Archive | February, 2010


20 Feb



I have a confession to make: I admire — and have always admired — Harvey Weinstein. Why? Well, partly because he’s a modern-day Horatio Alger story, having worked his way up from concert promoter to movie mogul; partly because he’s as responsible as anyone for ushering in the indie film movement that’s produced most of the finest films of the past two decades; and partly because he’s a member of a dying breed thats roots trace back to P.T. Barnum, Florenz Ziegfeld, and Cecil B. DeMille: he’s a true showman.

When I speak with Mr. Weinstein — or Harvey, as he insists I call him — by telephone on Friday, it’s 5pm on the east coast of the United States, where I’m based, and 10pm in the evening in London, where he’s spending a few days prior to Sunday evening’s BAFTA Awards. His big awards hopeful this year, “Inglourious Basterds,” was denied a best picture nod there, but several of the people associated with it — including writer/director Quentin Tarantino and supporting actor Christoph Waltz — were nominated, and the film is apparently gaining momentum in the Oscar race back stateside, so Harvey put on his best face face and turned out to support his troops.

Indeed, the first thing that he tells me is that he’s just walked in from a wonderful party at The Groucho Club that Tarantino threw for Waltz (who has won virtually every award for which he’s been eligible thus far and is Harvey’s surest-bet to deliver an Oscar in three weeks). Over the course of our 20-minute call, he repeatedly tries to steer the conversation back to “Basterds,” Waltz, and especially Tarantino, with whom he’s collaborated ever since the boy wonder’s first film “Reservoir Dogs” (1992) 18 years ago. But the reason that I requested this interview was to talk not about the puppeteer but rather about the puppeteer’s puppeteer.

Harvey is one of those people who everybody knows but nobody knows much about, apart from his occasional outbursts/blunders and his unparalleled track record at securing Oscar nominations and wins for his films and the people who made them. (Has anyone been thanked more from the Oscar podium?) Considering that Harvey and his associates might pull off their biggest Oscar surprise yet on March 7, I figured that now was as appropriate a time as any to ask him to share a little more about himself.

* * *

When you were a kid, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Two things: either play shortstop for the Yankees, which I was not equipped for, or make movies, which I seem better equipped for. Although some of my critics wish I’d played shortstop for the Yankees.

Did you go to the movies as a kid? Did you have any particular favorites or influences?
Yeah. I used to go to the Loew’s Valencia, and we would see “Hercules,” and then we’d see “Hercules: Unchained,” and then we’d see “Hercules: Unchained, Part 75.” That was, you know, the things in our neighborhood until one day I stumbled on an art house called The Mayfair Movie Theatre where Francois Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows” was playing, and that changed my life because I then went there every week. I mean, they changed the bill every week, and I would see Fellini, Bergman, Truffaut, Philippe de Broca, you know, whatever. I became an art house devotee, which I’ve tried to do in the movies that I distribute or produce and, you know, continue that tradition of The Mayfair Movie Theatre.

What was Harvey and Corky Productions?
It was a concert production company. Basically, when I went to school at the University of Buffalo, I had to earn my keep, so at 19 years old we formed a company to produce concerts because the University of Buffalo stopped producing concerts. So we raised money privately and produced concerts. And I thought that would be my ticket to meeting somebody who could help me get in the movie business.

And was it? Did that sort of lead to Miramax?
In many ways, you know what I mean? The company grew to be a very big company, so I ended up, you know, meeting loads of people. And I still impress some of the people who work for me when I say hi to Paul McCartney or Phil Collins. But all that knowledge helped me when I did The Concert for New York City [after 9/11] with Jim Dolan and John Sykes, you know? Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, The Who — you know, every one of those bands I had produced in concert at one time — Billy Joel, everybody. And then I was able to do Obama and Bruce Springsteen — I’d done them, too. So, I mean, I’ve known these guys from when I was a kid and they were kids, so we’ve all been there together. So it was supposed to be a vehicle, and it ended up being fairly successful.

Many siblings clash, but you and your brother really seem to work well together. How do you guys get along so well?
I think my dad — who’s, you know, the Max in Miramax — used to say, “You have to emulate the Kennedy brothers.” You know? He said, “John helps Bobby. Bobby helps John, helps Teddy. It’s got to be family first. You can have all your little persnickety differences on somebody else’s time, but not when you’re responsible for doing things.”

And at the company do you guys take on different responsibilities?
Yeah. Bob created Dimension and I run The Weinstein Company side, the TWC side. But we combine, you know, on most things. But Bob is really the creator of Dimension, the architect of it — you know, he did from “The Crow,” to “Scream,” to “Scary Movie” — together. We always worked together on all of the early movies — “Sex, Lies[, and Videotape],” and “[My] Left Foot,” and “Reservoir Dogs.” But then Bob, you know, just created this incredible division, which does a lot better financially than I do! It’s like Robin Hood: you rob the rich — Bob — and you give to the poor — which is the art house movies.

If there’s one thing that people know about you, it’s that you’re the master when it comes to Oscar campaigns. How do you explain your fascination with the Oscars? And also, for people who may not understand, why is it worth it to spend so much money and time competing for them?
Well, you know, there are certainly financial rewards if you win — you know, you get a whole new life. And even if you’re on video you sell a lot more video copies; if you’re still in theatrical internationally — which we are in a bunch of territories on “Inglourious Basterds” — it just has all sorts of good economic results. And the other thing is just sometimes, in the case of certain movies like this year with “Inglourious Basterds,” I just honestly think that– Quentin has made “Reservoir Dogs,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Kill Bill,” “Jackie Brown,” and “Inglourious Basterds”; you know, he wrote “True Romance” and “Natural Born Killers”; but, you know, he’s never won the big prize. I just think he’s overdue, and I just really feel this is his best work, and I said it at the time and I say it now: I just think it’s, you know, just one of the greatest films and I’m just really proud of it for a myriad of reasons.

I hope I can quickly pose to you a few “superlative” questions to you about your past Oscar glory days. What was the most satisfying nomination for you?
Hmm. I think “Pelle the Conqueror” because it was the first.

What was the most satisfying win?
All the wins are satisfying. And all the nominations are satisfying. You know, I never look at it that way. Really, it’s an old cliche but it’s the truth: just to be nominated is good enough.

What was the most disappointing “snub,” if you will?
Hmm. One of them — not the most — my brother actually made a movie this year that I’m incredibly proud of, but it’s very tough-minded, called “The Road.” And I think in a better climate, a better economy, you know, where people didn’t get bad news all the time, I think a movie like that could have flourished. And it’s a shame that it didn’t because it takes on tough subjects and it’s incredibly faithful to Cormac McCarthy’s book. And Cormac, you know, coming out and publicizing it, when he never does anything like that? He really fell in love with the movie, and I think that’s a tribute to John Hillcoat; and Nick Wexler, the producer; and Bob, you know, to a large degree, for having the guts to stay so faithful to a tough-minded book. But I think the movie will live on like the book.

As far as the tactical side of the awards season — which everybody now knows about, it’s no longer sort of a deep dark secret — what’s the best awards season move that you’ve ever made?
Just showing the movie, you know, at the end of the day. And I also think sometimes having a second look. That’s what I think is important right now. People are in the process of voting, and all I really would love to do is just say, “Take a look at the artistry of ‘Inglourious Basterds’ one more time. Look at the rich canvas. And, you know, look at all of the other movies, too, because I think there are riches to be gleaned in second viewings.” And, you know, obviously I’m biased, but I just think ‘Inglourious Basterds’ is made by a movie lover; it celebrates movies; it says movies can change history; there’s something idealistic about it; something cinematic and historical about it; something that — you know, I don’t have to tell you — as a Jewish person that’s incredibly satisfying about it; and, you know, just something that’s provoked a worldwide reaction, it’s been great at the box-office, and is a master filmmaker at his best.

Do you know the overall number of Oscar nominations and wins that you’ve produced for your films over the years?
I don’t know, but I think it’s pretty good, you know? And I’m proud of it. But it’s not even about the numbers; it’s all about this year, this movie, and next year, and next year’s movies.

What’s it like being you in the middle of an Oscar race? Last year, you said, “When you’re Billy the Kid, and people all around you die of natural causes, everyone thinks you shot them.”

But it does tend to become a very competitive time, and people point fingers at you and others, and I just wonder what your feeling is about that…
I think the onus on us is to remain lily-white, you know? There were some early tough contests, you know, and I just think that we have to just tow the line better than anybody because sometimes people look at us that way. But it’s never the Academy voters; it’s only the press on a slow Tuesday, you know? But that’s all there really is.

Why do you think “Nine” didn’t click more with voters this year?
You know, Rob [Marshall, the director] and I sat down; we could have made any musical we wanted; we could have done a really entertaining musical-comedy; we had a variety of things to do; but we said after “Chicago” we wanted to challenge ourselves: could we do a serious musical? You know, if there is such a thing — and, Lord knows, I don’t know anymore if there is. And that was the challenge, you know? To take really difficult subject matter; an anti-hero, not a hero, you know; and see if we could do something. And, you know, you look back at the histories of movies that have dealt with tough subject matter, and the one that always comes up to me is “Sweet Smell of Success” — it didn’t succeed commercially, but I think it’s in everybody’s top twenty, you know? And there are so many other examples of that kind of movie, you know, that dealt with tough subjects, and then years later got their due critical acclaim. People look back and say, “Wow, I see what they were trying to do here.” I think that it was a movie that was maybe misunderstood.

You understand this stuff as well as anybody, so tell me: Can “Inglourious Basterds” beat “The Hurt Locker” and “Avatar”? And, if so, how?
Well, I think it’s fairly simple. I mean, if you do the Oscar math, the movie is supported by the actors — it won the Screen Actors Guild against “The Hurt Locker” and a bunch of other good movies. And I think that, you know, everybody in the world is gonna pick Kathryn Bigelow for best director — Quentin’s already announced he is — so I think that she wins that. And I think that there’s room for this movie to win best picture — I think the actors will lead the charge. And I think that, you know, as people re-look at the movie– There were 450 members of the Academy on Tuesday who watched the movie again — you know, the movie’s out on video, but they went to the theater and saw it again. So I think that kind of buzz and the excitement it’s generating is making people take a second-look at all the movies. And, you know, that screenplay, and those actors, and that panorama of movies — you know, it’s just glorious, not to make a pun. I just think it’s one of those great upsets in the making. And it’s gonna happen.

Would that be your biggest success at the Oscars? Biggest surprise?
I don’t know. They said that about “Shakespeare in Love” — they said we’d never win. You think about it: they had Harrison Ford [who collaborated with "Saving Private Ryan" director Steven Spielberg on the "Indiana Jones" films] up there announcing the award. [laughs] I mean, was that a symbol it was supposed to go the other way? And he’s such a great guy but, you know, obviously, you know when you’re competing with “Saving Private Ryan” and you see Harrison Ford you go, “Whoops, okie dokie.” And then they call your name. I think, you know, just to see Quentin up there getting the best picture would just be– You know, it’s been 20 years that he’s been loyal to me. But, more importantly, he’s been loyal to filmmakers both young and old. He takes actors who are having a tough time and gives them jobs, and he takes actors that nobody’s ever heard of and gives them jobs. He’s an actor writing for actors; a writer who writes great parts for actors; and a director who loves actors and, you know, just loves old-fashioned moviemaking. There’s no CGI — very little effects — in the movie, you know, probably less than the two favorites. He’s just, you know, old-fashioned, and he represents the history of movies — I mean, he champions Roger Corman; he champions filmmakers all the time, you know, some of the veteran filmmakers and the veteran actors. He’s a great goodwill ambassador for the movie industry. And it’s his time.

* * *

Major Oscar Nominations & Wins During Harvey Weinstein’s Tenures at Miramax (1979-2005) and The Weinstein Company (2005-present)

  • Best picture: “My Left” Foot” (1989), “The Crying Game” (1992), “The Piano” (1993), “Pulp Fiction” (1994), “Il Postino” (1995), “The English Patient” (1996) WON, “Good Will Hunting” (1997), “Life Is Beautiful” (1998), “Shakespeare in Love” (1998) WON, “The Cider House Rules” (1999), “Chocolat” (2000), “In the Bedroom” (2001), “Chicago” (2002) WON, “Gangs of New York” (2002), “The Hours” (2002), “The Aviator” (2004), “Finding Neverland” (2004), “The Reader” (2008), “Inglourious Basterds” (2009)
  • Best director: Jim Sheridan (“My Left Foot,” 1989), Stephen Frears (“The Grifters,” 1990), Neil Jordan (“The Crying Game,” 1992), Jane Campion (“The Piano,” 1993), Woody Allen (“Bullets Over Broadway,” 1994), Quentin Tarantino (“Pulp Fiction,” 1994), Michael Radford (“Il Postino,” 1995), Anthony Minghella (“The English Patient,” 1996) WON, Gus Van Sant (“Good Will Hunting,” 1997), Roberto Benigni (“Life Is Beautiful,” 1998), John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love,” 1998), Lasse Hallstrom (“The Cider House Rules,” 1999), Stephen Daldry (“The Hours,” 2002), Rob Marshall (“Chicago,” 2002), Martin Scorsese (“Gangs of New York,” 2002), Martin Scorsese (“The Aviator,” 2004), Stephen Daldry (“The Reader,” 2008), Quentin Tarantino (“Inglourious Basterds,” 2009)
  • Best actor: Max von Sydow (“Pelle the Conqueror,” 1987), Daniel Day-Lewis (“My Left Foot,” 1989) WON, Stephen Rea (“The Crying Game,” 1992), John Travolta (“Pulp Fiction,” 1994), Massimo Troisi (“Il Postino,” 1995), Ralph Fiennes (“The English Patient,” 1996), Billy Bob Thornton (“Sling Blade,” 1996), Matt Damon (“Good Will Hunting,” 1997), Roberto Benigni (“Life Is Beautiful” (1998) WON, Tom Wilkinson (“In the Bedroom,” 2001), Michael Caine (“The Quiet American,” 2002), Daniel Day-Lewis (“Gangs of New York,” 2002), Jude Law (“Cold Mountain,” 2003), Johnny Depp (“Finding Neverland,” 2004), Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Aviator,” 2004), Colin Firth (“A Single Man,” 2009)
  • Best actress: Anjelica Huston (“The Grifters,” 1990), Joanne Woodward (“Mr. and Mrs. Bridge,” 1990), Mary McDonnell (“Passion Fish,” 1992), Holly Hunter (“The Piano,” 1993) WON, Miranda Richardson (“Tom & Viv,” 1994), Diane Keaton (“Marvin’s Room,” 1996), Kristin Scott Thomas (“The English Patient,” 1996), Helena Bonham Carter (“The Wings of the Dove,” 1997), Judi Dench (“Mrs. Brown,” 1997), Gwyneth Paltrow (“Shakespeare in Love,” 1998) WON, Meryl Streep (“Music of the Heart,” 1999), Juliette Binoche (“Chocolat,” 2000), Judi Dench (“Iris,” 2001), Sissy Spacek (“In the Bedroom,” 2001), Salma Hayek (“Frida,” 2002), Nicole Kidman (“The Hours,” 2002) WON, Renee Zellweger (“Chicago,” 2002), Judi Dench (“Mrs. Henderson Presents,” 2005), Felicity Huffman (“Transamerica,” 2005), Kate Winslet (“The Reader,” 2008) WON
  • Best supporting actor: Jaye Davidson (“The Crying Game,” 1992), Samuel L. Jackson (“Pulp Fiction,” 1994), Chazz Palminteri (“Bullets Over Broadway,” 1994), Robert Forster (“Jackie Brown,” 1997), Robin Williams (“Good Will Hunting,” 1997) WON, Geoffrey Rush (“Shakespeare in Love,” 1998), Michael Caine (“The Cider House Rules,” 1999), Jude Law (“The Talented Mr. Ripley,” 1999), Jim Broadbent (“Iris,” 2001) WON, Ed Harris (“The Hours,” 2002), John C. Reilly (“Chicago,” 2002), Alan Alda (“The Aviator,” 2004), Paul Giamatti (“Cinderella Man,” 2005), Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious Basterds,” 2009)
  • Best supporting actress: Brenda Fricker (“My Left Foot,” 1989) WON, Annette Bening (“The Grifters,” 1990), Joan Plowright (“Enchanted April,” 1992), Anna Paquin (“The Piano,” 1993) WON, Jennifer Tilly (“Bullets Over Broadway,” 1994), Dianne Wiest (“Bullets Over Broadway,” 1994) WON, Rosemary Harris (“Tom & Viv,” 1994), Uma Thurman (“Pulp Fiction,” 1994), Mira Sorvino (“Mighty Aphrodite,” 1995) WON, Mare Winningham (“Georgia,” 1995), Juliette Binoche (“The English Patient,” 1996) WON, Minnie Driver (“Good Will Hunting,” 1997), Brenda Blethyn (“Little Voice,” 1998), Judi Dench (“Shakespeare in Love,” 1998) WON, Judi Dench (“Chocolat,” 2000), Marisa Tomei (“In the Bedroom,” 2001), Kate Winslet (“Iris,” 2001), Queen Latifah (“Chicago,” 2002), Julianne Moore (“The Hours,” 2002), Catherine Zeta-Jones (“Chicago,” 2002) WON, Renee Zellweger (“Cold Mountain,” 2003) WON, Cate Blanchett (“The Aviator,” 2004) WON, Cate Blanchett (“I’m Not There,” 2007), Penelope Cruz (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” 2008) WON, Penelope Cruz (“Nine,” 2009)
  • Best foreign language film: “Pelle the Conqueror” (1987, Denmark) WON, “Cinema Paradiso” (1989, Italy) WON, “Journey of Hope” (1990, Switzerland) WON, “Ju Dou” (1990, China), “The Nasty Girl” (1990, Germany), “Mediterraneo” (1991, Italy) WON, “Close to Eden” (1992, Russia), “Farewell My Concubine” (1993, Hong Kong), “Fresa y Chocolate” (1994, Cuba), “The Star Maker” (1995, Italy), “Kolja” (1996, Czech Republic) WON, “Ridicule” (1996, France), “Beyond Silence” (1997, Germany), “Four Days in September” (1997, Brazil), “Children of Heaven” (1998, Iran), “The Grandfather” (1998, Spain), “Life Is Beautiful” (1998, Italy) WON, “Everybody’s Famous!” (2000, Belgium), “The Taste of Others” (2000, France), “Amelie” (2001, France), “Hero” (2002, China), “The Barbarian Invasions” (2003, Canada) WON, “Twin Sisters” (2003, Netherlands), “The Chorus” (2004, France), “Tsotsi” (2005, South Africa) WON, “Days of Glory” (2006, Algeria)


17 Feb



Just as I did for the 2007-2008 awards season and the 2008-2009 awards season, I am now sharing a list of/links to interviews that I conducted with awards hopefuls during the 2009-2010 awards season that is about to come to an end. Some feature just text; others text accompanied by audio and/or video (ranging in length from just a question or two to over an-hour-and-a-half of questions). Most were conducted within the past year; a few were conducted previous awards seasons. I hope you have enjoyed or will enjoy all of them.

Photo: “The Hurt Locker” star Jeremy Renner and Scott Feinberg following a SAG Q&A that I moderated with Renner and his co-star Anthony Mackie on 11/21/09. Credit: Aimee Morris.


16 Feb


Projected win count: 5 – “The Hurt Locker”; 4 – “Avatar”; 2 – “Crazy Heart,” “Inglourious Basterds; 1 – “The Blind Side,” “The Cove,” “Precious,” “Star Trek,” “Up, “Up in the Air,” “The White Ribbon,” “The Young Victoria”


  • 1. “The Hurt Locker” (Summit, 6/26, trailer)
  • 2. “Inglourious Basterds” (The Weinstein Company, 8/21, trailer)
  • 3. “Avatar” (20th Century Fox, 12/18, trailer)
  • 4. “Up in the Air” (Paramount, 12/4, trailer)
  • 5. “Precious” (Lions Gate, 11/6, trailer)
  • 6. “Up” (Disney, 5/29, trailer)
  • 7. “An Education” (Sony Pictures Classics, 10/9, trailer)
  • 8. “The Blind Side” (Warner Brothers, 11/20, trailer)
  • 9. “A Serious Man” (Focus Features, 10/2, trailer)
  • 10. “District 9” (TriStar, 8/14, trailer)


  • 1. Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”)
  • 2. James Cameron (“Avatar”)
  • 3. Quentin Tarantino (“Inglourious Basterds”)
  • 4. Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”)
  • 5. Lee Daniels (“Precious”)


  • 1. Jeff Bridges (“Crazy Heart”)
  • 2. Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”)
  • 3. George Clooney (“Up in the Air”)
  • 4. Colin Firth (“A Single Man”)
  • 5. Morgan Freeman (“Invictus”)


  • 1. Sandra Bullock (“The Blind Side”)
  • 2. Meryl Streep (“Julie & Julia”)
  • 3. Gabby Sidibe (“Precious”)
  • 4. Carey Mulligan (“An Education”)
  • 5. Helen Mirren (“The Last Station”)


  • 1. Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious Basterds”)
  • 2. Woody Harrelson (“The Messenger”)
  • 3. Christopher Plummer (“The Last Station”)
  • 4. Matt Damon (“Invictus”)
  • 5. Stanley Tucci (“The Lovely Bones”)


  • 1. Mo’Nique (“Precious”)
  • 2. Vera Farmiga (“Up in the Air”)
  • 3. Anna Kendrick (“Up in the Air”)
  • 4. Maggie Gyllenhaal (“Crazy Heart”)
  • 5. Penelope Cruz (“Nine”)


  • 1. Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner (“Up in the Air”)
  • 2. Geoffrey Fletcher (“Precious”)
  • 3. Nick Hornby (“An Education”)
  • 4. Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell (“District 9”)
  • 5. Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche (“In the Loop”)


  • 1. Quentin Tarantino (“Inglourious Basterds”)
  • 2. Mark Boal (“The Hurt Locker”)
  • 3. Pete Docter, Bob Peterson (“Up”)
  • 4. Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (“A Serious Man”)
  • 5. Alessandro Camon, Oren Moverman (“The Messenger”)


  • 1. “Up” (Disney)
  • 2. “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (Fox Searchlight)
  • 3. “Coraline” (Focus FeatureS)
  • 4. “The Princess and the Frog” (Disney)
  • 5. “The Secret of Kells” (GKIDS)


  • 1. “The Cove” (Roadside Attractions, 7/31, trailer)
  • 2. “Food, Inc.” (Magnolia, 6/12, trailer)
  • 3. “Burma VJ” (Oscilloscope, 5/20, trailer)
  • 4. “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (Kovno, 6/1, trailer)
  • 5. “Which Way Home (HBO, 1/31, trailer)


  • 1. “The White Ribbon” (Germany)
  • 2. “A Prophet” (France)
  • 3. “The Secret in Their Eyes” (Argentina)
  • 4. “Ajami” (Israel)
  • 5. “The Milk of Sorrow” (Peru)


  • 1. “Avatar” (Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg, Kim Sinclair)
  • 2. “Nine” (John Myhre, Gordon Sim)
  • 3. “Sherlock Holmes” (Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer)
  • 4. “The Young Victoria” (Patrice Vermette, Maggie Gray)
  • 5. “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus” (Dave Warren, Anastasia Masaro, Caroline Smith)


  • 1. “The Hurt Locker” (Barry Ackroyd)
  • 2. “Avatar” (Mauro Fiore)
  • 3. “Inglourious Basterds (Robert Richardson)
  • 4. “The White Ribbon” (Christian Berger)
  • 5. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Bruno Delbonnel)


  • 1. “The Young Victoria” (Sandy Powell)
  • 2. “Nine (Colleen Atwood)
  • 3. “Bright Star (Janet Patterson)
  • 4. “Coco Before Chanel (Catherine Leterrier)
  • 5. “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (Monique Prudhomme)


  • 1. “The Hurt Locker” (Bob Murawski, Chris Innis)
  • 2. “Avatar” (Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua, James Cameron)
  • 3. “Inglourious Basterds (Sally Menke)
  • 4. “Precious” (Joe Klotz)
  • 5. “District 9 (Julian Clarke)


  • 1. “Star Trek” (Barney Burman, Mindy Hall, Joel Harlow)
  • 2. “The Young Victoria (Jon Henry Gordon, Jenny Shircore)
  • 3. “Il Divo” (Aldo Signoretti, Vittorio Sodano)


  • 1. “Avatar” (James Horner)
  • 2. “Up” (Michael Giacchino)
  • 3. “Sherlock Holmes” (Hans Zimmer)
  • 4. “The Hurt Locker” (Marco Beltrami, Buck Sanders)
  • 5. “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (Alexandre Desplat)


  • 1. “The Weary Kind” (“Crazy Heart”)
  • 2. “Take It All” (“Nine”)
  • 3. “Down in New Orleans” (“The Princess and the Frog”)
  • 4. “Almost There” (“The Princess and the Frog”)
  • 5. “Loin de Paname” (“Paris 36”)


  • 1. “Avatar” (Christopher Boyes, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle)
  • 2. “Star Trek” (Mark Stoeckinger, Alan Rankin)
  • 3. “Inglourious Basterds” (Wylie Stateman)
  • 4. “The Hurt Locker” (Paul N.J. Ottosson)
  • 5. “Up” (Michael Silvers, Tom Myers)


  • 1. “The Hurt Locker” (Paul N.J. Ottosson, Ray Beckett)
  • 2. “Avatar” (Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson, Tony Johnson)
  • 3. “Inglourious Basterds” (Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti, Mark Ulano)
  • 4. “Star Trek” (Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson, Peter J. Devlin)
  • 5. “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” (Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Geoffrey Patterson)


  • 1. “Avatar” (Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham, Andrew R. Jones)
  • 2. “Star Trek” (Robert Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh, Burt Dalton)
  • 3. “District 9” (Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros, Matt Aitken)


  • 1. A Matter of Loaf and Death (Nick Park)
  • 2. French Roast (Fabrice O. Joubert)
  • 3. Logorama (Nicolas Schmerkin)
  • 4. Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty (Nicky Phelan and Darragh O’Connell)
  • 5. The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte) (Javier Recio Gracia)


  • 1. The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant (Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert)
  • 2. China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province (Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill)
  • 3. The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner (Daniel Junge and Henry Ansbacher)
  • 4. Music by Prudence (Roger Ross Williams and Elinor Burkett)
  • 5. Rabbit à la Berlin (Bartek Konopka and Anna Wydra)


  • 1. Miracle Fish (Luke Doolan and Drew Bailey)
  • 2. The New Tenants (Joachim Back and Tivi Magnusson)
  • 3. Kavi (Gregg Helvey)
  • 4. The Door (Juanita Wilson and James Flynn)
  • 5. Instead of Abracadabra (Patrik Eklund and Mathias Fjellström)

Photo: Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds.” Credit: The Weinstein Company.


15 Feb


On Friday evening, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival hosted its annual “Vanguard” awards ceremony, highlighting the work of five of the year’s most brave and cutting-edge performances. This year’s honorees were actress Vera Farmiga (“Up in the Air”), who portrayed a businesswoman with unrepressed sexual hunger; actor Peter Sarsgaard (“An Education”), who portrayed a conniving 30-year-old who cons a girl half his age; actor Stanley Tucci (“The Lovely Bones”), who portrayed a serial rapist/murderer; and actor Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious Basterds”), who portrayed a charismatic but sadistic Nazi. Tucci was unable to attend the ceremony because it conflicted with the opening of his new play in New York (the first he’s ever directed); but the audience was more than placated by the presence of actress Gabby Sidibe (“Precious”), who had been named one of the festival’s “Virtuoso” honorees but had been unable to join her fellow recipients at their awards ceremony the previous Sunday and was therefore conducting her Q&A and collecting her award at this one.

The festival’s executive director Roger Durling administered brief individual Q&As with each before inviting all four to share the stage together for a lengthier back-and-forth. (I conducted my own Q&A with Sidibe backstage shortly before the event began.) Then, the veteran actor Dennis Franz (“NYPD Blue”) made some congratulatory remarks, after which stagehands presented the honorees with their statuettes. (Farmiga very sweetly kissed her presenter on the cheek.)

Following are a few noteworthy remarks and exchanges from the evening:

  • Sidibe was introduced after the audience was shown the scene in “Precious” in which she reveals to her teacher and classmates that she has AIDS. She said, “That’s the only scene that can still make me cry.”
  • Sidibe says many people who meet her in real-life are surprised to discover how different she is from her character and say, “Oh, wait… so you are actress?!” She says it tends to annoy her for a second before she realizes that it’s really the ultimate compliment.
  • Sidibe revealed that the college class that she skipped in order to attend the audition for “Precious” was, ironically, “Psychology of Family.”
  • Sidibe says she was able to have “so much fun on set” because “It’s not a thin line, it’s a very thick line between myself and Precious.” Nevertheless, Sidibe added, “After a film like ‘Precious,’ I want to be funny for the rest of my life.”
  • Sidibe, upon being asked to identify the movies that have played the most important role in her life, volunteered (dead seriously, but to great laughter): “When I was five, every day I would come home from school and I would watch “Pee Wee Herman” and then I would watch ‘My Left Foot.’”
  • The clips used to introduce Sarsgaard reminded me that two of his finest performances — those in “Boys Don’t Cry” (1999) and “Shattered Glass” (2003) — have both come opposite Chloe Sevigny.
  • Sarsgaard, when asked about his penchant for picking difficult roles, joked that he actually just winds up in roles that nobody else wants. Citing for example his role in “Kinsey” (2004), he said, “Not a lot of male actors in Hollywood were knocking down the door to have sex with Liam Neeson.”
  • Sarsgaard granted that he has tended to play outsiders who are battling inner-demons, from “Boys Don’t Cry” right through “An Education.” As he put it, “I have a big heart for the castaways… the people left behind.”
  • Sarsgaard couldn’t have been more complimentary of the 24-year-old actress Carey Mulligan, his co-star in “An Education” on screen and “The Seagull” on Broadway (where, he points out, they together performed the longest scene that Anton Chekhov ever wrote).
  • When Durling noted how silly it is that people have been referring to Waltz as “an overnight success” even though he’s been steadily working in Europe for the past 30 years, Waltz deadpanned, “Yeah, but the success was overnight.”
  • Durling noted that writer/director Quentin Tarantino has referred to Waltz’s character in “Inglourious Basterds” (Col. Hans Landa) and the opening scene in that film (a very long exchange between the Jew-hunter Landa and a man hiding Jews in his home) as the best character and scene he’d ever written. (He told me as much when we spoke earlier in the week.) Waltz couldn’t praise Tarantino enough, comparing the part he was given to Richard III and calling it “one of the greatest parts of dramatic literature from the beginning — and that’s a few thousand years.”
  • When Durling suggested that the opening scene could be brought to the stage as a stand-alone one-act play, Waltz responded, “It’s not even a short one-act play… I’d be interested in seeing it,” and added, “I don’t think I could’ve done it without being really experienced in the theater.”
  • Farmiga, who I’ve assumed would be more than a little quirky and eccentric ever since I read a New York Times profile of her several years ago, didn’t disappoint — she did a little dance onto the stage; gave strange answers after long pauses; and even had her cell phone start buzzing in her pocketbook while answering questions. That being said, she was very endearing and — though dressed simply and with her hair casually pulled back into a ponytail — looked as sexy as ever.
  • Farmiga explained that the allure of Alex, her character in “Up in the Air,” was that “she makes sex fun… she’s unapologetic.”
  • Farmiga revealed that she had met with “Up in the Air” screenwriter/director Jason Reitman for his first film, “Thank You for Smoking” (2006), but that things didn’t work out. She added that she “almost got fired” from “Up in the Air” (even though Reitman had written the part of Alex for her) because she had just given birth before filming was to begin, which caused her to arrive on set six days late and experience post-pregnancy breast leaking once it did.

Photo (l to r): Veteran actor Dennis Franz looks on as Christoph Waltz, Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, and Gabby Sidibe show off their SBIFF awards. Credit: Scott Feinberg.


15 Feb

Last night, I spent about 15 minutes chatting with a very mellow Jeff Bridges in the green room of Santa Barbara’s Lobero Theatre before his well-attended public Q&A about “Crazy Heart” — the Scott Cooper film for which he received a best actor Oscar nod on February 2 — which was hosted by the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and moderated by my fellow Oscar blogger/Bridges enthusiast Kris Tapley of InContention.

(Continue reading after the videos.)

At the moment, Bridges is the hands-down favorite to take home the Oscar on March 7, having already won best actor plaudits from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards, Golden Globe Awards, and Screen Actors Guild Awards. This may come as a surprise to some, but I’m pleased to say it was forecasted on this site within days of Fox Searchlight’s decision to bump up the release date of “Crazy Heart” from 2010 into 2009 in order to qualify for awards consideration.

Way back on November 15, 2009, I laid out a fairly extensive argument for why Bridges would be in the pole position heading into the homestretch, the general tenets of which are worth revisiting now:

  • His career has been long (five-plus decades) and consistently strong (critically and commercially), but he has never been duly recognized. (He’s received Oscar nods on four previous occasions and lost all of them.)
  • Thanks to his family ties (he comes from one of the most revered acting families in Hollywood history) and longevity (he’s accumulated dozens of A-list co-stars over the years), he is known — and, more importantly, is liked — by virtually everyone, including within the Academy.
  • He’s been a model citizen who’s never really given anyone a reason to begrudge his success. (He’s been married to the same woman for 32-plus years; he’s active in the fight to combat childhood hunger, etc.)
  • In “Crazy Heart,” he plays an alcoholic-musician. Few types of characters have resulted in more best actor Oscar nominations than alcoholics and musicians — look no further than the performance for which “Crazy Heart” producer Robert Duvall won his Oscar 26 years ago in “Tender Mercies” (1983).
  • Of his four fellow nominees for the best actor Oscar, two have won Oscars within the previous five years (George Clooney and Morgan Freeman) and two have never been nominated before (Colin Firth and Jeremy Renner). Many will probably rule out voting for the former because they’ve been recognized so recently and the latter because they need to put in more time/work before qualifying as “due.”
  • There is reason to believe that even those who feel Bridges’ performance or the film in which it was given are flawed may vote for him/it anyway. (There is a long list of people who received “makeup” Oscars because the Academy had so egregiously overlooked them in the past.)

Lastly, I’ll once again share a fun fact that I first wrote about in the aforementioned post and then shared with Bridges himself backstage at the Golden Globes in January:

If Bridges wins the best actor Oscar for “Crazy Heart,” it will come 38 years after he received his best supporting actor nod for “The Last Picture Show” (1971). Only three men in the 81 year history of the Oscars would have ever worked/waited longer between their first nomination and win: Henry Fonda, who waited 41 years between his best actor nod for “The Grapes of Wrath” (1940) and best actor win for “On Golden Pond” (1981); Alan Arkin, who waited 40 years between his best actor nomination for “The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!” (1966) and his best supporting actor win for “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006); and Jack Palance, who waited 39 years between his best supporting actor nod for “Sudden Death” (1952) and his best supporting actor win for “City Slickers” (1991).

Video: Scott Feinberg interviews Jeff Bridges. Credit: Nishika Kumble.


14 Feb

Last night, I chatted for about a half an hour with the British actor Colin Firth in the green room of Santa Barbara’s Arlington Theatre, where he would later receive the Santa Barbara International Film Festival‘s 2010 Outstanding Performance Award. Firth was being feted for his portrayal of a heartbroken professor on the verge of suicide in Tom Ford‘s “A Single Man” (The Weinstein Company, 12/11, trailer), for which he also received an Oscar nomination — the first of his long career — for best actor on February 2.

As you can see for yourself in the videos below, we covered a wide variety of topics, from his mixed feelings about Mr. Darcy, the role that made him a star in the BBC version of “Pride & Prejudice” (1995) and a variation of which he reprised in the “Bridget Jones” films (2001 and 2004), to his lack of inhibition about playing gay characters on screen (“I know just as many heteros who are queens as gay guys!”). I hope you’ll pardon the somewhat shaky camera — the cameraman who I’d hired for the day eventually fainted in the middle of the interview, at which point we briefly stopped taping before Firth’s publicist took over the reins.

(Continue reading after the videos.)

In the 15 years since Firth first became a star as Mr. Darcy, he has been cast most often as dashing, witty, urbane characters — sort of a British William Powell, if you will. This screen persona has helped to pay the bills and endeared him to legions of intellectual women, but it has rarely won the approval of critics or awards groups. That finally happened this year, but not before Firth agreed to do the polar opposite of everything he’d been accustomed to doing on screen in “A Single Man”: he worked for virtually no money, on a first-time director’s indie film, with a 21-day shooting schedule, playing a gay man who says hardly a word (save for a brief classroom lecture on fear). That’s no small departure!

In my humble opinion, Firth deserves all the praise in the world, if only for the heartbreaking telephone scene that comes early in the film and sets the tone for the remainder. To me, it resembles and even rivals the mother of all telephone scenes, the 73-year-old one in “The Great Ziegfeld” (1936) in which Luise Rainer is also shown in a one-shot receiving some devastating news. (Both the film and Rainer won Oscars.) What could possibly be harder than having to suddenly deliver such an emotional reaction to something that’s not there? That is acting — especially when you’re a supporter of Barack Obama and learned only moments before hearing “Action!” that he’d been elected President of the United States, as was the case with Firth!

(Back in July 2009, I spoke with Rainer — who is now 100 — about how she handled her telephone scene, and Firth — who is now 49 — about how he handled his in the third video from the top of this post.)


13 Feb

Definitely good for a few laughs…


13 Feb

Last night, I had the pleasure of spending about a half an hour with Gabby Sidibe, the 26-year-old best actress Oscar nominee for “Precious,” before the Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented her with its Virtuoso Award in honor of her breakthrough performance in the film.

Back in October, I wrote that the biggest hurdle that Sidibe would need to overcome in order to seriously contend for an Oscar would be to convince voters that she was not playing herself in “Precious.” If her answers and demeanor during my interview with her (videos of which are below) don’t convince them of just that, then I can only conclude that they don’t want to be convinced.

(Continue reading after the videos.)

“Breakthrough” doesn’t even begin to describe the past year or so in Sidibe’s life. The daughter of a Senegalese cab driver and an American subway singer, she was pursuing a degree in psychology at New York’s Mercy College and working as a receptionist at a telephone company to help cover her tuition when a friend urged her to head over to an audition for the part of Precious that he’d heard about. Sidibe, whose acting experience was limited to parts in three college plays and who had no real desire to do any sort of work in which she’d be judged by others, was actually familiar with and a fan of the source material, Sapphire‘s best-selling book “Push,” because — and this is the craziest part — her mother had urged her to read it four years earlier after she had been asked to audition for the part of Mary (which was ultimately played by Mo’Nique) but declined for reasons that she wanted her daughter to understand. For reasons that Gabby is still uncertain of to this day, she did decide to audition — along with 400 other young women. She was video-recorded on Monday; called back on Tuesday; and given the part by director Lee Daniels on Wednesday. The rest, as they say, is history.

Ever since “Precious” premiered in January 2009 at Sundance, where it was received the Audience Award, Sidibe has been a public figure of increasing renown. When I first saw her in September 2009, she was attending the film’s screening at the Toronto International Film Festival with Sapphire; Daniels; producers Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry; co-stars Mariah Carey, Paula Patton, and Sherri Shepherd; and singer Mary J. Blige. When I saw her next in January 2010, she was a Golden Globe and SAG nominee for best actress. And when I sat down with her last night, she was an Academy Award nominee for best actress, with a real shot at becoming only the fifth woman to ever win that honor for her big screen debut. The others? Shirley Booth (“Come Back, Little Sheba,” 1952), Julie Andrews (“Mary Poppins,” 1964), Barbra Streisand (“Funny Girl,” 1968), and Marlee Matlin (“Children of a Lesser God,” 1986). Not bad company at all.

For one’s life to change so quickly and so dramatically is neither a normal nor a frequent occurance — there has been no roadmap for Sidibe to follow — and yet she’s handled and continues to handle herself with a sort of grace and good humor that is perhaps just as rare.

Video: Scott Feinberg interviews Gabby Sidibe. Credit: Max Wellcoffee.


12 Feb

In preparation for my interview later tonight with Gabby Sidibe, the best actress nominee for “Precious,” I’ve been reading everything about her life that I can get my hands on. Moments ago, I came across a video of her mother, a popular street and subway singer in Harlem named Alice Tan Ridley, performing Aretha Franklin‘s classic “I Will Survive” in a New York City subway. I felt this was worth sharing because (a) she’s really good, and (b) this is also the woman who Lee Daniels invited to audition for the part of Mary (which Mo’Nique eventually played) in his film, but who passed on it because she found it too disturbing, and who then gave her daughter the book on which it is based — Sapphire‘s “Push” — to help her understand why. Had Alice not done so, Gabby would never have been familiar enough with the material to audition for the part on a whim four years later and eventually win it over 400 other girls, changing her life forever.


12 Feb


Last night, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival honored actress Julianne Moore with its Montecito Award following a Q&A with film critic Pete Hammond and some remarks from Ivan Reitman, the producer of her latest film “Chloe” (Sony Pictures Classics, 3/26, trailer).

The brief clips from Moore’s films that were played throughout the evening reinforced my belief that the four-time Oscar nominee is one of the few actresses working today who would have been just as successful — if not more so — during Hollywood’s Golden Age. Maybe I say that because she physically resembles a Greer Garson or a Maureen O’Hara (two other classically beautiful redheads) more than a Megan Fox or a Cameron Diaz (who ooze sex with their every breath), or perhaps because she’s appeared in so many strong period pieces in which she seems right at home. But, that being said, I still really believe that she has the sort of acting chops and focus that was requisite then but is so rare today.

Because Moore is not a publicity whore like so many of today’s stars, but rather a mother of two who only leaves her kids to make movies when her producer-husband is not working and can be at home with them, people often forget just how many great performances she’s given in important films. Among them: Robert Altman‘s “Short Cuts” (1993); Paul Thomas Anderson‘s “Boogie Nights” (1997) and “Magnolia” (1999); Ethan Coen and Joel Coen‘s “The Big Lebowski” (1998); Alfonso Cuaron‘s “Children of Men” (2006); Stephen Daldry‘s “The Hours” (2002); Andrew Davis‘s “The Fugitive” (1993); Todd Haynes‘s “Safe” (1993), “Far from Heaven” (2002), and “I’m Not There” (2007); and Neil Jordan‘s “The End of the Affair” (1999).

Sure, Moore has been a part of a number of duds — Gus Van Sant‘s “Psycho” remake (1998), Steven Spielberg‘s “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” (1998), Ridley Scott‘s “Hannibal” (2001), and Fernando Meirelles‘s “Blindness” (2008), to name just a few — but, to her credit, even these have almost always been for great directors, and she’s almost always risen above the films and given fearless, emotionally and/or physically naked performances that one can’t help but respect.

You can check out my own interview with Moore from last September 14 at the Toronto International Film Festival, where she was promoting both “Chloe” and the film for which she would go on to receive a Golden Globe nomination, “A Single Man.” Many felt that her performance in the latter, though only about 15 minutes in length, would bring her Oscar nod number five, but she was bumped out of the best supporting actress race by Mo’Nique (“Precious”), Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick (both “Up in the Air”), Penelope Cruz (“Nine”), and Maggie Gyllenhaal (“Crazy Heart”).

Photo: Julianne Moore accepts her SBIFF award as her “Chloe” producer Ivan Reitman looks on. Credit: Scott Feinberg.