There are two things you need to know about Deadline’s The Contenders: OMG, it’s fucking incredible and Madelyn Hammond is awesome. The Lego Movie—which had a presentation at the event should change the title of their too-catchy song to that.

What’s great for me next year is that those who served on the committee that I am serving on now were invited back to this year’s event. I’d love to keep on going every year. It really is great. As I said, it’s like CinemaCon but way better.

Oh, and another thing: you cannot go to the bathroom.


Unfortunately my system reacted strangely to some of their bottled flavored water so I had to go to the bathroom often. Finally I sat on the end of a row, not wanting to bother my row mates.

Another interesting thing was that Guild members were placed up front with Academy members in the middle of seating and industry members and press, i assume, were in back. Sponsors had a row and a half in the front.

But you don’t care about that much, right? What happened, you ask?

Presentations from 12 studios for over 36 films were held with less than five minutes separating each studio presentation.

And oh, did I mention that Deadline’s The Contenders world-premiered the full trailer for The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies. I was retweeted about that like never before.

With the soundtrack of Begin Again playing through the short breaks, that movie started off the whole day with a chat with Danielle Brisbrois (remember Archie Bunker’s Place? She was also in the original Annie on Broadway) and her songwriting partner Gregg Alexander. Those I sat by were in agreement with me when I said that the movie should have at least 2 songs nominated. I’d nominate all 5 with Begin Again songs if I were on that committee.

The Weinstein Company continued in their 30 minute presentation featuring five more films including the documentary Keep on Keeping On which I definitely want to see.

Ned Benson, director and writer of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby recounted how he showed a film at Santa Monica Laemmle and 12 people showed up. But in the lobby, he was approached by actress fresh out of Julliard and had only a credit on ER. She said that she wanted to work with him one day. That came true when Jessica Chastain starred in Eleanor Rigby.

Producer of St. Vincent Ted Melfi said that Bill Murray called his young co-star “The Kid” throughout the making of the film. Snorting when introduced to Jaeden Lieberher, Murray realized after the first scene about the actor, “He might be better than me.”

Right after that the producers of Dreamwork’s How to Train a Dragon 2 did their Q&A.

Along with the surprise guest of Jennifer Aniston—Pete Hammond and as a whole has been advocates of her awards hopes this year—Jeremy Renner was the other major star to appear at the event. He was promoting Kill the Messenger which looked very interesting—it’s about a journalist who faces retribution from subjects he wrote about. The film’s studio, Focus Features, also discussed The Boxtrolls and Theory of Everything.

Fresh off his announcement as Black Panther for Marvel, Chadwick Boseman began his awards season journey, appearing at the event to talk about his James Brown biopic, Get on Up. While Lucy had no presentation, Universal Pictures talked about Unbroken, the Angelina Jolie directed film.

Paramount mostly showed their specially made award clip for the event—most studios brought their own—then used the rest of the time to talk with Selma director Ava DuVernay and star David Oyelowo. The actor said he always knew he would play Dr. Martin Luther King and actively persuaded Oprah Winfrey to be a producer on the film. She also acts in the movie. Oyelowo gained 30 pounds for the movie, eating late night so it could sit in his stomach.

Fox Searchlight showed off three films—Birdman, Wild, and Grand Budapest Hotel while Warner Brothers featured five: The Judge, Lego Movie, Inherent Vice, American Sniper, and the third Hobbit movie.

Producer of Birdman John Lesher said the whole movie was rehearsed three different times. Despite what people believe, the movie is more about director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s struggling with his ego than about star Michael Keaton’s career. About her movie, Wild, producer Bruna Papandrea said that the challenge for star Reese Withersponn was not the hike but the traumatizing emotional stuff.


Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, directors of The Lego Movie apologized for the catchiness of song “Everything is Awesome.” They said they’re attracted to bad ideas which led them to the movie. Their aim was to make people feel more creative when they came o9ut of the theater than when they came in. They also mentioned there was a Justice League scene cut from the movie and wrote it like “we had the rights to everything.”


Lunch was extremely short, and we weren’t guaranteed the same seats. Sony Pictures brought several stars of Fury while their Sony Pictures Classics arms featured JK Simmons and Miles Teller of Whiplash, award winning director Mike Leigh for Mr. Turner, and Bennett Miller and John Killik, director and producer of Foxcatcher. Jon Bernthal and Logan Lerman talked about the brutal training for the film where there was sleep deprivation, tasks, and forced physical sparring. Bernthal said that the colder, wetter, and harder it got, the bigger smile on Brad Pitt’s face got.

Disney only took 20 minutes to talk about Big Hero 6 and show a featurette that’s either similar or exactly the same one that is on Youtube. Don Hall and Chris Williams, directors of Big Hero 6 did appear which made the presentation more interesting.

After Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane talked about Boyhood, the final presentation was 20th Century Fox. Shailene Woodley appeared for Fault in Our Stars while Trent Reznor—quite stunningly handsome—and Atticus Ross showed up for Gone Girl. Peter Chernin also was there for Exodus and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes along with that film’s director, Matt Reeves.


Astounding day that whooped me. Oh, and among other prizes, Dell gave away 2 tablets! Wow. Attending was an award itself. The information definitely assisted me in learning more about the films and motivated to see even more of them.


–Ken Choy

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