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Entries in Oscar Trivia (211)

Thursday
Feb192015

Tim's Toons: Animated also-rans

Tim here. In his official Oscar predictions today, Nathaniel left out Best Animated Feature, but no matter. By this point, you'd have to hunt a while to find anybody predicting a winner other than How to Train Your Dragon 2, with a few Big Hero 6 holdouts just trying to pretend that things will be interesting. (Me, I'm thinking that we're about to see an unexpected explosion of write-in votes to make sure that Mr. Peabody & Sherman can finally get its due).

That level of predictability almost always ends up settling into this particular race (last year was an exception), which can make it hard, sometimes, to recall that the category has had a purpose beyond annually recognizing that yep, Pixar sure does make some pretty fine movies. So instead of prepping for Oscar weekend by celebrating winners, I want to pay tribute to some losers. The beautiful likes of The Tale of the Princess Kaguya and Song of the Sea are (probably) about the join the 36 films to have so far been nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar and lost out, and that's some fine company to be in. Here are some of my personal favorites.

The Triplets of Belleville (2003; lost to Finding Nemo)
Even after 11 years, the jazzy "Bellville Rendez-vous" remains one of the most memorable original songs in 21st Century filmmaking (it also lost a competitive Oscar). It's a brilliant component of a movie that I'm generally inclined to regard with fetishistic adoration, and will start recommending to people on even the slightest pretext. Like this one, for example. It's one of the most essential animated features of the last 15 years, easily, combining warped slapstick humor with an elegiac sense of melancholy, expressed in a scratchy graphic style that turns everyone into a grotesque caricature while given all of them full, vibrant personalities. Not bad for a film with less than a dozen spoken words in its entire running time.

Persepolis (2007; lost to Ratatouille)
Marjane Satrapi's adaptation of her own graphic novel memoir is a little redundant, perhaps. But taken on its own terms, this story of life during the Iranian Revolution, told in soft lines and crisp black-and-white, is terrific animated cinema both aesthetically and politically. Overtly feminist stories and animation for an appreciative adult audience are both rare, combining them is rarer, and using it all in the service of putting a human face to life in Iran that doesn't pander or beg for special pleading makes this one as bold as any animated film I can ever name. And yet it's so sardonic and brisk that it never feels capital-I Important in a boring way. A total success that deserves infinitely more attention than it's ever received in the U.S.

Kung Fu Panda (2008; lost to WALL·E)
When the first How to Train Your Dragon came out in 2010, it was greeted with critical hosannas as the movie that finally proved that DreamWorks Animation could make a movie that as every bit as good as its best competition. But then, the studio had already proven that with this brightly-colored, poppy tribute to Asian landscape paintings and schlocky '70s kung-fu movies. It's silly as hell, and the jokes have all the smirking anachronism of DreamWorks at its worst. But it's also funny and disarmingly sweet, and the company's fixation on all-celebrity voice casting never worked out as well as it did here, with Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, and Ian McShane among the many familiar faces we don't see.

The Princess and the Frog (2009; lost to Up)
The financial success of the following year's Tangled immediately swallowed up the small splash made by Disney's first-ever animated feature centered on an African-American protagonist. And then the behemoth of 2013's Frozen left it almost totally forgotten as the first attempt in a generation to make a classic Disney Princess musical. Neither of which is at all a fair fate for an earnest attempt at correcting the company's long history of representational yuckiness with a warm suite of Randy Newman songs, top-notch voice acting, and beautifully old-school 2-D animation. It's a sop to the studio's fans, sure, but as a fan, I am greatly pleased to have it in my life even now, far more than either of its bigger successors.

What are your favorite nominees to have missed on on the Best Animated Feature Oscar?

Thursday
Feb192015

Long Day's Journey Into Link

All Oscars All The Time
Big Group they've taken that 'Oscar Dresses infographic' that was so successful a year ago and updated and expanded it with interactivity
AV Club wants the Oscars to add these 11 categories. I say Nay! to most of these. The Academy nixed two of these very recently (Best Casting and Title Design) when they were proposed again
David Poland thinks "preferential balloting" makes virtually anything possible in this tight Best Picture race and seems to expect a true spread the wealth night (as do I)
Gurus of Gold the full charts in all categories
The Atlantic Joe Reid on the lack of connection between Best Picture & Best Actress
Vox tries to explain all the confusing Oscar categories - not who will win but the category definitions themselves
THR Mo'Nique believes she was blackballed after her Oscar win for Precious for not playing the game and being "difficult". Hollywood is so frustrating. Who cares if she's difficult. That's one of the best performances of all time. Doesn't anyone wanna try bottling lightning again?
The Wrap, truly jumping the gun, proposed 20 actors of color and 5 directors for all 25 of the major Oscar nominations for next year's race from films like Creed, Silence, Nina, Lila & Eve, and Crimson Peak

More Movies
Keith Gow reviews The Last Five Years and he's much more satisfied with it than I am. One of my friends who is much more critical of modern movie musicals than I also loved it. I am definitely ready for a second look.
GMA Jeremy Jordan and Jason Robert Brown perform a Last Five Years number on morning TV
Empire 8 secrets from the set of Nightcrawler
Dissolve on Neil Blomkamp's plans to direct another Aliens sequel. Sigourney Weaver is planning to return as Ripley. So exciting if we really do get a sixtysomething action heroine but I'm not holding my breath since Ridley Scott is working on a Prometheus sequel, too
Interview amazing new photoshoot of Kristen Stewart who really turned it out as an actress this past year. More please
First Showing yes it's true Pirates of the Caribbean 5 has started production (Noooooooo) with Javier Bardem wasting more of his time and YA stars Kaya Scoledario and Brenton Thwaites joining the cast
The Film Stage Xavier Dolan in the new trailer for Elephant Song - he's just acting this time
Details Calum Marsh looks at The Breakfast Club 30 years on 
In Contention looks at some of the tougher to call races
THR Brutally Honest Ballot of an Oscar voter from the PR branch - these things are always a mix of cringeworthy and/or interesting revealing quotes
THR Brutally Honest Ballot #2 - this one loves Theory of Everything and admires Boyhood 

New Mad Men Trailer! "The Final Episodes"

Because of this people are speculating that the final episodes take place in 1976. People are silly. It's not like that show to jump 7 years. And Matthew Weiner said he always wanted to make a show about the decade of the 1960s and he's always been willing to be anachronistic about music. The movies on the other hand, they're usually right on schedule so I wish I knew what year the final episodes took place in so as to study that year's movies. I want to see Don Draper in a movie theater one last time. Pretty please! 

Monty waiting for more cakeOff Cinema
Wisdom Nation screw motivation, seek discipline
Billboard Madonna speaks, makes journo drink shots
BuzzFeed Trans model recreates Adam Levine's famous never-nude shot 
Towleroad Lady Gaga is engaged to her actor boyfriend Taylor Kinney (The Other Women / Chicago Fire) 
Playbill the great Victoria Clark (The Light in the Piazza)  is doing a diary of her out of town tryouts of Gigi, a reworking of the Oscar winning musical
AutoStraddle "50 Shades of Grey Cats". Monty made me include that one. He's breathing very loudly right behind my chair as I type this, surely plotting my murder for the recent vet visit. FTR he is also upset that Jennifer Aniston didn't get nominated for Cake because he was hoping for more edible swag.

Wednesday
Feb182015

Black History Month: Endless Love (1981)

I know what you're thinking. You're working out some variation of "how perverse to feature a lily white teenage romance for a Black History Month feature!"... and I get it. But let's travel back to 1981 together anyway and I'll explain.

The Italian auteur Franco Zeffirelli had found great success in America directing Romeo and Juliet (1968) which became both a populist hit and an Oscar magnet finishing in the year's top five at the box office and in the Best Picture shortlist. A dozen or so years later Zeffirelli took another stab (pun intended) at the zeitgeist with a similar if much cruder tale of an ill advised tempestuous and horny teenage affair. Endless Love was critically panned (multiple Razzie nominations) though it managed to be a hit if not quite a blockbuster. Its eponymous Best Original Song nominee "Endless Love" by Lionel Richie on the other hand was a monster...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Feb182015

Best Actress. An Oscar Thrill & Personal Ballot

It's just four days until Oscar and I remain stunned and overjoyed that god* will be taking home her first Oscar. I can scarcely believe it. I thought it would be a nail biter given that this never happens. It's true we're about to get our first fiftysomething Best Actress winner in 62 years and I couldn't be happier about it! Given Oscar's very limited idea of what constitutes great acting (let's face it they were never going to "get" how well Scarlett Johansson was embodying a inhuman alien psyche distracted by curiousity) they didn't have much to choose from this year. But we cinephiles did. Best Actress is always a tough category for the actressexual, so I truly wish I had 8 nominees each year. I truly do. Of course then I'd weep for the 9th. You're always going to have to leave people out.

I force myself to narrow it down to 12 semi-finalists each year for a happy dozen before I make the final calls so here's a last shout out to a dozenish favorite leading ladies of 2014 (in alpha order) though this time it's a baker's dozen because I had to include the baker's wife albeit in her other incarnation this year.

Let's hear it for this incredible work. (Weak year my ass)

  • Emily Blunt, Edge of Tomorrow
  • Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night
  • Essie Davis, The Babadook
  • Anne Dorval, Mommy
  • Luminita Gheorghiu, Child's Pose
  • Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin
  • Keira Knightley, Begin Again
  • Agata Kulesza, Ida
  • Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Beyond the Lights
  • Julianne Moore, Still Alice / Maps to the Stars **
  • Elisabeth Moss, Listen Up Phillip
  • Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
  • Reese Witherspoon, Wild

See the Film Bitch Awards Best Actress nominees here!

* Julianne Moore is God.

** I could never understand what the f*** was happening with Maps to the Stars (Globe eligible but not Oscar eligible - what the hell?) so it is not included in my 2014 awards though I would surely have nominated Juli for it. I haven't yet decided if I will consider it for 2015 -- it supposedly opens February 27th -- but it seems to have been lost in the gap between film years. I will never understand this predilection of distributors to confuse potential audiences and critics in year end prizes. Never ever. It fills me with such bile every annum.

Tuesday
Feb172015

Black History Month: Sounder (1972)

Andrew here, to continue The Film Experience’s celebration of Black History Month through the lens of the Oscars. Next up comes 1972's Sounder. It did not win any Oscars, and yet it is groundbreaking, of its own accord, and as an Oscar vehicle. The film, as well as its success at the time, is a miracle and one of the most impressive moments of Oscar’s celebration of black cinema.

Its greatest triumph in light of Oscar is the fact that it’s the first truly black film to be nominated for Best Picture. Sounder tells the story of a family of Black sharecroppers living in Louisiana during The Great Depression...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Feb112015

Most Eligible Links List

Gurus of Gold rank the Best Pictures and possible surprises with a handful of days of voting left
Playbill At Roundabout Theater's Spring Gala "There is Nothing Like a Dame" a who's who of awesome Broadway stars will honor Helen Mirren
Playlist filmmakers who disowned their movies. I didn't know the hilarious Screenplay Oscar trivia situation with Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984) , a movie I really loved as a kid
New York Times America's Sweetheart Tom Hanks writes an ode to the value of community colleges.

 

Henry Cavill's Site interviews the actor's stunt man Alainn Moussi who is getting his own lead role in the Kickboxer remake
AV Club HBO's brilliant comedy about nurses in an elderly care ward Getting On is getting one more very short season and then its bye-bye. 
Towleroad Laverne Cox cast in a CBS legal drama pilot Doubt as a trans lawyer. Too bad its not the lead role. That'd really be something.
Cinesnark has a good review of the most recent episode of Agent Carter which has proven itself as a fast, kicky, well acted and really fine TV show. I kinda love it. Agents of SHIELD has improved over its run but Carter's short run has only emphasized how weak it still is; I'm sad it's coming back because that mean Carter is over!

This Week's Must Read
Tilda Swinton gave a glorious wise speech about art and cinema and inspiration at the Rothko Chapel. Here's the full transcript  and I really urge you to read it.

It occurs to me on a regular basis that the cinema carries the potential to be perhaps the most human of all gestures in art: the invitation to place ourselves, under the intimate cover of darkness, into another person's shoes, behind another set of eyes, into another's consciousness. The ultimate compassion machine, the empathy enging.

Here is the darkness.

Here comes the light.

Beautiful. Just beautiful, don't you think?

 

Andrew Scott (Sherlock, Pride) one of our best out actors. Today's 'What Does This Word Mean?' Curiousity
Out revealed their 100 Most Eligible Bachelors list and it's wonderful to swipe through it realizing how many out actors we have now (I knew that once we had a few brave ones people would calm down about it and the floodgates would open) though the list is hardly actors-only. Thankfully the list has plentiful ethnic, age, and national diversity.

But the list is not without controversy because not all of the men are "Out" as it were like Ronan Farrow for example or the actor Jussie Smollett (who plays the gay son on Empire and is the brother of Jurnee Smollett from Friday Night Lights & True Blood). There might be other examples. I hadn't heard that the model Jon Kortajarena was gay either but maybe I just missed that somewhere. Most hilarious is their inclusion of famously NOT out Hobbit actors Luke Evans (Dracula Untold) who has a long history of being back in the closet which My New Plaid Pants lampoons constantly and Lee Pace who has a long history of not being out and recently denying the everyone-assumes Elf-Dwarf love affair with co-star Richard Armitage.