Private screenings are a dime a dozen during awards season. Whether it’s Los Angeles, New York, London or even San Francisco, Academy members hold numerous events for each other (most often at the behest of studios) to spread the word about a film or a specific contender. Usually these intimate affairs don’t start to percolate until Thanksgiving or even before Christmas, but Paramount Pictures got things rolling a bit earlier than normal last night for Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival.”
Held at a private mixing stage and home in the Hollywood Hills, the studio and film’s producer Shawn Levy hosted such Academy notables such as Bryan Cranston, Michael Mann, Alexander Payne, Catherine Hardwicke, Kelsey Grammar, Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Christopher McQuarrie, Jay Roach and Simon Kinberg, among others. Also on hand were Damon Lindelof, Akiva Schaffer, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally, Tim Allen, Jordan Peele, Chelsea Peretti, Richard Schiff, Drake Doremus and “Stranger Things” creators Matt and Ross Duffer (not to mention a number of “Stranger Things” staff writers).
Levy, fellow producers Dan Levine and Aaron Ryder and screenwriter Eric Heisserer were joined after the screening by both Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, both of whom received an enthusiastic reception regarding their performance and the movie.
“Arrival” caps off an incredible summer for Levy, whose Netflix series “Stranger Things” has become a pop culture phenomenon. The prolific producer and director told me about the five-year journey to get “Arrival” to the screen and how it was a chance mention after a general meeting with Heisserer (who also wrote this year’s surprise hit “Lights Out”) that prompted them to secure the rights to the source material for the movie, Ted Chiang’s short story “Story of Your Life” (Villeneuve’s interest also helped reassure Chiang).
After three film festivals, the Sci-Fi drama still has some of the best reviews of the year for a studio release (80 grade on Metacritic, 100% on Rotten Tomatoes), but has faded a bit as the media’s attention has been drawn elsewhere. That will change as its Nov. 10th release date gets closer, but it’s worth noting the picture does benefit from a second viewing. The early allusions to the twist (if you really want to call it that) are clearly more heartbreaking the second time around and if we know anything about the Academy, emotions sell.
Will “Arrival” be the sort of picture Academy members take the time to watch twice? Possibly, but it may not matter either way. One prominent Academy member I spoke to at Telluride gushed over the picture and Adams’ performance specifically. Enough of those reactions and Paramount’s already busy awards season slate won’t die down anytime soon.
“Arrival” opens nationwide on Nov. 11.