RTIndie: With Critics Awards to Mirren and Whitaker, Will Golden Globes Go Small?

by | December 13, 2006 | Comments

It’s no secret that Helen Mirren and "The Queen" are primed to reap big time this awards season, but are the Hollywood Foreign Press and their Oscar-influencing Golden Globes headed towards indie-land and the art house?

Maybe, maybe not. But the fact is that in recent years, the HFPA has begun to trend away from Oscar-type nominees in favor of those critical darlings — gilding Felicity Huffman Best Actress last year for "Transamerica" and agreeing with (most) critics that "Brokeback Mountain" deserved top honors. The year before, the Golden Globes for Best Comedy and Screenplay went to "Sideways," another favorite across the board among many prominent critical groups (including the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics, and more).

2004’s critical fave, "Sideways"

Variety’s Steve Chagollan writes
that this trend is partly due to an evolution within the HFPA, a collection of 90-odd film journalists representing markets all over the world, whose awards voting have historically been both influential and eccentric. The HFPA’s membership has been increasingly younger, says Chagollan, and their voting responsibilities subsequently taken more seriously; whereas many Academy (Oscar) voters are film industry professionals with less time to spend watching "For Your Consideration" screeners or attending screenings, HPFA voters — journalists covering said films — see "99 percent of the films, if not 100 percent."

So will the Golden Globes start mirroring the preferences of critics? And how will such a trend affect the composition of the Oscars, which historically take at least some cues from the nominations/winners of the Globes?

Ken Watanabe in Best Pic contender "Letters From Iwo Jima"

This week a handful of critics associations weighed in with their end-of-year honors, with a few notable patterns. As expected, there were some disparities: both the LA Film Critics Association and the National Board of Review named Clint Eastwood‘s "Letters From Iwo Jima" as the year’s Best Picture, while the New York and Washington D.C. critics went regional with "United 93." Bostonian critics went the homegrown route as well, picking Martin Scorsese‘s "The Departed" for the top honor.

There was a bit more consensus choosing Best Director, as four of six lists named Scorsese (NY, DC, Boston, and the NBoR); California critics in LA and San Francisco went with Paul Greengrass for "United 93."

But when it came to naming the year’s best performances, there’s even more agreement. Five of the six groups chose Forest Whitaker as Best Actor for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland," a Fox Searchlight release filmed for a paltry $6 million.

Whitaker in "The Last King of Scotland;" Mirren in "The Queen"

More impressively, all six groups chose awards season-dominatrix Helen Mirren as their unanimous Best Actress pick for her role as Queen Elizabeth II in "The Queen," a well-performing Miramax acquisition filmed for an estimated $15 million.

Other critics picks that could translate into Golden Globes are Al Gore‘s global warming flick, "An Inconvenient Truth" (picked as Best Documentary by four of the six groups) and Guillermo del Toro‘s Spanish language fantasy "Pan’s Labyrinth," which garnered three groups’ awards for Best Foreign Film and two for Guillermo Navarro’s cinematography. Both are modestly budgeted, by Hollywood standards — with "Pan" estimated at $14.5 million and "Truth" at a cheap $1 million.

The HFPA will announce its nominations this Thursday, with the awards ceremony broadcast live on January 15, 2007.


InDigEnt To Cease Production in January

Fairuza Balk in InDiGent’s "Personal Velocity" (2002)

Even tiny budgets are too high if there’s a low rate of return. InDigEnt, the company that brought you such films as "Tape" and "Pieces of April," will shut down in January. Producer-Director Gary Winick said the company, which championed edgy projects shot on digital for generally under $1 million, was still having trouble getting backing for projects. "The studios want the ‘Capotes’ and the ‘Sideways,’" he said. "They want the $8-million film to make a $100 million instead of the $1 million to make $10 (million). That’s the problem." InDigEnt, short for Independent Digital Entertainment was founded in 1999; Winick’s latest project is "Charlotte’s Web."

Kelly Says "Southland Tales" Cuts Completed

Sarah Michelle Gellar as a porn star on a date with destiny in "Southland Tales"

It looks as if "Southland Tales," Richard Kelly‘s followup to "Donnie Darko," will see the light of day after all. A 160-minute cut of the film had a disastrous premiere at Cannes, but Kelly said he’s trimmed nearly a half hour from "Southland" and kept some sense of narrative cohesion as well. "We still have some visual-effects work to do, but expect a release date and a trailer soon," Kelly wrote on his MySpace blog. "Expect some big announcements soon!" The film, a sci fi/fantasy/musical/comedy, stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Justin Timberlake, and half the population of California. It will likely hit theaters in April of next year.

Von Trier Pioneers New Cinematic Concept: Find The Mistakes

"Manderlay" is 49 percent on the Tomatometer: where was the ‘lookey’ then?

With the creation of Dogma 95, Danish auteur Lars Von Trier challenged filmmakers to make movies with more purity and no special effects. Now he’s issuing a challenge to audiences: find the mistakes. In his latest, "The Boss of It All," Von Trier says he’s created a new concept, "lookey," in which intentional mistakes have been placed into the film. But that’s not all: the first Dane to find all the mistakes wins 30,000 Danish kroner (roughly equivalent to $5,300). Von Trier is best known for "Breaking the Waves" and "Dogville"; the trailer for "The Boss of All" is online here.

Tomatometers For Last Week’s Limited Releases

Opening last week in limited release: "Bergman Island," a feature-length interview with Ingmar Bergman, arguably the world’s greatest living director, is at 83 percent with six reviews; "Days of Glory," an Algerian World War II film, is at 80 percent with 15 reviews; the Argentine import "Family Law," about the trials and tribulations of a father-son relationship, is at 76 percent with 17 reviews; "Screamers," a doc about System of a Down’s efforts to stop genocide, is at 75 percent with eight reviews; "The Empire in Africa," a doc about civil war in Sierra Leone, is at 63 percent with eight reviews; "Off the Black," starring Nick Nolte as an alcoholic baseball umpire, is at 61 percent with 23 reviews; "Ever Again," a doc about contemporary anti-Semitism, is at 54 percent with 13 reviews; and "Inland Empire," David Lynch‘s latest assault on cinematic convention starring Laura Dern, is at 53 percent with 30 reviews.

"Days of Glory"’s cast, whose five leading actors shared this year’s Cannes honors

Top Performing Limiteds

"Volver" held onto the top spot in last week’s indie box office battle. Pedro Almodovar‘s meditation on womanhood made $8,450 per screen in 44 theaters, pushing its six-week total to $2.76 million. The runner up was Jean-Luc Godard‘s nouvelle vague classic "Two or Three Things I Know About Her," which raked in $5,905 on one screen; it’s made $57,700 in its four weeks in re-release. In third was the debut "Screamers," at $5,902 per on four screens, for a total of $23,609. Rounding out the top five were "The History Boys," which made $4,036 per on 50 screens (its total is $500,432 in three weeks of release); and "Flannel Pajamas," which took in $3,994 on one screen, for a total of $49,279 in four weeks since its debut.

Carmen and Penelope, women on top (of the indie box office)

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