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Thompson on Hollywood

Batman's Nolan Talks Dark Knight and Ledger

Summer 2008 is jam-packed with movies vying for screens every weekend from the start of May through Labor Day. Pamela McClintock lays out the stakes.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • March 9, 2008 6:51 AM
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Rolling Stones Shine a Light

While Martin Scorsese's Rolling Stone concert doc Shine a Light grabbed some flat reviews out of Berlin (here's ">Variety), I was delighted with it when I saw it Tuesday night. That's partly because Scorsese gives camera operating duties to 10 top cinematographers (Robert Richardson! Robert Elswit! Ellen Kuras! John Toll! Declan Quinn!) to shoot two Stones concerts at the Beacon Theatre in New York. The results are dazzling for those of us who get a kick out of swooping cameras and brilliant editing and the whirling Stones.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • March 6, 2008 7:06 AM
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Coens' Burn After Reading, Starring Pitt and Clooney, Goes Wide

While speculation runs rampant on whether or not the Coens will take their next movie, the CIA pic Burn After Reading, starring Brad Pitt and George Clooney, to Cannes--obviously Thierry Fremaux will want it, but he hasn't screened it yet; UPDATE: Working Title says it probably won't be finished in time--in the meantime Focus Features has booked the Working Title movie to go wide on September 12. This suggests that after the Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men (which soared 67% this weekend) the Coens have jumped out of art-film territory and boast more commercial appeal; this pic's stars are certainly big enough to warrant a wide opening.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • March 3, 2008 7:50 AM
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Oscar Watch: Predicts

At long last, the Oscar ballots are in and it is the week before the Oscar kudocast! It's time to make your fearless forecasts and plunk your money down in your office pool. (I can tell you one thing--it's not easy to come out on top here at Variety, where everyone is an Oscar expert.)
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • February 19, 2008 7:20 AM
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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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