Oscarwatch: Weighing the awards so far

Lots of major developments this past week – on December 12th the Screen Actors Guild announced its nominations, followed by the Golden Globe awards the next day, and both served a purpose by starting to outline possible nominees more clearly (with great news for team Lincoln, not so great for Tom Hooper and The Master in general). We should keep in mind that while the SAG awards usually serve as a thermometer for the Oscar race, with mostly overlapping nominees, there’s always room for a few changes: a few people that showed up here in past years ended up losing steam before the Oscars, and a few of the smaller performances ignored by the nomination committee got picked up again by the big prize. There is one thing that should be mentioned about these nominations though: since its creation, the Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture has been a pretty solid precursor to the eventual Oscar Best Picture winner – with the exception of the first year that award was given (when BP winner Braveheart missed out on a nomination at the SAGs), all of the following Oscar winners were at least nominated in the Outstanding Cast category at the SAGs – so does the omission of assumed frontrunner Zero Dark Thirty means its chances at a win are not as strong as pundits had been claiming? Maybe, and while some quickly tried explaining away the oversight by noting that most guild members hadn’t yet seen the movie, as screeners were not sent out, leading lady Jessica Chastain still managed to score a nom, proving that word of mouth apparently is a lot stronger on her than on the movie itself. As for the Globes, they’ve never been a true precursor, and their value is similar to critics awards in the grand scheme of things – they provide some nice visibility, a boost to a few campaigns, a fun party that gives us lots of gifs, but not much else. And now, for all of you fond of following every critics awards on earth, here’s a great list, tracking and detailing all of the groups already announced, and all of the winners so far.

This Monday also saw the beginning of voting, with ballots being sent out to AMPAS members. Ballots are due back by January 3rd at the most, making this a pretty short window for people to get updated on the movies they missed out on throughout the year. Here is the massive list of 282 movies eligible for this year’s Oscar.

So let’s discuss the Documentary Shortlist, take a look at the swag movies are giving away and check the updated predictions below. Coming later today, we’ll take a look at a comprehensive list of movies competing in the Foreign Film category.

Best Documentary Oscar: The Shortlist of Contenders

Thanks to a new voting procedure, this year's list might not be perfect, but it's provocative.

Here are the 15 documentaries included in this year’s shortlist:

  • Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (Never Sorry LLC)
  • Bully (The Bully Project LLC)
  • Chasing Ice (Exposure)
  • Detropia (Loki Films)
  • Ethel (Moxie Firecracker Films)
  • 5 Broken Cameras (Guy DVD Films)
  • The Gatekeepers (Les Films du Poisson, Dror Moreh Productions, Cinephil)
  • The House I Live In (Charlotte Street Films, LLC)
  • How to Survive a Plague (How to Survive a Plague LLC)
  • The Imposter (Imposter Pictures Ltd.)
  • The Invisible War (Chain Camera Pictures)
  • Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (Jigsaw Productions in association with Wider Film Projects and Below the Radar Films)
  • Searching for Sugar Man (Red Box Films)
  • This Is Not a Film (Wide Management)
  • The Waiting Room (Open'hood, Inc.)

Out of these, the most likely nominees are the following:

Searching for Sugar Man
Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul embarks on a quest to discover the story of Sixto Rodriguez, a '70s singer-songwriter whose music became a generational anthem in South Africa while he lived anonymously in Detroit. 60 Minutes already has aired excerpts of the film.

How to Survive a Plague
Chronicling how activist groups like ACT UP organized to fight the AIDS epidemic, David France's film already is one of the year's winners, picking up a Gotham Award for best doc and best first film honors from the New York Film Critics Circle.

The Gatekeepers
Also focusing on Israeli-Palestinian relations, Dror Moreh's film, which Sony Pictures Classics acquired after its Jerusalem flm fest debut, offers interviews with six former directors of Shin Bet, Israel's secretive internal security agency, who are all critical of current policies.

The Invisible War
From Kirby Dick, an Oscar nominee for 2004's Twist of Fate, comes this indictment of the U.S. military for allowing a culture of rape to develop within its ranks. Festivalgoers at Sundance rewarded it with an audience award.

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God
Alex Gibney, who exposed torture by the U.S. in his Oscar-winning Taxi to the Dark Side in 2007, takes on pedophilia in the Catholic Church in his latest film -- which will air on HBO -- and pursues his investigation all the way to Rome.

You can read the full list, including Bully and This is not a Film, here. Also check out this link for trailers and a complete coverage on documentaries

Oscar Excess: Lincoln Cookbooks and Haggis Chips

The whole point of Oscar season is to secure the votes of Academy members -- but when it comes to the excess, the largesse and even the aftertaste of awards season, people outside the Academy are the ones who have all the fun.

AMPAS members, after all, are bound by a series of increasingly stringent campaign regulations that determine what can be sent to them, how it can be packaged and even how heavy the paper can be on which it is printed.

No such restrictions bind the studios from sending materials to voters in other guilds or in critics' groups -- so in addition to the glut of yearend screeners, campaign materials often scale the heights of pomp and circumstance and silliness.

As a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and therefore a voter for the Critics Choice Movie Awards, I receive this stuff on a daily basis. (Some of it is also sent to reporters who cover awards season, which means I receive it twice.) And while this year hasn't brought anything like last year's "Descendants" ukulele, here are five over-the-top moments from 2012's awards-season promotions:

1. All Lincoln, All the Time

The most avid campaigner of the season has clearly been Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," which also happens to be something of an Oscar front runner.
"'Lincoln' letters come every other day," one Academy member told me this week of the full-court-press that DreamWorks/Disney film is making. And for those who aren't in the Academy, the film has embarked on a feverish campaign to paint the film as big, classy and different.

The non-AMPAS screener itself, for instance, came packaged in a lavish white box in a limited edition (I got number 88 out of 250), with a photo of Lincoln and his son and a quote from A.O. Scott of the New York Times. Inside were photos and more quotes cradling the screener.

(Academy members, by contrast, got the film in a plain cardboard sleeve.)

They also sent the "Lincoln" soundtrack (two copies so far), a theatrical-style program for the movie, the sheet music to John Williams' theme "The People's House," the screenplay packaged as a hardcover book (its Tony Kushner screenplay was packaged to look like a hardcover coffee-table book.) and the "A. Lincoln Cook Book," which calls itself "a cook book of epic proportions" and also contains a "digital postcard" DVD from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Can a Free the Slaves board game be far behind?

3. Steven Soderbergh's Pitch

Personal letters from directors – which is to say, form letters that appear to be personally signed – aren't uncommon: Ben Affleck has sent one to the members of the Broadcast Film Critics Association this year, Steven Spielberg did last year on behalf of "War Horse."

But the BFCA letter from Steven Soderberg that accompanied a "Magic Mike" screener came as something of a surprise, partly because Soderberg is not one to hit the campaign trail and partly because "Magic Mike" is hardly an awards-type movie.

But Soderberg, it turned out, had a specific pitch to make: "I'm breaking my long-standing embargo regarding pleas for recognition because the core creative team of MAGIC MIKE really hopes people are reminded at the end of the year of Matthew McConaughey's performance as Dallas, which we found to be completely bananas in the best sense of the word," he wrote. "As he says in the film, 'The moon is just a chip shot away!'"

We won't know if the BFCA was listening until those nominations are announced next Tuesday – but the New York Film Critics Circle was, because McConaughey was named the group's best supporting actor on Monday.

5. Feed Me

Animated films don't stop with coffee-table books, of course. "Hotel Transylvania" also sent out a pair of kid-sized Halloween costumes (I found an excited taker for one of them), while "Rise of the Guardians" went with a huge tin full of three kinds of popcorn.

And Pixar took advantage of the fact that St. Andrews Day, the feast day of the patron saint of Scotland, conveniently falls on Nov. 30, in the thick of awards season. On that day, they delivered a basket of "traditional Scottish delicacies," which included shortbread biscuits, butterscotch candies, 200 ml of Johnnie Walker Red Label Scotch and, um, haggis and cracked black pepper flavored potato chips.

For the record, the haggis chips aren't awful, but they do have a funky aftertaste.

But then again, so does Oscar season

This is an excerpt. The full article can be found here



Zero Dark Thirty

Les Misérables
Silver Linings
Life of Pi
Django Unchained

Long list: Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Master, Moonrise Kingdom


Steven Spielberg
Kathryn Bigelow
Zero Dark Thirty
Ben Affleck
Tom Hooper
Les Misérables
Ang Lee
Life of Pi

Long list: David O. Russell, Quentin Tarantino


Daniel Day Lewis

Hugh Jackman
Les Miserables
Denzel Washington
John Hawkes
The Sessions
Bradley Cooper
Silver Linings Playbook

Long list: Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), Bill Murray (Hyde Park on Hudson)


Jessica Chastain
Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence
Silver Linings Playbook
Marion Cotillard
Rust and Bone
Naomi Watts
The Impossible
Quvenzhane Wallis
Beasts of the S.W.

Long list:  Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), Helen Mirren (Hitchcock) 


Tommy Lee Jones
Philip S Hoffman
The Master
Robert De Niro
Silver Linings Playbook
Alan Arkin
Leonardo DiCaprio
Django Unchained

Long list: Matthew McCounaghey (Magic Mike), Christoph Waltz(Django Unchained)


Anne Hathaway
Les Misérables
Sally Field
Helen Hunt
The Sessions
Amy Adams
The Master
Maggies Smith
Best Exotic Hotel Marigold

Long list: Nicole Kidman (The Paperboy), Ann Dowd (Compliance)

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