AT the beginning of last month a small group of journalists dropped by the Gramercy Park Hotel for a light lunch and some wine with Pedro Almodóvar
and Penélope Cruz
, the director and star of "Volver," one of the more anticipated films of the holiday season. There was no specific agenda, just a chance for press and talent to share pleasantries with a side of crudités. Photo Illustration by Andy Chen/The New York Times; carpet, Getty Images; Times Square, Michael Nagle for The New York Times
Wireimage.com The director Alejandro González Iñárritu; Andrew Saffir of the Cinema Society; the writer Eve Ensler; and Jane Fonda at a party after a screening of “Babel” last month at the SoHo Grand — a high-powered chat typical of the events this time of year in New York.
Reporters and editors from Entertainment Weekly, Premiere, Elle and The New York Times were chatting amongst themselves when Mr. Almodóvar and Ms. Cruz came in. Pausing at the entrance, Mr. Almodóvar turned and fluffed Ms. Cruz, smoothing down her hair and patting her cheek. At the sight of this quaint little domestic between the director and his longtime muse, the battle-hardened press visibly melted.
No doubt the scene also warmed the hearts of Michael Barker and Tom Bernard of Sony Pictures Classics, who have big hopes for their little movie. “Volver,” which opened Friday, has won excellent critical notices and is now among the whispered as a contender for the best-picture Oscar.
Are the prospects for “Volver” getting brighter because it is a charming film or because its principals are charming the Manhattan mentionocracy, a heaving mass of critics, reporters, film geeks and gossip columnists? At this time of year, when the chill in the air is accompanied by a huge industry assault on New York, it is always hard to tell.
Films may be produced and made in Hollywood, but come October and November the center of gravity shifts, and they are remade in the crucible of New York. With just 600 members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in New York, compared with about 4,000 in Los Angeles, the city might seem to play big for its size, but it is home to the culture-and-celebrity media, where momentum or certain death can be bestowed with a few keystrokes.
An army of local public relations people make sure that absolutely nothing is left to chance, peppering reporters, editors and television producers with invitations and story hooks for the holiday movie season. Event specialists make sure their projects genuflect at the various stations of the cross. It might be a screening at the Museum of Modern Art with A-list talent in attendance, a particularly exclusive lunch at Michael’s on West 55th Street or opening night at Lincoln Center for the New York Film Festival — and gossips are suddenly making fizzy pronouncements about the outlook for "Babel" and adding that “All the King’s Men” has been left for dead. If they can make it here, well, is a dance with Oscar at the end of February far behind?