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"Even though it's full of 80s references/nostalgia, my favorite visual cue has to be the repeated call out to Under the Skin whenever Eleven enters the sensory deprivation tank." -The Film Junkie

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Monday
Feb242014

Beauty Vs Beast: Let It Be... On!!!

JA from MNPP here with this week's brightest bluest newest round of Beauty Vs. Beast for y'all to play. First things first let's look back at last week's competition, which took David O. Russell's film American Hustle and pitted man versus man and woman versus woman (or hair versus hair versus hair versus hair) in an ABSCAM-off for the ages. Things between Team Sydney (Amy Adams) and Team Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) were close for a wee bit but Sydney asserted her dominace pretty early on, eventually running away with 67% of the votes for the win. But over between the fellas the face-off between Team Richie (Bradley Cooper) and Team Irving (Christian Bale) stayed suuuper close over the course of the week - ultimately Richie squeaked it out, literally, beating Irving by two votes, or just 0.0037% of the total. Team Cleavage takes it away!

And so on to this week's tail-end-of-winter pre-Oscar festivities. Disney's Frozen is probably going to walk away with the Best Animated Film Oscar this Sunday for its efforts at shattering the Disney Princess mold and freshly focusing its sights on the sisterly bond over the usual princely fixations. (Although let's be honest, that Kristoff fella is a strapping lad and it's a good thing somebody ends up with him in the end... someone other than his reindeer... although he is really close to that reindeer, isn't he?) Blood is thicker than water, and one assumes that frozen blood is similarly thicker than ice. But as Joan Fonatine and Olivia De Havilland taught us, sister-love can be tough... and also a whole lot of fun to project our own familial anxieties upon. It's a Sister Off!

 

As always take your arguments pro and con to the comments, and next Monday we'll crown the one true snow queen!

Monday
Feb242014

Ranking the Oscar Presenter Lineup

Which categories will they present?The full list of presenters has been announced. If we know Oscar, this means Best Picture is being presented by either a) Sidney Poitier b) Harrison Ford or c) Bobby De Niro. They totally can't deal with women who aren't named Streisand getting that honor for reasons we'll never fathom.

So who do you think it will be?

I'm personally disappointed that Liza with a Z isn't listed among the 40+ names. They're honoring The Wizard of Oz, so why not wheel her out for Best Picture or something? The biggest non-nominee name I was hoping to see given the film year being honored: Scarlett Johansson. But it was not to be.

After the jump, the full list of presenters. Alphabetizing is for sissies, so let's rank them

Click to read more ...

Monday
Feb242014

6 Days Til Oscar. Cuarón and His Gifts

Our countdown continues with new contributor Adam Armstrong on six-time nominee Alfonso Cuarón

Y tu mama tambíen

There comes a point in everybody’s lives when the awareness of their own mortality becomes apparent. For myself, it came when I was walking to class on a particularly snowy morning and saw a bus slam into a conveniently placed guardrail on a bridge. Snow related accidents are common enough but what happened next is not -- a man in an oversized Santa Claus costume exited the bus, choosing that moment in his life to dabble in the art of traffic enforcement, directing the chaotic traffic away from his fellow passengers as they escaped to a shabby Dunkin Donuts across the street.

Life is a fragile thing and few directors understand this as well as Alfonso Cuarón.

Tenoch, Julio and Luisa (who is very aware of her mortality) are driving to a beach they've hopefully named "Heaven's Mouth" in an effort to escape their unfulfilling lives in Y tu mamá también. Theo and Kee perilously make their way through the war torn United Kingdom to reach the sea where a boat will carry them to salvation in Children of Men. Dr Ryan Stone hangs on to what will to live she has left to descend back down to Earth in Gravity. In all three of these films, which garnered Cuarón his six Oscar nominations, the characters journey to their own deliverance from death, be it in the literal or figurative sense.

Cuaron’s nominations (the script from Y tu mamá también, the editing and script of Children of Men, and the editing, directing and producing of Gravity) each showcase specific storytelling gifts that augment the characters’ struggles and triumphs along the way.  Y tu mamá también’s screenplay layers character-specific dialogue, multiple agendas, and political allegory to deepen its road trip journey. The seamless editing in Children of Men sutures together unsettling drama and thrilling realistic action sequences that thrust the viewer into the scenes right alongside the characters as if we're in danger, too. Cuaron’s concise committed vision enable him to maintain control over Gravity's high concept premise, sustaining its plausibility and telling the story as he meant it to be told. (This is especially true in regards to the lead character when he was pressured consistently to cast a man in the leading role.)

A beach. A boat. The earth. All three destinations represent freedom to the travellers (however temporarily) from their fleeting mortality. Cuarón isn't literally escorting us to safety, but he crafts stories that help us fully value our lives, still in progress. That's quite a gift to bring us semi-annually.

 

previously in our number laden countdown
7 Oscar nominated films about AIDS * 8 time losing Peter O'Toole * 9 nominations for Twelve Years a Slave * Perfect 10 Paul Newman * 11 Days (Bette Midler) *  a 12-wide best picture field * 13 years ago in Best Actress (Matthew McConaughey?) * 14 times nominated giants (All About Eve & Titanic) *  15 Days (Supporting Charts) * 16 times nominated costume designer * 17 years ago + 1917 * Meryl's 18th * 19 Days (Julianne Moore) * 20 Year-Old surprise dramas * 21 Days (Billy Wilder) 

Monday
Feb242014

A Well Preserved Beauty

This week's New Yorker cover by Barry Blitt

"Ready for His Closeup"

Who cares if Oscar has had work done? He's still a beauty.

I love the cover but Blitt's take, not so much (no surprise but I loathe the smugness people who don't watch the Oscars sometimes have about it... as if watching sports is some kind of civil disobedience. Ha! Sports... very inconoclastic, that. You've really shown society!) but I like Anthony Lane's column. He gets dinged by critics for valuing his wit above the cinema but he's still  a good read.

Oscar night is anxiety central: TV needs the stars to light up the ratings, and the stars, for their part, use TV to stage what is, in essence, a communal bath of self-love. “Just a small group getting together for a pat on the back,” in the words of Janet Gaynor, who won the first Oscar for Best Actress, in 1929. Since then, the pat has become a caress, and the caress has grown into the kind of activity that in “The Wolf of Wall Street” is reserved for yachts and jets.

Are you excited for the big night? I suddenly am after a week of the blahs. After the jump my two favorite New Yorker Oscar covers ever and they're both by the same artist.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Feb232014

Podcast: Should Win / Will Win 

It's the final podcast before the Oscars! Join Nathaniel R, Katey Rich, Nick Davis, and Joe Reid as we reveal both our predictions and our preferences, one category at a time. 

00:00 Directors, BAFTA, Bette & P¡nk
09:00 Should Win / Will Win Intro, Sound Categories, Doc, Animated, Foreign categories
23:00 Visual Categories
39:00 Screenplays & Acting
51:30 Director & Picture
55:30 Exit Question

You can listen to the podcast right here at the bottom of the post or download the conversation on iTunes. Continue the conversation in the comments... which of our ballots most closely resembles yours?Hunger, Shame, I Heart Huckabees, Taxi Driver, King of Comedy, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, Children of Men, Y Tu Mama Tambíen, 

Should Win / Will Win

Sunday
Feb232014

Box Office: Can a Plane Stop The LEGO Movie?

Amir with the weekend’s box office report. The LEGO Movie managed to fend off meek competition and remain in the number one spot. Three weeks at the top and the amount of money it has cashed in so far have warranted Warner Brothers to announce a sequel, already planned for 2017! But don’t expect it to stay number one next week, when the Liam Neeson no-snakes airplane thriller, Non-Stop (featuring Lupita Nyong'o in an abrupt change of pace) hits the screens. That film has taken its title as a cue for its advertising and I suspect enough people are intrigued to see it despite what sounds like a ludicrous plot.

BOX OFFICE
01. THE LEGO MOVIE $31.4M (cum. $183.1m)
02. 3 DAYS TO KILL $12.3m new
03. POMPEII $10m new
04. ROBOCOP $9.4m (cum. $43.6m)
05. THE MONUMENTS MEN $8.1m (cum. $58m)

This weekend saw two new wide openings: Paul W.S. Anderson’s Pompeii, which managed to earn back 1/10th of its production budget and died faster than an entire city under a volcano.  When I was a child, I was absolutely obsessed with the real life story of this natural disaster - I had a large collection of books, pictures and other pre-internet Pompeii-related memorabilia. That the marketing campaign of this film managed to keep me away from the theatre tells you just how much the studio did everything wrong. 3 Days to Kill was the other offering. I can’t think of anything interesting to say about this one, which is possibly the same position McG and Kevin Costner have found themselves in since signing on.

In limited release The Wind Rises, Hayao Miyazaki’s maybe-last-film-maybe-not, maybe-a-masterpiece-maybe-just-propaganda opened on 21 screens did modest business. (Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, reviewed here, was the only film with a better per screen average this weekend.) I’m afraid I found Miyazaki's Oscar nominee a bit underwhelming at TIFF – and I still hold a grudge because the screening kept me from guesting on Nathaniel’s festival podcast – but it’s definitely worth your time. What is not worth your time is In Secret, formerly known as Therese, that I caught up with at the same festival. In my review I called it the second worst film I have ever seen in seven years of attending the festival. I stand by that statement and advise you against spending any money on this atrocity, unless you are looking for a lot of unintentional laughs.

As you read this I'm watching Agnès Varda’s Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962) for the first time. For the FIRST time! What have you watched this weekend?

Sunday
Feb232014

Review: "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me"

This review originally appeared in my column at Towleroad


I saw Elaine Stritch’s famous one woman Broadway show “At Liberty” in the last days of 2001 a couple of years after moving to New York. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was nothing short of spiritual ecstasy but then showbiz is my religion and actresses are my only gods. You might then justifiably say that I am predisposed to love the hell out of the new documentary Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me and you’d be right. But I can still tell a peak performance from a Wednesday matinee and the last doc I saw on Stritch, which shared its title with “At Liberty” was significantly less stellar. Shoot Me is a must-see, even if you only know this Broadway legend from her hilarious guest appearances as Jack Donaghy’s impossible mother on 30 Rock

Click to read more ...