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Saturday
Feb272016

Film Bitch Awards - Best Scenes of Multiple Kinds

We're nearly finished* with 2015 Film Bitch Awards, our own annual year in review yearbook/party and of imaginary Oscar ballot (well, half of it is that). Today the remainder of our Best Scene categories with six final scene categories. This group hands more nominations to films from the top ten list of course but for highlights to point out here on the blog before you click over, we're using films outside the top ten list. 

Obviously this page (and post) of awards contains mild spoilers so if you haven't seen the films and wish to stay pure, these are not the awards categories you're looking for. Here is one nominee I felt the need to gab about (maybe you will too?) from each category...

BEST KISS
While Creed was mostly ignored by the Academy, chances are its big box office (which significantly outgrossed Stallone's last two attempts are reigniting the franchise) will insure a big career for Michael B Jordan. Can Tessa Thompson hope for the same (it's always trickier for actresses of color)? They're wonderful together. Especially endearing is the scene in her apartment where Adonis makes up a godawful wrap and they end up collapsed on the floor, caught up in the moment. It's an upside down shot from above and they're something beautifully innocent and pure but also sexy about this kiss. (Later they'll bring the heat in a proper sex scene at Rocky's house. "but what about your Uncle?" / "He old!" Ha!)

SEX SCENE
Angelina Jolie's third directorial effort By the Sea was mercilessly trashed upon arrival but this was always going to be its fate. The Jolie-Pitts are extremely mainstream-famous. And household name blockbuster stars that the public has longed to see paired again onscreen aren't supposed to reunite for an indulgent overly serious tribute to Euro art cinema of the 1970s. That's for the other kind of movie star, like the Julianne Moores and the Ryan Goslings of the world, whose filmographies are built on eclectic sensibilities and crisscrossing between the ittybitty and the giant. But By the Sea isn't without its moments. The best scene, repeated in different forms like a musical riff, is when the couple sits on the floor in their hotel room and shyly watches another younger couple (Melanie Laurent & Melvil Poupaud) make love in the next room through a peephole. It's beautifully sympathetic and tragicomic, an estranged couple tiptoeing back to intimacy through surrogates.


OPENING SCENE
David O. Russell's Joy is an easy movie to quibble with. It often feels like five different movies that haven't reconciled themselves. This problem (?) is embedded right in its prologue which jumps from inside a stylized soap opera, to Diane Ladd's wonderfully expressive fable-like narration, and back to the soap opera but this time "outside" of it through a TV set, and into little Joy's bedroom where she makes a castle and theorizes about her possible superpower (maybe she doesn't need a Prince?). Ladd's Grandma guides us through this collision of styles and ideas with an expertly dropped line about Joy's creativity that doubles as a guide to how to watch and make ambitious movies.

The patience to figure it out."

Will Joy grow on us with time? Perhaps it might. Perhaps we quibbled too much. Perhaps Russell didn't have the patience to truly figure this one out but there's a lot to figure therein.

ENDING
Spotlight may have the most mellow finale we've ever nominated in this category but there's something about its sober work ethic and the core ensemble wide shot, with Walter "Robby" Robinson centered, that really lands emotionally and elevates the film. His phone rings and they all just return to work. Where they've always been.

Spotlight..."

CREDIT SEQUENCE
I've been disappointed these last few years that it's more and more common for films to have virtually no credits at the beginning and double up at the ending. So shout out to Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation which has great opening and closing credits. The opening credits would be spoiler-alert central if they didn't come at you so aggressively with machine-gun montage speed. The ending credits are even more stylish --both an homage to the TV show and film appropriate -- with action frames from the film outlined by the wicks of time bombs; this movie is a blast.

[Read more about these two sequences at The Art of the Title.] 

MISCELLANIA - A DOZEN FAVORITE SCENES
When writing about the Film Bitch Awards I often revisit a whole bunch of movies in clip forms, particularly the earlier releases that are blurry int he memory. Here we are at the end of the prize-giving and here comes Diary of a Teenage Girl and it suddenly looks just as good as everyone claimed it to be (I was previously in the admired but only admired camp). It was easy to turn certain movies off after checking the scene in question but I kept getting sucked into this film, as if it were the first time. One of the best moments is an animated interlude "The Making of Harlot" where a 'Beautiful Junior,' getting it on with Minnie, remarks upon her aggressive sexuality with something like judgment in his voice (though he's benefitting). Giant Minnie, holding him in her King Kong paw, turns away, with a single teardrop and casts him aside. True movie magic.

THE COMPLETE "BEST SCENES" CHART

* Only three categories left to announce (Limited Roles x2 & Line Readings). Can you believe we're actually going to finish this year before the Oscars**?! Wheeee. We'll announce those three categories plus all the Gold Silver and Bronze medals at some point in the next 24, ya dig?

** Okay technically I won't have finished, damnit. I never named the Animated Feature nominees (we only go 3-wide here) because I was trying to see Boy and The World before voting. So we'll be finished with everything but that category.

Saturday
Feb272016

César Winners: Mustang, Fatima, Michael Douglas and More...

Busy awards weekend, huh? The Spirit Awards commence this evening (Murtada will graciously live blog so yours truly can reserve last fumes of energy for Oscar night) but France's own Oscars, the Césars were already held. (We discussed their nominations earlier right here.)

<-- The glorious Juliette Binoche graced the poster for the big event and also presented best picture. Michael Douglas was the honorary winner (they love their Hollywood stars at the Césars in that particular way).

It turned out to be quite a Ladies Night as three films about women battled it out for supremacy: Fatima, an immigrant drama was the surprise Best Picture winner; Marguerite an operatic musical/comedy (based on the same story as Meryl Streep's forthcoming Florence Foster Jenkins) was the nomination leader and won multiple tech trophies and Best Actress; and, finally, the great Mustang (France's Turkish-language Oscar nominee and on my top ten list) took Screenplay, First Film and Editing prizes

The full list of winners and ceremony photos are after this amazing picture of 3 giants of French cinema: Kristin Scott Thomas, Juliette Binoche, and Emmanuel Béart

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Feb272016

Avu DuVernay to direct A Wrinkle in Time

Lynn here, chewing on another bit of non-Oscar related movie news.

Ever since it was announced earlier this week that Ava DuVernay had signed on to direct the upcoming film version of Madeleine L’Engle’s much-beloved A Wrinkle in Time, I’ve been trying to imagine just how the director of Selma is going to approach a sci-fi fantasy that features benevolent shape-shifting inter-dimensional beings, entire planets controlled by a single giant brain, and children who literally cross the universe by bending the laws of both space and time.  She won’t be starting from scratch, at least; the project’s apparently been in the works for some time, with a script by Frozen’s Jennifer Lee.  But this will be the first time the book’s ever been brought to the big screen.  It’s frequently, and unsurprisingly, been called unfilmable, and the only previous adaptation – a 2003 TV movie on ABC – was such a failure that it’s best known for the quip it inspired from L’Engle:

I expected it to be bad, and it is.”

In other words, there’s every reason for apprehension.  Is there also reason for hope?

Click to read more ...

Friday
Feb262016

Final Oscar Predictions. Here We Go...

Thanks for reading all year, dear Oscar freaks.  I originally published these predictions in my column at Towleroad but the write-ups are expanded here with more details since y'all are movie freaks and I love you for it. Here we go...

From silly rumors of a bear “raping” Leonardo DiCaprio, to the critical fervor for a fourth film in a Mad and previously non-prestigious action franchise, to obviously gathering but non-impactful support of our years long anti category fraud crusade, to the internet rage and ongoing controversy over #OscarsSoWhite this has been an eventful and often surprising awards season. Will Oscar night continue that trend or feel like an anticlimax? Whichever way it goes, it all comes to an end this Sunday night on ABC when the 88th Academy Awards unspool.

The following predictions can be used to inform your Oscar party or office Oscar pool but fair warning: even seasoned Oscar pundits like myself and other Gurus and Experts are confused this year about some categories. As early as last week, for example, I had planned to start this article with an obnoxiously cute bit about the surest prediction being that the producers would try desperately to pretend that Hollywood was very diverse on Oscar night. I was wrong, wrong, wrong. They went and made another anti-diversity blunder, axing performances of two of the Original Song nominees, the two that happen to be sung by a famous Asian soprano and a trans woman. Can we have a round of applause please for Anohni (better known as Antony Hegarty) who has published a must-read personal essay about the insulting behavior of the Academy in regards to her nomination for Best Original Song.

Sigh. It’s like The Academy can’t help themselves!?! They just dig themselves deeper every time. Yet we can’t help ourselves either and continue obsessing over that 13½ inch naked gold man. Let’s look at all 24 categories after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Feb262016

Review: Eddie the Eagle

Eric here for the new Hugh Jackman. Eddie the Eagle tells the true-life story of Michael “Eddie” Edwards, who became the first skier to represent Great Britain in Olympic ski jumping in 1988.  The comic spin:  Eddie is not really an athlete, or a particularly good skier.  But he’s a dreamer!  And tenacious!

Even if this weren’t a true story, you’d know from the first few scenes where it was headed.  Director Dexter Fletcher doesn’t have any aspiration higher than to make you feel good, but he has a just-pluckier-than-sitcom sensibility that feels predictably right for this genre.  He delivers the kind of film that studio executives love, where nothing is challenging and all the characters fall into their respective stereotypes (including groan-inducing taunting foreign competitors and the horny middle-aged female bar owner.!)

Where the filmmakers got it right, and very very lucky, is with their two leads. Externally, Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service) overplays the comedy with a bit too many Zellwegarian face scrunches, but internally he has a surefooted instinct for the joke and knows how to keep things surprising with his captivating capriciousness. For this film the latter goes a long way. Jackman has essentially no character on the page, but he plays it as if nobody told him he’s in a mediocre movie.  One of Jackman’s secret weapons as a movie star is that he always knows exactly what is required of him in any given film.  Here he just needs to loan out his star wattage to add credibility and look great in jeans; he supplies both with sweet aplomb.   

Even though this movie has low ambitions, which it achieves with low success, it’s tough to be mad at it.  There are enough bright lines of dialogue to make you wish there were more, plus a bouncy score that salutes 80s comedies (until it veers towards standard, Feel-This-Way scoring).  The film may be as subversive as a Norman Rockwell painting, but when Egerton and Jackman walk towards each other flapping their wings, there’s a pleasant little high.

Friday
Feb262016

Bye Instant Watch: Popeye, I Am Divine, Indecent Proposal, Etc...

Oscar weekend is a busy time but it's also your last opportunity to watch these titles free if you have Amazon Prime or Netflix. As is our silly habit, we've freeze framed a handful of them at a totally random place to whet your appetite. If this scene looks intriguing maybe you should carve out a couple of hours...

Leaving Netflix (after the jump)

Click to read more ...