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Entries in Best Picture (119)

Thursday
Feb192015

Women's Pictures - Ava DuVernay's Selma

Nothing about Ava DuVernay’s career up to 2014 suggested the epic sweep of Selma. I Will Follow and Middle of Nowhere are both quiet dramas, focusing on one central character and a handful of supporting players as they navigate a major, life-altering event. Race is the background against which these stories are set - coloring a heated music discussion, or shading the convict’s biased parole hearing - but racism isn’t explicitly addressed. This changes dramatically with Selma. In a year that has seen protests in Ferguson and serious discussions about diversity in the Academy, Selma has been called everything from controversial to current to incorrect. For its director, it’s proof that 6 years and 3 movies can rapidly mature a talent.

When telling the story of Martin Luther King’s 1965 protest march in Alabama, DuVernay focuses not on a man, but on a movement. She studies the Civil Rights movement as if it were a character, following not only Dr. King’s glossy speeches, but also the many behind-the-scenes maneuvering. King’s arguments with President Johnson, Johnson’s arguments with Governor Wallace, the student organizers’ arguments with King’s men, even quieter discussions between Coretta Scott King and Malcolm X expose the precarious balance between ideology and strategy that's needed to succeed. DuVernay manages to write her characters with humanity as well, populating the film with people, not symbols. Early on, Dr. King (dignified David Oyelowo) comments lightly that the reason he's in Selma is because he needs a bully to catch national sympathy, and the racist sheriff is that man. As men start dying, those words hang over King's head like a cross.

If I have one complaint with Selma, it’s that the violence is too beautiful. DuVernay deftly stages the action of hundreds of protestors for the camera, and re-teams with cinematographer Bradford Young. The result is similar to Raging Bull: every protest is shot differently, so that each violent outbreak feels fresh. If the night march feels familiar to 2014 audiences, if the first march feels claustrophobic, if the violence on the Edmund Pettus Bridge looks like a hallucinatory war film, that’s not unintentional. In Selma, Ava DuVernay has matched epic sweep with humanity and brutal vision. It’s a hell of an achievement for a third film.

This close to the Oscars ceremony, reviving the question of whether Selma was snubbed is pointless. But regardless of Sunday’s outcome, Ava DuVernay has joined a different illustrious company: unnominated female directors whose films were nominated for Best Picture. In an attempt to divine DuVernay’s future, I did some research, and discovered a pattern: Of these nine female directors, seven are still directing. Of those seven directors, four (including DuVernay) are now working in TV.

As anyone with a remote or a streaming subscription knows, we are currently in a second Golden Age of television. This is due in no small part to the diversity of creative talent. Every year, more shows are created by, directed by, and starring women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. In this increasingly colorful TV landscape, Ava DuVernay will be a welcome addition when she launches her show on OWN. But at what cost to film?

2014 has been widely criticized as the whitest, most male-dominated year of the Oscars in a long time. As much as I would like to blame our old scapegoat, the White Male Voter, this is also because of the homogeny of the films being offered to the Academy. When we can count the number of Oscar nominated female directors on one hand--likewise for directors of color--we should be shouting for more of these voices in film, instead of celebrating when the ones who’ve already proven themselves move to television (where they can get snubbed by the Emmys instead). I love Ava DuVernay’s work. I can’t wait to see what she creates with Oprah’s blessing. But surely I’m not alone when I say: Ava DuVernay, please come back to film soon.

 

Thus concludes our first month of Women's Pictures. Next week will be a vote to choose our next female filmmakers. Who do you want us to cover? If you have suggestions for future Women’s Pictures directors, post them in the comments or find Anne Marie on Twitter!

 

Thursday
Feb122015

10 Days Til Oscar... What's Your Excitement Level Like?

It's ten days until Oscar night so each day going forward expect "final predictions" for each category and one last look at the 8 Best Pictures. But a quick question: If we can't go back to a 5 wide shortlist  (TFE's preference) would you prefer that AMPAS had stuck with a top ten for symmetry's sake? It's so difficult to compare years with 5, 8, 9, and 10 nominees, you know? If it were still a top ten as it was for two short years (2009 & 2010) which films do you think would have been the two additional nominees in Best Picture this year? It appears obvious that against the odds Foxcatcher, given that "lone director" nomination, was one of them but maybe Nightcrawler wasn't given that it only won a Screenplay nomination?

But we only have 8 movies to deal with this year and since the Oscar race is all subjectivity let's get real objective and rank them by totally measureable stats for a moment.

 

  Box Office Longest To Shortest RT/MC Ratings Most Contemporary to Oldest Setting
 
1 Sniper (284) Boyhood (166) Boyhood (98/100) Birdman (Now)
2 Imitation (75) Sniper (132) Selma (98/89) Whiplash (Now)
3 Budapest (59) Selma (127) Whiplash (95/88) Boyhood (2002-2013)
4 Selma (46) Theory (123) Budapest (92/88) Sniper (1998-2013)
5 Birdman (35) Birdman (119) Birdman (92/88) Theory (1963-1990s)
6 Theory (32) Imitation (114) Imitation (89/73) Selma (1965)
7 Boyhood (25) Whiplash (106) Theory (80/72) Imitation (1920s-1954)
8 Whiplash (9) Budapest (100) Sniper (73/72) Budapest (1930s)

 

I guess I'm in a dark cloud mood today because I thought about adding "most to least onscreen deaths" but I realized beyond 1. Sniper 2. Budapest 3. Selma it was a 5 way tie for the others... unless well, what to do about Birdman? Again I was trying to stick to measureable things for fun this afternoon. And I thought about adding The Bechdel Test because it was just too damn depressing since I think only Boyhood passes it (maybe Birdman and Selma and Theory, too? Only if you're being generous and if they do its just barely)

While we're on the topic, make sure to vote on the Best Picture poll and on the other polls on the individual chart pages. 

 

 

Thursday
Feb122015

Would It Be Truly Terrible If 'Boyhood' Was in Fact About a Racist?

Roland Ruiz with Patty Arquette on the set of Boyhood (image via his Facebook page)Jose here. A recent article on Latino Rebels in which the author claims that Richard Linklater’s Boyhood contains the worst kind of racism has caused a bit of a stir. Grisel Y. Acosta uses the infamous gardener subplot, in which Patricia Arquette’s character unexpectedly turns around the life of the only non-white character (played by Ronald Ruiz) featured in the film, as his basis to explain that the film is racist both by omission (where are all the other Hispanic characters in a film set in Texas?) and also by depicting “the horrific ‘save me White person’ trope” that has been prevalent in American filmmaking since, well, always.

It’s a shame that the article turned up the week when Oscar voting ends, because now it will be dismissed as having an “agenda”, or being part of a “smear campaign”, when the truth is that, beyond silly movie awards, the piece only directs us to a conversation we should have been having since the movie came out.

As a Hispanic immigrant living in the United States, there is not a single week that goes by where someone hasn’t congratulated me for "bothering" to learn English “...and writing it so well”, assumed I was Mexican or Puerto Rican, or when I’m asked by a peer if I went to college, or have a random person ask me if I’m a doorman or a cab driver. I have learned to live with people’s assumptions because of my ethnicity, and I often brush them off, because race is not something that's easy to discuss in this country...

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Sunday
Feb012015

How Many Oscars Will ______ Win? 

This weekend was a biggie in terms of below the line awards. The Imitation Game won the USC Scripter Prize which goes to movies adapted from literature (and the source material author also wins this prize). The Art Directors guild chose Birdman for Contemporary Film, and The Grand Budapest Hotel for Period (as well as Guardians of the Galaxy for Fantasy). Meanwhile the Editors gave their "Eddies" to  Boyhood for Dramas and The Grand Budapest Hotel for comedies (in addition to prizes for The LEGO Movie in Animated and Citizen Four for Documentaries)

All of this has me wondering if its The Grand Budapest Hotel rather than Boyhood or Birdman that will take home the most Oscars on February 22nd if not Best Picture. It's got a decent shot at four or five statues: Costumes, Production Design, Screenplay, Score, and Makeup & Hair. Of those Screenplay is the longest shot since Birdman vs Boyhood will be tough to squeeze between to nab the Original Screenplay gold.

Perhaps it will be a spread the wealth kind of year with every Best Picture winning something. Like so...

How many oscars will The Grand Budapest Hotel win?

 

  • Boyhood (4 or 5) Picture, Director, Supporting Actress, Editing (and maybe Screenplay?)
  • Grand Budapest (3 or 4) Costumes, Production Design, Makeup & Hair (and maybe Score?)
  • Birdman (2 or 3) Screenplay, Cinematography (and maybe Actor?)
  • American Sniper (2) Sound Editing and Sound Mixing
  • Theory of Everything (1 or 2) Actor (and maybe Score?)
  • The Imitation Game (1 or 2) Adapted Screenplay (and maybe Score?)
  • Whiplash (1 or 2) Supporting Actor (and maybe Adapted Screenplay?)
  • Selma (1) Song

 

(As you can see I'm stumped about who might win Best Score. I can see it going any which way.)

Not that there's ever a year where every Best Picture nominee wins something now that we have so many Best Picture nominees. Someone or someones usually go home empty-handed - even if they have come into the big night with a ton of nominations. But there's a first time for everything and it could happen.

What'cha think?

Sunday
Jan252015

The Linking Point

Write Out of LA on underappreciated directors of 2014's awards season
Playbill Into the Woods cast members sang to Rob Marshall at the Artios Awards
xkcd The Star Wars tipping point
Script Notes talks about the "default male" problem in screenwriting
Empire Warner Bros still wants to make a feature adaptation of The Jetsons
Jason Robert Brown, the great composer of The Last Five Years shares a new live concert online with Tony winner and movie Dreamgirl Anika Noni Rose. It's $5

Vulture cable programmings explosion over the past 15 years. This is why no one can keep up. 
Awards Daily the Oscar bump is helping the indies. Even the long since faded Whiplash was up 114% this past weekend 
Dissolve Martin Scorsese finally approaching production of the long-gestatingSilence about Jesuit missionaries in 17th-century Japan


Comics Alliance casting young versions of the X-Men for X-Men: Apocalypse. Tye Sheridan is a fine young actor so no qualms there but I didn't enjoy Sophie Turner's work on Game of Thrones (I only watched the first season - did she improve?) so I worry about her Jean Grey 
Carpetbagger The Witch still hasn't technically premiered at Sundance (just press screenings) but reviews are so good it's not helping the attempt at a mysterious low profile

Sunday
Jan252015

Birdman Surprises at PGA. Is it a Three Way Best Picture Race?

The Film Experience has never loved the complacency of locked up Oscar races, so it is with great pleasure that I share the news (though you probably didn't miss it) that Birdman won the Producers Guild Award tonight. Do we have an actual race for Best Picture? Have you voted as to who should win yet?

This doesn't mean that Boyhood is in trouble, necessarily, but it's a fascinating curveball, especially given that Boyhood was such a feat of producing; Imagine bankrolling and shepherding a small scale but dozen yaer experiment when you had no idea how it would turn out or if it would work at all?!

As you know from my top ten list I do slightly prefer Birdman to Boyhood but let's forget about Oscar's unfortunate "side-taking" for a minute and face facts: either of those films would make thrilling, atypical and totally deserving Best Picture winners.

More...

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Friday
Jan162015

Up Close at the 20th Annual "Critics Choice" Awards

Goddess with regular person. But at least he's in a brand new expensive suit.Did you want the Critics Choice Movie Awards last night? That accounts for my radio silence. I had the extreme good fortune of sitting at Jessica Chastain's table. No, I couldn't believe it either for which I must thank A24 profusely. It's true The Film Experience has been kinda nuts about their movies here from Spring Breakers to Under the Skin to the already weirdly underappreciated A Most Violent Year (opening in late late December is so hard for movies that are small and aren't directed by Clint Eastwood) but it was still an unbelievably kind gesture.

It turns out though that sitting at a table with some of the honored stars (Jenny Slate, also at the table, took home Best Comedy Actress) that is smack dab in the center (Wild table to the left, Theory of Everything and Unbroken to the right, Selma tables --plural, that's a big cast behind you) is rather terrifying and chaotic. Because I had the back to stage seat, the cameramen were running up to squat or stand hovering over me carrying loads of equipment to point the camera at Jessica and Jenny for reaction shots and for their wins. [More...]

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