Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Lost in la-la land

Not for the first time I have gone against some of the conventional wisdom in my annual fiasco of an attempt at Oscar predictions. Everyone pretty much agrees that the betting odds are that Kathryn Bigelow will get the Oscar for Best Achievement in Directing for The Hurt Locker. This is because she has already won the award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures from the Directors Guild of America. And, since it’s pretty much the same people voting in both cases, it makes sense that she will get the Academy Award as well.

Frankly, I can’t come up with a logical reason why I’ve gone on record that her ex-hubby James Cameron is more likely to get that award. It’s just a gut feeling that Avatar has simply made too much money to be denied. The smart wagering is for Cameron to get the Best Motion Picture of the Year award, and that would be because the entire academy votes on that one—not just the directors. Historically, the same movie often gets both the Best Picture and Best Director awards, but not always. It’s possible that the directors will feel that they’ve made their point with their guild award and will then feel free to give Cameron the directing Oscar. And who knows how the fact that there is more time to reflect on all this—because of the awards being pushed back a couple of weeks because of the Winter Olympics—will affect the way the voters look at all this? Will they find it harder and harder to avoid the fact that Cameron (along with the geniuses that made Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel) have kept the recession more or less at bay in the movie industry? Time was when the Best Picture award never went to a major commercial blockbuster and was more likely to go to some high-toned art film that most people in America hadn’t seen. But over time it has not been unheard of for a box office hit with plenty of CGI, like Peter Jackson’s The Return of the King and Cameron’s Titanic, to get the top prize.

Anyway, as I indicated last week, despite my premonition about how this is going to go, I would be more than happy to see The Hurt Locker get both these awards.

Other miscellaneous observations on the nominations… It’s good to see films made by a couple of my favorite directors get nominations. Peter Jackson (of The Lord of the Rings fame) certainly doesn’t have to feel hard done by in terms of Academy Award recognition, so maybe he doesn’t feel slighted by the fact that The Lovely Bones got only one nod—for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for Stanley Tucci. The fact that the movie didn’t get more nominations isn’t exactly out of sync with critical and the ticket-buying public’s reaction. But Jackson may be experiencing a bit of Spielberg Syndrome, in that the academy may want to take its time in warming up to the idea of him doing serious films in between making loads of money with crowd pleasers. Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus actually did a bit better, garnering two nominations—one for Best Achievement in Art Direction (David Warren, Anastasia Masaro, Caroline Smith) and one for Best Achievement in Costume Design (Monique Prudhomme). Gilliam himself has been nominated only once for an Oscar, back in 1986, for writing (along with Tom Stoppard and Charles McKeown) the screenplay for Brazil. They lost to Earl W. Wallace, William Kelley and Pamela Wallace for Witness. I don’t feel too bad for Gilliam because, frankly, I don’t think he cares about awards. And, if he were to get an Oscar, I would like to see him get it for one of his truly great movies. While Dr. Parnassus was enjoyable, it wasn’t one of those Gilliam films that was excitingly transcendent. On the other hand, I would have rather see him get a statuette for a non-transcendent film than not to see him ever get one at all.

Maybe he will get one for The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Right now it’s kinda hard to say whether he might or not since that movie isn’t finished yet. In fact, filming hasn’t even started yet. Well, it has and it hasn’t. It’s complicated. As I recounted around the time that Dr. Parnassus opened, Gilliam has long wanted to make his own movie adaptation of Miguel de Cervantes’s immortal novel. He actually did begin making the movie, with France’s Jean Rochefort playing the mad don. Filmmakers Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe documented in their 2002 film Lost in La Mancha how the project was plagued by contractual and health issues with actors, scheduling conflicts, budget cuts, location problems and natural disasters and how it finally just collapsed. Gilliam went on to make Tideland, The Brothers Grimm and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, but he never gave up on the Quixote movie. You might even say that his devotion to the idea was nearly, well, quixotic.

For a while now, the IMDb has listed it as being in production with a release date in 2011. Then, just the other day, I happened to hear the actor Robert Duvall being interviewed on the radio and, lo and behold, in between fielding questions about Crazy Heart and Tender Mercies and The Apostle, he was asked what he was going to be doing next. (Incidentally, Duvall is a very interesting interview subject. Among the many tidbits divulged, including his strong feelings about border security, is that his all-time favorite acting role was Gus McCrae in the TV miniseries Lonesome Dove.) And darned if he didn’t say that he expected to be playing don Quixote in front of the cameras in the autumn for Terry Gilliam. It seems that Gilliam had spotted him playing a Cuban barber (opposite Richard Harris and Shirley MacLaine) in a 1993 flick with the irresistible title Wrestling Ernest Hemingway. And that performance convinced Gilliam that Duvall was the man to play Quixote.

So now we Gilliam fans have something new to look forward to. Let’s just hope (knock on wood) that the production doesn’t run into any of the sort of horrendous problems his productions have run into before during the past decade. Fingers crossed.

-S.L., 18 February 2010

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