Gravity leads Bafta nominations

Alfonso Cuaron’s space thriller “Gravity” scored 11 nominations for the British Academy Film and TV Awards (BAFTA), including for film, actress for Sandra Bullock, director for Cuaron and screenplay for Cuaron and his son, Jonas. It’s worth noting that Gravity is actually a British Film.

Meanwhile, Steve McQueen’s “12 Years A Slave” and David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” received 10 nominations each, followed by Paul Greengrass’ “Captain Phillips” with nine nods.

All the aforementioned movies will be competing in the best film category, alongside “Philomena,” and their directors will be facing Martin Scorsese for “The Wolf of Wall Street” in the best director category. All five directors are also nominated for the Directors Guild of America award.

Surprisingly, Robert Redford (All Is Lost) and Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), who are considered solid Oscar contenders, are missing in the lead actor category, which included Bruce Dern for “Nebraska,” Chiwetel Ejiofor for “12 Years A Slave,” Britain’s Christian Bale for “American Hustle,” Leonardo DiCaprio for “The Wolf of Wall Street” and Tom Hanks for “Captain Phillips.”

The omission of Jared Leto for “Dallas Buyers Club” in the supporting actor list was also surprising. This category features Matt Damon for “Behind the Candelabra,” which, unlike in the US, was released theatrically in the UK, Michael Fassbender for “12 Years A Slave,” Barkhad Abdi for “Captain Phillips,” Daniel Bruhl for “Rush,” and Bradley Cooper for “American Hustle.”

In the lead actress competition, Bullock is joined by Amy Adams for “American Hustle,” Cate Blanchett for “Blue Jasmine,” Emma Thompson for “Saving Mr. Banks” and Judie Dench for “Philomena.” Notably absent was Meryl Streep for “August: Osage County.”

Nominated for supporting actress were Jennifer Lawrence for “American Hustle,” Julia Roberts for “August: Osage County,” Lupita Nyong’o for “12 Years A Slave,” Oprah Winfrey for “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” and Sally Hawkins for “Blue Jasmine.”

Competing for the best foreign language movie BAFTA are Indonesia’s “The Act of Killing,” France’s “Blue is the Warmest Colour,” Italy’s “The Great Beauty,” the Philippines set British film “Metro Manila” and Saudi Arabia’s “Wadjda.”

The BAFTA doesn’t have the accuracy of predicting the Oscars as the Hollywood Guilds, in spite of some overlapping of membership between the academies on both sides of the pond.  Frankly, there are hardly any surprises in BAFTA’s nominations and apart from the odd oversight, they invariably seem to correlate with the preceding nominations announcements of other organisations, so whatever difference they make, it’s likely to be imperceptible.

The BAFTAs will handed out on 16th February at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

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DGA nominations reaffirm Oscar frontrunners

There were no surprises in the Directors Guild of America (DGA) nominations, when they were announced this morning. Gravity’s Alfonso Cuaron, Captain Phillips’ Paul Greengrass, 12 Years A Slave’s Steve McQueen, American Hustle’s David O. Russell and The Wolf Of Wall Street’s Martin Scorsese were all considered favorites to make it on the DGA nominations list.

The aforementioned movies have already scooped key nods from other major guilds: SAG, PGA and WGA. 12 Years A Slave and Gravity missed out only at the WGA due to their ineligibility while the Wolf of Wall Street was too late to enter the race for the SAGs. This propels these contenders to the front of this year’s overcrowded Oscar’s race, and most likely they will dominate the Academy’s nominations, which will be announced next week.

This is the first DGA nomination for Alfonso Cuaron, Paul Greengrass and Steve McQueen, and the second for David O. Russell. However, this is the 11th DGA nomination for Martin Scorsese, who won the award for The Departed in 2006 and for the TV show Boardwalk Empire in 2010.

Although the DGA and Academy nominations rarely overlap, their winners were different only 7 times in the last 65 years. Hence the DGA is considered the most reliable predictor of Oscar winners. But that was not the case last year, when the DGA’s winner, Ben Affleck, was not even nominated by the Academy.

Last year, only 2 DGA nominees, Lincoln’s Spielberg and Life of Pi’s Lee made it onto the Academy’s list of the Best Director nominations. Hence it’s not a lost battle for other hopeful contenders, who were snubbed today, such as Stephen Frears (Philomena), Spike Jones (Her), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine) and The Coen brothers (Inside Llewyn Davis).

The DGA winner will be announced on January 25th.

Jane Campion to lead Cannes Film Festival jury

New Zealander filmmaker Jane Campion is to lead the 2014 Cannes Film Festival competition jury, which will be tasked in handing out the prestigious Palm D’or and other top prizes to the approximately 20 competing films.

Campion was thrilled to receive this honour, she said in a statement posted on the festival’s website. “It is this world wide inclusiveness and passion for film at the heart of the festival which makes the importance of the Cannes Film Festival indisputable.”  she added. “It is a mythical and exciting festival where amazing things can happen, actors are discovered, films are financed careers are made, I know this because that is what happened to me!”

In 1993, Campion made history in Cannes when she became the first and only female director to win the Palm for “The Piano,” which went on to garner her an Oscar for Best Screenplay. The film, which tells the story of a mute mail-order bride who arrives to New Zealand with a large Piano, also netted Academy awards for actresses Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin.

Most recently, Campion and Hunter reunited on a television series “Top of The Lake,” which played in Sundance and screened on BBC 2. The show has received critical praise and a nomination at this year’s Golden Globes.

Campion succeeds Steven Spielberg, who presided over last year’s jury that handed the Palm D’Or to the highly controversial french drama “Blue Is the Warmest Colour,” which has become one of the most talked about movie of the year due to its explicit lesbian sex scenes and the infighting between the director and his cast.

The festival, considered the most prestigious in the world, is scheduled to be held May 14-24.

High Profile screenplays missing in the WGA nominations

It was the turn of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) to announce its nominees this morning. The results were based on voting by the guild’s 12000 members.

Five candidates filed the original screenplay category: David O. Russell and Eric Singer for American Hustle, Woody Allen for Blue Jasmine, Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack for Dallas Buyers Club, Spike Jonze for Her and Bob Nelson for Nebraska.

And five more candidates will be competing in the adapted screenplay competition: Tracy Letts for August: Osage County, Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke for Before Midnight, Billy Ray for Captain Phillips, Peter Berg for Lone Survivor, and Terence Winter for The Wolf of Wall Street.

Many of the above contenders have already been mentioned or honored in previous competitions, and will probably be listed in the upcoming Oscar nominations in Jan 16. However, some worthy scripts were glaringly absent in today’s nominations, not for lack of merit, but because of the strict rules of the WGA, which stipulate that a script has to be produced under the WGA jurisdiction or under the collective bargaining agreement in Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the UK in order to be eligible for the award. Among the high profile victims of this rule are John Ridley (12 Years A Slave), Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope (Philomena), Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) and Peter Morgan  (Rush).

Eligibility didn’t save other notable screenplays from being overlooked, such as Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Lee Daniel’s The Butler, Saving Mr. Banks and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

In spite of its uncompromising rule, the WGA awards has an impressive record of overlapping with the Academy’s. In the past 19 winners, WGA and Oscar matched 12 times in the original-screenplay competition, and 14 times in adapted. Last year, Chris Terrio won both for Argo in the adapted  screenplay category, but Quentin Tarantino took the Oscar for best original screenplay for Django Unchained, which was ineligible for WGA. The WGA original screenplay prize was bestowed on Mark Boal for Zero Dark Thirty.

The winners will be announced Feb. 1 at simultaneous ceremonies in Los Angeles and New York.

Producers Guild of America announced nominations

In a year blessed with a wide selection of good movies, the Producers Guild of America (PGA) offered no surprises in their 25th annual nominations for the Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award, which were announced this morning.

The 10 nominated film are: American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Saving Mr. Banks, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street.

Each one of the these movies has already been nominated in different capacities for other awards. It’s hard to doubt their merit, but there are other movies that are no less deserving but were snubbed, most notably the Weinsteins movies, including Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Philomena, Fruitvale Station, August: Osage County and Mandela: Long Way to Freedom.

The PGA awards are considered a strong prognosticator for the Best Picture Oscar, because many of its voters are also members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In the last 10 years, 8 of the PGA award winners went on to claim the coveted Oscar.

The winner will be announced on Jan 19 during a ceremony at the Beverly Hilton hotel.

12 Years a Slave and American Hustle dominate Golden Globes nominations

With such an eclectic and crowded year, the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association were spoiled for choice when they picked their honorees. No one had been able to predict this year’s nominations, yet no one was surprised when they were announced this morning. Each one of these nominations was justly merited.

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave and David O. Russell’s American Hustle led the pack with 7 nods each, including best picture, best director and other acting categories for Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper.

These nominations will undoubtedly help catapult these films to solid front-runners on the road to the coveted Oscars, considering that the Globes are closely watched by Academy voters.

12 Years A Slave will run against Captain Phillips, Gravity, Philomena and Rush in the best dramatic film category, while American Hustle will compete against Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska and The Wolf of Wall Street for best musical and comedy category.

In the best director category, McQueen and O. Russell will compete with Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity, Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips and Alexander Payne for Nebraska.

The Golden Globes offer two categories for best lead actor and actress: one for drama and another for musical comedy.

Joining Ejiofor in the best actor in drama category are Idris Elba for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips, Matthew McConnaughey for Dallas Buyers Club and Robert Redford for All Is Lost. While in the best actor in a comedy or musical, Bale will vie with Bruce Dern for Nebraska, Oscar Isaac for Inside Llewyn Davis, Joaquin Phoenix for Her and Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street.

The nominees for best actress in a drama are Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine, Sandra Bullock for Gravity, Emma Thompson for Saving Mr. Banks, Judi Dench for Philomena and Kate Winslet for Labour Day. And the category for best actress in a comedy or a musical included Amy Adams for American Hustle, Julie Delpy for Before Midnight, Greta Gerwig for Frances Ha, Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Enough Said and Meryl Streep for August: Osage County.

In the best supporting actor category, Fassbender and Cooper will compete with Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club, Daniel Bruhl for Rush and newcommer Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips. And in the best supporting actress category, Lawrence and Nyong’o will run against Julia Roberts for August: Osage County, June Squibb for Nebraska and Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine.

Perceptibly absent from the nominations were Lee Daniel’s The Butler and its famous star Oprah Winfrey. Also the heart-rending low budget drama Fruitvale Station, which had been recognised by other award competitions, was missing.

The Hollywood Foreign Press also honours TV, and this year they have for first time recognised internet TV shows such as Netflix’s House of Cards, which collected 3 nods for Best TV Drama, Best Actor and Actress  in a TV series drama for Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright respectively.

House of Cards will run against Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Masters of Sex and The Good Wife in the TV series: Drama.

The Golden Globes Awards will be announced on 12th January next year at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles and broadcast live on NBC.

12 Years A Slave leads at the SAGs nominations

Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o and Chiwetel Ejiofor gained nods at the SAGs.

After failing to secure a win in recent critics awards, 12 Years a Slave gained a boost from The Screen Actors Guild (SAG), which honoured it with 4 nominations, for best ensemble cast, male actor in a leading role for Chiwetel Ejiofor, and supporting for Michael Fassbender and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o.  Directed by Steve McQueen, the film is an unflinching portrayal of slavery in early America.

Another film dealing with African American history, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, which had been overlooked by other award competitions, received a new injection of life with 3 SAG nods: best ensemble cast, male actor in a leading role for Forest Whitaker and female actor in a supporting role for Oprah Winfrey.

These recognitions are a major triumph for black cinema, which has surged this year, critically and commercially, because the SAGs are the first major nominations in the award season and a leading Oscar bellwether, hence more accolades will most likely follow.

Other pictures with 3 nominations, including the best ensemble cast, were August: Osage County, which had been under the radar, and Dallas Buyers Club. American Hustle, which attained 2 nods, rounded out the best ensemble cast nominees.

Competing against Ejiofor and Whitaker in the male actor in a leading role category were Bruce Dern for Nebraska, Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips and Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club.

The female actor in a leading role category was packed with veteran Oscar-winning thespians: Judi Dench for Philomena, Meryl Streep for August: Osage County, Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine, Sandra Bullock for Gravity and Emma Thompson for Saving Mr. Banks.

Vying with Michael Fassbender for male actor in a supporting role were James Gandolfini for Enough Said, newcomer Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips, Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club and Daniel Bruhl for Rush. Meanwhile 3 more ladies will be competing with Oprah Winfrey and Nyong’o in the female actor in a supporting role category: Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle, June Squibb for Nebraska and Julia Roberts for August: Osage County.

Glaringly missing in these nominations were Robert Redford for All is Lost, who won a critic prize last week;  Leonardo Di Caprio and Jonah Hill for The Wolf of Wall Street; Joaquin Phoenix for Her; and Ben Stiller for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

Last year’s SAG winners  -lead actor Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln, lead actress Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook and supporting actress Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables- all went on to claim the Oscar.

The SAG awards will be handed out at the Shrine Exposition Hall in Los Angeles on 18th January 2014.