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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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Sundance's Trouble the Water Reveals New Orleans Heroine

Ten days after Hurricane Katrina, documentary filmmakers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal were all set to shoot a film about National Guard troops being redeployed more than 7000 miles from Iraq to New Orleans to cope with the storm’s aftermath. Then the duo got shut down—thanks to their credits on Fahrenheit 9/11.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • January 25, 2008 8:10 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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Oscar Watch: National Society Picks There Will Be Blood

We knew the various critics groups would go for No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood, as the National Society of Film Critics did Saturday. This means each film gets a boost during this all important ballot-filling season. What fascinates me is whether the Academy goes the same way as the critics. (Tom O'Neill goes underground with the NSFC voting.)
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • January 6, 2008 7:31 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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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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Oscar Watch: Seeking Consensus

While I admire Kris Tapley's attempt to make some sense out of the blizzard of Oscar predictions out there, I remain convinced that until the prognosticators see Charlie Wilson's War and Sweeney Todd, the two films that many of us got invited to see Monday, none of these lists make much sense. Richard Corliss in Time suggests that "audiences will have a great time watching" Charlie Wilson's War, which seemed to play for Oprah Winfrey's Chicago audience. Oprah raved about Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance, as guests Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts (who tried to get out of shooting a bikini scene while four weeks pregnant) nodded politely. My hunch is that Hoffman won't get nommed for best actor for The Savages or Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, but will get a supporting nom for Charlie Wilson's War.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • November 20, 2007 7:13 AM
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There Will be Blood: On the Screening Circuit

Paramount Vantage is on the There will Be Blood promo trail, screening the pic and building support. I watched the two hour and forty minute film, happily, for the second time at the WGA screening Monday night; the crowd gave Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day Lewis a standing ovation afterward.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • November 15, 2007 7:20 AM
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Atonement: Wright and Hampton Talk

Atonement screened for my last UCLA class Monday night, and they went for it, although you can always tell when a movie has left some folks behind when they ask questions about why the characters behaved the way they did. About a third of the class had read the book. Director Joe Wright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton explained why the movie was such a difficult challenge.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • November 12, 2007 8:16 AM
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