MY 10 FAVORITE SNAPSHOTS OF THE 2009 AWARDS SEASON

7 Mar

I’m not much of a photographer. In fact, I only stopped using disposable cameras and started using a digital camera last year. But, over the course of the past year, I’ve snapped a few photos at each of the stops that I’ve made along the awards trail — the Tribeca, Toronto, and Santa Barbara Film Festivals, the Gotham and Golden Globe awards ceremonies, and various premieres, dinners, and parties — and I figured that there’s no more appropriate a time to share some of them than on the eve of the Academy Awards ceremony that will bring the year to a close. So, without further ado, here are my 10 favorites, in chronological order, each accompanied by a little commentary…

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“Racing Dreams” Zooms to Front of Pack
School of Visual Arts Theatre, New York City
Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Tribeca Film Festival happens so early in the year (mid to late April) and showcases such small films (which usually don’t yet have distributors) that there’s usually little if any advance buzz about the films, making it terribly hard to decide which are worth your time. Many are not, but this year I got lucky. A publicist-friend told me about the films on which he was working, strongly recommended several, and then mentioned “Racing Dreams” almost as an after-thought. I don’t think a doc about kids trying to become NASCAR drivers sounded that appealing to either of us, but I decided to take a chance on it because it was directed by Marshall Curry (whose previous doc “Street Fight” garnered an Oscar nod) and produced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (who I figured I’d like to see in the flesh). Little did I expect that it would be the best doc that I’d see all year; garner a standing ovation throughout its credits; and win Tribeca’s Audience Award. Based on the look on Curry’s face in this photo (seated at about 4 o’clock) as he watched the audience begin to rise to its feet (including Johnson two rows in front of him), I don’t think he expected it either.

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The Man of the Hour
Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto
Friday, September 11, 2009

Few people have ever generated more excitement at the Toronto Film Festival than George Clooney, who was in town for the premiere of “Michael Clayton” in 2007 and returned to premiere two films in 2009: “The Men Who Stare at Goats” and “Up in the Air.” While the latter was widely celebrated and went on to earn him a best actor Oscar nod, the former was widely derided and quickly forgotten. In this photo though — taken right after the credits began to roll and the talent took a bow following the “Goats” premiere — Clooney seems perfectly happy, displaying his famous million-dollar smile as he ducks out of the audience.

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Curious George
Private Residence, Toronto
Friday, September 11, 2009

Following the premiere of “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” several members of the press were invited to hop aboard a bus to an undisclosed location in order to celebrate the film along with Clooney and Bridges. After a 20-minute ride, we were dropped off in front of one of the most expensive mansions in Toronto — and greeted by a pen filled with real goats. While Bridges chilled out in a corner with a couple of friends, Clooney was surprisingly gregarious, standing in the center of the room and cordially greeting all comers. Not surprisingly, there were many. At one point, a fellow actor asked him what had happened to his hand, which was heavily bandaged. Clooney’s reps had informed the media that the actor had closed a car door on his own hand, but he could be overheard telling this acquaintance that his new girlfriend was actually the one who’d accidentally shut the door too quickly and he was trying to spare her the media attention. Moments later, he excused himself again to take a phone call, and I quickly snapped this candid shot. Yes, even George Clooney gets hurt; owns a cell phone (a Motorola, if you can believe it!); and makes and takes his own calls.

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The Last Emperor
The Standard Hotel’s Boom Boom Room, New York City
Tuesday, November 3, 2009

On a blisteringly cold night, the fashion and film worlds came together for a party at one of New York’s trendiest new penthouse bars to celebrate the iconic fashion designer Valentino and “Valentino: The Last Emperor,” a doc about his life and work. It was organized by director Matt Tyrnauer and New York-based publicists, who were trying to stir up fresh enthusiasm for the film as Oscar voting neared. (It wound up making the best doc shortlist of 15 films but not the final five.) Among those in attendance were producer/beer heiress Daphne Guinness, talk show host Charlie Rose, actress/socialite Mischa Barton, actor Adrien Brody, producer Brian Grazer, actor Hugh Jackman (who is pictured in this photo listening to Valentino), and Jesus Luz, the 22-year-old disk-jockey who got the gig through a mutual friend of his and Valentino’s: Madonna, who showed up at the end of the party and danced with a few of the buzzed guests (myself included, if you can believe it — I still can’t).

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A Face in the Crowd
Abe & Arthur’s, New York City
Sunday, November 22, 2009

Following the New York premiere of “Brothers,” director Jim Sheridan and stars Tobey Maguire and Natalie Portman (whose blue dress became one of the most talked-about fashion items of the year) headed over to Abe & Arthur’s in the Meatpacking District, a magnificent space that packed in a lot of folks. In this photo, Portman — easily the most beautiful woman in this or virtually any room — seems to be moving amongst the crowd as if she was just another anonymous person, as opposed to one of the most famous movie stars in the world, something that one wouldn’t expect to see at this sort of an event. (Sheridan is the white-haired man she is walking past in the photo.) When I spoke with her the following week backstage at the Gotham Independent Film Awards, where she was presented with a career tribute at the ripe old age of 28, she explained that she’s as happy as she’s ever been because she’s finally getting to play confident, intelligent, mature adults on the big screen.

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The First Lady
Cipriani Wall Street, New York City
Monday, November 30, 2009

I arrived at historic Cipriani long before any of the nominees for the Gotham Indepedent Film Awards that would be held there later in the evening. While strolling around the magnificent space, I ran into a publicist for “The Hurt Locker” and asked how confident she felt about the film winning best ensemble and best picture over “A Serious Man” in a few hours, not to mention throughout the rest of the awards season. The answer? Not very. Throughout the show, my videographer and I hung out in a corridor just off of the main press room where I was conducting 1-on-1 video interviews with several winners and presenters. When we heard that the best picture award was about to be bestowed, I ran into the main press room to watch the announcement on a closed-circuit monitor along with my fellow journalists and the publicist who had expressed her doubts about the film earlier in the evening. Upon hearing that “The Hurt Locker” won, she broke into a little dance before regaining her composure. Moments later, the film’s stars Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, and Brian Geraghty, writer Mark Boal, and director Kathryn Bigelow all made their way into the room to take questions from the small group of journalists gathered there. At one point, I caught the eye of Bigelow, with whom I’d had the privilege of chatting quite extensively earlier in the awards season, and she flashed me a beautiful smile that I captured in the photo you see above. Little did I — or she — know that she would go on to become only the fourth female to ever earn a best director Oscar nod and possibly the first to ever win.

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The (Re-)Coronation
The Beverly Hilton, Los Angeles
Sunday, January 17, 2010

I arrived early to this year’s Golden Globe Awards and snagged a front-row-center seat in the press room, where all of the winners swing by to take questions moments after they leave the stage. We were visited by the likes of Martin Scorsese, Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock, Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges, and the entire casts of “Mad Men” and “Glee,” but the biggest winners of the night were clearly the folks behind “Avatar,” especially its writer-director-producer James Cameron. Cameron, who won best director and best picture (drama) at the show (and then lost all subsequent awards in both categories to his ex-wife and her film “The Hurt Locker”), was clearly thrilled to be back on top, which prompted me to ask him the rather cheeky question: “Is it fair to say you’re still the king of the world?” Most journalists’ questions were directed at Cameron, rather than his collaborators who accompanied him to the podium (actors Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Sigourney Weaver, as well as producer Jon Landau), and Cameron seemed more than happy to lecture at-length from the podium about the technology advances of “Avatar,” the underappreciation of acting in CGI films, and many other subjects. I think this photo captures, as well as any, Cameron’s return to the winner’s circle — even if it only lasted for a night.

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He’ll Be Back!
Arlington Theatre, Santa Barbara
Saturday, February 6, 2010

Part-time Santa Barbara resident James Cameron was invited to receive the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Modern Master Award this year. The evening-long tribute got off to a rocky start, though, when Cameron began delivering his acceptance speech prior to participating in a Q&A with moderator Leonard Maltin. Maltin, who might have allowed Cameron to proceed, seemed anxious to get the Q&A started, and eventually interrupted Cameron to bring him up to speed. Then, once their discussion got underway, Maltin inexplicably seemed to rush past large portions of Cameron’s life and career. After Maltin introduced clips of Cameron’s work on “The Terminator” films, it finally became clear why things had been so out-of-whack: Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governor of California and the star of the aforementioned films, had flown in to present Cameron with his award himself, and was introduced to do so right in the middle of the Q&A because he had to leave immediately afterward in order to catch a flight back to Sacramento. Though the press had been notified about the special appearance prior to the ceremony, Cameron seemed genuinely surprised. This photo shows Cameron after he walked over to greet Schwarzenegger and accept his award. As Schwarzenegger began to leave, he stopped himself, turned around to the microphone, and winkingly remarked, “I’ll be back!”

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The Odd Couple
Lobero Theatre’s Green Room, Santa Barbara
Sunday, February 7, 2010

The most memorable event at this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival was viewed by only a handful of folks who were willing to miss the Super Bowl in order to witness a unique moment in film history: Quentin Tarantino, the 46-year-old writer-director, interviewed Kirk Douglas, the 93-year-old legendary actor-director, following a screening of Douglas’ 1975 directorial effort “Posse,” which the film history buff Tarantino had specifically suggested be shown instead of more famous Douglas films like “Lust for Life” or “Spartacus.” The event — which Tarantino labeled “not a Q&A but a Q&K” — was a gesture of thanks from Tarantino, to whom Douglas and the festival had presented the fourth annual Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film back in October 2009. I happened to be hanging out in the green room when Douglas arrived, and the photo above captures the lovely moment when Tarantino, a man known for violent movies, gently greeted one of his heroes — who emphasized during the Q&A that the admiration was mutual.

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The Dude Comes Home
Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara
Sunday, February 14, 2010

On the last day of this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival, local hero Jeff Bridges stopped by for a Q&A with my fellow Oscar blogger Kris Tapley following a screening of “Crazy Heart,” the film for which he was/is widely expected to win the best actor Oscar. As the Q&A came to an end, the mayor of Santa Barbara surprised Bridges with a formal proclamation declaring it Jeff Bridges Day in the city. Bridges seemed very touched, hugged the mayor, and then graciously stuck around for several minutes to sign autographs for many of the people who had packed the Lobero Theatre for his event. I snagged this photo from the corner of the stage, and particularly like it because it captures Bridges in profile, with his shadow clearly visible behind him, as well as the genuine adoration and excitement of the folks who were clammoring for his attention.

All photos featured in this post were taken by/are the property of Scott Feinberg.

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