Wednesday, October 30, 2013

November Movies to See and Skip!

October was dominated by Gravity, and Captain Phillips two films which prove adults still do go the movies.  At the moment I would argue Gravity will probably hit 250 million (it just broke 200 million yesterday), and Captain Phillips will top the 100 million mark (it sits at 72 million at the moment).  These two films got glowing reviews, and are also poised for Oscar attention.  12 Years a Slave which is currently only open in 123 theatres, yes just 123, made 1 million dollars this past weekend, and that brings the films total to 3 million in a very limited release, which is good news.  Ironically in a typically spooky month, the only true "horror" release, well re-release was Carrie, and that has not been able to muster enough attention.  I am simply amazed by the box office results for "adult" themed films within the last couple years.  This month is proof that is on the upswing.

October may be my favorite month in recent years because it does not try as hard as November and December do to replicate summer movie season in the fall/winter.  This November is no different, and here is what's on deck:

November 1st 

Ender's Game has been hit with some controversy when the book's author, who wrote about compassion stopped providing that with anti-gay rants.  I would argue the marketing for this film has failed, and this could be another flop, but it looks entertaining.

Last Vegas is capitalizing on the backs of five Oscar winners, the film looks like it was fun for them to make, but does not look equally fun enough for me to sit through an end life crisis for these actors.

Hey Free Birds, does humanizing turkeys work during the month where people eat them the most?  Good thing this is starting out the month.  This looks weak.

The About Time preview almost gave me a cavity.  I feel like marketing this as from the person who brought about Love Actually may help slightly, but you can't capture lightening in bottle twice.

 McConaughey has been on a roll, and Dallas Buyer's Club proves to be a major feather in his cap, namely as a possibility for providing him with his first Oscar nomination, and even a Best Picture nomination.  This looks like a great film.

Sorry Princess Diana, but the Lifetime movie looked like it had more care placed on the subject matter of your life than this film.

Must See of the Week: Dallas Buyers Club
Skip of the Week/Month: Diana/Last Vegas

November 8th 

There are mixed emotions about the original film Thor, it should have focused more on the myth etc,. Thor: Dark World looks like it has balanced this out, and once again could be a perfect blend of the humor and action you expect from a Marvel comic book film.

I think The Book Thief is that period drama of the month, with Downton Abbey writer Brian Percival.

Must See of the Week: Thor: Dark World

November 15th 

The Best Man Holiday looks fun, but another sequel?  I loved the first, I will probably wait for this one on DVD.

November 22nd 

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, I honestly hate that film studios think people are dumb, and do not realize when something is sequel that they have to put Twilight: (insert title).  With that said the first was great I have no doubt this film will be fun too.

Hey what happened to Vince Vaughn? Vaughn had so much potential but between November's Delivery Man, and June's The Internship, what can this man do to save his comedic career?

Nebraska from acclaimed director Alexander Payne is my must-see of the month.  Payne brough about great films like Election, About Schmidt, Sideways, and The Descendants, and this film looks to be one of his better films.

Must See of the Month: Nebraska
Must See of the Week: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

November 29th 

Frozen is being touted as one of the best non-Pixar, major studio animated films in a long time.  I may have an argument or two about this, but this could be a fun film.

Spike Lee worked hard to fund his project Oldboy, and while I am not sure this is the right release time for the film, I wish success for this project.

I saw the first preview for Black Nativity in front of 12 Years a Slave, do not get me started on the way in which studios market films with an all black cast.  Hudson is a great singer, the cast is solid, and this is based on Langston Hughes material.  This has potential.

Must See of the Week: Frozen

Monday, October 28, 2013

Why aren't You Watching it?: The Good Wife

Yesterday I asked why Rush did not do well, today its time to talk about televisions hidden gem of the last 4 plus seasons, The Good Wife.  The premise started off with Julianna Margulies playing Alicia Florrick a wronged wife of a Chicago States attroney, played by Chris Noth.  After her husband goes to jail; she goes back to her work as a lawyer herself.

Throughout these 4 plus years the shows quality has remained steadier than even most cable series, only wavering at the beginning of last season.  Beyond Margulies the ensemble is the best on television with Mrgulies, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Archi Panjabi, Alan Cumming, Matt Czuchry, and Chris Noth.  The shows guest stars are used better than any hospital drama could ever imagine, they fit within the plot, they are assets to the shows forward motion, and I will not even bother naming them because its a veritable whose who of amazing talent.

Last nights episode entitled "Hitting the Fan" proved that this is the best drama on television.  So go back to the beginning, do not be fooled because the show is on CBS, but this show is fluffy or light weight.  The creators of this show are Robert and Michelle King, they still write and direct the show, maintaining the quality, and keeping their vision on task.  They are brilliant.  The quality of this show is something other shows wish they could achieve.  I had a non viewer watch last nights episode with me, and he said he was going to start watching, and you should too!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Why didn't Audiences Show Up?: Rush (2013)

I was looking at this years slate of Oscar contenders, and saw many people predicting Rush from director Ron Howard getting nominations in Editing, Cinematography, Sound Editing and Mixing.  Howard's films have done well in the past, three of his films have been nominated for Best Picture: Apollo 13 (1995), A Beautiful Mind (2001), and Frost/Nixon (2008).  Howard won two Oscars (Directing/Producing) A Beautiful Mind.

Howard films have also always fared well at the box office: Splash (1984)-68 million, Cocoon (1985)-76 million, Parenthood (1989)-100 million, Backdraft (1991)-77 million, Apollo 13 (1995)-173 million, Ransom (1996)-136 million, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)-260 million, A Beautiful Mind (2001)-173 million, Cinderella Man (2005)-61 million, The Da Vinci Code (2006)-217 million, and Angels & Demons (2009)-133 million.  These are all domestic, and  not adjusted for inflation.

Howard has of course had some smaller box office numbers including: EdTV (1999)-22 million, The Missing (2003)-27 million, Frost/Nixon (2008)-18 million, and The Dilemma (2011)-48 million dollars.

At the moment Rush is number ranks number 18 out of his directorial achievements.  The problem is that if you compare Rush to his other lower box office films, it does not fit the mold.  Two of those films are comedic bombs, and the other two are period driven drama, which never tends to have a high box office.  Rush was marketed as an adrenaline fueled racing film, with hot box office star Chris Hemsworth, and should have matched at least Cinderella Man with his sporting films.

What went wrong with Rush?

Bad Reviews/Poor Audience Feedback? No the critics enjoyed this film, and the reviews were pretty fantastic.  It has an 88 percent on, and only three rotten reviews from top critics.  The metacritic score is 75, but average movie goers use rottentomatoes as opposed to this.  Flixter says that 93 percent of audiences enjoyed the film, so audiences gave this the thumbs up.

Marketing: The film's commercials were all over the place with Regal Theatres, there were a lot of previews, commercials on television.  I would argue that this could have been the weakest element, where the studio could have used edgier techniques to reach out to younger, and older demos.

Boring premise? The LA Times is quoted as saying the following:"there would be nothing remotely risky about making a film about rivals who enjoy taunting each other." "Rush's crack production team "make the lure and excitement of fast machines palpable on screen,"  This is one of the greatest racing rivalries of all times, sure it's not about NASCAR, but racing enthusiasts should still get behind this film.

No Hero:  Both of the main characters are hard to root for, but does that matter anymore?  The antihero has become the mainstream, and has not prevented numerous films with no clear hero as still box office successes.

At the end of the day netting only 25 million, Rush is one of the biggest box office bombs of Ron Howard's career, but there appears to be no real reason this movie failed.  The film cost 38 million, and even with foreign markets this film will not be viewed as a success.  As I analyze this myself there appears to be no solid rationale as to why this film failed.

12 Years a Slave is not the First Film about Slavery, but its the Most Realistic, and the Best

12 Years a Slave (5 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by: Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame)
Written by: John Ridley (Three Kings, U Turn)
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lupita Nyong'o, Adepero Oduye, and Michael Fassbender 

No film has captured the American slavery as well as 12 Years a Slave.  Roots may be one of the few things that does a solid job (up until now) because it was in a mini-series format, but Solomon Northup's book, with which this is based on, allows one of the darkest chapters in American history to be fully explored on every level.

12 Years a Slave is based on the true events, which happened to Northup (Ejiofor) starting in 1841, .  Northup was a black man who lived in Saratoga, New York with his wife and two children.  Northup played the violin, went into stores, bought things for his family, and unlike most black people during this time. Northup was of course a free man.  One day he was approached by a white man in his town.  Northup was connected with two other gentlemen named Brown and Hamilton, the two offered to take him to Washington D.C. to play violin with a traveling circus of sorts.  Northup was then drugged and sold into slavery, where he lived between different plantations for the next 12 years of his life.

There are two men who will get most of the acclaim for this film, and that director Steve McQueen, and the star Chiwetel Ejiofor.  When people hear the name Steve McQueen, many often assume the "action" film star of the 1960s and 1970s.  This McQueen is now directing his third feature film, and his style, and focus in the director's seat has reached sheer perfection.  McQueen's second film Shame (2011), was one of my favorite films from that year.  McQueen's direction is purposeful, and focused he knows how to keep the camera on a moment, when the audience is ready for the moment to be over.  

While some have detracted McQueen's "art-house visuals" I have always embraced them and feel as though he extends them within this, mixing the traditional narrative of Solomon's story.  McQueen's structure with his direction works even better within this film because of the superb connection with diary-like format of John Ridley's script.  Ridley and McQueen work hard to make you feel as though everything we see, and hear comes from vantage point of Solomon.  These two men are the first black men to direct and write a film about the experience of slavery.  

Together all the people behind the scenes create the perfect window into the evil world of slavery.  Sean Bobbit's brilliant cinematography can not be ignored; he has worked with McQueen on Shame, and Hunger.  This man knows how to create the perfect shot, within Shame there was the sequence where Michael Fassbender was running through New York City, and in this film its the sequence of shots where Solomon is almost hung from a tree.  These series camera of shots from 12 Years haunt me.  Joe Walker's editing cuts just the like whip within each lashing, there is this precise movement showing every pain.  These two men like McQueen, and Ridley are the creative minds who made this an incredibly real experience.

The man who plays Solomon Northup, Mr. Chiwetel Ejiofor is going to brace for the attention he is going to get for this film.  Ejiofor has been around in numerous films and television movies, but this performance is wrought with grief, his face tells the story so well.  As you watch Solomon deal with each intense moment you champion him and hope he can endure the harshness escape, and become free once again.  Solomon's inner strength shines through; he knows he is a free man, but has to endure to both the beatings, and the malignancy from the white people he encounters in the south.  Ejiofor is the glue that holds the film together on screen.

The ensemble within this film is one of the most cohesive, and powerful, this was Solomon's story, but as he interacts with his first master Ford (Cumberbatch), Eliza (Oduye), a young mother being sold into slavery with her children, his second master Edwin Epps (Fassbnder), his wife Mistress Epps (Sarah Paulson), Patsey (Nyong'o) the slave who was the object of Edwin Epps affection, and so many more characters.  Together this ensemble tells a story of brutality, and injustice.  Men of color at this time needed white men to speak for them even though Solomon was educated, and had a voice because of the color of his skin in the antebellum world he was seen as less than by most.  Even as he is going to fetch groceries for Mistress Epps, and looks to run away he runs into lynching.  There is no place to escape, no way to run away from the evils of slavery. The film never forgets the details of each slaves experience, treating their journey as a new story for Solomon to experience.

12 Years a Slave is not the first film about slavery, but its the most realistic, and the best ever made.  The brutal nature of this film proves that this story about a free man ripped from his own life is something people often never think about.  This film tackles the cruelty of slavery has never been handled before, and changes the game for film making, it's brilliant.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Performer to Watch: Brie Larson

About a month ago I went to see Don Jon, under rated film check it out: her is the link to my review: ( While the films quality did not surprise me, there was one performance which caught me off guard.  Don's sister Monica (Larson) has the most priceless faces throughout the whole film, without speaking.  There is a moment towards the end where Monica sticks up for her brother and the changes she is making, those few sentences of dialogue along with the expressions from Larson are proof this girl has talent and is on the rise as a true star.

Don Jon was not the first time I had seen Ms. Larson, she has been around as younger actress since 1998. Larson had supporting roles in television on shows like Touched by an Angel, and Hope and Faith; she also had small roles in film like 13 Going on 30.

While most of these were small roles Brie Larson started to get larger roles; she was a main character on The United States of Tara, for the three years the show was on the air.  Based on her career there is no surprise that Brie Larson fit well within the lexicon of the world of Diablo Cody who created Tara.  The show and Larson were a treasure, and pointed out her knack for dry comedic moments.

While in the world television Larson starred in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, as Scott's ex Envy Adams, along with Greenburg from director Noah Baumbauch.  Larson is more of an indie darling than a mainstream player at the moment.  Larson's most mainstream film to date was the remake of television series 21 Jump Street with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. Yet this year seems to be the year of Brie Larson, including her role in Don Jon, she also starred in The Spectacular Now, and Short Term 12.  Short Term 12 earned her a Best Actress nomination at the Gotham Awards today, and has garnered her and the film a lot of attention.

As you look at her upcoming projects it is apparent that Brie Larson is going to take the current indie film market by storm; she is a great actress, and is a performer to watch.

12 Years a Slave Leads the Gotham Award Nominations, that Helps at Oscar but is Not a Slam Dunk

Last year's big winner at the Gotham Awards for Best Feature, was Moonrise Kingdom, the year before that was a tie between Beginners, and Tree of Life.  In looking at the past winners/nominees in the last five years the only film to win at Gotham and the the Oscars was The Hurt Locker (2009).    Many of the feature film winners have gone on to score nominations, Moonrise Kingdom received one for Best Original Screenplay. Beginners received a Supporting Actor nomination, and win for Christopher Plummer.  The Tree of Life scored 3 nominations including Picture, Director, and Cinematography.  Gotham was also one of the first launching points for nominations for Winter's Bone (4 nominations), and Frozen River (1 nomination). 

This year 12 Years a Slave has 3 nominations, more than any film.  The problem/interesting fact about these awards is that the actual categories have changed over the years, and sometimes they pull out a surprise winner.  I could see any of these five films winning this award.  Before Midnight has a strong chance to upset.
With all that on the table the Gotham Awards are one of the first awards of the season, but they rarely impact anything.  My hope is that they avoid being a rubber stamper for Oscar winners, especially in the new Best Actor, and Best Actress  category.  The "cool" thing to me about these awards is that the remind of the way the Independent Spirit Awards used to look, let's just hope they do not follow Alice down the rabbit hole, and try to become a rubber stamp for Oscar.
Best Feature
12 Years a Slave
Steve McQueen, director; Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Bill Pohlad, Steve McQueen, Arnon Milchan, Anthony Katagas, producers. (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
David Lowery, director; Tony Halbrooks, James M. Johnston, Jay Van Hoy, Lars Knudsen, Amy Kaufman, Cassian Elwes, producers (IFC Films)
Before Midnight
Richard Linklater, director; Richard Linklater, Christos V. Konstantakopoulos, Sara Woodhatch, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)
Inside Llewyn Davis
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, directors; Scott Rudin, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, producers (CBS Films)
Upstream Color
Shane Carruth, director; Shane Carruth, Casey Gooden, Ben LeClair, producers. (erbp)

Best Documentary
The Act of Killing
Joshua Oppenheimer, director; Signe Byrge, Joshua Oppenheimer, producers (Drafthouse Films)
The Crash Reel
Lucy Walker, director; Julian Cautherly, Lucy Walker, producers (HBO Documentary Films)
First Cousin Once Removed
Alan Berliner, director and producer (HBO Documentary Films)
Let the Fire Burn
Jason Osder, director and producer (Zeitgeist Films)
Our Nixon
Penny Lane, director; Brian L. Frye, Penny Lane, producers (Cinedigm and CNN Films)

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award
Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station (The Weinstein Company)
Adam Leon for Gimme the Loot (Sundance Selects)
Alexandre Moors for Blue Caprice (Sundance Selects)
Stacie Passon for Concussion (RADiUS-TWC)
Amy Seimetz for Sun Don’t Shine (Factory 25)

Best Actor
Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis (CBS Films)
Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club (Focus Features)
Robert Redford in All Is Lost (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)
Isaiah Washington in Blue Caprice (Sundance Selects)

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine (Sony Pictures Classics)
Scarlett Johansson in Don Jon (Relativity Media)
Brie Larson in Short Term 12 (Cinedigm)
Amy Seimetz in Upstream Color (erbp)
Shailene Woodley in The Spectacular Now (A24)

Breakthrough Actor
Dane DeHaan in Kill Your Darlings (Sony Pictures Classics)
Kathryn Hahn in Afternoon Delight (The Film Arcade and Cinedigm)
Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station (The Weinstein Company)
Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Robin Weigert in Concussion (RADiUS-TWC)

The nominating committees consisted of:

Nominating Committee for Best Feature and Breakthrough Director:
Scott Foundas, Lead Film Critic, Variety
Eric Kohn, Lead Film Critic, Indiewire
Christy Lemire, Film Critic, and co-host, What the Flick?!
Andrew O’Hehir, Film Critic,
Dana Stevens, Movie Critic, Slate

Nominating Committee for Best Actor, Best Actress, and Breakthrough Actor:
Justin Chang, Senior Film Critic, Variety
Noah Cowan, Artistic Director, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post Film and Theater Film Critic
David Rooney, Film & Theater Critic, The Hollywood Reporter
Leah Rozen, freelance entertainment writer

Nominating Committee for Best Documentary:
Charlotte Cook, Director of ProgrammingHot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festiva
lBen Fowlie, Founder & Executive Director, Camden International Film Festival 
Cynthia Fuchs, Film-TV Editor, PopMatters
Mike Maggiore, Programmer and Publicist, Film Forum
Sky Sitney, Festival Director, AFI Docs

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

'I Have the Power?':Older Women Playing "Villains" in Film and Telvision

Once you pass the age of 55 do women automatically become evil manipulative people.  Hollywood seems to paint that picture.  I was watching Hannah and Her Sister (1986) from writer, director Woody Allen, and realized roles like this for women at any age just do not exist on this level anymore.  My only argument is that the Woodman himself has continued to create unique and interesting women, see this years Blue Jasmine.

Back to Hannah and Her Sisters, why single out this film?  Hannah centered around three sisters and the men in their lives, the three sisters were played by Mia Farrow, Dianne Wiest, and Barbara Hershey.  Each sister is unique, has their own essence, and does not ever become one note, shrill, or resort to negative stereotypes.

Woody returns to this sister story in Blue Jasmine with both Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins the two characters are layered, while a bit crazier than Hannah, and her two sisters, the dynamic in both films is brilliantly formulated, and Mr. Allen knows how to weave a beautifully written story for a woman.

Moving on from Woody Allen, and these two great films I thought about Barbara Hershey's career trajectory as she has aged.  In recent years she seems to have been pigeon holed into "crazy mom" archetype, which started with Black Swan (2010).  Hershey was great in the film.  The next stop for this "crazy mom" role was as Cora, Regina's mother on the television series Once Upon a Time.  While these are just two recent roles for the actress, and not the only character she has played, this made me think about other women around her age and the "evil" characters they were playing.

Jessica Lange is another actress who will/has fallen victim to this villainy trope.  Lange has created such beautifully layered characters in each season or newly themed part of American Horror Story.  Ryan Murphy who has created the series has given the women some great material.  The shows second season Asylum showed her as Sister Jude, but she has not gotten as much attention for that cycle as she did in the first.  Will Lange be lost in the villain roles of her career?  Quite possibly.

Glenn Close in Damages is a great example of a wonderfully layered "villain" much like the ones Lange has played, the writing in Once Upon a Time prevented this from happening with Hershey.  Patty Hewes was on of the darkest female characters on television; she lied, cheated, and had people. Close plays this character brilliantly, and all of these women have this eternal strength and power, but this power often cuts off their humanity.

On the website "Bitch Flicks" ( Amanda Rodriguez writes an article about Close from Damages and Madeline Stowe who plays Victoria Grayson on Revenge.  The article is is entitled "The Ruthless Power of Patty Hewes from 'Damages' and Victoria Grayson from "Revenge.'  The article focuses on the power these two women have, but also surmises that this power given and created by them which they own comes with a price, their humanity.  Rodriguez states "Unfortunately, there is such a profound darkness and emptiness in both Patty and Victoria as well as in their lives. They have cut themselves off from human connection and have lost the ability to love the simpler things in life."  

Does this "power" and "authority" have to come from corruption, and manipulation?  Most of these roles seem to draw the conclusion that once you achieve the power you lose all sense of self, and you can't be a sympathetic women in power.  Rodriguez concludes "The implication is that the kind of power these women seek is outside the feminine realm, and to grasp it, they must reject their very nature, which leaves them a hollow shell of a person. It’s all too rare that we see a subtle, powerful woman who commands respect who hasn’t sacrificed her humanness in the bargain."  Rodriguez says at the end these are fun characters to watch, but there needs to be more balanced female roles, in both film and television. 

Let's go back to the beginning, was Hannah and Her Sisters a fluke?  Why don't more films talk about women in a more well rounded nature?  When older women are looking for roles all they seem to find these days are the Patty Hewes, the Victoria Grayson, who manipulate and lose their humanity in order to control the world around them.  Women go to the movies, they watch television, and the message they are told today is in order to gain any form of elite power you must check your humanity at the door. I too would like to see more balanced female roles, but for now Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Angella Bassett are on my television in the same television series nonetheless, and they would not be if these darker roles did not exist. Is that a win, lose or draw?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Oscar Predictions October 2013

The film festivals of the Summer have ended (TIFF, Venice, Cannes), and the Oscar friendly fall has begun.  Now that I have seen quite a few contenders for this years Oscars, and the word is out on many others time to update my own August predictions.  The big question, how much is there to change ?

Gravity is a hit with critics, and at the box office, same for Captain Phillips.  Lee Daniel's The Butler did well at the box office, and while middling with critics has the elements of a good film.  Fruitvale Station reminds me of Beasts of the Southern, new director does good, lots of emotional impact, and I can't see them ignoring the film.

What about the new surprises in both picture, and acting?  The Secret Life of Walter Mitty could be the heartfelt film which sneaks into the race, but the second trailer looks off putting.  Her was recently seen, but Spike Jonez films never get the respect they deserve, but are also rarely ignored.  Dallas Buyers Club has been seen by many, and the performances of Matthew McConaughey, and Jared Leto are perfect Oscar bait roles.  Can newcomer Barkhad Abdi score a nomination for Captain Phillips?  Will Tom Hanks be a double nominee?  Is Saving Mr. Banks or American Hustle going to be good?

Best Picture
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle

August: Osage County
Captain Phillips
Fruitvale Station
Inside Llewyn Davis
Lee Daniel's The Butler


At the moment I would only swap Captain Phillips for Blue Jasmine, I think Jasmine will have to settle for Actress and Screenplay.  I am keeping in American Hustle, but think this could be just popcorn fun.  Everyone has Wolf of Wall Street in the mix, but i am convinced its moving to 2014.  Outside shots at the moment are Saving Mr. Banks and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

Best Director
Lee Daniels-Lee Daniel's The Butler

Paul Greengrass-Captain Phillips
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Steve McQueen-12 Years a Slave
David O. Russell- American Hustle

Greengrass, and McQueen are in!  They were not in my August predictions but they will be nominated.  I think the fifth spot is going to go for either the fresh new Ryan Coogler, or Lee Daniels for The Butler, at the moment I am going to go for Daniels; he is a past Oscar nominee, and the film has the edge of Fruitvale.

Best Actor 
Bruce Dern- Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor- 12 Years a Slave

Tom Hanks-Captain Phillips
Robert Redford- All Is Lost
Forrest Whitaker-Lee Daniel's The Butler 

The toughest category to predict, and I change my predictions almost daily.  Can McConaughey be taken seriously enough?  I have this feeling, and its an eerie one that he still may not be, because of his hunk theory (Tom O'Neil) or "slap the stud." At the moment I am going to stick with Whitaker, the past Oscar winner.  

Best Actress 
Cate Blanchett- Blue Jasmine

Sandra Bullock-Gravity
Judi Dench- Philomena

Meryl Streep- August: Osage County
Emma Thompson-Saving Mr. Banks

Easier than Best Actor because of the lack of lead performances in contention, but Amy Adams could sneak into this category.  I think Thompson is going to come back and join the Oscars (watch out for this film).

Best Supporting Actor 

Barkhad Abdi-Captain Phillips
Michael Fassbender- 12 Years a Slave

John Goodman-Inside Llewyn Davis
Tom Hanks- Saving Mr. Banks

Jared Leto-Dallas Buyers Club

I think Leto is the nominee for Buyers Club, Hanks could be swapped out with Harrison Ford in 42.  If Fassbender does not campaign can he get in?  This is my changed up list.

Best Supporting Actress 
Amy Adams-American Hustle 
Margo Martindale-August: Osage County
Lupita Nyongo-12 Years a Slave
Octavia Spencer-Fruitvale Station
Oprah Winfrey-Lee Daniel's The Butler

I think Adams will go down to supporting, character actress Margo Martindale will sneak in over Roberts.  The rest seems safe bets minus Octavia Spencer, but she is great.

Best Original Screenplay
American Hustle
Blue Jasmine

Fruitvale Station
Inside Llewyn Davis

Best Adapted Screenplay

12 Years a Slave
August: Osage County
Before Midnight

Captain PhillipsThe Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fall Grades for Returning Television Shows

After tackling the new shows, I had to grade the returning series as well, and yes I watch this much television.  At the moment I would say that network television is averaging a solid B, with a few shows rising above the crap.  My one complaint is that "great" television comedies have seemed to disappear, there are few which live up to standard.  I want to see comedy rise from the ashes, but until then here is a look at how this seasons returning shows are doing this year.

Once Upon a Time (ABC) B

Finding and defining this version of Neverland is more interesting than anything they did in the second season, and we are only three episodes into the third season.  While the CGI is a bit jarring, that storm in the first episode almost looked as fake as the background in the Pilot of The Ringer, but I digress.  The creators have found the perfect Pan, and I like the depth in the direction of the material, the fact that both Henry and Emma were orphans and the connection with the lost boys, and well girl.  Good start!

Revenge (ABC)-B-

Another show which had a bit of a sophomore slump, is doing much better.  Revenge had a good last episode, but the season reminded me of Alias, when it got too bogged down in this outside organization playing puppet master.  This season is back to the red sharpied basics.  I would urge this show to end this season, and end on a high note.  I think if they continue on the path they would be grasping at straws.  Good start and Nolan, and Patrick, yes please!

The Good Wife (CBS)-A

The best network television series on the air, this season is not holding anything back, and unlike last year the show is not starting from a downward place, they are firing on all cyllinders.  The pilot which was directed by Robert King is one of the shows best episodes connecting the case with the behind the scenes drama.  Catch up and watch this show.

How I Met Your Mother (CBS)-C+

Better than last year, but spending the whole season on wedding weekend, and Marshall's story of a road trip with Sherri Shepherd is terrible.  I loved the mother, thought she was great, she and Lily had wonderful chemistry.  I also like all the connections from past guest stars.

New Girl (FOX)-B-

The second season did not hit a slump, but rather kept the creative juices going.  This season has let me down Schmidt is becoming a one note selfish characters, in the past his quirks were endearing, but he's not growing.  There has to be something better for Winston than becoming a cat person.  I like Jess and Nick together that has saved the show for me, where I can rank it higher.

The Mindy Project (FOX)-D

Probably one of the worst sitcoms on the air, I love Mindy Kailing, but this show is beneath her, and it never had any direction.  The show has meandered through trying to use famous people as potential beaus, or rivals to save things, but when the material is bad, its bad.

Modern Family (ABC)-B-

Tough call, the first episode back had me lulled into a false sense of security that this show was back with the Mitch and Cam engagement story line.  At the moment my favorite character is Lily; she is the one who consistently delivers.  I think the show is funny, but has lost a lot of its sheen.  With that said how can you hate this show? 

American Horror Story: Coven (F/X)-B+

My favorite premiere of all three of the different series, the episode was tight, and put things in motion to becoming a blend of darkness, and humor, something Ryan Murphy excels within.  This show has seemed to be the most comfortable material for Murphy, and it shows, the cast the writing great start to Coven.

Parks and Recreation (NBC)-A-

What can I say about the show consistently snubbed by the Emmy Awards, it still has it!  While the second episode was a bit of filler to push story the third episode entitled "Dopplegangers" is the reason this is one of, if not the best comedy airing on television.

Grey's Anatomy (ABC)-C+

Still faltering, with the interns no one cares about.  The only reason to watch this is leaving at the end of this year, and that is Sandra Oh; she is far too talented for this material.  I am curious to see if this show can recover without her.

Scandal (ABC)-B+

Shonda is on her A, well B+ game with this show, the heightened drama is jam packed, and even with the far fetched plots and melodrama, there is something fun, and juicy to turn into week after week.  Kerry Washington and team help add to the fun of course.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Fall Grades for New Television Shows

Every year when the Fall shows arrive there is both anticipation, and a hesitancy.  Anticipation that you will get to experience something new and cool.  Hesitancy to get attached to something that ABC may just cancel, sorry I am not over the cancellation Happy Endings, you put together a crappy line up.  My venting is over, after a few weeks for most shows, and one for some, its time to put together a list of grade for people who are afraid to get attached too quickly.

The Masters of Sex (SHOW)-A

The best new fall series, Showtime has a great show on their hands with great acting writing, and a solid premise.

Mom (CBS)-C+

There is promise here, Farris and Janney are great, but the premise writing could use a little work.  Great one liners, but tries too hard sometimes.  Give it time, and it will find its groove.

Sleepy Hollow (FOX)-B+

Probably my second favorite fall show, and this past week's episode with ties to Dante's Inferno helped set a great direction for this show.  Keep up the great work.

Hostages (CBS)-C+

The premise is thin for me, and while I think its good drama with solid acting, I can't imagine this show stretching into a long running series.

The Blacklist (NBC)-B

James Spader is just plain fun, and while this is merely procedural, procedurals with great characters can have a long lasting impact.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC)-B-

Yes I have let go of my fan boy mentality with this show, they got a full season pick up, was their any doubt?  I think the show is standing on solid ground, but needs to move quick, or fan boys will disappear into the gravity machine from last weeks episode.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX)-B

Great potential, with a solid ensemble, maybe too many characters?  If you are not a fan of Andy Samburg you will hate this show; he can be very grating.  Andre Braugher is fantastic.

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (ABC)-B

ABC should make this last one or two seasons, then close the loop between this and the mothership (Once Upon a Time), I have a feeling because of production costs this will be the case.  The show is intriguing, and intrigued to see where this goes.

The Crazy Ones (CBS)-A-

This is my favorite new comedy of the season, I think the ensemble is great, and while Williams vamps well, so does the rest of the cast, and they have great chemistry.

The Michael J. Fox Show (NBC)-C

This show has the talent, but has a long way to go, I think this will be the first show removed from my TiVo, the way The Mindy Project was removed last year, never fulfilling the expectations of the build up.