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Entries in Year in Review (126)

Monday
Jul072014

Halfway Pt. 2: Visual Cinematic Achievements of 2014

Before the holiday weekend we wondered what AMPAS voters might latch on to had they had to vote right then on the Oscars. It was a hypothetical exercize since we all know the studios backload the year and 85% of the intended contenders for "best" honors are as of yet unavailable. On to something not at all hypothetical.

Consider this my tracking sheet for the film bitch awards at year's end. It also doubles as an FYC directed at Academy members. Awards are too often regarded as trivial pursuits but they aren't at all. Award winners and nominees go into the history books or web archives as it were and, later, baby cinephiles seek them out for cinematic education. I speak from experience and I've heard so many similar growing up cinephile stories over the years that I know this to be true. So think carefully over even movies you didn't love when you weigh titles for "Best" in various categories. You owe it to future generations to really focus on the last word in "For Your Consideration"

Here's what I'd vote for (at the moment) in the visual categories if the year ended right now. I hope you'll join me in sharing your favorites (that have already opened) in multiple categories.  

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Seamus McGarvey isn't lighting and composing in a vacuum for this visual fx behemoth, but much of the painterly grandeur and awe that Godzilla, would be king of blockbusters, conjures relies heavily on his gift; While black and white films often win praise solely because they're novelties in the 21st century, Ryszard Lenczewski & Lukasz Zal's work on Ida would be stunning in any color, with its diffuse sensitivities and meticulous emotional focus; Darius Khondji is easily among the most neglected of Oscar-ready DPs with a filmography that includes stunning films from multiple A list auteurs and he does another fine job with the warmly retro but never inappropriately romanticized period work on The Immigrant; Hong Kyung-pyo's nails amazing technical challenges on Snowpiercer and his lighting often makes the grim fascinating imagery pop; and, finally, Daniel Landin serves Jonathan Glazer's mesmerizing purposes beautifully with the eery, cold aesthetics of Under the Skin... like peeks into some unfathomable abyss.

Smart costumes, mutant powers, and big hair are after the jump

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jul032014

Halfway Pt. 1: What if They Voted on the Oscars Right Now?

Oscar Chart Note: I'm experiencing some coding problems with the charts so I apologize for the update delays. Until it's fixed, please to enjoy this hypothetical discussion as we begin our Halfway Mark Review...


Happy July! We're now officially done with the first half of the year. There are MANY films to come including the bulk of Oscar contenders given Hollywood's preferred release patterns. But that doesn't mean the film year hasn't already delivered enormous pleasure. All conscientous Oscar voters, cinephiles, and critics ought to keep a list so they aren't tricked into believing that the thing they saw 5 minutes ago is the only thing worth voting for six months from now.

Which naturally begs the question: If the voting was sprung on everyone right now, which films would AMPAS go for? It's worth jotting them down because they have a head start and they'd be smart to capitalize on it somehow. They need to settle in the mind and hearts as viable options as it were so that the forthcoming biggies will have to unseat them rather than trample them on their way to Oscar thrones.

I'm thinking mostly of Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel and Ralph Fiennes as Best Actor. They'd both surely snag nominations if the voting were held today. But at this date, some 17 years into his career, Academy voters haven't yet fully embraced Wes Anderson. Comic performances are always trickier sells so Ralph Fiennes will need to capitalize on the fact that he's playing against type (in a way) and voters respect that. If Budapest hangs on for real Oscar play that should make the waters safe for all future Wes Anderson films (see also: David Fincher, David O. Russell, and Paul Thomas Anderson who all struggled to win attention until Oscar finally caught up with the critical passion and devout public fanbases and now they're automatically "in the conversation" before their films arrive.) 

Let's fantasize about what might be nominated if the voting were cut off right now when so few expected contenders have opened. My guesses as to the nominees go like so...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Apr012014

Are You "Divine"? On Recent Divas, Heroes, and Sexpots


A NOTE BEFORE WE BEGIN: I am aware that you're impatiently awaiting 2014's April Foolish Oscar Predictions but please to note: I am aiming for April 13th but they definitely won't be here today and that's no April Fool's Joke.

With 2013's best films all soon to or already arrived on DVD, let's wrap up the Film Bitch Awards which are getting later and later each year, damnit! I'm leading with "the most beautiful woman in the world" to your left, Divine, who also went by the alternate title "filthiest person alive." Can't they both be true? If you haven't caught up with the documentary I Am Divine, you should. It's really fun. I saw it about a year ago at the Nashville Film Festival at a late night screening in which two of our fellow moviegoers, utterly sloshed girls we accidentally befriended at a festival party, got lost in the theater looking for each other and tumbling down stairs in the dark (no one was hurt). It was a memorable midnight screening let's just say.

I'm never sure if I should include documentary figures in our extra special 'character-specific' awards but sometimes you just gotta have it. And by it I mean the mad brilliance of Divine. She famously inspired one of Disney's all time greatest villains (Ursula the Sea Witch) but she's competing for the gold in Best Diva this time with another instantly iconic character: Queen Elsa from Frozen.

On the new Film Bitch Awards chart (We've only one page to go and we're done woo-hoo) you'll also find movies like The Heat, Stoker, Man of Steel, in our choices for Best Hero, Best Villain and Diva and Sexpot of the Year. Scarlett Johansson (Don Jon & Her) and Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and American Hustle) both managed double nominations this year so have a looksie.

And please do comment away - I don't relish solitude like Elsa.

 

Sunday
Mar022014

Best of the Year: Introducing... Nathaniel's Top Thirteen

I've waited so long to share my top ten list that it's become a crushing psychic weight, a symbol of my failure to keep up in this strange Oscar season I've had.  I realized today that if I didn't share it on this very day, it wouldn't happen at all which is unthinkable. TRADITION. TRADITION...... TRADITION  

We're all eager to move on to 2014 but I personally can't make the calendar leap without the Film Bitch Awards (and the Oscars, duh). They're my own internal clock and how I clock the film years. If I could rewind said clock I'd watch all the movies again. They're all dusty now, like cherished objects I shoved into closets or drawers for reasons of clutter when people were coming over. Now I can't remember where I've left them or why it was I thought they were worth hoarding in the first place. 

You still with me? Oh god stay with me. This is my moment of neurotic need! 

If this were a top twenty I'd be writing about these films too, in random order: two animated charmers Frozen and Ernest & Celestine, Joe Swanberg & Jane Adams little seen but extremely worthwhile collaboration All the Light in the Sky, 2012's Spanish Oscar submission Blancanieves (released in the states this year), Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring... "I wanna rob", two gargantuan blockbusters I seemed to have liked more than most sentient life forms Iron Man 3 and World War Z and the dark, gripping and literally labyrinthine Prisoners. Does that make twenty-one pictures? I'm bad at maths.

ONE MINUTE FROM EACH FILM
Now, the hard part. Hierarchies of wonderment. To break free of the mental shackles that have been holding me back from writing and sharing this list, a self-imposed directive: I am putting each one of these in my DVD player (the joy of screeners) and shuffling to a random scene. Wherever it lands I watch one minute to jog my memory and write whatever comes to mind. Get it? Let's go.  

HER
(Spike Jonze)
Warner Bros. December 18th.
126 minutes

... and Action [98:24] we enter mid montage during a Scarlett Johansson rendition of "Moon Song"...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Feb122014

Best Actress: Nathaniel's Ballot & Oscars

It's time to get back to our Film Bitch Awards. I've 18 days to finish everything. Give me strength! 

I was rooting for Brie Larson all season, but Oscar had bigger stars in mind

When it comes to Oscar's Best Actress field this year I'd rank the performances in this order without hesitation: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) > Adams (Hustle) ≥ Streep (August) > Dench (Philomena) > Bullock (Gravity). But as usual my own lineup differs quite a lot. I looked beyond the twelve titles that voters were considering nominating for Best Picture and then conveniently dropping onto their ballots in each and every other category. I also had to consider shoeless Emma (Mr Banks) who obviously just-missed Oscar's cut-off since they were all about their ol' standbys this year (this year's amalgam of all five contenders has been nominated 7.6 times which is probably a statistical "most" record in any acting category). So in addition to Oscar's conversation topics I took long hard looks at the Before... franchise's Julie Delpy again (she was nominated right here in 2004), Jane Adams and Paulina Garcia in the little seen arthouse gems All the Light in the Sky and Gloria respectively, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Enough Said), too. And then there were the fresh faces (well, fresh before the spaghetti sauce and sobbing) like Adele Exarchopoulus and familiar young stars like Brie Larson (Short Term 12) and Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha) who are just now coming into what feels like their true power as screen stars. I even considered Melissa McCarthy in The Heat, she of the perfect line readings, who was quite unjustly robbed of a Golden Globe comedy nomination this year. 

It was a tough call. I tore my imaginary hair out. In the end, as always, you want six or seven nominees but you conly get five. And here they are with my capsule comments... The Best Actresses of 2013.

P.S. If Oscar voters choose anyone other than Cate Blanchett, it's going to be so catastrophic for my mental health that you'll see me on a park bench somewhere in 2014 chattering away to no one in particular as I replay the events of 2013 endlessly on a loop, torturing myself as to how it all went so terribly wrong.

P.P.S. The Best Actress Oscar Page now has "how they were nominated?" theorizing and a reader poll

P.P.P.S. Like TFE on Facebook and follow Nathaniel on twitter. Why haven't you already? Lot of exciting plans for 2014 including more interactivity with you.

Friday
Jan312014

January. It's a Wrap

We spent most of January reeling from the Oscar nominations, braving mountain altitudes and indie film frenzy at Sundance, attending the Critics Choice Awards and counting down our most awaited films of 2014... a year doesn't really start for us until March 3rd when we can safely put 2013 behind us. But herewith, in case you missed them...

A dozen highlights from the month that was 
Sally Hawkins the actress that's worked with both Cate Blanchett and Godzilla
Katniss in Context just how rare is Jennifer Lawrence's box office success?
50 Best Movie Posters of 2013 Quite a beautiful collection
Joanna Scanlan Interview the ace character actor of Getting On fame told us about working with Pfeiffer, Dench, Blanchett, and Fiennes in her filmography

Sarah Paulson on her multiple breakthroughs, American Horror Story and 12 Years a Slave
Podcast "Bring Your Own Dream Date" we had so much fun on that one
Actors Who Need Their 1st Nom Andrew proposed just ten but opinions varied
The Real Maleficent a smart tribute to Disney's greatest villain
A Year With Kate is an awesome journey and Anne Marie just reached Hepburn's first taste of Oscar glory with, well, Morning Glory 

Most Discussed "American Hustle's Jennifer Lawrence Problem" This supporting actress performance essay by guest star Matthew Eng really took off. No surprise, really. It's fabulous.
Most Eyeballs Anything Oscar Race related, of course, and January had many golden upheavals. But the most exciting development was clearly that weird PGA tie or maybe that train wreck Original Song situation?

Coming in February? We'll wrap up 2013 properly with the Film Bitch Awards and more Oscar coverage. Any suggestions for other topics?

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