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Five Oscar Bait Movies You Won’t See This Awards Season

Five Oscar Bait Movies You Won’t See This Awards Season (photo)

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As demonstrated by our recent holiday indie film preview, there will be nearly a hundred films opening in theaters before the end of the year, with many of them aspiring for Oscar gold. But in a tradition that’s getting to be as commonplace as end-of-the-year gift-giving, there are a handful of movies that seemed destined to compete during awards season that won’t be seeing the inside of your local theater until next year. Internal studio strife, endless tinkering or simply bad early reviews have contributed to why these five particular pieces of Oscar bait will be sitting on the sidelines instead of jockeying for awards attention.

“Miral”

Since the awards season success of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” Oscar prognosticators had been anticipating the arrival of Julian Schnabel’s latest film with the idea that the director would once again bring a true artistic sensibility to journalist Rula Jebreal’s semi-autobiographical novel that covers three generations of women in Jerusalem, but centers on a young Palestinean orphan (“Slumdog Millionaire”‘s Freida Pinto) emboldened to become a revolutionary under Israeli occupation during the late 1960s. However, even before the film premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September, it had already caused some ripples for taking a pro-Palestine point of view, which Schnabel has tried to downplay, telling The Huffington Post in an interview, “This film is not a treatise in political history, nor a polemic. It is a poem.”

But it turned out that U.S. distributor (and noted pro-Israel supporter) Harvey Weinstein’s headaches in Venice weren’t caused by the film’s content, but by the response from critics, who ranged from calling it heartfelt but misguided, as IndieWire‘s Anne Thompson did, to calling it “a disaster,” per The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw. Some might argue that the dour reception to the film in Venice and subsequently, Telluride doomed its awards chances, but it was also probably the emergence of “The King’s Speech” at those same festivals that deep sixed its December release, which has now been moved to March. Just this week, Schnabel seemed unfazed by the move and the polarizing response in an interview with The Guardian, saying “If Arab people see a Jewish person can do this, they might think, ‘Maybe there’s somebody on the other side we can talk to.’ I’m not a saint. I’m just somebody who thought this was a worthwhile thing to do.”

“Shanghai”

While “Miral” was a last-minute call, The Weinstein Company likely never had plans to release this long-shelved production that once started with such high hopes. It was a coronation of sorts for director Mikael Hafstrom, who did right by the Weinsteins with the financially bankable thrillers “Derailed” and “1408” before being handed the keys to the film penned by “The Wings of the Dove” scribe Hossein Amini and a cast with awards bait written all over it, mixing Chow Yun Fat, Ken Watanabe, Rinko Kikuchi and Gong Li with John Cusack, Franka Potente and David Morse in a ’40s murder mystery centered around Cusack’s American intelligence officer snooping around for clues concerning the murder of his friend (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) shortly before Pearl Harbor in World War II.

Although the Chinese wouldn’t allow the production to shoot on its soil in 2008, the film did make its premiere at the Shanghai International Film Festival in June before being released in much of Asia over the summer. (This was only after a 2009 awards run in the States was scrapped.) In his review for Film Business Asia, Derek Elley noted “[‘Shanghai’] has the feel of one that has been ruthlessly pared in post-production,” but generally gave the film a positive review, making it slightly strange that the company hasn’t rescheduled the film’s release in the U.S., let alone dropping it into awards season just to test the waters for acting nominations. A Weinstein Company rep recently told The Los Angeles Times that the film needed to be released in China first, which caused part of the delay, but as the article goes on to note “Shanghai” has endured other post-production issues. Still, Hafstrom will have one film out while all those ceremonies start rolling around, only it won’t be competing – his next film “The Rite,” a supernatural thriller which does boast an Oscar winner in star Anthony Hopkins, will is headed to theaters in January, and perhaps not coincidentally it’s his first English-language film not made for the Weinsteins.

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Car Notes

Portlandia On People Who Can’t Park

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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If flagrant bad parking takes nerve, then retaliatory note writing takes neuroses. Watch Fred and Carrie take passive aggression to next level in Car Notes, the new Portlandia web series presented by Subaru. The first episode is yours right here and now, and you can see every installment of Car Notes anytime online, on the IFC app and on demand.

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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Nick Kroll and John Mulaney To Host Spirit Awards

The Spirit Awards Air February 25 LIVE on IFC.

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The 2017 Spirit Awards have finally found their frontmen: Nick Kroll and John Mulaney. And it’s no wonder. Just marvel in their splendid chemistry back when they appeared on Comedy Bang! Bang!:

The pair are prolific within the performing arts community: television (Kroll in The League and The Kroll Show, Mulaney as a writer of IFC’s own Documentary Now!), theater (including Broadway’s current Oh Hello Show), and stand-up comedy. In fact, it’s entirely possible that emceeing an awards show is one of the few remaining line items on their professional bucket lists.

It’s important to caveat this announcement, however. Unlike the bigger and more ubiquitously known awards shows, the Spirit Awards are not, well…boring. (We’re talking to you, Oscar.)

They’re funny. They’re honest. They have quality to match the red-carpet fanfare. And that’s alarmingly special. Last year’s show included some legitimately historic moments, like when transgender actress Mya Taylor won best supporting female, or Kate McKinnon’s hilarious and timely parody of Carol. See more highlights here to get the flavor of the Spirit Awards and read all about Film Independent to dig deeper.

The 2017 Spirit Awards air live February 25 at 5P ET exclusively on IFC.

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Ho Ho Ha

Xmas Miracles You’ll See At Joe’s Pub

Joe’s Pub Presents: A Holiday Special Premieres December 21 at 10P on IFC.

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It’s just so tempting to bah-humbug the holiday season. And while there’s much we can’t wait to put behind us, one thing left to look forward to with pure and wide-eyed joy is Joe’s Pub Presents: A Holiday Special, starring Tony Hale. It’s a celebration in the true spirit of those splendid TV specials from the ’70s and ’80s, complete with special guests, musical numbers, awkward segues and an (intentionally) wafer-thin narrative through line.

As if you need more convincing, here are a few juicy nuggets to get excited for…

Tony Hale plying the captive audience with hot chocolate (and it working).

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Bridget Everett dressed like an ornament…

and in a state of nearly constant wardrobe malfunction.
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Matteo Lane hitting a crazy high note in a Snuggie.

Not a Slanket. There’s a meaningful difference.

Lisa Loeb creeping on Kurt Vile.

#hairlikeapony #whynotme
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Judah Friedlander getting replaced by a robot…

and it pretty much going as expected.
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Bottom line: the miracles abound. Grinches, Scrooges, and Tiny Tims alike will find their Holiday joy. And it’ll be awkward–in the most wonderful kind of way.

Joe’s Pub Presents: A Holiday Special premieres Wednesday December 21 at 10p on IFC

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