Oscars news: National Board of Review ceremony report, Jennifer Aniston (‘Cake’) is strong contender

Ramin Setoodeh reports, “The National Board of Review, the cryptic group of film aficionados who dole out random acting prizes each year, hold their annual gala just days before Oscar ballots are due. As a result, the seated dinner at Cipriani 42nd Street is one of the last stomping grounds for campaigning, and it conveniently features some of the longest speeches of awards season. It became clear early in the night that there was no time limit, as the winners of best original screenplay (Phil Lord and Christopher Miller for “The Lego Movie”) ran down a lengthy list of thank yous, including their lawyers.” Variety


UPDATED: Experts’ Oscars predictions in 24 categories

Says Sasha Stone,”If we set aside the two films that involve singular British intellects confronting personal catastrophe to enrich mankind with their world-altering achievements, we might define the remainder of the year’s Best Picture race as various meditations on the shifting identity of the American male. With their traditional sense of control rapidly collapsing, American men onscreen are seen in a state of electric desperation, struggling to adjust to new definitions of masculinity and maturity, adapting to new rules made all the more confusing when a man is forced to seize the task of leading but doesn’t yet know where he’s headed.” Awards Daily

Anne Thompson observes: “In a weak year for strong female roles, someone was bound to crash the lineup of likely Best Actress suspects. It turned out to be Jennifer Aniston, and here’s why her Oscar hopes for ‘Cake‘ are for real … She managed to sidestep such Oscar veterans as Hilary Swank (“The Homesman”), Marion Cotillard (“Two Days, One Night” and “The Immigrant”) and Amy Adams (“Big Eyes”) to claim a spot on the Screen Actors Guild’s list of female leads. Aniston also wound up on the Golden Globe roster of film actresses competing in the drama category and was one of the Broadcast Film Critics Association’s choices for best female lead in a movie.” Thompson on Hollywood

See latest Oscar rankings when the Experts’ predictions are combined

In the intro to an in-depth interview, Scott Bowles writes, “Jean-Marc Vallee is garnering a reputation for taking unflinching looks at America’s quiet, yet often noble, underbelly. But his Hollywood rep is growing just as fast as a director adept at getting celebrities to go downright unflattering. He recently did it with Matthew McConaughey, whose emaciated turn as real-life AIDS patient and activist Ron Woodroof won him a best actor Oscar (in addition to an editing nomination for Vallee). Now the helmer marches in ‘Wild,’ the real story of Cheryl Strayed, played by Reese Witherspoon — a spiritually lost woman who trekked 1,100 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail to find herself and reverse her philandering, drug-abusing ways. The movie has found some awards season buzz, both for Witherspoon and Vallee, a Quebec filmmaker who began doing French-language films before making the transition Stateside. Vallee recently spoke about the project, the shoot, and getting Witherspoon to not break her neck on the trail, which she completed largely on her own, camera crew in tow.” Deadline

Cara Buckley chats with “Whiplash” writer/director Damien Chazelle about his hot Oscar contender. “Starring Miles Teller as a music-school drumming student terrorized by his sadistic teacher, played by J.K. Simmons, the film is loosely based on Mr. Chazelle’s own experience as a high school drummer. (He confirmed that as is the case of Mr. Teller’s character, his hands did bleed in those years.)” New York Times

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