Oscar season continues with more campaigning. Things can change during Phase Two: last year when Ben Affleck didn't get a directors nomination, he worked ceaselessly, turning on his underdog charm, to pull out an "Argo" big Best Picture win. We've already seen momentum shift, from "12 Years a Slave" and "Gravity," towards late arrivals "American Hustle" and "The Wolf of Wall Street"--and back again. Check out the Gurus 'o Gold: the picture is solidifying. (See my Oscar predictions.)
Thursday night, the 29th Santa Barbara International Film Festival mounted one of a series of "tributes" geared toward award season. That's because there are Academy voters in Santa Barbara, as well as influential media coverage. "The Wolf of Wall Street" Oscar nominee Jonah Hill presented the "Cinema Vanguard Award" to fellow contenders Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, who submitted to a grilling by THR critic Todd McCarthy on all five of their films together: "Gangs of New York" (2002), "The Aviator" (2004), "The Departed" (2006), "Shutter Island" (2010) and "The Wolf of Wall Street" (2014).
Like "The Great Gatsby," "The Wolf of Wall Street" is "about the American dream and the corruption of that dream," DiCaprio said. "Putting this culture up on screen is something I've wanted to do for a long time." But Jay Gatsby did it all for love, while Jordan Belfort was using the "reptilian part of his brain," DiCaprio said. (More at In Contention here.)
Last weekend the SBIFF presented awards to "Blue Jasmine" frontrunner Cate Blanchett (coverage here), who graciously fielded a reporter's query about the Mia Farrow/Woody Allen scandal, and witty "American Hustle" David O. Russell (coverage here), who entertained the house. This week they interviewed Oprah Winfrey, who did not wind up with a nomination for "The Butler," as well as a gaggle of supporting players: "Dallas Buyers Club" star Jared Leto (who was heckled for portraying a transgender character), June Squibb ("Nebraska"), Michael B. Jordan ("Fruitvale Station"), Daniel Brühl ("Rush"), Adèle Exarchopoulos ("Blue Is The Warmest Color"), Oscar Isaac ("Inside Llewyn Davis"), and Brie Larson ("Short Term 12").
This weekend I'm going up to moderate the annual "It Starts with a Script" panel with the Oscar-nominated writers behind "12 Years a Slave," "Dallas Buyers Club," "Philomena," "American Hustle" and "Nebraska." That film's Oscar nominee, Bruce Dern, gets another tribute, along with fellow 77-year-old Robert Redford, who is graciously showing up even though he did not land a nomination for "All is Lost." And on Sunday I'll cover the directors panel and talk to Paolo Sorrentino ("The Great Beauty"). That night I'll interview adapted screenplay nominees Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, the trio behind the "Before" trilogy, which is screening in its entirety at the Fest.
Monday brings the annual Academy nominees luncheon at the Beverly Hilton, attended by more than 150 of this year's Oscar contenders. They get to rub elbows with the cream of the film industry, many of them Academy voters, and bask in the glory of not having lost yet. At this ritual the Academy gives them certificates of nomination, and the nominees pose for the annual group photo. After the lunch, per usual, I'll go down by the pool and catch a few plum interviews that I haven't landed yet. Stay tuned.
Among the Lead Actor and Actress nominees, Dern, DiCaprio, Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Matthew McConaughey and Meryl Streep are expected to attend, as well as Supporting Actor and Actress nominees Hill, Leto, Squibb, Barkhad Abdi, Bradley Cooper, Lupita Nyong'o and Julia Roberts and all five Directing nominees: Russell, Scorsese, Alfonso Cuarón, Steve McQueen, and Alexander Payne.