Fox Searchlight Oscar-Fetes Win Win, Shame, Descendants, and More

sarahpaulson300.jpgSpirits were bright Wednesday night in West Hollywood when Fox Searchlight celebrated the season with their annual holiday party -- really, just an excuse to fete Oscar candidates Win Win, Tree of Life, Shame, Martha Marcy May Marlene, and The Descendants like debs at a coming out ball. Movieline caught up with Fox Searchlight's hopefuls at the early awards-season shindig.

Among the talents gunning for Academy and box-office recognition, it was refreshing to see Win Win screenwriter/director Thomas McCarthy chatting with fans and colleagues. His low-key Paul Giamatti movie came out in March, and though it's not soaring up Movieline's Oscar index, it's an unforgettably sincere look at a downtrodden suburban attorney who winds up housing and coaching a talented high school wrestler (Alex Shaffer) after arranging some dubious business dealings with an older client.

"A lot of people come up and say, 'That's my son!' or 'That's my daughter!'" McCarthy said of his film's deeply feeling wrestling wunderkind. "I think Alex Shaffer did an amazing job embodying this, but we wanted a kid that was not overly expressive and articulate for a change. Most kids at that age, they hear everything. They're little sponges. They're taking it in, they're forming opinions, they're developing their personalities. They're just not necessarily ready to show us that.

"They're struggling with all kinds of things -- who they are, what they are, what they want to be," McCarthy added. "That, for many of those kids, is a very private and scary struggle. A lot of times how that manifests itself is a very deadpan approach to the world: 'I'm not going to let you see what I'm feeling until I'm ready to really show that.' It's definitely a phase in a kid's life -- I see it all the time in my nieces and nephews."

Steve McQueen's Shame was repped single-handedly by co-star Nicole Beharie, who recalled to Movieline the impetus that pushed her into the film: Fear -- of exposure, and the nakedness the project required. "There's no room for vanity [in McQueen's films]," she explained.

sarahpaulson300.jpgIn another corner of the party, Descendants castmates Beau Bridges and Robert Forster caught up, while recent Verge designee Shailene Woodley and Matthew Lilllard also made the rounds. Across the room, Martha Marcy May Marlene's director, first-time feature helmer Sean Durkin, spoke humbly about riding the wave of awards season buzz and reveled in the stir caused by his film's ambiguous conclusion. (Searchlight sent out his screenplay for MMMM for scripting consideration in November.)

Sarah Paulson, aglow after stumping for the film the previous evening in New York, emphasized to Movieline how much newcomers Durkin and Elizabeth Olsen impressed her. "I'm here for [Durkin], [Olsen], and John Hawkes," she said. As for the absence of MMMM star Olsen -- who, along with George Clooney, Michael Fassbender, and expected guest Emmanuel Lubezki, was noticeably missing from the celebration -- Paulson pointed out the obvious. "She's still in school!"

For the latest Oscar-season analysis, jump to S.T. VanAirsdale's Oscar Index.

Additional reporting by Jen Yamato

[Photo of Thomas McCarthy at the Third Annual Governor's Awards, Getty Images]

[Photo of Sarah Paulson at the 21st Annual Gotham Awards cocktail party, Getty Images]

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