Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fisti Update!

Well, the Fisti Awards for 1988 are complete and up for your viewing pleasure over on the 80's Fisti Page.  I hope you have a chance to check them out!  Let me know what you think.  What films did I snub?  What films got too much love or just the right amount of love?  What wins do you agree with?  What are your favorite films of 1988?  Do you agree with Oscar?  Was I too mean to Foster and Hoffman (neither even make my top 12 in their respective categories).

Can we all just bask in the glory of Kevin Kline being an Oscar winner, and winning for such a brilliantly conceived comedic treasure!

So, next up for the Fistis will be 1994, which I'm trying to get wrapped up for next month.  I'm also currently working on 1967 and 1974.  I need to try and take a stab at a year in the 40's, that way I'll have posted an awards for each decade (1939 and 1957 are already up).  Any suggestions?  The 40's are my largest blindspot, and so selecting a year at random is kind of hard for me.  I've only really seen a handful of films from the 40's, and they pull from all years so any suggestion will be more than welcome!

Until then...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Trailer & Poster Break: Dallas Buyers Club

So here we have it.  Here is the trailer for what many believe is Matthew McConaughey's Oscar ticket.  Yeah, he's getting the nomination, and from the looks of the trailer, Jared Leto is looking pretty safe too.  In fact, Leto looks wonderful here!  He looks better than McConaughey.  I still get this 'McConaughey playing McConaughey' feeling from him, but whatever...this character is too baity for him to miss.

Here's the poster, which is kind of amazing:

Monday, August 26, 2013

Category fraud, and my 1988 Supporting Actor ballot...

Let me lead you...

So, with the 1988 Fisti ballots for the acting categories now posted, I’m finally getting around to asking a question I’ve been wanting to ask here for quite some time:

How do you classify a Supporting turn versus a Lead turn?

A weekend at the movies...sort of.

So, the weekend has come and gone.  Any cinematic ventures you care to discuss?  Personally I saw three films and none of them were what I expected.

Friday, I finally saw ‘Amour’.  I know, it’s about damn time!  I’m a longstanding fan of Michael Haneke.  I consider him one of the finest directors of his or any generation, and I was blind rooting for him all season to win the Directing Oscar.  For me, as accessible and widely praised as ‘Amour’ was, I can’t help but feel it was lesser Haneke.  The themes (that of dying, loss, separation, disillusionment, depression) all come together strongly, especially in the performances he was able to draw from the two leads, and yet there is a detachment (something common in Haneke’s films) that pulls me out of this film.  It feels incomplete; like it wasn’t fully thought through.

It’s an admirable choice for the Foreign Film Oscar, and I’m so glad that Haneke finally has a win in that category, but for what it is worth, 2012 had a slew of better contenders (‘Rust + Bone’, ‘Declaration of War’, ‘Oslo August 31st’; just to name a few).

But the bulk of my weekend was taken up by two hot messes from 1967.  Delightful in their own ways and yet ridiculous all the way around, these two movies starred some of my favorite actors of their generations serving up some calculated hysterics in lavishly put together misguided ventures.

Where to begin?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Could Noah be a contender?

Yes, I will speculate Oscars about everything, especially if it involves Russell Crowe and Darren Aronofsky!  When 'Noah' recieved a March release date, I was pretty sure that all Oscar hopes and dreams were dead, but the studio must have more faith than they initially did, because the film is getting push back to an unspecified summer release date.  Now, this could merely mean that they feel that the film has a great chance of bringing in the money, but it could also mean that they are confident in its quality.  While it isn't exactly a strategic Oscar move, look at the wild success that films like 'Fruitvale Station' and 'Blue Jasmine' are having.  Summer isn't yet over (almost, but still) and both Jordan and Blanchett are pretty much locked up for Oscar nominations and the films themselves are poised for considerable Oscar love.  I wonder if this spells something blessed for 'Noah' as well.

Fisti Updates: 1988 Picture, Director and Film Editing...

1988?  1989?  1990?
So, I'm working on getting my 1988 Fisti Awards posted.  It's a slow process (if you've been around while I've posted other awards you'll know that it is usually done in piece-mail) and so for tonight we have Best Picture, Director and Film Editing up for your viewing pleasure.  I absolutely LOVE this film year.  It held so many cinematic delights that narrowing it down was VERY hard.  The big conundrum was the placement of 'Cinema Paradiso'.  Honestly, this is one of my favorite films of all time (queue the spoiler here, but YES, it is my Best Picture winner) but deciding the year to put it in was hard.  1990 was out, since I had already wrapped that year up, so even though it had it's US release in February of 1990 it wasn't going to factor into that year (I give myself that liberty with foreign releases).  So then it would naturally fall into the homeland release year, but that is where I had another issue.  This film was initially released in Italy in 1988, but apparently (I'm just speculating here) it was too late in the year for Oscar submission and so the film wound up being re-released in 1989 and competing (and winning) the Foreign Language Film Oscar that year.  So, I was left with the debate of placing this in the year it was released initially, or placing it in the year it won the Oscar.

I flipped a coin and went with 1988.

I'd love to hear what you think of my ballots in these three categories.  Feel free to comment here or on the 80's Fisti page.

Let's Review Something: Blue Jasmine

Woody Allen has been a constant force in films since he started making them, for nearly six decades.  While he fluctuates tones and has created masterpieces in both comedy and drama (and some a pure fusion of both), his style is never misrepresented and both genres feel very ‘Woody Allen’ when all is said and done.  In other words; you know a Woody Allen film when you see one.  This is far from a bad thing, especially since Woody uses enough diversity in his tones, themes and subjects to create unique visions all their own.  Sure, he’s had his repetitious moments, but overall he has more good than bad (the bad is sure to come when you make as many movies as Allen has) and has created a consistent career that is not only respected but beloved.

During the aughts, it was thought that Woody was reaching this point in his career where nothing was working as strongly or as fluidly as before.  He was being criticized more than praised and his films just were not making the impact they did in the previous decades. 

He was hitting a slump.

Then he put out ‘Match Point’ and the world cried “Woody Allen comeback” and he was back in the spotlight.  ‘Scoop’ was a critical hiccup, but ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’ gave him more love, but it was 2011’s ‘Midnight in Paris’ that suddenly made Woody Allen relevant again.  I, personally, didn’t think the movie was that wonderful (I do consider ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’ to be a modern masterpiece), but the world did not agree with me and Woody Allen once again found himself an Oscar winner.

With this year’s ‘Blue Jasmine’ he has done it again.

Is it just me, or does Woody Allen seem to be on a ‘good film/bad film’ kind of role here?  Just a point of interest, or discussion, but this seems to be a pattern.

Anyways, let’s talk about ‘Blue Jasmine’.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Lady Macbeth has me very McHappy!

Beauty and talent are not always easy to mesh, but with her string of brilliance since her Oscar winning turn in 2007's 'La Vie en Rose', Marion Cotillard has not only skyrocketed to the top of my list of 'most beautiful women alive' but she is also my single favorite actress working today.  No other actress grabs my attention as securely as Marion.  Seeing her name or her face attached to any project has my instant attention, and she never loses it.  

The fact that she is teaming up with the one actor who I consider to be the single greatest actor of his generation, and probably the best actor working today (sorry Crowe, but this isn't the 90's anymore and while I still love you and consider you top tier material, you really need 'Noah' to be a slam dunk) is even more reason to get excited.

I'm talking about Macbeth if you haven't figured that out yet.  I talked this up a while back when Portman was cast, and I was optimistic, although that optimism waned the more I thought about it.  While my mind still says that Carey Mulligan should have gotten this part (seriously, she'd be the perfect fit) I can't help but wet myself over seeing Fassbender and Cotillard sharing the screen together.  It may be too much greatness/hotness/talent for one single screen!

What do you think?  How does this news settle with you?  Are you as happy as I am!?!?!?!?!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Because 'Noah' is my most anticipated film of like forever...

Bask in it's glory...

Tuesday Top Ten

So, in completing my Fisti Awards for 1988 (to be posted later this week, hopefully), I discovered something about the year in question; it is probably the single greatest year for comedy I’ve watched through so far.  I mean, the riches in this genre our boundless, and when trying to formulate my acting categories, I found that I actually considered TWENTY-TWO comedic performances for my ballots.  I nominate SEVEN of them, which is a pretty big number when you consider that most acting ballots, even here at the Fisti’s usually focus on dramatic works. 

And so we’re clear, I don’t really consider Bruce Willis’s work in ‘Die Hard’ as comedic, even though he laces everything with humor, so if you do then you can say that I nominate EIGHT comedic performances, since he’s on my Best Actor ballot (oops, I spoiled the surprise).

So, I decided for my Tuesday Top Ten this week that I would do my top ten comedic performances of 1988.  Now, as I said, I actually considered 22 performances for actual awards this year, but I’m only listing my top ten, so 12 of those wonderful performances are getting the boot. 

I want to give a special shout out to Julieta Serrano and Robert Loggia who just missed my top ten for their stupendous supporting work in their films (‘Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown’ and ‘Big’ respectively).  Such different yet truly remarkable work.  I’ll never forget the day I fell in love with Robert Loggia; which was the day he danced on that piano alongside Tom Hanks!

But now, for my top ten!

Monday, August 19, 2013

5 Obstructions Blogathon: Obstruction #3

Alright, so I’ve finally got around to piecing together (very literally) my latest entry in the ‘5 Obstructions’ blogathon.  This has been such a rewarding blogathon because it really has presented challenges I was not all that familiar with.  Take last month for instance.  I’ve never interviewed anyone, and yet I cannot say that anymore, for now I have!  This month was a particularly challenging ‘obstruction’. 

‘Write a review of a movie only by copying and pasting words (at least 5 consecutive words from one sentence) out of other reviews of the same movie.’

What the hell!?!?!

Seriously, I was at a loss, but the idea intrigued me to no end.  My initial response to this was to rush out and see ‘Only God Forgives’ because the idea of me actually liking the movie and then somehow using the onslaught of negative reviews I’ve read on the film to spin into a positive review was so enticing to me.  Sadly, my window closed and I wasn’t able to make the trek into Dallas to see the movie (it’s only showing at ONE theater near me, and that is still an hour away, and the ONLY showtime is 10:20 PM, which is not an easy get when you have three kids in the house).  Then came the conundrum of selecting a movie and then actually finding other reviews on blogs across the internet for that same movie.  How was I going to do this? 

So, I kind of cheated.

Not really, but sort of.  I used a fellow blogger’s ‘series’ to find a database of collective ‘reviews’ on the same film.  How?  Well, I hopped, skipped and jumped over to The Film Experience, where I visited his ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’ page, selected a movie and found a slew of linked entries to his own series.  There was a bounty of films to choose from, and the great thing was that most bloggers who participated not only selected a singular shot, but put so much time and effort into explaining why that shot worked so well with the movie that I basically found a slew of movie reviews to choose from.

I went with ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’!

I also want to note that I wanted a golden checkmark (I think I should get one for the first obstruction too, since I basically made ‘Les Miserables’, a film that I love, look like a laughable piece of garbage) so I selected ten reviews that I draw from, and I draw from them a few times.  I’ve linked them throughout the review.  Fighting the urge to elaborate or write my own review was hard, but it wouldn’t be a challenge of this was easy; right?

Here goes nothing!

Friday, August 16, 2013

I don't have time for this shit!

We're coming for you, Oscar!

I can never catch a break with my Oscar predictions, can I?  I either post them too late (in a rush/panic) or I post them mid-month and in the process wind up missing some great release news which alters all I believe in.  It happened the day after I posted my acting predictions, when Streep announced her choice to campaign in Supporting and it has happened again this morning, the day after I wrap up my predictions.  Apparently the one film I had a load of faith in that was allegedly pushed back to next year is being released on December 20th, just in time for THIS YEAR'S OSCARS!!!  Yes, 'Foxcatcher' is coming to snatch all those wigs!  Now, if you remember, the most confident prediction I had all year was Channing Tatum in Supporting Actor.  Now, I don't have him predicted right now.  I'm going to have to change that, but I'm waiting until next month.  For now, the August predictions will stand.  I'm tired.  I don't have time for this shit.

Happy Birthday Steve Carell, you may get your Oscar nomination after all!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

August Oscar Predictions: Hair, Makeup and some Visual Effects

So, let’s wrap this thing up.  I’ve got my eyes set on a few films I think have a serious shot at snagging some Oscar love in these final categories.  First up is ‘Makeup & Hairstyling’, which is always so hard to peg down.  I mean, the ‘Lincoln’ snub is very telling that no matter how ‘perfect’ you are at something, you can’t hedge your bets for a nomination from this branch.  So, I’m wondering what that will mean for ‘The Butler’, which is looking like it could play up the age makeup and complete ‘transformation’ aspect to get in here, but I still have such a hard time taking that movie seriously. 

I’m really on the fence about both ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ and ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’.  Both films have the narrative and the past nominations (wins) to constitute them real contenders, and yet I’m blinded by flashy wigs and prosthetics at the moment.

So, I’m thinking:

August Oscar Predictions: Aural Categories

So now we come to the sound categories.  These are incredibly hard to narrow down this early on.  In fact, all of the aural categories are a pain in the ass.  I’m notoriously bad with predicting Sound Editing and Mixing, mostly because I’m not entirely confident I understand that difference enough to pinpoint what films utilize what more, but I have a general idea (mixing having to do with sounds inserting after filming and editing having to do with effects and sounds while shooting). 

So, musicals seem to do well in the Mixing category, so I have a feeling some music centered films could pop up there, and we see more action centered films making it into the Editing category.  The real question is what films are going to land in both categories, since there are usually at least two films that double up.

There are a lot of action films that could make a play in both categories, like ‘Iron Man 3’ (they tend to like the Iron Man movies here), ‘Pacific Rim’, ‘Man of Steel’, ‘Elysium’ and ‘Gravity’ could all factor in to each category.  Animated films have factored in as well, and ‘Frozen’ has the musical angle going for it, while ‘Monsters University’ has so clever sound developments.

I also question whether or not ‘All is Lost’ could really make a play here, or if it will be overshadowed by films like ‘Gravity’.

For now, I’m throwing my bets this way:

August Oscar Predictions: Foreign Film

This is pure speculation at this point, since official selections aren’t even in full swing yet (a few have been announced) and so we’re only going off of buzz and reviews and sight-unseen assumptions on what films have the biggest narrative for not only submission but nomination. 

I will say this, the French keep fucking up.  First, last year they chose the Weinstein backed ‘Intouchables’ over the critically acclaimed ‘Rust + Bone’ and screwed themselves out of a nomination (I totally expected ‘Intouchables’ to make it in, so I was shocked too) and now they are not giving ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ a qualifying release in France in order for them to submit it.  This is so bizarre to me.  They are planning a qualifying Oscar run here in the United States, but not in France.  I’m not saying that they would have won the Oscar in Foreign Language (the themes are still a tough sell) but it would have been a lock for a nomination.  That said, if they go with ‘The Past’ they’ll still probably land on the final ballot.  Hell, if they go with ‘Ernest & Celestine’ they still might.

I’m skeptical about ‘The Grandmasters’ being Hong Kong’s choice, but Kar Wai is a great director and deserves to have an audience, so maybe.  I also wonder if Hungary could sneak in with ‘The Notebook’.  Oscar loves war films here, especially ones with children. 

For now, I’m making an ass of myself and assuming the following:

August Oscar Predictions: Animated Film

With the releases set to over 12 for the year, we’re looking at another batch of five.  The question arises, which four will accompany ‘Monsters University’?  I’m not sold on another Pixar win at this point, but ‘Monsters’ is the only film locked for the nomination.  The year has already contained a bounty of animated fare, but I question whether any of them will really factor in this race.  ‘Despicable Me 2’ had decent enough reviews, but the first film missed, and this was seen as a step down from that one.  ‘Turbo’ and ‘The Croods’ were both far better than I expected them to be, and yet neither feels like an Oscar film at all.

And then we have a few set to release, like ‘Planes’ (or did that already drop?) that I just don’t see getting the traction needed to enter this race.

So for now, I’m thinking…

August Oscar Predictions: Cinematography

This category could go so many different ways.  Sometimes Oscar nominates strictly for the beauty, and other times I see them nominate for the trickery of it all, and then there are moments where they nominate something for the sheer fact that they loved the movie and everyone scratches their heads wondering why the hell that movie was nominated in this category.

‘The King’s Speech’ anyone.

And then you have Oscar’s recent trend of embracing 3D cinematography that is almost entirely CGI.  I’ll  never understand why on earth ‘Life of Pi’ was not only nominated here, but won.  Whatever.  We all know who is winning this, so why prolong it any longer.

Still, I wonder about a few films.  Will ‘Rush’ be too claustrophobic?  Will ‘12 Years a Slave’ be too auteur?  With ‘The Monuments Men’ be too bland?  Will ‘All is Lost’ be too small?  Will ‘Captain Phillips’ be too chaotic?  Really, any of those five could pop up and yet I’m still left wondering if they will, and at whose expense.  You don’t have to be a Best Picture nominee to land in this category, but it helps, and ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’ gives me hope that something as un-Oscary as a Steve McQueen film could land here (both ‘Shame’ and ‘Hunger’ were brilliantly shot).  I’m still dubious, but the possibility is there.  Something like ‘12 Years a Slave’ probably stands a better chance in this category than any other, to be honest.

Still, I’m thinking it will miss in favor of these five:

August Oscar Predictions: Art Direction/Production Design

Royalty porn and period porn are usually heavily represented here, but on occasion AMPAS will embrace the fantasy side of things.  This has me wondering how two specific films will fare; ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ and ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’.  Either film could land here, and the LOTR films have fared well in this category before.  Still, I struggle with how AMPAS will receive them.  If ‘Oz’ were a Burton film I’d consider it a near lock (although ‘Dark Shadows’ went nowhere last year) and I know that I should be predicting ‘The Hobbit’, but I just have this feeling like it’s becoming a bit of overkill at the moment and unless the reviews are outstanding I see it contending in one category (Visual Effects) and nowhere else.

I’m also curious to see how ‘12 Years a Slave’ is received by Oscar.  It has so much going for it and yet one GIANT detractor; McQueen.  He’s so not an Oscary director.  That being said, the techs could still embrace it.  I also wonder how ‘Grace of Monaco’ will fare outside of Costumes and acting mentions.  It has the potential to be one of those beautiful bores, and Oscar nominates them from time to time.  Recreating Hollywood royalty is a giant turn on for Oscar.

So, with that in mind, I’m placing bets on the following five:


I’m completely late to this party, but maybe Nate will still let me participate.  I saw his post yesterday and rushed to rewatch this movie, and I probably should have posted my thoughts last night but it was late and I was tired and I usually like to let these things simmer a while before making a rash decision.

For me, ‘The Color Purple’ is all about hope in the midst of the most atrocious and dire of circumstances.  I’ve seen the film a handful of times over the years, and while it is a heavily manipulative film it is also one of those movies I continually forgive the manipulation because it works with the material.  It suits it, and Spielberg is actually in rare form here.  While he’s consistently manipulative as a director (unless he’s working outside the ‘Oscar’ market) he finds rich tones of humanity here and shows a selective restraint, allowing the material to sing.  I’m not sure if this is because he was afraid of the backlash associated with a white director making such a powerful ‘black’ film, but whatever the reason, there is a permeating feeling of honest depth here that I can’t help but appreciate.

When selecting a favorite shot, I found myself at a bit of a crossroads.  This film is so rich with visual imagery that finding just one shot was very hard to do.  That being said, that constant theme of hope was something I couldn’t shake, and there was one scene in particular that I think encompassed that theme to an overwhelming degree.
My 'Best Shot'
The use of light here is essential to the composition of the scene and the conveyance of the hopeful feeling.  Coming to us near the end of the film, this shot shows Celie receiving news regarding her dearest Nettie.  As she reads the letter and realizes that all is not lost, you can see the hope bursting through the windows as the light floods the rooms.  Sure, this technique is manipulation at its finest, but that is the point, it’s at its finest!  As the light engulfs the scene, we know that regardless of the hardships she’s endured, the sun truly does come out tomorrow for this beautiful woman.

Yes, I went there with the ‘Annie’ reference, but I couldn’t help it.

So there you have it Nate.  I’m late (so sorry) but I didn’t want to miss another week, especially when I love the film so much!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Let's Review Something: Lore

The holocaust, Nazis and racism are common themes in many films today.  In fact, it almost never fails that 90% of Oscar’s Foreign Language ballot consists of historical films based on the holocaust.  ‘Lore’, Australia’s official entry for the Oscar’s last year, is no exception.  Taking place in Germany shortly after Hitler’s death, ‘Lore’ gives us a different look at the atrocities, or the aftermath of those atrocities, offering us the perspective of the children brought up to follow Hitler and his regime. 

I have to say this; I was completely floored at the direction taken by this film.  It is uncommon to find the lives and views of the ‘villains’ exposed with such sympathy.  Having the film basically follow these young children as they are abandoned and cast aside because of their beliefs and their parent’s political stance, we are brought in to their world and find ourselves ‘fraternizing’ with the enemy in a way.  I loved that aspect of this film.  Even though Lore and her siblings are far from ‘enemies’, especially since they are molded by their parents and their surroundings and haven’t the full knowledge or understanding in order to make those decisions on their own, following their journey and seeing their venom spiked forbearance is like something I haven’t seen before.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

August Oscar Predictions: Costume Design

Something like ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ is bound to pop up here, so not considering it is rather dumb, but there is something in me that says ‘Oz’ is going to get the shaft for NOT being a Tim Burton film.  Only Burton is allowed to be gaudy and get away with it, right?  I have yet to see the film (eventually) but the costumes did look delicious, so I expect it to factor in somewhere.

After that, my two big questionmarks are ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, which could ‘Milk’ out a nomination, and ‘12 Years a Slave’.  With ‘12’ I just wonder if the film will get enough traction to land any noms, even technical ones.  It doesn’t have to be a huge Oscar contender to get noticed in a few technical spots IF the techs are that high, and they look like they could be, but I just wonder if the crowded year itself could be a detriment to the film’s overall embrace.

So, for now I’m thinking:

August Oscar Predictions: Film Editing

In trying to get a handle on the Film Editing category, I usually go with the usual suspects (Best Picture candidates) as well as those with seeming flashy editing.  As was proof in 2011, you don’t always need to be included in Oscar’s Best Picture lineup to get in with the editors, and quite frankly, if you are flashy enough you can bag a win (‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ was so lucky).  Without having seen many of the films up for Oscar consideration, this becomes even more questionable, but some films have the potential to land here.

I’m wondering if ‘Fruitvale Station’ can ride the wave of buzz and assumed Oscar love with a nomination here.  It is a very tightly crafted film that guts out all the unnecessary and gives us a very streamlined and purposeful film.  I wonder if it is too slight though (they often go for the more bloated films with energetic cuts than the films that use the editing to keep the focus tight).  I also wonder if ‘Her’ will incorporate both aspects (Jonze films are usually expertly cut) in order to capture Oscar love here.  ‘The Counselor’ could be the edgy pic here as well. 

My real questionmark though is ‘Gravity’.  It seems like the type of film that would do well here, and yet it also has been noted to have some VERY long tracking shots and so that could eliminate it from contention here (honestly, what is being edited?).

So, with that in mind; this is what I got:

Monday, August 12, 2013

And now I have to amend my predictions!!!

Seriously?  I just update my predictions for the month and this WTF gets dropped in my lap!  So now Streep is campaigning in Supporting for 'August: Osage County', allowing Roberts to be the sole Lead in the film.  This doesn't mean that Oscar voters are going to buy the apparent category fraud, but they just may, especially if they get used to seeing Roberts snagging the Lead nominations.  From what I hear, both women are on the top of their game.  I assumed that Roberts would be demoted to Supporting in favor of the three time Oscar winner snagging the Lead nomination, but apparently I'm wrong.  Time will tell.  At this point, it's either Streep in Supporting and Roberts in Lead or Streep in Lead and Roberts SNUBBED.  LOL, I'm just going to make a quick edit to my side bar and swap the ladies.  I still say they are both nominated.

The real question is, does Winfrey still take the Oscar in a cakewalk?

August Oscar Predictions: Supporting Actress

I know that not everyone feels this way, but I’m pretty confident that this category is sewn up in the Oprah Winfrey win.  I mean, she ‘could’ falter, but at this point I just don’t see it.  So for me, it’s all about finding the five actresses who are going to go up against her.  Really, aside from the five I’ve chosen, I only see two possibilities, maybe three.

First, I wanted to throw in Rooney Mara based on the reaction to the clips of her for ‘Her’, but also because she’s so luminous in the trailer, but word is she’s only there in flashbacks and that Amy Adams has the substantial role.  Next, I dropped Squibb, mainly because I’m losing all faith in the film itself.  Still, she got such wonderful ink that she could be the film’s only nomination.  Still, for the time being, I’m not betting on it.  Then I’m thinking MAYBE Naomie Harris, but the look of that film was so vanilla that I’m thinking it’s Elba or nothing.  Still, she’s hot right now and the film is backed by Weinstein, so if she gets to chew enough screen time I could see her factoring in.

For me though, it’s all about these five:

August Oscar Predictions: Supporting Actor

This category is getting a complete overall from me.  The bounty of contenders here is rather ridiculous, and they keep growing and coming back and whatnot, so I can see so many differing scenarios that it becomes increasingly hard to put my finger on who is going to nab what.  There have been some new developments, most notably trailers for ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ and resurfaced ink on some other contenders, not to mention that glossy trailer for ‘12 Years a Slave’, which made Fassbender a legit contender.

Here is where I’m struggling.  Is ‘12 Years a Slave’ really going to attract Oscar attention?  I have serious doubts, and when there is doubt there is usually a safer choice that Oscar goes for.  I also wonder on some early contenders like Colin Farrell, since trailer focus seems to be all about Tom Hanks right now, and he is a two time winner, so you know that Oscar loves him.  I’m also wondering whether or not ‘The Monuments Men’ is going to really go home empty in these acting fields.  I don’t mean empty as in ‘wins’ but empty as in nominations, because right now I can’t see any of them nominated (at least not based on the trailer) and yet maybe one of the cast members will ‘Argo’ themselves an Arkin nomination; most probably someone like Bill Murray.

And what of James Gandolfini?  I want to predict him so badly based on the glorious trailer for ‘Enough Said’, and the sentimental edge could play in his favor, but I’m not betting on it right now.

We’ll see what happens at the Globes.

For now, this is what I’m thinking:

August Oscar Predictions: Lead Actress

There has to be a newbie, right?

I keep coming back to this, especially since all of the big ticket films coming out this year with a female protagonist star an Oscar winner, or at the very least an Oscar nominee.  The deluge of previous contenders has me wondering just what is going to happen with this category.  I thought that newbies were required (exaggeration) until last year’s supporting lineups changed all that, and yet Lead Actress last year could have easily gone 5/5 with previous nominees and yet they still managed to squeeze in TWO newbies, so I’m wondering just what is going to happen this year.  Right now, I’m betting on one newbie, and which means that I had to cut Julie Delpy from my predictions.  Still, I think she could wind up surfacing later in the year.

Then we have all the previous nominees and winners who are coming to the forefront in a severe way.  Weinstein is backing a few, and while the rest of the world seems to think that Kidman is a done deal, I don’t see her happening right now.  Not this year, with these contenders.  Winslet has some good ink, and AMPAS clearly likes her, but she’s said to be very reserved, and the project sounds so soap opera to me!  I also wonder what is going to happen with Bullock this year.  She has the potential to be considered the whole of her film, or completely overshadowed by her director.  It could go either way, really.

For now, I’m sticking with my predictions from July:

August Oscar Predictions: Lead Actor

This category is beginning to look really crowded, and fast.  Still, there are only a true handful of names that, to me, seem to be in true contention for the nomination.  Yeah, we can talk about the countless names being tossed around right now, but really, I don’t think Oscar Isaac, Benedict Cumberbatch or Chiwetel Ejiofor are happening, and it’s not because I wouldn’t want to see it happen, but because it just isn’t going to.

Still, there are a few names that I left off my predictions that should not be counted out so easily.  Tom Hanks is having a killer year, and while I think his best chances ride with ‘Saving Mr. Banks’, he could feasibly double dip this year if ‘Captain Phillips’ is a big Oscar hit.  Harvey Weinstein has three men in contention right now, and all three are men of color, which makes for a refreshing look at this race.  Still, I am not currently betting on Whitaker or Elba, but Whitaker’s reviews make him a threat and the nature of Elba’s film make him a contender, sight unseen. 

With ‘Foxcatcher’ most likely getting the shaft to 2014, that leaves us with Dern and Bale to contemplate and eventually leave off my final predictions.  The trailer for ‘American Hustle’ made the film look like it was pretty much about everyone BUT Bale, and while Dern did win a huge prize at Cannes, it was only because Redford wasn’t in contention for the prize and the reviews for the film (and the floundering buzz) have me thinking he’ll wind up this year’s Robert Duvall (remember his awards run for ‘Get Low’?)

So for now, I’m thinking:

August Oscar Predictions: Screenplay

The screenplay categories are pretty easy to pinpoint each year, mostly because now that we can have up to ten Best Picture nominees we can pretty much cover every base without venturing out of the predicted Best Picture lineup.  That being said, some films despite being nominated films just don’t feel like screenplay nominees (of all ten Best Picture nominees, ‘Black Swan’ was the only one to miss here in 2010, and Les Miserables was out last year).  Besides, this year is really top heavy with Original Screenplay contenders in Best Picture, and not so many Adapted ones (at least with what I’m predicting) and so I’ve really got room to speculate in some areas.

With Adapted, I left off ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’, mainly because it is my #10 pick and it looks like more visual candy than anything else.  In Original, I cut out ‘The Counselor’, but I have a feeling that it could sneak in here so I’m not wholly happy with that cut.

Alas, there can only be ten, and these are what I’m thinking right now:

August Oscar Predictions: Director

There is this debate that I think will rage on until it actually happens, that no director can be nominated here without having his or her film land in Best Picture, thanks to that rule change.  I’m firmly in the camp that says that lone director nominations can and will still happen, eventually.  Still, it is going to be a very rare thing, and it will take a very special or beloved director with a film that none too many people are truly passionate about.  I thought that it could have happened with Malick and ‘The Tree of Life’ and then again with Anderson and ‘The Master’, but we see how both of those turned out (very different spectrums of the same scenario). 

So maybe I’m wrong, but one day I may be right!

So, considering that directing lineup for this year’s Academy Awards, I shuffled through the names associated with my picks for the top ten Best Picture nominees, and then added a few to the mix.  Like I’ve said before, I’ve been high on the Oscar chances for ‘The Counselor’, and there was a point where I claimed this Ridley’s deserved Oscar ticket.  The new trailer has me dubious.  It just looks too ‘thriller-esque’ and when that happens you have to be perfect.  Alas, I still think Scott could happen here.  I also think that if ‘Rush’ becomes a solid contender, Ron Howard would be a safe choice here, and one that AMPAS would totally go for.  Then you have Woody Allen, who should never be ruled out, and George Clooney, although the trailer for ‘The Monuments Men’ was so horrid I doubt Clooney will factor here.

My biggest questionmark surrounds Spike Jonze.  He could totally happen.  Remember when he got that surprise nomination in 1999?  It could happen again, especially if ‘Her’ makes a big splash at the festivals and winds up being a serious contender.  Jonze is a very smart director, and one who has enough style to catch you eye coupled with enough depth to steal your heart.  I’m not predicting him yet, but he’s on the bubble.

But for now:

Sunday, August 11, 2013

August Oscar Predictions: Best Picture

So last month I threw together some last minute predictions in order to complete predictions for the month, but I was not happy with them at all.  In fact, the minute I published them I wanted to retract them and start all over.  With reactions from screenings, trailers, clips, reviews and campaigns in full effect, tis the season and it is really starting to take shape now.  Yes, it is only August, but these next few months are going to be epic, and with TIFF and NYFF happening very soon, we’ll know pretty soon which films are going to make an impact early in the race.  Yes, there are still some end of year releases that will be a mystery until December, but for now we are getting some serious feedback and some really good ideas as to who could become frontrunners for this year’s Oscars.

I’m getting so excited!

So this week I’ll be updating my predictions once again to reflect my feelings on the current status of the race.

I know it's Sunday, but what the hell...I'll start a day early!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Trailer Break: Philomena

Introducing, your Best Actress Oscar Winner...

Five Nights With...1956: A Kiss Before Dying

So we’ve come to the end of the first installment of our ‘Five Nights With…’ series.  I hope you guys enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed doing it.  Like I said, I’m going to do this the first full week of every month (unless something comes up and I have to move it) so I hope that you can participate next time (I’ll post the theme and films for next month at the end of the post) because it’s always more fun the more hands we have in the pot.

Carrying on with the theme of the month, last night I sat down to another film from 1956.  This one is ‘A Kiss Before Dying’, a small thriller by director Gerd Oswald and starring Robert Wagner and introducing the great Joanne Woodward.  Now, I connected this to yesterday’s entry, ‘Written on the Wind’ through their trashy tone.  Yes, ‘A Kiss Before Dying’ is a rather trashy film.

Sadly, where ‘Written on the Wind’ embraces that trash and delivers something truly entertaining, ‘A Kiss Before Dying’ embraces that trash in a different way.

It’s just trash.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

What the hell is happening?

I don't know if I can take much more of this.  I'm still trying to recover from the loss of Jame Gandolfini, and since his death there have been at least four other notable celebrity deaths and the year is only half way through.  This has to be some kind of record, and honestly it isn't a record I want to ever seen broken.  Please make this stop!  Since Gandolfini passed on June 19th, we've lost Cory Monteith on July 13th, Dennis Farina on July 22nd, Eileen Brennan on July 28th and now Karen Black, today, August 8th.  Karen was 74 and had apparently been battling cancer since 2010.  I'll always remember Black for her devastating turn in 'Five Easy Pieces', for which she was nominated for the Oscar (and should have won).  Such a true talent, it is so sad to see them leave us.  This has been a hard year.  I'm going to be a mess during the 'in memoriam' section at the Oscars.

Let's Review Something: Stoker

Visual flare overtakes a strong structure in this breathtaking thriller from Chan-wook Park and Wentworth Miller.  In comes together in unexpected ways, delivering a film that is stunning to look at yet underdeveloped and rather spotty to evaluate.  It feels like half a film, sometimes not even that much, and yet the film’s clear assets are almost more than enough to make up for the faltering storyline.

I wasn’t too keen on seeing the film, to be honest.  I had preconceived notions of what this film was going to be about based on the odd promotional campaign, and the critical reception didn’t help convince me I was wrong.  It looked like a glossed over attempt at creating cheap thrills with a supernatural take on the Hitchcock thriller.  In some ways, it is some of those things and yet it isn’t.  Despite being underdeveloped, nothing about this film is cheap.  The thrills are genuine mostly because they come with a sense of normalcy.  As the film develops and the true intentions are made clear, the crazy elements carry with them a feeling of natural calm, which helps create a real sense of tension and a haunting sustainability.

Trailer Break: The Monuments Men

Alright, I've been heavily predicting this as an Oscar frontrunner since year's start.  This trailer changes all that.  I was anticipating this with much excitement, but this looks so...dull.  It looks pretty, glossy and well made, but as vanilla as they come.  The commercial comedic tone is surprising.  This looks like one of those forgettable summer flicks that makes big money at the box office but gets forgotten soon after.  The cast looks uniformly plain, and the delivery of the concept makes me want to take a nap.  Even the jokes were tired and didn't hit.  I can see this snagging a Best Picture nomination in an expanded field with decent reviews because of the pedigree of the cast, but outside of a few techs (like Art Direction, Costumes and Score) I see this being the big year end movie that flops.

Oh what should have been.

Five Nights With...1956: Written on the Wind

Continuing on with our ‘Five Nights With…’ series, we’re going to take a little detour from the world of the thriller and walk into pure soap operatic heaven.  Yes, we’re looking at Douglas Sirk’s trashy ‘Written on the Wind’, a 1956 melodramatic opera of sorts starring sex symbols Rock Hudson and Lauren Bacall.  Now, you may wonder, just what ties this film in with the previous entry, ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’.  Well, as I mentioned in that review; this is all about a singular musical moment.  In ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ it was that infamous Albert Hall scene (I so wish I could have found the YouTube video for that) and here it is a crazy moment where Dorothy Malone shakes her tail feather and Robert Keith falls down a flight of stairs to his death.

And, we have a clip!!!

So, that moment ties our two films together, but they are already tied together by the theme of this month’s ‘Five Nights With…’, that theme being the film year of 1956.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Trailer Break x's 2, with a Poster thrown in for good measure...

There you have it, the official trailer for Ridley Scott's anticipated 'The Counselor'.  You know that I'm all about this being huge, and I've personally been predicting it heavily for Oscar all year.  Last month I cooled on it a bit, but this trailer has me excited once again.  This could be a tricky one, beings that it is a thriller and AMPAS doesn't usually respond to those unless they knock it out of the park, but this cast is so ridiculously good, and Scott is due for a comeback of sorts.  I have faith, and I'm crossing my fingers BIG TIME.  Diaz looks wonderful here.  I heard earlier that her big scene may have been cut from the film, and some pundits in her corner have lamented, fearing that the loss of that scene could be the death of her Oscar campaign, but this trailer shows something that could mean that scene is still in there (can you guess what I'm talking about?  I know you can Vincent) so maybe there is still hope!

How are you feeling about the film's Oscar chances?  Are you anticipating this as much as I am?

Next, we have something VERY special:

Yes my friends, 'Her' IS happening this year!  This was high on my list of 'most anticipated films' back in January, and then nothing came of it, no hype, no buzz, no word, casting switches and I kind of forgot about it altogether, but now this happened!  This trailer is EVERYTHING I could want in a trailer and has probably made me the happiest I've been all season long.  Phoenix in particular looks brilliant here, so relaxed and loose and charming in this odd way.  Scarlett was the perfect choice for a voice (I was falling in love with her, and this trailer is only 2 minutes long) and everything about this just oozes charm and appeal.  Visually, it was breathtaking (the red and use of natural light drew me in).  I'm wondering how this could play with Oscar.  It looks very original and they have shown affection for Jonze in the past (how about that amazing surprise Oscar nomination for Direction back in '99) so I wonder if we have a surprise contender on our hands.  Original Screenplay maybe?  Could Phoenix factor in?

What do you think?  Does this wow you as much as it has wowed me?  Do you hear Oscar bells ringing?

Oh, and here is the poster:

I love this!

Let's Review Something: Pacific Rim

‘Pacific Rim’ is not the type of movie I would normally be excited about seeing.  I do, on occasion, like the big budget action films, but more so than not it is when there is some nostalgia laced with it.  Superhero movies based on famous characters of my youth or reboots of franchises that I remember loving as a child; those are the special effects heavy behemoths that I generally gravitate towards.  Something like ‘Pacific Rim’ looked, to me, like one of those geek-fest videogame movies that pop up and earn legions of devoted fans but get panned by critics and pretty much serves up forgettable explosions.  Still, some friends really wanted to see it and so they drug me to the movies last night.  I was really hesitant.  The guy at the ticket counter hadn’t seen it, so he was of no help, and then in walked two middle-aged men who clearly lived with their mothers, chattering about ‘The Hobbit’ and the upcoming ‘City of Bones’ movie, and as I watched them walk into the ‘Pacific Rim’ theater I was convinced that I was going to hate the next two hours of my life.

A lot about ‘Pacific Rim’ makes little sense, but at the end of the day this was one hell of a fun movie!

Guillermo del Toro is not a director I’m very familiar with.  I know that he loves fantasy and videogames and he has a huge cult following, but the only film of his that I’ve seen is ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and so I’m not entirely versed in his filmography or style.  If this is any indication, he likes things big and loud.  He certainly delivered on both of those fronts.

Five Nights With...1956: The Man Who Knew Too Much

Continuing on with the ‘Five Nights With…’ series, I’m going to be discussing ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ this morning.  Yesterday we discussed ‘Ransom!’, the 1956 thriller starring Glenn Ford and Donna Reed.  ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ is another thriller from 1956 that shares another common trait or theme with ‘Ransom!’, the kidnapping of the protagonists son.  This particular film is a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s own 1934 film.  Hitchcock famously stated that the original was the work of a talented amateur, while this remake is the act of a seasoned professional.  I have yet to see the original film, but I wholly agree with the later part of his statement. 

This is the work of a professional; a masterpiece if you will.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Trailer & Poster Break: Enough Said

I don't know whether to laugh with excitement or to cry in sorrow, but this trailer for September's 'Enough Said' had me so excited and yet so saddened.  The passing of James Gandolfini has yet to settle with me.  It has to be the hardest celebrity death I've had to endure in all my years of movie-watching and celebrity obsessing.  He'll always be one of my favorites.  Still, the chance to see him in his farewell piece at the end of the year brings a tear to my eyes and smile to my face.  This lighthearted comedy, written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, looks tremendous.  The chemistry between the entire cast is sensational, with all four stars (Gandolfini, Louis-Dreyfus, Collette and Holofcener regular Keener) giving it such clean, natural charisma.  Holofcener has a way with her actors and has pulled out great performances in her films before, so why should this be any different?  I expect to see the Globes shower this come year's end, especially if this gets good ink.  Is it too much to ask for a posthumous Oscar nomination for Gandolfini?  His career deserved at least one!  I doubt it will happen, but I won't rule it out.

Oh, and here is the poster.  Simple, yet effective.  I can't wait for September 20th.  This looks like a great date night movie!

Let's Review Something: Fruitvale Station

Last month, Ruth over at Flixchatter asked a question; what movie surprises you most this year?  I linked her question for the rest of you because I think it’s a great one to ask at any stage of the year (because surprises happen all the time) and I answered it with ‘Before Midnight’, but I really wish she had waited and asked that question, like, tomorrow because I just walked out of the theater (yes, I went to the movies at 10:30AM and, yes, I was the only person in the theater) and my eyes are still red and my heart is still broken and my mind is still in complete shock over how tremendous a film ‘Fruitvale Station’ is.

Seriously people; this film is a masterpiece.

Now, I know that this movie has its critics.  They have been sounding off loud and clear against the supporters, and I welcome your criticisms here as well.  I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t read into much of the negative talk because I like to walk into a film with an open mind.  I find that if you walk in expecting there to be flaws, you’re going to find those flaws even if you wouldn’t have otherwise.  So, now that I have seen the film and am about to give it a glowing review, I welcome one and all to tell me why I’m wrong because I feel as though I can actually have a valid discussion with you based on the film itself and not mere speculation.

That means you Vincent, since I know that you are not favorable on this film.

Trailer Break: Muppets Most Wanted

I know that not everyone was as smitten with 2011's 'The Muppet Movie' as I was, and I admit that it has it's detractors and obvious faults, but there was such a nostalgic aura of wonderfulness about it that I couldn't help but fall in love with every frame.  What made that film so fun was the way it was promoted as well, with those hilarious trailers that spoofed the movie as if it was a trailer for a movie inside a movie.  I still remember the Facebook page for the trailer.  Now we have the new Muppets film, 'Muppets Most Wanted', coming out next year.  I'm already on board.  My kids will eat this up, and I'll be first in line to laugh my ass off with them.  This trailer spoofs the sequel gloriously, purposefully selling this as a film that tries too hard to be bigger than the first, and it shows us enough crammed into that one minute to make it obvious that this film is trying way too hard, and part of me LOVES that about it.  This is going to be a hot mess, but possibly the greatest hot mess of all time!


Five Nights With…1956: Ransom!

Continuing on from yesterday, the next film on my list is Alex Segal’s ‘Ransom!’.  My ‘Tuesday Top Ten’ will be taking a brief hiatus this week for this particular series.  I, apparently, have time management issues and was unable to put together the Top Ten I had wanted to and I didn’t want to just lazily throw one together (not like I haven’t done that before, but I have a legitimate excuse to skip a week).

As I mentioned yesterday, ‘Ransom!’ is linked to yesterday’s entry, ‘Jubal’, through their star, Glenn Ford.  They provide him two very different films, themes and characters and give him a chance to be completely overshadowed by his costars.  This isn’t to say that he is a bad actor or that he fails to impress to a certain degree, but his reserved method of acting made it easy for the other actors in his films to chew the scenery or to merely emote stronger and thus steal my gaze.  I haven’t seen a lot of his films, but the ones I’ve seen recently have left a slightly forgettable taste in my mouth.

But there is more to this movie than Glenn Ford.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Generational wastelands: a look at Harmony Korine’s latest and greatest contribution to the world of cinema…

A night of Harmony

So, tonight I finally was able to see the film that everyone has been talking about this year; ‘Spring Breakers’.  It’s been a long time coming.  I should have seen it in the theaters, I know, but my life is far too hectic and busy to allow for that kind of thing.  When you have three children it appears that unless it’s a cartoon, I don’t get to the theater to see it (an exaggeration, but not a very big one).  I’ve refrained from reading very many reviews, mostly because I didn’t want to spoil for myself what was bound to be the highlight of my cinematic year.


Before watching ‘Spring Breakers’, I sat down to watch Harmony Korine’s very first film; ‘Kids’.  While he didn’t direct it, he wrote the screenplay at the ripe old age of 19, and so I was interested to see how these two bookends complimented one another.  I must say, watching these two films back to back brought so much perspective to both features and helped highlight the raw honesty of Korine’s vision.  Despite being 18 years apart, the themes and even the way in which those themes are expressed and expounded on show the bleakness of youth and their culture and how little it has evolved over the years. 

Let's Review Something: Broken City

Mark Wahlberg is one of those actors who have a career that feels smaller than it is, mainly because all of his film roles run together.  Whether he’s playing another cop, or another criminal gone good, or another arrogant Bostonian, Wahlberg seems to regurgitate the same character over and over again, film to film.  The sad thing is that, for the most part, he chooses a slew of forgettable films to grace his familiar shtick with.

To tell you the truth, ‘Broken City’ is no different.

Five for the Fifth: My August Answers to Ruth's 5 Questions!

Well, it’s the 5th of the month, which means that Ruth over at Flixchatter has asked us yet another batch of five questions and I, for one, plan on answering them!  If you haven’t checked out her post yet, follow the link and do that.  Ruth has a knack for giving us a nice list of random yet intriguing questions based on upcoming projects, trailers, ‘it’ actors, recent releases and much more.  This week sees questions surrounding astronauts, slaves, documentaries, washed up actors and buddy movies. 

Let’s dig in!