Oscar contenders crisscrossed the country last week in a frenzied lead-up to the Acad’s Jan. 15 nom deadline.
The “Sideways” contingent earned the week’s frequent flier mile award for winging back and forth between coasts more than once, but “Million Dollar Baby” Hilary Swank, Michael Moore and Javier Bardem were also hard to miss on the party and screening circuit.
The frenzy kicked off Jan. 6 when Moore hosted “Words and Music of Fahrenheit 9/11” with a clear eye toward the Academy — Moore sympathizer Valerie Harper urged members to list the pic first on their nominations — then really picked up steam over the weekend.
Contenders flocked to the Palm Springs Film Fest for its Jan. 8 gala and first of many kudofests getting into gear the next day in Gotham (the New York Film Critics Circle) and Hollywood (People’s Choice). Those were quickly followed by the Critics’ Choice kudos, National Board of Review honors and the L.A. Film Critics Assn. kudos.
Well-timed mini-career retrospectives for contenders popped up at the Egyptian and Aero for Laura Dern, Annette Bening and Jeremy Irons. Sony Pictures took the unusual step of hosting a free Jan. 12 marathon of Mike Nichols movies that began with “The Graduate” and ended with this year’s hopeful, “Closer.”
A Sony spokesman said he couldn’t recall the studio ever hosting such an event in the past.
Warner Independent prexy Mark Gill admitted the Jan. 8 tribute for Dern was designed to both honor the “We Don’t Live Here Anymore” thesp and give her perf an added Academy push.
“There is no question that everything in this season is designed to raise profile,” Gill told Variety at Naomi Watts‘ post-tribute party for her co-star.
Yet for all this tub-thumping, some Acad members apparently are still not up to speed with the earlier nom deadline.
“I talked with three people today who didn’t know what the deadline was,” veteran campaigner Tony Angelotti said Jan. 12, a mere three days before noms were due, at the VLife Oscar Contender party.
Angelotti, who’s working on the “Ray” and “Incredibles” campaigns this year, admitted the deadline’s timing so near to the holiday continues to pose problems with campaign events the second year of the shortened sked. He said a Jan. 4 Taylor Hackford tribute at the Egyptian was very poorly attended and attributed that to the fact people were still out of town or just coming back from holiday getaways.
“Late December is the new January,” he said.
“Right after New Years, events started right up, and you didn’t really have that in the past,” said another veteran campaigner.
Marian Koltai spent the week winging back and forth with Fine Line’s contenders. “There’s a whole clique of us,” the exec marketing VP said. “You see the same people everywhere.”
On Jan. 12, for example, she flew back from New York on the same plane as Virginia Madsen, while Bardem and his “Sea Inside” helmer Alejandro Amenabar shared a flight with yet other contenders.
That night, the peripatetic Bardem was absorbing the week’s early awards season craziness at the VLife bash.
“I came here just to promote the movie but once you are here promoting, there is something going on at the same time about awards season and I wasn’t counting on that,” he said. “At the end of the day I want to bring people’s attention to the movie. I am doing whatever I have to do in order to bring that attention. The movie deserves it.”
“Fahrenheit 9/11’s” Moore even took off his trademark ball cap for several of his appearances last week, joking to the Critics’ Choice crowd Jan. 10: “Do you get the feeling looking at me, I’ve been in the witness protection program since Nov. 2?”
It wasn’t clear, however, whether the helmer was being ironic — he’s been a steady fixture on the party circuit since December — or referring to his spiffed up appearance, complete with visible signs of hair product.
(Addie Morfoot and Alice M. Walton contributed to this report.)