Oscar winner Ronald Harwood ("The Pianist") adapted his play about a group of retired opera singers who reunite for one final performance. The Weinstein Co. is rolling out this performance piece, which could appeal to the academy's aging demographic, as a Christmas treat.
Hoffman handled helming duties with aplomb, helped along by the stellar cast. Two-time Oscar winner Maggie Smith ("The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie," 1969; "California Suite," 1978) plays the diva at the center of the action. Oscar nominees Pauline Collins ("Shirley Valentine") and Tom Courtenay ("The Dresser") and Billy Connolly round out the foursome.
Smith, who has racked up six Oscar bids dating back to 1966, has not contended since her 2001 scene-stealing turn in "Gosford Park." That role was written by Julian Fellowes who went on to create for her the part of the doubtable Duchess in "Downton Abbey."
The third season of that show begins on PBS on Jan. 6, which will be just after nominations close for the Oscars. However, if Smith lands her third Best Actress bid, she will benefit from being seen every week during final voting, sparring with another Oscar champ, Shirley MacLaine ("Terms of Endearment").
Smith won the Emmy last year when the first season contended as a miniseries and is the frontrunner to take home the supporting award on the drama side at next week's awards. She won her first Emmy in 2003 for her leading performance in the telefilm "My House in Umbria."
After Oscar victories earlier this year by "The Artist" and its star Jean Dujardin, are the Emmys now ready to reward a silent performance of their own? According to exclusive Gold Derby odds, Mark Margolis ("Breaking Bad) has a slight 3/2 edge to win Best Drama Guest Actor. at this Saturday's Creative Arts ceremony.
Three Experts, seven Editors, and 33% of Users predict this first-time Emmy nominee to prevail. His role as former cartel enforcer Tia Salamanca is completely silent since he is an invalid who only uses his facial expressions and a bell to express his thoughts and feelings. His submission is the season four finale "Face Off," where he is convinced by Walter White (Bryan Cranston) to detonate a suicide bomb which kills himself and drug boss Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito).
Five-time Emmy winner Michael J. Fox ("The Good Wife") is in second position at 21/10 for his role as defense lawyer Louis Canning. He has the support of two Experts, three Editors and 38% of users. His submission is "Parenting Made Easy," in which he is once again up against Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) in a case against a fired professor. Fox was nominated for this same character last year but lost to Paul McCrane ("Harry's Law"). Along with a bid as Best Comedy Guest Actor for "Curb Your Enthusiasm," he celebrates his 14th and 15th career nominations.
Jeremy Davies ("Justified") returns to contend again for his role as lowlife criminal Dickie Bennett. He is in third place at 6/1 with only one Expert vote and 9% of users. His submission "Coalition" was the penultimate episode of the third season and involved a showdown with U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant).
Dylan Baker ("The Good Wife") is next in line at 12/1 with no votes from Experts or Editors and only 11% of users. He was nodded in 2010 for this same role as Colin Sweeney, a former wealthy executive now in prison for murder. In his submitted episode "Marthas and Caitlins," he is wired to obtain a confession so he can obtain his own parole.
The award for Best Production Design was previously known as Art Direction until the Academy's designers branch (formerly the art directors branch) recommended the change this year.
Last year, "Hugo" won the award and joined a long line of period and fantasy films to achieve victory in the category. In the last 20 years, no contemporary film has won this award.
Among this year's top contenders are "Anna Karenina" (three-time nominees Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer), "The Master" (Oscar-nominee Jack Fisk), the 19th century biopic "Lincoln" (Oscar-winner Rick Carter), "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (Don Hennah, who previously won for "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"), and "Les Miserables" (two-time nominee Eve Stewart).
Ridley Scott's science-fiction epic "Prometheus" (two-time nominee Arthur Max) could be a contender, as well as the literary adaptation "Great Expectations" (Jim Clay) and the disaster drama "The Impossible" ("Pan's Labyrinth" Oscar-winners Eugenio Caballero and Pilar Revuelta).
Australia enters the German-language "Lore" for Best Foreign Language Film consideration: "The most notable title from the new entries is Australia's submission 'Lore' -- which I suggested back in June would be one to watch in the race. Like Austria's pick of Michael Haneke's 'Amour,' it's a selection that couldn't have been made a few years ago, when countries had to submit films in a native language. Indeed, there's nothing obviously Australian about 'Lore' -- a German-set, German-language World War II survival story about five children's 500-mile trek to safety in the dying days of the Third Reich -- bar the fact that it's a largely Australian production from a noted Down Under director, Cate Shortland." IN CONTENTION
Sweden picks Lasse Hallstrom's "The Hypnotist" for its Oscar entry: "'The Hypnotist,' a crime thriller by three-time Oscar nominee Lasse Hallstrom, is Sweden's official entry for the 2013 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The film, an adaptation of the best-seller by Lars Kepler, is the first Swedish-language film from Hallstrom - the director of 'The Cider House Rules,' 'Chocolat' and 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape?' - in 25 years. It is also Hallstrom's first-ever thriller. Hallstrom, however, is no stranger to the Oscars. His Swedish-language feature 'My Life As A Dog' (1988) received Oscar nominations in the Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay categories and Hallstrom picked up a second Best Director nomination in 1999 for 'The Cider House Rules.'" HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
Cast and crew of "Cloud Atlas" discuss making the mind-bending film: "According to [Tom Hanks], making the dizzying film was not as challenging as it sounds, at least for the actors, 'This was a fully realized vision that was presented to us at the get go. [The writers/directors] had gone off and were sort of aiming for this piece of cinematic literature. All I really had to do was read the blueprint to see what was going to be expected of me' ... Even working with multiple directors, [Halle Berry] said, was not as difficult as one might expect. “What was so beautiful about it is that Lana and Andy speak as one person,” the Oscar winner said. '[The Wachowskis] finish each others' sentences. Their thoughts are the same. They've talked about this so long that their vision is clear and there is a safety that comes with it.'" VANITY FAIR
Ratings for the MTV Video Music Awards down this year: "The ratings for Thursday night’s Video Music Awards went the One Direction MTV definitely wasn’t hoping for: way down. The telecast averaged 6.1 million viewers, a fall from the record 12.45 million that tuned into the 2011 show. It marked the smallest VMA audience in six years. Two key factors likely contributed to the erosion: The unusual Thursday airdate and the early, 8 pm start time (to avoid competing with coverage of the Democratic National Convention)." TV LINE
"Downton Abbey" star Dan Stevens is coming to America: "The actor, who plays hunky heir Matthew Crawley in the period drama, is off to Broadway next month to star in the play 'The Heiress' for at least six months. Excited Dan will star alongside Hollywood star Jessica Chastain in the Tony Award-winning play ... He said: 'I am off to New York in about a month’s time and it is going to be one big adventure ... I don’t know if I will be coming back to "Downton" as I don’t know if they are doing another series yet.' Dan says he was offered the part on the back of 'Downton’s' roaring success at the Emmy Awards in America last year." THE SUN
Jeff Probst on making the move to daytime television: "During a Thursday morning visit to 'Today,' Probst revealed why he's making the move and just what he has to offer to the already crowded talk TV market. 'When I got married and then became part of this family with these two kids that were calling me Dad, it all shifted, and I started realizing, "Ah, I think I have something to connect with now,"' he said of his motivation. Of course, just having a talk show isn't enough to guarantee viewers -- even for a hosting pro like Probst. With new daytime talkers around the corner from Katie Couric, Steve Harvey, Ricki Lake and Marie Osmond, he needs a hook to draw eyes to his effort. For 'The Jeff Probst Show,' that hook is short stories for short attention spans." TODAY
"Argo" is now firmly established as an Oscar frontrunner after a rousing reception at the Toronto film festival. The last five Best Picture winners all unspooled here and this third film by actor turned director Ben Affleck checks a lot of the same boxes.
"Argo" is a deft thriller set against the backdrop of the revolution in 1979 Tehran. When the American embassy is overrun by fundamentalists, six diplomats escape and take refuge with the Canadian ambassador. To ferret them out of the country, the CIA cooks up a cover story that they are part of a production team scouting locations for a Hollywood movie.
The film came to Toronto fresh from a sneak peek at Telluride that had visitors to that high altitude town swooning with delight. Not surprisingly, the Canadian audience ate up the homegrown references. Academy members may well respond to the positive portrayal of Hollywood in the picture which will be released on Oct. 12.
Affleck plays the CIA agent in charge of the operation and could reap his first acting bid as well as a directing nom. He co-produced with George Clooney and Grant Heslov who earned a Best Picture nod for "Good Night, and Good Luck." The top-notch script is by Chris Terrio who adapted an article in Wired magazine that detailed the escape.
Affleck assembled a slew of award-winning talent on both sides of the camera. The cast includes Oscar champ Alan Arkin ("Little Miss Sunshine," 2006) as a Hollywood producer, Emmy champ John Goodman as the makeup expert, Emmy winner Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad") as a fellow operative and Emmy nominee Victor Garber as the Canadian ambassador. Of this quartet, Arkin has the showiest role and could easily pick up an Oscar bookend.
"The Sessions" screened at the Toronto filmfest Sunday and received a rousing reception. A hit at Sundance, this Fox Searchlight comedy drama showcases one-time Oscar nominee John Hawkes ("Winter's Bone," 2010) as real-life poet Mark O'Brien, confined to life in an iron lung after contracting polio.
Director Ben Lewin, who also had polio, came across O'Brien's wry recount of hiring sex surrogate Cheryl Cohen Greene. He decided to adapt it for a film and cast 1998 Best Actress winner Helen Hunt ("As Good As It Gets") as Greene. It is a meaty role and, as Pete Hammond (Deadline) reports, "The studio is still trying to determine whether to push Hunt for lead or supporting."
And William H. Macy ("Fargo," 1996) could reap his second supporting actor nod for his role as a sympathetic priest who counsels O'Brien. The scenes between the two played like gangbusters in Toronto. As Hunt revealed in the Q&A, Lewin called her during filming to tell her that they were making a comedy.
Lewin's screenplay, which has many heartwarming moments as well, is also a strong possibilty for a bid. The life of O'Brien was already the basis of the 1996 Oscar-winning short "Breathing Lessons."
"Cloud Atlas," the epic rendering of David Mitchell's 2004 bestseller by Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis, was greeted with a lengthy standing ovation when it unspooled at the Toronto film festival Saturday. However, it confounded several of the Oscar prognosticators on the scene.
This time travel gender-bending drama showcases two Oscar champs -- two-time Best Actor winner Tom Hanks ("Philadelphia, 1993; "Forrest Gump," 1994) and 2001 Best Actress Halle Berry ("Monster's Ball") -- in six roles each. Their elaborate makeup and costumes are sure to contend but beyond that, it may need a box office bounty when it is released Oct. 26 to be a major contender at the Oscars.
As Scott Feinberg (The Hollywood Reporter) says, "I can't say that I loved the sum of its parts, but I was still blown away by many of the parts themselves: the performances, though it's hard to single out any one or two actors when everyone had so much to do; the editing by master juggler Alexander Berner; art direction/production designers, who must have felt like they were responsible for many movies; visual effects, coordinated by a team of more than 100; and especially the makeup -- anyone who can make Hanks look like himself in 'Castaway,' Mike Myers in 'Austin Powers,' Russell Crowe in 'Gladiator' and Elton John all in one film, deserves heaps of praise. I suspect that Oscar voters will feel similarly."
Writes Steve Pond (The Wrap), "Warners may be able to sell the movie on the basis of stars like Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugh Grant, but the film is bound to be divisive, and I fully expect some reviews to be savage. But for my money, any movie that finds me filling a page in my notebook with a litany of adjectives that includes messy, incomprehensible, glorious, silly, pompous, fun, wonderful, ludicrous and spectacular makes for three hours well spent – even if at times during those hours I wondered why I'd gotten up early.
"The Silver Linings Playbook" came into the Toronto film festival as an Oscar outsider, but this comedy drama, based on Matthew Quick's bestseller, left as one of the frontrunners.
Two years ago, helmer David O. Russell relaunched his once-promising career with "The Fighter," which netted him his first Oscar nod and won the supporting prizes for both Christian Bale and Melissa Leo. That film's star, Mark Wahlberg, a long-time Russell fan, was to star in his adaptation of "Playbook" but took a pass, freeing up the role of a recovering mental patient for Bradley Cooper.
"The Hangover" star proves he has the acting chops to handle this complicated character and is a strong contender in the Best Actor race. And his co-star, Jennifer Lawrence, wowed with her portrayal of a young woman with issues of her own who becomes his unlikely ally.
Lawrence, a 2009 Best Actress nominee ("Winter's Bone"), also headlined the box office juggernaut "The Hunger Games" this year, proving she has commercial as well as critical appeal. Our pal Pete Hammond (Deadline) said, "Lawrence leaps to the front of the pack with a revelatory performance that seemed to knock most observers out."
Steve Pond (The Wrap) called the film, "a perfectly calibrated comedy that is also deeply moving; it's another major step in Russell's comeback from movie limbo, and a mainstream film with enough heart and clout to immediately figure into a number of Oscar races, definitely including Best Picture."
"The Master" did well in the kudos bestowed by the Venice filmfest with Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman sharing the Volpi Cup for best actor while Paul Thomas Anderson won the Silver Lion for directing.
Only because the rules preclude one film from winning all of the top prizes did it not also take home the Golden Lion for best picture; that went to "Pieta." Just how will this early awards attention impact the standing of these contenders in the Oscar races?
Being cited as a lead actor at Venice could hurt Hoffman's chances of being nominated for the supporting award at the Oscars. That is where he is being positioned so as not to siphon votes away from his co-star who is a strong contender for Best Actor.
The acting branch does not always heed to direction from the studios as to the category in which their talent should contend. Back in 2006, Leonardo DiCaprio was being touted as lead for "The Departed" and supporting for "Blood Diamond" but got snubbed for the former and nominated as Best Actor for the latter.
While Phoenix is likely to net a nom if not the win, a look back at the track record of recent Venice champs reveals a surprisingly mixed bag of results when it came to contending at the Academy Awards.
In 2010, Sofia Coppola claimed the Golden Lion for "Somewhere," but that film went nowhere at the Oscars.
In 2009, Colin Firth leveraged his Venice win for "A Single Man" into a BAFTA and an Oscar bid.
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