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Oscar Watch: Juno

Oscar Watch: Juno

Various Oscar prognosticators suggest that Juno is too much of a teen flick to play to senior Academy voters. Judging from how the pic performed at my class this week, which reps the older demo quite well, that will not be an issue. This movie will build into a huge hit across many demos. Imagine that I served up one serious fall film after another to the class, from Michael Clayton, Reservation Road, Slipstream, Grace is Gone, Lions for Lambs, and The Kite Runner to The Diving Bell and the Butterfly…and then they got Juno.

Well, I think the Academy will respond in a similar way. My class ate up Juno like it was strawberry ice cream. They laughed. They felt for the parents and sweet teen Ellen Page (who is actually 20), who tries to be grown-up about being pregnant but still has to accept that she’s just not prepared for parenthood. They ate up the two parents played by J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney. They adored boyfriend Michael Cera. And they applauded director Jason Reitman (Thank You for Smoking) and Minneapolis writer Diablo Cody when they walked in for their Q & A, dressed to the nines on the same night as their premiere.

Cody pointed out that contary to some reports, she never worked as a copywriter at an ad agency–she was just an assistant. “I got them coffee!” she protested. She admitted that she studied writing at the famed U of Iowa, but didn’t like it very much. She had never studied screenwriting in any way when she embarked on writing Juno, spurred on by manager Mason Novick, who loved her Pussyranch blog. She was never pregnant, she said, and made it all up. And she came up with the device of having the runners go by with each new season. Here’s Rachel Abramowitz’s profile in the LAT, Dave Carr in the NYT, and my own column way back when.

Reitman dropped the screenplay he was developing as soon as he read Cody’s script. He liked the way she confounds expectations–the yuppie couple turn out to be different than they seem at the beginning, the parents didn’t behave predictably either. He described the his “fantasy parents.”

Reitman wanted to hire Page after seeing her in the very dramatic and scary Hard Candy, but wasn’t sure if she could be funny. It turned out she could. Page came up with many of the film’s songs. Recognizing that they make a good team, Reitman has signed on to produce Cody’s next, Fox Atomic’s female horror pic Jennifer’s Body. (I see a trend: Teeth is a feminist horror flick, and here’s Ellen Page’s next.)

Juno got great reviews today, 92% fresh on rotten tomatoes.

At the LAT screening of the pic, Reitman and Cody were joined by Janney and Jason Bateman:

When asked about writing her first script, Diablo Cody replied, “I was totally green. I figured since the movie was only about 90 minutes that if it takes longer than 2 months to write, I’m just a douche.”

Jason Reitman let everyone know his favorite scene in the movie is the ultrasound scene and it was that scene that led him to direct the movie. He commented, “It was so heartbreakingly good I had to put my own screenplay down and try to get the job to direct Juno.”

When asked if he felt like the script was authentic and if he changed anything, Reitman said he kept wondering, “Where are the horny idiot boys like me?!”

[Telluride photo of Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody by Chris Willman]

[Originally appeared on Variety.com]

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