On August 19, 2005, In Contention was born. (That was 10 years ago today for those keeping score at home.) It was born by accident, to be honest, not at all by design. I landed a gig, then I lost it before it even started, but I had all this material gathered and ready to publish regarding the then-upcoming film awards season. I launched a blog, “In Contention” sounded edgy enough in the space and off she went. (The funny thing is I ended up keeping the first gig after all, but by then this little enterprise had taken on a small life.)
From there it only grew. We moved out of the Blogger/Blogspot space and into the dot-com realm. We groomed a staff of like minds along the way, at one point notably large for such an outlet, but eventually honed into a tight ship that forged the In Contention identity. It became a remunerative enterprise, humming along in the bizarre but expanding niche world of awards coverage, separate from the independent movie blog ventures that were themselves gaining footing at the time (many of them, interestingly enough, unloading to buyers as of late).
When HitFix came calling in 2011, it was a fascinating fit. It was an exciting hybrid enterprise — yin and yang. Eventually In Contention was fully acquired by the company and things really settled. But times change. HitFix has new priorities now, and I wish them well. Thankfully the four years of content we produced under that banner will soon be available right here at InContention.com for posterity. That was important to me, that my work — Guy Lodge’s work, Gerard Kennedy’s work, Roth Cornet’s work, Greg Ellwood’s work — live under one umbrella.
But of further note to you, our readership, is that per the terms of that agreement, I am taking In Contention with me. So while all of the above was its own era, we’re now entering a very new one.
We have officially relocated to our new home at HitFix. So come on over to the new URL — hitfix.com/incontention — and join the on-going goings-on. All of yesterday’s material is backdated there and patiently awaits, so feel free to continue the discussion there.
If you’re thinking to yourself right now, “Wait, huh?,” then fear not. All your answers can be found here and here.
You can comment as a guest at HitFix just as you can here, but I recommend registering for an account with them. Keeps it nice and organic. The link for that is at the op right of the main page, or go directly here.
This page will be up for a very brief transitional period. Soon it will redirect you to the new location and later on, all the content here will have magically migrated over.
As we move out of the Toronto fray, Venice and Telluride already a memory, we look to the season ahead. The starting gun echo of those three early fall festivals is beginning to fade away, and with the dust settled or settling, it’s interesting to note the lack of an inarguable emerging player. In fact, the only thing Toronto really did was heat up the Best Foreign Language Film conversation.
Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants,” with George Clooney front and center, is well-liked, but few really think it has the goods to be a significant Best Picture threat. Clooney’s own “The Ides of March” has enough detractors to raise doubt that it will be an across-the-board Academy favorite, while “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” — freshly opened in the UK — is happy to just be making the case for a nomination at the moment.
I don’t want to write too much about “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” right now because, point blank, I want to see it again and digest and — gasp! — consider.
For now, though, I’ll start with this: It’s an impeccably made, satisfyingly dense piece of work from director Tomas Alfredson. It’s the rare film that is a slow burn but nevertheless moves along at a clip, with a very well-honed editorial sense, I might add.
The thing is, I saddled up to the film this afternoon without knowing the source material or bothering to investigate it much. I’ve never read John le Carre’s novel (I will) and I haven’t seen the 1979 British mini-series starring Alec Guiness (I will). And the vibe I get is it would be helpful to come to the new film with a modicum of knowledge on that, but it’s no less satisfying. It just means a second look is in order, and I’m all for it, because you come away with an extreme reverence for craft here.
One of the great unknowns of the season (as I’ll get into momentarily with today’s Off the Carpet column) is Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar.” Well today, we finally get a glimpse of the film via the trailer at Apple. The first thing of note, naturally, is Leonardo DiCaprio’s accent, which seems to come in and out in just these few minutes. Also notable is the makeup, which I’ve been saying for a while will be transformative and most certainly something to watch for in that race. Finally, I’ve been hearing that Judi Dench gives the supporting performance to watch for, and that seems evident here. Check out the trailer by clicking on the image below or watch an embed after the jump.
I can’t say I’m all that aware yet of Nadine Labaki’s “Where Do We Go Now?,” which Guy recently called “a serious-minded comedy with musical elements that premiered to warm reviews in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section, where it earned a special mention from the Ecumenical Jury.” But the film has swooped in and nabbed the Toronto Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award when many were predicting “The Artist” would charm its way to the prize. Expect a domestic distributor to pounce any day now.
The film was recently submitted by Lebanon into the foreign film race, and one of the runners-up in Toronto, Asghar Farhadi’s “A Separation,” was also slotted by Iran. So for a festival that usually paves the way for the major categories in an Oscar race (more on that tomorrow), Toronto has actually heated up the race for Best Foreign Language Film. Unexpected and, I might say, entirely refreshing, that.
Disney found a somewhat soft spot for children’s films in the 2011 schedule to slot “The Lion King 3D,” and they came away with a healthy #1 take this weekend. Assuming you’re okay with that being added to the film’s already impressive overall take from the summer of 1994, it leap-frogs “Finding Nemo” to become the third-highest grossing animated film of all time. Now that I look at the figures, “Drive” actually opened on a lot more screens than I thought, but I’m nevertheless a bit surprised it bested “Straw Dogs” (which itself was even held in check by the still-chugging “The Help”).
So, it’s been a big week of announcements here at In Contention, and next week, a bigger week of changes. The current plan is to have the new digs off the ground on Tuesday, so we’ll have Monday to say our goodbyes. But it occurred to me I haven’t offered up a Cinejabber space for you to cut loose about any and everything in quite some time. So, let’s do that before we go.
I’m stoked that we’re going out with a bang on our “tell us what you thought” posts, as the “Drive” discussion is easily our most engaging and lively one yet. I saw the film again last night (I’m guessing it’s the first opening night film I’ve taken in in three years). It’s such a brilliant piece of work. I hope it does well this season.
I had lunch this afternoon with the soft-spoken and, following engagement on a studio film and the Toronto grind of last week, rather exhausted Bennett Miller. He’s very passionate about the themes and the main character of the film, as I knew he had to be, given how dense it is. One thing he said really stuck out: “Brad [Pitt] told me, ‘I’m proud of this movie, and I’m proud of it for how hard it was.'” Indeed, it was a “beautiful nightmare” getting “Moneyball” made, but Miller ended up giving the material a delicate touch and one that allowed it to work on his terms within the studio system. He’s proud of it for that, too. But more on all that later.
One last solicitation for thoughts today, on Rod Lurie’s “Straw Dogs” remake. I already offered my receptive opinion of the film, but I’m curious what everyone else has to say. So cut loose with your thoughts when/if you get around to it this weekend.
Lots has been written and spoken about “Drive” around these parts. Guy fell in love in Cannes. I hopped on board at Comic-Con. And now, it’s your turn to weigh in. The film opens nationwide today, and I imagine it’ll be a big priority for many of you. Come on back here when you get around to seeing it this weekend. We’d love to hear your thoughts.
In case you’re new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is a weekly kudocast, your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is weekly, every Friday throughout the season, charting the ups and downs of contenders along the way. Plenty of things change en route to Oscar’s stage and we’re here to address it all as it unfolds.
It’s a bittersweet time. Barring any set-backs, this is the last time you’ll see an episode of Oscar Talk…in this space. As revealed earlier this week, In Contention is moving over to HitFix, aiming for as early as Monday of next week. So this 61st installment of the podcast is all she wrote for these white walls, but the fun will continue at the new destination a week from today. But, for now, with Anne on her last day of Toronto coverage, there is plenty to cover. So let’s see what’s on the docket today…
The great Albert Brooks took playful Twitter umbrage with my yanking him from the predicted five supporting actor contenders recently. I assure you (and him) that it’s a lack of faith in the Academy, which would enter uber-cool territory by giving him (or anything) a nod for this film, not a lack of faith in his work. He’s fantastic in the film and, well, nothing’s impossible. I’d be over the moon. Brooks and the rest of the team recently made the press rounds on the film. So, from our new partners at HitFix, via Awards Campaign:
We’ll have a “tell us what you thought” post on the film later today.
I don’t know if many of you are planning on taking in “The Lion King 3D,” a converted version of the 1994 animated classic that will be in theaters for a few weeks in advance of the film’s Blu-ray bow next month. But I figured I’d offer up a space for you to discuss it anyway. If you’re on the fence, I’d highly recommend it. As noted last month, I think it actually brings a lot of life to the film, which itself is already bursting with it. So head on back here to give us your thoughts if you happen to check it out this weekend.
John Madden’s latest, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” is set for release. Contrary to rumor, it will stay on its March 9, 2012 release date (especially now that Fox Searchlight has filled its awards boat), but it nevertheless looks like the sort of film that could be a lighthearted awards play next year if they wanted it to be. Maybe. For now, the trailer has launched via Apple. Check it out by clicking the image below or watch an embed after the jump.