Wednesday, February 27, 2013

March Movies to See or Skip!

I have to admit I did not see a single film in February namely because there was not a single film (maybe except Warm Bodies, which seemed worth my time.  Die Hard was supposedly the worst in the franchise history, Identity Thief may be doing great at the box office, but the film just does not look funny.  There were a few glimmers of hope, but nothing special enough.

March unfortunately does not look much better, and some big hits look like they could be big misses. Could March be better, let's hope, anything has to be better than February. 

March 1st
Jack the Giant Slayer 
21 and Over
The Last Exorcism Part II

Bryan Singer's Jack and the Giant Slayer has only a few reviews out there, and they are solid so far.  Not sure it's a film I am going to run out and see, but it may be pretty solid.  21 and Over looks like last years Project X a waste of time.  How many exorcism movies can their be? Too many!  Stoker looks creepy, but brilliant, one film which may not get enough attention this year.

March 8th 
Oz the Great and Powerful

This film reminds me of the Burton produced Alice in Wonderland, only from the mind another twisted (in mostly a good way) visionary Sam Raimi.  I love the cast, but this looks like it could take the Oz world into a bland direction, full of miscast folks i.e. James Franco.  

March 15th 
The Call 
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Ginger & Rosa

Does Halle Berry even try anymore?  The Call looks awful, and the only way she must get work is based on her looks.  Wonderstone looks weak, Jim Carrey has not had a good film in years.  Ginger & Rosa looks incredible, and I will make sure I get to see this film! Elle Fanning is much superior to her sister.

March 22nd
Olympus has Fallen
The Croods
The Sapphires

Red Dawn the Korean invasion of the White House, or Olympus has Fallen.  Nice to see Butler do an action film, that's his wheel house, same way it is for someone like Stallone.  This could Air Force One, or Air Farce One.  I love Tina Fey and Paul Rudd but Admission looks contrived  and Paul Weitz last great film was 10 years ago.  The Croods looks like one of those winter animated films I will skip but families will show up in droves.  The Sapphires got some good word or mouth and looks worth  checking out!

March 29th 
G.I. Joe Retaliation 
The Host
The Place Beyond the Pines 
Tyler Perry's Temptation

G.I. Joe tried once will adding Willis, and keeping Tatum save the franchise, financially probably.  The Hose is another crappy love story from Stephanie Meyer with aliens instead of vampires, gag me.  The Place Behind the Pines could be too melodramatic based on the preview, and the honor of movie that looks the worst goes to Tyler Perry's Temptation.

See: Ginger & Rosa, The Sapphires Olympus Has Fallen, Stoker
Skip: 21 and Over, The Call, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, The Host, and Tyler Perry's Temptation

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Oscars Seth McFarlane Entertained, but the Show Dragged

Everyone was nervous about Seth, and while his opening number started a bit slow, and got off to a bumpy start I think he did a great job as the emcee.  I am going to steal a line from my friend Karl who said "it was the perfect perfect blend of class and crass." The opening bit with Shatner was great, MacFarlane knows how to to bring that hilariously awkward pop culture reference into the mix.  Watching Channing Tatum, and Charlize Theron was magnetic, then see Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Daniel Radcliffe soft shoe was fun as well.

Throughout the show Seth throughout some jokes with edge relating to Lincoln's death (too soon), a Chris Brown/Rihanna joke, and one of the best jokes introducing Christopher Plummer with a Sound of Music joke.  Although Christopher Plummer gets this award shows Grumpy Old Man Award! In contrast opening the show and getting Tommy Lee Jones to laugh was hilarious, maybe expected, but brilliant.

Music was the central focus of the show, and paying tribute to the role music plays in film, and while it was fun to see Catherine Zeta Jones lip sync, Jennifer Hudson steal the night, the Lis Miserables cast sing better than they did in the film (except Russell Crowe), Shirley Bassey's tribute to Bond with Goldfinger, Adele, and Norah Jones singing their perspective Best Song nominees, and Babs paying tribute to the great Marvin Hamlisch. Whew, I got tired just typing that.

I think it was a bit tacky not having all the Best Song nominees performed on the show, have them all performed or none of them, and my money is on none of them.  I love Babs, and Marvin Hamlisch but this post in memoriam was not needed.  While I love movie music this lacked focus.  Oh how can I forget the awkward closing number, just say good night, some of us on the east coast have work in the morning.

Along with songs with no pay, the tribute to the Bond was wasted, and fell flat.  It was cool to see the clips of the different films, but what was the point?  The marketing on this was off the charts, but they did not reunite the Bonds after Shirley Bassey's number.  Having Adele perform later and not be connected to this made no sense.  Damn you Pierce Brosnan for backing out of this!

With the winners/presenters/speeches let's look at this from a Good, Bad, Ugly Perspective

Oscars 2013The Good 
Ang Lee winning director (although I would have preferred Zeitlin), but his win was better than one for Spielberg.  Lee's film was a technical marvel and his direction was great.

The speech from Innocente was the best of evening, celebrating art.

Lincoln winning more than just one award for Daniel Day Lewis (Production Design as well)

Silver Linings Playbook only winning one award, and Harvey could not buy them anymore, including a win for DeNiro.

Speeches from Daniel Day Lewis and Jennifer Lawrence were good!  DDL had me tearing up because he seemed really appreciative, then had me in stitches when he talked about his and Meryl's freaky Friday with Margaret Thatcher in Lincoln.  Even though J-Law tripped you could tell just appreciative she was and, it was sweet to wish Emanuelle Riva a Happy Birthday!

Ted and Mark Wahlberg were the only entertaining duo who presented, glad he only did his Ted schtick, loved this!

The Bad 
The Django wins, sorry Waltz is a lead, and that is Quentin's worst screenplay (even worse than Jackie Brown)

Anne Hathaway's speech (and outfit) while her win isn't the worst (although Field or Hunt deserved it more) she had all this time to practice, and prep, but she just never nailed it, and I still am not a huge fan.

Most of the presenters who tried to do something were mediocre, I guess at Oscar if you can't hack it just present

The Ugly 
Zero Dark Thirty winning only one award in the sound category when it was the best film of the year

Les Miserables winning 3 Oscars!

Beasts of the Southern Wild going home empty handed, criminal

In a year with so much upset potential these awards were incredibly predictable, and boring, I got 23 out of 26 right (only missing Production Design, the Sound tie, and Documentary Short)

Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy were beyond lame, they will not be hosting anytime soon.

The Cool 
Having Michelle Obama present Best Picture with Jack Nicholson, may be one of the oddest/coolest things I have ever seen.

Ben's sheer genuine appreciation while accepting Best Picture, Grant Heslov is in the not cool category, we realize Argo was directed by Affleck, the Academy knows!!

I did not place Argo's win into any categories, because I like and respect the film, but I am not sure it fits within any of these categories.  

Does the Independent Spirit Still Exist?

Last night the Weinstein Company film Silver Linings Playbook took home four prizes at the Independent Spirit Awards,  Best Picture, Best Director, Lead Actress, and Screenplay.  Now I don't know about you, but I would not define Silver Linings Playbook as an "independent film."  Silver Linings Playbook comes from a well established director,   The production budget for the film was also 21 million dollars.  21 million hardly screams low budget film.

The history of the trophy's symbolic nature proves this award show is a bit different, than the wins from last night.  The original trophy for the film was "presented with acrylic glass pyramids containing suspended shoestrings representing the paltry budgets of independent films. The trophy was modified in 2006 "depicting a bird sitting atop of a pole with the shoestrings from the previous design wrapped around the pole."  The goal of this award show was to honor small budget films, their directors, and the small films, which rarely got attention from either award shows or audiences.  The award catapulted many to much more famous careers. 21 million dollars is hardly a "shoe string budget."

Silver Linings competitor Beasts of the Southern Wild is the best example a film that mainstream audiences have seen, but still fits the category of being an independent film.  The budget for this film was very small, and a few sources I have seen cite it as 1.8 million dollars.  Making any film for this amount of money is next to impossible today.  First time film maker Benh Zeitlin used the "shoe string" mentality to weave the magic of this film, and Forbes magazine cites his model as one of the most innovative ways of putting a film together.

Does it matter that Beasts is Oscar nominee, no, it is one the small films which Oscar has started to embrace.  Over the year's the Independent Spirit Awards have matched up with many films which were Best Picture nominees at the Oscars.  At the bottom is a full list of ISA winners in Best Picture.  The is only one film which won at these awards and then won Best Picture at the Oscars, and thats The Artist.

Yet I have to think/hope/wonder shouldn't this group think independently?  Pick your own winners, do not try and line up with the Oscars.  The one category where this rang through last night was with Best Actor.  John Hawkes won for The Sessions, while competing against Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper.  I am tired of these award show honoring the true independent films in the "othered" categories like Beasts only winning in Cinematography, and films like Safety Not Guaranteed, Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Middle of Nowhere not making a bigger impact.  Those are the true independent films of the year.

Time for Film Independent, who puts on this award show to either own up to their Oscar correlation, and  get out of the tent in afternoon and be corporate.  Otherwise they should embrace the "spirit" of the film they are supposed to root for and be more independent minded.

Here is a list of the Best Feature Winners throughout the shows history
The Artist
Black Swan
The Wrestler
Little Miss Sunshine
Brokeback Mountain
Lost in Translation
Far From Heaven
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Gods and Monsters
The Apostle
Leaving Las Vegas
Pulp Fiction
Short Cuts
The Player
Rambling Rose
The Grifters
Sex, Lies and Videotape
Stand and Deliver
River’s Edge
After Hours

Academy Award Week 2013: The Conclusion, My Predictions

Best Picture 
Beasts of the Southern Wild 
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Life of Pi 
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

In past years Lincoln would have been the obvious choice, incredible pedigree, and film that feels important (director, screenwriter, composer etc).  Yet this year history is going to be made an a film without a director nomination is going to win for the fourth time in Academy history, and for the first time since 1989.  I think Argo winning is one of the biggest sure things of the night.  If a film was going to spoil, the only one with momentum is Silver Linings Playbook.

Will Win: Argo 
Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty
Spoiler (If any): Silver Linings Playbook

Best Lead Actor 
Daniel Day-Lewis-Lincoln
Bradley Cooper-Silver Linings Playbook
Hugh Jackman-Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix-The Master
Denzel Washington-Flight

I honestly do not have much to say about this category, DDL is the biggest lock for the win of the evening.

Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis-Lincoln
Should: Daniel Day-Lewis or Joaquin Phoenix

Best Lead Actress
Jessica Chastain-Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence-Silver Linings Playbook
Emanuelle Riva-Amour
Quvenzhane Wallis-Beasts of the Southern Wild 
Naomi Watts-The Impossible 

Could be the hardest or one of the easiest categories to predict of the evening.  If you look at the precursor awards they are pretty evenly spread with one actress having the slight edge.  Jennifer Lawrence has the edge with SAG, and the Golden Globe.  SAG is the trump card.  Jessica Chastain won at BFCA, and the Golden Globes, and Emanuelle Riva won at BAFTA.  May the Odds be ever in Jennifer Lawrence favor!  Jennifer Lawrence seems like the safe bet, mainly because she has It girl status, great performance, and Harvey behind her.  Riva is the bigger spoiler, age and admiration for the film could help her.  I also think people are underestimating Chastain, and she has a real shot.  So who will win?  I am going to go with the predictable.

Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence-Silver Linings Playbook
Should Win and Spoiler: Emanuelle Riva-Amour
Spoiler: Jessica Chastain-Zero Dark Thirty

Best Supporting Actor 
Alan Arkin
Robert DeNiro-Silver Linings Playbook
Tommy Lee Jones-Lincoln 
Phillip Seymour Hoffman-The Master 
Christoph Waltz-Django Unchained

Please Click Here to see analysis:

Will Win: Christoph Waltz-Django Unchained
Should Win: Tommy Lee Jones 
Spoiler: Robert DeNiro-Silver Linings Playbook

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams-The Master
Sally Field-Lincoln
Anne Hathaway-Les Miserable
Helen Hunt-The Sessions
Jacki Weaver-Silver Linings Playbook

This win and the win from Daniel Day-Lewis are the biggest sure things of the night!

Will Win: Anne Hathaway-Les Miserables

Best Director
Michael Haneke-Amour
Ang Lee-Life of Pi
David O. Russell-Silver Linings Playbook
Steven Spielberg-Lincoln
Benh Zeitlin-Beasts of the Southern Wild

Please Click Here to See my Analysis

Will Win: Ang Lee-Life of Pi
Should Win: Benh Zeitlin-Beasts of the Souther Wild
Spoiler: David O. Russell

Best Adapted Screenplay
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook

Long ago it was thought Lincoln had a strong hold on this category, but turn out Lincoln may be running third here.  This is a race between Argo and Silver Linings Playbook.  I think Argo has this because it wont at the WGA, a major victory.  Silver Linings Playbook won this award at BAFTA though to so watch out!

Will Win: Argo 
Should Win: Lincoln
Spoiler: Silver Linings Playbook

Best Original Screenplay 
Django Unchained
Moonrise Kingdom
Zero Dark Thirty

Please Click Here to see my Analysis:

Will Win: Django Unchained
Should Win: Moonrise Kingdom
Spoiler: Amour 

The Rest....
Best Foreign Language Film: Amour
Best Animated Feature: Brave
Best Documentary: Searching for Sugar Man
Best Production Design: Anna Karenina 
Best Cinematography: Life of Pi 
Best Costume Design: Anna Karenina 
Best Film Editing: Argo
Best Make-Up and Hairstyling-Les Miserables
Best Original Score: Life of Pi
Original Song: Skyfall
Best Sound Editing: Life of Pi
Best Sound Mixing: Les Miserables
Best Visual Effects: Life of Pi
Best Animated Short: Paperman
Best Documentary Short:  Open Heart
Best Live Action Short: Curfew 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

First Annual Underrated Film Awards Winners (2012)

Most Underrated Technical Aspects of Film (Writing, Direction, Editing etc)
Jacqueline West's Costume Design for Argo
Reinhold Heil, Johnny Kilmek, and Tom Tykwer's Original Score for Cloud Atlas
Terrence Davies Direction for The Deep Blue Sea
The Visual Effects Team for The Impossible
Arthur Max's Production Design for Prometheus
Martin McDonagh's Screenplay for Seven Psychopaths 

The Winner is Arthur Max's Production Design for Prometheus

Most Underrated Performances of 2012
Emma Watson-The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Liam Nesson-The Grey
Edith Scob-Holy Motors
Michael Fassbender-Promethues
Seth Rogen-Take this Waltz
Rebel Wilson-Pitch Perfect

The Winner is Emma Watson-The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Most Underrated Films of 2012
21 Jump Street
The Cabin in the Woods
End of Watch 
Middle of Nowhere
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Safety Not Guaranteed 
Seven Psychopaths 

The Winner is...Middle of Nowhere

Friday, February 22, 2013

Academy Award Week (2013) Best Original Screenplay

Typically the Original Screenplay category has a pretty clear, or there has been a lack of competitive scripts which could compete within this category.  This category tends to honor films based on the following categories

The Unique Wins
What are the unique wins?  In my mind these are somewhat anomalies, and while they may make sense  during the year or in hind sight, there is something truly unique about their wins.

2002-Talk to Her (Hable Con Ella)-Foreign films rarely get a win in major categories outside of Best Foreign Language Film in the "major" categories.  Pedro Almodovar had another nomination in Best Director, but the film was not nominated in the Foreign Language film category.  On the other hand you had 10 time nominee Gangs of New York, the popular Nia Vardalos for My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and a multiple nominee Far from Heaven.

2004-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-This could be seen as a consolation prize, but this was a two time nominee with only a nomination for this and Kate Winslet.  Sunshine was up against more typical films like The Aviator, Hotel Rwanda, The Incredibles, and even Vera Drake.  Sunshine's win was somewhat expected in the sense that the film was very respected, but the film does not fit the norm.

2008-Milk-This was not a consolation prize, Penn won Actor (although people may not have known this was going to happen), but rarely does a bio-pic on this level win within this category.

Best Picture Sweep 
The Best Picture and Original Screenplay have only lined up 15 times in Oscars history, which does not bode well for the winners in this category, unless you are a massive Oscar favorite in the Best Picture category.

2005-Crash-At the time of the ceremony I saw this win as a consolation prize, but this ended up going along with the sweep.  It was easy to predict this win, but this one of those rare times when it predicted Best Picture.

2009-The Hurt Locker-The Hurt Locker vs. Avatar in Best Picture, on awards night The Hurt Locker won more than was expected, and this was a surprise as well.  My thought and many other people predicted Inglorious Basterds would win this as a consolation prize.

2010-The King's Speech-Like Hurt Locker this was one of those wins that was fierce battle, and it's competition was Inception.  Speech was not qualified for the WGA, but won at the BFCA, and BAFTA.  With few wins Speech needed this the way Argo needs adapted screenplay to help amass more wins.

The Consolation Prize (I Have to Win Somewhere)
Statistically this is where most of the winners fit.  All of the films (except Almost Famous) were nominated for Best Picture, and a few other awards, but this was the only win, which made sense.

2000-Almost Famous was snubbed in the Best Picture category the Miramax machine's Chocolat.  Almost Famous only received four nominations, but was a respected film from from Jerry Maguire nominee Cameron Crowe; he won to give the film some attention.

2001-Gosford Park-Park had lots of stiff competition from Memento, and The Royal Tenenbaums, but Park was the most "Oscar bait" film.  Park made the most sense as a winner, and it was the only Best Picture nominee.

2003-Lost in Translation, 2006-Little Miss Sunshine, 2007-Juno-All three of these films fit within the quirky comedy category.  Translation had the Copola name, and was solid.  Sunshine and Juno had heart mixed with quirk, which could never be taken seriously anywhere else.  While Arkin won for Sunshine that was not expected at all.

2011-Midnight in Paris-Midnight in Paris was another great Woody film, which never had a shot at Best Picture, but was one of the most respected films of the year.

So who wins this year....And the Nominees Are....

Amour-Michael Haneke
Django Unchained-Quentin Tarantino
Flight-John Gatins
Moonrise Kingdom-Wes Anderson, and Roman Coppola
Zero Dark Thirty-Mark Boal

Moonrise Kingdom and Flight, only have one, and two nominations respectively, they are out.  This is one of the tougher races to predict.  Django has won the Golden Globe, BAFTA, and BFCA, which gives it the best odds.  Django has a lot of respect, but why the Academy would honor one of the weakest screenplays is beyond me.  Zero Dark Thirty won the WGA, but Django was ineligible.  The difference between 2009 and this year is that Django has the edge because in 2009 Hurt Locker won all the awards Django won.  Yet can Amour pull off that unique foreign language film win, it has five other nominations. At the moment my winner prediction is Django, but this may change.

Will Win: Django Unchained
Spoilers: Amour then Zero Dark Thirty

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Academy Award Week (2013): Best Supporting Actor....Are you Sure you are in the Right Place?

Throughout the years of Academy Awards performances are placed in acting categories by studios, the options are clearly lead vs. supporting.  Over the years people have bemoaned category fraud, and this year there are two specific cases of that extreme category fraud, Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in The Master.

Before I look at this year I am going to talk about this category, and category fraud over the years:

2010-Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech has an equal amount of screen time as lead contender and winner Colin Firth.

2008-Robert Downey Jr. was in most of the scenes in Tropic Thunder, but you could argue the "ensemble rule."  Phillip Seymour Hoffman was a central part in Doubt, and was by no means a supporting player.

2007-Casey Affleck in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was in more of the film than Brad Pitt how he was considered a lead is one of the biggest pieces of category fraud.

2005-Jake Gyllenhaal was a co-lead in Brokeback Mountain, the film was about both Ennis and Jack.

These are just a handful of the different elements of category fraud in the last few years, and while there are still several men who should be considered supporting, the true "supporting" players never seem to win.  One could argue that many of the past few winners Christian Bale in The Fighter, and Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men could be considered lead performances.

So why does this happen?  Studios want to pack on the number of nominations, would these men have beat out any of the leads to get a nomination? Probably not meaning films would potentially have less or no nominations meaning some films would have less consideration to be less people, think The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. People often also have this notion that you need more acting nominations to be successful.  Think Brokeback Mountain, but for some reason the critics out there have not had the balls to correct this category placement.

Who are the men guilty of this category fraud crime, why the Weinstein Company's Christoph Waltz from Django Unchained, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman (once again) from The Master.  Both of these performances while not the center of their films are part of the central journey.

Django was obviously a story about Django (Jaime Foxx) and his bounty hunter companion Dr. King Shultz (Christoph Waltz), the two were in the majority of the film. At the earliest part of award season Waltz was placed in the Supporting Actor category.  On November 8th the website reported Waltz would be campaigned in the lead category instead.  After the lead race became crowded the Weinstein Company switched Waltz back to supporting. 

Hoffman was guilty of category fraud for another Weinstein film four years ago, and he is back.  This is a simple case of them wanting to get as many nominations for this smaller film as possible.  Like with Doubt all three central characters are nominated, and ironically both have Amy Adams, and Hoffman.  This is not a case for just the Weinstein's, Warner Brothers, Focus Features, FOX are also guilty of this fraud.  Let's focus on this year's nominees and who may win the top prize.

And the nominees are...
Alan Arkin-Argo
Robert DeNiro-Silver Linings Playbook
Phillip Seymour Hoffman-The Master
Tommy Lee Jones-Lincoln
Christoph Waltz-Django Unchained

This may be one of the tougher races to predict.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman took the early lead winning at the BFCA; he also won many critics groups awards.  Waltz gained momentum with a win at the Golden Globes, and BAFTA.  In the middle of Waltz's wins Tommy Lee Jones won SAG.  I think the power of Harvey Weinstein will guide the winner here, and my prediction all along has been Waltz the lead performance that steals the show.  Many are citing that DeNiro has the heart behind his performance and he has not won in years so he has more on his side, but he has not won a single award prior to this.  Maybe a James Coburn type deal?  Jones sour puss could also take the stage if they decide to throw more at Lincoln, but I think Lincoln seems a bit forgotten.  My gut is to go with the lead in supporting actor clothing.

Will Win: Christoph Waltz
Spoilers: Robert DeNiro, and Tommy Lee Jones

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Academy Award Week (2013):Should the Oscars Add More Categories?

My friend Keith shared an article with me from, about the Academy adding more categories.  throughout the years this topic has been brought up countless times.  People talk about adding categories as a way to spice things up, and provide more films with the opportunity to compete at the Oscars.  

The most recent category which was added to the main ceremony was the Best Animated Feature film category.  With an increasing number of quality animated features being released, the Academy created a parallel category to the Best Foreign Language Film category.  People were citing that amazing films like Shrek, Toy Story 2, and so on were being snubbed in the Best Picture category so they created this new category to compensate.  While I still do not fully support this category I think it's a necessary evil.  I will be shocked the day I see an animated film win the actual Best Picture prize.  Prior to the increased number of nominees only one film made it into the Best Picture race, Beauty and the Beast.  Past films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Lion King, Shrek, and Wall-E were snubbed.  When the the number of nominees increased two other films were nominated in the Best Picture category Up, and Toy Story 3.

So does a genre category solve the problem of recognition or further the problem?  The answer is both.  I think many Academy voters now feel as though by having the category they can feel proud about honoring the great animated films released every year.  This is an important thing, and films like Spirited Away, Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and Persepolis (just a nominee) would not have any other form of recognition.  Yet there is an inherent problem with that logic.  

Voters goes for the most intense, dramatic tales because they think those are the most "Oscar worthy."  Films like Moonrise Kingdom, which was snubbed from Best Picture this year, are often not nominated in the Best Picture category.  This year's slate of Best Picture nominees are all great (minus Les Miserables) but are also incredibly depressing.  The only films with "laughs" are Argo and Django Unchained, although you may have laughed at Russell Crowe's singing, I know I did.  So do you add more genre categories to spice things up, and give more films a chance?  Let's look at the categories creates.

Best Ensemble
Pro-Appreciating the acting is important
Con-Who gets the Oscar?  Does every member of the cast get one, the goal of the Oscars is prestige, and this takes away that element
Verdict: Do Not Add this Category

Best Comedy
Pro-Comedy is rarely honored at the Oscars, and as I stated above this is one depresing slate of Best Picture nominees this year
Con-This silos comedies into a separate but equal type situation like animated, and foreign language films.
Verdict: One of the stronger possibilities, I just do not think this solves the problem, and Oscar voters need to appreciate comedy more!

Best Debut Film, Performance
Pro-I added the performance part, this could be a great way to honor rising stars and directors.
Con-Why single out directors and performers, what about breakthrough screenwriter, editor, etc. and again this creates more Oscars making them less special to achieve.
Verdict: Not a bad one, but I am hesitant on how this would/could work, what makes you new, like Best New Artist at the Grammy's.  I can see Harvey Weinstein abusing this one.

Best Casting
Pro-Casting director's rarely get much recognition, and they often put together the great casts.
Con-Sometimes this process is a bit murky as to how much this person actually defines the cast, and does this position really warrant an Oscar?  
Verdict: I would take this as a consolation for Best Ensemble, but this is a less exciting way to change to the Oscars.

Best Soundtrack
Pro-There are so many soundtrack, which transcend the score of a film, and I think the music that is put together in a film is one of the most important elements.  Think Kill Bill (both of them), Garden State, 500 Days of Summer, Forrest Gump.  This would be a great idea
Verdict: This is the best idea, and should be considered!

Best Stunts/Choreography
Pro: While these are very different they represent some of the most important work done in film today, and should be recognized in some capacity.  While I do not want Step Up (choreography) to be a nominee, I do think that either of these categories could work.
Con: These two would have to be separated, and would there be enough to make nominees in choreography?
Verdict:  I would be down for these in a special honor capacity or if they could figure out a cool way to do them.

The last two seem like a joke although they only intended number eight as one.  They are Best Action Sequence, and Best Female Director.  With regard to Best Action Sequence, I say, this is not MTV presents the Oscars.  I do however like their jab at the Academy with regard to Best Female Director, how did the Academy not nominate any of the women who directed fantastic films this year?

One thing is for certain the Academy does need to look at their process, they can't tell their members how to vote, thus forcing them to name a comedy a Best Picture nominee, but it's time to assess, and think should there be new categories, or revisions, and if so how should they be done.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Academy Award Week (2013): Costume Design, Telling a Story

Over the years at the Academy Awards one of my favorite and most under appreciated categories is Costume Design.  The costumes tell a story, and help make some of the best visual representation on screen.

If you think about the many years of film there are numerous iconic costumes, which have become unforgettable. All the way back to 1939 you have Scarlet O'Hara's numerous dresses including her curtain dress, to Dorothy's plaid dress to costuming people in a galaxy far far away in Star Wars, all the way to Miranda Priestly's many outfits and jackets she threw on Andrea's desk.  Film costumes throughout time have evolved fitting the need of their film, and defined a viewer's experience.

Scott Feinberg at The Hollywood Reporter (THR) put together a great piece talking with their fashion consultant at THR about this year's costumes.  One of my favorite comments that was made was that films that do not fit within the fantasy or period piece realm are often not recognized at the Academy Awards.  A couple examples which were cited even citing some period film which were ignored this year were Moonrise Kingdom, Argo, and Skyfall.  Skyfall is the perfect example, look at those fantastic suits, and the dresses of the Bond girls.  These films told a story through the clothes on the screen, and while many take them for granted they are one of the most important elements of a film.

If you look at past years think of films like Devil Wears Prada, and their great costumes.  Prada was competing against the power house period costumes from Marie Antoinette. Period films from much older eras, and fantasy films often dominate these categories.  If you look at the last 10 years of Costume Design nominees 98 percent of the nominees fit within this category.  Even looking at this year the fantastic costumes the nominees completely within this trend.  The major question is will the Academy break from this and realize the role in which non-traditional costume design plays within a film, or will they keep up with the same pattern?

Anna Karenina-Jaqueline Durran

Les Miserables-Paco Delgado

Lincoln-Joanna Johnston

Mirror Mirror-Eika Ishioka

Snow White and the Huntsman-Colleen Atwood

Of all the nominees the favorite is Anna Karenina, Jacquline Durran's works is flawless and based on the pictures above as a representation of of the costumes as characters it is the easy favorite to win this trophy.   Durran should have won this award for her work in Atonement, but was beat by another period film Elizabeth: The Golden Age. If any film were to challenge Karenina I would like that to be Mirrror Mirror, the costumes elevated this film beyond any level.  Eika Ishioka passed away before Mirror Mirror was even released and she did not get to see see her fantastic work hit the screen.  Colleen Atwood is the veteran in this category; she has nine nominations and three wins, and while her work is solid she will not be making it up to the podium this year.

Will Win: Anna Karenina
Spoiler: Mirror Mirror

Monday, February 18, 2013

Academy Award Week (2013): Best Director (No Your Pick Can't be Ben Affleck)

This year one of the most interesting, if not the most interesting race is Best Director.  Over the years at the Academy Awards Best Picture and Best Director often match up.  Over the last twenty years (from 1992-2012) Best Picture and Best Director have matched up 16 times, which is an impressive statistic.  This year Argo's name is chiseled on the statue already, and unless if you have been living under a rock you know Ben Affleck was snubbed.  Affleck has won this award at the BFCA, Golden Globes, DGA, and BAFTA.  Without Affleck nominated this makes this race a lot more interesting than I can remember.

While I am not going to go on a rant about sexism within the film industry I am a bit baffled at why more people over cited Affleck's snub instead of Bigelow's snub.  I do believe that this will go down as one of the biggest mistakes in Oscar history.

How do you define great direction, and who was "snubbed?"  One way at looking at great direction is by using auteur theory.  Auteur theory "holds that a director's film reflects the director's personal creative vision, as if they were the primary "auteur" (the French word for "author"). In spite of—and sometimes even because of—the production of the film as part of an industrial process, the auteur's creative voice is distinct enough to shine through all kinds of studio interference and through the collective process."  While this perspective is a bit more old school and looks at film as a one man show, many would attribute this vision to greats like Orson Welles, and Alfred Hitchcock.  These men controlled the vision for their films.

If you look at this year's director race many would describe David O. Russell's direction using auteur theory.  O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook is a passion project dedicated to his son.  O. Russell's film is about a bi-polar man returning home to his family.  O'Russell has talked openly about his son being bi-polar and what it meant for him to make this film.

Benh Zeitlin who directed Beasts of the Southern Wild directed the script and scored the film.  This was Zeitlin's first film and made on a shoe string budget.  Zeitlin's heart and soul went into this film, and his vision drives the heart of the film.

One of the reasons auteur theory is widely criticized is because it negates the contribution of other people who worked on the film stating the the director is the end all be all.  Zeitlin and O. Russell did not create their films out of thin air, no man is an island after all.  If you look at Steven Spielberg's work in Lincoln and here him talk about Tony Kushner's script, and every aspect of the film you feel this sense of teamwork.

This couldn't be more true with Ang Lee and his direction of Life of Pi.  Lee's work with his cinematographer, visual effects team, screenwriter, and son on created an beautiful experience from a book that was thought to be impossible to adapt to the big screen.  The use of 3D technology along with many other elements transcends most traditional aspects of film making, and made this an incredible achievement.

The nominees are 
Michael Haneke-Amour
Ang Lee-Life of Pi
David O. Russell-Silver Linings Playbook
Steven Spielberg-Lincoln
Benh Zeitlin-Beasts of the Southern Wild

Who will win?  Without a previous winner/front runner in the group this leads things wide open.  While many would probably say Spielberg I just do not think he is going to win.  My gut tells me this is a race between David O. Russell and Ang Lee.  In the past director's win in this category have won a good deal of the time because the film "feels important" or because it has an "epic" nature."  Think Ben-Hur, Lord of the Rings, Schindler's List, Out of Africa, The Sound of Music.  There are location shots, visual effects, and so on.  This could be Beasts, Pi, or Lincoln.  Zeitlin is in fifth leaving Lincoln and Pi to fit that category.  Pi and Lincoln are both well respected films, from respected directors.  Before I go on about those two films like Silver Linings Playbook rarely win director, Annie Hall fits within that category, but that rarely happens.  So I am going to go with my gut and say Ang Lee.

Will Win: Ang Lee-Life of Pi
Spoilers: Steven Spielberg and David O. Russell

Oscar Roundup 2012: The Writer's Guild go for Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, and Searching for Sugar Man

While out to brunch yesterday I was talking with two friend who had went to the all day event showing half of the Best Picture nominees, put on by the movie theatre chain AMC.  They are not Academy voters, but I have this suspicion as avid film watchers their perspective is one similar to many people who are voting.  They were enamored Argo, and that was their favorite film.  In their words Argo was so good!  Not to the diminish their thoughts, but I think the complexity of Argo is minimal, and Oscar voters mostly older are going to pick a safer film for them.

Before I go further the next couple of thoughts are not a rant against Argo.  Argo is one of the best films of the year, the best no, but what has happened this season is what typically happens with the Best Picture race.  While Argo is not exactly a "safe" film to win, it is in fact a film glorifies Hollywood, for"saving the day."  Argo is a well made film, but how is it beating Lincoln in every area? In most years Lincoln would have steam rolled through this awards season, it's an important historical bio-pic, with an Academy Awards pedigree behind the film., Lincoln is even the highest grossing film.  All of these elements contribute in most years add up to Best Picture winner.

Now I have Argo ranked higher than Lincoln in my top ten list, Argo is ranked 5th, and Lincoln 9th.  Why is Argo on this journey to Oscar gold?  Was it really them snubbing Ben Affleck?  This can't be the only factor especially since Bigelow was an even bigger snub (in mu opinion) for Zero Dark Thirty.  Yet the snub has put Argo on a much different path than Zero Dark Thirty.  Zero Dark Thirty may have lost out more because of the torture controversy, but in the film cannon Zero Dark Thirty will always be seen as the strongest film of the year, Lincoln the shockingly ignored, and Argo will be seen as over rewarded.  Sorry Ben Affleck.

I am bringing things back to the intent of the post, right now I promise.  Argo won Best Adapted Screenplay over Lincoln.  I am still a bit shocked by this, and while I like the Argo script more, Lincoln's was the front runner in this category even through the Argo stampede at SAG.  I predicted Lincoln still, but I guess I was wrong, and I have to think all of these guilds really got together and sat down and all marked Argo.  Films rarely win almost every guild.  I am still a bit baffled at how this happened, but it has, and maybe some things are best left unexplained.

Zero Dark Thirty won for Best Original Screenplay, but was not up against it fiercest competition Amour and Django Unchained.  Which means predicting Best Original Screenplay like many categories is a massive crap shoot.  This category may actually end up being the award bone they throw at Zero Dark Thirty.

Throughout the years the Oscars always like to give most of the Best Picture nominees at least one win.  Last year 4 of the 9 went home empty handed, but one of those four only had two nominations, and one had three nominations, leaving the final two films with 6 nominations each.  Does this help Zero Dark Thirty, no namely because the film only scored five nominations much like Amour and Django's totals.

In the end the WGA Awards only tell us a few things, Argo has officially won Best Picture, Original Screenplay like other categories is a massive surprise, and Searching for Sugar Man will win Documentary feature.

Screenplay by Chris Terrio
Based on a selection from The Master of Disguise by Antonio J. Mendez and the Wired Magazine article “The Great Escape” by Joshuah Bearman
"Zero Dark Thirty"
Written by Mark Boal
"Searching for Sugar Man"
Written by Malik Bendjelloul

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Oscar Round 2012:ACE Eddies (Editors Guild Award) go to Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, Brave, Breaking Bad, The Newsroom, and Nurse Jack

ACE Eddie Awards Oscars Academy Awards Argo Silver Linings Playbook newsIn the final build up leading up to the Oscar ceremony there are a few Guilds left to help try and shed some light on who will win at the Oscars.  The American Cinema Editors (ACE) Eddies award is give out awards to the best in, you guessed it, editing in film in television.  The guild breaks down the film category into four categories drama, comedy/musical, animated feature, and documentary feature.

Last night's nominees were:

Best Edited Feature Film (Dramatic):

  • Argo, William Goldenberg, A.C.E.
  • Life of Pi, Tim Squyres, A.C.E.
  • Lincoln, Michael Kahn, A.C.E.
  • Skyfall, Stuart Baird, A.C.E.
  • Zero Dark Thirty, Dylan Tichenor, A.C.E. and William Goldenberg, A.C.E.
(Comedy Musical, Documentary and Animated cats after the cut)
Best Edited Feature Film (Comedy or Musical)
  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Chris Gill
  • Les Misérables, Melanie Ann Oliver & Chris Dickens, A.C.E.
  • Moonrise Kingdom, Andrew Weisblum, A.C.E.
  • Silver Linings Playbook, Jay Cassidy, A.C.E. & Crispin Struthers
  • Ted, Jeff Freeman, A.C.E.
Best Edited Animated Feature Film
  • Brave, Nicolas C. Smith, A.C.E.
  • Frankenweenie, 
Chris Lebenzon, A.C.E. & Mark Solomon
  • Rise of the Guardians, 
Joyce Arrastia
  • Wreck-It Ralph, Tim Mertens
Best Edited Documentary Feature
  • Samsara, Ron Fricke & Mark Magidson
  • Searching for Sugar Man
. Malik Bendjelloul
  • West of Memphis, Billy McMillin

The winners were Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, Brave, and Searching for Sugar Man.  The next question does this help in predicting, or guessing what will happen next at the Oscars?  The answer unfortunately is not really. 

As we get closer to the Oscars one thing is certain the buzz around both the winners tonight is mounting, and these two films just may take home a good amount of the major awards.
In the feature film category both Argo, and Silver Linings Playbook were easily predicted winners here.   Argo will most likely win the editing award at the Academy Awards, Zero Dark Thirty was a threat at one point, but Argo's journey to Best Picture is preventing that win.  One thing is for certain you may end up hearing "And the Oscar goes to....Argo" or "And the Oscar goes to...Silver Linings Playbook" a lot on February 24th.  One of the other interesting elements are the constant standing ovations for Spielberg as he takes the stage.  Spielberg won film editor of the year last night.  Could Lincoln pull of the same achievement Braveheart did in 1995?

The next interesting category is Best Animated Feature, and while many folks are saying this award is up in the air, which there are many possibilities (except Pirates, and ParaNorman).  The race for this award seems to be between Brave, Wreck-It Ralph, and Frankenweenie.  I think Brave has a bigger lock on this than people are predicting, at the moment I think Wreck-It Ralph as the best odds, yet Brave keeps winning.  At the moment I am going to stick with my gut and say Brave wins.

In another world where no one is concerned with the Oscars....the television winners were as follows:

Best Edited Half-Hour Series for Television
"Nurse Jackie" - "Handle Your Scandal"
Gary Levy
Best Edited One-Hour Series for Commercial Television
"Breaking Bad" - "Gliding Over All”
Skip MacDonald, A.C.E.
Best Edited One-Hour Series for Non-Commercial Television
"The Newsroom" - "We Just Decided To (Pilot)"
Anne McCabe, A.C.E.
Best Edited Miniseries or Motion Picture for Television
"Hemingway & Gellhorn"
Walter Murch, A.C.E.
Best Edited Non-Scripted Series
"Frozen Planet" - "To the Ends of the Earth"
Andy Netley & Sharon Gillooly