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First Award Screeners Start Arriving in Voter Mailboxes

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood October 17, 2011 at 1:06AM

The first award screeners are starting to arrive in voter mail boxes. The first ones mailed include Chris Weitz's L.A. illegal immigrant drama A Better Life (out on Summit DVD), starring well-reviewed Mexican actor Demian Bichir in a moving performance, and Sony Pictures' Classics' Take Shelter (in its second week of limited release), starring well-praised Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain. Both were box office disappointments. Both need the extra boost of guild and year-end critic support to gain traction, so mailing early screeners was a smart move.
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Thompson on Hollywood

The first award screeners are starting to arrive in voter mail boxes. The first ones mailed include Chris Weitz's L.A. illegal immigrant drama A Better Life (out on Summit DVD), starring well-reviewed Mexican actor Demian Bichir in a moving performance, and Sony Pictures' Classics' Take Shelter (in its second week of limited release), starring well-praised Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain. Both were box office disappointments. Both need the extra boost of guild and year-end critic support to gain traction, so mailing early screeners was a smart move.

As the year progresses, higher profile titles will rise to the top of voter screener piles, and by the holidays, which is peak Academy viewing time, small titles can get buried and overlooked. SPC has a strong track record at pushing relative unknowns such as Amy Adams (June Bug) to nominations. Take Shelter is one of several Sundance debuts wearing Oscar hopes on its sleeve.

Here's TOH's video interview with Michael Shannon, and interview with A Better Life screenwriters Roger Simon and Eric Eason.

Screeners are irrelevant in the foreign Oscar race; submissions have already started to be shown to Academy members, who have to sign in to a certain number of screenings in order to vote in that category. So far Joseph Cedar's Footnote (Israel, SPC) and Aki Kaurismaki's Le Havre (Finland, Janus) have played relatively well.

This article is related to: Awards, Box Office, Genres, Independents, Studios, Reviews, Marketing, Oscars, Golden Globes, Critics Groups, Fall, Drama, Sony/Screen Gems/Sony Pictures Classics


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.