Oscars and Baftas go toe to toe
Who will be among this year’s Oscar nominations when they’re revealed on Thursday, a full two weeks earlier than usual, creating one of the busiest weeks of the year for film news? And what impact will this have on media coverage of the Bafta nominations, due to be announced on Wednesday morning (when it will be also revealed that they are now officially called the EE British Academy Film Awards)? The Oscar nominations moved so they would precede the Golden Globe awards ceremony (on 13 January), but the shift has taken everyone by surprise. I’m sure Bafta was looking for rather more lasting impact with its nominees, though at least it gets in there a day earlier.
It’s all looking good, however, for distributors, many of which have timed their UK releases to coincide with the publicity boost the nominations should give their movies: Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Les Misérables and Django Unchained are likely to figure and are all scheduled for release in the next two weeks. Argo will feature, certainly, and Silver Linings Playbook, but I’m hoping for surprise nods in some categories for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Skyfall and Moonrise Kingdom, and I’d love Michael Haneke’s Amour to feature among the best films. Will The Dark Knight Rises make it? I can’t see a tough little indie pic like, say, Precious, or a crowd-pleasing pile of dross like The Help this year, nor is there a British film to cheer on jingoistically, like a Full Monty or a Slumdog, as if they were plucky Olympians.
Kon-Tiki sails on
The remarkable story of the Kon-Tiki expedition continues as it sails on to the big screen. The film chronicles the epic journey of Norway’s Thor Heyerdahl, who in 1947 set out on a 4,300-mile crossing of the Pacific using a balsawood raft. Starring a mainly Norwegian cast, Kon-Tiki has received surprise nominations for foreign language picture at the Golden Globes, and last week found itself on the shortlist of foreign language films vying for an Oscar nomination. But, curiously, most viewers are never likely to see the feted foreign language film because there’s a mirror version, shot entirely in English.
The film is a passion project for Oscar-winning British producer Jeremy Thomas, whose decision it was to make the two versions when he realised how good his Norwegian actors were at speaking English and how much easier an epic adventure would be to finance without subtitles.
Thomas has spent 16 years trying to bring the story of Heyerdahl and his crew to the big screen, and still considers it a British movie. “We shot in Thailand, the Maldives and on various Scandinavian sound stages, but we really made it out of my office in Soho,” he tells me. “The idea was to have the sailors speak Norwegian to one another, as they did in the real expedition, but we’d do five takes in Norwegian and then three more in English. So there are two versions, exactly the same, shot for shot, just with different accents, which is probably unique for the foreign language awards voters.” The film, directed by Norwegian duo Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, is already a big hit in Norway, which is showing the original version. This is also the version that has screened to Globe and Oscars voters, though when the film is released elsewhere, most territories will see it in English.
Dustin wags the dog
Tom Courtenay is full of praise for Dustin Hoffman, his director on Quartet, saying he energised the whole cast and crew for 11 weeks. However, he does have some gripes about the Hollywood star’s methods on his directing debut. “We had a long chat about my character, Reggie, having a little dog,” Courtenay tells me. “I didn’t want to do it but Dustin really liked the idea, so I worked with this blessed little creature for weeks, and then when I saw the film there was no dog. I asked Dustin why he cut the dog. He just said: ‘It was a bad idea.’ I said: ‘But it was your idea, Dustin.’ And he said: ‘Yeah? Whoever’s it was, it was a bad one.’” Similarly, the film’s titular quartet of Courtenay, Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins all trained with a singing coach to perform the number from Rigoletto; however, that too failed to make the final edit.
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