Nominees assess long season, look forward to new
Michel Hazanavicius is definitely getting the hang of Hollywood. “The Artist” helmer was pressed about his next move as he worked the press line outside Hollywood and Highland. He didn’t give much away, but said he will write his next project and make sure it’s “very different” from his Little Silent Movie that Could. And he has his eye on a redo of the 1948 Fred Zinnemann post-WWII drama “The Search,” which will be another collaboration with “The Artist” producer Thomas Langmann. It isn’t set up with a distributor yet, but Hazanavicius isn’t worried. “With all this,” he said, waving his arms to reflect the scope of the red carpet, “I think I can find a distributor.”
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences prexy Tom Sherak is unfazed by the recent scrutiny of the Acad as an institution. He said it was inevitable that there would be big changes after the org’s exec leader of 30 years, Bruce Davis, stepped down last year and was succeeded by Dawn Hudson. Amid the industry chatter that Hudson has ruffled some feathers, Sherak was unqualified in his support. “She has a lot of goals and a lot of ambition,” he said. “That’s why she’s in the job.” And Sherak reminds that while the Oscars hog the spotlight, in the end it is really “one day in the life of an organization that supports filmmaking around the world.”
Going into the theater, George Clooney was counting on a big night for “The Artist.” “It’s a good movie, so it’s OK,” he said. His eye is already on a number of future projects, not the least of which is the fundraising campaign unveiled last week for the Motion Picture and Television Fund. Clooney was recruited to the cause by MPTF champion-in-chief Jeffrey Katzenberg, whose ability to pull the levers of philanthropy is awesome to see. “Every time I see a phone call from Jeffrey I’m afraid to pick it up because I know it’s going to cost me a fortune,” Clooney joked. But in fact, his work as an MPTF board member is especially gratifying right now because the org is close to an “exciting breakthrough in the next few months on sustainable health care.”
The Oscar red carpet saw the women of “Bridesmaids” in full force. This warmed the heart of the pic’s director Paul Feig, who said he had so much material from the original movie he could put together an entire DVD of stuff left out — a function of working with thesps who come out of improv. Feig is taking his time on committing to his next feature “because I want to make sure what I do next is really great — I don’t want to erase the memory of the last one.”
The awards circuit these days is a six-month, full-time job. Just ask “The Help” producer Brunson Green. He’s got no less than five projects that have been starved for attention ever since “Help” began its kudos run. “This job called ‘The Help’ has kept us all very busy. I can’t wait ’til Monday when I can go back to work,” he said. But for a last hurrah, the Oscars is a pretty good time. And though he wasn’t so direct as to mention “The Help” being the biggest B.O. hit of this year’s best-picture crop, he did hint. “America has voted by showing up at the theater and sharing it with their friends and family,” he said. “That is so satisfying.”
MPAA chief Chris Dodd allowed himself a break for the Oscars from wrestling with Hollywood’s biggest behind-the-scenes drama: the battle to enact antipiracy legislation with some teeth. Dodd conceded that there’s little hope for getting new bills through Congress in an election year, but he said there’s definitely some back-channel diplomacy already going on and some quiet bridge-building between showbiz and Silicon Valley. “There are some very adult, mature people working on coming up with some answers that make sense,” he said.
Gigi Causey, producer of the live-action short “Time Freak,” had perhaps the best Cinderella story on the red carpet. She was dripping with diamond jewelry from Jeffrey Rackover, who saw her and her director husband Andrew Bowler on a “CBS This Morning” segment last week. The pair decided to spend the money they’d been saving for a Gotham apartment on a short film that they hoped would be a calling card to Hollywood. (It seems to have worked.) Rackover, a jeweler to Oprah Winfrey, among others, saw the segment and got in touch with them via CBS to outfit her with loaners for the big day. Bowler noted that his wife’s earrings “were considerably more than the budget of the film.”
It was a dream of “The Artist” composer Ludovic Bource to visit Hollywood, but though he’s made more than one trip during the past few months, he’s still had no time for sightseeing. “It’s been only promotions,” he said with a sigh. He’s hoping to finally get around to some fun this week before he heads home to France. He doesn’t have a lot of specifics he wants to see, just atmosphere. “I want to watch the sunrise on the mountain,” he said, looking north to the Hollywood hills.
The walk down the red carpet capped quite a year for documentary helmer Joe Berlinger, nommed for “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory.” He spent a good chunk of last year in court fighting Chevron’s subpoena for material related to his docu “Crude.” And then the infamous West Memphis 3 murder case, which Berlinger had chronicled in two previous docs, took a dramatic turn with the release of the three men who’d been imprisoned for nearly 20 years, largely because of the exposure given to the story through the HBO docus. “It’s been a year of extremes,” Berlinger said. “It was really tough to stand up to a huge corporation” in the “Crude” case, Berlinger admitted. “A year ago, I was wondering if I should even be making these kinds of movies. And the beauty of (‘Paradise Lost 3’) is that this film reminded me that of course these are the kinds of movies I should be making.”
The global thrust of the Oscars’ red carpet provided a sobering reminder of how much the media is constricted in many parts of the world. Bahman Kalbasi, a Gotham-based correspondent for the BBC Persian service, noted that people in Iran can be arrested for watching the channel on their satellite dishes — but they do it anyway. The country is “super-excited” about “A Separation” — a movie the ruling government did not like but could not squash — gaining such a high profile this award season, Kalbasi said. By any means necessary, he said, “people will be up at 4 a.m. in Tehran trying to find out whether it wins the Oscar.” (Clearly, they weren’t disappointed.)