to genre, “District 9” got a “New Generation” award for writer-director Neill Blomkamp as well as a production design award. Eugene Hernandez of Indiewire has the complete list.

Oscar-buzz fans take note, critics’ awards are not super-reliable indicators of Academy Awards, which tend to be less genre-friendly but also more prone to award big commercial hits. On the other hand, I think it’s safe to say that Kathryn Bigelow, Jeff Bridges, Mo’Nique, Christoph Waltz, as well as “The Hurt Locker”, “Inglourious Basterds,” and perhaps “The Cove” got a big boost today. (The documentary category is notoriously fraught.) Also, I haven’t mentioned its awards, but the little seen black political comedy and festival hit, “In the Loop,” picked up awards from both groups and could, I imagine, get a very helpful nomination or two in possibly the writing and the newly expanded “Best Picture” category.

  

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Indie awards, viscera in your lap, and the boredom of Alec

* If you’re looking for any clear Oscar indications from today’s indie awards news, you might want to look elsewhere. “Precious” and “The Last Station” — which I’ve been reading very mixed things about so far — were among the films to make a nominations splash with The Independent Spirit Awards.  Meanwhile, the Gotham Awards were held last night and “The Hurt Locker” “swept” things — well, it won two big awards including Best Picture. Close enough. (Kathryn Bigelow’s wartime thriller, a favorite of many, was not eligible for the Spirit Awards this year, but only got a pair of acting nominations last year.)

* There’s something in the air about gross-outs in 3-D today. First, comes news that sequels to both “Zombieland” and, lord help us all, “Jackass,” are planned in the suddenly semi-ubiquitous format because what the world needs now is projectile cow semen in three dimensions. That’s not all, a new remake of George Romero’s seminal “Night of the Living Dead” will be in 3-D digital animation, which actually renders things less gross and scary — to me, anyhow and that’s just fine for this disliker of gross-outs.

By the way, this is will be the third remake of the film and the second in 3-D, though the 2006 attempt seems a bit less classy. I actually like the idea of taking an epic tack with a variation of the original film, but I just hope Romero gets at least a small piece of the action. (In one of the strangest foul-ups in movie history, the original flesh-eating zombie flick fell into the public domain back in 1968. So, anyone who wants to may legally do their own rip-off.)

Meanwhile, jolly Carl DiOrio is here to tell us that the growth of 3-D films will be gradual and mostly limited to genre and concert films for the time being. Good to know.

* Domestic b.o. is up by 8%, and the really good news is that b.o. is short for “box office.”

* Paul Greengrass confirms his “Bourne 4” directorial exit as reported yesterday, but says the divorce is highly amicable, though the fate of the project seems in doubt and, yeah, I’m not sure we really need a fourth outing, either. On the other hand, Bourne fans can protect themselves against speedy video obsolescence on the three films already out early next year. Here come: “flipper discs.”

* Say it ain’t so, Alec Baldwin, say it ain’t so! You may be bored, but we are so not.

  

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