Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Drama Llama Alphabet Meme


Well, 2013 has come to a close, and what better way to close it out then to post my contribution to The Drama Llama's Alphabet Meme.  This was a great idea.  I did a Movie Alphabet once before, but this is more focused and has a set question for each letter of the alphabet, so it made it almost more challenging as I really had to think about these answers.  Luckily, a lot of them came to me right off the top of my head (and those are usually the most meaningful answers as you aren't trying too hard). 

Let's get right into it!

Friday, December 27, 2013

My Official December Oscar Predictions


Finally, I've compiled my predictions based on awards traction over the month and blind faith in passion votes.  Yes, some of these may seem a bit on the 'wild card' side, but word of mouth is something to factor in as well, and so someone like Scarlett Johansson (who is probably being talked about more than any other contender in her category) or Adele Exarchopoulos (who could benefit from serious passion votes) are not as crazy as they may seem. 

I've also gone ahead and predicted the shorts since we have a narrowed list and I've actually seen a few. 

Until next month, see below:

1994 Fistis!!!

These creatures are heavenly...

So I have this list about a mile long of things I want to wrap up before the new year and I'm finding that I don't think it's possible...but one thing at a time and here we are with the 1994 Fisti Awards so YAY, I did accomplish something today.  I have stated many times that I find this year to be one of the weakest 'overall' in the 90's, but as I watched and watched and watched some more I did find what I consider to be an exceptional Top Twelve.

One thing I did notice about this year is that I really skewed old when it comes to my acting nominees, which kind of made me happy.  Every year we balk about the lack of intelligent and inspired roles for our older actors and yet 1994 really showed how you can find brilliant characters and projects for our aged actors.  In fact, the average age of all twenty nominees is 43.4, with the oldest nominee being 69, and it's a lead performance and the WINNER!  Yes, of the twenty nominees, eight are over the age of 50.  Yes, there are some young nominees that bring the collective average down (two teenagers and a pre-teen) but this year really was a bounty of mature performances.

So dig in and let me know what you think  I can't wait to hear what you have to say, especially when you see that the beloved 'Forrest Gump' (I hate that movie) walks away with a solitary Sound nomination.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Let's Review Something: The Wall


Isolation is a very rich template for a film.  The varying degrees of isolation can bring to the fore very different aspects of the situation and can offer us intelligent character portraits of how one overcomes the depressive nature of isolation.  There are so many shades to a human being, that coming under the spell of this very condemning circumstance can cast a kaleidoscope of possibilities.

In other words; in the right hands the possibilities are endless.

I had heard a lot of great things about ‘The Wall’.  There has been a lot said about Martina Gedeck’s performance, some calling it a tour-de-force and really labeling it one of the finest performances put to film this year.  I have only seen her in a handful of things, but she left a lasting impression on me when I saw her in 2006’s ‘The Lives of Others’ and so I was intrigued greatly by the prospect of her completely consuming me once again.  She has such raw talent, and this premise felt so organic and so capable of drawing out the best in a talented actress.

Sadly, I found this to be extremely underwhelming, and for the most part I feel as if it was Gedeck’s fault.  While I am all for subtlety, this performance felt so hopelessly one-note that I was begging for her to break character and smash a plate!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Let's Review Something: Much Ado About Nothing


Well, this was a bore.

I have to admit, I just don’t think I’m a fan of this story much.  I rather hated the 1993 version starring Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh, but at least with that version it felt authentic and fluid.  There is a lot missing from Joss Whedon’s adaptation, and all of the things that I thought would make me connect to this film wound up taking me even further out of the story and forcing me to hate it even more.

It is very pretty though.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The American Dream; sort of…


I have to say, ‘Cutie and the Boxer’ may be the most rewarding film I’ve seen this year, for the simple fact that I had no idea what it was about before seeing it and it moved me in such unexpected ways before it was completed.  The finale felt so beautifully appropriate, and the mixture of emotions that is felt from both of the film’s protagonists (can that word still be used within the framework of a documentary?) is truly authentic and poignant.

What makes ‘Cutie and the Boxer’ so effective is the fact that it is not really what it says it is, and in fact pulls off something even more enriching, emotionally so, and becomes a piece of true reflection, not on the primary subject at all but on a deeper and more universal subject.

I’ll try and explain.

Let's Review Something: The Internship


I don’t think anything really made me smile quite as much as the year 2005, when Vince Vaughn realized that he was a really great comedian and that he should just steer clear of dramatics if he wanted to reignite his, at that time, pretty dead career.  His rebirth as an actor and celebrity is rare.  Usually, once you’ve passed your so-called prime, there is no turning back.  After that it’s straight to DVD releases and guest spots on television shows no one watches until you hit your 70’s and then some young director takes pity on you, remembers you from their youth when you were interesting and decides to reboot your relevance by casting you as a salty grandpa in an Oscar contender and you wind up getting your 15 minutes of fame relatively close to your last 15 minutes on earth.

Not so with Vince Vaughn.

Sadly, since his resurgence, he’s played it VERY safe and wound up playing very slight variations of the very same character in each and every one of his films.  Sometimes this works well, other times it makes for very uninteresting cinema.  A lot of this has to do with the script and the actors he’s working with.

No matter how entertaining Vince can be, dull is dull.

But ‘The Internship’ has another very big problem.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Poster Break: The Grand Budapest Hotel


This is just beautiful, whimsy, original and eye catching in the best possible way.  I cannot wait for this shit!

9 Foreign Film Finalists...


Well, it seems rather appropriate that I just reviewed 'The Hunt', since this list rather confirms it'll win the Oscar (unless Italy gains momentum), with both Iran's 'The Past' and the current frontrunner 'Wadjda' absent from the list.  We all knew that despite 'Blue is the Warmest Color' being the undisputed Foreign Language champ of the year, it was ineligible for the Oscar, so it's omission is no surprise.

But here are the 9 finalists:

The Broken Circle Breakdown from Belgium
An Episode in the Life of Iron Picker from Bosnia
The Grandmaster from Hong Kong
The Great Beauty from Italy
The Hunt from Denmark
The Missing Picture from Cambodia
The Notebook from Hungary
Omar from Palestine
Two Lives from Germany

I think it's safe to say that 'The Broken Circle Breakdown', 'The Great Beauty' and 'The Hunt' are in.  It's deciding the other two nominations that is going to be difficult.  I would, at the moment, go with 'Two Lives' and 'The Missing Picture', but 'The Grandmaster' made it much further than I expected, so maybe it'll sneak in here.

Let's Review Something: The Hunt


Pedophilia is a very touchy subject.  I take it very personally.  I’ve seen the effect that it has on children and on parents, and being a parent myself I honestly abhor nothing more than child abuse.  I find nothing as repugnant, disgusting and reprehensible than the molestation of an innocent child and so films that touch upon this subject usually spark something almost primal in me.

I want to kill people.

‘The Hunt’ dares to pretty much break every preconceived notion I have towards the subject and dares to make me question everything I think I know and or feel about the subject.  No, ‘The Hunt’ does not make me side with pedophilia, that is not what I mean.  What I mean is that ‘The Hunt’ dares to question the integrity of a child and the condemning nature of a community stricken by fear of a monster.  This is precisely where ‘The Hunt’ soars as a social commentary, because it presents a portrait of humanity that feels extremely authentic and honest; brutally so.

I can’t remember the last time I was this uncomfortable and this frustrated while watching a film.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The BFCA Nominations = a lot of the same shit!



I was planning on trying to type of personal thoughts on everything nominated by the BFCA (Broadcast Film Critics Association), but there is just a lot of the same going on and on here to the point where talking about it feels rather redundant.  It's all shaping up though, and these categories are getting tighter and tighter.  Instead of evaluating all of this I'm just going to go ahead and post the nominees (I know, I'm almost a week late) here for a point of reference, sum it up with a few words, and update the Tally chart.

We'll pick all of this up next week when I update my Oscar predictions!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Jared Leto calls Fassbender and Phoenix "ridiculous"...


I don't think many people in their right minds are doubting a Jared Leto Oscar victory at this point.  He has everything going for him (role, career resurgence, transformative performance, raves, deglam) not to mention the fact that he's pretty much won everything so far.  But, just in case you think he may lose, check out his comments on the Oscar game.  He's a smart, smart man; and where his peers have on occasion balked at the Oscar campaign or even criticized the Oscars themselves, Leto shows nothing but humility and complete gratitude for all that he's experienced so far this year.  

I especially love this bit:

"They had done it before, so I guess they have every right to complain about it, but I think it's kind of ridiculous to complain about celebrating art and creativity and your peers.  It's certainly better than not celebrating each other. I've been a part of a lot of films where we all had high hopes and things just didn't turn out the way you had expected or dreamed that they would. When they do turn out in a way that works, and people celebrate, I think it's a wonderful thing to acknowledge that. This hasn't been anything but a joy so far."

 Bravo to him and his attitude...and his hair!

Golden Globe Nominations (and thoughts)


I'm so late to this party!  I still wanted to chime in with my thoughts on these and the BFCA nominations.  I started here and I'll get to the BFCA noms tomorrow.  So, here are the nominations and my thoughts on them...

Also, don't forget to check out the Awards Tally Page, where all of these noms (as well as all the others) are being compiled for prognosticating purposes.

Where do I begin?





Apparently life does NOT stop and wait for me to get back from vacation.  I have way too much to talk about and so little time to do it in.  Apparently about 700 critics groups announced their nominees and winners this weekend and I missed them all and don't have the time to comment on every one, so just expect the Tally page to get updated sometime today instead.  I really wanted to give each critics' group their own post, but...


Also, the death count this year for celebrities is just heartbreaking.  Both Peter O'Toole and Joan Fontaine died while I was away.  This is all just too much!

I'll be posting my thoughts on the BFCA and Globe nominations and what they mean for Oscar soon, and the 1994 Fisti Awards are coming too.  I hope to get some of that out of the way today, but I'm still recuperating, and it is going to take me 12 hours just to update the Awards Tally page with meaningless Critics' nominations and wins.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

See you next week...


I honestly don't know what I was thinking back in October, but I booked my family vacation for this weekend and so I'm going to be absent for not only the Globe nominations announcement tomorrow but also the BFCA on the 16th!  On a happy note, it's my Ten Year wedding anniversary, so at least I'm leaving for a good reason, but if I had thought this through I would have booked it for another weekend!!!  I will be playing catchup next week (I return on Wednesday) but it's not the same.  So, expect my reactions to both nomination announcements on Wednesday, and until then I bid you farewell.  I won't even be near a fucking computer until I get home, so I'm afraid I won't even see the nominations until then!  I'm seriously distressed about this.  LOL, I'm such an dork.  

Oh, and I finally finished up the Fisti's for 1994, for look for those end of next week!

Let's Review Something: Man of Steel


Can we take a few moments to discuss how this film doesn’t suck?

I have to say, the reviews weren’t very kind, and word of mouth was even worse.  True comic book fans were furious, offended even, and the comic universe, while months earlier were brimming with pure excitement and anticipation, were pretty much ticked off that all that hype and all that buzz was for something they deemed unworthy.  Sure, it had it’s nice points and found validation in the slew of comments about those special effects, but outside of that many found themselves disconnected from Zack Snyder’s direction and found the film’s epic conclusion to be more controversial than desired.

Despite all of this going on, I really wanted to see this in the theaters but wound up missing it entirely, even when it hit the local dollar theater.

So, I settled in last night and geeked out while I apparently appreciated this far more than the rest of the world.  I guess the fact that I was never really a Superman fan in general probably helped a lot, since I had no expectations and no nostalgic attachments to who or what Superman was supposed to represent.  At the end of the day, I just wanted to be entertained…and I was!

SAG Nominees


Well, today is the day where everything REALLY starts up.  The critics awards are great (and there are a few more still to trickle in) but the televised awards are the ones that are really going to help shape up our Oscar categories, and SAG is a great place to start.  These acting categories usually come VERY close to the actual Oscar lineup, and here is where we'll see any fringe contenders getting yanked into the mix.  

Let's get right into it:

STUNT ENSEMBLE
All is Lost
Fast and Furious 6
Lone Survivor
Rush
The Wolverine

ENSEMBLE
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
August: Osage County
Dallas Buyers Club
Lee Daniels' The Butler

LEAD ACTOR
Bruce Dern / Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor / 12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks / Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey / Dallas Buyers Club
Forrest Whitaker / Lee Daniels' The Butler

LEAD ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett / Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock / Gravity
Judi Dench / Philomena
Meryl Streep / August: Osage County
Emma Thompson / Saving Mr. Banks

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Barkhad Abdi / Captain Phillips
Daniel Bruhl / Rush
Michael Fassbender / 12 Years a Slave
James Gandolfini / Enough Said
Jared Leto / Dallas Buyers Club

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jennifer Lawrence / American Hustle
Lupita Nyong'o / 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts / August: Osage County
June Squibb / Nebraska
Oprah Winfrey / Lee Daniels' The Butler

Thoughts:  First, Redford missing here is bizarre and a complete shock.  I really thought he had this one sewn up.  They apparently didn't see 'The Wolf of Wall Street'.  I knew that screeners didn't go out, but I had a feeling that they would have attended screenings of the film.  This looks like our Best Actress lineup, but I'm still feeling like we could get a surprise on nomination morning.  This skews too old.  I don't think Bruhl and Whitaker will repeat with Oscars, but who takes their places?  Cooper is obviously dead now, right?  Gandolfini is in, right?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Phoenix chimes in...


Because we could always use another one of these...

RECORD/PLAY


I told myself that I was going to make a more conscious effort to see the Documentary and Short Film Oscar submissions this year, and with 'RECORD/PLAY' actually being available online (you can watch it here) I was able to watch this this morning.  I've actually seen this ten times already and I want to watch it again, it's that good.  The great thing about this little film (it's only ten minutes long) is that it feels so polished, so tight that I'm sad that it's only a short film and not a feature length one.  Happily for me (and the rest of the world), this is actually being adapted into a feature film, so it won't be long before we get the full story (or a fuller one).

I do have slight reservations about this, despite being excited.  I mean, I wrote a short story once and loved it so much I fleshed it out into a complete novel, but I had to alter things, especially the ending, in order to make it feel fresh again.  Is that going to happen here?  Is the integrity of this brilliant conceptual piece going to get lost in the expansion?  Or, worse yet, is it going to remain true to itself and wind up feeling anticlimactic in the process?

I fear for option 3, where the film becomes a Michael Bay variant as they try and tack onto that open/ended ending.

But let's forget about all that for a minute and talk about Jesse Atlas's marvelous short film, which made Oscar's semi-finalists this year and could very well make it all the way to the podium.  I haven't seen any of the other contenders at this point, but 'RECORD/PLAY' has a huge fan-base, and the fact that it has already been green-lit for a feature film says a lot for the industry support.

This is the type of 'message film' that feels important enough to win, and actually backs it up (so, it would deserve it).


The film stars Mustafa Shakir as a man torn from his true love by war.  The film takes place in the 90's, and this man is listening to a cassette recording of his girlfriend's last words to him.  She was in Bosnia and apparently never made it home.  As he listens to her voice he is transported to her side, but he encounters a series of obstacles (one right after the other), standing the way of his reunion with her.  I'll say no more, but the short is increasingly more and more clever with each transportation, and the ending actually brought a tear to my eye.  In ten minutes, Atlas and company delivered a serious emotional jolt that took me by surprise and made me a believer.

The technical aspects are so great here too, with a haunting score by Greg Townley that I almost wish was eligible for Oscar consideration (is it?).  

All I have left to say is WATCH THIS!  One of the highlights of the year for me.

Monday, December 9, 2013

AFI TOP TEN!!!


12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Fruitvale Station
Gravity
Her
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska
Saving Mr. Banks
The Wolf of Wall Street

This feels like Oscar's Best Picture ballot to me.

Detroit is in the house!


By the time I post one, another emerges...

St. Louis Critics Society Nominees


LOL, here is another one.  I wonder how many of these will pop up today.

Online Film Critics Society Nominations


Well, they are coming fast and furious now.  These minor critics are all trying to chime in with their picks for the best of the best, and here we go with some interesting choices.  In fact, these are pretty damn good, and while I haven't seen all of the contenders, it's nice to see a critics group willing to think outside of the box and not predict the Oscars.

Here we go:

So, the BIFA's happened this weekend...


So, I know that we already decided that these don't matter at all, but since we already posted the nominees, I figured I'd update y'all on the winners that were announced over the weekend.  If nothing else, it provides us with more movies to see!

BRITISH INDEPENDENT FILM:
Metro Manila

DIRECTOR:
Sean Ellis / Metro Manila

DEBUT DIRECTOR:
Paul Wright / For Those in Peril

SCREENPLAY:
Loche

ACTRESS:
Lindsay Duncan / Le Week-end

ACTOR:
James McAvoy / Filth

SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Imogen Poots / The Look of Love

SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Ben Mendelsohn / Starred Up

MOST PROMISING NEWCOMER:
Chloe Pirrie / Shell

PRODUCTION:
Metro Manila

TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT:
Amy Hubbard (casting) / The Selfish Giant

DOCUMENTARY:
Pussy Riot - A Punk Rock Prayer

BRITISH SHORT:
Z1

INTERNATIONAL INDEPENDENT FILM:
Blue is the Warmest Color

RAINDANCE AWARD:
The Machine

Thoughts:  My only real thought here is that 'Philomena' walked away with nothing, even in Actress, and that surprises me a lot.  Maybe it's fading before our eyes.  Other than that, I want to see 'Metro Manila' now!

Washington has winners already...


Well that was fast.  They just released their nominees on Saturday.  Why do that if you're going to release your winners two days later?  Makes little sense to me.  Just release them all on the same day.  Alas, here we go:


Cinematography: Gravity
Documentary: Blackfish
Original Screenplay: Her
Score: 12 Years a Slave
Editing: Gravity
Foreign Language Film: The Broken Circle Breakdown
Art Direction: The Great Gatsby
Animated Feature: Frozen
Best Portrait of Washington: Lee Daniels' The Butler
Young Performance: Tye Sheridan 
Supporting Actor: Jared Leto
Actress: Cate Blanchett
Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave
Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong'o
Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor
Acting Ensemble: 12 Years a Slave
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Picture: 12 Years a Slave


Thoughts:  Here's another instance where Cuaron wins despite a '12 Years a Slave' sweep, and Leto is holding onto his lead.  This is 'Blackfish's first win, and I love the mention for Tye Sheridan, although I'm surprised that he beat out Adele.  

New York (Online) & Boston Society of Film Critics' Awards...


So, yesterday was interesting.  We had like four awards going off at the same time.  Of course, the one most everyone was focused on was the LAFCA, and boy did they cement some real ponies in this race (so...'Her' is a real thing now) but at the same time we have the BIFA Awards being dolled out (more on that later) and the online faction of New York (not to be confused with the NYFCC) as well as Boston's non-online Film Critics (because we already got their online awards Saturday).  These were also full of some goodies (GANDOLFINI), so let's just get right into it.

We'll start with New York:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

LAFCA Winners


These are announcing now, and I'm going to try and live blog them...but I have a feeling that that may not work out (it's Sunday and these take forever).  But, I'll do what I can.  Whatever I miss today will get updated tomorrow.

PRODUCTION DESIGN
HER

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Nyong'o / 12 YEARS A SLAVE

FILM EDITING
GRAVITY

CINEMATOGRAPHY
GRAVITY

SUPPORTING ACTOR


TIE: Franco (SPRING BREAKERS) & Leto (DALLAS BUYERS CLUB)

ANIMATED FILM
ERNEST & CELESTINE

SCORE (USE of MUSIC
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

DOCUMENTARY
STORIES WE TELL

LEAD ACTOR
Dern/NEBRASKA

FOREIGN FILM
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR

SCREENPLAY
BEFORE MIDNIGHT

DIRECTOR
Cuaron/GRAVITY

LEAD ACTRESS

TIE: Blanchett (BLUE JASMINE) & Exarchopoulos (BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR

BEST PICTURE

TIE: GRAVITY & HER

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Nominees...


Another day and another awards body has chosen their batch of nominees.  These are going to start coming fast and furious now, and it only is going to get clearer and clearer as to who is on top and who is straggling along.  These present some interesting fringe contenders, but we all know who is going to ultimately win here.  I mean, it's not like James Franco is actually going to WIN here (or is he?).

Let's take a gander.