Monday, December 8, 2014












By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood December 8, 2014 at 3:59PM
 
The AFI Top Tens have landed. They can have some influence in the awards race.

The American Film Institute's two juries, who vote on the top ten American films and television shows for the year, boast an unusual mix of industry players, including some Academy members, critics and academics. It's been fun when I have served on that jury to traverse the different ways of looking at things. It's far from homogenous and arguments pro and con can get tendentious.

This movie list is likely close to the list of films that the Guilds, Golden Globes and Oscars will be working with, with the exception of such British entries as "The Theory of Everything" and "Mr. Turner," which weren't eligible. Presumably, The Weinstein Co. managed to convince the powers that be that indie-financed "The Imitation Game" had enough American elements, including the financier, producers and screenwriter.

Among studio films boasting scale and scope, two war films, Clint Eastwood's "American Sniper" and Angelina Jolie's "Unbroken," made the cut, along with Disney musical "Into the Woods," and blockbuster "Interstellar." Fox commercial hits "Gone Girl" and "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" lacked the necessary gravitas, apparently, along with late-breaking "Exodus: Gods and Kings" and Warner Bros.' latest Peter Jackson "Hobbit" installment.

Among the smaller films, IFC's critics' fave "Boyhood" made the cut, along with SPC's "Whiplash" and "Foxcatcher," which needed a boost, Paramount indie pickup "Selma," and Open Road's LA noir "Nightcrawler." Fox Searchlight's "Birdman" made the list but "Wild" and critics' fave "The Grand Budapest Hotel" did not. Two films directed by women are on this list and may well make it to best Picture contention as well.

Top Eleven Films, in alphabetical order  (TIE)

AMERICAN SNIPER
BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)
BOYHOOD
FOXCATCHER
THE IMITATION GAME
INTERSTELLAR
INTO THE WOODS
NIGHTCRAWLER
SELMA
UNBROKEN
WHIPLASH

Votes like this can be influential, especially this year, when the mainstream of the Academy couldn't be farther away from many of the critics' groups and there is real diversity in the range of what is being considered. Right now, many industry watchers are disappointed by much of what they are seeing. So the game now is about getting Academy voters to pick things out of their deepening screener piles.

The intimate star-packed AFI Awards lunch also falls right at the height of Oscar season when all the contenders are in full swing.
Of the Top Ten TV shows, "Homeland" and "The Good Wife" are notable omissions, while newcomers Netflix and Amazon scored with "Orange is the New Black" and "Transparent," respectively.

Top Ten TV Shows, in alphabetical order
THE AMERICANS
FARGO
GAME OF THRONES
HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER
JANE THE VIRGIN
THE KNICK
MAD MEN
ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK
SILICON VALLEY
TRANSPARENT






With Oscar nominations voting only weeks away — and SAG Awards nomination voting having just closed at noon PST, with Golden Globe Awards nomination voting closing at 5 pm PST — many in the industry are closely studying the meaning of Monday afternoon's announcement of the 15th annual AFI Awards honorees. The AFI annually selects a list of the year's top 10 films (though this year, the list grew to 11) and top 10 TV shows of the year.

Do the AFI Awards offer insight into how the Academy itself may act down the road? Yes and no.
AFI Awards selections are made "through an AFI jury process in which AFI trustees, scholars, film and television artists and critics determine the most outstanding achievements of the year." It is unclear exactly how many of the jurors are also members of the Academy (film and/or TV), but it is understood that quite a few are, including this year's film jury chair Tom Pollock (former vice chair of MCA and chair of Universal) and TV jury chair Rich Frank (former president of Disney and the TV Academy), along with the likes of Vince Gilligan, Marshall Herskovitz, Patty Jenkins, Kasi Lemmons, Matty Libatique and Phylicia Rashad. That means that one cannot dismiss the relevance of their picks.

As far as the criteria that they must consider in making those picks, the Academy considers all films for its best picture Oscar, whereas the AFI considers only American films for its top 10 list (hey, they are the American Film Institute). When the two groups have not overlapped in the past, it has usually been a case of the AFI recognizing a big studio film (which they tend to gravitate towards because or or in spite of the fact that the big studios provide AFI with much of its funding) that is then replaced in the best picture Oscar race by either an indie film or by nothing at all. (The Academy is not obligated to include 10 films, but rather somewhere between 5 and 10—they've settled on nine the last three years).

Consider the discrepancies from the last three years. Last year, AFI included Fruitvale Station, Inside Llewyn Davis and Saving Mr. Banks, which the Academy replaced with Dallas Buyers Club and Philomena — in other words, two indies replaced two indies and the Academy passed on one studio film that AFI endorsed. The year before, AFI included The Dark Knight Rises and Moonrise Kingdom, which the Academy replaced with Amour — a foreign indie that had been ineligible for AFI replaced an American indie and the Academy passed on one studio film that AFI endorsed. And the year before that, AFI included Bridesmaids, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and J. Edgar, which the Academy replaced with The Artist and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close — the Academy replaced one studio film with an indie, another studio film with a different studio film and dropped a third studio film altogether.

The point is that while it is unlikely that the Academy will replace an AFI pick with another studio film, it could replace one with an indie.

This year, AFI's film picks were American Sniper (Warner Bros.), Birdman (Fox Searchlight), Boyhood (IFC Films), Foxcatcher (Sony Classics), The Imitation Game (The Weinstein Co.), Interstellar (Paramount), Into the Woods (Disney), Nightcrawler (Open Road Films), Selma (Paramount), Unbroken (Universal) and Whiplash (Sony Classics). The inclusions that surprised some people were American Sniper (although I've been saying it's a strong contender since I saw it), Interstellar, Into the Woods and Nightcrawler (the least conventional "awards" movie of the lot, but a contender that deserves to be taken seriously after this and its recognition from the Independent Spirit Awards, National Board of Review and Online Film Critics, among others).

The most glaring absences were The Theory of Everything (which was apparently ineligible, although I don't know how that film is any more British than The Imitation Game), plus two films that seem to resonate more with women than with men, Gone Girl and Wild. If I'd take anything away from today's announcement, it's a reminder that the voting bodies for most of these awards groups are disproportionately male (the Academy is 76% male), which could jeopardize the best picture prospects of those sorts of films.

Now let's turn to the TV list, for which series and, apparently, one-off miniseries were eligible. The AFI went with The Americans (FX), Fargo (FX), Game of Thrones (HBO), How to Get Away with Murder (ABC), Jane the Virgin (The CW), The Knick (Cinemax), Mad Men (AMC), Orange Is the New Black (Netflix), Silicon Valley (HBO) and Transparent (Amazon).

The most glaring omissions: Netflix's House of Cards (Netflix), The Good Wife (CBS), Masters of Sex (Showtime), Scandal (ABC) and Veep (HBO), all of which made the AFI list last year. (PBS's very British Downton Abbey, of course, was ineligible.) The inclusion, presumably in their place, of the new shows How to Get Away with Murder, Jane the Virgin, The Knick, Silicon Valley and Transparent are noteworthy mostly in that they suggest that people in the industry are watching and liking them. (FX's American Horror Story, HBO's Girls, Showtime's Homeland, FX's Louie, ABC's Modern Family and AMC's The Walking Dead haven't cracked the AFI's list since 2012.) Whether or not the members of the SAG nominating committee, Hollywood Foreign Press Association or TV Academy are among them, though, remains to be seen.












2014 JURY
AFI JURY FOR MOTION PICTURES Tom Pollock
Chair, AFI Jury for Motion Pictures
Producer
AFI Board of Trustees
Jeanine Basinger
Wesleyan University
AFI Board of Trustees
Bob Gazzale
American Film Institute
Mark Harris
Historian
Marshall Herskovitz
Producer/Director/Screenwriter
AFI Board of Trustees
Patty Jenkins
Director/Screenwriter
Lisa Kennedy
Denver Post
Kasi Lemmons
Director/Actor
Matthew Libatique
Cinematographer
Akira Mizuta Lippit
University of Southern California
Leonard Maltin
Historian
Claudia Puig
USA Today
Peter Travers
Rolling Stone Magazine
AFI JURY FOR TELEVISION Richard Frank
Chair, AFI Jury for Television
Producer
AFI Board of Trustees
Anne Garefino
Producer
Bob Gazzale
American Film Institute
Vince Gilligan
Producer/Director/Screenwriter
L.S. Kim
University of California, Santa Cruz
James Poniewozik
TIME
Phylicia Rashad
Actor
Matt Roush
TV Guide
Maureen Ryan
The Huffington Post
Ellen Seiter
University of Southern California
Chris Silbermann
ICM Partners
AFI Board of Trustees
Robert Thompson
Syracuse University
Michael Wright
DreamWorks Studios
AFI Board of Trustees












‘Boyhood,’ ‘Birdman,’ ‘Unbroken’ and ‘Selma’ Make AFI's Top 11 List



For the first time, AFI expands its Top 10 list by one.

Richard Linklater‘s “Boyhood,” Alejandro Inarritu's “Birdman,” Ava DuVernay's “Selma” and Angelina Jolie‘s “Unbroken” are among the best films of the 2014, the American Film Institute announced on Monday, as it expanded its usual Top 10 list to 11.

Other films on the list, which was selected by a jury chaired by former Universal chairman Tom Pollock, included Clint Eastwood‘s “American Sniper,” Bennett Miller's “Foxcatcher,” Morten Tyldum's “The Imitation Game,” Christopher Nolan‘s “Interstellar” and Damien Chazelle's “Whiplash.”

Two of the most surprising inclusions on the list, which ended with 11 films despite a process that included tiebreakers, were the Rob Marshall musical “Into the Woods” and Dan Gilroy's dark “Nightcrawler.”

“The Theory of Everything” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” were missing from the list but expected to contend for Oscar nominations. Also left off were “Wild,” “Inherent Vice” and the National Board of Review's top film of the year, “A Most Violent Year.”

Last year, seven of the nine Oscar Best Picture nominees, including winner “12 Years a Slave,” made the AFI list. Only “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Philomena” were nominated for the top Oscar after having been left off the AFI Top 10.

Since the Academy expanded its Best Picture category in 2009, 36 of the 47 Oscar nominees have first appeared on the AFI list.

On the television side, a jury chaired by former Walt Disney Television chairman Rich Frank went with a slate that included “How to Get Away With Murder,” “Jane the Virgin,” “Orange Is the New Black” and “Transparent.”

The TV list also included “The Americans,” “Fargo,” “Game of Thrones,” “The Knick,” “Mad Men” and “Silicon Valley.”

This year's jurors included Vince Gilligan, Marshall Herskovitz, Patty Jenkins, and Matthew Libatique, along with film and television scholars and critics.

The honorees will be saluted at a private luncheon in Los Angeles on Jan. 9.

The lists:

AFI MOVIES OF THE YEAR
“American Sniper”
“Birdman (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
“Boyhood”
“Foxcatcher”
“The Imitation Game”
“Interstellar”
“Into the Woods”
“Nightcrawler”
“Selma”
“Unbroken”
“Whiplash”
AFI TV PROGRAMS OF THE YEAR
“The Americans”
“Fargo”
“Game of Thrones”
“How to Get Away With Murder”
“Jane the Virgin”
“The Knick”
“Mad Men”
“Orange Is the New Black”
“Silicon Valley”
“Transparent”





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