Awards

AFI Fest to honor Isabelle Huppert. Oscars next?

Isabelle Huppert and director Paul Verhoeven
Isabelle Huppert poses for a festival selfie as director Paul Verhoeven looks on.
(Javier Etxezarreta / EPA)

Welcome to the Gold Standard, the newsletter from the Los Angeles Times that helps guide you through the ins and outs of the awards season leading up to the Oscars.

I’m Glenn Whipp, The Times’ awards columnist and your newsletter host.

AFI to honor Isabelle Huppert

Isabelle Huppert has been nominated 15 times for the Césars, France’s national film award. No other actress has been recognized more.

Yet she has never been nominated for an Oscar.

That may change this year. The celebrated French actress has two superb movies arriving in the coming weeks — Paul Verhoeven’s “Elle” (Nov. 16 in Los Angeles, via Sony Pictures Classics) and Mia Hansen-Love’s “Things to Come” (Dec. 2, IFC). Either role could earn her that first Oscar nomination.

AFI Fest will honor Huppert with a tribute and gala screening of “Elle” on Nov. 13 at the TCL Chinese Theatre. The event will include a conversation with the 63-year-old actress, who was also feted at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals.

I spoke to Huppert in Toronto and she was candid in saying that earning an Oscar nomination has crossed her mind once or twice over the years. 

Both Sony Pictures Classics and IFC plan to campaign hard on Huppert’s behalf. Academy voters have shown a willingness in three of the last four years to go far afield in their lead actress choices — Emmanuelle Riva in 2012 for Haneke’s “Amour,” Marion Cotillard in 2014 for the Dardenne brothers’ “Two Days, One Night” and Charlotte Rampling last year for Andrew Haigh’s “45 Years.”

The companies handling those three films? Sony Pictures Classics and IFC.

Diane Keaton will receive an AFI honor in June.
Diane Keaton will receive an AFI honor in June.
(Hendrik Schmidt / European Pressphoto Agency )

Diane Keaton will receive the 45th AFI Life Achievement Award

Times film writer Mark Olsen, host of the fine Indie Focus newsletter (you subscribe, right?), opened his report about Keaton’s honor with her famous line from “Annie Hall”:

“Well, la-di-da.”

That has to be the first thing Keaton says when she receives AFI’s Life Achievement Award next June, right? TNT will televise the evening with an encore showing later on Turner Classic Movies.

It’s a richly deserved honor. Even better news: Keaton has a plum role in the upcoming HBO series “The Young Pope,” playing the chief counselor to Jude Law’s newly elected Pope Pius XIII. It’s always great to see her.

Reviews for “The Birth of a Nation” have fallen short of the raves the film earned at Sundance.
Reviews for "The Birth of a Nation" have fallen short of the raves the film earned at Sundance.
(Jahi Chikwendiu / Fox Searchlight )

‘Birth of a Nation’ reviews fall short of Sundance hoopla

Nate Parker’s slave revolt historical drama, “The Birth of a Nation,” isn’t the first movie to win raves in the thin air of Park City only to find harsher notices when the movie opens theatrically. Sundance reviewers too often get swept up in the ovations from a theater packed with enthusiastic backers. How else do you explain “Happy, Texas”?

And, of course, since Sundance, the conversation around “Birth” has been derailed by the debate over a 1999 sexual assault charge brought against Parker.

Times film critic Kenneth Turan noted reservations about “Birth” back in January. In his recently posted review, Turan expresses admiration for Parker’s ambition and passion, while noting that the film’s situations “tend to be presented in strokes so broad and ungainly they do not always resonate as deeply as they might.”

The film owns a so-so 70 score at review aggregator Metacritic, with the majority of the positive reviews coming from Sundance. The absence of unqualified enthusiasm from major critics will do little to boost the movie’s sagging Oscar chances.

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glenn.whipp@latimes.com