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‘Top Gun’ among blockbuster sequels targeting Oscar noms

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'Top Gun' among blockbuster sequels targeting Oscar noms

The Oscar nominations for a year in which the big-screen box office finally bounced back from the pandemic will be unveiled Tuesday, with Academy voters expected to reward blockbusters such as “Top Gun: Maverick” for helping to save movie theaters.

Tom Cruise’s long-awaited sequel to his huge 1986 hit is the most likely crowd-pleaser to make the cut for best picture — Hollywood’s most coveted prize — but other popular follow-ups including “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” could also get a nod.

They will compete with a wide range of movies, from word-of-mouth sci-fi smash “Everything Everywhere All At Once” to Steven Spielberg’s quasi-memoir “The Fabelmans,” which wowed many critics but didn’t persuade theatergoers to pay up.

Other films firmly on the radar of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voters are Irish black comedy “The Banshees of Inisherin,” Baz Luhrmann’s rock-and-roll biopic “Elvis,” and Cate Blanchett’s latest tour-de-force “Tar.”

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“This year is one of the more unknown years,” said Variety senior awards editor Clayton Davis.

“I probably have put more effort into talking to Academy members to try to gauge their interest and see where the race is headed than in any other year in my life,” he said.

“And I probably know the least I’ve ever known in my career.”

A major complicating factor for Oscars prognosticators is the recent massive growth in the number of international Academy voters.

Those members have been credited with surprises such as South Korea’s “Parasite” winning best picture in 2020, and Japan’s “Drive My Car” being nominated last year.

“We’ve had international features get in the past few years, and I think that streak could continue,” said Davis.

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Germany’s World War I drama “All Quiet on the Western Front” has built major momentum, scooping a massive 14 nods last week for Britain’s BAFTAs.

Another best picture contender could be “RRR,” an unapologetically over-the-top Indian action film that has built grassroots support to become a hugely popular favorite in Hollywood.

“RRR” cannot be nominated for best international feature, however, as India opted instead to submit “Last Film Show” as the country’s official pick for that category.

“No shade to the movie they did choose, which is actually very good, but ‘RRR’ was a slam dunk,” said Davis.

Acting races

In the individual categories, Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”), Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin”) and Austin Butler (“Elvis”) are clear favorites to score best actor nominations.

Double Oscar-winner Blanchett appears to be locked in a two-way battle atop the best actress section with Michelle Yeoh, who could make history with “Everything Everywhere.”

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“She’s going be the second Asian woman ever nominated for lead actress in 95 years” of the Oscars, said Davis.

Her co-star Ke Huy Quan — who appeared as a child in “Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom” almost four decades ago — is likely to cement a remarkable comeback with a nod for best supporting actor.

The best supporting actress category is expected to feature Angela Bassett, who would become the first star in a Marvel superhero movie to ever earn an Oscar acting nomination with “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”

Spielberg is among those predicted to make the best director shortlist.

‘Saved movies’

Actors Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”) and Allison Williams (“Girls”) will unveil the nominations Tuesday from Los Angeles starting at 1330 GMT.

Television ratings for award shows including the Oscars have trended downwards, as Academy voters in recent years have veered toward honoring lesser-known indie hits like “Nomadland” and “CODA.”

Many in the industry will be hoping for a healthy spread of nominations among 2022’s crowd-pleasing sequels, which were sorely needed as giants such as Cineworld, the world’s second biggest cinema chain, filed for bankruptcy protection.

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James Cameron’s sci-fi epic “Avatar: The Way of Water” sailed past the $2 billion mark globally last weekend.

“Top Gun: Maverick,” which came out in May during highly uncertain times for movie theaters, earned around $1.5 billion.

“That’s the one that feels like it could actually win best picture,” said Davis.

“What better story the day after the Oscars air, than that the movie that saved movies was named the best movie? That’s a good story to tell.”

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Jailed Iran filmmaker Jafar Panahi says on hunger strike

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Jailed Iran filmmaker Jafar Panahi says on hunger strike

Acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who has been jailed for the last six months, said he has begun a hunger strike to protest his continued detention, according to a statement published by his wife Thursday.

Panahi, whose films have won prizes at all of Europe’s main film festivals, was arrested in July even before the current wave of protests that have shaken the regime started in September.

There were expectations last month that the judiciary could order his release, but he remains behind bars in Tehran’s Evin prison.

He started his dry hunger strike, refusing food and water, from Wednesday, he said in the statement.

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“Today, like many people trapped in Iran, I have no choice but to protest against this inhumane behaviour with my dearest possession — my life,” said Panahi.

“In protest against the illegal and inhumane behaviour of the judicial and security apparatus and this hostage-taking, I have started a dry hunger strike as of February 1. I will refuse to eat and drink any food and medicine until the time of my release.

“I will remain in this state until perhaps my lifeless body is freed from prison.”

Panahi, 62, was arrested on July 11 and had been due to serve a six-year sentence handed down in 2010 after his conviction for “propaganda against the system”.

But on October 15, the Supreme Court quashed the conviction and ordered a retrial, raising hopes among his legal team he could be released.

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Panahi won a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2000 for his film “The Circle”. In 2015, he won the Golden Bear at Berlin for “Taxi Tehran”, and in 2018, he won the best screenplay prize at Cannes for “Three Faces”.

Panahi’s July arrest came after he attended a court hearing for fellow film director Mohammad Rasoulof, who had been detained a few days earlier.

Rasoulof was released from prison on January 7 after being granted a two-week furlough for health reasons and is still believed to be outside of jail.

Cinema figures have been among the thousands of people arrested by Iran in its crackdown on the protests sparked by the September 16 death in custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been arrested for allegedly violating its strict dress code for women.

Star actor Taraneh Alidoosti, who had published images of herself without wearing the Islamic headscarf, was among those detained although she was released in early January after being held for almost three weeks. 

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Shekhar Kapur all praise for Sajal Aly

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Shekhar Kapur all praise for Sajal Aly

Indian filmmaker Shekar Kapur sees Pakistan actor Sajal Aly “more than a petty face” as he praised the star for her acting skills.

The highly anticipated international debut film, “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”, featuring Aly, is soon to be released globally. During promotions, the film’s director, Shekar Kapur, praised Sajal’s performance and shared that she was highly recommended to him by her peers.

Kapur stated that Sajal’s beauty on screen is accompanied by her depth and maturity as an actress. “She is obviously very beautiful. Whenever she comes on screen, she has that aura. During screenings, I always heard someone gasping,” he said mimicking a surprised emotion. “So there’s no doubt that she’s beautiful, but behind that beauty, her performances have a lot of pain and strength as well.”

He advised Sajal to not confuse her character’s shyness and gentleness with weakness, and expressed his pride in the strength she portrayed in the film.

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“When we spoke about her character initially, I told her that you do not have to be perceived as weak. You’re gentle, you are shy and you have to portray that but gentleness and shyness are not the same as weakness. What you have to portray is strength. And now when you watch the film, you’ll realise the kind of strength she portrays,” he said.

The film, a romantic comedy-drama, also stars a talented cast including Lily James, Shazad Latif, and Emma Thompson, among others, with a cameo appearance by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.

Sharing the news on Twitter, the producer Jemiama Khan wrote, “Our film opens today in Dubai and the Gulf Countries.”

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‘Besharam Rang’ wasn’t a hit due to controversy, says singer Shilpa Rao

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'Besharam Rang' wasn't a hit due to controversy, says singer Shilpa Rao

Shilpa Rao, who is also the singer of most controversial song of 2022-23, “Besharam Rang”, said the reason of the song’s success was not the controversy.

The singer said the song did not gain instant popularity because of all the controversy that raged after its release. Rather, she thinks that people actually understood the song especially after watching it along with the movie.

Rao stated, “I still believe that a song has to be great as it is. So, it is very important for it to have a good melody and lyrics that people can connect with. When it reaches that stage, only then will people pick it up and make it popular, so the promotion, reach, and reels will come after that.”

She further went on to say, “I think the only reason this song has done so well is because people have actually got the meaning of the song, which is to express yourself without apologies and to love yourself the way you are. People got that and so, they are expressing themselves and that’s why it’s getting popular.”

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When asked about her personal opinion about Pathaan, Shilpa remarked, “I’ve seen the film. It feels really great to be a part of such an enriching project. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and it was thrilling to see others’ reactions too. ‘Pathaan’ promised to be a great film and it kept that promise,” reported Indian media.

Shilpa Rao is widely-known for songs like; “Ghungroo”, “Malang”, “Khuda Jaane”, “Subhanallah”, “Bulleya” and many others.

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