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Eugene Hernandez: Building Buzz

Indiewire By Eugene Hernandez | Indiewire November 9, 2009 at 1:55AM

New York, NY, November 9, 2009 -- "Precoius" v. "Up in the Air"? That was the case on Thursday night in Manhattan as the two expected Oscar contenders hosted competing events in New York City.
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New York, NY, November 9, 2009 -- "Precoius" v. "Up in the Air"? That was the case on Thursday night in Manhattan as the two expected Oscar contenders hosted competing events in New York City.

Colin Powell caused a stir as he mingled inside Soho's new Crosby Street Hotel during the party for "Precious." Across the room, Quincy Jones held court for awhile before the two joined forces for a power chat and then left together. The Cinema Society's Andrew Saffir, who hosted the bash with Tommy Hilfiger, beamed inside the intimate gathering as a tuxedoed Powell gladhanded the film's producers. Nearby, I ran into film star Gabby Sibide who recounted her recent morning show dance with Ellen Degeneres, while friends and new fans sipped 1800 Tequila.

With ten films set to score best picture Oscar nominations in early February, marketers are increasingly angling for attention. It's been a busy few days on the Manhattan cocktail party circuit and Thursday night offered a preview of two emerging awards season frontrunners.

The gathering for Lionsgate's "Precious," on the eve of its spectacular opening weekend at the box office, capped a steady stream of pre-release attention for the multiple Sundance award winner. As the "Precious" folks partied downtown, an equally likely Oscar contender was in the spotlight uptown. A modest cab ride away, at Rouge Tomate on the Upper East Side, hostess Peggy Siegal grabbed my arm. "Have you met Ivan Reitman,?" she asked me. Before I knew it, I was at Reitman's table and he was on his feet, gushing proudly about the chance to work so closely with his son, Jason.

"Bad Lieutenant" co-star Eva Mendes last night in Manhattan. Photo by Dave Allocca.

The younger Reitman praised his dad prior to the Paris Theater screening of the film, hosted by Travel + Leisure Magazine's Nancy Novogrod. A hit in Telluride and Toronto, the film is just into its buzz run and its team made the rounds in Manhattan last week to stoke awareness ahead of an early December Paramount release.


And so goes awards season.

Joining the Reitman and Daniels films atop the first edition of Movie City News' weekly Gurus o' Gold list of best picture contenders last week were nine other films: this summer's "The Hurt Locker," the unseen "Invictus," Sundance hit "An Education," crowd pleaser "Up," the also unseen "Nine " and "The Lovely Bones," Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds," the Coen's "A Serious Man," and James Cameron's anticipated "Avatar."

Striking, of course, is the fact that even though Oscar will embrace more movies, there are in fact fewer films coming from Hollywood's studio specialty divisions this year. Well, there are also fewer specialty divisions this year.

Maybe it's just me, but doesn't it feel like the holiday movie season is marked by fewer anticipated entries. Personally speaking, I'm curious to take a peak at Wes Anderson's "Fantastic Mr. Fox" this week and have hopes for Rob Marshall's "9." But, there aren't many higher profile American films on tap through the end of the year. Recent seasons saw films including "Brokeback Mountain," "Capote," "No Country for Old Men," "There Will Be Blood," "Juno," "The Queen," "Doubt," and others jockeying for attention and driving up marketing budgets. Not this year.

Ben Foster smooches his "Messenger" co-star Woody Harrelson at a party for the film last night. Photo by Dave Allocca.

Perhaps more than ever, indie underdogs are eyeing slots on the Oscar roster. "Me and Orson Welles," "The Road" and "The Private Lives of Pippa Lee" will stir a bit of buzz in the coming weeks, while the typically bountiful December doesn't have a lot to offer this year. Tom Ford's "A Single Man," which I liked, is getting a quick turnaround after generating heat in Venice and Toronto, while the aforementioned, unseen Eastwood, Jackson and Cameron films will hit before the end of the year. It's no surprise that Fox Searchlight, which seemed to be essentially sitting out awards season, locked in Scott Cooper's "Crazy Heart" for a last minute December slot, hoping to get some awards season action for Jeff Bridges and others.

Last night, at parties right around the corner from each other, a pair indie titles sought some attention, Werner Herzog's "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" and Oren Moverman's "The Messenger."

At Avenue, as guests nibbled parmesean truffle waffle fries and Kobe beef skewers, "Lieutenant" producer Ed Pressman and co-star Eva Mendes, squired by Siegal, chatted up attendees. Curious tidbit: the film is being submitted in the comedy category at the Golden Globes to match Nicolas Cage's outrageous performance that's been frequently (and quite accurately) described as "unhinged."

"Bad Lieutentant" producer Ed Pressman with producers Gabe Polsky (left) and Alan Polsky (right). Photo by Dave Allocca

Meanwhile, at adjacent 1 Oak, Beastie Boy Adam Yauch and his Oscilloscope Laboratories showcased their own "Messenger." Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster drew crowds at the bash.

"Indie Film Shakeout: There Will Be Blood," read the headline this weekend in Time Magazine, in the latest gloom and doom article about specialty and indie film sector. The piece had cocktail party attendees buzzing last night, wondering what sort of recovery is likely for this business.

Even so, a leading producer told me last night, maybe the recent success of "Paranormal Activity" and this weekend's huge opening for "Precious" will give buyers and sellers a recent success story to point to.

A glimmer of Hope?

Eugene Hernandez is the Editor-in-Chief & Co-Founder of indieWIRE and can be reached on his blog, through Facebook or via Twitter: @eug.

PREVIOUS WEEKLY COLUMNS:
11.02.09: I want it like I wrote it. | 10.26.09: “Precious,” $1 Million or $100 Million? | 10.12.09: Critics (still) Matter | 10.05.09: Is There a Doctor in the House? | 09.28.09: The Indie Summit | 09.21.09: The Oscar Marathon | 09.14.09: DIY v. DIWO | 09.08.09: SPC v. IFC | 08.30.09: Saving Cinema | 08.23.09: Nadie Sabe Nada | 08.16.09: Movies, Now More Than Ever | 08.09.09: It Came From The 80s

This article is related to: Features, First Person