Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Films to See in 2012: March

After two consecutive months of having nothing worth anticipating, we finally get around to March, which is always the point where the year actually arrives to some degree. The Academy Awards have been put to bed, and we can now actively move on to films that we may even remember by the end of the year. Of course the month starts out rather unassumingly, with whatever "Project X" is (cause I still don't know), and the animated adaptation of "The Lorax". This was the frame that "Rango" landed in last year, but I do not at all think that Dr. Seuss is quite going to give off the same vibe of nicely dialed insanity. In limited release that weekend is "Being Flynn", starring Paul Dano and Robert Deniro. It's fantastic to see Dano taking on bigger roles, but that film just looks way too simple-minded. I will say that it's better than whatever else Deniro is doing.

The following week we get around to Eddie Murphy's latest film, "A Thousand Words", which I have no idea about one way or the other. The guy's biggest prospect for this year was hosting the Oscars, and that fell through. It's also worth noting that "Friends with Kids", starring Adam Scott, Kirsten Wiig, Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph, and Chris O'Dowd, is coming into limited release. I know, it's like a huge "Bridesmaids" reunion, and as somebody who really enjoyed that film, this sounds like it could be an interesting mix. And there's also "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen", which has some interesting people attached to it, but there isn't much in the way of actual story to be told there, so I'm not that sure about it. Lest I forget, there is also Elizabeth Olsen's year-old thriller "Silent House" finally getting release, so that may well be worth checking out.

Monday, February 27, 2012

OSCAR 2011: The Winners and Why

Last night's Academy Awards was, to say the least, surprising, but not necessarily in a good way. In fact, I have to admit I would have been a lot happier if we had absolutely no surprises. Realistically, that didn't happen, and we got plenty of shocking moments that simply didn't need to happen. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" took home an Oscar for the absolute worst aspect of the film. "Hugo" took awards for technical aspects that simply didn't support it, all the while I was reminded of how soulless a feature Scorsese's latest was. But if there's a single win that defines the disappointment I feel this morning, it's Meryl Streep winning Best Actress.

From the very start of the evening, we saw Viola Davis absolutely working it on the red carpet, and I couldn't have felt happier for her. This was her night, and the Academy refused to recognize it. If she had taken the stage, last night would have been absolutely perfect in my memory. I don't blame Meryl Streep for winning. You have to blame the Academy for simply making the wrong decision and not voting on what's simply better and more deserving. Meryl Streep didn't need another award, but even more than that, her getting countless awards for performances like this is like giving Adam Sandler an Oscar for "Jack and Jill" because he was great in "Punch-Drunk Love" in the past. For the most part, however, I was pleased with what was predicted to win "The Artist"s wins were extremely heartfelt, and "A Separation" was just a great moment.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

THE LISTS: My 5 Favorite Oscar Wins

I could go on about how this Oscar season has been a treacherous road from the start, or some other jargon you've heard dozens of times before and will likely hear dozens of times again. However, I felt applied towards a list for this occasion, and one that strays on the much more optimistic side of things. I've been watching the Academy Awards since March 24th, 2002, when the biggest award I remember was "Shrek" winning Best Animated Feature. Of course, the young mind will only remember that which is acquainted well with it, but since then I have had plenty of significant Oscar moments based on the phenomenon of who won.

In picking out five, I felt inclined to strip away the facade of what was most overwhelmingly deserving. As such, Heath Ledger's Best Supporting Actor win for his knife-edge performance in "The Dark Knight" didn't make the cut, because I didn't feel the moment. Everyone knew it was going to win, but to the point where nobody really cared as much as they should have when it happened. To me, this list always had to be about the passion I felt for the winners, sometimes at that moment, and others massively in retrospect. This night marks ten years in the game, however inadvertently, and I doubt a win will surface that disrupts one of these, but I remain optimistic that it will.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

AWARDS 2011: Indie Spirit Winners

Well no, I can't say that really worked out to well for my predictions. With hopes for "Drive", "Take Shelter", and "Shame" to pick up some well deserved accolades this afternoon, none of that happened. The result was a decidedly indifferent afternoon of doling out awards to "The Artist", "The Descendants", "Beginners", "My Week with Marilyn", and... well, whatever. Point is, this simply did not do, and that's all I have to say about that.

Best Feature: "The Artist"
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin ("The Artist")
Best Actress: Michele Williams ("My Week with Marilyn")
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer ("Beginners")
Best Supporting Actress: Shailene Woodley ("The Descendants")

Ranking 2011's Oscar Nominated Films

I've had the feeling that I saw less Oscar nominated movies this year than in previous years. Not so. In fact I feel less complete in Oscar knowledge this year than in previous years when I had seen more films nominated. This year, it scales out to 24, only 5 of which I'd profess to truly love, and only one of those is nominated where it most matters. "Drive" only has one nomination to its name. The worst film I saw of the bunch, until today, was "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2", and it has three, which I suppose is somewhat deserving, but it only repeats the Academy's favoritism towards glitzy, gaudy, and obvious.

If nothing else, this gives me an outlet for ranking some of the other films that didn't make the cut past the top 20. I have no doubt people will think I'm crazy in ranking "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" above "The Tree of Life", "The Descendants", and "The Adventures of Tintin", but for the life of me I had more of an experience in Michael Bay's rampant actioner than I did with those that rank lower than it. Anything lower than 20, I did not like, so the majority of the films nominated that I've seen, I do enjoy them. I think that they are rather good. It doesn't change the fact that there are better films out there that simply aren't being represented here, and that's a shame.

Indie Spirit Awards Predictions

Let me emphasize that the Indie Spirit Awards are usually the fun about Oscar weekend. We could get to the tailend of this weekend and have that not be true. This could be a relatively boring rehash of "The Artist"s usual success, and that's fine, but we have the Oscars for that. Which is why I am far and away going for "Drive", "Martha Marcy May Marlene", "Take Shelter", and "Shame" to clean up this evening. Will it happen? probably not. It's a bit of a strain to think that "The Artist" would only take home one award. But let's dare to be adventurous this weekend, shall we? Isn't that so much more fun?

Now there are obviously places where I know that what I want to win isn't going to win. "50/50" has a certain chance in the screenplay category, as does "Beginners". J.C. Chandor's "Margin Call" could snap up the debut director/writer credits, which would be a massive shame. Michelle Williams could snatch up actress, and Jean Dujardin is more than likely for Actor. But I'm game with thinking that this could be so delightfully up in the air this particular year. Or maybe not, but "Black Swan" and "Winter's Bone" both took home some deserving wins last year. I'm hoping for the rush of the new to beat out the nostalgia of the old.

Friday, February 24, 2012

And Here We Go: Final Oscar Predictions

In officially nailing down my final predictions, or in other words, the bets I'm going to be calling on Oscar night, I realized something rather fortunate. In the context of most of these categories, I'm rather fine with the winners. I rather love "The Artist", for all its wit and mindful pastiche, and it certainly stirred emotions in me a great deal more than any of the other contenders this year. I'm sure there are categories in which I'd rather "The Artist" win, but I don't have it down. The primary one, for me anyway, is cinematography, but I'm going to play the optimist in saying that the faith so many have put on "The Tree of Life" all season hasn't been wasted.

But I even have "The Artist" down for Original Screenplay, echoing the choice the BAFTAs made. I imagine that they're not going to look too superficially at it as undeserving because it's a silent film. And yes, I'm assuming "Midnight in Paris" will go home emptyhanded. Much as I enjoyed it, that's something I expect to happen. The performance categories are irreversible at this point, almost depressingly so in terms of that search for surprise. But let's reflect, shall we? This year, 82-year-old Christopher Plummer, who had not been nominated until last year, will receive his first, and deserving, Academy Award.

It'll be the first time two black actresses win in the same year, the second time two black performances win in the same year, but the first time the two winners would be from the same film. The first time was between Forrest Whitaker of "The Last King of Scotland" and Jennifer Hudson of "Dreamgirls". I don't mean to make it seem like more than it is, but this year is distinctly less prejudicial against race, age, or nationality. After all, a French comedy filmed silent and in black and white is about to sweep the major categories, and land Jean Dujardin with an Oscar. Maybe it's worth noting it as the first time a French man wins Best Actor. I think it is.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

OSCAR 2011 PREDICTIONS: Best Picture

This is the absolute last race that anybody wants to talk about, because we all know inevitably what it's going to be. "The Artist" is going to win, and I still feel decidedly undecided in respects to that win. Why the hell do I feel that way? Because even though I love "The Artist" more than any other film in this category, I am still rather looking for some kind of adventurous buzz from the Oscars. I want something exciting to happen that will radiate vibes and talks to be bandied about for weeks. For several weeks, I did not have a film that I really wanted to champion. I look at the list of nine, and I honestly don't care enough about really any of them. Not even "The Artist".

Then last Friday I revisited "Moneyball", Bennett Miller's math-behind-baseball film that was well liked back in September, but lost its heat since then. It's easy to flash an indifferent eye its way, and in fact in many other situations I would. But I keep on circling back to a line that I believe defines the situation that the Academy Awards happen to be in right now. "I know these guys. I know the way they think, and they will erase us. And everything we've done here; None of it will matter." In going across every single category, I find the films that will win are never the ones I'd want. I don't have any feeling of satisfactions about the group that the Academy assembles as the best in these particular fields.

That's where I get off sore. "Moneyball" is a film that's entirely about the undervalued, and it's been greatly undervalued time and again this year. Mind you, it's far from my favorite film of the year, and in fact it didn't even crack the honorable mentions with me. I just adore the message it would send if it did win that impossible win. But I suppose I can't feel too bad about my favorite film of the bunch, "The Artist", winning on Sunday either. I just get annoyed with what they've fill the categories with this year. There is a far better group of nominees that have been criminally overlooked in this particular year. It seems so easy to make the right decision, but this year they just fouled up as hard as ever.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I know that not a lot of people want Michel Hazanavicius to win, but setting aside their love for any number of the other directors below, did any of them do really extraordinary work? Not in the slightest. Woody Allen has never been one of directorial brilliance. His films are often reliant on his writing and the actors at work. Terrence Malick comes close, as you can't help but respect the ideas he has being thrown around, even if they don't align specifically with you. Scorsese's direction, though often lovely, is utterly inert this time around, and we don't get any of the flare he gave us in the past. And Alexander Payne? Seriously? Do we even have to discuss this? It's Hazanavicius' relatively extraordinary and playful direction that takes the championship here.

For Your Anticipation: Nowhere Left to Go

I feel really bad for Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston. I think we're all of similar opinions that these actors really deserve much better than either of them are liable to get anytime soon. It's kind of ironic for both of them to be in a film like "Wanderlust", because they are in the exact same position. They are stuck in a routine of tedium, playing up these senselessly raunchy comedies as best they can until something better comes along. Paul Rudd at least has a better comedic outlet coming along later this year in "This is 40". Jennifer Aniston, in the meantime, is still on the waiting list for something to come along and snatch her up from tedium. I hope it happens. I am of the opinion of not wanting her to spend the rest of her career in freefall.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

OSCAR 2011 PREDICTIONS: Lead Actress

I am usually much more enthusiastic regarding this particular race, because the women so often transcend the talent of their male counterparts in the top categories. Not so much this year, which only really yields two good performances. Does that mean that I count Michelle Williams, Meryl Streep, and Glenn Close as bad performances in their respective films? Absolutely, yes. "Albert Nobbs" contains nothing appealing to an entertainment or quality seeking audience, and it ultimately serves to give Glenn Close this nomination. Same goes for "The Iron Lady", and it seems like these films are only created now to give Meryl Streep these catapults towards awards.

And amongst the two films Michelle Williams has done this year, it's her more obvious performance that is getting the massive portion of the heat. Something as dry as the work she does in "Meek's Cutoff" isn't likely to gain many supporters in the Academy. So that leaves Viola Davis and Rooney Mara, and I'll admit that I won't be too ornery about Viola Davis winning. She gave a strong performance that had me invested from the start of "The Help", even if the film didn't match up. Although, her endurance throughout her career doesn't change that I'd be absolutely ecstatic if Rooney Mara won for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". It was a performance that solidified her place in this business, as I know it would when I was already a fan of her a year previous for "The Social Network".

For Your Anticipation: I want you to live in it

Tyler Perry continues to be an enigma to me, though not quite in a good way. The man has had success for reasons I am not quite privy to, and he puts out roughly two films each year that are indistinguishable from one another. I don't distinguish matters of plot, characters, or even actors at this point. Whether there are strong performances being lifted out of these films is beyond the effort I am willing to put in to seek one of these out. This week's film is called "Good Deeds", but I honestly don't think the title matters so much as his name.

Monday, February 20, 2012

For Your Anticipation: He was Sleeping

This forthcoming weekend is a complete wash, containing a myriad of films I have no intention of watching now or ever. "Gone" just happens to hold the most animosity from me due to how many times that horrifically bad trailer played in front of me at a theater. It barely has a plot attached to it, as exposed by the abrupt title. Tack onto that the fact that Amanda Seyfreid can't actually act, and you have your film.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Moving on to much bigger strokes, the main races always seem to be the most easily predicted, because they've had the most attention in terms of precursors. I suppose it's just knowing to pay attention to the right precursors. I wouldn't consider the Golden Globes as such, which is one advisement in why I expect George Clooney won't win. Sure, he has the favor of plenty precursors, but I believe it will most surely go to SAG winner Jean Dujardin. That's likely the most important precursor to have under your belt, and he should slide into it like a clean glove.

Now, if Gary Oldman ended up pulling out a surprise win, which I and everyone else is hoping for, that would be great. Not going to happen, but it would undeniably be a move in the right direction. The other two contenders are pretty much there to make the category look a little bit prettier. Demian Bichir, in my opinion, has little right in really being there, and it doesn't really throw in the right spice of difference. If they wanted that, they'd have gone with their senses and voted up Michael Fassbender for "Shame". I am happy to see Brad Pitt here, to a degree. Why not? He's another strong piece of "Moneyball", and though I thought his better work was in "The Tree of Life", I suppose it's nice to have him here.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

OSCAR 2011 PREDICTIONS: Animated Feature

Everyone is still salting their wounds over last year's tumultuous and difficult year for animated films. Between "Gnomeo and Juliet", "Mars Needs Moms", and "Cars 2", the animated group that's always been scrambling for Academy success took a beating in 2011. This year has a steady course of correction to that problem, with "Arrietty", "The Lorax", "The Pirates: Band of Misfits", "Brave", "ParaNorman", "Wreck-It Ralph", and "Rise of the Guardians" all vying for something more than simple entertainment. It's a lot more interesting to talk about the possibilities those film hold than to talk about the competition this year.

It's not going to go any other way than in favor of "Rango", as it well should. The film has the benefits of being cinematically unorthodox, massively entertaining, and the first animated film made by Industrial Light and Magic. It's a solid bet for either substance or craft, and there's no other film I feel deserves to win. I haven't had the pleasure or the enthusiasm to see three of the films on the list, so the only other one I can vouch for is "Kung Fu Panda 2". It's far from the most original film in the world, and indeed works off of the same template from the previous film. Doesn't change the fact that it's an effective formula that offers up plenty memorable action set-pieces.

OSCAR 2011 PREDICTIONS: Foreign Language Film

I have as little an understanding of the Foreign Language race this year as just about anybody could. I know that I absolutely love "A Separation", and it's everyone's favorite to win. I also know that the best choice is so rarely the one that's chosen. People don't really know what goes on in the minds of the people who vote in that category. I hold as testament: "In A Better World", "The Secret in Their Eyes", "Departures", "The Counterfeiters", and many others in the past. This is ultimately nothing more than a crap shoot, and it's often total crap. I can only find myself swinging sympathy under one fighter, and that's "A Separation". If things go as they should, it'll happen. I just have a sinking feeling it will go to something random and pointless that nobody is even going to try to see.

Friday, February 17, 2012

OSCAR 2011 PREDICTIONS: Adapted Screenplay

I'm not alone in my over-enthusiasm for the grand portion of the screenplay nominations this year. Along with the spectacular triad of "Midnight in Paris", "The Artist", and "A Separation" over in the original screenplay bracket, we again have three rather deserving nods here, along with two deliveries of Academy filler. By that, I speak inevitably of "The Descendants", which is more than likely to win for its light and toothless addressing of family issues, alongside some odd attempts at humor. I'm also talking about "Hugo", whose script may be the biggest thing that this piece has against it. The film's beauty may have washed over me if it weren't scripted so painfully obvious.

But escaping those problem factors that will of course win, there are some mighty fine nominations here. "The Ides of March" is a surprise, and a pleasant one at that. The film may be no massive success, but it is quite entertainingly constructed, especially through its charming off-the-tongue dialogue. You can consider me an apologist on behalf of "Moneyball", whose script I've bashed for not quite being the same level of charm as "The Social Network", but these are honestly two different beasts. This one has frills in different places, and it just happens to be handling a subject that's not of such scintillating excitement. There are plenty moments where the script was to such a tee that it made me feel something.

TOP 10 SHOTS from "Drive"

This past Tuesday and Wednesday, Kris Tapley of In Contention revealed his annual list of the top 10 shots of the year, which always serves to give me a buzz. But as much as it is an acknowledged and studied list, it's also one of preference. I had some issue with two of the shots picked, one being from "Hugo" which was rather unextraordinary when I saw it in the theater. It certainly shocked me to see it there. And the second was the big chase scene in "Tintin", which is rather fun, but I just couldn't escape how much of a cheat it seemed to me, though I entirely understand why he had it there. If it had been anything other than the top shot, I wouldn't have had as much issue.

Although I'm not one to argue in the slightest, as I could never put that amount of time and effort in to distinguish between a field of several brilliant shots. A single-shot action sequence isn't the worst he could have done, and it's an extremely impressive sequence and shot, all things considered. I shouldn't be complaining so much, so enough with that. The list did what it was supposed to, which was to inspire me in how I view images, and to get in the game, be it in a different way. I was struck by one particular image from "Drive" chosen on the list, but then again, I was struck by many different images from the piece that I felt obligated to share it to a degree.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

OSCAR 2011 PREDICTIONS: Supporting Actress

The supporting performance races are prime examples of what's so dull about this Oscar year. It's not as much about who wins as it is about who was eligible for consideration. There are precious few here who even scratch the surface of consideration in my book. I'm not at all sure how Janet McTeer made it into this bracket, but there's absolutely no enthusiasm heading her way. Melissa McCarthy is different, because the only reason she's here is because the enthusiasm of the public willed her into a nomination. No real chance of winning, but it's a consideration that many are thankful for. Myself, I would have been pleased if Rose Byrne were the proper nomination, but I guess it's too much to expect people go for the better performance over the louder one.

Berenice Bejo is here because of "The Artist", and she doesn't really belong here. There's nothing extraordinary about her performance. All the same, I have absolutely nothing against her, and she does ordinary and typical pretty well, all things considered. But really, it's the ladies from "The Help" that we're talking about here. Don't worry about them cancelling each other out. They know who they're voting for, and it's the underwhelming Octavia Spencer. Don't get me wrong. She's nice and funny, but not to the level necessary for a win. I thought Jessica Chastain was much more deserving for her performance, but I thought even more that she should have been nominated for "Take Shelter" instead, a film which got no love from the Academy. But we dried out tears a long time ago. Now we're just rolling our eyes.

For Your Anticipation: What in the Hell's A Bean?

Having already seen "The Secret World of Arrietty", I can vouch that is an absolutely heartfelt and beautifully drawn film. But I do take issue with the voice cast, which is absolutely ridiculous in the U.S. dub of the film. Casting Will Arnett and Amy Poehler in roles that were already perfect with Mark Strong and Olivia Colman seems more than a few steps overdone. And the random girl they found to play Arrietty is already proving more distracting than inviting. The U.K. dub wasn't about drawing attention to the voice actors. It was about fitting the characters, which they did beautifully. See the film anyway, but know that I fell in love with the U.K. version. Also, let me know if that Jonsi song from the trailer is in the film. If it is, that' just another issue.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Quick Takes: "Chocolat", "No Fear, No Die", "Down by Law"

Directed by Claire Denis

It's a piece of irony that a course called "Women and Cinema" focuses around films with predominantly male casts, but I'm actually quite pleased that the course I'm currently taking decided to revolve around a particular blind spot in my cinematic intelligence, that being Claire Denis. I've made no secret of my affections for "White Material", so going back to her directorial debut, also set in Africa, it's hard not to notice similarities in terms of tone. Denis has never been an obvious or rather outspoken director, and you can tell that in her interviews. She's not an exuberant presence, and is rather reserved when you consider how devastating some of her films can be.

OSCAR 2011 PREDICTIONS: Original Song

Okay, let's talk. Can we talk, Academy? You might have noticed recently that the rest of the group has been acting kind of reserved and odd around you. Do you know why that is? Well, for one thing it doesn't help that you don't seem to like music. Not only is it a bit more than irritating, but it's just plain bizarre and stupid to a degree. You haven't had much of a problem with it in past years, but now we get along to this point, and it just feels like you don't even care anymore. It's like you don't even want to fulfill your own responsibilities. And I know, what debt do you really owe us? You make your decisions, and they are your decisions, but you have to realize that your actions affect people.

The Original Song category is as prime an example as any that I can imagine. You can't expect to give us such an immense longlist of potential nominees and then just nominate two. There's just no excuse, especially considering the fact that you nominated the wrong song from "Rio". Fact of the matter is that it's no wide or instructive array that you've assembled. You can't put up such a short and abrupt list and not put any effort into it. So, as a compromise, I only suggest that you pick your head up out of your own ass, and remedy this in full next year, or we'll only give you more shit.

For Your Anticipation: A Little Too Sweet

I'm having difficulty with "This Mean's War", because usually when there are three actors who I really enjoy watching, I am more excited than I am in a state of dread. Not the case as of this moment. I'm not sure how Tom Hardy ever got to be embroiled in this. The guy is fantastic, but there's got to be a point where that charm can't quite suffice. Chris Pine and Reese Witherspoon, I understand more of how they ended up here. Doesn't make me any less unhappy about it. To be fair, this doesn't look horrible, but it looks utterly pointless. Isn't a film put on the screen for a reason?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

OSCAR 2011: Requiem for an Ensemble

If there's been one category that's been sorely missing from the Academy bracket for ages, it's an award for Ensemble Cast that's been long standing within the SAG Awards. And it's a damn shame because there is plenty of room for them to honor a notably strong ensemble cast. Of course the Academy would quite easily muck it up to accommodate their own favorite films rather than consider the casts as a whole. So I offered them a slot for themselves, with what would very likely end up nominated if they chose. But honestly, I care a great deal more about what I would choose, because I'm just that narcissistic.

The only real overlap there would be would be in "Midnight in Paris", which they'd give access automatically whereas I understand why they deserve to be nominated. The cast of that piece is so immense and on-the-dot in a wide and expansive impersonatory and satirical joust for the win. On the smaller side, I think everybody was stunned by the synchronization of the work on "Drive", but less for the across the board subtle and shattering performances on "Tomboy". That may be just me, but I was devastated fantastically. I was giddy with joy at the assembled cast of the latest "Mission: Impossible", each of which served to a purpose. And the cast of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" leaves nary a weak link in the pot.

OSCAR 2011 PREDICTIONS: Film Editing

I shudder at the quality of the nominees masquerading in the film editing department of this year's Oscar race. It's to be expected that the frontrunner is always a player, so I'll forgive "The Artist". Of all its below-the-line skills, editing isn't the most deserving, but it'll suffice more than the others. My greatest complaint of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" was the choppy as all hell editing job, and it's only beat out by how obscure the work on "Hugo" was and how plainly unimaginative "The Descendants" was. If the world is a good place, they'll give it to "Moneyball", the unsung technical marvel of this year. But that won't happen.

For Your Anticipation: The Ugly Fire

So apparently it's okay for films to just be loud and ugly for no reason, even box office. Did anybody really want to see a sequel to "Ghost Rider". I wasn't exactly waiting in the wings with deep anticipation, nor was anybody. But I should raise mention to the random fact that "Transformers 4" is going to happen, and people are typically getting all up in arms about it. Listen, it may not be the smartest series in the world, but you have to give them props for having the reserve not to be as loud and crass as this.

Monday, February 13, 2012

OSCAR 2011 PREDICTIONS: Best Original Screenplay

To be truthful I'm for the most part pleased with the nominations for Original Screenplay. I say "for the most part" on account of the unwelcome intrusion of "Margin Call". I never understood the enthusiasm that went towards that film instead of the far more deserving "Martha Marcy May Marlene". But outside that slight hiccup, there's a lot to like about the screenplays here. I'd never vouch for "Bridesmaids" on account of direction or as a corporeal film, but it is quite meticulously written by those who seem to understand the film more than it understands itself. It won't win, but it's a welcome addition.

I'm more than just happy to see "A Separation" make it in. Discounting the indifference that's often thrown the way of the Foreign Language category, as well as giving us dreamers something to root for desperately to no avail. But who are we kidding, really? This is between Woody Allen and Michel Hazanavicius, and it's more than likely that the Academy will go with the former in this case. After all, how good can a screenplay with too few spoken words be? Actually quite meticulous. From the dialogue that comes onscreen in captions, to the dialogue that we only ever see on the characters' mouths, to even the slightest gesture and movement, it's quite a brilliant script. It'll still probably go to "Midnight in Paris", for all its clever zingers, but they wouldn't be so clever if it weren't for the spot-on performances from its expansive ensemble.

THEN & NOW: Lead Actor & Actress

Continuing to seek our teeth into the flaws that exist in this low-point for the Academy Awards, I was starting to wonder if there was even a point of doing this. I mean, sure the nominees this year aren't great, but are they really a massive departure from previous years? Actually, yes. This isn't an overreaction. Previous years have rendered much greater and more deserving performances and films in the categories given. Maybe last year went a bit wild with the winners, but it did the nominees pretty well. I think that the Best Actor race was the worst last year, as it didn't really seem to have its heart in it. Colin Firth was the frontrunner the year after he should have won.

I am still of the belief that Jeff Bridges should have came to a win last year, rather than the year before, but he isn't the most deserving performance here either. James Franco was always a bit on the mild side, and I can't quite believe that he really needed to be there. I'm very glad that Javier Bardem made it in for a performance that was admittedly quite strong, and that was worth it simply for the rage it ensued amongst ignorant YouTube reviewers. But I think that Jesse Eisenberg was the real gem of the group last year, with a skillfully internalized performance in a very internalized film, but it was still a case of a relative newcomer sweeping in to steal the glory from somebody who was overdue.

"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" Teaser Trailer

I'm still abstaining from trailers, so from here on out, I'll give my brother's interpretations: Its a quick teaser so I'll give it a second chance, but until then, it looks campy in a bad way. Like "Jonah Hex", but without Megan Fox. So, yeah. I'll count that as an advisement to avoid. "Wanted" was style over substance, and it sounds like "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" is a lot of the same from Timur Bekmambatov.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Box Office Update: "Vow" for "Safe" "Journey", Despite "Menace"

I didn't really hold strong hopes for this box office weekend, but it has fared about as well as the year for the whole part has so far. Last year was a long and drawn-out nightmare of a year in terms of the box office. There was simply nothing of real spectacle happening, so despite the mildly disappointing films the money's headed towards, it's still satisfying to see an invigoration towards the theatrical experience. I had worried that this weekend would pale in comparison to last year, when that Justin Bieber movie and "Just Go With It" ruled the box office. I guess I underestimated the Valentine's Day weekend draw of Channing Tatum, Denzel Washington, and... 3D, apparently.

"The Vow" clearly played to the right demographic this weekend, and as such reaped the majority of the weekend's winning. "Safe House" played more to the date-night-action-flick crowd, falling just a tad short of its competition. Both are likely to be frontloaded openings likely to fall immensely come next weekend. "Journey 2" and "Star Wars" managed to split the 3D winnings this weekend, so clearly the problem of not having enough 3D screens that we dealt with just two years ago isn't anything to worry about now. The weekend ended up a 31% increase upon last year, so this year is proving to be a pretty strong bounce-back from last year.

OSCAR 2011 PREDICTIONS: Original Score

The Academy bias going on this year is simply overwhelming. I wouldn't believe you if you handed me the list of nominees, unassociated with the Oscars, and told me the choices were made by more than just one person. There's simply no diversity going on here anymore. It's to be expected that they would hand two nominations to John Williams for work that honestly isn't that emotion drumming. And of course they're going to hand nods to "The Artist" and "Hugo". It's perfunctory at this point to hand as many nominations to the films at the head of the race. I'm just glad that something as low key as "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" managed to actually make it in.

But I was honestly surprised not to see Alexandre Desplat not here for his expansively emotional work on "Deathly Hallows: Part 2". The film grabbed a couple of nominations this year, or at least enough for the Academy to consider it a sufficient sendoff. Score seemed like an automatic in, or I at least expected Desplat to get in for something. Maybe "Ides of March", since that had quite a prolific anthem to it. One wishes some edge made its way into proceedings with "Hanna" or "Dragon Tattoo", but not so. The voting bodies aren't ones for things that stretch the boundaries of music. They're more interested in dutiful towing of the line.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

"The Bourne Legacy" Trailer

I admit myself guilty. I watched it. I broke my rule so easily, and I watched the trailer for "The Bourne Legacy", but it wasn't for no reason. It's because this entry of the series is moored in trepidatious and uncertain waters. As somebody who thought the first three films absolutely kicked ass, the idea of somebody stepping on that territory with something "new" terrifies me. I really don't want to see them fuck this one up, and that's why I watched it. And you know what? I'm in. It looks pretty cool. I'm not sure how they'll make it necessary, but I'll bite.

"The Amazing Spider-Man" Trailer 2

Wow, I really have been out of the loop. I need to get back in the way of posting things the moment they come along. One of the bigger trailers to come along this week was for Marc Webb's reboot of "The Amazing Spider-Man". I admit that I was and am still quite interested in whatever they're putting to work on this one, if only because I'd like to see what else they have to say about the character at this point. Tobey Maguire's depiction of the characters was kind of dopey; like a kid who thought he was cooler than other people thought he was, but he's not. This seems to be "Spider-Man" for the hipster generation, which I think is kind of cool.

OSCAR 2011 PREDICTIONS: Cinematography

I'd rather like to think that this race isn't as up in the air as it actually is. I suppose any one of the films nominated could take it with good reason. Sure, "Tree of Life" has all the precursors going for it, and it probably should win in a decent world. Despite my reckless indifference to it, it is the most cinematographically sound film this year. But there's also the massive following on "Hugo" that could prove to sweep the crafts categories. There's buzz going for "The Artist", which as far as brilliant framing is concerned is the most deserving of the group. And some people may just think "War Horse" is just so pretty. To an obnoxious degree it is. There are two ways that this award SHOULD go, but as per usual, I'm not certain it will.

WILL WIN: "The Tree of Life"
SHOULD WIN: "The Artist"

Friday, February 10, 2012

OSCAR 2011 PREDICTIONS: Art Direction

I'm a proponent of specificity over style, at least in terms of Visual Effects, Art Direction, and such in terms of visual mediums. As such it massively pisses me off when films like "Hugo", "Harry Potter", and "War Horse" make it in because they're "pretty". I use pretty in quotations, because in most cases, it's a hollow beauty. I'm quite simply irritated by the fact that the unprecedented-this-year work behind "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" was ignored, but... forgive? No. Just adapt. Of the films here, the only ones I can say are rather good in terms of set design and such are "The Artist" and "Midnight in Paris". However, the latter didn't absolutely rock my socks off, so here's hoping that "Artist" goes for a sweep. It'll probably go to "Hugo", just because that's the obvious choice.

WILL WIN: "Hugo"
SHOULD REALLY WIN: "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy"

THEN AND NOW: Supporting Actor & Actress

It's no secret, especially since the rather long leave of silence on the site, that I am just not loving this Oscar season anymore. I'm not sure if I ever was. Of course, there are some races that have me quite invested in the outcome, as always, but they are few. And I kept feeling like I had to explain why this year was a low point in the Academy history, though that should be perfectly obvious. The Academy has lost their teeth, which is no huge news, but even more than that, they've lost their sense of spontaneity. For the first time in a while, I am kind of wishing Brett Ratner and Eddie Murphy had stayed. Why? Because the moment they strolled off, this year became extremely safe. The quick choices of Brian Grazer and Billy Crystal to fill in was the first sign.

So it seems so fitting to compare this year to last year in terms of who made the cut for the nominations. This year, it doesn't really matter who the other four nominations are, as we all know it's going to be Christopher Plummer for Best Supporting Actor. I touched on this a bit a while back, but this year's slate of Supporting Actor competitors is extremely soft. I know everyone is pissed off that Jonah Hill made it, but he honestly isn't the worst of evils. In "Moneyball", he is admittedly kind of good. If nothing else, he has shown that he has a possible future in the way of dramatic roles. Does he deserve a nomination for just showing that he has potential. Absolutely not.

Friday, February 3, 2012

OSCAR 2011 PREDICTIONS: Supporting Actor

Did anybody possibly imagine that the supporting actor race this year would be so completely dull and toothless as this? Perhaps, but I dearly hope nobody wanted it. Remember last year when we had Christian Bale's career best as an extreme druggie, John Hawkes' belated arrival, Jeremy Renner's heavy edge accomplice to Ben Affleck, and Mark Ruffalo being just plain awesome. Since when did the Academy just lose those cool points? The closest thing they have this year is Nick Nolte, who is perhaps the only one who really should be here, but the one who just made it in under the wire.

There's no debating that it's Christopher Plummer's to win. Don't get me wrong, because it's a nice performance, but I'm the one who was so much more impressed with the much smaller name Mary Page Keller's performance in "Beginners". I haven't yet, and am not liable to soon see either "Extremely Loud" or "My Week with Marilyn", but I've seen enough of an indication from the trailers to know that I'm not having it for either of the performances in this race. And then there is Academy Award nominee Jonah Hill... I can't. I just can't.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

"The Hunger Games" Trailer 2

And here is my first real challenge in terms of avoidance of trailers, as I rather liked the previous trailer for "The Hunger Games". On the other hand, it's not that hard to avoid this one, seeing as it's little more than a minute long, which makes me wonder, what is the point? Are they just attempting to eke out a little more material, bit by bit, till the point where their film ultimately become irrelevant. We saw precisely enough in the first trailer. None of the actual games. Nothing beyond the setup. That's all we needed. Anything else, to my eyes, is irrelevant. Still looking forward to seeing it, but please comment on your thoughts on this additional minute. Unnecessary or intriguing?

For Your Anticipation: Direct Influence

I'm not really sure how this ended up my most anticipated film of this week. Frankly, I'm still just interested in seeing what the buzz around "The Grey" is all about. This week is a kind of anomaly, as there's nothing particularly awful, but still nothing motivating. "Chronicle" is an example, as something that's intriguing at best, but still a tried and overused concept. I just don't find it so interesting anymore at this point.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

OSCAR 2011 PREDICTIONS: Costume Design

Alright, let's get back to this grind of ours, shall we? The Academy branch sure likes it when there things are pretty to the point of making one gag. Is it ever to a purpose. I'd like to think that "Jane Eyre" being here is a show of good faith. If there's anything that isn't up for debate about that one, it's the wear of the characters. Unfortunately, I doubt that will happen. It could, and that's a very lively possibility. But then again, so is that "W.E." walks away with it, which I think we all believe is a worst case scenario. It would be a new low for them to award more towards "W.E." than they awarded towards... any film that got snubbed wrongfully this year.

Thankfully, I don't think that will happen. There are plenty others to steal the focus, even if they really shouldn't. "The Artist" and "Hugo" seem to be the two main contenders, as both are the main contenders for Best Picture, as of this moment anyway. If "Hugo" wins, everyone will inevitably start bandying about a "Hugo" night. If "The Artist" wins, things settle back into the way they were before. And if "Anonymous" wins... Oh, let's please be serious. There's no way in hell that is ever going to happen. It'd be cool, because those outfits are very flamboyant and obvious, but still very fun. At least they have a sense of humor.

For Your Anticipation: Creepy Dancing Monkey

Daniel Radcliffe, I'd like to ask you an honest and concerned question. What the hell do you think you're doing? I'm speaking not of your decision to do a typical Victorian scare flick. I'm not speaking of your characters' inexplicable obsession with winding up creepy dolls. I'm speaking of you. What are you doing? I thought you were going to start challenging yourself with... things. When is that going to start? I mean, you got naked on stage, and that was cool. But I want to see you prove your talent as far away from "Harry Potter" as you possibly can. Like... do something... good? That'd be fantastic!