Movie Forum: The Nomination Domination Edition
05:00 AM, Jan 16, 2013
Every Wednesday, the Movie Forum convenes to discuss the latest news from the film world and answer questions submitted by you, the reader.
This week, film critic Claudia Puig and movie reporter Scott Bowles discussed the SAG nominations, the potential Golden Globes nominations, and fielded readers’ reactions to the nominees.
Enjoy the chat and submit your questions for next week below.
John Elliot: Welcome to the USA TODAY Movie Forum! Happy 12/12/12!
I’m John Elliot, online producer for USA TODAY Movies and I will serve as your moderator. Joining me today is USA TODAY film critic Claudia Puig and movie reporter Scott Bowles
How this works - Each week we solicit questions, online, from our readers on certain movie topics.
This week? Awards season has OFFICIALLY begun with today’s announcement of the Screen Actors Guild nominees. And if today wasn’t exciting enough, the Golden Globes will share their picks for the best performances and films tomorrow.
Claudia and Scott will discuss the SAG picks, and what it could mean for the the Golden Globes nominees tomorrow.
What are your thoughts on today’s SAG nominations and what do you expect from the Globes tomorrow? Let us know below!
So let’s get started!
Alright…The big question on everyone’s mind: What are your thoughts on this morning’s SAG nominations? Any surprises? Any snubs?
Claudia Puig: I was a bit surprised that SAG skewed pretty traditional and conservative today by honoring acting veterans like Maggie Smith and Alan Arkin, along with the entire cast of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and foregoing riskier choices like Joaquin Phoenix for The Master or any members of Django Unchained, which takes a darkly comic look at slavery.
They also honored actors who have traditionally been known for lighter, comic roles or blockbuster action performances such as Bradley Cooper, nominated for lead actor for his part as a cuckolded husband with bipolar disorder in Silver Linings Playbook, Anne Hathaway for her supporting part as the tragic Fantine in Les Miserables and Hugh Jackman for his lead role as the principled Jean Valjean in Les Mis.
In general the SAG award nominees presented few surprises and plenty of indicators for the upcoming Oscar race.
While it doesn’t have a best picture category, its “outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture” usually correlates with Oscar’s best picture contenders.
This year’s nominees held some predictable choices and a notable surprise. Nominees Argo, Les Mis, Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook were among the expected selections, but Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, having come out earlier in the May was more of a long shot.
Some notable exceptions to this category included Zero Dark Thirty, Life of Pi, Dark Knight Rises and Django Unchained. No nominations went to the lower-budget, but much-admired film Moonrise Kingdom and another audience and critical favorite, Beasts of the Southern Wild was deemed ineligible since it didn’t use SAG members for its cast.
So the choices were essentially predictable, traditional, rather conservativehonoring veterans and established stars and respected actors. No going out on a limb with risky choices like Joaquin Phoenix or Django Unchained.
Scott Bowles: Hi moviegers. Here’s my first thought: Why in the world would you announce these at dawn on the West Coast? I’m still groggy. But I was surprised that Zero Dark Thirty didn’t nab an ensemble cast nomination. That film had 120 speaking parts and had collected earlier trophies.
Claudia Puig: I hear you! I”m mainlining caffeine!
Scott Bowles: Oh, and Exotic Marigold Hotel. That’s a film no one saw coming. If there’s suddenly a dark horse come Oscar time, this may have entered the stable.
Claudia Puig: As for Zero Dark Thirty I don’t think it will be similarly overlooked by the Oscars or the Globes. What do you think Scott? And Exotic Marigold Hotel was a surprise indeed, but how can you not honor those Brit veterans? Just about every great British actor was in that one.b
John Elliot:Zero Dark Thirty had great buzz up until the about the last 2 weeks…and this morning we see that the film only picked up one SAG nomination (Lead Actress for Jessica Chastain). What happened?
Scott Bowles: You’re right, Ms. Puig. Zero is too sweeping, too lofty, to avoid Globe and Oscar attention. But the SAG snub is troubling in terms of winning, as members are an influential lot. What did you think this film can win, Claudia?
Claudia Puig: Besides the obvious choice of Jessica Chastain for best actress, you have Kathryn Bigelow for director and I think some technical awards would figure in here too—editing, maybe cinematography.
Scott Bowles: This will be an interesting one to watch. The filmmakers have tried to come down right the political middle, but assert that waterboarding worked as an interrogation form, something that’s drawn criticism. Also, this film is seen through the eyes of a female character who is never actually identified. This is a daring perspective to take. Did it work, Claudia?
Claudia Puig: I have mixed feelings on it, Scott. I liked the choice of a female protagonist, but structurally it didn’t work so well for me. Also I didn’t think Chastain’s character was developed well enough. Her defining characteristic was certainty, but that was about all I got in terms of her personality. I’m a big fan of Homeland and I know that you can do much more with an ongoing series, but Clare Dane’s character in that is so much more well developed. Also, Zero Dark Thirty is a much more cerebral film as opposed to say a film like Les Mis or even Silver Linings Playbook or Argo. Those were movies you could love, but it’s hard to love Zero—it’s more a film to admire.
Scott Bowles: Let’s give the film this, though, it has a lot of anonymous casting, which makes the characters seem more real. Same for Argo. But Lincoln has so many known faces, I kept feeling like I was watching a brilliant history lesson by icons. I know it’s blasphemy, but I’m not sure I trust Honest Abe to lead this film to victory.
Claudia Puig: Yes, I totally agree. The anonymous faces are a big plus. Lincoln’s known faces—even the ones that were pretty well camouflaged like James Spader, took away from some of the power. Though I do have to say that DDL’s Abe was amazing. But I agree that it’s more of a history lesson—again more admirable, than lovable!
John Elliot: What do today’s SAG picks this mean for the Golden Globes nominations tomorrow, Claudia?
Claudia Puig: The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn is a whole different animal from SAG…Like a mongoose or a warthog, compared to say a stallion. I’ll stop w/ the animal similes… But they have 5 more slots to fill with the comedy/musical category so we’ll likely see Django pop up there, along with Les Mis of course, and possibly Moonrise Kingdom. It’ll be interesting to see if they call Silver Linings Playbook a comedy or drama. It could technically go either way, but the HFPA has a history of calling things something weird, just to shoehorn it in, especially if it has big stars in itfor instance a few years ago they called The Tourist a comedy, just so they could get Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie to show up at the show!
I’m going to go out on a limb and just make some Globe nomination predictions….Correct me if you disagree, Scott!
Scott Bowles: I’m really looking forward to the Globes. They’re my favorite awards. Recipients drink and the show credits comedies. It also allows a raft of movies the public actually sees. Here are my picks for best Globe drama: Lincoln, Pi, Argo, Zero and The Master. Among comedies and musicals: Silver Linings Playbook, Les Miserables, Best Exotic, Ted, Django Unchained.
And, hopefully, lots and lots of fermented grapes.
Claudia Puig: I’d love to see Ted get in there! Would love to see him sucking down some fermented grapes! And The Master’s a crapshoot I think. Loved by some, hated by others.
Scott Bowles: Another interesting thing to watch here is timing. Because of this year’s awards voting schedule, Both SAG and the Globes are announcing their nominees before Oscar ballots are sent out. If ever secondary awards shows had an influence on Oscar, it could be here. Claudia, is there any early surprise you’d like to see carried to Oscar time? My personal favorite is End of Watch. I’ve yet to see anything as gripping. Claudia?
Claudia Puig: Agreed! I loved End of Watch and would really love to see Michael Pena get a nomination. He’s so under-appreciated.
Here’s a realllll long shot, but I really liked Seeking a Friend at the End of the World. I thought I might have been one of the only ones on the planet until I posted something on my Facebook page yesterday about it–in light of the Mayan calendar thing—and found a bunch of people who also liked it. Would like to see it get a screenplay nod at least…Same for Safety Not Guaranteed.
Scott Bowles: There’s another movie that I have to recognize, despite my gender: Magic Mike. This was the film (and there seems to be one every year), that female moviegoers turn into an event film. Sex and the City. Bridesmaids. It’s probably indication that a market is getting vastly underserved, but Mike scored solid review. It could at least use some love on the Globe pole.
And lastly about End of Watch (though I doubt we’re going to see it this season). The movie, in addition to having terrific performances, had some of the best action of the year. But, unlike Training Day, this cop flick won’t be promoted. A shame.
Claudia Puig:Magic Mike WAS good. McConaughey’s had a good year, between this, Bernie (another under appreciated good film) Killer Joe and Paper Boy. Would love to see him surface for supporting actor somehow….And as for End of Watch, it was as good as Training Day, which is saying something. Great action scenes. I’ll throw one more out—Hello, I Must be Going, with Melanie Lynskey giving an Oscar calibre lead performance and Blythe Danner for supporting.
John Elliot: Alright, now let’s move on to some questions from our lovely readers!
Amanda from Glendale, CA asks:
There seems to be a lot of jockeying lately. What’s the hottest Oscar film?
Scott Bowles: Last week, I would have said Argo, a movie that wasn’t budging from the top of the box office. But last week, Les Miserables entered with a thunder strike, and suddenly the musical is at the top of the charts. What did you think of it, Claudia?
Claudia Puig: And welcome to Amanda—we might be neighbors! Argo is near the top, but Les Mis is my favorite this year. I loved it. Have seen it twice and both times it made me cry.
And given how many movies I watch in a week, I don’t cry easy.
Also, I might add I’ve seen the musical on stage twice—and was not a major fan. But Tom Hooper’s direction and the cast—especially Jackman and Hathaway—are stupendous!
It was the perfect match of material, actors and director…I’ll stop gushing now
And perfect for Christmas…ok, now i sound like a commercial
Scott Bowles: I have to agree that it’s a sight to behold. And I’m guessing it’s a winner. But I’m a sucker for small stories and not a musicals guys. I’ll hold my breath for End of Watch.
Bill from Jonesville asks:
Life of Pi seems like it’s doing okay at the box office, but isn’t getting much in terms of awards. How come?
Claudia Puig: I’m usually all about small movies too, Scott….just fyi. So that’s why I shocked myself liking Les Mis so much…On to Pi…My theory is that we WILL see Life of Pi figure into the Oscars, and also the Globes tomorrow. It’s not a criitical favorite, so that explains why it hasn’t surfaced yet. The SAG awards are all about acting and that’s not Life of Pi’s strong suit, though the lead actor, a neophyte, was quite good. It’s about Ang Lee’s technical achievemetns and the use of 3D in a non-animated movie and for that we’ll see it get some Oscar nominations for sure… Director, special effects, cinematography, maybe score.
Scott Bowles: I agree, Claudia, I think this movie is going to pick up late season steam. There seemed to be a heistation in the embrace of Hugo, as well. Perhaps awards voters need time to accept that a legend like Scorsese (or, in Pi’s case, Ang Lee), ventures off into new territory. But reviews are too solid to hold it down.
Claudia Puig: I think that’s an apt comparison with Hugo. Watch for it to surface tomorrow and again on Oscar nominations morning
Anita from Whittier asks:
There’s no talk at all of Dark Knight Rises, and I don’t see it getting a news release for awards. Is there no hope for it? I loved it!
Claudia Puig: I’m on the jury for picking AFI’s top 10 and Dark Knight Rises was definitely on our list of the year’s top 10, so it HAS gotten some love! And again, depending on the number of Oscar nominees, it could show up for Oscar nominees, and also to honor all 3 of Chris Nolan’s Batman films.
Scott Bowles: Good point, Claudia and Anita! This is a franchise that has long deserved some best picture credit. It’s overcome adversity, won over critics and became the first comic book movie to win a major Academy Award (supporting actor for Heath Ledger). Don’t give up hope. There’s a chance it makes the final movie cut.
Claudia Puig: I agree about the franchise and Nolan is a consummate director.
Mark from Lansing asks:
Why is no one giving Skyfall credit? It’s no. 1 again and was the best bond of all time!
Claudia Puig: Well, Mark, Javier Bardem DID get a supporting actor nomination from SAG today. Though, I’m with you, I would have liked to see Daniel Craig or Judi Dench in there too. Again, it could surface on Oscar morning, especially if there are 10 nominees.
Scott Bowles: What you point out there, Mark, is the disparity between moviegoers and critics circles. Look at Rottentomatoes, and you’ll see this movie earned some of the best reviews of the year. So there’s a disconnect somewhere, and I’m not sure Oscar’s the guy to bridge it. But Claudia is right: Bardem’s inclusion is big. Rejoice! It may be your only chance.
Claudia Puig: I think critics acknowledge it was a great action movie, but won’t go out on a limb in their critics organizations to name it best picture. Sometimes the critics’ awards seem like a contest to pick the most obscure or least financially successful film, perhaps on the assumption that films like Skyfall are already winners?
Mark from Richmond, VA asks:
I’m going to the movies tomorrow and am torn on what to see: Lincoln or Silver Linings Playbook.
Scott Bowles: Ok, here’s where I commit blasphemy. I wasn’t crazy about Lincoln. I know Spielberg and Daniel-Day are living legends. But I couldn’t help but feel I was watching a great play. I never felt myself being immersed in the story, no matter how topical. Let the stoning begin. Claudia, lay some cover fire for me here…
Claudia Puig: I think Scott and I are sort of agreed on this….The more I think about Lincoln the less enthused I am. Though I was impressed with the acting and did feel I learned something while watching it. But I guess my question for Mark is a semi-personal one. Not to be too nosy, but is this a date night? If so, go for Silver Linings Playbook. An offbeat, sweet love story vs. a history lesson? You do the math.
Scott Bowles: Although I will say: I’ve read reports of moviegoers surprised by the ending (spoiler alert) that the 13th Amendment passed. So maybe we could use a little history lesson.
John from Baltimore asks:
What’s the difference between Hobbit films? Can you see a difference?
Claudia Puig: I saw it in both formats and will say up front—and not too sound like a luddite or ridiculously old-school, but I prefer the traditional 24 frames per second format for this kind of fantasy film. While I admire Jackson wanting to do something completely new with the clearer hyper-real 48 fps technique, I don’t think this was the best match of movie and technology. It’s a make believe world of dwarves, trolls, rock monsters, and all manner of strange creatures…not to mention Gollum who is probably his own species…The traditional canvas is the best way to go for me. Plus this is world we’ve already experienced in 24 fps in Lord of the Rings and it’s nice to re-visit it looking as we remember it. The new format seems better suited to a “making of” film and resembles soap operas or Teletubbies–not so appropriate for the world of Orcs and hairy footed hobbits. Even Jackson acknowledged that it will probably take a bit for moviegoers to become comfortable with the new technology.
Scott Bowles: Let me echo you, Claudia, because I don’t disagree with a thing. The Hobbit is going to be a movie that either falls on the sword or conquers with it. I’m with you:,I preferred the ‘slower’ format. I never found myself feeling detached from that world.
The faster frame-per-second does give the movie a more vivid, crisp, lifelike feel. But is that what you want in a fantasy world?
What I loved about the slower format was I never asked myself ‘how does this look different?’ That question kept popping up when I saw scenes at the faster speeds. Maybe all films will switch to this and we’ll remember the day when none did.
But it’s never easy being a vanguard, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more audiences opt for traditional frame speeds for now.
Divia Witherton from St Joseph, Michigan asks:
What’s your problem with War Horse? I thought it was one of the best last year.
Scott Bowles: You know, that was a movie that just seemed built for an awards run, like Dreamgirls. I found it almost too earnest. Could a journalist be jaded. Claudia? What did you think?
Claudia Puig: Scott and Divia, I didn’t hate War Horse, in fact I gave it 3 out of 4 stars. But it did seem like it was aimed at getting awards. It was sweeping and beautiful to look at, Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography was gorgeous and Spielberg’s direction was stately, but I will say the dialogue was a bit cliched and it was a bit plodding and overlong.
John Elliot: Well, it’s time for us to wrap up unfortunately… We’ve all got to go to sleep now to wake up in time for our Golden Globe nominations coverage.
Scott Bowles: Thanks for joining us and the great questions. See you tomorrow before dawn for the Golden Globes. Curse you, HFPA!
John Elliot: Look for a special video online tomorrow on the Globes featuring Claudia!
Thank you Claudia and Scott. And a VERY big thank you to all our readers who participated and submitted questions.
Claudia Puig: A big thanks to all our readers, especially those who dared to ask questions. They were indeed great! See you in the wee hours, Scott…will join in the cursing the HFPA….Look for the dark circles under my eyes in that video!
John Elliot: Remember: you can submit your burning movie questions all week long, right here.
Check usatoday.com for Claudia’s review of The Hobbit and read Scott’s piece on the controversy surrounding Zero Dark Thirty, online now.
Thank you all for joining us for the USA TODAY Movie Forum! Please join us again next Wednesday at 3 PM EST/12 PM PST for another edition of Movie Forum.