Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Do Film Festivals Matter Where Oscars Are Concerned?


When it comes to film festivals, the question on the street this year is, "Do film festivals really matter where the Oscars are concerned?" My answer is that some do, some don't, and some count more than others.

However, keep in mind that these are no longer "film" festivals. Oh, yes, film festivals is a great alliteration that trips off the tongue, but the title "film festivals" denoting a showcase for new motion pictures must go. Why? Because film is the material and process once used to make motion pictures and, except for a few third world countries, film is no longer used to make motion pictures, moving pictures, movies, cinema, cine, etc. Digital is the new medium of choice, and 3D is rising in popularity as digital techniques for it improve.

For instance, I attended and taught in the Film School at the University of Southern California (History and Criticism), but that school no longer exists. Don't panic, it is now known as the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and my field is now known as Cinematic Critical Studies. The School of Cinematic Arts at USC, now has it's own building, the George Lucas Building, SCA 108, which also contains the The Ray Stark Family Theatre, all at 900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007.

So, the times have changed, and are constantly changing. Therefore, are film festivals still relevant in the Race for the Oscars in spite of the gigantic procreation of them in every town and hamlet, and their rapidly deteriorating event name?

That depends on the festival. Here are the top five that should be followed by everyone from the occasional movie goer to those studying, teaching, or writing about Cinematic Critical Studies:

1. Berlin International Film Festival, a.k.a., Berlinale, is the first festival out of the gate in Europe, held in February. In 2011, it had one big winner in its lineup, the foreign language film Oscar winner, A Separation (Iran), directed by Asghar Farhadi, won the festival's Golden Bear. At the 84th Academy Awards on February 26, three huge Oscars were awarded to Berlinale films and guests.

 A Separation's Oscar win, plus actress Meryl Streep's, Honorary Golden Bear for Lifetime Achievement at the Berlinale 2012, and her Oscar win for best performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for The Iron Lady, directed by Phyllida Loyd, gave the Berlinale big bragging rights.

It was Streep’s 17th nomination and third Oscar. In addition, the Oscar for makeup went to her long-time make up artists, Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland for their work in The Iron Lady, which was presented in the Berlinale Special 2012.

In all, eight films that participated in the Berlinale 2011 and 2012 were nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in eleven different categories. More on the Berlinale below.

2. The Cannes Film Festival's 2011 lineup had six wins, 19 nominations. It screened the big Oscar winner, The Artist, as well as: The Tree of life, Midnight in Paris, Drive and the Israeli documentary, Footnote.



3. New York Film Festival: Five wins, 13 nominations. A year after nabbing the world premiere of the phenomenal, The Social Network, it chose to premiere a motion picture that was not yet completed at the time of the festival, so it featured a work-in-progress special screening at the festival for the second biggest winner of 2011, Hugo directed by indomitable Martin Scorsese, as well as the movie that probably had the most photographs published last year, My Week With Marilyn.

People wouldn't have guessed it then, but Hugo would end up getting five Oscars from 11 nominations. My Week With Marilyn received two nominations.

I give the New York festival extra points because it had the guts to open with Roman Polanski's Carnage, plus the gala screenings featured David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method, and Pedro Almodóvar's newest, The Skin I Live In. As for that last one, the Spanish Film Academy should have, but did not submit it for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Talk about a snub. That was bigger than any of the so-called 2011 "Oscar snubs."

4. Telluride Film Festival: One win, 10 nominations. Telluride had The King's Speech and 127 Hours the year before, but only one debut at Telluride that had any real Oscar traction in 2011. That was Alexander Payne's The Descendants. It received five nominations but only a single win at the 2012 Oscars, for best adapted screenplay.

5. Toronto International Film Festival: One win, nine nominations. The Toronto Peoples Choice Award had been spot-on picking the best picture at the Oscars with The King's Speech, Precious and Slumdog Millionaire, but the crystal ball went dark in 2011 when they chose Nadine Labaki's Lebansese movie, Where Do We Go Now? It went on to win nothing. However, Moneyball, Beginners, Anonymous,
and Paradise Lost 3 went on to be nominated, along with Brad Pitt and Christopher Plummer for their acting chops. Plummer won best supporting actor but Pitt won nothing.

Runner Up: SXSW Film Festival: One win, three nominations. This festival is not known for scoring Oscar nominations or winners but this year it got lucky with two winners, Bridesmaids and the documentary feature winner, Undefeated. So, a salute to one of my favorite U.S. festivals.

BERLIN: 62nd Berlinale 2012,  February 9 - 19.

PRIZES OF THE INTERNATIONAL JURY:

GOLDEN BEAR FOR THE BEST FILM - Caesar Must Die (Cesare deve morire) by Paolo & Vittorio Taviani;

Will this one be big in 2012?
Caesar Must Die
 JURY GRAND PRIX-SILVER BEAR - Just The Wind (Csak a szél) by Bence Fliegauf;

SILVER BEAR FOR BEST DIRECTOR - Christian Petzold for Barbara;

SILVER BEAR FOR BEST ACTRESS - Rachel Mwanza in War Witch (Rebelle) by Kim Nguyen;

SILVER BEAR FOR BEST ACTOR - Mikkel Boe Følsgaard in A Royal Afair (En Kongelig Affære) by Nikolaj Arcel;

SILVER BEAR FOR AN OUTSTANDING ARTISTIC CONTRIBUTION -
Lutz Reitemeier for the photography in White Deer Plain (Bai lu yuan)  by Wang Quan'an;

SILVER BEAR FOR THE BEST SCRIPT - Nikolaj Arcel, Rasmus Heisterberg for A Royal Affair (En Kongelig Affære) by Nikolaj Arcel;

ALFRED BAUER PRIZE, awarded in memory of the Festival founder, for a work of particular innovation - Tabu by Miguel Gomes;

SPECIAL AWARD-SILVER BEAR - Sister (L'enfant d'en haut) by Ursula Meier.

The members of the 2012 International Jury, Mike Leigh (President), Anton Corbijn, Asghar Farhadi, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jake Gyllenhaal, François Ozon, Boualem Sansal and Barbara Sukowa.


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