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Oscar Announces Changes for Foreign-Film Voting: Now Simpler! (Sort Of.)

22 September 2017 6:53 PM, PDT

As promised, new Academy president John Bailey, a long-time and passionate voter on the foreign language committee, has pushed through some long-awaited changes in the voting rules. It’s meant to be simpler; here’s how the new system works.

By the October 2 deadline, the Academy expects some 90 foreign entries. These will be divided into multiple lists (the number is Tbd; last year, there were four); committee participants (volunteers from all 17 Academy branches) are each assigned a list. They are required to watch all of the films on their assigned list at one of two screening rooms in L.A. They can see as many films on other lists as they like, and will receive full credit for each movie they screen. (Previously, a committee member had to watch a given percentage of films to qualify for voting.)

The Academy acknowledges that many questions about the actual breakdown of lists »

- Anne Thompson

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‘Loveless’: Russia Chooses an Oscar Entry That Criticizes Its Society

21 September 2017 12:02 PM, PDT

The question of how Russia’s Oscar committee would vote on its submission has been answered. Andrey Zvyaginstev’s Cannes jury prize-winner “Loveless” (Sony Pictures Classics) is the official entry. And it’s a movie that couldn’t be more critical of Russian society, which is portrayed as consumed by careerism, selfishness, greed, and even profound neglect of its own children. The movie was financed independent of the Russian film industry and government funding.

After the Academy overlooked Zvyagintsev’s film “Elena” in 2011 in favor of Oscar perennial and Russian film leader Nikita Mikalkhov’s “Burnt By the Sun 2,” Russia’s top auteur helped foment a revolution inside the Oscar committee. It underwent an overhaul following a press outcry about clandestine behind-the-scenes manipulations and a lack of transparency. Since then the committee has doubled in size, to about 25 filmmakers.

Read More:Cannes Review: In ‘Loveless,’ Russia Is the Place Where Families »

- Anne Thompson

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Matt Damon to Receive BAFTA Britannia Award As He Enters Oscar Season With Two Bold, Divisive Roles

20 September 2017 2:13 PM, PDT

Matt Damon is one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, and a superb actor. This fall audiences anticipate his return in two high-profile award-season movies. He plays a rather nasty character in “Suburbicon,” a film noir ’50s dramedy adapted from a Coen brothers script and directed by George Clooney, Damon’s old chum and “Oceans” co-star. And he’s a goofy sad sack in “Downsizing,” a future-world sci-fi comedy with an ecological message from Oscar perennial Alexander Payne, in which he becomes 5 inches tall to save the environment.

It makes perfect sense for BAFTA to present Damon with a well-deserved award — the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film — at the Britannia Awards October 27 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. After all, he won an Oscar in 1997 with buddy Ben Affleck for writing “Good Will Hunting,” and was nominated for his performances in that movie as well as “Invictus” and “The Martian, »

- Anne Thompson

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‘The Mountain Between Us’: How Cinematographer Mandy Walker Shot at 11,000 Feet

20 September 2017 8:01 AM, PDT

When cinematographer Mandy Walker met with the director for Fox 2000’s “The Mountain Between Us,” Hany Abu-Assad’s directives were simple. “It has to be beautiful, but dangerous,” said the Oscar-nominated director of “Paradise Now” and “Omar.” “You must feel the danger they are up against.”

Specifically, Abu-Assad planned to direct stars Kate Winslet and Idris Elba on top of the 11,000-foot Purcell Mountains in British Columbia. “It really was minus 38 degrees, working in the snow,” said Walker. “I had not done that before, above the tree line.”

Like any veteran cinematographer, Walker is familiar with trying circumstances. For Baz Luhrmann’s epic “Australia,” she supervised three units with action and horses. She shot John Curran’s stunning outback adventure “Tracks” in heat of 122 degrees.

However, the Purcell mountain range meant a very different set of challenges. She brought her crew two to three times into each of five high-altitude locations for scouting, »

- Anne Thompson

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Sony Pictures Classics Buys ‘Foxtrot,’ Israel’s Ophir Winner and Oscar Entry

19 September 2017 2:13 PM, PDT

Sony Pictures Classics released Samuel Maoz’s last film “Lebanon” and hung out with the Israeli filmmaker at the recent Telluride and Toronto International Film Festivals, where Venice Grand Jury Prize-winner “Foxtrot,” a moving and humorous exploration of grief and loss, was a rousing success. So it’s no surprise that Sony Pictures Classics has just acquired North American rights to the winner of eight Ophir awards, including Best Picture and Director.

Read More:‘Foxtrot’ Is a Brilliant Portrait of Israeli Frustrations — Telluride Review

Any film that wins the Ophir is the automatic Israeli entry for the Oscars. With it, Spc adds yet another arrow to its quiver of this year’s foreign-language arsenal, which already includes Chile’s “A Fantastic Woman” (Sebastian Leilo) and likely Russian entry “Loveless” (Andrey Zvyagintsev).

In our review of the film, Eric Kohn wrote that its a “brilliant followup” to Maoz’s previous offering, »

- Anne Thompson

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‘mother!’: Darren Aronofsky Answers All Your Burning Questions About the Film’s Shocking Twists and Meanings

18 September 2017 3:33 PM, PDT

When did Paramount know that “mother!” was a problem? Nothing about the film should have been a surprise to the studio; Aronofsky sold the $30-million movie to late studio chairman Brad Grey on a pitch, running through the audacious allegorical concept beat by beat. Maybe the studio concentrated on the Jennifer Lawrence of it all, until tracking showed the numbers wouldn’t support the long haul of a platform release. So Paramount moved the date up by a month, to come on the heels of the film’s festival debuts.

Meanwhile, Aronofsky convinced Paramount to skip preview screenings; this left the studio anxiously urging the director to explain the movie, off the record, to the press corps. After a strong reaction at its Venice debut, the “mother!” team started to discuss the film in more detail on the record at the Toronto Film Festival. In his interviews with journalists and »

- Anne Thompson

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Angelina Jolie Still Breaks the Rules: Why ‘First They Killed My Father’ is the Movie No Studio Would Make

18 September 2017 8:53 AM, PDT

Angelina Jolie is basking in a standing ovation at Telluride after the first screening of “First They Killed My Father.” It’s the film she wanted to make: Based on the 2000 memoir of Loung Ung, who was five when the Khmer Rouge forced her family into work camps, it required a $24 million budget, a 60-day shoot, a two-hour, 16-minute cut. The only place she pitched the film is the only one who would let her make it: Netflix.

“She had a very specific view of the story she wanted to tell,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos. “It’s very traditional. It’s just as resource-intense to make a small film as a big film, where there isn’t much infrastructure in Cambodia. It would have been difficult to get made anywhere, with all local talent. It all pays off on the screen.”

While Jolie’s film may be traditional in some ways, »

- Anne Thompson

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