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Monthly Archives: January 2014

The 86th Annual Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor

Best Supporting Actor

In the interest of being thorough about the Academy Awards, I have decided to dededicate a blog entry for every category.  The news media will focus on the top five categories, eventually I will too, but these posts are in the interest of examining every single category, even those that send you to the fridge during the show.  Today: Best Supporting Actor

  • Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips
  • Bradley Cooper in American Hustle
  • Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave
  • Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club

You know it’s a strange year when Bradley Cooper and Jonah Hill are the veterans among the five Oscar nominees.  The selections this year were all very good, and the performances present perhaps more variety than this category has seen in many years.  In any other year (and I’m not making a blanket statement), I could see any of these performances walking away with the gold.  Let’s break it down:

Bradley Cooper from American Hustle and Jonah Hill from The Wolf of Wall Street gave great performances but they seem to be bringing up the rear among this group.  Fassbender’s near-psychopathic slave master in 12 Years a Slave isn’t as tempting to voters as Lupita Nyong’o over in the Supporting Actress category (yet if I had to predict an upset, he’s probably it).  She is more likely be the film’s acting winner.  And Barkhad Abdi is a newcomer but may find that his reward is the nomination (I don’t see Captain Phillips winning anything).  He has received a slew of pre-Oscar nominations but he hasn’t won much.

The surest indicator of who will win an acting prize is to simply look at the SAG Awards.  After all, those are the same people who vote for the Oscar.  Yet, the Supporting Actor race traditionally differs the most from who would go on to win the Oscar.  Since 2000, only seven SAG winners in this category later received the Oscar.  The best bet is always to look at the accumulation of pre-Oscar honors, and among the five nominees, the odds seem to favor Jared Leto for his heartbreaking performance as Rayon, a post-op transsexual woman suffering from AIDS in Dallas Buyers Club.  Leto is probably the closest thing to a sure bet.  He and co-star Matthew McConaughey are on everyone’s radar this year as The Comeback Kids.  I think Leto’s Oscar is in the bag.

Who will win: Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club
Dark Horse: Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave

SupportingActor

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Posted by on 01/27/2014 in Blog

 

The 86th Annual Academy Awards: Best Original Score

Best Original Score

In the interest of being thorough about the Academy Awards, I have decided to dededicate a blog entry for every category.  The news media will focus on the top five categories, eventually I will too, but these posts are in the interest of examining every single category, even those that send you to the fridge during the show.  Today: Best Original Score.

  • John Williams for The Book Thief
  • Steven Price for Gravity
  • William Butler and Owen Pallett for Her
  • Alexandre Desplat for Philomena
  • Thomas Newman for Saving Mr. Banks

The easiest indicator on who is going to win the Oscar for Best Original Score is to pick out which single film will dominate the Oscars in any given year.  The problem this year is that the predictions are so erratic that it is tough to nail it down.  So let’s do this by process of elimination:

John Williams, on his 49th nomination, probably won’t win his 6th Oscar here.  The Book Thief was not well-received and has no other nominations and is therefore lucky to be in this category.  Doesn’t seem likely

Alexandre Desplat’s evocative score for Philomena really just seems to be pulling up the rear.  In a possible tie with The Book Thief, it’s the less known and least seen of the nominees.  Doesn’t seem likely.

Thomas Newman’s eloquent work on Saving Mr. Banks is lucky to be here, plus the film doesn’t have the dominant power to pull an upset here.

Steven Price’s work for Gravity really doesn’t come into play until the film’s third act, but it is a powerful piece of work.  If I must pick a winner, would be my easy pick.

If an upset happens, it may go in favor of William Butler and Owen Pallett – otherwise known as Canadian indie rock band Arcade Fire who created a most unusual score for Spike Jonze’s her.  If the voters are in the mood for something new and different, this could be the film’s only award.

Yet, the odds falls between two distinctly different pieces of work, Steven Price’s score for Gravity and the quiet, tender refrains of William Butler and Owen Pallett (otherwise known as Canadian Indie Rockers Arcane Fire) for her.  Price is the easy bet, especially since there’s a Gravity sweep, but her is the year’s most likely darkhorse.

Who Will Win?: Gravity
Who Should Win?: her
Darkhorse?: her

 

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Posted by on 01/27/2014 in Blog

 

The 86th Annual Academy Awards: Best Make-Up and Hairstyling

Best  Make-up and Hair Styling

In the interest of being thorough about the Academy Awards, I have decided to dededicate a blog entry for every category.  The news media will focus on the top five categories, eventually I will too, but these posts are in the interest of examining every single category, even those that send you to the fridge during the show.  Today: Best Make-Up and Hairstyling.

  • Adruitha Lee and Robin Matthews for Dallas Buyers Club
  • Stephen Prouty for Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
  • Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny for The Lone Ranger

It was a puzzlement a year ago about why the academy felt the need to add “and Hair Styling” to this award.  But if you saw the opening scene of American Hustle which features the construction of a rather unfortunate hairpiece, you start to understand why.  Sadly, it wasn’t nominated, so the three nominees this year went back to the old latex standby.

Despite the new addition, the selection of nominees have reverted back to the typical putty and latex nominees that we get every year..  Both Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa and The Lone Ranger earn nominations for making two young Johnnies into old men – Johnny Knoxville’s pudgy grandfather Irving Zisman and Johnny Depp’s leathery Tonto.  Neither film was worth a %$#@, but the make-up work was credible.  In the end, thought, I feel that both will be bested by the much more impressive feat of turning masculine Jared Leto into an effete transsexual in Dallas Buyer’s Club.

Who Will Win?: Dallas Buyers Club
Who Should Win?: Dallas Buyers Club
Darkhorse?: The Lone Ranger

BestMakeup

 
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Posted by on 01/25/2014 in Blog

 

The 86th Annual Academy Awards: Best Editing

Best Editing

In interest of being thorough about the Academy Awards, I’ve decided to dedicate a blog entry for every category.  The news media will focus on the top five categories, eventually I will too.  These posts are in the interesting of examining all arena of the Oscar race, even those categories that instinctively draw the urge to visit the fridge when they are handed out.  Today: Best Editing.

  • Jay Cassidy, Crispen Struthers and Alan Baumgarten for American Hustle
  • Christopher Rouse for Captain Phillips
  • John MacMurphy and Martin Pensa for Dallas Buyers Club
  • Alfonso Cauron and Mark Sanger for Gravity
  • Joe Walker for 12 Years a Slave

You may or may not know this, but there’s an unwritten, unprepped tradition at the academy awards that the Best Editing award usually goes to the film that wins Best Picture.  Of the 85 films that have won the top award 34 of them have also nabbed gold for editing.  There’s always the theory that no one really knows how to define Editing.

Editing is done to provide coherence and continuity. Good editing can make bad production look good and bad editing can turn a good production look bad. With editing, shots are combined in accordance with the script to create finished movie. A shot must be short enough to fulfill the purpose. It should not be too long.  Basically, the editor puts the film together like a puzzle, creating a visual orientation in everything from a car chase to a conversation.  We look into the visual window our minds must be organized into what we’re looking at.

The five films nominated this year are fine examples of the craft, but let’s be honest, our eye is immediately drawn to Gravity.  In creating a room of people, the organization is a little easier to translate, but in the blackness of space, where there is no up or down, getting the visual orientation is a little tougher.  That’s why I think that this year’s editing award is going to Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger.

Who Will Win?: Gravity
Who Should Win?: Gravity
Darkhorse?: Captain Phillips

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Posted by on 01/23/2014 in Blog

 
Aside

Best Visual Effects

In interest of being thorough about the Academy Awards, I’ve decided to dedicate a blog entry for every category.  The news media will focus on the top five categories, eventually I will too.  These posts are in the interesting of examining all arena of the Oscar race, even those categories that instinctively draw the urge to visit the fridge when they are handed out.  Today: Visual Effects.

  • Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould for Gravity
  • Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White for The Hobbit: The    Desolation of Smaug
  • Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick for Iron Man 3
  • Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier for The Lone Ranger
  • Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton for Star Trek Into      Darkness.

Of all the technical categories (most of which are admittedly a snore), this is probably the most fun.  It is also one of the oldest – it is among the very few awards still in existence from the very first awards handed out back in 1929.  Then called “Best Engineering Effects”, the first award went to the first film to win the top prize, William Wellman’s “Wings.”  Therefore it is not at all surprising that since the art of the cinema has moved so heavily toward big-budget action-oriented movies, the visual effects get better and better.

The nominees in this category, as with Best Picture, are flexible.  They can range from two to five nominees.  Fortunately, in the past five years, the list has remained solid at five.  The nominees this year range form the sublime (Gravity) to the ridiculous (The Long Ranger), yet they are all perfect examples of their craft.  Choosing the winner is always pretty easy. A a good indicator of a win here is that the past five winners – Life of Pi, Hugo, Inception, Avatar and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – have been best Best Picture nominees (but not winners).

Gravity is the only film in this category to be nominated for Best Picture, and was the top nominees at the Visual Effects Society.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug continues the tradition of nominating every leg of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth saga.  All three of “The Lord of the Rings” films won in this category, but the first installment of The Hobbit last year failed to win here.  Is it just not as popular?

Iron Man 3, like The Hobbit is a regular fixture of this award, yet, like Spider-Man before it, hasn’t won in this category.

The Lone Ranger is this year’s head-scratcher; a nominee in a slot that many felt should have been filled by Pacific Rim.  The fact that the movie was one of the year’s most hated big-budget action pictures makes it even more of a mystery.

Star Trek Into Darkness is nothing surprising as a nominee.  Star Trek does not has as a long history with this award as you might think.  Being a science fiction perennial you are surprised to find that only two previous films – Star Trek The Motion Picture, 2009’s Star Trek – have landed in this category.

Who Will Win: Gravity
Who Should Win: Gravity
Darkhorse:The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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The 86th Annual Academy Awards: Best Visual Effects

 
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Posted by on 01/21/2014 in Blog

 

The 86th Annual Academy Awards: Best Cinematography

In interest of being thorough about the Academy Awards, I’ve decided to dedicate a blog entry for every category.  The news media will focus on the top five categories, eventually I will too.  These posts are in the interesting of examining all arena of the Oscar race, even those categories that instinctively draw the urge to visit the fridge when they are handed out.  I’ll start with Best Cinematography.

Best Cinematography

  • Philippe Le Sourd for The Grandmaster
  • Emmanuel Lubezki for Gravity
  • Bruno Delbonnel for Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Phedon Papamichael for Nebraska
  • Roger A. Deakins for Prisoners

It is more than just pretty pictures.  The cinematographer’s job is to be a photography, the photograph the images, not just to look pretty but to create and effect.  Lighting can set a mood, or change it.  The cinematographer is, essentially, the director’s main visual collaborator.  That doesn’t mean that cinematography is limited to outdoor landscapes.  It can also create a mood and tone on the landscape of the human face.

In most years, the cinematography category is filled with period films that look pretty.  Pretty is easy, mood is not.  This is an eclectic group, from Phedon Papmichael’s black and white landscape of Nebraska, to the fields of light and dark of space from Emmanuel Lubezki for Gravity, and not to forget the smoky dens of Inside Llewyn Davis created by Bruno Delbonnel.

Yet, for me, the best of these comes from Roger Deakins whose dark shadows in Prisoners created not only the horror of losing a child to a kidnapper, but the turning of a parent’s soul into a vengeful spirit.  I don’t think Deakins will win, but it would be a nice upset.

Who Will Win: Gravity
Who Should Win: Inside Llewyn Davis
Darkhorse: Inside Llewyn Davis

Cinematography

 
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Posted by on 01/17/2014 in Blog

 

The Oscar nominations are out . . . the only surprise is who wasn’t among them.

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It will be a battle of the hustler’s versus the astronauts at the 86th Annual Academy Awards on March 2nd.  Both David O. Russell’s colorful con game American Hustle and Alfonso Cauron’s tale of an astronaut fighting for survival, simply titled Gravity each received 10 nominations Tuesday morning as the contenders for the award were announced by actor Chris Hemsworth and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs.

For the first time in years, the list of Best Picture nominees comes without a loser in the bunch.  The academy – which three years ago decided to give the category some elasticity by allowing from five to ten nominees – chose nine films this year that deserved their nominations.  The top contenders come down to three: American Hustle, Gravity and 12 Years a Slave.  From that group, it might seem that Slave is the most Oscar friendly, but if the Golden Globes are any indication, it might be American Hustle for the win.

Cauron’s Gravity becomes only the sixth film released predominantly in 3D to receive a best picture nomination.  What is encouraging is that this film, like the previous films Avatar (2009), Up (2009), Toy Story 3 (2010), Hugo (2011) and Life of Pi (2012) were all good films.  Gravity has been riding the wave of good reviews since its release last October.  Does it have a chance?  In the technical categories, yes, but in the top categories it the competition from Hustle and Slave is a bit too steep.

Russell’s film dominated the acting categories with one actor in each category – which happened last year with Silver Linings Playbook directed, ironically, by David O. Russell.  Before that you have to go back to Warren Beatty’s Reds back in 1981.  Christian Bale got his first nomination for Best Actor, Amy Adams, got her fifth nomination but this year moves up the Best Actress category (all others were for supporting).  Bradley Cooper gets his second nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and Last year’s Best Actress winner Jennifer Lawrence was nominated in the Supporting actress category.

In an unusual move, all five nominees for Best Director had their films nominated for Best Picture -Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity, Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave, Alexander Payne for Nebraska, David O. Russell for American Hustle and Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street.

For the most part, the nominations stayed within the predictions.  For the men, Christian Bale faces Bruce Dern from Nebraska, Golden Globe winner Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street, Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave, and comeback kid Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club.  Among the supporting actors, the only surprise is the second nomination for Jonah Hill as a drug addicted salesman in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.  He faces Bradley Cooper for American Hustle and Michael Fassbender as a slave master in 12 Years a Slave.  The stiffest competition in this category comes between newcomer Barkhad Abdi for his debut performance as a Somali hijacker in Captain Phillips and Jared Leto for his heartbreaking performance as a drug-addicted transsexual in Dallas Buyers Club.

On the ladies side, the Best Actress category was more or less expected.  Along with Amy Adams in American Hustle, is Cate Blanchett as a once rich society women who is losing her marbles in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine – this is her sixth nomination, third in this category.  Sandra Bullock as a wayward astronaut in Gravity, Judi Dench in Philomena and Meryl Streep, who gets nomination #18 for August: Osage County  .  On the supporting side will come a possible second Oscar in a row for Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle.  Lawrence is Hollywood’s current whiz-kid and if she wins, it will be deserved.  Her competition is one of the best rosters of Supporting Actress nominees in recent years; Sally Hawkins in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, June Squibb as Bruce Dern’s motor-mouthed wife in Nebraska, Julia Roberts for August: Osage County  – this is her first nomination since her win back in 2001 for Erin Brockovich.  Rounding out the category is newcomer Lupita Nyong’o as a devastated slave woman in 12 Years a Slave.

Snubs

The only real surprises came from the snubs, the most notable was Tom Hanks who didn’t receive nominations for either Captain Phillips or his turn as Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks.  His co-star Emma Thompson woke up empty-handed with no nomination for her best performance in years as the grouchy P.L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks.  Also no nomination for Robert Redford for All is Lost, Idris Elba in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Enough Said, Joaquin Phoenix for Her, nor his co-star Scarlett Johannsen for her voice-work, which had been petitioned to receive a nod. 

Also overlooked:
•  Critical darling Inside Llewyn Davis from the Coen Brothers which garnered two nominations for Cinematography and Sound Mixing received no acting or writing, or even music nominations.
•  As it must, be the directing doesn’t match the Best Picture category.  All five nominees had their films nominated – that means that Stephen Frears for Philomena, Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips, Spike Jones for Her, and Jean-Marc Vallée for Dallas Buyers Club were all left out.
•  The grand trio of Ethan Hawke, Julie Delphy and Richard Linklater nabbed another nomination for their screenplay to Before Midnight, yet no nominations for the acting or the directing.
•  Pixar, for the first time since 2010, didn’t have a film among the Best Animated Feature category – which is sad since Monsters University was one of the best films of the year.  It was overlooked in favor the lackluster comedy The Croods, and Disney’s inferior Frozen, which will likely win over fellow (and better) nominees like Miazaki’s The Wind Rises (which might have had a better chance in the Best Foreign-Language Film category), the French-Belgian fantasy French-Belgian, Ernest and Celestine, and the delightful Despicable Me 2.
•  The documentary branch left off two of the best films of the year, the killer Killer Whale story Blackfish and Sarah Polley’s pitch perfect Stories We Tell.

The awards will be handed out March 2.

 
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Posted by on 01/16/2014 in Blog