How Oscar Nomination Balloting Works

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There will be more and more Oscar race talk over the next couple weeks as the last few big non-Oscar award sets are nominated and announced. But the process of getting the actual Oscar nominations together remains a mystery to many spectators. With an incredibly broad field of possible choices, among which a select few are already highlighted by studio campaigns and other awards, how does a film get nominated?

If you’re in the know about this, no need to read further. But if you want to know how Academy members have to actually assemble their ballot, read on. It’s probably not quite the process you expect. Read More »

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The Buzz: Filmmakers React to Avatar

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James Cameron‘s Avatar has been unleashed upon this world. We’ve run reviews from half of the /Film staff: David ChenBrendon Connelly, Russ Fischer, and Hunter Stephenson. You might have even added your own mini-review. But you might be wondering, with all the talk of game-changing advances in the tech side of filmmaking, what do the writers and directors in Hollywood think of Avatar? Here is a round-up of quotes:

Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer: “Went to a special screening of Avatar last night where James Cameron did a Q&A after the film. I can’t tell you how much I loved the movie, or how clearly Cameron cemented himself as the world’s greatest living filmmaker. This is an incredible movie. I recommend seeing it in IMAX. So next level. So awesome. Avatar is a game changer. James Cameron wins.”

Back to the Future, Indiana Jones and Bourne series Producer Frank Marshall: “Wow!!! AVATAR is audacious and awe inspiring. It’s truly extraordinary and I would really need a blog to talk about it…”

Donnie Darko/The Box director Richard Kelly: “AVATAR was amazing. Lived up to all the hype – now must see in IMAX…”

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John August on How I Became a Famous Novelist

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John August is a screenwriter I’ve been following for the last decade. He broke onto the scene with a spec script titled Go, which was directed for the screen by Doug Liman (a film I highly recommend). Since then August has written a bunch of adaptations and remakes, mostly in association with director Tim Burton (Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride).

He made a fantastic directorial debut with an original independent sci-fi mystery drama The Nines, which was a hit at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, but flew virtually under the radar of most (I also recommend this film, although I’ll admit that it has gotten a polarizing response). I’ve been waiting and hoping for August to journey behind the camera once again, but his much in demand screenwriting duties have kept him away. He’s producing Prince of Persia, wrote Preacher, and is also attached to Burton’s Frankenweenie and Dark Shadows.

It looks like August might return to the director’s chair once again.

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Screenwriter and director John August has made a detour into prose with his new short story The Variant. He says it “was and maybe still is supposed to be part of an anthology of short stories written by well-known screenwriters” but, in the meantime, you can purchase a copy from August directly for only 99 cents.

Of course, at that price I couldn’t resist and I immediately pumped in my card details and downloaded the pdf – all 25 pages, 156 kb or 7,176 words of it…

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Preacher Update: Screenplay is Half-Written

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We have a brief update on the big screen adaptation of the beloved Vertigo comic book series Preacher. Last year Columbia Pictures picked up the rights and hired American Beauty/Road to Perdition director Sam Mendes attached to helm the project. In January it was announced that John August (Go, Big Fish) would be developing the script, but we haven’t heard much since. Mendes tells MTV that the screeplay is “about halfway” written.

“There’s a long way to go yet, but I’m very, very hopeful. I think it could be amazing.”

Fans are hoping that the film might spawn a franchise as the 75 issue series offers enough story for at least three films. But Mendes is focused on making one really good self-contained movie, but admits that “there’s certainly more than enough for one good movie and plenty left over.” Even if this film does go into production, it won’t happen anytime soon. The director tells Collider that he will be doing two more plays in Brooklyn first, and that he won’t be doing his next movie until next year, at earliest.

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John August is that rare thing in the arts. He’s an established professional with a back catalogue of accomplished works who we can still single out as one to watch. For my money, August’s work just keeps getting better and better, and his directorial debut The Nines was like a second debutantes ball for him (I was going to say “second coming out”, but in that case it would have been at least his third).

He’s similarly rare in his candidness, offering a very well written and well read blog which offers not only updates on his work, but technical and advice on the craft on screenwriting. In his latest post, he has confirmed EW’s scoop that he is scripting the feature film adaptation of Preacher, with Sam Mendes attached to direct and Neil Moritz producing. Moritz has a rather bad reputation, or at least a catalogue of disappointing films behind him, and I’m no fan of Mendes myself but I sincerely hope this all works out well – for the sake of August’s screenplay, as much as anything else.

There have been several attempts to mount a Preacher film before, though all have skidded and ditched rather early. Below the break is a test on the make-up for ArseFace.

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Shazam is Dead

You won’t be seeing a big screen adaptation of Shazam hitting theaters anytime soon, as the project is now officially dead. Screenwriter John August has posted an in depth article on his blog explaining how the writer’s strike, New Line being merged into Warner Bros, and the back and fourth between various studio execs eventually killed the project. If you have a few minutes it’s well worth the read, and it’s very typical of the hilarity and frustration of the Hollywood studio system. Here is an excerpt:

“When we turned the new draft in to the studio, we got a reaction that made me wonder if anyone at Warners had actually read previous drafts or the associated notes. The studio felt the movie played too young. They wanted edgier. They wanted Billy to be older. They wanted Black Adam to appear much earlier. (I pointed out that Black Adam appears on page one, but never got a response.)”

At the end of the day, August places blame on the failure of Speed Racer and monster success of The Dark Knight. Hollywood executives don’t spend a lot of time trying to analyze why something was a success or failure, they just try to replicate the good. And for The Dark Knight, that meant that a comic book movie must be dark and real.

The first flopped; the second triumphed. Given only those two examples, one can understand why a studio might wish for their movies to be more like the latter. But to do so ignores the success of Iron Man, which spent most of its running time as a comedic origin story, and the even more pertinent example of WB’s own Harry Potter series. I tried to make this case, to no avail.”

Warner Bros wanted “a much harder movie, with a lot more Black Adam,” and not the action-comedy project that August initially signed on to develop. August wrote a draft which he “could envision getting made”. The producer and director liked it but somehow, for some reason, the project fell into development heck.

Honestly, I was never interested in a Shazam movie. I’m a big fan of August’s screenplays. I know I’ve over praised August’s debut script Go, directed by Doug Liman, many times in the past. August was the only real reason why I was interested in the project in the first place. And I’m sure the project will someday find its way out of Development heck with some hack writer/director like Paul W.S. Anderson attached, ready to give the studio their “dark comic book movie”.

Doug Liman’s Go for Free on Hulu

You can now watch Go for free on Hulu. Before Doug Liman launched the Bourne Franchise, he directed two wonderful indie films — Swingers and Go. Swingers launched the career of Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn, but Go went virtually under the radar, despite being a really cool film.

The film suffered from a marketing campaign focused around Katie Holmes, who was on Dawson’s Creek at the time, and being criticized for its use of fragmented time in a post Pulp Fiction world. Yes, it copied the structure, but who cares – unlike most of the Tarantino-inspired films, this one is good. It’s also the breakout film for screenwriter John August, who is probably best know for his work with Tim Burton — Big Fish, Corpse Bride.

In 2007, August premiered his feature directorial debut The Nines at Sundance, another great film which went virtually unseen. Go is also notable for its incredible techno-based soundtrack. Be warned, if you watch this film, plan on downloading the soundtrack afterwards. I highly recommend Go. Check it out for free on Hulu.

If you end up liking it, you might want to pick up the DVD special edition (only $7.99 on Amazon), which features a great indie film commentary by Liman and August.

Please, leave your thoughts about the film in the comments below.

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