Do Movie Boycotts Ever Work?

Asa Butterfield and Harrison Ford in Ender’s Game Richard Foreman Jr. / Summit Entertainment

For months, Ender’s Game has toiled under a cloud of controversy that few feature films ever have to endure, let alone sci-fi spectacles designed to launch a major new feature film franchise. Orson Scott Card, the author of the 1985 young adult novel the film is based on, has such a long and well-documented history of making anti-gay statements that a call for an organized boycott against the film this past summer gained a great deal of media attention — and a New York Times editorial that likened the boycott to “blacklisting.” Despite strongly worded statements denouncing Card’s views by both Ender’s Game’s studio and filmmakers — statements that reinforced the (mostly undisputed) fact that there is no overt homophobia in Ender’s Game itself — the boycott’s organizers remained steadfast, determined not to financially reward Card by purchasing a ticket to the movie. Even a report from The Wrap earlier this week that Card would receive no money from the film’s box office take did not appear to deter the boycott.

After all that hullabaloo, Ender’s Game finally opened this weekend, grossing an estimated $28 million for the top spot at the box office. So did the boycott succeed? Or did it fail?

On its face, this is an impossible question to answer. A rep for Summit Entertainment called the debut “in line with the studio’s pre-weekend expectations,” but there is no way to know for certain how many people would have bought a ticket to Ender’s Game had the social politics of the story’s author not been at issue. And even if Card had been the most pro-gay author on the planet, Ender’s Game was always going to be an unusual movie with which to launch a major franchise. Yes, the novel was a beloved literary phenomenon onto itself for decades before writer-director Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) began production — unlike several other failed YA film adaptations of late that felt like their movie studio marketing plans were stapled to the authors’ unpublished manuscripts. (RIP Eragon, I Am Number Four, The Host, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Beautiful Creatures, and The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising — we hardly knew ye.)

Moises Arias, Haliee Steinfeld, and Asa Butterfield in Ender’s Game. Richard Foreman Jr. / Summit Entertainment

But unlike The Hunger Games and Twilight and even Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, there is no romance in Ender’s Game — either in the sense of two people in love or in the sense of being swept up in a grand fantasy adventure. A tale of the young titular genius drafted into a brutal and unforgiving military training school to defeat a possible alien threat, the film is a story of intellectual prowess, of a kid triumphing not through brawn or magic or love, but through ruthless cerebral know-how. Hood faithfully brings that brainy quality to the film, staging its action scenes with a welcome intelligence and logic instead of the usual haphazard visual assault. But successful movie franchises are not dour intellectual experiences — they are exciting and visceral ones. Hood seems to understand this need (a mild SPOILER alert is in order, probably), because in the film’s ending, he pushes hard on the potential for a more emotional and redemptive arc in any subsequent films.

Whether there are any sequels, however, remains very much an open question. On the one hand, Ender’s Game’s box office debut was stronger than those aforementioned failed YA adaptations, and it is just about on par with 2010’s Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightening Thief, the rare YA adaptation that successfully spawned a sequel, this past August’s Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.

Both Percy Jackson films, however, proved their box office potential overseas — in the U.S., they have been lackluster performers at best, and Ender’s Game, which has only opened in three overseas territories so far, looks like it could be on the same domestic box office path. Consider After Earth and Jack the Giant Slayer. Both are sci-fi/fantasy films aimed at the same audience as Ender’s Game; both opened this year just under Ender’s Game debut numbers; and both limped to a total domestic gross of $60.5 million and $65.2 million, respectively. Even if Ender’s Game enjoys better word-of-mouth than those films, it will have to contend with some heavy box office competition in the next few weeks from Thor: The Dark World and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

What does any of this have to do with the boycott? As I said before, it is impracticable to put an exact dollar amount on any boycott of a feature film, but I’m going to risk this hypothesis anyway: next to nothing.

The Da Vinci Code

Sony Pictures

The Passion of the Christ

Newmarket Films

The Golden Compass

New Line Cinema

 

Organized movie boycotts have often proven to be ineffective at swaying the box office. Talk of Catholics shunning the Dan Brown adaptations The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons didn’t keep those films from worldwide grosses of $758 million and $486 million, respectively. Similarly, the enormous controversy surrounding Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ didn’t keep it from pulling in $611.9 million worldwide.

There have been times, however, when dissatisfaction with the film has appeared to make an impact on the film’s box office. A former New Line Cinema exec told The New York Times that he estimated 2007’s The Golden Compass lost as much as 50% of its domestic gross after Catholic groups protested the film’s alleged anti-Catholic agenda. And controversy surrounding an “electric cars are gay” joke in 2011’s The Dilemma may have been a factor in the film’s disastrous $48.8 million domestic gross.

Then again, perhaps these movies were not successful because audiences did not want to see them.

People can be remarkably stubborn when it comes to their entertainment. They can make a “hard sell” like Gravity into a global phenomenon that just passed $400 million worldwide. They can make movies with the world’s biggest stars — like Will Smith’s After Earth and Johnny Depp’s The Lone Ranger — into outright flops. Over the past decade, Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson both saw their box office plummet (the latter much more than the former) — not because of some organization’s concerted effort to make people actively boycott their films, but because their behavior turned people off.

Even the psychological effect of the Ender’s Game boycott is difficult to pin down. Say there aren’t any more movies about Ender Wiggin. Will it be because the boycott scared off the studio from wanting to deal with this PR headache all over again? Or because the studio concluded there wasn’t enough of a global audience for any more movies? Card’s subsequent novels in the series, by the way, do not follow the kind of linear storytelling path we’ve come to expect from franchise movies; any delays in subsequent films could easily be due to the challenge of trying to make them work as a coherent experience.

Speaking of Card’s books, despite all the recriminations about their author’s anti-gay views, they continue to climb the sales charts. As Card himself said in a recent TV interview, “My sales go up with such attacks.” How can you boycott someone’s work when the boycott itself causes that work to succeed? It’s a dilemma that would stymie even the strategic expertise of Ender Wiggin.

Here are the estimated top 10 box office figures for Friday to Sunday, courtesy of Box Office Mojo:

1. Ender’s Game* — $28 million
2. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa — $20.5 million
3. Last Vegas* — $16.5 million
4. Free Birds* — $16.2 million
5. Gravity — $13.1 million
6. Captain Phillips — $8.5 million
7. 12 Years a Slave — $4.6 million
8. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 — $4.2 million
9. Carrie — $3.4 million
10. The Counselor — $3.3 million

*Opening weekend

Gabourey Sidibe Opens Up About This Season’s Racially Charged “American Horror Story”

Frank Ockenfels / FX

“It was a pretty crazy work week,” 30-year-old Gabourey Sidibe said, looking back on filming Wednesday’s episode of American Horror Story: Coven, the third installment of the FX anthology series.

SPOILER ALERT!

This week’s episode, titled “Head,” saw Sidibe’s character Queenie — a witch who possesses the unique ability of being a human voodoo doll and making others feel what would normally be her pain — try to educate a decapitated 1800s New Orleans socialite who tortured slaves in her heyday and later, putting a bullet through her head when her fearless voodoo queen leader was in danger of being killed by a witch hunter, thus killing him. “Pretty crazy,” indeed.

But the actress, who’s best known for her Oscar-nominated performance in Lee Daniels’ Precious as the titular character growing up in a broken home that would be generously characterized as abusive, knew what she was in for when signing up for with American Horror Story as a huge fan of its first two incarnations.

“I’m very fuzzy on the details,” she said of how she won the role on Coven, which is set in New Orleans at Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, where Queenie was initially among the young witches studying under Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson) about how to foster their talents. “I don’t like to ask a lot of questions, but all I know is two weeks before my birthday [May 6], my agent called me and said that I would be on Season 3 and I was super psyched about it. I don’t know if [my agents] were working on it or if American Horror Story reached out first. I’ve heard two versions of the same story, but I’m on it!” she said excitedly with a laugh that practically permeates her every sentence.

And it only got more exciting from there. Hearing that Queenie would be a human voodoo doll? “I was pretty sure that I had the coolest power, but I wanted to know what the other girls were,” she said, noting she didn’t envy Taissa Farmiga’s Zoe, who was cursed with the ability to screw men to death. (“I would have to have a very serious conversation with all of my boyfriends. And condoms won’t work,” she joked.) Finding out she’d be working with Kathy Bates? “I was pretty psyched about that.” Learning that Bates was playing real historical figure Madame Delphine LaLaurie? “I used to be super, super into serial killers and Madame Delphine LaLaurie is our history’s first female serial killer,” Sidibe explained. “I had read several books on her. I was really psyched to work with this psychopath,” she added seriously before laughing at herself again.

Michele K. Short / FX

It was clear Sidibe had done her homework as she waxed poetic about LaLaurie, voodooism, and the woman who played a big part in that practice in this country, Tituba, a 17th-century slave who was one of the first to be accused of practicing witchcraft during the Salem witch trials.

Though American Horror Story: Coven is mainly set in the current day, Sidibe’s Queenie isn’t all too far removed from the issue of slavery, having developed a complicated relationship with LaLaurie, who had tortured and killed slaves in her New Orleans home in the 19th century. On the series, a voodoo witch named Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) gave LaLaurie eternal life and then buried her alive until Cordelia’s mother Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange) dug her up in 2013. As a punishment for her nearly 180-year-old crimes, a still incredibly racist LaLaurie is forced by Fiona to be Queenie’s personal slave.

“Kathy is one of the easiest people to work with. She’s such a doll. She’s so wonderful and she understands how awful her character is,” Sidibe explained with another laugh. “She totally gets it, but she’s also very unwavering when it comes to playing her. Between the time the director says, ‘Action,’ and ‘Cut,’ she is very much on LaLaurie’s side and she’s very much LaLaurie. But as soon as he says, ‘Cut,’ she gets so concerned and she wants to know if I’m offended by anything. She is so sweet. She’s like, ‘I hope people don’t think I’m really like this. I hope people don’t think that I really feel this way.’”

Sidibe certainly knows that Bates is the furthest from feeling that way, noting they couldn’t have had more fun than they did on their drive-through scene at Frostop (“We had to have [the food] taken away from us,” she said. “It was really good”) and Bates’ excitement over one particular scene in which her character was in shock that Americans voted a black president into office when she first saw Barack Obama on TV.

“Kathy is so excited that that became a meme,” she said with a laugh after imitating the now-famous “Liiiiiiiiiies” line. “She’d never been a meme before. She’s so funny … She was really excited to be part of the internet in that way. And now she does it all the time.”

FX

 

While racism is explored nearly every episode with LaLaurie and Queenie, the issue is also a topic of conversation on the Coven set. “There’s an on-set writer, John Gray, who is wonderful and he’s always there for any questions we have, for any discussions we want to have,” Sidibe noted. “Like if there’s something we don’t quite understand or if there’s something that we are, in fact, offended by, he’s right there. We talk about everything and we have just as many questions as the audience does.”

This week’s episode was particularly racially complex, with Queenie offering LaLaurie some “sensitivity training” that ranged from watching the entirety of the critically acclaimed 1977 miniseries Roots, to B*A*P*S, a 1997 film that Halle Berry probably wishes could be erased from all of our memories. “LaLaurie has yet to repent. She has yet to say, ‘What I did was wrong and I’m apologetic about it,’” Sidibe said. “And I think that Queenie just wants that because she feels as though there’s something in this woman that she’s made her friend so there’s gotta be a good part in her. And if she’s done that for her, then why hasn’t LaLaurie made her her friend enough to say, ‘You know what? What I did to my slaves was pretty fucked up. I apologize.’ She hasn’t gotten that yet and that’s why she keeps her head. Like she says to LaLaurie, ‘You’re going to leave this world, I’m gonna kill you, but before I do, I need to hear you say that you understand what you did was bad.’”

“Bad” being an understatement. Particularly when 12 Years A Slave is being touted as one of the best films of the year, Sidibe said it’s important to note why we’re seeing this topic addressed in Hollywood, even 150 years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. “I just hope that they really understand the impact of slavery, that it’s not just black history, that it’s American history; it’s world history because we’re all human,” Sidibe said of what she hopes is Coven’s impact. “It’s not just for black people and it’s not just for white people; it’s for all of us to see just how far we’ve come from being considered animals. With The Butler and with 12 Years A Slave, there’s a lot of talk about slavery. Why can’t we just get past it? Why do we still have to watch movies about slavery? Slavery doesn’t exist anymore so racism doesn’t exist anymore. That isn’t true. I just want people to get more of an education without thinking, Why do we need this? We need this because our yesterday affects our tomorrow.”

Michele K. Short / FX

For example, race long made Queenie an outsider at Miss Robichaux’s. “I think she always was supposed to feel a little bit out of place,” Sidibe said, adding that they filmed a bit of Queenie’s backstory, which revealed that grew up in foster care in Detroit. “She doesn’t really belong any where.”

But she did find that sense of belonging with Marie Laveau and her “voodoo minions,” as Sidibe called them, behind the facade of Cornrow City, Laveau’s quasi-cover of a salon in New Orleans. Queenie fled Miss Robichaux’s after Marie convinced her to bring LaLaurie to her, where Laveau tortured and eventually decapitated the woman, who now exists as a head (mainly in a cardboard box) and a Forever 21 tiger-studded-sweater-wearing body in a cage on the upper and lower levels of the salon respectively. “I think that Queenie views Marie Laveau as being more powerful than any of the witches over at Miss Robichaux’s Academy,” Sidibe explained. “I think that Queenie has sort of found a home with the voodoo queen. She’s found people who look like her, but she also has found people who are training her and loving her. There’s a weird sort of love that Marie has for Queenie.”

Queenie clearly recognized that in this week’s episode when Cordelia’s husband Hank (Josh Hamilton), who’s also (twist!) a witch hunter, stormed Cornrow City, killing the people Queenie had come to call family and shooting her in the stomach. But as he pointed his gun at Laveau, Queenie grabbed a gun and blew Hank’s brains to bits by putting his other gun in her mouth and pulling the trigger. (And all this as the post-Civil War anthem “Oh, Freedom” played in the background.)

But Queenie can’t die, right? She’s a human voodoo doll so the gunshot killed Hank, not her, right? “In theory, yes,” Sidibe said. “Either way, it’s a pretty big sacrifice because you can see that Queenie still gets hurt. She gets shot in the stomach. So even if she doesn’t die from putting the gun in her mouth, she still can die from being shot in the stomach. These are some pretty serious injuries.”

FX

FX

FX

 

Sidibe admitted that the intense shooting scene, which she watched on Wednesday night along with viewers for the first time, was “physically challenging.” “Honestly, I just get a huge boner about all these fun things,” she added frankly. “I’ve never done anything as challenging makeup-wise, as challenging set-wise as this show and I get so excited … I felt like an action star, falling on the ground from a gut shot, and then looking up and seeing the gun and grabbing it, and then army-crawling … I just kept asking, ‘Does it look cool? Does it look cool?’ Because it looked cool when we were shooting. Everything was just so awesome. I mean, I definitely hurt myself that day, but it was worth it.”

For those concerned about Queenie’s fate, Sidibe is currently in New Orleans filming the 12th episode of Coven, but the scene itself is already sparking conversation online over a different kind of worry about showing a white man shooting a group of black people to “Oh Freedom.” “Is there any American nightmare more potent at this moment than the one about white people dismissing, denigrating, and murdering black people for no reason and with no consequences?” Willa Paskin wrote on Slate, noting she didn’t quite know what to make of the moment. “Set a scene about exactly that to ‘Oh Freedom’ and you have some pretty radical social commentary for Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. Unless it’s just radical hot-button pushing.”

Though she didn’t predict the reaction, Sidibe told BuzzFeed on Wednesday afternoon before the episode aired that she tries not to think too much about the audience’s response. “Now that we’re in the latter part of the season, I care less about what the audience thinks because we’re throwing so many things at the audience that they don’t really have time to think,” she said, comparing it to her early anxiety about a masturbation scene. “As soon as we give them something, we give them something else that’s entirely different, but also assaulting. (laughs) So I don’t worry about it as much.”

Ryan Murphy, co-creator of American Horror Story, shared a similar sentiment with Vulture. “There’s an interesting result to the story … I’ve learned the lesson that people will go insane on Twitter because they don’t like a plot point, and then two episodes later, it’s resolved in a way that the fans wanted,” he said. “Obviously, I want to see some justice for all these things that have gone on. There will be a heavy price to pay for it, and we’ve been writing that all along.”

American Horror Story: Coven airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.

Things I Overheard At This Year’s Sundance Film Festival

1. “Is that Lindsay Lohan?” “No, I heard it was One Direction.”

Chris Pizzello/Invision / AP

This was said outside of the press conference, where Lindsay Lohan was announcing her new film, Inconceivable.

To be fair, there was a rather large crowd around Lohan, and it was pretty impossible to see her. Plus, what’s less feasible: Lohan being at Sundance or One Direction? And they were both there basically, FYI.

2. “Did you refill your Brita?”

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This was a valid question, actually. Park City, Utah, is at a high elevation and has really bad air pollution. Keeping hydrated is key to avoiding that altitude sickness.

Also? Brita basically sponsored Sundance and handed out these little Nalgene bottles in lines, at parties, in lines FOR parties. It was a Brita free-for-all.

3. “I’ve known Tilda since before she met Derek Jarman.”

Pierre Suu

Name-dropping is basic Sundance Survival 101. At times, it seems like the only way to communicate is to see how many famous people’s names you can fit into one sentence.

But if I learned anything after a week of hearing, “I went to dinner with [insert name here]” and “I was on a yacht with [insert name here],” it’s that if you have to drop the name, it probably means you don’t actually know that person. In fact, it’s basically a dead giveaway of how not close to fame you are.

4. “Is this a real owl?”

Chris Pizzello/Invision / AP

Yes, it was a real and very live owl named Bubo, and he was just kind of hanging out on Main Street, because YOLO.

5. “I saw somebody kind of famous…”

Chris Pizzello/Invision / AP

There were a lot of levels of famous walking around Sundance. Some, like Harry Styles, would bring young girls to tears as soon as they were sighted. Then there were others who you knew were famous, but, like, couldn’t quite remember how… Do you know who that person was? I think they’re on TV? Maybe?

6. “My boyfriend worked on that movie. He built the bathroom!”

Chris Pizzello/Invision / AP

I’m sure this was true. I’m sure this dude’s boyfriend really did work on the movie and really did build the bathroom. #humblebrag

7. “Hello, hi, I’ve known your name for years.”

Jim Urquhart / Reuters

This was said at a press screening for Only Lovers Left Alive, and it was said by a journalist to another journalist. Apparently, the first journalist had known the other’s name for years, and was a bit starstruck. It was quite cute actually.

8. “You went to high school with Ashley Greene?” “No, my friend played soccer with her. Actually, it was soccer with her sister.”

Jim Urquhart / Reuters

I see…

9. “I should’ve worn, like, three pairs of socks.”

Erin La Rosa for BuzzFeed

Yes, you should’ve, because there’s snow on the ground, and sometimes when you’ve been walking for too long on Main Street you can no longer feel your toes and it’s terrifying. We all should’ve worn, like, three pairs of socks.

10. “Is there an outlet behind the bar?”

Erin La Rosa for BuzzFeed

Everyone’s iPhones at Sundance were roughly five minutes from going completely dead at all times. No matter where you were — it could even be the middle of the street — you would hear someone panicked and saying, “Is there an outlet here?” It was kind of funny, until it happened to me and I was forced to plug in at a bar, like a jerk.

11. “This is going to sound really corny, but I think the altitude is really getting to me.”

Chris Pizzello/Invision / AP

To be fair, it didn’t sound that corny. The altitude got to me too, and it was terrifying.

35 Movies You Will Be Talking About This Awards Season

Adam B. Vary for BuzzFeed / Fox Searchlight; The Weinstein Company; 20th Century Fox; Paramount Pictures; Sony Pictures Classics; Universal Pictures; Focus Features; Disney; IFC Films; AMPAS; iStock

By this point last year, 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, and Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine had all but engraved their respective Oscar statues. But thus far, not one movie or performance has come close to declaring itself “a lock” for an Academy Award — and that means it could prove to be an especially fun “awards season.”

In looking over the this year’s field (both previous releases, and films yet to come), I’ve kept to just the films with a great-to-halfway-decent shot for at least one major nomination — that is, Best Picture, Best Actor or Actress, Best Supporting Actor or Actress, and Best Original or Adapted Screenplay. Although, within that group, I’ve also noted films that have a strong chance in the craft and technical categories.

As is the case almost every year, of course, there is every chance a wild card not listed below could slip in with a surprise nomination (like, say, Chef for Best Original Screenplay). And although I’ve made my best attempt at calculating which actors, directors, and writers could be up for their respective categories for the films listed below, a few surprise nominees could reveal themselves as the season progresses. (A classic example: No one thought Ethan Hawke was going to be nominated for 2001’s Training Day.) Similarly, for some actors, figuring out whether they fall under the lead or supporting categories can be a complicated dance, sometimes because it’s genuinely unclear, sometimes because the competition in one of those categories is steeper than the other.

Which is all to say, take this list in the spirit of good fun, like this season should be. The Oscars — and preceding accolades like the Independent Spirit Awards, Golden Globes, guild awards, and critics awards — are meant at their best to single out the feature films worthy of being called The Best. This is just one attempt at culling together that list.

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Bob Yeoman / Fox Searchlight

Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Ralph Fiennes), Best Director (Wes Anderson), Best Original Screenplay (Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness), a bunch of craft categories (Art Direction, Costume, Makeup, etc.)

You might think Anderson’s intricate, artisanal movies would be catnip to Oscar voters, but, to date, only two of his live-action films have earned any Oscar nominations (The Royal Tenenbaums and Moonrise Kingdom), and only for their screenplays. (Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Score.)

The Grand Budapest Hotel — Anderson’s most successful film to date, and a true sensation overseas — may finally change all that. It was pretty much the only major “awards”-y movie in the first half of the year, and it is dense with some brilliant craft filmmaking, including its sets, costumes, score, and cinematography.

Or it may be yet another of Anderson’s films that is passed over by the Academy.

Regardless, if you haven’t see in yet, you should!

Release date: March 7

2. The Immigrant

Anne Joyce / The Weinstein Company

Possible nominations: Best Actress (Marion Cotillard)

This film, about a 1920s woman (Cotillard) who falls into prostitution after immigrating to America, won some critical acclaim, but it came and went without making much of a cultural blip. But, like so many years before it, the competition for the Best Actress category remains shallow in comparison to the vast number of contenders for Best Actor, and many asserted that Cotillard has scarcely been better than she is here.

Release date: May 23

3. The Fault in Our Stars

James Bridges / 20th Century Fox

Possible nominations: Best Actress (Shailene Woodley), Best Supporting Actor (Ansel Elgort), Best Adapted Screenplay (Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber)

A tear-streaked summer hit, TFIOS ultimately may skew too young for Academy voters, but anyone who’s seen it can scarcely forget Woodley and Elgort’s heartbreaking performances. Woodley has a solid shot at a nod, but 20th Century Fox should mount a campaign to support the film, if only to remind the rest of Hollywood that there is a place for simple, heartfelt dramas about everyday people living in the world today.

Release date: June 6

4. Begin Again

Andrew Schwartz / The Weinstein Company

Possible nominations: Best Actress (Keira Knightley), Best Original Screenplay (John Carney), Best Original Song

The people who have seen Begin Again have swooned over the American, music industry insider, rock/folk variation on writer-director Carney’s previous film Once, which charmed the Academy enough to win it a Best Original Song Oscar. Carney could also swing a nod for his screenplay, and, who knows, Knightley could be a very surprise Best Actress nominee!

Release date: June 27

5. Boyhood

IFC Films

Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Ellar Coltrane), Best Supporting Actor (Ethan Hawke), Best Supporting Actress (Patricia Arquette), Best Director (Richard Linklater), Best Original Screenplay (Richard Linklater)

There has never been a film quite like Boyhood. Writer-director Linklater famously shot the movie over 12 years to track the physical and emotional development of Mason (Coltrane) from 6-year-old Texas boy into an 18-year-old young man, as well as the evolution of the lives of everyone around him. It may be too languorous and plot-averse for some Academy voters, but that doesn’t matter — to win major Oscar nominations, all a film needs is a passionate base of support, and this film definitely has it. Should that support swell, even Coltrane could find himself with a nomination for Best Actor, but the best bet for an acting nomination for this film will be Arquette’s moving work as Mason’s put-upon mother.

Release date: July 11

6. Get On Up

Universal Pictures

Possible nominations: Best Actor (Chadwick Boseman)

I’ve heard some dismiss this James Brown biopic, and I’ve heard some praise it as one of the best music biopics in years. But pretty much everyone agrees that Boseman — who was so good as Jackie Robinson in last year’s 42 — is electrifying as Brown. In a weaker year, he could’ve been deemed a lock for a nomination already, but this year, a wide field of actors in other, more widely acclaimed movies could steal his thunder. Still, at the least, Boseman should be part of the conversation.

Release date: Aug. 1

7. Love Is Strange

Sony Pictures Classics

Possible nominations: Best Actor/Supporting Actor (John Lithgow, Alfred Molina), Best Supporting Actress (Marisa Tomei), Best Original Screenplay (Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias)

Love Is Strange is the kind of small-scale, delicately observed drama that debuts at Sundance, wins wide acclaim, opens in theaters before the fall “awards season” kicks into high gear, gets ignored by the Oscars, and earns some key Independent Spirit Awards nominations instead. Last year, Fruitvale Station faced this peculiar fate. This year, hopefully, Love Is Strange — about a long-term gay couple (played by Lithgow and Molina) whose lives fall apart after their long-overdue wedding — earns the attention and accolades it readily deserves.

Release date: Aug. 22

8. The Skeleton Twins

Roadside Attractions

Possible nominations: Best Actress/Supporting Actress (Kristen Wiig), Best Original Screenplay (Mark Heyman and Craig Johnson)

Another Sundance hit that will have an uphill battle in the Oscar race! Hader is a revelation as a struggling actor whose cry-for-help suicide attempt reunites him with his estranged twin sister (Wiig). But in this year’s aforementioned densely packed Best Actor field, Hader will have to look to the Indie Spirits (and possibly the Golden Globes) for recognition. Which is a shame! Wiig, however, is equally great, and because of the comparatively sparsely packed field for the actress categories, she has a wide outside shot at an Oscar nod — or, at least, she should!

Release date: Sept. 12

9. Tracks

The Weinstein Company

Possible nominations: Best Actress (Mia Wasikowska), Best Adapted Screenplay (Marion Nelson)

One of the oddest quirks of this fall’s movie season is that we’re getting two movies based on the true stories of a blonde woman who decides to walk alone in the wilderness for more than 1,000 miles with very little experience in such hikes. The first is based on the life of Robyn Davidson (Wasikowska), who walked roughly 1,700 miles in the Australian Outback in 1977 with just her dog, a pack of camels, and occasional visits by a National Geographic photographer (Adam Driver). Critical praise has been mild to strong for the film, with most praise for the cinematography and Wasikowska’s harrowing and vanity-free performance.

Release date: Sept. 19

10. Pride

Nicola Dove / CBS Films

Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress/Supporting Actress (Imelda Staunton), Best Supporting Actor (Bill Nighy), Best Original Screenplay (Stephen Beresford)

Based on a fabulous and forgotten true story of LGBT activists in mid-’80s U.K. supporting striking coal miners (not traditionally the most LGBT-friendly crowd back then), Pride is the kind of stirring British drama that has often proven irresistible to Academy voters (see: Secrets & Lies, The Full Monty, The King’s Speech, Philomena). The current singular moment in LGBT history in the U.S. could help make the film feel that much more relevant, especially with so many heavyweights opening in the last three months of the year.

Release date: Sept. 26

11. Gone Girl

20th Century Fox

Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Ben Affleck), Best Actress/Supporting Actress (Rosamund Pike), Best Director (David Fincher), Best Adapted Screenplay (Gillian Flynn)

Expectations are incredibly high for this adaptation of Flynn’s acid-tinged best-seller about a marriage gone very bad, which Flynn scripted herself. Fincher’s films have lately proven to be Oscar nomination powerhouses and word is this is perhaps the most darkly funny film Fincher has made since Fight Club. Affleck, meanwhile, hasn’t had a role that dovetailed so neatly with his complicated celebrity persona since the time he played Superman actor George Reeves in 2006’s Hollywoodland, and if he hits it out of the park, he could earn his very first acting nomination. The real question mark, though, is Pike’s performance as Amy Dunne, a tightrope walk that could be a breakout moment for her the same way Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was for (Oscar nominee) Rooney Mara.

Release date: Oct. 3

12. The Judge

Warner Bros. Pictures

Possible nominations: Best Supporting Actor (Robert Duvall)

The response to this family drama in legal thriller disguise was muted at the Toronto International Film Festival. But the Best Supporting Actor category is, for the moment, rather sparse, and Duvall could easily eke out a nomination on the strength of a couple scenes where his character — a small-town judge on trial for murder — confronts the messy realities of aging and mortality.

Release date: Oct. 10

13. St. Vincent

Atsushi Nishijima / The Weinstein Company

Possible nominations: Best Actor (Bill Murray), Best Supporting Actress (Melissa McCarthy)

The movie itself — about the eponymous alcoholic Vietnam vet (Murray), and the kid he begins babysitting after his single mom (McCarthy) moves in next door — is emotional and uplifting and also almost paint-by-numbers formulaic. The performances by Murray and McCarthy, however, are fantastic and refreshing. Murray has rarely been able to create as full and vivid a character, and McCarthy has almost never been able to play as subtle and relatable a character. And the Academy has certainly celebrated emotional movies that follow set formulas before.

Release date: Oct. 10

14. Whiplash

Daniel McFadden / Sony Picture Classics

Possible nominations: Best Actor (Miles Teller), Best Supporting Actor (J.K. Simmons), Best Adapted Screenplay (Damien Chazelle), Best Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Editing

An electrifying premiere at Sundance won Simmons instant Oscar buzz for his performance as Terence Fletcher, a brutally uncompromising music instructor at a prestigious New York conservatory. But Teller, as the aspiring drummer who falls under Fletcher’s thrall, gives just as riveting a performance — especially in the film’s breathtaking final 15 minutes.

Release date: Oct. 10

15. Birdman

Alison Rosa / Fox Searchlight

Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Michael Keaton), Best Supporting Actor (Edward Norton), Best Supporting Actress (Emma Stone), Best Director (Alejandro González Iñárritu), Best Original Screenplay (Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo), technical categories (Editing, Cinematography, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing)

The Academy loves to celebrate an actor who’s been around for a long time and mounts a crowning comeback performance, and this year, they will have no better shot than with this cinematically daring vehicle for former Batman and major ’80s and ’90s movie star Michael Keaton. He plays an actor who has been around for a long time — and who is best known for playing the titular superhero — attempting to revive his career on Broadway, only to watch his life spin out of control. Director Iñárritu (21 Grams, Babel, Biutiful) has had great luck with the Oscars, but unlike his previous films that favored gritty, sprawling realism, Birdman not only dabbles in magical realism, it was apparently crafted to be experienced as one extended shot.

Release date: Oct. 17

16. Fury

Columbia Pictures

Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Brad Pitt), Best Supporting Actor (Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Michael Peña, Jon Bernthal), Best Director (David Ayer), Best Original Screenplay (David Ayer)

If this ensemble World War II drama about a world weary tank crew pushing into Europe in the spring of 1945 works, it could be the first major WWII battlefield film since 2006’s Letters From Iwo Jima to earn a Best Picture nomination. Any one of the five main leads in the film, the first period feature from writer-director David Ayer (Sabotage, End of Watch, Street Kings), could score an acting nod, as well, even media ne’er-do-well LaBeouf.

Release date: Oct. 17

17. Nightcrawler

Chuck Zlotnick / Open Road Films

Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Jake Gyllenhaal), Best Supporting Actress (Rene Russo), Best Director (Dan Gilroy), Best Original Screenplay (Dan Gilroy)

Nightcrawler was my favorite film at TIFF this year, but there was a feeling at the festival that this story of a sociopathic freelance videographer (Gyllenhaal) is too dark and cynical for Academy voters. Perhaps that will prove to be true, but this is the same voting body that gave five nominations to the even darker Black Swan — not to mention acting nods for “unlikeable” characters in Training Day, Hustle and Flow, There Will Be Blood, Precious, and Blue Jasmine. So there is every chance Gyllenhaal’s virtuosic performance could win a nomination, not to mention Gilroy’s killer script.

Release date: Oct. 31

18. Interstellar

Warner Bros.

Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Matthew McConaughey), Best Supporting Actress (Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy, Anne Hathaway), Best Director (Christopher Nolan), Best Original Screenplay (Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan), a bunch of technical categories (Editing, Visual Effects, Sound Effects, Sound Editing, etc.)

Remarkably, Christopher Nolan has never been nominated by the Academy for Best Director. That could finally change with his ambitious foray into cosmic science fiction. I’ve heard this film — about a single father (McConaughey) tasked with piloting an interstellar search for a hospitable planet that humanity can relocate to after reducing Earth to a barren wasteland — is Nolan’s most directly emotional film yet. If it delivers earned tears along with its epic visual scope, things could get really interesting in the Best Picture race.

Release date: Nov. 7

19. The Theory of Everything

Liam Daniel / Focus Features

Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Eddie Redmayne), Best Actress (Felicity Jones), Best Director (James Marsh), Best Adapted Screenplay (Anthony McCarten), some craft categories (Art Direction, Costumes, Score)

One of the big success stories at TIFF this year — and another entry in an odd awards season doubleheader — is this lovely biopic of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking (Redmayne), based on the memoir by his first wife Jane (Jones). Redmayne disappears into his performance as Hawking, giving himself totally to the physical restrictions imposed by Hawking’s debilitating neurological disorder without ever calling much attention to them. Jones has a less showy role as the woman whose life is consumed by caring for her husband, but she still impressed many in Toronto. Both are as close to sure nominees as the awards season has this year so far.

Release date: Nov. 7

20. Foxcatcher

Sony Pictures Classics

Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Steve Carell, Channing Tatum), Best Supporting Actor (Mark Ruffalo), Best Director (Bennett Miller), Best Original Screenplay (E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman)

Both feature films Miller has directed — Capote and Moneyball — have been nominated for Best Picture. And that streak is likely to continue with this film, based on the true story — sensing a theme? — of the psychologically knotted relationship between Olympic wrestlers Mark (Tatum) and David Schultz (Ruffalo) and the ultra-wealthy and mentally unstable John du Pont (Carell) who invites them to be a part of his wrestling training facility. There has been some consternation about which categories to place Carell, Tatum, and Ruffalo’s performances, but the general consensus seems to be for now that the former two are leading roles, and the latter is supporting.

Release date: Nov. 14

21. Rosewater

Open Road Films

Possible nominations: Best Supporting Actor (Kim Bodnia), Best Adapted Screenplay (Jon Stewart)

Stewart’s directorial debut, based on Iranian-British journalist Maziar Bahari’s memoir of his imprisonment after the 2009 Iranian presidential elections, impressed at Telluride and TIFF, but it did not overwhelm. Two elements of the movie that may resonate well into awards season, however, are Stewart’s thoughtful and even at times elegiac screenplay, and Bodnia’s nuanced performance as the man who brutally tortured and interrogated Bahari.

Release date: Nov. 14

22. The Homesman

Dawn Jones / Roadside Attractions

Possible nominations: Best Actor (Tommy Lee Jones), Best Actress (Hilary Swank), Best Adapted Screenplay (Kieran Fitzgerald, Tommy Lee Jones, and Wesley A. Oliver)

Jones’ second theatrical feature as a director, about an independent woman (Swank) who corrals a drifter (Jones) into helping her transport three mentally unstable women across the Western frontier, won muted praise at Cannes. But it seems like whenever Swank plays a tough-as-nails character who bucks society’s expectations, she does well at the Oscars.

Release date: Nov. 14

23. The Imitation Game

The Weinstein Company

Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Benedict Cumberbatch), Best Supporting Actress (Keira Knightley), Best Director (Morten Tyldum), Best Adapted Screenplay (Graham Moore)

The second period biopic about troubled British genius pushing the boundaries of his field — this time computer science pioneer, WWII codebreaker, and semi-closeted gay man Alan Turing — features Benedict Cumberbatch in the performance that will likely earn him his first Oscar nomination. Perhaps more than any other film this season, this one feels almost engineered to generate Oscar accolades, but that doesn’t make it any less of a fascinating and thoughtful examination of how society tolerates its most talented fringe members so long as they are deemed useful. Don’t be surprised, however, to hear grumblings that Turing’s homosexuality is given mere lip service.

Release date: Nov. 21

24. Top Five

Paramount Pictures

Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Chris Rock), Best Original Screenplay (Chris Rock)

OK, I may be nuts to include this movie — an outright commercial comedy — in this list, given that the Academy rarely, if ever, recognizes outright commercial comedies. But hear me out. Top Five won raves at TIFF, especially for writer-director-star Rock’s razor sharp take on Hollywood and fame, and as Argo and The Artist recently proved, Academy members do love a story that flatters their own lives and professions. In a year with such a wide field of contenders, Top Five could end up being the film that everyone can agree on.

OK, I’m nuts. But at the very least, Rock could definitely score a nod for his screenplay.

Release date: Dec. 5

25. Wild

Fox Searchlight

Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress (Reese Witherspoon), Best Supporting Actress (Laura Dern), Best Director (John-Marc Vallée), Best Adapted Screenplay (Nick Hornby)

And now we’ve come to our second film about a real woman (this time author Cheryl Strayed, played by Witherspoon) who trekked across the wilderness alone (this time the Pacific Crest Trail in 1995). Wild shares a few more superficial similarities with Tracks, but it is otherwise quite a different film, imbued with a vivid and at times visceral immediacy by director Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club). Witherspoon is also a likely surefire nominee for her fierce and vulnerable performance, but I suspect the entire film could resonate with Academy voters.

Release date: Dec. 5

26. Exodus: Gods and Kings

Kerry Brown / 20th Century Fox

Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Christian Bale), Best Supporting Actor (Joel Edgerton), Best Director (Ridley Scott), Best Original Screenplay (Steven Zaillian, Bill Collage, Adam Cooper), a bunch of craft and technical categories (Art Direction, Cinematography, Costumes, Visual Effects, etc.)

Hollywood pretty much stopped making sweeping biblical epics in the 1950s, but apparently nobody told Scott. The man who led Gladiator to Oscar gold in 2000 already tried to make a clash-of-cultures epic with his 12th-century Crusades flop Kingdom of Heaven in 2005, but this time, he’s tackling a far more familiar story: Moses and the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. The first trailer looked appropriately massive and visually arresting, and Bale (as Moses) has been on something of a roll of late. But this is a real wait-and-see movie. For one, it’s already come under some considerable criticism for casting all white actors in the major Egyptian roles, and black actors as “lower-class” Egyptians that surround them. (Case in point: the above photo.)

Release date: Dec. 12

27. Inherent Vice

Michael Muller / Warner Bros.

Possible nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), Best Supporting Actor (Josh Brolin), Best Supporting Actress (Katherine Waterston), Best Director (Paul Thomas Anderson), Best Adapted Screenplay (Paul Thomas Anderson)

The Academy fell hard for last year’s ’70s-set ensemble dramedy American Hustle, only to fall out of love with it when it came time to hand out statues, but there is already buzz building for Anderson’s ’70s-set dramedy, the first-ever feature adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel. Phoenix could earn the Oscar nod he was denied for Her for his mutton-chopped performance as an L.A. private investigator, but there is already talk of Waterston (Boardwalk Empire), who plays his ex-girlfriend. It looks like she could easily be “the ingenue” of this year’s awards season.

Release date: Dec. 12

28. Mr. Turner

Sony Pictures Classics

Possible nominations: Best Actor (Timothy Spall), Best Original Screenplay (Mike Leigh)

Spall won the Best Actor award at Cannes for his performance as acclaimed British painter J.M.W. Turner, but in a category that is this crowded Spall’s gruff, subtle work here could be overshadowed by showier performances. Then again, writer-director Leigh has a solid track record for earning his actors Oscar nods (Secrets & Lies, Vera Drake).

Release date: Dec. 19

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Zen And The Art Of Run Run Shaw

Bobby Yip / Reuters

WASHINGTON — Legendary Chinese filmmaker and philanthropist Run Run Shaw died Tuesday at the age of 107.

Before The Matrix, before Big Trouble in Little China, and before the Wu-Tang Clan, there was the Shaw Brothers, the predominant Hong Kong movie house for some 40 years that cranked out more than 280 films. From the late 1950s through the 1990s, Shaw’s movie operation dominated Hong Kong and Chinese cinema generally.

He also cast a long shadow over American cinema, influencing a host of modern directors, including Quentin Tarantino and the Wachowskis.

Classic Shaw Brothers movies — eight of which can be found below — span a mix of epic musicals, psychedelic gore, exploitation, and cutting-edge science fiction.

3. Madame White Snake (1962)

Though predominantly known for their Kung Fu movies, the Shaw Brothers produced a wide variety of films spanning virtually every genre. This 1962 production is a classic example of the company’s epic musical takes on traditional Chinese mythology, and tells the tale of a tragic love affair between a mystical snake and a human man.

4. Come Drink With Me (1966)

While Western movie makers were busy keeping women stuck in stereotypical roles, Hong Kong’s directors were going in an opposite direction, mining Chinese mythology for action heroines and villains. Come Drink With Me is one of the Shaw Brothers’ early films to feature a strong female lead. The movie also has some of the best fight choreography ever, and is a classic example of the Shaws’ ability to mix comedy, drama, and action into one movie.

5. The Crippled Avengers (1978)

If you can envision an exploitation genre, the Shaw Brothers did it. Take The Crippled Avengers, a 1978 classic that features the Deadly Venoms as five disabled Kung Fu masters — one blind, one legless, one without arms, one mentally disabled, and one deaf and mute. Almost certainly offensive by modern standards, The Crippled Avengers remains one of the only cinematic representations of the disabled as action heroes with serious ass-kicking chops.

6. Blade Runner (1982)

Yes, that Blade Runner. Run Run Shaw was a producer on Ridley Scott’s 1982 science fiction masterpiece. What, you thought Hollywood could come up with this kind of mind blowing amazing without some help from Hong Kong?

7. The One Armed Swordsman (1967)

This early Shaw Brothers epic follows the exploits of a “swashbuckling” one-armed Kung Fu master and is many ways grand-daddy of the Hong Kong Kung Fu genre thanks to its over the top fight scenes and heavy emphasis on themes like honor and loyalty. Much of the Shaw Brothers’ catalogue — and their many imitators — would mirror The One Armed Swordsman’s style.

8. The Boxer’s Omen (1983)

The Shaw Brothers weren’t just about Kung Fu and period pieces. In the late 70s and early 80s HK cinema became obsessed with horror, and the Shaw’s adapted, combining the signature martial arts movie making with over the top psychedelic gore. 1983’s The Boxer’s Omen is a classic of the HK horror genre.

9. The Five Deadly Venoms (1978)

The Five Deadly Venoms is considered to be one of the Shaw Brothers’ greatest movies and is a classic of the team-up style of action movie. The film’s music and dialogue have been heavily sampled by The Wu Tang Clan and other hip-hop artists.

10. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)

Perhaps the greatest Kung Fu movie ever made, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin perfected the “training” movie subgenre, in which the lead character must endure torturous — and more often than not preposterous — training regiments at the hands of an uncaring master, none of which seems to have anything to do with martial arts. Without The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, there’d never have been a Karate Kid.

The movie is also a great example of the Shaw Brothers’ penchant for adapting Chinese history for the big screen, telling the stories of the nation’s early years through the lens of martial arts and Buddhist or Taoist philosophies.

What It’s Like To Join The Hunger Games Franchise

Jena Malone and Jeffrey Wright at a promotional event for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire on Nov. 3, 2013. Paul Zimmerman / Getty Images

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is poised to demolish the box office this weekend as the follow-up to one of the biggest franchise launches in recent Hollywood history. Joining a production this big presents all manner of challenges — and surprising rewards — as actress Jena Malone (Sucker Punch, Pride & Prejudice), actor Jeffrey Wright (Casino Royale, Source Code), and director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, Water for Elephants) can attest.

When discussing what it was like to sign on to the franchise for the second installment Catching Fire, “terrifying,” “otherworldly,” and “intimidating” are a few of the apt words Malone, Wright, and Lawrence used, respectively. Each of them came aboard for pivotal roles in the series — Malone as the angry firebrand Johanna Mason, Wright as the quiet inventor Beetee, and Lawrence as the filmmaker taking on the series after original director Gary Ross dropped out. Here’s how all three of them described the experience.

Jena Malone (Johanna Mason)

Elizabeth Banks, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jena Malone

Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images

Jena Malone as Johanna Mason

Murray Close / Lionsgate

 

After she signed on to play the cynical and quick-tempered former Hunger Games champion, it did not take long for the 29-year-old Malone to understand just how notoriously particular Hunger Games fans can be about how the characters in Suzanne Collins’ books should look. “I would google ‘Johanna Mason,’ and [I’d find] 5,000 images of hand-drawn interpretations of who she is, what she looks like, what food she eats, all of these things,” Malone said. “In the books, [Collins] describes her as having spiky hair and brown eyes,” she added, gesturing to her decidedly blue-gray eyes and longish hair. “Well, what are we gonna do with that?”

What she did was charge into her very first day of work — a series of hair and makeup tests with director Lawrence — determined to establish her interpretation of how Johanna should look. “We literally spent seven hours just trying to figure out who she was,” Malone said. “I had all my references, Francis had all his references, and there was a little battling going on because we were all so nervous about it.” After so much back and forth, Malone eventually just grabbed a pair of scissors and started hacking away at her hair. “I was like, ‘This is what she would do,’” the actress said. “In the Capitol, there’s so much pageantry in the sense of how they have to present themselves in a completely different way. I wanted her to have something, when she got to the arena, that was a little bit more fucked up and jagged, and like she had just taken scissors and really just said, ‘Fuck it.’”

Malone said getting started was “definitely nerve-racking.” But, she added, “I feel like once you get over that, you realize the nerves are because you care about it so goddamn much that you just want to make it right. The book is such a two-dimensional object; we can only hold it in our minds. When I started thinking about the natural osmosis or the metamorphosis of what a film is, which is a three-dimensional object, I thought at the end of the day, it’s gonna be my blood, my sweat, my tears, my vomit, my venom that’s gonna make this character right, and so I have to really get her inside of me and stop thinking about what the outer sources are.”

Thankfully, her first few days crowded into the hair and makeup trailer with the rest of the cast weren’t completely riddled with anxiety. “We were sitting there and, and I was like, Oh! There’s Katniss. I was totally fangirling a bit because I loved the novels so much, and the first film. I was like, All right. There’s her braid!

Despite her excitement, at first, Malone kept her distance from the cast, so Johanna’s seething unpredictability would remain fresh for her co-stars. But once production moved to Hawaii for the second half of the film in the arena, Malone was able to relax a bit and join the rest of the cast on their particular wavelength. “It’s really just not being afraid to make an ass of yourself,” she said. “They’re always falling down and punching each other, and [cracking] like, amazing fart jokes.”

Jeffrey Wright (Beetee)

Jeffrey Wright as Beetee

Murray Close / Lionsgate

Sam Claflin, Josh Hutcherson, Jeffrey Wright

Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

 

While Wright was certainly aware of both the Hunger Games book series and the wildly successful first feature film adaptation, it wasn’t until he got a call from his agent about starring in Catching Fire that the 47-year-old actor — perhaps best known as CIA agent Felix Leiter in the first two Daniel Craig James Bond films — really understood just how big a phenomenon it all was.

“My agent said, ‘Dude, it’s bigger than Bond,’” Wright recalled with a deep laugh. “That got my attention!”

Upon reading the script, and then Collins’ novels, Wright took immediately to the story’s themes of the corrosive nature of war and celebrity. Most major Hollywood blockbusters left Wright cold, but this was different. “All the technology associated that’s available to contemporary filmmakers overwhelms the story and the humanity within these movies,” he said. “I look at them, and my brain shuts off, because, yes, there’s a lot of bells and whistles, but they amount to smoke and mirrors. There’s an emptiness at the core. Whereas there’s a wonderful balance to this [film] that’s quite rare.”

Once Wright got to set, he found himself equally impressed by how resourceful costume designer Trish Summerville (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and production designer Philip Messina (Ocean’s Eleven) could be in bringing the film’s world to life.

“What both Trish and Phil do in this movie so often, which just blew my mind, is take ordinary objects, ordinary spaces, and convert them into these hyper-graphic, futuristic things,” Wright said. “For example, we would wear these tricked-out boxing shoes that Trish had found, and it became this arena uniform. The futuristic training center is a parking garage underneath the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. But Phil touched it up here, tweaked it there, using what you would think were ordinary industrial concrete structures to shape a space that seems otherworldly. And likewise, there’s another scene in which we enter into this Circus Maximus-type space with the chariots. The entry way into [it] that is as well a part of the underground parking garage at the Georgia Dome. They dressed [it] on the side, a little CGI in the background, and all of a sudden, it becomes this gateway of epic scale into this epic space.”

Wright also found it easy to jell with the established cast, thanks to one actor in particular. “Jennifer [Lawrence] sets a really wonderful tone on set,” he said. “I’m still not convinced that there’s not a 73-year-old sage beneath that gorgeous 22-year-old face. Because she’s simultaneously a playful young woman and highly sophisticated in a way that’s really rare. But above all else on set, she is an absolute riot. We just have fun with one another, and then get focused when the camera rolls. It’s a really easy place to work.”

Francis Lawrence (director)

Josh Hutcherson and Francis Lawrence

Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images

Liam Hemsworth, Francis Lawrence, and Jennifer Lawrence on the Catching Fire set

Murray Close / Lionsgate

 

When The Hunger Games’ director Gary Ross dropped out from directing Catching Fire, there were roughly four months before the film was due to start production in order to make Lionsgate’s hard release date of Nov. 22, 2013. But according to director Francis Lawrence, he wasn’t all that daunted by leaping onto a moving train as the track was still being laid.

“I had read the books,” said Lawrence (no relation to star Jennifer Lawrence). “I really liked them. I had seen the [first] movie already. I think, quite honestly, I just really loved the story, and the story had so many new opportunities, in terms of casting, in terms of locations, in terms of world building. All the kinds of things that obviously are very important to me as a filmmaker. I just felt like, It’s fine, I’m adopting something. I’m inheriting some cast. I’m inheriting some aesthetic choices that have been made already… Other than that, I’m going to have my own point of view on the story. I have my way of shooting. I consider myself a visual director. I liked Gary’s naturalistic approach to it; I have my version of naturalism. I use different kinds of lenses. I use color differently than he does. I wanted to get more of a sense of place. I had a very specific point of view in terms of performance and what the characters are going to go through because of what the story demands. We start to learn much more about the characters. We start to see the damage the games have done to the characters. The political stakes start to grow. The personal stakes start to grow. So for me, it was kind of a whole new thing.”

What did make Lawrence a bit nervous, however, was having to introduce his vision to all of the actors from the first film — other than Jennifer Lawrence, he wasn’t sure anyone else had been consulted about him taking over the directing reins. “I never had to do that before,” he said, still wincing slightly from the memory. “I’ve only ever done movies where I’ve cast everybody. So those initial calls and meetings were a little nerve-racking, because I didn’t know most of the people. I think Lenny [Kravitz] was the only person I had worked with before. So that was a little scary.”

Like Malone and Wright, Lawrence found the cast to be “really warm and really welcoming” to both him and his ideas. He was especially impressed with how that camaraderie manifested itself with the cast and crew. “There’s also no hierarchy at all,” he said. “When we shot in Hawaii, Josh [Hutcherson] would have a party at his house that he rented, and there’d be a bunch of the actors there, a bunch of the [production assistants] there, various people’s friends or family. It makes for a nice atmosphere.”

The director was also quite grateful for Hutcherson on set when some of his other actors got a bit out of hand. “When you get Jen and Josh and Woody [Harrelson] together, then it’s, like, off the wall,” Lawrence said with a smile. “Josh has a little more self-control. So if I ever need to get everything under control, I can always look to Josh. But oftentimes, I was like the owner of some rowdy puppies that I would have to gather together and shoo out of the room while we work for a little bit, and then bring them back. I thought it was blast.”

Would You See Any Of These Movies If The Posters Looked Like This?

American movies often make their way across the globe. Posters and promotional material must be adapted for the countries where the movies play. Usually, while the language on the posters change, the images tend to stay the same.

When the material can’t be imported, some places get creative and do their own marketing. One such place is Ghana, where local artists (with varying levels of training and ability) step in to fill in the promotional gaps. The results are…well, they’re something.

Some of them are just poor renditions of the official posters. Some are so out there, we can’t even begin to understand what they were going for. But these were all approved. And despite spanning nearly 40 years of films, the style is oddly consistent.

1.) Slither, (2006)

Yeah, what can you do when a pensive worm monster stabs you in the brain? Sheesh. At least the dog, along with its eerily human eyes, seems okay with everything.

2.) Enter the Dragon (1973)

Who could forget Bruce Lee’s famous line from this martial arts classic: “Oh no, you di’n’t, girlfraaaand!”

3.) Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974 – 2013)

Well, there’s clearly a lot of limb-chopping in whatever movie from the Chainsaw franchise this is supposed to represent. So much so that even the chainsaw-wielding lunatic doesn’t have legs. Oops.

4.) Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (1985)

This poster is even more ridiculous than the fact that this made-for-TV movie was even created in the first place. Someone explain that bipedal lizard thing in the bottom left, because that is not on the original poster.

5.) The Road Warrior (1981)

I don’t know what movie this is, but it’s not The Road Warrior. None of this happens in The Road Warrior.

6.) Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Does…does the Headless Horseman have breasts?

7.) Hercules (1983)

In which Exasperated Dad Hercules tells Hercules, Jr. to please not play with the mini-hydra.

8.) Mission: Impossible (1996)

Tom? Tom Cruise? Is that you?

9.) Mission: Impossible II (2000)

Tom? What did they do to you, Tom??

10.) Ghost Ship (2002)

In which the boat eats people. Giant people.

11.) Nightmare on Elm Street (1984 – 2010)

This was for the lesser-known Nightmare movie, where a concerned Freddy Krueger lets his friend know that there’s a pickaxe in his face.

12.) The Mummy (1999)

There’s a lot going on here, but I think Imhotep needs a bra.

13.) The Mummy Returns (?) (2001)

I think this is a poster for the sequel to The Mummy, based on the half-man, half-scorpion the artist seemed to be going for. I couldn’t even begin to tell you what’s going on here, though.

14.) The Terminator

The top image of Schwarzenegger is fairly faithful to the official poster, but for some reason, this artist decided to attempt another image on the bottom. The results were not so great.

15.) Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Where is that blue hand coming from? Why is the “o” in “Terminator” a little heart? What happened here?

16.) Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

In which the newest model Terminator, this one rather jowly, attends a funeral.

17.) Conan the Destroyer (1984)

I know Grace Jones is androgynous, but come on.

18.) Planet Terror (2007)

There is so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to begin. That anatomy? The fact that this is not a character in the movie? If only someone had made another version.

19.) Planet Terror (2007)

Oh, okay, that’s so much better.

20.) Hellboy (2004)

That’s not Hellboy. I have no idea who this lounging robot is, but it’s no one in the movie.

21.) Alien (1979)

That is not how you hold a knife. Also, it seems the artist decided to merge the alien and human characters into these purple, oblong-headed terrors.

22.) 300 (2007)

Jeez, Leonidas. You might want to get that lazy eye checked out before you head into battle.

23.) Evil Dead 2 (1987)

This seems like it should be the Army of Darkness poster, but I don’t think it really matters at this point.

24.) The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

You know, the James Bond Movie where Bond teams up with a giant red fish and drives a car that defies physics. Also note that “Me” is a correction, meaning this poster originally read “The Spy Who Love You.”

25.) Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

In this version of the classic vampire tale, Dracula deflates his victims. It seems that when at a loss, the people who made these posters just filled in the empty spaces with explosions and planets. Explosions and planets sell, right?

26.) The Matrix (1999)

In this reality, Laurence Fishburne is a ginger.

27.) Cujo (1983)

Someone put a springer spaniel’s head on a cow’s body, and Mom’s head appears to have a stem.

28.) Catwoman (2004)

I mean, there’s not much you can do to make this movie any worse. But that tongue is really grossing me out.

29.) Bloodsport II: The Next Kumite (1996)

This is why you proofread. Make your own jokes about blood spots and white pants. I’m done.

30.) Your guess is as good as mine.

You mean you’ve never seen the classic The Fierce Ghost Eats Human Region?

There’s a part of me that wants to see the movies these posters are advertising. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see James Bond team up with a giant fish?

“Ender’s Game” Producers “Embrace” LGBT Controversy

Producer Roberto Orci and actor Harrison Ford during the panel for Ender’s Game at San Diego Comic-Con, on July 18, 2013 Joe Scarnici / Getty Images

SAN DIEGO — Ender’s Game producer Robert Orci said Thursday that the film’s creators are “happy to embrace” the controversy around author Orson Scott Card’s anti-gay views.

“The best message of the book is tolerance, compassion, empathy,” said Orci, responding indirectly to a question about Card’s involvement with the film a panel at San Diego Comic-Con. “Rather than shying away from the controversy,” Orci continued, “we’re happy to embrace it and say we support LGBT rights.”

In an occasionally halting voice — and prompted to add the word “empathy” by writer-director Gavin Hood — Orci said the cast and crew back Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment’s statement last week supporting LGBT rights.

Orci’s words drew immediate applause from the 6,000-person crowed packed inside Hall H, which had just minutes earlier greeted the new effects-heavy trailer for the film with roars of approval.

The question, though, suggested the controversy surrounding Card will follow the film into even the most sympathetic precincts. During the first half of their panel moderated by Nerdist’s Chris Hardwick, Hood, Orci, and stars Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, and Hailee Steinfeld never once uttered Card’s name, let alone addressed the announced boycott of the film due to Card’s statements against gay marriage. Hardwick instead kept his questions to the movie, while the panelists heaped praise on Card’s story about an army of children training to defeat an alien threat, and how it resonates with today’s world. “The issues of the manipulation of young people for their value as soldiers, because of their special skills, because of their conceptual freedom, is something that was really complex and interesting to me,” said Ford.

But when Hardwick turned the mic over to the fan Q&A, the very first questioner directly addressed Card and the controversy, and inquired how much the author had been involved with the film — a question Orci didn’t answer. No one from the cast added any comments, and the panel swiftly moved into what became an extended comedy routine in which Ford begrudgingly fielded several questions about Indiana Jones and Han Solo. One example: What would Jones and Solo say to each other if they met? Ford’s exasperated reply: “Hi, how are you?”

Ender’s Game is due to open on Nov. 1, 2013.