Academy Awards

Why ‘Birdman’ Is the Most Divisive Best Picture Nominee

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It’s a shame that after months of general release, it’s rather difficult to go into a screening of Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) cold. Birdman, which is neck-and-neck with Richard Linklater’s Boyhood as the frontrunner to win the Best Picture Oscar on Sunday night, is the story of Riggan Thomson (a wonderful Michael Keaton), a washed-up actor who made his name in a ’90s superhero franchise. He’s searching for artistic redemption by staging his own show on Broadway: an adaptation of Raymond Carver’s classic short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” If you — unlike myself — were lucky enough to see Birdman without knowing much about it, I’m sure that there was an initial spark of magic as you realized that it’s a “one take” movie, with a constantly roving, circling camera that keeps the audience mostly rooted in Riggan’s point of view.
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Exclusive Supercut: The Early Roles of Your 2015 Oscar Nominees

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The Academy Awards are this Sunday night, so it’s time for one of our favorite annual traditions. No, not the picks and predictions (because those are later this week); no, not the red carpet predictions (because blech), but our yearly compilation of the early, often unsung, film and television appearances of this year’s acting nominees. And rest assured, we’re not just doing this to point and laugh (at least, that’s not the main reason). It’s to remind you young, up-and-coming actors — and, frankly, all you established thesps working with them — that the next Oscar nominees and winners could be anyone: a one-line day player, a Freddie Kruger-battling ingénue, a movie theater hold-up man, or even a bathroom Madonna-slapper.
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Today’s Collection of Things That Are or Aren’t Related to Vampires: Links You Need to See

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Just when, after over a decade of excessive vampire romanticism in film and TV, you thought you were ready to declare the undead dead, information started trickling out (like blood, you might say!) about Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement’s vampire mockumentary, What We do in the Shadows, and you probably thought, “If they’ll make me laugh and they’re from New Zealand, how can I say vampires are dead, quite yet?” Indeed, since they’ll surely outlive all of us, it’s best we continue to get acquainted, not only with our fictional vamps, but also with the real ones. Inspired by True Blood, Vice’s series The Real, which explores the real-life versions of Hollywood phenomena, has filmed a short doc about a vampiric subculture in the American south.
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“I Did Not Want a Character With an Arc”: ‘Nightcrawler’ Filmmaker Dan Gilroy on His Oscar Nomination, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Crime Scene Photography

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The phrase “first-time director” tends to summon up a very specific picture: a bright-eyed kid, perhaps fresh out of film school or graduating from YouTube, a Hollywood outsider looking for an in. Dan Gilroy is, well, not that kid. Nightcrawler (out Tuesday on Blu-ray and DVD; available now on demand) is his feature directorial debut, but the 55-year-old writer/director has been knocking around the business for nearly a quarter-century now; his first credited screenplay was 1992’s Freejack, where he met his future wife, Nightcrawler co-star Rene Russo. She’s not the only familiar name in Nightcrawler’s credits — you’ll also see two other Gilroys, Dan’s brothers, editor John (Salt, Warrior, Pacific Rim) and producer Tony (himself a two-time nominee, for writing and directing Michael Clayton). I asked Dan how filmmaking became, for him, such a family business.
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Is David Oyelowo Right About Oscar’s Preference for “Subservient” Black Narratives?

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Last weekend, the Santa Barbara Film Festival presented its “Virtuosos Award” to seven actors, in recognition of their fine performances in films this year (check out the list; it is, in many ways, better than your Oscar nominees). As part of that evening’s festivities, the honorees were interviewed onstage, and one of those interviews has, over the past couple of days, gone viral: Selma’s David Oyelowo, discussing his Oscar snub with a bit of insight about the kind of performances the Academy likes to nominate and award. “Historically, this is truly my feeling,” he says. “I felt this before the situation we’re talking about and I feel it now. Generally speaking, we, as black people, have been celebrated more for when we are subservient, when we are not being leaders or kings or being at the center of our own narrative, driving it forward.” Does Oscar history prove him right? The answer may surprise you! (It totally won’t surprise you).
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Why Is the Weinstein Company Dooming Two of Its Best Oscar Prospects? [UPDATED]

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If you have more than a passing interest in the Academy Awards, you’re probably well past the realization that the presumptive criteria for those awards — high quality — often has very little to do with the films that are nominated and awarded. Sure, merit doesn’t hurt, but it certainly isn’t necessary; far more important is the quality and quantity of a film’s Oscar campaign, mounted by studios and distributors with the intensity (and sometimes the cost) of a political operation, complete with advertisements, mailings, and glad-handing. And the modern Oscar campaign was perfected by Harvey Weinstein, the face of the Weinstein brothers, who turned Mirmax and the subsequent Weinstein Company into Oscar factories, via notoriously aggressive campaigning (and occasional alleged “dirty tricks” against opponents). And yet, as 2014 draws to a close, The Weinstein Company is all but burying two viable awards contenders — and the only plausible explanation is ego and spite.
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The Movie Press’ Oscar Obsession Is Ruining Fall Film Festivals for Everyone

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Today marks the kick-off of the Toronto International Film Festival, a massive ten-day orgy of movies big and small from all over the world. It follows last weekend’s Telluride Film Festival, a cozier but no lower-profile Colorado gathering of film lovers, film critics, and filmmakers. Your film editor, sadly, was/is at neither (Kickstarter for next year forthcoming). But I’ve been reading about them for decades, most often (and earliest) from the pen of Roger Ebert, who called Telluride “one of the best experiences a film lover can have,” and dubbed Toronto “the world’s top festival for — well, for moviegoers.” He wrote those words in 1999 and 1998, respectively, and I get the feeling the focus of these festivals has changed quite a bit in the years since. Maybe they’re still prized destinations for film lovers, but just about all I’m reading out of them are dispatches on what each new premiere does to next year’s Oscar race. At risk of putting too fine a point on it, who gives a shit?
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