Oscar Watch will come to you every Monday, sizing up the recent developments of the awards season. Who's up? Who's down? And why aren't more people going to see "Whiplash"? Don't make J.K. Simmons pick up a chair in anger, people ...
Maybe you have a hard time believing that "Selma" director Ava DuVernay just now decided that instead of showing just 30 minutes of her anticipated new movie, "Selma," Tuesday at AFI Fest, she'd just go ahead and show the whole thing, "hot off the presses." Still, it makes for a good story and ramps up the excitement that much more for a movie that could redefine the best picture Oscar race.
Beyond the fact that DuVernay is a first-rate filmmaker and that "Selma," which stars the gifted David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. in a drama about the 1965 voting rights marches, has the earmarks of the kind of important film the academy loves to honor, there's this: None of the acting races currently have a leading contender who is black, Hispanic or Asian. That's an image problem for an industry that would like to at least think of itself as a dream factory open to everyone. The "Selma" team has more than enough talent to not only muscle its way into the race but to change the conversation. We'll know soon enough.
The sound mix is terrible, the science is questionable and just about every plot element in the movie doesn't make sense or has a hole the size of a Midwestern cornfield. And, apparently, the idea of watching a movie for nearly three hours without once relieving your bladder is a little much for some people.
So that's all she wrote for "Interstellar's" chances of landing a best picture nomination, right? Well ... not so fast. Though academy members didn't exactly embrace the film, we spoke to a few Saturday night at the Governors Awards who admired the ambition and scope of the work. And while many reviewers did express reservations, both the Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan and the New York Times' A.O. Scott -- arguably the two critics most read (and trusted?) by Oscar voters -- absolutely loved it. It won't, as dear Michael Caine kept reminding us, go gentle into that good night.
The lovely Chastain entered the fall festival season with three prominent movies on the calendar -- "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby," "Interstellar" and "A Most Violent Year." Another Oscar nomination seemed assured for something, but now that the movies have screened, it looks like she might come up short.
"Rigby," a truncated mash-up of two separate movies that premiered at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival, failed to connect with critics and audiences. Chastain's work in "Interstellar" is exemplary, but limited. And the superbly crafted "A Most Violent Year," which premiered at the AFI Fest last week but won't open until Dec. 31, has a limited promotional budget. Will enough academy members see it to mark her name on the ballot? It'd help if Chastain could promote the movie but she's been sucked into a black hole of "Interstellar" bookings for the next month before returning to work on another film.
Of course, Chastain isn't one to stand still. She'll have three more movies out next year and probably another three after that. The academy won't be lacking for choices -- or chances to honor her.
"Big Hero 6"
"Ba-la-la-la-la." I'm sure Baymax isn't the only one doling out fist bumps today. Winning the animated feature Oscar is usually a question of getting the most eyeballs on your film. "The Lego Movie" had a head start, but Disney Animation's charming entry, "Big Hero 6," is making up ground fast.