Is Kathryn Bigelow’s 2012 Thriller an October Surprise, Hollywood Style?

Navy SEAL Team 6’s successful mission to find and kill Islamic super-terrorist Osama Bin Laden, the architect of 9/11, is the subject of a forthcoming feature film from Kathryn Bigelow (below) and Mark Boal, the same directing-writing team behind brilliant 2008 Oscar winner The Hurt Locker.

So far known as “Untitled International Thriller” on IMDB, the film’s cast includes Australian-born actor Joel Edgerton, who appeared in the much admired Animal Kingdom and will be seen later this year in Warrior and a remake of The Thing.

Here’s the most interesting aspect, so far: The film, which focuses on an American military triumph credited to the Obama Administration, is slated for release on Oct. 12, 2012, just a few weeks before the next U.S. presidential election. Political strategists have already pointed to the Bin Laden killing as an accomplishment likely to receive top billing during Obama’s campaign.

Is the timing a coincidence?

Perhaps even more controversial is the possibility, as suggested in a piece by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, that the filmmakers received classified information about the mission from the administration. Representative Peter King (R-NY) is seeking an investigation into that question, according to a story by Mike Fleming, of

Bigelow and Boal, in response, released the following statement: ““Our upcoming film project about the decade long pursuit of Bin Laden has been in the works for many years and integrates the collective efforts of three administrations, including those of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, as well as the cooperative strategies and implementation by the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency. Indeed, the dangerous work of finding the world’s most wanted man was carried out by individuals in the military and intelligence communities who put their lives at risk for the greater good without regard for political affiliation. This was an American triumph, both heroic, and non-partisan and there is no basis to suggest that our film will represent this enormous victory otherwise.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed King’s concerns as “ridiculous.”

Of course, there’s one way to ensure that folks don’t view the film as meant to boost the prospects of one presidential candidate: delay the film’s release until after the election.

Oscars 2010: “The Hurt Locker” Wins Big; “Up in the Air” Shut Out

Sometimes Oscar even gets it (mostly) right: The Hurt Locker cleaned up with six awards last night, including best picture, best director (Kathryn Bigelow), and best original screenplay (Mark Boal).

Bigelow had been widely expected to win for her direction of the riveting Iraq War drama, and in so doing she became the first woman to take home that award. But most Oscar guessers were about evenly split on whether best picture would go to her film or James Cameron‘s extraordinarily expensive and extraordinarily profitable 3-D sci-fi spectacular Avatar. The better film won in both top categories, IMO.

Boal’s win was a bit of a surprise, as some had expected that Quentin Tarantino might take a home win in this category, for his violent, funny, wildly imaginative Inglourious Basterds. QT’s film, though, only won in the category of supporting actor (Christoph Waltz).

An even bigger upset was in the category of best adapted screenplay, with Geoffrey Fletcher winning for his adaptation of Saffire’s tough-but-uplifting urban drama Precious.

The majority of the categories played out about as expected, although it was interesting to see another left-field choice win in the foreign-film category: Argentina’s The Secret in Their Eyes trumped two wildly acclaimed films — The White Ribbon and A Prophet.

Tallies: The Hurt Locker won 6 out of 9; Avatar won 3 out of 9. Precious (6 noms), Up (5 noms) and Crazy Heart (3 noms) each won 2. Inglourious Basterds won 1 out of 8. Shut out: Up in the Air (6 noms), District 9 (4 noms), Nine (4 noms), An Education (3 noms), The Princess and the Frog (3 noms).

Why did Avatar lose out in the big categories? Patrick Goldstein, writing in the Los Angeles Times, offers this insight: “My suspicion is that academy members still find it difficult to believe that films largely created and sculpted in the computer–whether it’s “Avatar” or the long string of brilliant Pixar films — can be just as worthy and artistic as the old-fashioned live-action ones.”

How’d I do? I made predictions in 15 categories. I guessed wrong in four. Score: 11/15.

Best Picture – The Hurt Locker. My guess: Avatar.

Best Director – Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker (my guess).

Best Actor – Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart (my guess).

Best Actress – Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side (my guess).

Best supporting actor – Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds (my guess).

Best supporting actress – Mo’Nique, Precious (my guess).

Best animated feature – Up (my guess).

Best documentary – The Cove (my guess).

Best foreign language film – The Secret in Their Eyes, from Argentina. My guess: The White Ribbon. As I said – plenty of wild cards in this category, and one of them won.

Best adapted screenplay – Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious. My guess: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air.

Best original screenplay – Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker. My guess: Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds.

Best music (original song) – “The Weary Kind,” by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett, Crazy Heart (my guess).

Best art direction – Avatar (my guess).

Cinematography – Avatar (my guess).

Visual effects – Avatar (my guess).

For the complete list of Oscar winners and nominees, click here.

Which Movies Deserve Oscar Noms? NY Times Critics Weigh In

If film critics ruled the Oscar world, how would the top nominations play out?

New York Times
critics A.O. Scott, Manohla Dargis, and Stephen Holden put their choices on the line in a piece published today.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there wasn’t much consensus among the critics in the eight categories they considered, starting with their Best Picture picks (previewed, of course, in their already published Top 10 lists).

The Hurt Locker was the only film given the nod by all three critics, while two out of three critics picked Oscar favorite Up in the Air, A Serious Man, the unevenly received Where the Wild Things Are and dark horse Funny People.

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), unanimous; 2 out of 3 for critical favorites Joel and Ethan Coen (A Serious Man) and Olivier Assayas (Summer Hours), and surprise pick Steven Soderbergh (The Informant)

Best Actor: George Clooney (Up in the Air) and Colin Firth (A Single Man), unanimous; 2 out of 3 for Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart); and no more than 1 each for the rest of the field.

Best Actress: 2 out of 3 for Oscar favorites Carey Mulligan (An Education) and Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), and Yolande Moreau (Seraphine)

Best Supporting Actor: 2 out of 3 for Woody Harrelson (The Messenger), Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker), and odds-on favorite Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)

Best Supporting Actress: 2 out of 3 for likely winners Mo’Nique (Precious) or Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air), as well as Juliette Binoche (Summer Hours) and Samantha Morton (The Messenger).

Best Original Screenplay: Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker), unanimous; and 2 out of 3 for Joel and Ethan Coen (A Serious Man)

Best Adapted Screenplay: 2 out of 3 for Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach (Fantastic Mr. Fox), Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious), and Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner (Up in the Air).

For the entire slate of NY Times critics picks, click here.

DGA Nominations: Lee Daniels and Tarantino In; Clint Squeezed Out

Precious director Lee Daniels has become the first African-American nominee for a Director’s Guild of America award.

Daniels was one of five directors nominated for awards this morning, including James Cameron for Avatar, Jason Reitman for Up in the Air, Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds, and Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker.

Surprisingly absent from the list: Veteran director Clint Eastwood, whose Invictus has picked up glowing reviews and wound up on several year-end Top 10 lists. Eastwood previously received three DGA nominations; he won for Million Dollar Baby and Unforgiven.

Cameron won in 1997 for Titanic. This year’s other DGA nominees are first-timers. All except Daniels were nominated for Golden Globes, along with Eastwood, and all are expected to land Oscar nominations.

Bigelow, Cameron’s ex-wife, is the seventh woman to land a DGA nomination.

The DGA winner has gone on to receive the Oscar for best picture all but six times since the awards were launched in 1949, according to a column published today by Los Angeles Times writer Tom O’Neil.

The winner will be announced Jan. 30 in Los Angeles.

The Best Reviewed Film of 2009? The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow‘s gripping and emotionally exhausting drama following the ups and downs (and tragedies) of a U.S. military bomb squad in Iraq, was the overall best-reviewed movie of 2009.

That’s according to MetaCritic, the movie review aggregator, which this week published an extensive analysis of the 2009 year in film, based on critical response.

Bigelow’s film received a Metascore rating of 94.

Up topped the list of 2009’s wide releases, with a Metascore of 88.

And the worst-reviewed movie of 2009? Sex romp Miss March (Metascore: 7), followed closely by horror comedy Transylmania, and Sandra Bullock vehicle All About Steve (Metascore: 8), which tied with kung-fu disaster Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li for a Metascore of 17.

The Hurt Locker (91) was also the best-reviewed film in the category of limited releases, followed by 35 Shots of Rum (91), Still Walking (89), Goodbye Solo (89) and Tulpan (88).

Metacritic also surveyed various critics’ Top 10 lists, and determined that the films receiving the most mentions in those lists were The Hurt Locker, Up in the Air, A Serious Man, Fantastic Mr. Fox and Up.

Here’s that list (the Miami Herald was the only Florida newspaper included in the survey):
* Austin Chronicle (Marjorie Baumgarten) – Where the Wild Things Are
* Austin Chronicle (Kimberley Jones) – A Serious Man
* Austin Chronicle (Marc Savlov) – A Single Man
* Baltimore Sun (Michael Sragow) – The Exiles
* Boston Globe (Ty Burr) – A Serious Man
* Boston Globe (Wesley Morris) – 35 Shots of Rum
* Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) [unranked list]
* Chicago Tribune (Michael Phillips) – Up
* Christian Science Monitor (Peter Rainer) [unranked list]
* Entertainment Weekly (Owen Gleiberman) – Up in the Air
* Entertainment Weekly (Lisa Schwarzbaum) – The Hurt Locker
* The Hollywood Reporter (Kirk Honeycutt) – The White Ribbon
* The Hollywood Reporter (Sheri Linden) – The White Ribbon
* The Hollywood Reporter (Ray Bennett) – Up in the Air
* The Hollywood Reporter (Michael Rechtshaffen) – Up in the Air
* The Hollywood Reporter (Stephen Farber) – Up in the AIr
* The Hollywood Reporter (Frank Scheck) – Up in the Air
* LA Weekly (Scott Foundas) – The White Ribbon
* Los Angeles Times (Betsy Sharkey) – Up in the Air
* Los Angeles Times (Kenneth Turan) – Bright Star
* Miami Herald (Rene Rodriguez) – Up in the Air
* New Orleans Times-Picayune (Mike Scott) – The Hurt Locker
* New York Daily News (Joe Neumaier) – Up in the Air
* New York Daily News (Elizabeth Weitzman) – The Hurt Locker
* New York Magazine (David Edelstein) – Summer Hours
* New York Post (Lou Lumenick) – Up in the Air
* New York Post (Kyle Smith) – Inglourious Basterds
* The New York Times (Manohla Dargis) [unranked list]
* The New York Times (Stephen Holden) – Up in the Air
* The New York Times (A.O. Scott) – Where the Wild Things Are
* The New Yorker (David Denby) [unranked list]
* The New Yorker (Anthony Lane) [unranked list]
* Newsweek (David Ansen) – The Hurt Locker
* The Onion A.V. Club (Noel Murray) – Inglourious Basterds
* The Onion A.V. Club (Keith Phipps) – A Serious Man
* The Onion A.V. Club (Nathan Rabin) – Big Fan
* The Onion A.V. Club (Tasha Robinson) – Where the Wild Things Are
* The Onion A.V. Club (Scott Tobias) – 35 Shots of Rum
* The Oregonian (Shawn Levy) – An Education
* The Oregonian (Mike Russell) – In the Loop
* The Oregonian (Marc Mohan) – Hunger
* ReelViews (James Berardinelli) – Avatar
* Rolling Stone (Peter Travers) – Precious
* Salon (Stephanie Zacharek) – Summer Hours
* Salon (Andrew O’Hehir) – Hunger
* San Francisco Chronicle (Mick LaSalle) – Inglourious Basterds
* San Francisco Chronicle (Peter Hartlaub) – The Hurt Locker
* Slate (Dana Stevens) [unranked list]
* St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Joe Williams) – (500) Days of Summer
* Time Magazine (Richard Corliss) – The Princess and The Frog
* Time Out New York (David Fear) – 35 Shots of Rum
* Time Out New York (Joshua Rothkopf) – A Serious Man
* Time Out New York (Keith Uhlich) – The Limits of Control
* Village Voice (J. Hoberman) – The Hurt Locker
* Wall Street Journal (Joe Morgenstern) – The Hurt Locker
* Washington Post (Ann Hornaday) – The Hurt Locker

Metacritic didn’t, however, tabulate the results of various critics group awards, unless I just didn’t see it on the site.

For all the lists and ratings (and extensive graphs) surveyed by Metacritic, click here.