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Thursday
Jan152015

Why Wes, Why Now?

Michael C here. Wes Anderson’s films haven’t been ignored by awards season in the past, so much as they have been relegated to flitting around the edges. His films have received three total Oscar nods, two for Original Screenplay for Royal Tenenbaums and Moonrise Kingdom and one animated film nod for Mr. Fox. His most high profile wins have been a Gotham Award for Best Film for Moonrise and two Indie Spirit wins for Rushmore for Best Director and for Best Supporting Actor for Bill Murray who is in nearly all of his films.

Wes & Tilda on the set

Now that has all changed with Grand Budapest Hotel. No longer the strange side dish, Anderson’s nostalgic remembrance of a Europe that never quite existed has just finished a rampage through the precursors that culminated with Anderson’s first DGA nomination. Over the past few weeks buzz for Budapest grew steadily from “It might pick up a few nods” to “It looks like a lock for a Best Picture slot” to “Hey, it just might snatch the screenplay Oscar away from Birdman”. And today, incredibly, it LEADS the Oscar nominations with nine (tied with Birdman)

For those of us who have been on board with Anderson since the 90’s and have grown used to Anderson being underappreciated it’s hard not to wonder what exactly has changed. Why did Wes break through now when his films have been as good or better in the past? 

Five theories after the jump...

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Thursday
Jan152015

The Five Stages of Grief via Oscar Nominations

Though Oscar nomination morning is my Christmas -- the day I anticipate so heavily each year when all the prezzies are ripped open -- it's not all happiness. Oscar also gives out lumps of coal on this day each year. Let us celebrate five big snubs (or omissions if you hate that word) representing each stage of grief so that we can work through it and move on.

Though SELMA got a Best Picture nod, it was ignored in every other category but Song

DENIAL I'm pretending that American Sniper, a conservative leaning (though not unartful) celebration of war heroism didn't crash the party late and win a ton of nominations (which encourages the studios to do that December/January glutting) while the progressive Selma -- which we actually need unlike a film about someone who's good with a gun! -- couldn't muster up more than two nominations.

 

ANGER Ava DuVernay, who would have been the first woman of color nominated for Best Director, should have been among the five Best Director nominees. She handled a large scale historical film and made it reverberate with danger, grief, inspiration, courage, and immediacy which is more than can be said for most historical epics. And it's only her third film! Can't wait to see what number four is like. As a subset of this stage of grief: anger. The Oscar nominations are just another reminder that Oscar does not value female narratives, not behind the scenes or onscreen. Movies about men trying to find themselves, or redemption or triumph over adversity score. Movies about women or people of color doing the same things do not (see: Wild and Selma, this year and examples in many other years; Oscar is a boys club)

BARGAINING The Lego Movie which I felt would meet more resistance than it initially had because it is basically a 2 hour commercial was nevertheless a surprise omission. I hope this doesn't discourage future filmmakers from going above and beyond because, YES, it was a commercial for toy product but it was like the best long-form commercial ever. So much funnier and more stylish and surprising than it had any right to be really. So next time someone overachieves Oscar, toss them a bone okay?

DEPRESSION All year long we (correctly) heard that it was a super strong year for Best Actor and it was. So why is the actual shortlist so disatisfying? Two answers: you could call Carell (against type / prosthetic nose) without even seeing the picture (and if you see the picture it's a heavily stilted performance and you can label Bradley Cooper a "default" nominee now with three consecutive nominations and though he's definitely under this guy's skin, it's a very unchallenging star turn compared to the snubbed competition.

This year of all years isn't time to lean on gimmicks or default status. Not when you had Ralph Fiennes's gloriously civilized sly performance keeping Grand Budapest Hotel grounded in gravitas and culture and wit when it could theoretically have defaulted to diorama kitsch. Not when Jake Gyllenhaal is doing the best work of his career in Nightcrawler. Not when David Oyelowo is becoming a great Southern orator. Not when... etcetera...

This was very disrespectfulACCEPTANCE Jessica Chastain missed out on a nod for what may well be her best screen performance yet in A Most Violent Year. But the film arrived very late and just didn't catch on quickly enough. And people got hung up on the Pfeiffer/Scarface look and missed the fact that the ubiquitous actress was doing interesting things with a more complicated character than her entrepeneur's wife first appeared to be in clip form.  (For what it's worth Pfeiffer also missed a nomination for Scarface, one of her many awful snubbings.) But we know that Chastain, who makes three movies a year and most of them high profile, will be back so we'll let this one slide. 

Who and what would represent your five stages this morning?

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Thursday
Jan152015

The 87th Academy Awards. Nominations Are Here!

Straight off the bat the happy shockers are Marion Cotillard for Two Days One Night (edging out Jennifer Aniston), Laura Dern for Wild (where many assumed Jessica Chastain would be), the weird surprise is Bennett Miller in Director for Foxcatcher, our first "lone director" nod since the Academy expanded the Best Picture field. In terrible news there were only two nominations (Best Picture & Song) for the grand Selma... which places it in the unfortunate company of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and The Blind Side. Yikes! In less horrific but still weird disappointing news: Nightcrawler pulled an Into the Wild by doing really well at the guilds but not so much with Oscar. 

Oscar had a boner for Birdman with many nominations

Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman led the nominations with 9 honors each (though I correctly predicted Birdman being shut out of film editing so people will say it will have trouble winning now, statistically). You can see the complete nomination chart here. I'll be spending the day updating the individual charts with polls, stats, and whatnot. So Stay tuned! 

I got perfect scores in only four categories this year prediction wise:  Picture, Supporting Actor, Cinematography, and Makeup and Hair... though I'm proud of several individual predictions in my 4/5s categories like seeing The Hobbit's omission in Visual Effects and the love for Mr. Turner in a few places and I'm stunned to have gotten 4/5 in the always tricky sound categories. Unfortunately my very worst stat this year 3/5 came in two headline categories: Best Director and Best Actor! And the headline categories are usually the easiest.

How'd you do on your predictions and what was your happiest and saddest moment?

See also: Five Stage of Grief. Oscar Snubs and Why Wes? Why Now?

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Wednesday
Jan142015

10 years later: Elektra, the last female superhero

Tim here, with a palate cleanser. We’re all in hardcore Nominations Eve mode, of course, but the world of movies is broader than the couple dozen films that are about to be granted the right to put the words "Academy Award Nominated" on their DVD cases. Much, much broader. As broad as you can imagine. Nope, broader still.

About as far from Oscar worthiness as it gets – no matter how much or how little sarcasm you layer around the phrase "Oscar worthy" – we find a certain Elektra, which opened ten years ago on this very day. It's not the kind of movie that typically gets fêted on its birthday: it's very, very bad, but not so transfixingly bad that it developed a cult of ironic worship. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jan142015

The Teachings of Juli

Jose here. Why do I keep forgetting how funny Julianne Moore is? Perhaps because not counting 30 Rock and Maps to the Stars (yes, that is a funny performance) the movies always give us tragic, sad Juli.

Photo credit: Jose Solis

She is the one actress who has perfected the act of onscreen suffering, if you only knew how many times I’ve played that scene with the late night phone call in Far From Heaven to help me cleanse my soul...anyway, once you think of it, outside the movies she always seems to have a huge smile on her face and emanates ginger joy wherever she goes, which wasn’t the exception at a Still Alice press conference I attended yesterday, where she along with Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, author Lisa Genova and co-director Wash Westmoreland discussed the film.

Not one to keep my obsessive fan questions to myself, as Nathaniel has pointed out in the past, I pitched Juli my DVD boxset called “Ill Juli” which would feature Still Alice, The End of the Affair and Safe. She laughed the biggest Moore laugh I’ve had the joy to witness and said “hey, I do comedy too!”

More Juli after the jump...

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Wednesday
Jan142015

Final Oscar Nomination Predictions

Best Picture
1-5
The big kahuna, the best picture category holds the key to all the other categories essentially. If you guess wrong here there's a domino effect since contributing to one of the 800 lb gorillas will always give you an advantage -- you can see that effect most clearly each year in the "contemporary" sections of the various guild awards when BP frontrunners always show up, no matter what films had more impressive achievements in that craft that particular year. The past few weeks have been tumultuous beyond the three locked up frontrunners: Boyhood, Birdman and The Imitation Game. You can also count on The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Theory of Everything since neither has faltered with precursors and both were surprising hits with audiences - yes even Theory (see Tina & Amy's great Golden Globes joke 'combines two things audiences love: crippling nerve disorders and super complicated math'). After those five it gets much trickier.

6-7
Despite its difficulty in the guild awards I'd still be surprised if they dared ignore Selma, which is a superbly crafted example of the exact type of film they generally go bonkers for, even if it's only half as good as Selma is: true story, message movie, great man bio. And yes, AMPAS got screeners. Given anecdotal evidence gathered at Oscar-schmoozy functions, I'm still betting that Whiplash makes it in despite a surprisingly weak run with audiences given that it's essentially a "crowd-pleaser". (No, I don't know what happened there.) In fact, for a long time I was predicting Damien Chazelle in Best Director and I'm still tempted to.

8-9
How many Best Picture nominees will we get? If the past years are any indication, 9, though wouldn't the point of the new rules (however many muster passionate support i.e. a certain percentage of votes) be more pointed if that number varied from year to year. Time to check the math again! The way I see it there are five films in play for these last two spots: Unbroken, Into the Woods, American Sniper, Gone Girl, and Nightcrawler. The box office business and hoopla during voting suggests Unbroken and Into the Woods, the guild awards suggest American Sniper and Nightcrawler and my heart suggests Gone Girl so I'm shedding a single tear for it. (yes, J.K. Simmons, a single tear -- What'cha gonna do about it?) Beyond those hopefuls there are six long shots that would be shocking at this point given various factors but it's worth noting that they all DO have devout fans: Foxcatcher, Ida, Interstellar, A Most Violent Year, Mr Turner and um er... Guardians of the Galaxy?

My predictions
Boyhood
Birdman
The Imitation Game
Grand Budapest Hotel
The Theory of Everything


if 6 then... Selma
if 7 then... Whiplash
if 8 then... American Sniper
if 9 then... Nightcrawler
if 10 (that's technically possible) then... Gone Girl 

BEST ACTRESS
See Previous Article
I'm going with Julianne, Rosamund, Felicity, Jennifer, and Reese in the likeliest to fall position should Amy Adams or Marion Cotillard surprise. [chart]

BEST ACTOR
See Previous Article I'm going with Redmayne and Keaton as the only locks. Followed by Gyllenhaal, Oyelowo, and Cumberbatch... daringly suggesting he's the surprise snub if Carell, Fiennes, Cooper, or Mr Turner himself (aka Mr Spall) busts in. But I'm nervous for Oyelowo for sure. I could easily see him missing.  [see chart]

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
See Previous Article I'm going with the five the whole world's going with since precursors have been in lockstep: JK Simmons leading, with Norton, Hawke, Ruffalo and Duvall following. If someone drops out (with J.K. so far ahead you can make a case for him amassing so many #1 votes  that weird things happen with the off consensus ballots I'm guessing in this order for surprises: Pine, Brolin, Wilkinson, Waltz, Ahmed) [see chart]

She's at war here. And will she win to be nominated?

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
I've been debating long and hard on this category and am willing to take a risk. Alas, it's not predicting that Meryl Streep will fall for her singing witch. She's a default nominee (sometimes she deserves it, sometimes she doesn't, but she's always there. This year is the test of how much of a default nominee Jessica Chastain has become. We could call her Meryl Streep Jr (same late start, same focus on Ivy league actor's education, same chameleon explosion) except for that Amy Adams seems to have already claimed that in terms of Oscar love. It's not that Jessica isn't brilliant in A Most Violent Year -- she totally is! it may have become my favorite of her performances -- but that few people seem to be talking about the film and it's hard to be a lone nominee from your film in the supporting categories. With their Best Picture bolstering Keira and Emma and Patricia, the frontrunner, are all safe. That leaves one spot open. SAG went with Naomi, BAFTA went with Imelda & Rene, The Globes went with Jessica. I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Rene Russo rises up with Nightcrawler cresting at just the right time to pull her weirdly precursor light knockout performance into the game.  If I'm offbase but there is a surprise it's either Tilda Swinton or Laura Dern instead of Russo. Even though I love all the possible surprises, I'm rooting for Jessica to make it and hoping the impossible occurs and we lose either Streep or Stone. 

Foreign Film 
I'm sticking with my long held assumption that these are the five: Tangerine (Estonia), Ida (Poland), Wild Tales (Argentina), Force Majeure (Sweden), and Timbuktu (Mauritania) which I realize leaves Leviathan out which makes no sense but... I don't want to drop Tangerine which has served me well (I predicted it long ago and people were surprised to see it in the finals) or Wild Tales because it stands out so much from the pack. [see chart

Animated Film
Sticking with my previous predictions. Song of the Sea has not been given any media attention but then neither had Secret of Kells, the previous wonder from the same filmmaker.  In the end I find it hard to imagine that a branch seeing both would prefer The Book of Life to this unique and uniquely beautiful tale. The question mark is of course the The Tale of The Princess Kaguya but I'm guessing the response wasn't rapturous enough to win the film the Studio Ghibli spot. So I think it's stop motion via Laika The Boxtrolls and the American CG trinity this year with Big Hero 6, Dragon 2, and The Lego Movie . If anything gets bumped unexpectedly I'm guessing it's The Boxtrolls.

Cinematography
The ACS chose Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Imitation Game, Mr Turner and Unbroken. They regularly go four/five with Oscar so the odd film out (if there is one) will surely be Imitation Game, yes? I'm opting for a foreign surprise via Ida's fascinating compositions and black and white minimalism. I could see Interstellar or either of Bradford Young's pictures (A Most Violent Year / Selma) surprising, too. Young did get a lot of press this year.

Production Design
The Art Directors Guild has many different categories so they don't give us a clear picture. But I'm guessing Imitation Game, Grand Budapest Hotel, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. While I could see a snub happening for the brilliant post-talking apes world in the Apes film, I'm choosing not to predict it in order to stay sane. For the other two let's say Interstellar and, going out on a true limb (since it didn't figure into the guild awards), Mr Turner. If there's a spoiler let's chalk up the umpteenth nod for Birdman.

I'm predicting 4 nominations for Selma (wish it was more) including costume design

Costume Design
My favorite! While I'd love to see them being super discerning and go out on limbs like they do very occassionally, I'm guessing this is more of a 'stick to the major players' year. So with that said I'm guessing Grand Budapest Hotel, Selma, Into the Woods, and Mr Turner with the one off BP discussion pick being Maleficent. If there's a spoiler it's probably a BP nominee like Theory of Everything or Imitation Game. Or even Birdman for the legendary Albert Wolsky. But I tell you what: poor Louise Frogley (Unbroken) can't catch a break. She's done so much period work for major stars and never lucks out.

Film Editing
I'm guessing American Sniper, Boyhood, Whiplash, Imitation Game as my definites and for the fifth slot possible Nightcrawler. But it could be anything really. Let's say Grand Budapest Hotel as spoiler.

Visual Effects
The Oscar's vfx branch eventually gives up on all franchises so let's say they are FINALLY tired of Middle Earth (though it's a huge risk) and skip The Hobbit. So my guess is Guardians of the Galaxy, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Interstellar, Godzilla, and X-Men Days of Future Past

Makeup and Hair
I'm sticking with my long held predictions: Foxcatcher, Guardians of the Galaxy and Grand Budapest Hotel with Maleficent as spoiler 

Sound Editing
American Sniper, Birdman, Fury, Interstellar, Unbroken.
I wanted to include Godzilla in the sound categories but it seems to have been forgotten.

Sound Mixing
American Sniper, Birdman,  Imitation Game, Interstellar, Into the Woods

Original Score
I'm guessing Theory of Everything, Interstellar,  and a double for Alexandre Desplate with Imitation Game and Grand Budapest Hotel.  The fifth slot is trickier. I dare not hope for Mica Levi's Under the Skin (the best score of the year) because it's just so out there. So i want to predict something off the beaten path like Dario Marianelli's Boxtrolls or Marco Beltrami's The Homesman (both amazing). But I'll go with Giacchino's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Original Song
sticking with my original predictions because who knows with that branch: Lost Stars, Glory, Everything is Awesome, Not Gonna Miss You, Mercy Is 

Documentary Feature
I'm going with Citizenfour, Life Itself, Finding Vivian Maijer, The Overnighters, and Virunga 

Short Live Action
I'm going with Baghdad Messi, Butterlamp, The Phone Call, Carry On, Boogaloo and Graham

Short Documentary
I'm going with White Earth, Joanna, Kehinda Wiley, The Lion's Mouth Opens, Crisis Hotline 

Short Animated
I'm going with Bigger Picture, Duet, Feast, Me and My Moulton, The Damkeeper


Best Director
I saved the toughest category for last. Before completing this entry I've looked around at some other sites to see what people were calling and I'm noticing a lot of people being smart and just listing the DGA nominees again. This is, technically, the smartest thing to do since they usually go 4/5... but I'm always aiming for 5/5 which is why i take risks. But god, it's tough this year. Linklater, Inarritu, and Anderson appear to to be the safest while the Globes suggested Fincher and Duvernay and the DGA suggested Eastwood and Tyldum. BAFTA suggested Chazelle and James Marsh. For a long time I thought Duvernay and Chazelle would round it out. And lately I'd begun to suspect that Dan Gilroy might surprise via Nightcrawler. Tyldum is obviously a threat but it's unwise to bet against Eastwood with Oscar if the DGA approves since Oscar likes him even more. So I'm going to say Eastwood but that still leaves me with one open spot. I'm throwing caution to the wind and saying Chazelle but I'm rooting for Duvernay and boy will Oscar catch hell in the media if they pass up this chance to make history with her. 

Wednesday
Jan142015

BFCA "Critics Choice" Predictions

We'll do this quickly because the Oscar nominations are the important thing. I have arrived safely in Los Angeles and love my fake new apartment for the time being (thanks AirBnB). I was surprised to realize the big budget of the CCMA's when I hit JFK and banner ads for the BFCA show were everywhere...

God, greedy much. How many thumbs could you want?

I hope you'll all tune in tomorrow night (A&E). The BFCA has a ton of categories and not all of them are televised so I'm not sure which you'll see tomorrow night but here's a very quick list:

BEST PICTURE
Prediction: Boyhood. I've heard fellow members stumping for Birdman and Selma mostly but in the end they pride themselves on Oscar predictions so I doubt Boyhood misses.

BEST ACTOR
Prediction: Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything
Would love a surprise here like Jake Gyllenhaal but I doubt it. (Remember that year when Anne Hathaway won for Rachel Getting Married? We need more discerning detours like that.) There's another place to honor Keaton which might given them a fine excuse to let Redmayne prep for the possible Oscar win.

BEST ACTRESS
Prediction:  Julianne Moore – Still Alice

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Prediction: J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Prediction: Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
Though you'll get to see Jessica Chastain onstage too since we're giving her a Body of Work award for some reason (though she's already won 2 prizes in the past few years)

Click to read more ...