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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd


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Entries in Best Picture (96)


Podcast: Awards Week Blowout Special

Nathaniel is back from his Iceland trip and going regional with JoeNick, and Katey for a one hour discussion of the barrage of film critics prizes from New York, Detroit, Boston and San Diego. And another thing: are LA's "ties" okay with this panel? 

Afterwards we pick on the Screen Actors Guild and their bizarre All is Lost joke (no Redford in actor but a stunt ensemble nomination when there's only one character and Redford did his own stunts?!)  and the team splits on the quality of Rush, recently resurgent thanks to SAG. Then we're on to the  Golden Globes for a discussion of the troublesome Comedy/Drama divide (read Joe's article for context) and we pick the best and worst of their nominees.

Also discussed: Jennifer Lawrence's backlash, Greta Gerwig's surprise, Forest Whitaker's acting, Leonardo DiCaprio's elusiveness, 12 Years a Slave's power, Philomena's luck, Dallas Buyers Club's ensemble, Wolf of Wall Street's editing, and Fruitvale Station's potential.

You can listen here or download the conversation on iTunes

Awards Week Blowout


Do the NYFCC Hustle

The New York Film Critics Circle, the oldest such organization in the country, provided us with a surprise bang this morning. Like Jennifer Lawrence playing with her "science oven" in American Hustle their announcement leaves visible scorch marks, as if awards season has just blasted off like a rocket. 

Whether or not these prizes have a lasting impact is yet to be determined. Some will say that the one-two punch of the Gotham Awards and  NYFCC not awarding 12 Years a Slave with their best feature is a sign. But it may well just be a coincidence and could even be good for the film; it's better to be a wildly special underdog than a frontrunner with heavy baggage when you have three whole months left to carry oneself across the finish line. 

Picture American Hustle
Director Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Actress Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Actor Robert Redford, All is Lost
Supporting Actress Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Supporting Actor Jared Leto, Dallas Buyer’s Club

Critics prizes, even the once holy trinity (NYFCC, LAFCA, and NSFC) don't mean as much as the internet likes to pretend. With roughly 30 other critics organizations handing out prizes each year now, and those same critics groups often behaving like Oscar pundits instead of critics, I'd argue that the value of critics prizes has greatly depreciated from market saturation and loss of identity. The thing that constitutes bragging rights these days seems to be domination (who can win the most?) rather than key victories. 

Screenplay American Hustle
Foreign Film Blue is the Warmest Color
Animated Film Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises
Non Fiction Film Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell
First Film Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station
Cinematography Bruno Delbonnel for Inside Llewyn Davis
Special Award Frederick Wiseman, documentarian

Do you think they did the "special award" for Frederick Wiseman solely because they didn't give him best documentary for At Berkeley? And, referencing the most recent podcast, am I the only person who isn't wild for the cinematography in Inside Llewyn Davis?

For what it's worth, American Hustle (which is under critical embargo until tomorrow), is very entertaining and also very fresh in the minds of voters having been screened just this past weekend. And Jennifer Lawrence is also very fresh (and entertaining) in it. 

[More on their voting and runners up here]


Team FYC: The Spectacular Now for Best Picture

[Editor's Note: In this series Film Experience contributors are individually highlighting their favorite fringe Oscar contenders. Here's Deborah Lipp on The Spectacular Now.]

Dear Voters of the Academy: Think Small. I know it’s Oscar season, and I know you want to think Big Space (Gravity) and Big Epic (The Butler), but sometimes, small is beautiful. Sometimes, small is The Spectacular Now.

Consider the delicacy with which this movie sits inside the pocket of being young, and confused, and feeling alone, and makes you feel it too. Consider that Teen Romance Movie Clichés could fill an encyclopedia, and that this movie deftly steps past all of them, to arrive at an intimacy of both dialogue and unspoken moments that create a sense of presence so very rare in the movies.

The Spectacular Now has three genuinely striking performances: Its two leads (Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley) and a supporting turn by Kyle Chandler, playing disturbingly against type.

Movies about disconnected people can feel distant, but, as Aimee (Woodley) and Sutter (Teller) find each other, we feel close, and connected. With striking honesty, The Spectacular Now gives us sad and fumbling youth, the relief of having someone else there, and the painful knowledge that it isn’t enough.

previous FYCs


AFI: Colin Farrell, "Harbinger of Hope"

Even if this year's AFI Fest in Los Angeles proves to be entirely frontloaded -- I had such a ball on opening day with the Saving Mr Banks festivities --  the trip will have been worth it. My adventure began with an exclusive pre-screening cocktail party with the Saving Mr Banks team where I met Emma Th-- no, no, she gets her own post... I'm still processing that one! For now two quick tidbits about the men.

The men of SAVING MR BANKS (and Emma Thompson, its star)

Director John Lee Hancock, no longer The Rookie on his fourth picture, was standing tall and proud while we chatted over drinks. I don't mean that metaphorically but literally since he towered over me - so tall! Thoughnot intimidating, I must add, what with his warm smile, and alarmingly good manners. We were interrupted while he was telling a story which is so common at cocktail parties that you think nothing of it as the celebrity is whisked off to meet another well-wisher or member of the press. You certainly never expect to hear the ending of the anecdote but he sought me out later to finish it.

I couldn't resist asking The Blind Side director what he thought of Gravity. "My girl, Sandy!" he blurts out, the grin even grinnier. "I haven't seen it yet!" he adds with a touch of surprise and apology. He'll rectify that as soon as his press schedule for Saving Mr Banks lightens up. Next week, he hopes.

A few minutes later I had a brief chat with Colin Farrell, also in very good spirits but that's probably easy when your movie has Best Picture buzz. He plays the alcoholic father of the author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) in flashback, but it's a substantial role since the flashbacks run parallel to the A story of the making of Mary Poppins, a way of illuminating the author's deep personal attachment to her Poppins creations ("they're family") and why she's so hesistant to sell them to Walt Disney. In the Best Supporting Actor Oscar race Farrell is most likely to be overshadowed by Tom Hanks who gets the plum Disney role (or, as Hancock put it an hour later as he introduced his cast at the screening "an icon playing an icon") but I'm personally confident that one day Farrell will get the right role for the Academy to notice his gift (and not just his celebrity). I told him he'd make my list of Hollywood's Most Underappreciated to which he jokingly replied "I'd make my own list of most underappreciated!" 

We ended the conversation reminiscing about his surprise Golden Globe win for In Bruges (2008). I tell him that's one of those rare deserving moments in awards history that pundits and cinephiles like me point too with 'anything is possible!' optimism. "I'M A HARBINGER OF HOPE!" he volleys back.



Updated Oscar Charts - All Categories!

The Oscar Charts are all updated - some new text, ranking shifts, etcetera - so let's discuss!

Who says we have no frontrunner? A million+ articles have clogged the net proclaiming the mysteriousness of this Oscar race but you can tell that something's leading when the knives come out. And the knives do seem to be out for 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen's brilliant slavery drama about Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) a freeborn black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery where he stayed for a tortuous 12 years. A couple of weeks ago David Poland performed a scathing vivisection of a recent Los Angeles times piece on 12 Years a Slave without anesthesia. The purpose of the article seemed to be taking the film down. Mark Harris recently conveyed some of his problems (respectfully) with the film, but noted that it remains the epicenter of conversation.

Meanwhile over at Gurus of Gold, the period drama maintains a solid though not comfortable lead over Gravity. Merely glancing at the Gurus chart shows how crowded and confusing the Best Picture race is at the moment. There is only true(ish) agreement on five pictures (12 Years, Captain Phillips, Gravity, American Hustle, Saving Mr Banks) so perhaps that would be our nominees under the now departed but long running system which gave us only 5 pictures. But beyond that, the rest of the blissfully expansive field looks fairly evenly matched in a heated race for the other 0-5 possible slots. Curiously I am the ONLY pundit not predicting Inside Llewyn Davis which is somehow in sixth place with the Gurus Either I'm very prescient or... (don't finish that sentence, I'm warning you!)

Forest Whitaker and David Oyelowo in "Lee Daniels' The Butler"


One final note on this category, in the latest update I dropped Lee Daniel's The Butler -- at first accidentally when I moved Nebraska up (a film that I think stands out neatly from the pack both in temperament, goal, and actual look) -- but then the difficulty of gauging The Weinstein '13 Model was staring me back in the face. The previous and always formidable Oscar champs know how to play the game and they have four major hopefuls in Fruitvale StationPhilomena, August: Osage County, and Lee Daniels' The Butler. But here's the catch: don't all four seem evenly matched at this point in terms of probability? I keep shuffling them around and every ranking looks right. Which movie are they really going to get behind and which will the precursors rally 'round making that choice easier for them (and Oscar voters)? 

Curiously, however the Oscar Best Picture cards fall I do think that Alfonso Cuarón is going to walk away with the Best Director trophy. It's less rare than it used to be to see a split. The Academy loves to see you sweat and not just in the acting categories. They like the directors who are obviously working with large scale complicated tasks and the 'long-time-in-the-making-this-was-so-hard-to-achieve' stories will be crack for some voters. That plus Cuaron is a "warmer" filmmaker than his nearest rival Steve McQueen, who doesn't care if he rocks the boat in conversation. In short, the smart, ballsy, art-world born McQueen is not exactly the shaking hands / kissing babies type. Which is not to say that he's not friendly (he is) but still...

I seem to be one of the only pundits who is bullish about J.C. Chandor getting 1/2 the credit for All is Lost's success . I'll admit it's a risky call that might not pay off at all since that movie appears to be "All Redford! All The Time!" and as such it's helping...

"Bob" Redford become the frontrunner for this statue, albeit not an unbeatable one. It's simplistic to suggest that 'Career Honors' votes will be split with Bruce Dern, dooming them both, because that implies that they're fighting for the same votes and honestly, why would they be? The films... and the stars... are very different creatures with probably very different fanbases.  

On a potentially more divisive note, I'm starting to worry for Chiwetel Ejiofor. That might sound crazy, since he stars in the frontrunning film, but hear me out: Best Actor is very full with big stars / storied actors (McConaughey, Redford, Hanks, Dern) doing what many are calling career best work, while three big stars remain outside that presumptive lineup ready to shake things up if enough people love the films (Bale, DiCaprio, Phoenix) and one former winner could surprise if the film is more popular than we're thinking (Whitaker) which leaves two men only as "newbies" to the competition: Chiwetel and Michael B Jordan the latter of whom clearly has one particular advantage in that "breakthrough" style awards will keep him in the conversation for the whole season, even if that coveted shortlist spot might still be out of reach. This is all a long way of saying that the race is way too crowded (the year's most competitive field, I'd wager) to "lock" anyone up. And what's more this is hardly the first Steve McQueen movie with an Oscar worthy leading man (that'd be all of them, all being Fassbender x 2) but in the end his movies are always viewed as auteur pieces first and foremost. What's more, Oscar's acting branch doesn't have a great history of understanding the special skills of actors who can turn themselves into a vessel for a film's thematic concerns. Ejiofor's role is meaty, sure, but it's also kind of purposefully emptied out -- for much of the film he's silent about himself for survival -- and Oscar likes detailed intricacies of character in their leading actors and actresses. They like a particular kind of achievement and this is another kind. I'm probably worrying for nothing but 12 Years a Slave, however great it is, seems like the kind of masterpiece that could spark weird continued weird backlashes and tiny pockets of "no thank you"s which could cost it key nominations here and there despite how accomplished it is across the board. 

... these categories! I think they're still wildly up in the air and pundits are only in semi-agreement because there are so many ways it could go. I hope the awards strategists and publicists behind really great stuff are noticing the window of opportunity (SHORT) here before things start locking up and they might in notoriously lazy unsatisfying ways. My supporting actor list is still making me nervous. For as much as Brühl won great reviews and is a lead masquerading as supporting (which often helps for non-huge stars) is anyone talking about the film? And as much as Leto won great reviews and has a really showy part, will he appeal to the AMPAS acting branch since he's such a "part timer" as actors go... and too familiar for "DISCOVERY!" excitement? With the ladies I'm testing out what it looks like to predict Sarah Paulson (12 Years a Slave) and June Squibb (Nebraska) -- mostly because I could see either happening. What'cha think? 



Other Charts... Updated But We'll Dive In Further Soon


Podcast: 12 Years A Slave To Horrors

Nick and Joe join Nathaniel to discuss the Chicago Film Festival where they're catching movies like August: Osage County during the day and falling asleep watching old Oscar broadcasts chez Nick (1991 and 2006 make vital cameo appearances in this 'cast). That's our kind of weekend!

We all share the love for Steve McQueen's amazingly powerful 12 Years a Slave which Nathaniel has just seen a second time. Then we're on to discussing some horror classics which we've been thinking about due to our recent Team Top Ten lists of the best of that genre. Horror films briefly discussed include: Carrie, Rosemary's Baby, The Night of the Living Dead, Carnival of Souls, Misery and Suspiria

You can listen at the bottom of the post or download it on iTunes. Join in the conversation in the comments.

12 Years a Slave to Horror


The very brief history of slavery in cinema

Tim here. Barring the unexpected end of civilization between now and January, 12 Years a Slave is going to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, and has the clearest shot of anything right now to taking the win altogether. Everyone reading this site knows that as sure as we know anything, which makes it a little shocking when you step back a bit and realise that, as of the day I write this, the film still hasn’t technically been released yet. So I guess we can add “general audiences thinking it sucks” to the list of reasons that it might crash and burn, though I think the end of humanity is at least as likely.

This will be the second time in two Oscar cycles that a film about slavery in the United States will be competing for the big prize. 2012 had Quentin Tarantino’s ultra-violent pastiche Django Unchained of course, and two more diametrically opposed films on the same topic can hardly be imagined: a white American making a hugely irreverent piss-take of the whole edifice vs. a black Brit with his excoriating historical drama. [more]

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