Archive for January, 2013

January 29, 2013

One Angry Man: Primal Fear and the art of the Gunderson

This is the worst DVD cover of all time. And that tagline. Oy.


I spent another night on stand-by to be called in for my jury duty summons so I decided to keep going with my theme of jury movies. I took a quick look at the IMDb page for keyword: jury and saw 1996’s courtroom thriller Primal Fear. This is one of those movies that I’ve always been meaning to watch, but there’s never really a strong enough reason. These almost reasons include: “Oh I’ll need to watch that on my quest to see every Best Supporting Actor nominee.”; “How did Laura Linney get famous?”; “Primal Fear has a surprisingly high IMDb score. I should check that out.” But none of these are real get-up-and-go reasons to watch it. So I’m sorry, but To Kill A Mockingbird won’t be making my marathon of jury movies, but Primal Fear will.

Let me first state that I feel sorely robbed in that no juror even has a line let alone any real references to the jury besides a verdict. I do feel cheated as a potential future juror. However, I’m so glad I watched this movie. Primal Fear really takes the courtroom drama genre and elevates it to something more interesting. A regular drama. The courtroom elements are so tangential to my enjoyment of this movie that I can barely consider it one. Sure there are objections sustained and cross examinations, and like most courtroom dramas you kind of already know what the verdict is going to be before the case even starts. The big difference here is all of the characters actually learn something on the way.

Please don’t drop your opera glasses! I know this is shocking, but stay with me. Richard Gere’s ultra-slick lawyer is possibly the most boring character you’d ever want to meet. A little perspective actually makes this performance more fun because it’s the exact kind of role he later parodies in Chicago. I won’t give away what this character learns, because y’know, that’s the point of watching the movie, but he goes through a change I like to call “The Gunderson.”

IMPORTANT TANGENT: Whenever I have to justify that Police Chief Marge Gunderson is indeed the lead character of Fargo and no one else matters (so this is everyday to my mirror and zero times in real life), I use this very argument. For 98% of the plot of Fargo, it’s mostly a ridiculous and wonderful crime black comedy. However, in the last few moments of the movie, she is so disillusioned and confused by this act of malice. The change in her character is so tiny, like an hour hand moving over the course of a minute on a clock. But it’s there. And you can’t deny you don’t see it in Frances McDormand’s face. For further research, the same thing happens at the end of Compliance with Ann Dowd’s store manager.

So Richard Gere’s character goes through a “Gunderson” change (even though it is telegraphed a teensy bit more) and this is important. You know that Laura Linney goes through a change because she smokes at the end, the ’90s movie way of saying, “What a day! I need to think.”

Here’s just a few stray thoughts that I can’t connect in any way, but I don’t need to. This is my blog.

1) I hope I’m not on a jury like this one. I won’t get to do anything.

2) Edward Norton steals the show and in every way deserves this nomination.

3) I want Frances McDormand to be my therapist. Not her character Molly, the real life Frances McDormand.

4) The movie is highly rated on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, but it has a paltry 47 on Metacritic. I is confused.

Question: Is Primal Fear in the top 10 movies Richard Gere has made? Definitely. Alfre Woodard? Certainly. She needs better movies. Edward Norton? He’s only been in 27 movies and one of them was Death to Smoochy. So Yes. Laura Linney? Yup. Frances McDormand? Probably not. My that woman has such a great resumé!

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January 27, 2013

One Angry Man: Runaway Jury is more poignant now than ever. Seriously.

Tomorrow I have jury duty. It’s my first time ever being summoned and I decided I would celebrate as all sensible people do – with a movie marathon! Every jury eve I will watch an appropriate jury themed movie from my ample DVD collection in order to commemorate the occasion.

Obviously, first up was 2003’s treasure trove of artificial tension Runaway Jury. The only other time I had seen this classic was in theaters well before I put on my Tom Ford cinephile glasses. I remember liking it and thinking John Cusack was the man. I also remember thinking that it was clearly everyone’s favorite movie. Even with 10 years now since the movie’s release, I was certain it was well-regarded and well remembered.

I think I was wrong. It’s just kind of average. 61 on Metacritic. 7.0 on IMDb. 72% on Rotten Tomatoes. Huh. But everyone knows it right? It’s what everyone thinks of when you think of a jury. Oh, you think of 12 Angry Men? Get out of my house! How dare you pretend to be a film snob! You think of Dustin Hoffman’s ridiculous accent and you know it! But wait, it ranked 59th in the yearly box office for 2003. For a reference point, in 2012 that was the insta-classic This Means War. So maybe I completely overvalued the cultural caché of Runaway Jury.

But I completely didn’t. This movie is so uninterested with being anything other than “isn’t it funny what John Cusack can make a jury do?” that it’s actually fascinating. The best part of the whole movie is the jury selection. You get such great conversations as this beauty:

Evil Goon #3: “See how she turned away from that dog? She’s self conscious about her weight.”

Lex Luthor: “We love fat women, people. They’re tight-fisted. Unsympathetic. I want her on my jury.”

A screenplay for the ages. Of all of the incredibly important things to mention about this movie from a distracting Dylan McDermott cameo (then an unknown and uncredited!) to the actually incompetent lawyer abilities of Dustin Hoffman’s character I want to talk about two things more potent.

1) This is obviously exactly what my experience as a juror will be like. Except I’m the juror that gets kicked out for sneaking in flask of Jack Daniels. I’m glad this movie appropriately set my expectations of the justice system.

2) The trial surrounds a murder at the workplace using a semi automatic weapon. In light of recent events at Sandy Hook, the upstate New York fireman shooting, and now the ever-so-slightly-increased gun control laws, director Gary Fleder lets you know 100% what side of the issue he is on. It is eventually revealed that John Cusack and Rachel Weisz were involved in a school shooting that during the trial for it Gene Hackman defended the gun company and he won. There’s a lot of discussion about upholding the 2nd amendment as if it’s this catch-all for being anti-gun control, which is fine and all, but that’s really about it for the defense. But when it comes to the plaintiff, we’ve got backstories, children singing happy birthday, Dustin Hoffman’s friendly accent on a team of lawyers that just want to win fair and sqaure, and to boot the endorsement of our protagonists.

Full disclosure – I agree. There should be stricter gun control laws at least as it pertains to the recreational use and ownership of automatic and semi-automatic weapons. However, the movie portrays “the gun industry” with such villainy not seen since well… General Zod. With the discussion of gun control so heated and involved right now, this movie serves as a weird landmark in how it is impossible to separate the emotion out of this issue. Even in a movie that hinges on the assumption that all trials are rigged and the system is all an analyst’s game of chess that emotion and fairness in humanity will ultimately triumph.

Who remembered that Runaway Jury was as heavy and political as it was insipid and cheesy?

January 10, 2013

They’re heeeeere! It’s Oscar Nom Morning!

It’s film buff Christmas and we’ve got lots of presents. AND I MEAN LOTS! So here’s this year’s Oscar nominations with all of my clearly unique analysis.

Best Picture:

  • Amour
  • Argo
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Django Unchained
  • Les Miserables
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Zero Dark Thirty

9 Nominations and all of the usual suspect show up. I’m only marginally surprised to see Amour here. Their push really paid off for them. Clearly the support for The Master wasn’t where I thought it was which really hurt me. 9 great nominees. This is perhaps the least interesting category from a “what got nominated” stand point. Yesterday, this race was wide open. Today, it’s Lincoln way out front with 12 nominations.

Best Director:

  • Michael Haneke – Amour
  • Ang Lee – Life of Pi
  • David O. Russell – Silver Linings Playbook
  • Steven Spielberg – Lincoln
  • Benh Zeitlin – Beasts of the Southern Wild

Holy shit face, guys. No one saw this line up coming. Ben Affleck was a front runner to win and just like that he’s gone. History was also unmade when Kathryn Bigelow failed to be the first female with 2 nominations in the category. Instead David O. Russell made it in, which was an outside chance, but plausible. Then Michael Haneke made it in, which braver Oscar pundits than I were punditing, and then finally Benh Zeitlin ALSO made it for Beats of the Southern Wild. What this tells is that if you think Les Miserables or Zero Dark Thirty were leading some given category, it’s not anymore. It’s that other thing that’s right behind. If it’s Amour, Silver Linings Playbook, or Beasts of the Southern Wild on its coattails push that one up. Exhibit to come momentarily.

Best Actor:

  • Bradley Cooper – Silver Linings Playbook
  • Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
  • Hugh Jackman – Les Miserables
  • Joaquin Phoenix – The Master
  • Denzel Washington – Flight

I still don’t believe John Hawkes got snubbed. He’s the star of The Sessions and his co-star gets in just because it was a weak category? I’m happy for everyone else in the category and none of it is a real surprise. Hugh Jackman is the only person that could potentially beat Daniel Day-Lewis in the Lincoln behemoth and my guess is he won’t.

Best Actress:

  • Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty
  • Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook
  • Emanuelle Riva – Amour
  • Quvenzhane Wallis – Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Naomi Watts – The Impossible

This category deserves an essay. Clearly the support for Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild was strong enough across the board (see: Director) that Emanuelle Riva and Quvenzhane Wallis both handily made it. Naomi Watts also snuck in. I predicted the wrong frenchie but it was not secret that there was only enough room for one, sorry Marion. Predicting a winner is where things get interesting. Zero Dark Thirty only has 5 nominations which is far fewer than anyone was predicting, especially with a crucial snub in the Director category. Does this mean Jessica Chastain is weaker for the win or that this will be the only category to reward Zero Dark Thirty at all and therefore she wins it? Considering all Amour, Beasts, and Silver Linings all got a boost, this race just became a lot closer. The race is still between Chastain and Lawrence, and it’s closer than ever, but 3rd and 4th place are closer than ever.

Best Supporting Actor:

  • Alan Arkin – Argo
  • Robert DeNiro – Silver Linings Playbook
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master
  • Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln
  • Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained

I specifically asked for this not to happen, guys. This is the first time in history the category is 5 out of 5 previous winners. That means one of these 5 men will be a two-time Oscar winner in just 6 weeks. My guess? Philip Seymour Hoffman. We know that it’s not Alan Arkin since support for Argo is at an all-time low. Silver Linings and Lincoln are definitely the strongest movies here so maybe they will give DeNiro and Jones a bit of a push. This is a boring category and thank god it is.

Best Supporting Actress:

  • Amy Adams – The Master
  • Sally Field – Lincoln
  • Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables
  • Helen Hunt – The Sessions
  • Jacki Weaver – Silver Linings Playbook

So there’s nothing too out of the ordinary here except one major player. Jacki Weaver getting in for Silver Linings Playbook was largely unexpected. While she’s not going to win since Anne Hathaway has been locked to win since the trailer for Les Mis came out,  this nomination shows more support for Silver Linings Playbook than anyone ever thought. This is first time a movie has had an acting nomination in each category since Reds in 1981. Silver Linings Playbook now has a whopping 8 nominations that is really just the most it could have ever received so congratulations!

Best Adapted Screenplay:

  • Argo
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Silver Linings Playbook

This is the only category I got 5 out of 5 nominations correct in and that’s because it was boring. That’s fine. I needed this.

Best Original Screenplay:

  • Amour
  • Django Unchained
  • Flight
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • Zero Dark Thirty

I truly wonder who is going to win this category. Right now it’s a three-way race between Django, Moonrise Kingdom, and Zero Dark Thirty. This is the best place to honor any of the three of them. I predicted Zero Dark Thirty yesterday, but it isn’t showing as much support as it could have. I wonder if Moonrise Kingdom can fight it’s way to the top.

Cinematography:

  • Anna Karenina
  • Django Unchained
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Skyfall

There are no big surprises here, which again, is a relief this year. I can see Anna Karenina, Life of Pi, Lincoln or Skyfall winning this. Lincoln could very well just sweep the technicals, but that does seem so boring.

Costume Design:

  • Anna Karenina
  • Les Miserables
  • Lincoln
  • Mirror Mirror
  • Snow White and the Huntsman

Well it looks like the character Snow White is the big winner here. Anna Karenina has this in the bag with its flashy dresses, but this is actually a really lovely category with some really interesting work.

Film Editing:

  • Argo
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Zero Dark Thirty

People often forget about Film Editing when thinking of things you need to win Best Picture, but you need it. You really do. No film has won Best Picture without the Editing nod since Ordinary People in 1980. This now seems like the only place to honor Argo, but it’s so weak now. I still think it will be the winner, but I could see Lincoln or Zero Dark Thirty taking it too.

Makeup:

  • Hitchcock
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • Les Miserables

This is officially my least favorite category. How did Lincoln miss out on this? How?!?!?! I guess more is always more here. Except when it’s not and it’s Les Miserables. I guess Les Mis is my pick to win but as always with the Makeup category, it could be anyone. Anyone!

Original Score:

  • Anna Karenina
  • Argo
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Skyfall

It is fascinating that with so much support for Beasts of the Southern Wild it failed to get nominated here with a fantastic score. That was my predicted winner! Oh wait, this the most exclusive category ever. You really have to be in the club to get a nomination. Only Mychael Danna for Life of Pi is a new nominee. I really don’t know who will go on to win it. John Williams seems like his own punch line at this point, but he really is in the best position here. I guess that is where my money lies.

Original Song:

  • “Before My Time” – Chasing Ice
  • “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” – Ted
  • “Pi’s lullaby” – Life of Pi
  • “Skyfall” – Skyfall
  • “Suddenly” – Les Miserables

What you can’t see here is this means Scarlet Johansson might PERFORM at the Oscars. That’s right, she’s singing the song from the documentary Chasing Ice. This also makes host Seth MacFarlane a nominee with a song from Ted. The other three were widely predicted and Adele is still far out front. This is actually a really lovely surprising category.

Production Design:

  • Anna Karenina
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • Les Miserables
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln

There is nothing surprising here.  Anna Karenina will walk away with this easily.

Sound Editing:

  • Argo
  • Django Unchained
  • Life of Pi
  • Skyfall
  • Zero Dark Thirty

This is one of the most prestige heavy Sound Editing categories ever. Usually the sound categories are stacked with summer blockbusters, but not this year. With the exception of Skyfall, everything else is in the hunt for Best Picture. I guess Life of Pi is my predicted winner? Tough category. It’ll change as the year goes on.

Sound Mixing:

  • Argo
  • Les Miserables
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Skyfall

See above except add: Oh and musicals do well here.

Visual Effects:

  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • Life of Pi
  • Marvel’s The Avengers
  • Prometheus
  • Snow White and the Hunstman

While I didn’t do well in this category, I like it a lot. Prometheus has such gorgeous work I can’t help but be happy for it. Also, this is 2 nominations for Snow White and the Huntsman which means I’m going to have to watch that tonight! Life of Pi is the easy winner in this category. Hands down.

Animated Feature:

  • Brave
  • Frankenweenie
  • ParaNorman
  • The Pirates! Band of Misfits
  • Wreck-It Ralph

No one saw one of these coming! Everyone was predicting something tiny and artful for the fifth slot, but instead the underwhelming The Pirates! Band of Misfits sneaks in for the nomination. Well, I say underwhelming, but it’s the only one I haven’t seen. None of these movies have any other nominations so there aren’t any context clues here. I’m standing by my prediction for Wreck-It Ralph. There’s no consensus so maybe I’ll be predicting with my heart by the end of the race.

Documentary Feature:

  • 5 Broken Cameras
  • The Gatekeepers
  • How to Survive a Plague
  • The Invisible War
  • Searching for Sugar Man

I’ve actually seen 2 of these already this year thanks to Netflix! I have no idea what’s going to win. The Gatekeepers?

Foreign Language:

  • Amour
  • Kon-Tiki
  • No
  • A Royal Affair
  • War Witch

Suck it Intouchables. I mean, it looks like Amour is going to run away with this.

Animated Short:

  • Adam and Dog
  • Fresh Guacamole
  • Head Over Heels
  • Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”
  • Paperman

HAHAHA THE SIMPSONS! THATS HILARIOUS. But really it is. I think everyone thinks that Paperman is the strongest here, but it’s also the only one anyone has seen.

Documentary Short:

  • Inocente
  • Kings Point
  • Mondays at Racine
  • Open Heart
  • Redemption

Live-Action Short Film:

  • Asad
  • Buzkashi Boys
  • Curfew
  • Death of a Shadow
  • Henry

 

I guess this is a year of a lot of surprises. My predictions were god awful. I only got 76/107 in the predicted categories. Oy vey. The big take away points are the following:

  • Lincoln is leading with 12, Life of Pi is close behind with 11, then Les Mis and Silver Linings Playbook with 8. 
  • Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck and their films are the big losers today.
  • The big campaign push for Amour paid off times a million.
  • The Dark Knight Rises was completely shut out, so get ready to hear from Christopher Nolan fans until the end of time. So was The Hunger Games, Magic Mike, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,  Looper, and Cloud Atlas. A lot of people thought Cloud Atlas was going to sweep the techs, but that just didn’t happen.
  • Django Unchained cut the difference and got about half the nominations it could have, but better than an also possible shut out.

I’ve still got 14 movies to see to be a completist across the feature films so there’s still some work to do. Tonight’s project? Snow White and the Huntsman! Happy Oscars!

January 9, 2013

Pop-Culture Takeover: Leon Panetta

The new face of pop culture.

Have you ever noticed how sometimes in pop culture it seems like the same obscure reference just keeps coming up again and again for no reason at all? My conspiracy/paranoia reached an all time high when last year there was an egregiously frequent mention of money bag paint splatter. I didn’t even know it was a thing until it was in the movie 30 Minutes or Less and on episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. What?

For this installment of all of my pop culture is trying to kill me, I was introduced to a man named Leon Panetta. His name was brought to my attention by my favorite podcaster Julie Klausner on How Was Your Week. In her episode titled “Leon Pancetta” (yes you do see what she did there!) she mentioned James Gandolfini playing the real life Leon Panetta in the movie Zero Dark Thirty which I have not yet seen. Apparently, he says some things and I couldn’t care less. You can count this as one mention or two, but either way, it’s just the beginning.

Except I do care. Because then I was watching the devastating documentary The Invisible War about rape in the military and just before the credits, up pops Mr. Panetta to briefly denounce rape. I was taken aback. Shocked even. I think I said out loud, “I know him!” He seems like a good person to bring into that documentary, you know, being the CIA Director and all, but his only contribution was one sentence that didn’t really add anything to the debate except to make Mr. Panetta all the more ubiquitous.

I was about to contact some people and make some phone calls after seeing this, but decided it was just a coincidence. He’s in two things about politics. Big whoop. So as we speak I’m watching an episode of The Mindy Project. Mindy thinks her apartment is being robbed, but it turns out it’s just her little brother Rishi. Silly Mindy. She asks how he got in. He responds, “Your landlord let me in. You know a well spoken Indian gets in anywhere he wants. I once got myself on the field at a Redskins game and I met Leon Panetta.” He just casually drops it as if everyone knows who Leon Panetta is, which of course by this point we all do! And he says it as if it’s cool. Because suddenly it is! And why a Redskins game? RISHI IS FROM BOSTON!!!!!

It’s a conspiracy. I’m on to you Leon Panetta. Except, since you were the Director of the CIA and now you’re the Secretary of Defense, it’s probably safe to say you were on to me long ago. Well played, sir.

January 9, 2013

Final Predictions – 2012 Oscar Nominations

So it all comes down to this. If you’ve made it this deep down into the internet, you already know what’s going on. Oscar nominations. And all of my friends know that I’m crazy enough to predict the Oscars every year, usually with horrible accuracy. But here goes, my on the record predictions with a few explanations for why. Also, my first stab at predicted winners. Yikes.

Picture:
1. Lincoln
2. Argo
3. Les Miserables
4. Zero Dark Thirty
5. Life of Pi
6. Silver Linings Playbook
7. The Master
8. Django Unchained
9. Beasts of the Southern Wild
10. Skyfall
Predicted Winner: Lincoln

I guess I’ll predict 9 best picture nominees again. Why not? The top 6 are definitely the top 6. I think The Master has enough number one votes a la The Tree of Life last year to secure it a nomination here. Ditto Django Unchained and Beasts of the Southern Wild. Skyfall would be surprising, but with that PGA nomination and that elusive Brit vote, it could just do the trick.

I’m predicting Lincoln as the winner for a number of reasons. 1) It should easily have the most nominations tomorrow morning. If something passes it, take Lincoln down a notch. 2) It feels like the film most people will be watching 10 years from now. I’m stealing this line from Kris Tapley at InContention but it does feel like the kind of movie that will be shown in high schools on slow weeks after the AP exams. 3) Everything else but Argo has a big handicap against it. Only time will tell, but I’d be happy with this winner.

Director:
• Ben Affleck
• Kathryn Bigelow
• Tom Hooper
• Ang Lee
• Steven Spielberg
Predicted Winner: Steven Spielberg

This is a tougher category. I’m leaving out David O. Russell cause Silver Linings Playbook has faded just a bit. Leaving off Tarantino was a bit harder. However, after I drafted all of my technical nominations and realized I was giving Les Miserables everything and Django Unchained nothing, I went with Hooper. Sorry buddy. To predict a winner here is much more difficult. If this lineup stands, there will be 4 previous winners and an actor turned director. Well, if I thought Argo could win, I’d definitely put Ben Affleck right up there. But Argo just doesn’t feel like a winner to me. So I’m sticking with Spielberg. Plus, I think he would be a fine director to have 3 wins under his belt, rather than giving 2 to Tom Hooper.

Actor:
• Bradley Cooper
• Daniel Day-Lewis
• John Hawkes
• Hugh Jackman
• Joaquin Phoenix
Predicted Winner: Daniel Day-Lewis

I did a big no-no here. I snubbed Denzel. Maybe it’s just because I didn’t like that movie a lot. But when I thought about leaving off the other 5, I just couldn’t do it. How can Helen Hunt get in for The Sessions but with John Hawkes? It makes no sense. People are bending over backwards to talk about how great Joaquin Phoenix is. People are calling Hugh Jackman’s Valijean the performance of a lifetime. Bradley Cooper is astonishing, but I guess is the only one I could see slipping. But I can’t. And Daniel Day-Lewis is completely winning this, right?

Actress:
• Jessica Chastain
• Marion Cotillard
• Jennifer Lawrence
• Naomi Watts
• Rachel Weisz
Predicted Winner: Jessica Chastain

This category is a clusterfuck if I’ve ever seen one. Chastain and Lawrence are locked and I’m picking Chastain for the win if only because she’s the lead lead in her film and not the co-lead. But what about those other three slots? The next one I put on my list was Marion Cotillard. She seems in the club, as it were, and I think people will enjoy nominating her. Naomi Watts I put on next because she seems like the representative for The Impossible. The two of them have also picked up all the right precursors along the way. For that 5th slot I had no idea what to do? Go super old? Go super young? Instead, I listened to a non-pundit. When I was talking to a friend who couldn’t tell Emanuelle Riva from J. Michael Riva, he mentioned, “Ugh. I don’t want to see The Deep Blue Sea just because Rachel Weisz is going to be nominated for an oscar for it.” Since when was The Deep Blue Sea some magical Oscar contender? But maybe it is. I’m listening.

Supporting Actor:
• Alan Arkin
• Robert DeNiro
• Leonardo DiCaprio
• Philip Seymour Hoffman
• Tommy Lee Jones
Predicted Winner: Leonardo DiCaprio

If Javier Bardem or Christoph Waltz gets in instead I’ll lost my fucking shit. That would make it the first time in Oscar history an entire line-up consists of all previous winners. So, I’m picking Leo, a non-winner, to squeeze by for a nomination and then run away with it all for the win.

Supporting Actress:
• Amy Adams
• Sally Field
• Anne Hathaway
• Helen Hunt
• Nicole Kidman
Predicted Winner: Anne Hathaway

I obviously have a screw loose with my predicted support for The Master so Amy Adams is in. Field, Hathaway, and Hunt are as locked up as you can get. And I just think the name Nicole Kidman will get her into the finals. I’m kind of hoping there’s a big upset and Ann Dowd gets in over someone like Sally Field. It will feel so gratifying.

Adapted Screenplay:
• Argo
• Beasts of the Southern Wild
• Life of Pi
• Lincoln
• Silver Linings Playbook
Predicted Winner: Lincoln

This is the easiest category to make safe predictions. I just checked off the best picture hopefuls and put it aside. And people are praising Tony Kushner as if they’ve been fans of his since he was a fetus. It’s his to lose.

Original Screenplay:
• Amour
• Django Unchained
• The Master
• Moonrise Kingdom
• Zero Dark Thirty
Predicted Winner: Zero Dark Thirty

This has a few more permutations, but not many. It seems like Django Unchained, The Master, Moonrise Kingdom, and Zero Dark Thirty are all in. So what fills that 5th spot? I’m going with Amour if only because the Original Screenplay category is a little more foreign friendly than most.

Cinematography:
• Life of Pi
• Lincoln
• The Master
• Skyfall
• Zero Dark Thirty
Predicted Winner: Skyfall

I don’t really think Anna Karenina will get snubbed. I just couldn’t pick another to get snubbed. Oh, The Master you say? Well one of the big talking points about The Master is the cinematography and being projected in 70mm and all of this stuff. That’s what gets you a nomination… right?

Costume Design:
• Anna Karenina
• Les Miserables
• Lincoln
• Mirror Mirror
• A Royal Affair
Predicted winner: Anna Karenina

Do the costumes in Django look a little too… anachronistic for this award?

Film Editing:
• Argo
• Life of Pi
• Lincoln
• Skyfall
• Zero Dark Thirty
Predicted Winner: Argo

Makeup:
• Les Miserables
• Lincoln
• Looper
Predicted Winner: Lincoln

Original Score:
• Anna Karenina
• Argo
• Beasts of the Southern Wild
• Lincoln
• The Master
Predicted Winner: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Original Song:
• “Learn Me Right” – Brave
• “Pi’s Lullaby” – Life of Pi
• “Skyfall” – Skyfall
• “Suddenly” – Les Miserables
• “Who Did That To You” – Django Unchained
Predicted Winner: Skyfall

Production Design:
• Anna Karenina
• Les Miserables
• Life of Pi
• Lincoln
• Skyfall
Predicted Winner: Anna Karenina

Sound Editing:
• The Avengers
• The Dark Knight Rises
• Flight
• Life of Pi
• Skyfall
Predicted Winner: Skyfall

Sound Mixing:
• The Avengers
• The Dark Knight Rises
• Les Miserables
• Life of Pi
• Skyfall
Predicted Winner: Les Miserables

Visual Effects:
• The Avengers
• The Dark Knight Rises
• The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
• Life of Pi
• Prometheus
Predicted Winner: Life of Pi

Animated Feature:
• Brave
• Frankenweenie
• ParaNorman
• The Rabbi’s Cat
• Wreck-It Ralph
Predicted Winner: Wreck-It Ralph

Documentary:
• The Gatekeepers
• How to Survive a Plague
• Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God
• Searching for Sugar Man
• This is Not a Film
Predicted Winner: The Gatekeepers

Foreign Language:
• Amour
• The Intouchables
• Kon-Tiki
• No
• A Royal Affair
Predicted Winner: Amour

So that’s 12 nominations for Lincoln, 10 for Life of Pi, and 9 for Les Miserables. That all makes sense. What I didn’t realize as I was making these nominations was how hard I was betting on The Master. I have it down for 7 nominations with only 6 each for Argo and Zero Dark Thirty. And I’m betting against Django Unchained with only 4 nominations, if it gets best picture (which I think it will). Oh brother. Let’s see how wrong I am tomorrow.

Lincoln – 12
Life of Pi – 10
Les Miserables – 9
The Master – 7
Skyfall – 7
Argo – 6
Zero Dark Thirty – 6
Silver Linings Playbook – 5
Django Unchained – 4
Anna Karenina – 3
The Avengers – 3
Beasts of the Southern Wild – 3
The Dark Knight Rises – 3
Brave – 2
The Sessions – 2
Amour – 1
The Deep Blue Sea – 1
Flight – 1
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – 1
The Impossible – 1
Looper – 1
Mirror Mirror – 1
Moonrise Kingdom – 1
The Paperboy – 1
Prometheus – 1
A Royal Affair – 1
Rust and Bone – 1

January 2, 2013

Short Stack – 1932

I try this every so often, but it’s the new year so I’m going to try newer. As a self-proclaimed Oscars fanatic, I’m always interested in how as when you look further back in time, the categories change, get eliminated, get revamped, or just get renamed, like Best Production Design this year. But one element of the Oscars that gets pretty well overlooked in Oscar obsessives obsessing is the shorts categories. The documentary short category has been around since 1941 and the live-action short and documentary short have been around since 1932! And to be perfectly honest, this was at a time when short films were actually played in movie theaters, making it a more relevant prize and not the bathroom break we know it as today. And here’s the contradiction to end all contradictions. Yes the short films are seen as just excuses to ruin an Oscar pundits guessing records and besides that worthless, but today our society is unknowingly addicted to the short film medium. It’s called YouTube. Charlie Bit My Finger is actually just a very funny yet ineloquent documentary short. So join me as I slowly take a look at all of the Oscar nominated short films available on YouTube. Sit back and relax cause this could take a while.

Flowers and Trees

Flowers and Trees is supposedly the first ever full color cartoon (I guess there were two-color cartoons prior to 1932). Fortunately, Disney didn’t waste the novelty on a lackluster cartoon. Flowers and Trees has the goods. It’s a little cleverer than it needs to be and lives up to the Silly Symphony franchise name by including several snippets of famous orchestral pieces from Handel’s Wedding March to Rossini’s William Tell Overture. The trees and flowers are beautifully rendered with real personality. It’s cartoons like this that really make me appreciate the beauty of the art.

Mickey’s Orphans

As part of the already well-established Mickey Mouse series, this is Disney’s first animated short to be about Christmas. And although I’m a couple of weeks too late, when December 2013 rolls around and people ask for some recommendations, I think I’ll pass along Mickey’s Orphans. 7 minutes seems to be the standard length of time for an animated short this year and that’s just long enough for this little gem. The premise is simple. Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto are peacefully enjoying a warm and toasty Christmas as Minnie plinks out Silent Night on the organ. Then a poor person (cat?) out in the cold rings their doorbell, drops off a basket, and vanishes into the night. When Mickey and Minnie open the basket, it turns out there are precious orphaned kittens. Well, they start off precious, but they mysteriously multiply as the film goes on and get more naughty by the second! That’s it. If this were a lesser Christmas movie, Mickey would get upset with them, concoct one or several elaborate plans to get them out, and he would succeed to comic effect. Instead, Mickey and Minnie just seem to adore having these kittens demolish their house. And it is a lot of fun. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the hilarity gets kicked up a notch and Mickey dressed as Santa brings some of the least appropriate presents.

It’s Got Me Again

Of the three cartoons nominated for Animated Short in 1932, this is the only non-Disney one and it’s from the other powerhouse, Warner Bros. However, if you only watched it casually, you would be forgiven for thinking it was a Disney property. Not because there are mysterious intangible qualities passed down from the studio system that surely only I, your master of short film ceremonies, can deduce. Nay. The main character of this flick is a black mouse with big ears that looks suspiciously like Mickey Mouse. But we’ll call him Steve. Steve realizes no one’s home and it invites all of his friends out to play music and have a grand old time, which I’m pretty sure is the premise of all Merrie Melodies cartoons. Their party is quickly ruined by my favorite character the cat. It fails short of having the joyous manic energy of the others, but it still gives you enough to make it through the seven minutes.

My pick for the category: Mickey’s Orphans

The only other short nominated that year that can be found on YouTube was the winner of the live-action short. It’s a Laurel & Hardy film called The Music Box. While I had never seen a Laurel & Hardy sketch before, I very easily figured out their shtick. The premise is absurdly simple. Laurel & Hardy become deliverymen and have to deliver a player piano to a house at the top of the hill. Hilarity ensues. Every slapstick joke you’ve ever seen can probably trace its way back to The Music Box. Things fall, things explode, people fall, but sadly and probably due to budget, no one explodes. I found myself laughing despite how clearly dated this piece is. The pacing is a certainly a little too slow to compete with modern slapstick standards, but the sincerity of the sketch and the Sisyphean hijinks are more than enough to keep you engaged.

Already only four short films in, I’m realizing that there is a lot of franchising and branding going on. With any luck, we’ll all become Merrie Melodies experts in just a few short weeks.

January 1, 2013

My Most Anticipated Movies of 2013!

A year ago, I wrote my Top 10 most anticipated of 2012 and… well… it actually turned out well. Besides my ill-fated hopes for This Means War to be charming the other 6 movies all turned out to be winners. If you can do math, 6 + 1 does not equal 10. This is because three of the flicks on my list were pushed back to 2013! And what a difference a year makes! This past year I started more than ever to dive down deeper into the film vaults and catch up on classics, modern directors, documentaries, and everything in between. This past year all of the so-called “Oscar-bait” turned out to be top-notch. I’m hoping for a few more interesting failures next year, but these are the movies I don’t care if they fail or succeed – I’ll be the first in line.

 

10. Star Trek Into Darkness

Release Date: May 17th

 

Full disclosure – I am not a trekkie. I’ve never seen the TV Show or any of the original movies. I couldn’t tell you which character says “Beam me up, Scotty!” and for that matter I don’t really know who Scotty is. That all being said, I loved the re-boot, re-imagining or re-whatever. Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the current godfathers of the geek genre, crafted an origin story simple enough so that new-comers to the universe (me) could get their feet wet and finally understand where “Live Long and Prosper” comes from, but they also satisfied many hard-core nerds by giving a new story that if you wanted to split hairs could still be considered canonical! And now there’s a sequel with Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch. I’ll be there at midnight.

 

9. The World’s End

Release Date: October 25th

 

It seems like 2013 is the year of the apocalypse comedy now that we all understand the world isn’t actually ending. If Orci and Kurtzman are the godfathers of the geek universe, Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost are the crazy uncles. Edgar Wright has a perfect batting average in my mind and if I have to see one apocalypse comedy, I would want it to be his. It is sure to be smart, funny, stupid, and very British. Also, my secret girlfriend Rosamund Pike is involved. I’ve sat through some pretty terrible movies just to look at her (I’ve since learned my lesson and whenever I need a fix I just watch An Education).  Also, this comes out right around Halloween and with any luck it should be the perfect horror/thriller/comedy I’ll be craving.

 

8. August: Osage County

Release Date: Let’s be real… Oscar Season although a few weeks before Labor Day would be much more appropriate.

 

If I had to make a top 10 plays I was most anticipating to ever see about 3 years ago, this would have made the list. So my friend and I drove 7 hours one Saturday to Los Angeles, saw the play, spent the night out with a friend, and then drove 7 hours home the next morning. It wasn’t the most sensible idea, but I did get to see this fantastic play. It’s kind of everything you want in a play-that’s-about-to-be-turned-into-a-movie. There’s crazy pants acting, family problems, alcoholism, fights, and it’s one of those “the city of Baltimore is a character” things too. In this case, it’s their gigantic country house that seems to contain all of the family’s secrets in its walls. I’m so excited to see what John Wells does with this, but mostly and obviously, I’m excited for the Streep. And she’s backed up by Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Sam Shepard, Julia Roberts, Cinnamon Bandersnatch, Little Miss Sunshine, and Dylan McDermott Dermot Mulroney. All-stars.

 

7. Knight of Cups

Release Date: ???

 
Terrence Malick is the man. And to express my excitement for his 2013 release that isn’t To The Wonder (which I haven’t seen but I will also be in line for), let me just make a quick list of the little we know about this movie from the IMDb page. A Man, tempations, celebrity, excess, tarot cards. Okay. I’m in. Oh and it has Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Antonio Banderas, The Killing’s bonkers Joel Kinnaman, the magnificent Holly Hunter, his broodiness Wes Bentley, the werewolf from True Blood Joe Manganiello, and the dirty sounding Imogen Poots (hee hee!) and that’s all I need.

 

6. Pacific Rim

Release Date: July 12th

 

Oh boy. Now I haven’t seen a great alien invasion movie in a very long time (I still haven’t seen Attack the Block. Don’t kill me!). But when you’ve got a director has crazy and dark as Guillermo Del Toro at the helm, who knows what will happen?!? Is it going to be an homage to B-movies? Maybe! What about an earnest action shoot-em-up? Who knows?!? All I know is that if the Comic Con people are this excited, I should be too. Guillermo Del Toro has always deserved to make a big budget movie (not a fake big budget movie like Hellboy) so I can’t wait to see what wondrous graphics and designs he’ll employ.

5. I’m So Excited (Los Amantes Pasajeros)

Release Date: March 8th(Spain)/November 22nd (US)

 

The title says it all. The trailer says it even more. If you don’t love Almodovar, get out of my blog (No please, come back!). I don’t care what it’s about. I don’t care who is in it. I’ll just watch the trailer again.

 

4. The Great Gatsby

Release Date: May 10th

 

For whatever silly reason, but most likely a need to be unique, I didn’t include Baz Luhrmann’s new production design-gasm in my most anticipated of 2012 list. But I was just being coy. Of course I’m excited. We are all excited. I have a soft spot for Isla Fisher. Carey Mulligan is my one true love. But the real reason I have to include it on my list is the breaking news that Jay-Z could be doing the score. As tempting as it is to write some bull shit about contemporary rap and its parallels to the modernity of the 1920s and something or other about the lost generation, I just couldn’t care less. I’m so confused and intrigued that I’m creating a portmanteau. I’m totally confrigued about this development. Oscar Winner Jay-Z. You heard it here first.

 

 

3. Twelve Years a Slave

Release Date: Let’s guess… Venice then an October Oscar push

 

I’ll be honest, I had completely forgotten about this future gem of a film. The premise is a man in the 1800s gets kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South. Sounds exciting. The cast however is so ridiculously overwhelming that I can’t take it. My idol Brad Pitt, my penis double Michael Fassbender, Eggs Benedict, the whispery lispery Sarah Paulson, the never-not-fantastic-except-in-Cosmopolis Paul Giamatti, the actually never-not-fantastic Garrett Dillahunt, pint-sized newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis and her fake father Dwight Henry, my new discovery Scoot McNairy, and Alfre Woodard who I first discovered as a crazy neighbor hiding her murderous son in the basement in Desperate Housewives. Wow. I just can’t wait to see what Steve McQueen does next. He’s easily my favorite new voice in cinema.

 

 

2. Gravity

Release Date: October 18th

 

If there’s one thing that really gets me excited, it’s contained space movies. So this 2-person “stranded in space” drama/thriller with His Clooneyness and Sandy B. is right up my alley. Who isn’t always looking for excellent Sci-Fi (it’s sci-fi if it takes place in space, right?). What’s more is that it’s directed by the superb Alfonso Cuarón who always does something interesting. There are so many unknowns about this project, but we do know it should be a sight to behold. And to all of those Bullock haters, she’s a lot better of an actress than we say she is. My Bullock Rule is that whenever she looks like Sandra Bullock, she’s an American treasure. Whenever they try and ugly her up or throw a wig on her or whatever, she’s an embarrassment (or at least not up to her full potential). I think she will look normal and I think she will be fantastic.

 

 

1. World War Z

Release Date: June 21st

 

If my number one favorite working actor Brad Pitt is saving lives both on set and on screen, absolutely count me in. And it’s directed by the ever-curious Marc Forster, who I think has an incredibly fun career, I’m excited. While the whole zombie apocalypse thing has seemingly run its course, I always think there’s room for new and exciting genre films. Add the fact that the book has long been on the eternal reading list and The Killing’s astonishing Mireille Enos also stars and I’m super excited. I used to think this would just be a small sleeper hit thing, but it’s getting the big tent pole push. I hope it brings the goods