Monday, January 31, 2011

Lowell goes Hollywood at 17th Annual SAG Awards:

Lowell legend Dicky Eklund and Christian Bale 
at the 17th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

By Nicole Sperling 

LOS ANGELES — In the span of about two weeks, "The King’s Speech" has gone from Oscar underdog to front-runner.
The other big winner of the night was "The Fighter," with Christian Bale and Melissa Leo taking home acting prizes for their supporting roles in the boxing drama. The cast was particularly celebratory since both Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund — the real men on whom the film is based — were in the audience to root on their newfound Hollywood friends.
Bale was joined on stage briefly by Eklund, who throughout the ceremony cheered loudly whenever "The Fighter" was mentioned. "Thank you for living the life and thank you for letting me play you," Bale said to Eklund upon accepting his statue. He added, "It’s so silly what we do, sometimes it’s like playing dress-up. Other times it’s so meaningful."
Leo continued the awards romp that began for her and Bale at the Golden Globes, this time giving a shout-out to the six women who accompanied her to the awards show — six of the seven actresses who played her colorful daughters in the movie. "Thanks for helping me get a man to take home tonight," she quipped in reference to her solid bronze statue.
Leo also got a bit political, likely surprising non-Hollywood viewers with her union shop talk. "Let’s join together," she said during her acceptance speech. "Let’s make it a real voice."
She was referring to a possible merger between the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. SAG represents 125,000 members, while AFTRA has 70,000. Many actors belong to both unions, and the two guilds conduct some joint bargaining. If the two unions were to unite, it’s unclear what next year’s awards might be called.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Boston's Improv Asylum goes out on "THE TOWN"


This satirical trailer by Boston's Improv Asylum is inspired by Ben Affleck's hit movie, THE TOWN. Filmed in Boston in 2009, THE TOWN is one of 3 Massachusetts-made films which collected a record 16 Academy Award Nominations this year. Improv Asylum is Boston's premiere improv and sketch comedy theater. Located in the heart of Boston's historic North End, they offer nine shows a week, Tuesday through Sunday.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Boston movies rake in Oscar nods

by Julie M. Donnelly   --January 26, 2011

 “The Social Network,” “The Town,” and “The Fighter” — all filmed in and around Boston — received a total of 16 Oscar nominations Tuesday. The nominations included Best Picture and Best Director nods, along with possible awards for actors Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Jesse Eisenberg and Jeremy Renner.

Massachusetts officials took it as an opportunity to tout the state’s film tax credit, which has recently come under fire after it was revealed that such funds paid movie stars’ salaries.

“These movies, filmed right here in Massachusetts, are a good reminder of how important the film tax credit has been to our state’s economy in these challenging times,” Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo said in a statement.

“As we strive to put folks across Massachusetts back to work, the film tax credit continues to stimulate local business and job growth throughout Massachusetts.”

Last March, lawmakers rejected efforts to scale down the size of the program.

A recent UMass-Boston study found that there has been approximately $247 million in non-wage film production spending since 2006.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Poll: Do today's Oscar nominations vindicate the state's film credits?

Posted by Alan Wirzbicki
January 25, 2011

Today's Academy Award nominations yielded a bumper crop for the Bay State, with two movies set in Massachusetts, "The Social Network" and "The Fighter," winning best picture nominations.

But as Ty Burr and Wesley Morris write, the good news comes even as questions have been raised about the future of the tax credit that has made Massachusetts a favorite destination for filmmakers.

Opponents of the tax break say it doesn't yield enough jobs to justify the cost, and claimed vindication after a report earlier this month said the credit created only 222 Massachusetts jobs in 2009, at a cost to taxpayers of $325,000 per job.

But the backers of the credit, including former state film office head Nick Paleologos, say the numbers are better than the state report indicates, and that positive publicity like today's Oscar nominations provide a much-needed boost to the state's image and economy.

Do you support offering tax breaks to lure filmmakers to Massachusetts?

Yes: 96%

No: 4%
2,002 TOTAL VOTES as of 3:45pm on Feb 1, 2011.
Cast your vote here.


eslt wrote: Only 222 jobs created in MA as a result of the Film Tax Credit in 2009? 300 local jobs were created on The Town alone. And that was one of at minimum 8 major film productions during 2009 alone. Did the "report" also indicate that for every two film related jobs created; another was created as a result of filming outside of the film industry. Doubt it. But, it did.    1/25/2011 10:38 PM EST

Viggen wrote: 222 jobs?! The authors of that report must have cherry-picked the available information. SAG stats gave a much more favorable report. Now allowing for a) it's SAG and b) I'm a member, none of that was a factor for the UMass report which put the positive income to the state and to the people who were behind the camera, in front of the camera and supporting all of us who live here in the millions of dollars. . . 222 jobs, please! That's the number of people who could be working just one film.
1/25/2011 10:42 PM EST

rockyjoedog wrote: I must question anyone who puts forth a number such as "222 jobs", unless they are allies of deposed Rep. D'Amico, who had a vendetta against both the Film Production Tax Credit program, and the local film industry as well. Did the commenter work on any of the films shot here in 2009? I did, and looking in any direction, one could easily count over 222 people on any given day. And that's not counting the people who work behind the scenes on a production. The 'lateral' spending, in addition to salaries, that accompanies a film production, e.g., hotels, car rentals, lumber, supplies, location procurement, police and fire details, transportation, et al, is profound. We should be praising local-based people like Mark Wahlberg, Ben Affleck, and others, who brought three major productions to the state in 2009, that gave so many people, much-needed work, with good pay. As an actor, who earned his SAG card working on Martin Scorcese's, "Shutter Island", and who worked on "The Fighter", "The Company Men", and "The Town", I can attest to the benefits to the state and it's workers. It made the difference for me to afford my health insurance payments, which have skyrocketed under Romneycare. Why do people campaign against giving people work? Is it ignorance, jealousy, or misinformation? BTW, Bravo to Mark Walhberg,Melissa Leo, and Amy Adams! Thanks! 1/26/2011 4:45 AM EST

snoutfair wrote: I agree with the previous posters. There is no way that only 222 jobs were created. I have been out of the film industry for 10 years and it was so busy that I received multiple calls asking if I could come to work on films in 2009. But even if we accept those numbers at face value, that's a tax rebate on 72 million dollars spent by film companies on goods and services in MA. That doesn't take into account the dollars spent by Hollywood crews at local restaurants and shops during their visit here or the wages spent by local workers on everyday living expenses. Maybe this is one of the reasons that MA hasn't been hit as hard by the recession as some states. The tax credit is good for our state.
1/26/2011 6:49 AM EST

bdwiggity wrote: "the good news comes even as questions have been raised about the future of the tax credit that has made Massachusetts a favorite destination for filmmakers." What is that about? The doubt of the film tax credits always stems from some loud mouth who demands their villainous attempts to sabotage the film tax incentive get published and then all of a sudden there is a stir in the State House which results in a big showing of support for the incentive. Unfortunately, that possibility ends up scaring away all the movies that were planning on coming to town. That's what happened last year: there were at LEAST two movies that had planned on coming to MA that ended up going to Georgia and Michigan where the incentives were secure.

I read the report. I work in the industry and I absolutely rely on these incentives. 222 jobs is not what this about, though. While there may have only been 222 full time jobs created, there were probably several thousand temporary jobs (between all the movies) created. That includes police detail, security, extras, drivers, day-players for crew, etc. The most infuriating part is that THESE WOULD NOT BE TEMPORARY JOBS IF THE INCENTIVE WASN'T THREATENED. Producers love to shoot in Boston/MA because there is a solid work force, versatile neighborhoods, good hotels and restaurants, i.e. infrastructure and so on. (As a comparison, Alaska just passed a film tax incentive but it is in jeopardy because the lack of infrastructure and crew).

Also talk to the hotels, car services, restaurants, coffee shops, caterers, hardware stores, lumber yards, churches, equipment rentals, blah blah blah. Every day we shoot in town, you can bet that almost every department will send someone to go buy a round of coffees...on one of the pilots ,my department (Set Lighting) alone spent between 30-50 every day on coffees, soup, milkshakes, or some other mid-morning snack. We would not have been in that neighborhood otherwise. AND WE WERE ALL LOCAL!

Any doubt the incentive works is stupid and slanderous. The report also shows all the good things that it does, why don't we ever hear about that?  1/26/2011 8:18 AM EST

Mondy wrote: Very misleading headline. Could you at least phrase the question properly? Whether I support the tax break or not (I do) is a separate question from whether the Oscar noms justify the credit (IMHO They don't). 1/26/2011 8:45 AM EST

gd0073 wrote: In addition to the $$$ being spent here, it’s amazing that the policy makers miss the key point that this is a lead-in to get the infrastructure built for a permanent industry and jobs. Tie-ins to the high tech industry could also grow out of this with the burgeoning digitalization of film, TV and media in general (a lot developed here in Mass. but leave the state). Mass. Is losing the media (and social network) race to New York and Silicon Valley. There are so many industry multipliers tied to the film tax credit that people are missing!  1/26/2011  1:23 PM EST

hglucky wrote: When movies are made in Massachusetts it puts to work local film crews, employs construction, skilled laborers, artists, crafts people ... They spend money on shooting locations, local hotels, restaurants, retail stores, police detail. Attracts tourism... I can go on. Much of the way Hollywood films made here help Massachusetts and the local economy cannot be tabulated. But ask any of the above if they have missed movie activity in Massachusetts and they will all say "Yes."  1/27/2011 11:46 AM EST

johnsmithee wroteThe uproar over this issue is full of half truths brought to you often by people from other states who have seen their film industry and related earnings decrease due to Massachusetts' incentive program (the much-talked about study about 18 months ago was funded by proponents of the NY State film incentive program). 

The basic facts are that this is a fairly clean industry which does not build or impose on any community (with the serious exception of some increased traffic and minor road closures when shooting in a particular neighborhood).

Each production collects a REBATE which is based on the money that is spent in the state. This is in no way a give away of state money or any kind of up front payment to incent companies to come here.

Many workers who do not have freelance jobs dont understand this simple fact-we pay taxes in each state in which we work. That means a RI or NH film worker is paying MA state taxes. And a Los Angeles-based actor also must file and pay MA state taxes on his or her wages.

Studies can be tailored to a particular conclusion. But what can not be argued is that there would be no payments or rebates if 75% more money wasn't coming in.  
1/27/2011  12:19 PM EST

Stars excited to be in Oscar running:

By Mark Shanahan & Meredith Goldstein

Dicky Eklund’s last stop yesterday was Sully’s Tuxedos in Lowell. “The Fighter’’ had received an impressive seven Oscar nominations, and Eklund was thinking about what he might wear when Hollywood hands out the hardware Feb. 27.

 “I gotta get fitted,’’ said Eklund, who’s come a long way from the crack-addled character played in the movie by Christian Bale. “Years ago, it looked like this movie wouldn’t happen. We’d get excited, it would fall apart, we’d get excited, it would fall apart again. Finally, Mark Wahlberg got it made. So, yeah, I’m pretty happy.’’

“The Fighter’’ isn’t the only film in this year’s crop of Oscar nominees with ties to Boston. “The Social Network’’ — director David Fincher’s film about Facebook founder (and former Harvard student) Mark Zuckerberg — received eight nominations, and Ben Affleck’s Charlestown-based drama “The Town’’ received one.

People involved with the three films — all of which were at least partially shot here — said the nominations are well deserved.

“It’s amazing,’’ said author Ben Mezrich, whose book, “The Accidental Billionaires,’’ is the basis of Aaron Sorkin’s Oscar-nominated screenplay for “The Social Network.’’

“When I first pitched the story of writing about Facebook, (producer) Dana Brunetti told me it would make a good book, but he didn’t see a movie in it.’’

Because Harvard wouldn’t give producers permission to shoot on campus, Fincher shot some scenes at Boston University, Tufts, Wheelock, and elsewhere in Cambridge. (The movie opens with a scene at the Somerville pub the Thirsty Scholar.) The filmmakers also didn’t have the benefit of Zuckerberg’s participation. “He said, ‘Make it not take place at Harvard and don’t call it Facebook,’ ’’ Sorkin told the Globe last fall. “We weren’t going to make a movie called Headbook that would take place at Har-fard.’’

Although actor Jeremy Renner is nominated for best supporting actor for his role as a bank robber in “The Town,’’ the film costarring Affleck, Jon Hamm, and Rebbeca Hall was otherwise snubbed, which surprised and disappointed many observers. That includes Canton author Chuck Hogan , who wrote the book, “Prince of Thieves,’’ on which the film is based.

“The movie exceeded my expectations in every way,’’ said Hogan. “But, honestly, as a former video store clerk, it was really exciting just to have a horse in the big race and to watch the nominations be announced.’’

And that’s half the fun. Yesterday, Erica McDermott , a 36-year-old stay-at-home mom from Scituate who plays one of Micky Ward’s seven sisters in “The Fighter,’’ watched the nominations at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. She was joined by actress Melissa McMeekin, who plays “Little’’ Alice Eklund, another of Ward’s sisters, and actor F. Murray Abraham, an Academy Award winner in 1984 for “Amadeus.’’ (The coffee klatch was intended to promote Boston’s Oscar night party hosted by the Ellie Fund.)

“I’m out of my mind about the nominations,’’ said McDermott, who plays Cindy “Tar’’ Eklund in the film. “The chemistry between the major actors was magical and David O. Russell was able to get the best out of us.’’

McMeekin said she’s relishing the ride, which continues this weekend with a trip to Los Angeles to attend Sunday’s Screen Actors Guild Awards. (Six of the seven actresses who play the Ward sisters will be there; the seventh, Jill Quigg, who pleaded guilty in November to stealing a television and computer, will not be.)

Reaction to “The Fighter’’ has been mixed within the Ward family. At least a few of the sisters, as well as the boxer’s 80-year-old mother, Alice, object to their portrayal as sometimes violent, tart-tongued women.

“It is what it is. There’s a lot of creativity in the movie,’’ said Dicky. “The family, they’re not too excited about their parts, but I think (David O.) Russell did an excellent job given the time he had and everything he had to get in.’’

A few weeks ago, Alice Ward, who suffers from emphysema, went into cardiac arrest and had to be revived by doctors at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She remains hospitalized. Yesterday, Micky took a break from training boxers at Gold’s Gym in Chelmsford and talked about his mother.

“She’s hanging in there,’’ he said. “She’s the fighter of the family.’’

Melissa Leo, whose performance as Alice Ward earned an Oscar nomination, said she plans to invite the matriarch to the Academy Awards.

“I’m inviting her to sit with me, but I don’t know if she’ll be well enough to come,’’ said Leo. “Maybe I’ll sit with an empty chair.’’

This is Hollywood’s kind of ‘Town’

By Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa with Megan Johnson

The 16 Oscar nominations for three locally made flicks could be the last hurrah for made-in-Mass. movies.
The Academy Award bounty for Mark Wahlberg’s “The Fighter” and Harvard-to-Facebook tale “The Social Network” — and a Best Supporting Actor nod for Jeremy Renner, who played a bank-robbing Charlestown punk in Ben Affleck’s “The Town,” — comes at a time when the number of films shot in the Bay State is on the decline and Gov. Deval Patrick, who once proposed capping the state’s film tax credits, has seized control of the Mass. Film Office.
Patrick’s cap (which he’s since backed away from) was blamed for driving movie business out of state — 153 films were shot here in 2008 but only 86 in 2009. Still, state officials put on a happy face yesterday.
“These nominations highlight Massachusetts’ talented film workforce and great environment for creating Hollywood magic,” Betsy Wall, the executive director of the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, said in a statement.
Ben Mezrich, the Harvard alum whose book proposal was the basis for “The Social Network,” said he hopes the Oscar nods remind Hollywood that the Bay State still is a great place to make movies.
“There are great stories here waiting to be told,” he said. “Massachusetts is a fertile ground for stories, like mine, about young people doing impressive, crazy things. I hope the community realizes that Boston is an amazing place to film.”
“The Social Network” had been considered the frontrunner for Best Picture until “The King’s Speech” grabbed 12 nominations yesterday.
“I hope we win it,’’ Mezrich told the Track. “We deserve it because Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher were an incredible pairing. If we don’t, I think we will have been robbed.’’
Mezrich said he and wife, Tonya, plan to head out to Hollywood to do the party and interview circuit for the Big Night. And don’t be surprised to see him on stage if “The Social Network’’ wins Best Picture.
“I was on stage at the Golden Globes and it was amazing,’’ he said, adding that he was producer Kevin Spacey’s “plus one’’ for the Hollywood Foreign Press party where the Facebook flick won Best Picture.
While “Network” is expected to battle it out with “The King’s Speech’ for Best Pic, “The Fighter” is a longshot. But locals say — you guessed it — it’s an honor just to be nominated.
“I was shocked that we got seven nominations,” ex-boxer Micky Ward, aka “The Fighter” told the Track. “But I was really disappointed that Mark didn’t get a Best Actor nomination, I guess my character wasn’t flashy enough. But I’m really happy for Christian Bale because he played my brother like no one else can.”
Bale, who channeled Ward’s crack-addled trainer/bro Dicky Eklund, and Melissa Leo, who played Micky’s manager/mom Alice, are the odds-on faves for Supporting Actor trophies.
“Every nomination is a nomination for Mark Wahlberg,’’ Leo said yesterday on “Good Morning America’’ after the early-morning announcements. Melissa also gave a shout-out to Alice Ward, who is recuperating from a heart attack.
“We’re going to the Oscars, Alice!’’
Local actresses Erica McDermott and Melissa McMeekin, who played two of Micky’s big-haired, tough-talking sisters, cheered on “The Fighter’’ at a breakfast viewing party at the Mandarin Oriental hosted by The Ellie Fund.
“I want (the movie) to win for Mark Wahlberg,’’ said McDermott, who played Ward’s half-sis Cindy “Tar’’ Eklund. “He put so much into it.’’
Ward, McDermott and McMeekin, BTW, will make their way out to La-La for Sunday’s Screen Actors Guild Awards where the cast is up for Best Ensemble.
Another local — Keith Dorrington, who wrote the original story that “The Fighter” is based upon — was honored in the Best Adapted Screenplay category.
“It’s hard to put into words how gratified I am with the Oscar nominations for ‘The Fighter,’ ” he e-mailed the Track. “From 1999, when I started to film Micky and Dicky to now, has been a long and sometimes difficult road and (the) news makes it all worth it. I am thrilled for everyone involved — the cast and crew and most of all Micky and Dicky.”
Dorrington said the Oscar nominations are “a great shot in the arm for Massachusetts film-making.”
“With budgets being cut and tax credits being put at risk, the success of ‘The Fighter’ shows how much local film-making can mean to the local economy,” he said.
Other nominees with local ties include Debra Granik, a 1985 Brandeis alum and the director and screenwriter of the art-house sensation “Winter’s Bone.” Her film was nominated for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress Jennifer Lawrence and Best Supporting Actor John Hawkes. And Newton homegal Sara Neeson will compete in the Documentary Short Subject category for her film, “Poster Girl,” about an Army Magazine covergal Robynn Murray who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder following her return from Iraq.
File Under: And The Oscar Goes To....

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Massachusetts has 16 Oscar nominations -- second only to California

Oscar acquires a Boston accent

"The story around here is the deserved largesse the Academy has bestowed on the local screen scene. For area moviegoers, the sheer preponderance of nominated actors, films, and behind-the-camera talent with local connections stands as a major source of pride. This says nothing of "SHUTTER ISLAND, THE COMPANY MEN and THE TOWN, movies the Academy largely overlooked. The volume and quality of films also confirms the state's hard-won beachhead in the film industry."

by Ty Burr and Wesley Morris
Boston Globe

Hollywood tilted significantly and decisively to the northeast this morning. Nominations for the 83rd annual Academy Awards were announced, and movies set in Boston and its environs, featuring actors either from Massachusetts or playing local natives, represented a historically high percent of the total.

Two Bay State dramas were nominated for the best picture Oscar. "The Social Network," a portrait of Harvard social life and anti-social entrepreneurs, received eight nominations, and "The Fighter," which memorializes the city of Lowell and one of its own, the boxer Micky Ward, has seven.

Oscar's acting categories also reflected local color.

Jesse Eisenberg was nominated for best actor for his work as the affluent Harvard student and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Supporting-actor nominations went to two men for films with area ties: Jeremy Renner for his role as an amoral Charlestown thug in "The Town," and Christian Bale, who stole "The Fighter" from Mark Wahlberg, playing Micky Ward's crack-addicted brother Dicky Eklund. Wahlberg's performance, which is widely seen as passive in relation to the flashier work of his costars, was omitted from the best-actor list. But his persistence got "The Fighter" made.

In the supporting actress category, Melissa Leo and Amy Adams, respectively playing Ward's mother and girlfriend in "The Fighter," were nominated. When all the nominations are taken into account, New England figures significantly in the overall total -- a startling comeback for a state whose film industry was moribund a decade ago. 

For area moviegoers, the sheer preponderance of nominated actors, films, and behind-the-camera talent with local connections stands as a major source of pride, evidence that the area has stories to tell that the world wants to see. This says nothing of "Shutter Island," "Conviction," "The Company Men," and "The Town," movies the Academy largely overlooked. The volume and quality of films also confirms the state's hard-won beachhead in the film industry, at a time, ironically, when those gains may be threatened: Recent weeks have seen the Patrick administration oust state film head Nick Paleologos and merge his office into the polyglot new Massachusetts Marketing Partnership. How the business of wooing filmmakers here will change is unknown.

It should be noted that other films made outside the area were nominated as well. The King's Speech, a period drama about a stuttering George VI and his speech therapist, received 12 Academy Award nominations. The popular revenge western True Grit received 10. And the ambitious smash-hit caper thriller "Inception" had eight. In its second year fielding an expanded list of 10 best-picture candidates, since it stopped doing so in 1944, the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences nominated an impressive array of films, from earnest family comedy and animated sequels to ambitious summer entertainment and enjoyably sleazy trash. 

The field includes "127 Hours," about a hiker whose arm is pinned by a boulder (six); Pixar's animated hit "Toy Story 3" (five); the ballet-world psychological-thriller "Black Swan" (five); the au courant social comedy "The Kids Are All Right," about a Los Angeles lesbian couple coping with the appearance of their teenagers' sperm-donor father (four); and "Winter's Bone," a little-seen independent drama, in which a tough young Ozarks woman (Jennifer Lawrence) scours the backwoods for her deadbeat dad.

Lawrence, a 20-year old, received her first Oscar nomination for best actress. Until "Winter's Bone," her biggest par was as a regular on the comedian Bill Engvall's now-cancelled TBS sitcom.

Her fellow nominees have all been nominated before. They are: Annette Bening for her role as an uptight doctor in "The Kids Are All Right"; Nicole Kidman, who plays a vividly grieving mother in "Rabbit Hole"; Natalie Portman for her work, in "Black Swan," as a dancer undergoing a physical and psychological tranformation;  and Michelle Williams as a miserably married wife in "Blue Valentine."

The best-actor race includes Javier Bardem, in a minor surprise, for his role as a psychic networker in "Biutiful"; Jeff Bridges as a rarely sober U.S. Marshal in "True Grit"; Jesse Eisenberg as a cutting, deadly serious college student in "The Social Network"; Colin Firth as a frustrated, tongue-tied royal in "The King's Speech"; and the Oscar broadcast's co-host, James Franco, as an imperiled hiker in "127 Hours."

Joining Christian Bale and Jeremy Renner in the supporting actor contest are: John Hawkes for his role as an intimidating crystal-meth addict in "Winter's Bone; Mark Ruffalo as the feckless sperm donor in "The Kids Are All Right"; and Geoffrey Rush as an unorthodox elocution teacher in "The King's Speech."

In addition to Amy Adams and Melissa Leo, the nominees for supporting actress includes Helena Bonham Carter as the king-to-be's tepid wife in "The King's Speech," Hailee Steinfeld as a sharp young woman bent on catcher the man who killed her father in "True Grit," and Jacki Weaver as a mother forced to do unsavory business for her criminal sons in "Animal Kingdom."  

This years's directing nominees reflect the coming of age of a group of men whose work has been on the cutting edge of commercial cinema for years: David Fincher ("The Social Network"), Darren Aronofsky ("Black Swan"), and David O. Russell ("The Fighter"). Only Fincher has been nominated in the directing category before; their appearance together represents an unmistakable generational change. They're joined by Joel and Ethan Coen ("True Grit"), whose work, in general, is by no means conventional and Tom Hooper, whose work in "The King's Speech," by every means is.

"Toy Story 3" will compete in the best animated feature category with the springtime hit "How to Train Your Dragon," and "The Illusionist," a delicate French comedy based on a script idea by the comic genius Jacques Tati, who died in 1982.

For all the variety in this year's nominees, there appear to be a number of sure bets. Firth stands poised to collect a best actor Oscar for "The King's Speech" in part on the momentum of last year's "A Single Man," for which he was nominated but did not win. Barring a Portman upset, Bening is on track for her first Oscar, a best actress award for "The Kids Are All Right." And Bale's performance has won him almost every pre-Oscar acting prize there is, making him close-to-certain victor in his category.

"The Social Network" and "The King's Speech" are considered the films to beat for the best picture of 2010. The two represent strikingly different schools of moviemaking. The latter film is a crowd-pleasing historical drama in the classic Miramax mode (that studio's ex-head, Harvey Weinstein, executive-produced the film for the Weinstein Company). The former is an up-to-the-minute tale of online success and offline betrayal, heavily and shewdly marketed by Sony Pictures, and delivered at a breathless pace. In a sense, boiling the ten films down these two represents a kind of David-and-Goliath, as much as Weinstein can still be considered a David in Hollywood. 

Alternatively, this year the truly tiny independent distributor, Roadside Attractions, founded and run by a pair of Boston natives, picked up "Winter's Bone" and kept it in theaters for months. The studio is also releasing Alejandro González Iñárritu's "Biutiful," which opens Friday in Boston and, in addition to Bardem's nomination, is up for the foreign-language Oscar.  

Every year, the Academy manages to omit a few names and titles. This year's include: Bening's co-star, Julianne Moore, and Williams's co-star, Ryan Gosling. "The Town" was on many predictors' short-lists, but Renner represents the movie's sole nomination. And two best picture nominees were directed by women -- "The Kids Are All Right" (Lisa Cholodenko) and "Winter's Bone" (Debra Granik) -- but neither is a directing nominee. Both women are nominated for their screenplays, however. The Academy's directors branch also managed to again pass over Christopher Nolan. Two years ago it was for "The Dark Knight"; this year it ignored his work on "Inception," which was nothing if not directed. His script is nominated in the original screenplay category.

But the story around here is the deserved largesse the Academy has bestowed on the local screen scene. Has Massachusetts come of age as a center of film production and narrative or is this the peak? Given the iffy future -- tightened state budgets, a new film board minus its established guiding force, the potential for "Bahstan" fatigue among Hollywood filmmakers -- it's far too soon to say. For now, the area has 16 Oscar nominations -- second only to California -- and those other 48 states don't.

The 83rd Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, February 27.



Best Picture
Best Actor (Jesse Eisenberg)
Best Director (David Fincher)
Best Adapted Screenplay (Aaron Sorkin)
Best Original Score (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross)
Best Cinematography (Jeff Cronenweth)
Best Editing (Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter)
Best Sound Mixing (Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten)

Best Picture
Best Director (David O. Russell)
Best Supporting Actor (Christian Bale)
Best Supporting Actress (Amy Adams)
Best Supporting Actress (Melissa Leo)
Best Editing (Pamela Martin)
Best Original Screenplay (Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson; Story by Keith Dorington, 
Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson)

Best Supporting Actor (Jeremy Renner).