Thursday, November 28, 2013

My Thanksgiving List for Movies, Television, and Music (2013)

There are obvious things I am thankful for, like friends, family, and the lot.  There are also things I am thankful in the world of movies, music, television, and beyond, which I would like to share with you as well.  So here we go!


More Diversity on the Big Screen!

Sandra Bullock carried a 250 million dollar film, basically by herself this year with Gravity. I can't remember a female ever doing that on her own throughout the years I have watched film.

Then this has also been a great year for black cinema with Fruitvale Station, Lee Daniels' The Butler, 12 Years a Slave, The Best Man Holiday, and black Nativity.

This has been inspiring, and I am beyond thankful studios have finally realized the power in exploring diverse stories.

Better Adult Dramas

The quality of films this year is astonishing, I have seen so many great "adult dramas"ranging from Captain Phillips to Dallas Buyers Club, and more.  Adults stopped going to the movies, but they stopped because studios seemed to forget about them as a group.  Big surprise movies "adults" would see with an R rating are succeeding again, and studios are creating more and more, bravo!


Better new Fall comedies and dramas

Sleepy Hollow, Brooklyn-99, The Crazy Ones, Trophy Wife The Blacklist are just a few.  These are great shows, and its been a while since network television  has produced such fun creative new television in this large of a number.

The Good Wife

Week after week this show astonishes me with the writing, directing, acting, and beyond.  The show is in its fifth season, and has never faltered (well maybe with Kalinda's husband).  This year a game changing event has made this must see television and is the smartest television show on the air.

Breaking Bad 

The best show on the air, is closely followed by the best show, which just ended its run, and that's Breaking Bad.  Vince Gilligan and co. created a true arc, a series, which had a beginning middle, and end which felt connected like he knew what was going on the whole time.  Who does that when they create a series?  Intelligent people have a plan.  Bad's cast was just perfect, this was one of, if not the best final seasons of a show ever.


Justin Timberlake

I am beyond happy he returned to music; he is the most talented performer/musicians in the mainstream at the moment, and he knows how to create an "Experience."  Loved both albums just wish I got to see him live with Jay-Z.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

State of the Oscar Race 2013: Which of the Many Best Actor Candidates Make the Cut?

Best Actor Oscar
Yesterday's Independent Spirit Award Nominations proved one fact, there are so many great performances from male leads this year that there had to be six nominees.  The six nominees are Bruce Dern for Nebraska, Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave, Oscar Isaacs for Inside Llewyn Davis, Michael B. Jordan for Fruitvale Station, Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club, and Robert Redford for All is Lost.

Looking at this list of six most folks, including myself would go wow, this would be a great line-up for Oscar, and they and I would be right.  There is just one or well a few minor problems, and they include: Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips, Forrest Whitaker for Lee Daniels' The Butler, Christian Bale in Out of the Furnace or American Hustle, Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street or even The Great Gatsby, and the bigger long shots Idris Elba for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Joaquin Phoenix for Her, and Ben Stiller for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  That is 15 possible candidates, and astounding.

Let's look at Independent Spirit Award Nominees past track record, meaning the last 5 years, or even 10 before that the amount of crossover between minimal.


Only Bradley Cooper was nominated for both Oscar and and the Independent Spirit Award (ISA), but he did not win either John Hawkes who was a strong contender to be nominated, but missed out because of Joaquin Phoenix.  Hawkes won the Spirit Award.  Of the five nominees Cooper and Hawkes were the only strong contenders.


Jean Dujardin won the ISA and the Oscar for Best Actor for The Artist, this rarely happens, but could happen again this year. Dujardin and Demian Bichir were the only two nominated for the ISA, and Oscar.  The only other nominee for the ISA who had a possibility of being nominated was Ryan Gosling for Driver, but the Academy appeared to hate this film.


James Franco was the only person nominated for ISA, and Oscar of the five nominees; he won the ISA, but lost Oscar to Colin Firth.  None of the other four contenders were ever "serious" contenders for Oscar.


Jeff Bridges won the Oscar and the ISA for Crazy Heart.  The only other person nominated for both ISA and Oscar was Colin Firth for A Single Man.  None of the other three men were "serious" contenders.


If you want to find a year similar to to 2013, where ISA, and the Oscars line-up was 2008.  4 of the 5 nominees were nominated at both, and they were Sean Penn in Milk (who won the Oscar) Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler (won the ISA), Jeremy Renner for The Hurt Locker, and Richard Jenkins for The Visitor.  I could see a similar situation to this happening this year, 4 of the five nominees come from this line-up, while two are snubbed.

Let's look at this year's ISA nominees:

Chiwetel Ejiofor-12 Years a Slave
Robert Redford-All is Lost
Matthew McConaughey-Dallas Buyers Club

Ejiofor and Redford are the two top contenders at the moment, but watch out for Matthew McConaughey his performance in Dallas Buyers Club is the thing Oscar performances are made of!

Near Lock:
Bruce Dern-Nebraska

Dern is almost the next closest thing as a lock in this category, with his buddies like Nicholson and his daughter Laura Dern championing him, he can/will be a strong contender to not only be an Oscar nominee, but a surprise winner.

Oscar Isaacs-Inside Llewyn Davis
Michael B. Jordan-Fruitvale Station

Isaacs and Jordan are the newcomers of this group, they have critically acclaimed performances, but breaking into this category as relative new comers is going to be tough.

Who takes the fifth spot of the non-ISA contenders?

Tom Hanks-Captain Phillips-The film just made 100 million and he is getting rave reviews for his performance.  The thing working against him is that people may just nominate him in supporting for Saving Mr. Banks.

Forrest Whitaker-Lee Daniels' The Butler-The film is going to better with Oscar voters than critics, and with Weinstein Company behind the film I can't imagine it not getting more than one acting nomination  Whitaker has won before, is the movie out of sight out of mind?

Christian Bale-Out of the Furnace or American Hustle-If he was going to get nominated my money would be on Hustle, but in this tough year his performance and weight gain may be overlooked.

Leonardo DiCaprio-The Wolf of Wall Street or The Great Gatsby-Wolf has not been seen by anyone, and DiCaprio is always a dark horse especially in a Scorsese film.  Gatsby is only a contender in the technical categories.

At the moment my prediction for Best Actor is:
Bruce Dern-Nebraska

Chiwetel Ejiofor-12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks-Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey-Dallas Buyers Club
Robert Redford-All is Lost

Anything is possible in this category, but I only see one of these men losing out, if any.  The truth of the matter is that Oscar should take a note from the ISA nominees, and have 6 nominated performances.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

12 Years a Slave, and Nebraska lead the Independent Spirit Award Nominations

Previously on the Independent Spirit Awards...last year 2 of the 5 nominees were Best Feature Film winners, they were Silver Linings Playbook, and Beasts of the Southern Wild.  Playbook ended up winning this award along with Best Director, Female Lead, and Screenplay.  Beasts only won Cinematography.  Meanwhile Playbook and Moonrise Kingdom lead the nominations. Kingdom did not win a single award.  Playbook cost 21 million, Kingdom cost 16 million, and Beasts cost 1.8 million.  The question I asked after the winners/nominees were announced is how do you define independent?  Film Independent has set a capt at 21 million dollars, but I would argue this takes away the "spirit" of true independent film making.

Last year of the 9 categories which exist at both the Oscars and Spirit Awards only 14 nominees matched, out of 50.  That is just slightly under 30, or 28 percent to be precise.  One of the great things about these awards is that they do not match and their nominees stray from the films recognized from the Academy.  The winners of their awards tend to be folks who are nominated for Oscar, like Jennifer Lawrence and the Silver Linings train last year.  Film Independent broke this pattern as well last year. Last year they awarded John Hawkes Best Male Lead for The Sessions and and Matthew McConaughey for Best Male Supporting.

This year 12 Years a Slave leads the pack with 7 nominations, and Nebraska is not far behind with 6 nominations.  Rounding out the Best Feature Film nominees All is Lost has 4 nominations,but the real head scratchers are with the final two nominees Inside Llewyn Davis has 3 nominations, but no screenplay or directing nomination for Coens.  Frances Ha has only 2 nominations, but no nomination for screenplay, or the star Greta Gerwig.

One snub that stuck out like a sore thumb to me was no Before Midnight in Best Feature, it was one of the best films of the year.  The other interesting fact is that the Spirit Awards have 6 nominees in the Best Male Lead category, Oscar should follow suit with 6 at least.  Excited for The Spectacular Now, the film was great, and glad to see they spread the wealth for films like Enough Said, and Mud.

Overall a solid group of nominees, the biggest benefactor here is Nebraska, this will bring a lot of awards attention, and hopefully launch it to more nominations at the Oscars.

How do the nominees look this year?  Here is the full list

Best Feature Film 
12 Years a Slave
All is Lost
Frances Ha
Inside Llewyn Davis

Best First Feature 
Blue Caprice
Fruitvale Station
Una Noche

Best Director 
Shane Carruth-Upstream Color
JC Chandor-All is Lost
Steve McQueen-12 Years a Slave
Jeff Nichols-Mud
Alexander Payne-Nebraska 

Best Screenplay
12 Years a Slave-John Ridley 
Before Midnight-Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, and Richard Linklater
Blue Jasmine-Woody Allen
Enough Said-Nicole Holofcnener and Scott Neustadter
The Spectacular Now-Michael H. Weber

Best First Screenplay
Afternoon Delight
Don Jon
In a World
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete

Best Female Lead
Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"
Julie Delpy, "Before Midnight"
Gaby Hoffman, "Crystal Fairy"
Brie Larson, "Short Term 12"
Shailene Woodley, "The Spectacular Now"

Best Male Lead
Bruce Dern, "Nebraska"
Oscar Isaac, "Inside Llewyn Davis"

Michael B. Jordan, "Fruitvale Station"
Matthew McConaughey, "Dallas Buyers Club"
Robert Redford, "All is Lost"
Chiwetel Ejiofor, "12 Years a Slave"

Best Supporting Female
Melonie Diaz, "Fruitvale Station"
Sally Hawkins, "Blue Jasmine"
Lupita Nyong'o, "12 Years a Slave"
Yolonda Ross, "Go For Sisters"
June Squibb, "Nebraska"

Best Supporting Male
Michael Fassbender, "12 Years a Slave"
Will Forte, "Nebraska"
James Gandolfini, "Enough Said"
Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club"
Keith Stanfield, "Short Term 12"

Best Cinematography
"All is Lost"
"Computer Chess"
"Inside Llewyn Davis"
"Spring Breakers"
"12 Years a Slave"

Best Editing
"Frances Ha"
"Museum Hours"
"Short Term 12"
"Una Noche"
"Upstream Color"

Best Documentary
"The Act of Killing"
"After Tiller"
"Gideon's Army"
"The Square"
"20 Feet from Stardom"

Best International Film
"Blue is the Warmest Color"
"The Great Beauty"
"The Hunt"
"A Touch of Sin"

Robert Altman Award

John Cassavetes Award
"Computer Chess"
"Crystal Fairy"
"Museum Hours"
"Pit Stop"
"This is Martin Bonner"

Piaget Producers Award
Toby Halbrooks & James M. Johnston
Jacob Jaffke
Andrea Roa
Frederick Thornton

Someone to Watch Award
Aaron Douglas Johnston, "My Sisters QuinceaƱera"
Shaka King, "Newlyweeds"
Madeline Olnek, "The Foxy Merkins"

Truer Than Fiction Award
Kalyanee Mam, "A River Changes Course"
Jason Osder, "Let the Fire Burn"
Stephanie Spray & Pacho Valez, "Manakamana"

Monday, November 25, 2013

Nebraska is a Heartfelt Journey from Director Alexander Payne, about Father and Son, and Getting On in Age

Nebraska (4 1/2 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by: Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways, The Descendants)
Written by: Bob Nelson
Starring Bruce Dern, Will Forte, Bob Odenkirk, and June Squibb

Alexander Payne films a a distinct feeling to them, yet each film has its own personality.  His films take situations from everyday life, and blends the emotional, and hilarious moments within each.  Throughout each of films Payne has focused on things like the demise of marriage, the death of a spouse, or even a high school student body election, and made them mini journeys through the capsule in the lives of his characters.  Nebraska may be one of his most personal journeys to date.

As he slips into a quiet dementia Woody Grant (Dern) wanders down the road on a journey toward claiming his million dollar prize.  Woody received a letter in the mail from something similar to the Publishers Clearing House stating he won a million dollars.  To claim his prize Woody needs to head back to his home state of Nebraska, but his family is losing patience, and can't understand his drive to claim money which he has not won.  Woody's son David (Forte) begrudgingly agrees to take his dad on a trip to Lincoln, because like his father he has a dreamers mentality.  Woody and David begin a trip to Hawthorne, the place Woody was born to reconnect with family.

Payne's direction with this film, and Woody's story is some of the precise film making I have ever seen. Payne direction captures each wobbly sign, to the light flickering on the sign at the local tavern.  Payne worked with cinematographer Phedon Pappamichael, capturing some of the best black and white cinematography I have seen.  While I am almost always critical of modern black and white cinematography there is something haunting about the way Nebraska's landscape is captured.  Payne has worked with Pappamichael on two other films Sideways, and The Descendants.  This films cinematography proves these two are a dynamic duo with visuals.  

Payne is collaborating with screen writer Bob Nelson, for the first time, but the script feels like Payne's most personal film in years.  The story of father and sons, husband and wife, and family as everyone grows old, moves away, and reaches a different point in their life.  The film has some of the funniest moments in any of his films, the one liners about the town, and family gossip from wife and mother Kate Grant (Squibb), had me in stitches.  Kate is the funny one; she has put up with her husband for a long time, but she also loves and cares for him.  Squibb is brilliant in this role.

There should be no surprise that Payne has gotten strong performances from his ensemble.Payne hits every emotional mark with his actors, capturing the silent brilliance, letting the actor tell the story through actions rather than just through words.  Payne gets great work from his actors, and while Squibb is a true standout, Forte and Dern are a great duo.

Who knew Will Forte had this in him, after his years on Saturday Night Live?  As David learns more and more about his father you get to see some of the most beautiful moments about a son, finally getting to know, and understand his father's journey.  From the moment David enters the Hawthorne paper David gradually allows himself to escape into Woody's world living in the dream of his father becoming a millionaire.  Forte is a revelation in this film, and deserves more praise than he has received.

Bruce Dern tones himself down, and gives one hell of a performance.  My first interaction with him as an actor was in the television series Big Love.  Dern was obnoxious and overbearing, a trait with which he pigeon holed the same way Nicholson and DeNiro have been over the years.  Yet like with Nicholson in About Schmidt Payne creates, and lets Dern shine in one of the best performances of the year.  Woody is a cranky old man, but if you only see this, and nothing more you are missing the nuances to his performance.  Woody is a proud man, and you can see this even when he asks David to duck down while he is driving the truck.  Woody may not speak much, but Dern lets his face do all the talking, and as he loses himself you see the evolution of a man.

My only minor complaint with the film is that the film does feel long towards the end, and while the journey is beautiful there were moments in the film, which could have been cut.  In the end the film is a satisfying experience, which chronicles the journey of humanity as one man returns to a place he does not recognize.  The journey of the family within this film makes this one heartfelt, emotional, and funny journey that should not be missed.

Producer to Watch: Megan Ellison

Every month I typically pick a performer to watch, but this month its time to focus on a producer.  My boss sent me an article back in March of last year from Vanity Fair about upstart producer Megan Ellison.  Who is Megan Ellison, and why does she matter?  If you value quality film, she may be the future.  I wish I had as much of inside glance on this woman as Vanity Fair writer Vanessa Grigoriadis  (her article  What I can do is paint an important picture about her importance to quality film through her time as "the most talked-about independent financier in Hollywood.

At 27 Megan Ellison already has an impressive list of production credentials:

True Grit (2010)
The Master (2012)
Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Spring Breakers (2013)
Her (2013)
American Hustle (2013)
Upcoming Films:
Foxcatcher (2014)
Terminator 5 (2015)

Ellison is the daughter of billionaire Oracle Corporation CEO Larry Ellison; she started with some minor funding some projects back in 2006 for minor projects.  Ellison's biggest pay-off was her investment in the 2010 remake of the Coen Brothers film True Grit, which made a good amount of money.  After Grit she was given more money to invest, in other films.  Ellison has also founded Annapurna Pictures.  The goal of the film production company on their website is to "produce sophisticated high-quality films that might otherwise be deemed risky by contemporary Hollywood studios"

If you look at the list of films listed above you will see two Best Picture nominees, and three films with acting nominations.  Her and American Hustle have yet to make their impact, but Hustle will most likely make the Best Picture race.  These films are also quite good, and will make their mark on film history.  An interesting fact about Ellison is that she outbid Lionsgate for the rights of The Terminator franchise in 2011, which gives me hope for the future of that film series.

Megan Ellison is a woman to watch, its rare to see a female producer out there in the trenches fighting for quality film.  There are some big names out there like Laura Ziskin, but at such a young age Megan Ellison is a producer to watch, and a person who could change the game the way the Weinstein Brothers did many years ago.

AMAs: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Christina Aguilera and A Great Big World performing the song "Say Something" while Aguilera was not at her best, it was one of the most emotional numbers of the evening, and almost did not fit because it was too good.

Rihanna performing Diamonds Receiving an Icon Award at 25 is a bit daunting, but RiRi lived up to her name, with one of her best live performances ever.

Katy Perry performing Unconditionally  While pitchy, and I am not sure I agree with the theme of her bowing and using Asian culture, it was her best live performance I have seen her give.

Sarah Silverman-She was the only funny person who presented, the banter on the other presenters was terrible.

The Bad

Did anyone get excited over Imagine Dragons?  There performance had energy, but the crowd did not.  What a shame

The big giant cat during "Wrecking Ball"-To quote a friend of mine, who designed this performance Lisa Frank? Cyrus was clearly emotional, and it was not a bad performance, but that damn cat was too distracting.

The Ugly

Taylor Swift winning Artist of the Year- Swift has broken a record and won this award 3 time, the most of any artist in the history of the show, a travesty!

Pitbull objectifies four women, and can't open a show-Pitbull is a performer, No?  He can dance right?  Why did he need four hot women to explain the dance moves he was showing.

Lady Gaga featuring R. Kelly (performing)-I am over her schtick, there is a reason for the massive decrease in her album sales; she is trying too hard, and its obvious.  I like her, and what she stands for, but she looks desperate.

TLC performing Waterfalls-Did they think about singing, the vocals were the worst of the night, and so was their awkward dancing

Sunday, November 24, 2013

American Music Award (AMA) Predictions

If I am not mistaken, Katy Perry is opening and Miley Cyrus is closing this lackluster night of music.  The Grammy Awards are the "prestigious"music award, although their nominees rarely match a critical reflection on music, they are in fact the worst with regard to this out of the EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Tony). The American Music Awards are I would argue even less meaningly the a MTV Video Music Award, but there should be some interesting moments.  The AMA winners are based in sales and popularity, its the musical version of the People's "Choice." So who will win?

Favorite Female Artist, Pop or Rock
Taylor Swift
Will Win: Taylor Swift; she was the big seller of this past year, and is a fan favorite.
Favorite Male Artist, Soul/R&B
Robin Thicke
Justin Timberlake
Will Win: Justin had not one but two albums, and both were popular he has this in a walk
New Artist of the Year
Florida Georgia Line
Ariana Grande
Imagine Dragons
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Phillip Phillips
Will Win: Tough call, a lot of these artists have solid single and record sales, I am going to say Macklemore and Ryan take this, but watch out for Imagine Dragons and Phillip Phillips
Single of the Year
"Cruise" by Florida Georgia Line, featuring Nelly
"Thrift Shop" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, featuring Wanz
"Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke, featuring Pharrell and T.I.
Will Win: Blurred Lines, easy!
Artist of the Year  
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Bruno Mars
Taylor Swift
Justin Timberlake
Will Win: This is between Swift and Timberlake, I think Justin Timberlake has the edge.
Favorite Male Artist, Pop/Rock
Bruno Mars
Robin Thicke
Justin Timberlake
Will Win:Justing Timberlake 
Favorite Band, Duo or Group, Pop/Rock
Imagine Dragons
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
One Direction 
Will Win: One Direction 
Favorite Album, Pop/Rock
One Direction/Take Me Home
Taylor Swift/Red
Justin Timberlake/The 20/20 Experience
Will Win: Justin Timberlake
Favorite Male Artist, Country
Luke Bryan
Hunter Hayes
Blake Shelton
Will Win: Blake Shelton
Favorite Female Artist, Country
Miranda Lambert
Taylor Swift
Carrie Underwood
Will Win: Taylor Swift
Favorite Band, Duo or Group, Country
The Band Perry
Florida Georgia Line
Lady Antebellum
Will Win: Lady Antebellum
Favorite Album, Country
Luke Bryan/Crash My Party
Florida Georgia Line/Here’s To The Good Times
Taylor Swift/Red
Will Win: Taylor Swift
Favorite Artist, Rap/Hip-Hop 
Jay Z
Lil Wayne
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Will Win: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
Favorite Album, Rap/Hip-Hop
Jay Z/Magna Carta…Holy Grail
Kendrick Lamar/good kid, m.A.A.d city
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis/The Heist
Will Win: The Heist
Favorite Female Artist, Soul/R&B
Alicia Keys
Will Win: Rihanna 
Favorite Album, Soul/R&B
Robin Thicke/Blurred Lines
Justin Timberlake/The 20/20 Experience
Will Win: Justin Timberlake 
Favorite Artist, Alternative Rock
Imagine Dragons
The Lumineers
Mumford & Sons
Favorite Artist, Adult Contemporary
Maroon 5
Bruno Mars
Will Win: Bruno Mars

The Odds are in Favor of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (4 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by: Francis Lawrence (I am Legend, Water for Elephants)
Written by: Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire), Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine)
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Woody Harrelson

There are only two recent series of young adult books, which are loved by both audiences, and critics, and they are the Harry Potter series, and this one.  The first in this series was decent, Academy Award nominated writer Gary Ross, directed and wrote the first film.  Ross directed and wrote Seabiscuit, Big, and Dave.  Ross and his shaky camera had about half the budget of Catching Fire, and created a solid start to this series.  With double the budget and the charisma of Jennifer Lawrence there is a reason this film franchise works for everyone.

 Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson) won the 74th Hunger Games, an unprecedented task.  As the two make their victory lap they realize their rebellious win has started an uprising in many of the districts causing people to stand up to President Snow played with maliciousness by Donald Southerland.  As President Snow notices this rebellion begin he enlists his new games master Plutarch Heavensbee (Hoffman) to put the girl on fire in her place.  A year after the 74th games happen it announced that during the 75th year, or the Quarter Quell, contestants for this Game will be picked from past winners, and Peeta and Katniss end up in the arena again.

What makes the sequel better?  The direction, and style of film making has improved.  The first film was criticized for its use of shaky camera style to give the Games that realistic feeling, it only made people nauseous.   This time director Francis Lawrence who will return for the next two films (the third book is being broken down into two films) maintains some of the guerrilla style directing with close ups, but loses the off putting camera work of the first.  I think Lawrence's extreme close-ups on the emotion of the characters is a bit forced at times, let the action and emotion of the characters speak for themselves.

The second film also sharper more emotionally impactful writing.  Take away one Oscar nominated screenwriter (Ross) and add two winners Simon Beaufoy, and Michael Arndt, and you get a deeper connection with every character.  This film is better at connecting you to everyone rather than a surface-level connections to the tributes, and supporting characters in the first film.  At the moment my only complaint with the script is the explanation of the lore of District 13, the land demolished by the Capitol, the book explains this well, and builds up the lore while the film misses the mark on the set-up.  Arndt and Beaufoy still improve upon the nature of the first script.

While there are still minor hiccups with the directing, and writing, the film is massively emotional, and entertaining.  Most of that entertainment comes from the films star Jennifer Lawrence, who is a beacon for younger actresses working today.  Lawrence is a natural; she fits so well within the role of Katniss, and it is nice to see a different type of women represented on film.  Lawrence has a magnetism in this role, and is the glue to the success of this franchise.

Catching Fire is a great sequel, the script advances the character development, the increased budget has allowed for better visual effects, the new writers and directors have patched up the flaws of the first, but at the center is an interesting character, who is both strong and vulnerable.  Katniss/Lawrence is a force, and I wish all audiences a "Happy Hunger Games."


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Oscar Predictions November (2013)

Before the critics, Golden Globes, and Screen Actors Guild nominees set a good pace for the nominees, this is my last set of Oscar predictions.  Not much has changed, except The Wolf of Wall Street is officially in the mix.  Saving Mr. Banks is the contender with heart, which will help, so here goes my last predictions before the official craze of award season starts.

Best Picture
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Inside Llewyn Davis
Lee Daniel's The Butler


Saving Mr. Banks
The Wolf of Wall Street

Let's assume there are going to be nine nominees, I would say that August: Osage County and Fruitvale Station are out.  The Wolf of Wall Street is officially in for 2013, and should get a nomination, unless its a flop, but I can't see this happening, this film is this year's Django Unchained.  Saving Mr. Banks joins the ranks as the "upper."  There are no uplifting films in the bunch, sure the endings of some of the films are happy, but the pain throughout nullifies everything.  

Best Director

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

Martin Scorsese-The Wolf of Wall Street
Lee Daniels is a previous nominee, but Martin Scorsese is royalty with regard to nominations now. as are the Coens, and Alexander Payne.  The director's branch has been the most cutting edge throughout the years, will this continue?  If so I could see J.C. Chandor from All is Lost scoring a nomination, but I am going with safety and replacing Daniels with Scorsese (take a drink).  I think O. Russell is replaceable as well, his film has not been seen, and it could "too lightweight

Best Actor 
Bruce Dern- Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor- 12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks-Captain Phillips

Matthew McConaughey-Dallas Buyers Club
Robert Redford- All Is Lost

I saw Dallas Buyers Club 
McConaughey is in!  There is no way they will snub him for this role; he is the heart of this acclaimed film; he replaces Whitaker, but do not count Forrest out; he could replace someone.

Best Actress 
Cate Blanchett- Blue Jasmine

Sandra Bullock-Gravity
Judi Dench- Philomena

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

Keeping this the same, I am convinced Amy Adams will go supporting for American Hustle.

Best Supporting Actor 

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

Tom Hanks- Saving Mr. Banks

Woody Harrelson-Out of the FurnaceJared Leto-Dallas Buyers Club

I am replacing one former television star from the 90s with another.  John Goodman is out, and Woody Harrelson is in!  If Out of the Furnace has the campaign and traction I think, Harrelson will be the one to reap the nomination.

Best Supporting Actress  
Margo Martindale-August: Osage County
Lupita Nyongo-12 Years a Slave
Octavia Spencer-Fruitvale Station

June Squib-NebraskaOprah Winfrey-Lee Daniel's The Butler

As of now I replaced Amy Adams with June Squibb, Nebraska has heart, and that is something many of these films are missing, Squibb fills that slot in this category.

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 Phillips

The Wolf of Wall Street