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Thompson on Hollywood

Oscar Watch: Bay Hosts Transformers Tech Show

Transformers director Michael Bay returned to the scene of the crime Thursday night at the Cary Grant mixing stage at the Sony lot to revisit the Oscar-nominated achievements in VFX and sound. The place was packed with filmmaking geeks eager to hear and see the behind-the-scenes machinations that go into a formidable FX epic like Transformers.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • February 8, 2008 7:42 AM
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Oscar Watch: Nominations Analysis

There were some welcome surprises this nominations morning. (Here's Variety's story.) Atonement made it to best picture. While Keira Knightley, James McAvoy and Joe Wright did not win noms, Saorise Ronin did. Christopher Hampton earned a screenplay nod. The Guilds don't always reflect the Academy, clearly; this means the battle for the fifth slot was fierce. But Atonement got seven noms altogether; Michael Clayton seven, Juno four, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, four, and Sweeney Todd got only three (Johnny Depp, art direction and costume); Juno's Jason Reitman, not Tim Burton, landed a director's slot. A surprise, but well-deserved. (I was talking to him here in Park City last night at the WMA party; he was nervous because he didn't get a writing nom last time for Thank You for Smoking.)
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • January 22, 2008 4:57 AM
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Sundance Watch: Polanski Doc Goes to HBO Docs

Sheila Nevins' HBO documentary unit has acquired all U.S. rights including theatrical and video to Marina Zenovich's Polanski: Wanted and Desired, the hot buzz title of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Magnolia Films was also chasing the pic. It is revealing that the movie may not get a theatrical release in the current harsh market climate for docs. The sale closed Saturday night. Picturehouse, which is partially owned by HBO, would be happy to do the theatrical honors, but Nevins is not known for embracing theatrical. Submarine and Cinetic repped the title in the sale.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • January 20, 2008 5:06 AM
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Sweeney Todd Opens in 5th Place

Sweeney Todd opened to excellent reviews (87% fresh on Rottentomatoes.com) and strong initial numbers on Friday, but the movie dropped an estimated 28 % (actually 25%) between Friday and Saturday. (Here's Sunday's Variety weekend boxoffice report.) This indicates that many viewers were lured by Paramount's mainstream horror-driven ad campaign, which did not sell the film as a Stephen Sondheim musical, and walked away disappointed. (The company also seeded the internet with clips showing the musical numbers.) Selling a unique movie like this, where there is no tried-and-true pattern to follow, is admittedly tricky. So Paramount made the call to go wide with 1200 runs--and not build the movie from fewer runs in sophisticated urban markets. It now looks like Dreamworks' initial strategy might have been the right way to go. That way early adopters would spread good word and build an audience slowly over time, rather than folks being lured into seeing a movie that they wind up not liking--and spreading bad word.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • December 23, 2007 7:56 AM
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Awards Gauntlet Syndrome

Pity the poor filmmaker with an Award season movie to flog. If it's good enough to have a shot at some awards attention, then the distrib is going to make you do the rounds: the guild screenings and Q & As, the dinners, the AFI Fest, the Hollywood Fest, the Variety screening series, my UCLA Sneak Previews class, the Behind the Camera Awards--and that's just the beginning. As we go on there's the gauntlet of awards ceremonies, the LA and NY critics, the Board of Review, the Indie Spirits, The Gothams, the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards. The real horror is keeping the thing going all the way to the Oscars. If I were Julian Schnabel, I'd pack my PJs and head back to NYC right now.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • December 11, 2007 5:32 AM
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Oscar Watch: Juno

Various Oscar prognosticators suggest that Juno is too much of a teen flick to play to senior Academy voters. Judging from how the pic performed at my class this week, which reps the older demo quite well, that will not be an issue. This movie will build into a huge hit across many demos. Imagine that I served up one serious fall film after another to the class, from Michael Clayton, Reservation Road, Slipstream, Grace is Gone, Lions for Lambs, and The Kite Runner to The Diving Bell and the Butterfly...and then they got Juno.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • December 7, 2007 5:51 AM
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Sweeney Todd Reactions

DreamWorks has been holding Sweeney Todd back. Well, they finally screened it last week, and elicited "non-reviews" from the Internet folks. The two trades are sufficiently alarmed by all this activity to consider running their reviews sooner rather than later, I hear.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • December 2, 2007 6:03 AM
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Goodbye Power 100, Hello EW's Smart List

This Friday, Entertainment Weekly will publish a new standalone special issue, the first Hollywood “Smart List.” The brain behind this rejuvenated list, which replaces the tired old EW Power 100, is my old colleague Sean Smith, ex-of Newsweek and Premiere, who worked with me on quite a few Premiere power lists. We prided ourselves on reporting the hell out of those lists, and that's what EW has done here, too. A phalanx of EW reporters canvassed the film industry, conducting hundreds of background interviews, seeking info on “the savants and the wunderkinds whose ideas are driving the film industry forward,” according to EW.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • November 28, 2007 6:47 AM
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No Country for Old Men: That Pesky Ending

I'm having big debates about No Country for Old Men, especially the ending. If you've read the Cormac McCarthy book, you know that the Coens have done a very faithful adaptation, which McCarthy admires. [SPOILER ALERT] The duo was attracted to the very things that make the movie unconventional: a major character dies, and the forces of good don't triumph over the forces of evil at the end.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • November 27, 2007 6:52 AM
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No Country for Old Men's Ending Sparks Debate

I'm having big debates about No Country for Old Men, especially the ending. If you've read the Cormac McCarthy book, you know that the Coens have done a very faithful adaptation, which McCarthy admires. [SPOILER ALERT] The duo was attracted to the very things that make the movie unconventional: a major character dies, and the forces of good don't triumph over the forces of evil at the end.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • November 27, 2007 1:42 AM
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