Meryl Streep & George Clooney Win More Awards + Only One Oscar Ballot Selection Counts

Vera Farmiga, George Clooney in Up in the Air
George Clooney and Vera Farmiga in Up in the Air (Dale Robinette / Paramount).

Usual suspects Up, Up in the Air, Kathryn Bigelow, George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Mo'Nique, and Christoph Waltz are the Kansas City Film Critics Circle's choices for best of 2009.

Jason Reitman's comedy-drama Up in the Air was voted the best film, but as it's happened before Kathryn Bigelow was the best director for the Iraq War drama The Hurt Locker. Also as it's happened before, Reitman and Sheldon Turner's screenplay was chosen as the best of the year (in the adapted category), while The Hurt Locker's Mark Boal is nowhere to be found in the list of winners. In Up in the Air, George Clooney stars as a frequent-flying corporate-downsizing expert.

Meryl Streep was the best actress for her star turn as Julia Child in Nora Ephron's Julie & Julia (Amy Adams' Julie hasn't been at all lucky this awards season), while Mo'Nique won for her abusive mother in Lee Daniels' Precious and Christoph Waltz for his multilingual Nazi in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. Tarantino's World War II revenge fantasy also earned the director-screenwriter the best original screenplay award. Pete Docter's Up was the best animated feature.

The unusual suspects rounded up by the Kansas City critics were two: Matteo Garrone's Camorra saga Gomorrah, chosen as the best foreign language film, and best documentary Every Little Step, Adam Del Deo and James D. Stern's portrait of auditions for a Broadway revival of A Chorus Line.

Kansas City Film Critics Awards 2010

Best Film - Up in the Air

Best Foreign Language Film - Gomorrah

Best Documentary - Every Little Step

Best Animated Film - Up

Best Director - Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker

Best Actress - Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

Best Actor - George Clooney, Up in the Air

Best Supporting Actress - Mo'Nique, Precious

Best Supporting Actor - Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

Best Original Screenplay - Inglourious Basterds

Best Adapted Screenplay - Up in the Air

Vince Koehler Award for Outstanding Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror Film - District 9

Oscar ballots best pictureOscar ballots: Best Picture selections.

Oscar ballots mailed out

Pictured above is an actual Oscar ballot for the Best Picture of 2009. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences mailed Oscar ballots of various kinds to its 5,777 voting members on Dec. 28, '09.

According to the Academy's preferential voting system, every vote is supposed to count – unless, of course, none of your choices make it into the top ten (for Best Picture) or top five (in case you belong to a specific individual branch* as well).

Having said that, I should add that at most only one choice per ballot will be counted. It could be your first choice, or (much less likely) your fifth choice, or (much, much less likely) your tenth choice. But only one will be counted depending on who/which movie among your choices has the best chance of landing a nomination.

Sounds complicated? Well, it could always be more mind-boggling.

* At the Oscars, actors vote for actors, directors for directors, screenwriters for screenwriters, and so on.

Best Picture contenders

This year's potential Best Picture Oscar contenders include:

'It's Complicated' actors to host Oscar ceremony

The 2010 Academy Award nominations will be announced on Tuesday, Feb. 2, '10, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

The 2010 Oscar ceremony will take place on Sunday, March 7, '10, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Los Angeles. In the U.S., the Oscarcast will be televised live by ABC.

Both Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, who co-star with Meryl Streep in Nancy Meyers' romantic comedy hit It's Complicated (not about the Academy Awards' preferential voting system), will share duties as Oscar hosts.

Best Picture Oscar ballot photo: Greg Harbaugh / © A.M.P.A.S.

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (A.M.P.A.S.) website.

'Avatar' In, Oprah Winfrey Out: Producers Guild Nominations

Jan. 5 update: James Cameron's Avatar, J.J. Abrams' Star Trek, and Neill Blomkamp's sleeper hit District 9 are three science-fiction films included in the Producers Guild of America's list of nominees for best narrative feature of 2009. Two other major box office hits were included in the list as well, Pete Docter's animated Up and Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, in addition to a couple of smaller but successful productions, Lee Daniels' Precious and Jason Reitman's Up in the Air.

Also included were critics' favorite The Hurt Locker, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, Lone Scherfig's British drama An Education, and, somewhat surprisingly, Clint Eastwood's box office disappointment Invictus, in which Morgan Freeman plays Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon a South African rugby player.

Missing from the list are two high-profile year-end releases, Rob Marshall's all-star musical Nine and Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, though Jackson did get in as one of the District 9 producers. Also missing are Marc Webb's (500) Days of Summer, three successful female-centered productions – John Lee Hancock's The Blind Side, Nora Ephron's Julie & Julia, Nancy Meyers' It's Complicated – and well-received smaller films that failed to make a box office and/or year-end awards splash, such as Amreeka, A Serious Man, A Single Man, The Last Station, and Crazy Heart.

In the best animated feature category, Up is joined by 9, Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and The Princess and the Frog. Missing from this list is Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Only four documentaries made the cut – Burma VJ, The Cove, Sergio, and Soundtrack for a Revolution – whereas the longform television category has six nominees: Georgia O'Keeffe, Grey Gardens, Little Dorrit, Prayers for Bobby, The Prisoner, and Taking Chance. Missing from the documentary list are Agnes Varda's The Beaches of Agnes, Sacha Gervasi's Anvil! The Story of Anvil, and Robert Kenner's Food, Inc.

And finally, John Lasseter will be honored with the David O. Selznick Award, while Precious has already been named the recipient of the Stanley Kramer Award.

The PGA will announce its winners on Jan. 24.

The Academy is probably hoping that Oscar voters will follow the Producers Guild of America' lead, as their top-ten list features one mega-blockbuster, James Cameron's Avatar (more than $1 billion worldwide), and no less than four blockbusters: J.J. Abrams' Star Trek, Pete Docter's Up, Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds and Neill Blomkamp's District 9. The rationale is that bigger movies are supposed to result in bigger TV ratings.

Cameron's Titanic raked in solid viewership numbers back in 1998, but it's been mostly downhill from there. Last year, the Oscar ceremony got an audience bump that was credited to the presence of teen heartthrobs Robert Pattinson (fresh off of Twilight) and Zac Efron (of High School Musical infamy). If Oscar ceremony organizers are smart, they'll have Pattinson and Efron back this year – and a high-school vampire dance number, just in case.

But will the Academy's list match the Producers'? Early last year, Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight – the year's biggest blockbuster – was one of the Producers Guild nominees, but it failed to get an Oscar nomination for best picture. The much smaller The Reader, a Weinstein Co. release directed by Stephen Daldry, replaced it at Oscar time.

With ten available slots this year, the makers of Avatar needn't worry. But the chances for several of the other blockbusters on the list – District 9, Star Trek, Up – is iffier. The Oscar-savvy Weinstein Co., for instance, is pushing Nine, and the first and last time an animated feature received an Oscar nod was back in early 1992, when Beauty and the Beast sneaked in. Also, actors – not producers – form the largest group of Academy members.

And finally, although she's a walking, talking blockbuster, Oprah Winfrey's name is nowhere to be found among the PGA nominees and has no chance of getting an Oscar nomination because she was billed as one of Precious' executive producers. Only “producers” get to be nominated. (Also, Winfrey's actual participation on the making of the film has been questioned of late.)

PGA 2010 Nominations

BEST NARRATIVE FEATURE

Avatar
Prod.: James Cameron, Jon Landau

District 9
Prod.: Carolynne Cunningham, Peter Jackson

An Education
Prod.: Finola Dwyer, Amanda Posey

The Hurt Locker
Producer(s): Awaiting final credit determination.

Inglourious Basterds
Prod.: Lawrence Bender

Invictus
Prod.: Clint Eastwood, Rob Lorenz, Lori McCreary , Mace Neufeld

Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
Prod.: Lee Daniels, Gary Magness, Sarah Siegel-Magness

Star Trek
Prod.: J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof

Up
Prod.: Jonas Rivera

Up In The Air
Producer(s): Awaiting final credit determination.

Directors Guild & Producers Guild to Announce Nominees: Quentin Tarantino?

Jan 4 early morning: Below is a partial list of film award announcements to come out in the next week. The most important among those six announcements is the 2010 People's Choice Awards – well, at least in terms of populist appeal. Among this year's nominees are Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Star Trek, The Hangover, The Proposal, Twilight, Robert Pattinson, Johnny Depp, Kristen Stewart, Jennifer Aniston, Sandra Bullock, Ben Stiller, Miley Cyrus, Hugh Jackman, and Ryan Reynolds. (Avatar isn't listed because it opened in mid-December. But it'll be there when the 2010 nominations come out later this year; also, I couldn't quite figure out if the shortlisted Twilight is the 2008 release or The Twilight Saga: New Moon.)

But the most important announcements when it comes to the Oscars are, you guessed it, both the Producers Guild of America (PGA) and the Directors Guild of America (DGA) nominations. Ten films will be shortlisted by the producers; five directors will be in contention for the DGA Award. Who do I think will be nominated by the DGA? Let's see: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker, Jason Reitman for Up in the Air, Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds, Lee Daniels for Precious, and James Cameron for Avatar.

Of those five, I'd say Lee Daniels is the iffiest. If not Daniels, then Pete Docter for Up or Joel and Ethan Coen for A Serious Man. I don't believe that Lone Scherfig for An Education, Olivier Assayas for Summer Hours, Rob Marshall for Nine, Nancy Meyers for It's Complicated, or Michael Haneke for The White Ribbon have much of a chance here, but who knows?

Remember, a DGA nod doesn't necessarily mean an Oscar nod. According to online reports, the DGA has about 13,000 members, including thousands of television directors and assistant directors (some are both). The Directors Branch of the Academy has less than 400 members.

Jan. 5 - Producers Guild of America nominations

Jan. 5 - USC Scripter Awards nominations

Jan. 6 - Online Film Critics (winners)

Jan. 6 - People's Choice Awards (winners)

Jan. 7 – Directors Guild of America nominations

Jan. 8 - Art Directors Guild nominations

Michael BaughAward winning Production Designer Michael Baugh will receive the Creative Leadership Award at the 2010 Art Directors Guild (ADG) Awards ceremony on Feb. 13. The award will be presented at a black-tie gathering at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Art Director Michael Baugh to Be Honored

The information below is from the ADG's press release:

Baugh is being honored for serving on the Board of the Art Directors Guild in various positions for more than 30 years - longer than any other designer in the Guild's history - including two terms as President. He is currently the Treasurer, and also edits Perspective, the Guild's bi-monthly magazine. He has produced the annual ADG Awards event twice, and created the Guild's non-profit Center for Film and Television Design.

Multiple Emmy winning Production Designer and Art Directors Guild officer, Michael Baugh, a Los Angeles native, studied stage design and lighting at Yale University before returning home and beginning a 45 year career in television and feature films. Directly out of college, he had the good fortune to contact ADG Hall of Fame designer Romain Johnston at the exact moment he needed help, and became his assistant. Their partnership continued for three more years, until Baugh was moved up to design a series on his own. At twenty-five years old, he was the youngest production designer in network television. For the next seven years, his work included musical and variety series for Jim Nabors and Leslie Uggams and specials for Doris Day, Dick Van Dyke, and Bill Cosby.

A two-year staff position at KCET's then-new facilities allowed Baugh to stretch his talents, designing five classic PBS dramatic specials, including George Bernard Shaw's Man of Destiny and Sean O'Casey's Shadow of a Gunman. This experience led him directly into film, and during his long career, he designed more than 70 television movies and miniseries, along with over 800 episodes of television series, and 12 feature films. He has been nominated 10 times for an Emmy Award, and has won three of them, for series such as Columbo, and Nothing Sacred, and for television movies such as Buffalo Soldiers, Blind Ambition and American Tragedy. He has also been nominated six times for Art Directors Guild Awards.

Nominations for the 14th ADG Awards will be announced on Jan. 8. On awards night, February 13, the ADG will present winners in nine competitive categories for theatrical films, television productions and commercials, along with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Production Designer Terence Marsh and the award for Outstanding Contribution to Cinematic Imagery, which is being given to Warren Beatty. In addition, there will also be a presentation of the three newest Production Designers to be inducted into the ADG's Hall of Fame: Malcolm F. Brown, Bob Keene and Ferdinando Scarfiotti.

Photo: Courtesy of the Art Directors Guild

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4 Comments to Meryl Streep & George Clooney Win More Awards + Only One Oscar Ballot Selection Counts

  1. Jeff Brandt

    I don't think it was a bad movie year. 2009 was no 2007, but still . . .

  2. Patty

    I think they should be pretty funny…With age comes wisdom and Alex is only 51 any way…It hink it will be a good show, but I don't think it was a good movie year. Clooney will win..big deal

  3. Jeff Brandt

    And by Alex, I mean Alec. My brother's name is Alex, so it's a habit.

  4. Jeff Brandt

    Alex Baldwin and Steve Martin? No offense, but I thought this was 2010, not 1990.