'The Awards Pundits' on Brad and Angie, Paramount's Woes and the New York Film Festival

Scott Feinberg and Stephen Galloway discuss the week's awards-related news and controversies.
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The Hollywood Reporter's awards analyst Scott Feinberg and executive features editor Stephen Galloway discuss the road to the Oscars.

FEINBERG OK, Stephen. Team Brad or Team Angie?

GALLOWAY I’d never delve into the craziness of any celebrity marriage, let alone divorce. But I will say this: I’ve had dealings with both stars, and Brad was a dream while Angie was — well, more complicated. She has a half dozen reps, none of whom can give you a straight answer. Brad has a manager, Cynthia Pett Dante, but no clear PR team, which makes dealing with him almost as hard.

FEINBERG That, along with the distraction of his domestic strife, could complicate things for Paramount when it releases his new movie, Allied, less than two months from now. Hollywood’s oldest studio can’t seem to catch a break lately. They’ve had a dismal run at the box office. They just lost their parent company's CEO, Philippe Dauman, and interim CEO, Tom Dooley, and their vice-chairman, Rob Moore —

GALLOWAY — and now they have to roll out four Oscar hopefuls within the last two months of the year: There’s Allied. There’s the Amy Adams sci-fi pic Arrival. There’s Denzel Washington’s Broadway adaptation Fences

FEINBERGthe emotional trailer of which began running ahead of The Magnificent Seven over the weekend —

GALLOWAY And there's Silence, the Martin Scorsese period piece, which seemed to be in hibernation for years and even decades, but which has just been dated for Dec. 23. I’ve got huge confidence in Paramount’s distribution and marketing chief, Megan Colligan, but there are all sorts of issues that become unclear when a studio’s leadership is changing: How much money will be spent on marketing and an Oscar push? Who has ultimate authority? Who’s the point person when something goes wrong? And what happens if other heads roll, which seems all but inevitable at this point?

FEINBERG I’m particularly excited to see this one because he’s been trying to get it made for 25 years.

GALLOWAY I’m dying to see Andrew Garfield’s performance as a Jesuit priest — he’s an amazing actor. I just caught one of his early movies, 2007’s Boy A, the story of a young man coming out of prison and hiding a horrific past, and I understand why so many directors want to work with him. I’m not sure Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge will get him a nomination, but I’m going to take a bet on Silence. He spent a year just preparing for the film, even studying St. Ignatius Loyola. On the negative side, the movie’s coming out after a whole lot of other awards hopefuls. Do you think that’s too late?

FEINBERG End-of-the-year releases of Oscar hopefuls can work out — Million Dollar Baby swooped into the race in December 2004 and snatched best picture from The Aviator. But not since 2006’s The Departed has a movie that skipped all the major fall film fests (Venice, Telluride, Toronto, New York) managed to win best picture. That would seem to bode well for the current frontrunner, La La Land, and for other films and individuals that have months to build up buzz.

GALLOWAY Yes, but they may run the danger of peaking too soon. Voters can fall in love with you — as many have fallen in love with La La Land — and then fall out of love, or get distracted by some shiny new thing. I’ve always thought of films as being like love affairs: our passion can fizzle out, and also grow stronger. Sometimes, later on, we’re reminded of all the things we fell in love with in the first place. At this point, though, I’m not sure that any clear-cut rival has emerged to take on La La Land.

FEINBERG On Friday I’m headed to the New York Film Festival, which could produce one. It probably won’t be the fest opener, which, for the first time, is a doc, Ava DuVernay’s 13th, and it won't be the closer, James Gray’s The Lost City of Z, which is slated for 2017. But it could be the mid-fest centerpiece screening, Mike Mills20th Century Women (the trailer of which hit the web today), or — most likely, I suspect — Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk, which will receive a special screening at a Gotham venue not usually used by the fest.

GALLOWAY When a film opens is one factor; another is who’s around to campaign. MIA this season is Sully’s Tom Hanks (he’s a two-time winner and doesn’t like to grovel) and La La Land’s Ryan Gosling (he’s shooting Blade Runner). You might be surprised to hear this, but I generally believe voters vote for the best — at least in their minds — regardless of the campaign. But campaigning can do an awful lot to help nudge anyone on the borderline into the final five, or more in the case of best picture. Given what a competitive race this year is, I wonder where that leaves The Birth of a Nation?

FEINBERG I doubt we’ll be seeing much of Birth of a Nation’s Nate Parker. But failure to glad-hand can be overcome — see Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Christian Bale, Terrence Malick and Mo’Nique, to cite a few examples — though it certainly doesn’t make life any easier. Sometimes it’s also a matter of geography. For instance, Isabelle Huppert gives two of the year’s most acclaimed performances, in Elle and Things to Come, but she’s based on the other side of the Atlantic, which means she can’t be as omnipresent as, say, La La Land’s Emma Stone.

GALLOWAY France has accumulated more foreign-language Oscar noms than any other nation, by far, and it just named Elle as its 2016 submission, which has to give Huppert a boost, right? It’s Paul Verhoeven’s best film in years — before I saw it, I kept hearing it described as a “rape comedy,” but it’s not that at all: it’s an extraordinary study of a troubled woman.

FEINBERG Other foreign-language entries came in over the past week from Canada (Xavier Dolan’s divisive Cannes Grand Prix winner, It’s Only the End of the World), Italy (Fire at Sea, the documentary that won Berlin’s Golden Bear), Russia (Venice Silver Lion winner Paradise) and Israel (Sand Storm). Elle and Fire at Sea are part of New York’s lineup, as are the entries of Chile (Pablo Larrain’s Neruda), Germany (Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann), Romania (Cristi Puiu’s Sieranevada) and Spain (Pedro Almodovar’s Julieta).

GALLOWAY OK, Scott, so going back to how we began this chat, I’m going to throw the ball to you: If you had to name a foreign-language winner now, what would it be? Team Chile, Team Germany or Team Spain?

FEINBERG I don’t know what will win, but I do know which one I like the most: Finland’s The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki. A black-and-white biopic about a boxer who fell in love while training for the biggest fight of his life, it won Cannes’ Un Certain Regard prize and became a phenomenon back home, as I just witnessed firsthand during a week on the jury of the Helsinki International Film Festival. I don’t think I’ve seen a better film this year. So, as we finish: Team Finland.