Monday, October 31, 2011

British Independent Film Award Nominations

Oscar hopefuls such as Shame, Tyrannosaur, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and We Need to Talk About Kevin lead the way with nods. Here is the full list:


Ben Wheatley – KILL LIST
Steve McQueen – SHAME
Paddy Considine – TYRANNOSAUR

Ralph Fiennes – CORIOLANUS
John Michael McDonagh – THE GUARD
Richard Ayoade – SUBMARINE
Paddy Considine – TYRANNOSAUR

John Michael McDonagh – THE GUARD
Ben Wheatley, Amy Jump – KILL LIST
Abi Morgan, Steve McQueen – SHAME
Richard Ayoade – SUBMARINE
Lynne Ramsay, Rory Kinnear – WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN

Rebecca Hall – THE AWAKENING
Mia Wasikowska – JANE EYRE
MyAnna Buring – KILL LIST
Olivia Colman – TYRANNOSAUR

Brendan Gleeson – THE GUARD
Neil Maskell – KILL LIST
Michael Fassbender – SHAME
Peter Mullan – TYRANNOSAUR

Felicity Jones – ALBATROSS
Vanessa Redgrave – CORIOLANUS
Carey Mulligan – SHAME
Sally Hawkins – SUBMARINE

Michael Smiley – KILL LIST
Benedict Cumberbatch – TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY
Eddie Marsan – TYRANNOSAUR

Jessica Brown Findlay – ALBATROSS
Craig Roberts – SUBMARINE
Yasmin Paige – SUBMARINE
Tom Cullen – WEEKEND


Chris King, Gregers Sall – Editing – SENNA
Sean Bobbitt – Cinematography – SHAME
Joe Walker – Editing – SHAME
Maria Djurkovic – Production Design – TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY
Seamus McGarvey – Cinematography – WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN





State of the Race: October Predictions - Best Picture

My Predictions
The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
War Horse
Young Adult

Other Contenders - The Ides of March, Hugo, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, J. Edgar, The Tree of Life, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, We Bought a Zoo, The Iron Lady, My Week With Marilyn, Martha Marcy May Marlene, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Carnage, A Dangerous Method

Commentary - So the Academy announced recently that not only would we not know how many films are nominated before hand, but they will also not leave blank squares upon presentation, or present them in alphabetical order. They are playing a game with us, and I kind of like it. That being said, I am still hestitating on picking a full slate, because I honestly don't think that this year it will happen. So currently I am picking eight, with at least five comfortable picks (as comfortable as one can get without seeing a film). I still think that War Horse and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close should remain at the top until we get word otherwise due to their subject matter and pedigree. If neither of them are good, this could throw this race for a loop (Kind of like Nine back in 2009 did). The Artist however, definitely deserves some major attention for a potential win, as it has been a critical darling, has the whole blogosphere promoting it, and could prove to be an indie crowd pleaser. I still wonder though whether the Academy will embrace a silent movie, and it is that x-factor which could derail the movie's chances. Some festival favorites are in the mix, most notably The Descendants, which has continued to maintain its buzz over the last month. Crowd Pleasers must be included, as the Academy has done so the last two years, and films like Moneyball and The Help seem to be hits that will cross over with the Academy. Many will scoff at the inclusion of Midnight in Paris, but from what I've heard, many Academy members are still gushing over Woody Allen's latest, and his most successful film in years may catapult him back into the big race. Finally I am going out on a limb as I will continue to push the envelope for Young Adult. Reitman has had two back to back hits that the Academy has nominated for Best Picture, Theron and Oswalt are getting buzz for their performances, and let's face it, he has yet to make a bad movie. Some are still leaving this one on the outside looking in, and maybe they are smarter than I am, but I think that it could be a dark horse.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

New Poll in Sidebar

Check out the new Oscar poll in the sidebar. This week, you get to sound off on Best Supporting Actor. Enjoy! Tomorrow I will post by October Predictions for Best Picture.

Can Puss in Boots Get Nominated for Best Animated Feature?

The news came in not too long ago that Puss in Boots won the box office this weekend. Its $34 million total however wasn't fantastic, although the World Series, Halloween, and a snowstorm probably had an intense effect on its total. This makes me think that it will do a lot better next week, with its only competition coming from Tower Heist and the new Harold and Kumar, both of which are going for completely different target audiences, so probably won't compete too much against each other. So if Puss in Boots rebounds and has legs and does well over the next couple of weeks, will the Academy respond?

Normally I would say no, I mean this really is a spin off of a four-film series, and usually, there is a nice list of well-reviewed animated films that would keep it out of the race. But this year, the only films that have so far made a splash are Rango, Winnie the Pooh, and Kung Fu Panda 2, but none of them were the best films of the year, and none of them have the type of buzz that films like Toy Story 3, How to Train Your Dragon, Up, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wall-E, and others have had in recent years. Plus, while not a critical darling by any means, Puss in Boots has gotten respectable numbers including an 81 at Rotten Tomatoes (86 with Top Critics), 65 on Metacritic, and 77 from the BFCA. Once again, this would normally not be enough for this category, but in this year, I think that it's mild success now makes it at least a contender for a nomination, and if there are enough films for four or five films (under the new system), then I say it has a very good shot of being in the race for the prize. As the 2011-2012 season motto goes: We'll have to wait and see.

LAFCA Announces Date and Doris Day to Receive Lifetime Achievement

On Sunday December 11, 2011, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association will vote and announce its annual winners. Furthermore, Doris Day, a legendary 50's and 60's icon, will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. Her film credits include: Pillow Talk,  Billy Rose's Jumbo, The Tunnel of Love, With Six You Get Eggroll, Send Me No Flowers, Lover Come Back, That Touch of Mink, and other films. She is an unlikely, but nice choice for the LAFCA. In a month we will start to see the precursors come flying at us, and I cannot wait!

Top 100 Films of the Last 50 Years (1960-2010): Part XI

7. Schindler's List (1993) - Steven Spielberg was known for his sci-fi fantasy classics like E.T., Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Jurassic Park. Or for his highflying action-adventures, like the Indiana Jones series. But in 1993, Steven Spielberg won his first Academy Award. Not for a sci-fi film (let's face it the Academy members are a bunch of genre-hating snobs), but instead they rewarded him for the 1993 Holocaust classic. This time though, the Academy did get it right, as Schindler's List remains to date Spielberg's best film, and one of the greatest films of all time. Reaching deep into his own Jewish heritage, Spielberg brings a depth of emotion often not seen on film, along with a historical eye that manages to present the story without too much schmatlz, or without being dry and boring as hell. Instead, we get a passion project, a film that is as sad and emotional as it is entertaining and enthralling. With stunning performances, beautiful technical elements, and a heart-wrenching story of bravery in a time of horror and genocide, Schindler's List is the kind of film that when you are finished watching it, you are simply speechless, because everything that needs to be said was done so beautifully on the screen.

6. Raging Bull (1980) - How Ordinary People beat this film out for Best Picture in 1981 is still a mystery to me, as this Martin Scorsese boxing classic was his best film, a feat considering the career that he has had. The reason that Raging Bull rises so far above and beyond so many sports films is the fact that this is not a happy triumphant film about the heroics in the box ring ala Rocky. Instead, Raging Bull tells the story of an unlikable boxer, Jake La Motta, who goes on a self destructive rage that destroys his life as his boxing career takes off. Shot in black and white, Raging Bull is searing, at times hard to watch, and painful, yet if your willing to endure the pain on the screen, what you will find is an dark and brilliant masterpiece, featuring stunning direction by Martin Scorsese, and a career-defining role for Robert DeNiro. His performance is emotional, painful, and displays a depth that has become signature of his roles. By taking a different route from most sport's movies, Raging Bull distinguishes itself as a master-class and original film that truly is a modern American masterpiece, and the greatest boxing film of all time.

5. Pulp Fiction (1994) - This 1994 Tarantino classic topped my Top 100 Films of the Last 25 Years, and while it couldn't pull off the feat two times in a row, it still remains one of the best films, even with another 25 thrown in the mix. Tarantino films are not for everyone, and his back and forth story structure at times can be confusing and seemingly unneccessary. However, Tarantino does nothing half-ass, and every moment of his dense and brilliant screenplay has a purpose, everything is calculated right down to an art. And that is why Pulp Fiction has survived the test of time, it is absolutely perfect at being what it is: A pitch-perfect bow to B-movies of the past, a wildly entertaing and disturbing experience, and probably the best film without a clear and consise purpose. Tarantino builds out characters, plans a couple of storylines and lets his films flow, letting the audience take away from it what it chooses to. It doesn't hurt that Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Travolta, as well as many others are at the top of their game, and embrace all of Tarantino's brilliant craziness. Whether you love or hate this film, it is important that at least you respect Tarantino's brilliance, his obscenities, and his own personal love of film. Because Pulp Fiction reprents the best of what he has to offer, and it's something that no one should miss.

Friday, October 28, 2011

State of the Race: October Predictions - Best Director

My PredictionsMichel Hazanavicius "The Artist"
Alexander Payne "The Descendants"
Stephen Daldry "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"
Woody Allen "Midnight In Paris"
Steven Spielberg "War Horse"

Other Contenders - Terrence Malick "The Tree of Life", Bennett Miller "Moneyball", George Clooney "The Ides of March", Tomas Alfredson "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy", Tate Taylor "The Help", Clint Eastwood "J. Edgar", Martin Scorsese "Hugo", David Fincher "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo", Nicolas Winding Refn "Drive"

Commentary - As of now, I feel that there are four strong contenders that I easily put in the slots, and then tons of other worthy choices fighting for the last spot. Even though we have yet to see Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and War Horse, if they turn out to be good, then Daldry and Spielberg (Two Academy favorites), will most likely make the cut. Of the films we have seen, Alexander Payne and Michel Hazanavicius for The Descendants and The Artist look like the strongest so far. Then there is that elusive fifth spot. Terrence Malick will have a passionate base of supporters, but I don't think The Tree of Life is going to make as big of a splash as some pundits are predicting. Bennett Miller, David Fincher, George Clooeny and Tomas Alfredson all have buzzed projects that are either doing well at the box office, or will most likely do well, as well has have critical support. But all of them are going to need more buzz and some precursors to really put them in the game. Then you have the legends Scorsese and Eastwood. I don't think Hugo will get a lot beyond technical awards, but if J. Edgar is good (some people have seen it and I've heard raves and condemnation, so who knows?) then Eastwood, who is beloved by the Academy will most likely worm his way back into the race. That being said, I am going out on a limb and giving a nod to the great Woody Allen. Midnight in Paris is his most successful film in years, and buzz around Academy members has maintained itself, as they are all still talking about the film. He is still a shaky choice considering some may think a screenplay nod is enough reward, but maybe this is the comeback to the director's race he has been looking for.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

New Facebook Page!!

I just created The Awards Psychic Facebook Page!! Check there for updates and information regarding the blog. Thanks for your continued support, and go and like it!!

We Need to Talk About Kevin Wins Top Prize at London Film Fest

We Need to Talk About Kevin just got a nice honor and media boost with its big win at the London Film Festival. I really hope this film gains traction and that its cast, particularly Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller start to get some recognition in the precursors. Here is the full list of winners, and the new poster from In Contention at Hitfix:

Best Film - We Need to Talk About Kevin
Best British Newcomer - Candese Reid "Junkhearts"
Sutherland Award Winner - Pablo Giorgelli "Las Acacias"
Grierson Award for Best Documentary - Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life
BFI Fellowship - Ralph Fiennes and David Cronenberg

And the poster for the winning film:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

State of the Race: October Predictions - Best Actor

My Predictions
George Clooney "The Descendants"
Leonardo Dicaprio "J. Edgar"
Jean Dujardin "The Artist"
Gary Oldman "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"
Brad Pitt "Moneyball"

Other Contenders - Woody Harrelson "Rampart", Michael Fassbender "Shame", Ryan Gosling "Drive", Ryan Gosling "The Ides of March", Michael Shannon "Take Shelter", Jeremy Irvine "War Horse", Thomas Horn "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close", Joseph Gordon-Levitt "50/50", Matt Damon "We Bought a Zoo", Demian Bichir "A Better Life", Paul Giamatti "Win Win",  Christoph Waltz "Carnage"

Commentary - Some of the outside contenders have a decent shot, but face some roadblocks such as unlikable character (Harrelson), competing performances (Gosling), small film (Shannon), NC-17 and tough sell (Fassbender). Plus the five guys that I am predicting all have highly buzzed projects and/or well-liked by the Academy. One such individual is George Clooney who seems destined to get a nomination once every couple of years. This time, his character in The Descendants may be one of the most emotional, and as the lead that carries a Best Picture contender, I think it will be hard for the Academy to pass him up. There are some crowd pleasers here as well, especially with Dujardin and Pitt, who both give likeable, and well-crafted performances in buzzed films. I expect both of them to last the whole season. While I am still hearing conflicting reviews and early word regarding J. Edgar, I think I will keep Dicaprio in until I hear otherwise. Playing a real person in a Clint Eastwood film is right up the Academy's alley. Finally, I am crossing my fingers that the incredibly ignored, yet deserving Gary Oldman gets in for his spy thriller. The buzz seems to have died a little bit since the festivals, but I think it will come back strong once released in theaters, and Oldman's performance is sure to be the hot topic.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

State of the Race: October Predictions - Best Actress

My Predictions
Glenn Close "Albert Nobbs"
Viola Davis "The Help"
Meryl Streep "The Iron Lady"
Charlize Theron "Young Adult"
Michelle Williams "My Week With Marilyn"

Other Contenders - Elizabeth Olsen "Martha Marcy May Marlene", Rooney Mara "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo", Tilda Swinton "We Need to Talk About Kevin", Olivia Colman "Tyrannosaur", Michelle Yeoh "The Lady", Emily Watson "Oranges and Sunshine", Felicity Jones "Like Crazy", Jodie Foster "Carnage", Kristen Wiig "Bridesmaids"

Commentary - This category seems to be shaping up, with five clear frontrunners, and a couple of nice alternates, definitely not one of the deepest categories of the year. Currently I am not picking the three young performers, Olsen, Mara, or Jones, although Olsen and Mara are currently sixth and seventh, and I think that if Tattoo is exceptional, then Mara will get a slot. Currently however, I am playing it a little bit safe with all five picks either previous winners or nominees. Viola Davis at this point seems to be the only lock, and I truly believe that she has a legitimate shot at actually winning.  Glenn Close has gotten decent reviews for Albert Nobbs, but there are some major detractors, and the film as a whole is not living up to high standards. I think the novelty of the role and the power of Close could be enough this year, but I will not be surprised to see her fade as the season goes on. Michelle Williams has a similar problem of having a weak film behind a good performance, making her weak as well, although like Close, her name and performance may not need a great film to back it up. Charlize Theron has early positive buzz, and Reitman's last two got their leads in. It wil be an against-type performance for her, but she is well liked in the Academy, and could be the "comedy" representative. Finally, the elephant in the room is of course Meryl Streep. Soon we will know the fate of The Iron Lady, and the great Meryl along with it. I would love to see a performance from a smaller film get in like Tilda Swinton, Olivia Colman, or Michelle Yeoh, and with critical support, they could breakthrough.

Monday, October 24, 2011

State of the Race: October Predictions - Best Supporting Actor

My Predictions
Kenneth Branagh "My Week With Marilyn"
Albert Brooks "Drive"
Patton Oswalt "Young Adult"
Christopher Plummer "Beginners"
Max von Sydow "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"

Other Contenders - Philip Seymour Hoffman "Moneyball", Philip Seymour Hoffman "The Ides of March", George Clooney "The Ides of March", Jim Broadbent "The Iron Lady", Ezra Miller "We Need to Talk About Kevin", Nick Nolte "Warrior", Brad Pitt "The Tree of Life", Niels Astrup "War Horse", Benedict Cumberbatch "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy", Jonah Hill "Moneyball", Ralph Fiennes "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2", Jeremy Irvine "War Horse", Armie Hammer "J. Edgar", John Hawkes "Martha Marcy May Marlene", Robert Forster "The Descendants"

Commentary - Unlike my Best Supporting Actress nominations which have held steady since September, I have flipped a few of my Supporting Actor ones around. I have currently taken Ezra Miller out simply for lack of buzz, and Armie Hammer, because I am growing fearful that J. Edgar will not impress. That being said, the categories biggest contenders at the moment seem to be veterans, none of whom have ever gotten the recognition they deserved. Christopher Plummer is still the frontrunner at the moment, but the newest entry of the great Max von Sydow puts a kink in Plummer's supposedly easy ride to the podium. Although until we see Daldry's latest, this is all mere speculation. Albert Brooks, despite the film seeming to falter, as remained steady, and may be the film's lone nod. Kenneth Branagh has gotten pretty good reviews so far for My Week with Marilyn, but he could be overshadowed by Williams, and the fact that the film as a whole is not exactly winning over critics. In the last spot, I am thinking outside the box with the pick of Patton Oswalt. He has been a hard working character actor for years, he is in a high profile Jason Reitman film, whose initial reaction is positive, and if he can hold his own against Oscar winner Charlize Theron, I don't see why he is not in the discussion. Now some of you may be confused as to why neither of the Moneyball or Ides of March guys are in the mix, considering they are Academy favorites. I just am hesitant, with splitting votes (Clooney v. Hoffman, Hoffman v. Hill, Hoffman v. Hoffman) and with less than stellar reviews for Ides, and an overshadowing performance in Moneball (Pitt), I am holding back until precursors tell me otherwise.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Review: Paranormal Activity 3

I'm sure you all have heard the story of the individual suing the makers of Drive for delivering an incredibly misleading trailer. However, this person should have waited a couple of weeks to see Paranormal Activity 3, as nearly half of the scenes in the trailer, including some of the main ones that make the trailer scary, are not in the actual movie. Beyond that, there are huge gaps in storyline,  and an ending that lacks the punch of the first two, despite some nice thrills along the way.

The film opens up with Katie and Kristi as adults, where Katie drops off some old boxes that contain tapes from their childhood. Then we see a scene where we find out that the tapes were stolen (during part 2), and eventually we as the audience start to watch these tapes from their mother's boyfriend Dennis of a couple weeks, and see how the demon haunting began. We don't know why these tapes are being shown, we don't know who is sharing them with us. And while that may add some mystery to the madness, it is also a frustrating plot hole.

Some of the rules of the game have changed, as activities happen in the daytime as well as night. But other than that, the same formulaic happenings occur, slowing stair-stepping scenes to the supposed grand finale. But in this case, some of the scares don't add up, and there seems to be less continuity and flow than previous installments.

Now I don't want to spoil the final scene, but let's just say, that it is confusing (I mean I got it, but it wasn't as clear as it should be), and by the final shot it is anti-climatic. When the final scene goes black, all of my friends and I were suddenly asking questions most of them revolving around a central theme: What about that scene in the trailer? As at leat four that we mentioned off the tops of our heads were simply not in the film, and instead of leaving the theater shaking with fear, we left frustrated that we paid to see something that simply wasn't there.

In the end, there were a few nice chills throughout the film, but they cannot erase the  huge plot holes, the misleading trailer, and the disappointing final shot. Furthermore, I think that the novelty of the original film is wearing off, as after now three installments (and a fourth one in the works), the gimmick is getting derivative, and in the end all I feel is dullness and apathy.

Grade: C-

Saturday, October 22, 2011

State of the Race: October Predictions - Best Supporting Actress

My Predictions
Sandra Bullock "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"
Jessica Chastain "The Help"
Vanessa Redgrave "Coriolanus"
Octavia Spencer "The Help"
Shailene Woodley "The Descendants"

Other Contenders - Berenice Bojo "The Artist", Judi Dench "J. Edgar", Janet McTeer "Albert Nobbs", Carey Mulligan "Shame", Melissa McCarthy "Bridesmaids", Kiera Knightley "A Dangerous Method", Evan Rachel Wood "The Ides of March", Marion Cotillard "Midnight in Paris", Jessica Chastain "Take Shelter", Jessica Chastain "The Tree of Life", Naomi Watts "J. Edgar", Angelica Huston "50/50", Bryce Dallas Howard "The Help", Emily Watson "War Horse"

Commentary -  I am still convinced that Octavia Spencer is the frontrunner. While Vanessa Redgrave is getting rave reviews, and looks to reap on her legend status, the film overall doesn't have the same kind of appeal as The Help. The Help, in my opinion, is so appealing, that I think it will get in another nominee, my guess being Jessica Chastain. She's got at least three viable performances (the other two being Take Shelter and The Tree of Life), but my money is on her Help performance where she steals the audience's heart. Sandra Bullock is still a big mystery, but if the film is a hit, I think at least one performer will get in, and the mother role is usually a hit. Finally, I am going with Shailene Woodley who just got a Gotham Award, and could be the newcomer of the year along with Chastain (there's usually at least one). Just on the outside, looking in are some tough contenders. Berenice Bojo barely missed the cut, because The Artist is looking like a huge hit that will last the rest of the season. Judi Dench is well, Judi Dench, and she has two high-profile performances in biopics to choose from. Also watch out for Kiera Knightely, Janet McTeer, Carey Mulligan, and Melissa McCarthy.

Friday, October 21, 2011

State of the Race: October Predictions - Best Animated Feature

Predicted Nominees
Arthur Christmas
Kung Fu Panda 2

Other Contenders - Happy Feet 2, Winnie the Pooh, Cars 2, Rio, Puss in Boots, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, Chico & Rita

Commentary - This is an incredibly weak year, although if Tintin is eligible, then maybe we will have a frontrunner. I think Rango has a decent shot with good reviews, decent box office, and a lot of potential for technical categories. Kung Fu Panda 2 was good enough, the first got a nomination, and it is a weak year, so I'd say it is looking good. Finally I am going with Arthur Christmas as it is from the people that brought us Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit. Beyond those we have Happy Feet 2 (first one actually won, but I don't have high hopes for the sequel), Winnie the Pooh (maybe too short?), Rio (nice backup, not really Oscar worthy), and Puss in Boots (eh?). In terms of winning, I have absolutely no idea until there are some precursors.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Grammy Preview: Record of the Year

Potential Nominees
Adele "Rolling in the Deep"
Adele "Someone Like You"
Lady Gaga "Born This Way"
Lady Gaga "The Edge of Glory"
Lady Gaga "You and I"
Katy Perry "Firework"
Katy Perry feat. Kanye West "E.T."
Katy Perry "TGIF"
Bruno Mars "Grenade"
Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse "Body and Soul"
Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga "The Lady is a Tramp"
Foster the People "Pumped Up Kicks"
Nicki Minaj "Super Bass"
Nicki Minaj feat. Drake "Moment 4 Life"
Kanye West feat. Rihanna and Kid Cudi "All of the Lights"
Beyonce "Best Thing I Never Had"
Kanye West and Jay-Z "Otis"
Kanye West and Jay-Z "Niggas in Paris"
Alison Krauss and Union Station "Paper Airplane"
Foo Fighters "Walk"
Foo Fighters "Rope"
Taylor Swift "Mine"
Taylor Swift "Mean"
Taylor Swift "Sparks Fly"
P!nk "Fuckin Perfect"
Paul Simon "The Afterlife"
Rihanna "S&M"

Commentary - Like with Album of the Year, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Some of the biggest contenders have to deal with which song to submit as artists like Lady Gaga, Adele, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, and Tony Bennett all have multiple options. Although for my money, look for Mine, Firework, Born This Way, All of the Lights, Super Bass, and Body Soul seem like the best choices, and all of them could hear their names called. Some of the old favorites like Paul Simon, Allison Krauss, and Foo Fighters all have potentials, although none of them were huge hits (their albums were, but not their singles). Then there are the lone wolfs with lots of air play such as Fuckin Perfect, Pumped Up Kicks, Best Thing I Never Had, and Grenade who could all be in play, and are sure to get other category nominations. At this point, by predictions are:

Adele "Rolling In the Deep"
Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse "Body and Soul"
Beyonce "Best Thing I Never Had"
Lady Gaga "Born This Way"
Katy Perry "Firework"

2011 Gotham Awards Nominees

I know I am like twelve hours behind, but in case have missed the news, here are the nominees for a Gotham Awards. A nice boost to The Tree of Life, The Descendants, Take Shelter, and others, but Midnight in Paris did not get nods, and as we know Gotham is not necessarily the best indicator of things to come. Either way a nice list of nods, and the first precursor to date.

Best Feature:
Mike Mills, director; Leslie Urdang, Dean Vanech, Miranda de Pencier, Jay Van Hoy, Lars Knudsen, producers (Focus Features)
The Descendants
Alexander Payne, director; Jim Burke, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor, producers (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Meek’s Cutoff
Kelly Reichardt, director; Neil Kopp, Anish Savjani, Elizabeth Cuthrell, David Urrutia, producers (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
Take Shelter
Jeff Nichols, director; Tyler Davidson, Sophia Lin, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)
The Tree of Life
Terrence Malick, director; Sarah Green, Bill Pohlad, Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Grant Hill, producers (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Best Documentary:
Better This World
Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega, directors; Katie Galloway, Kelly Duane de la Vega, Mike Nicholson, producers (Loteria Films, Picturebox, Motto Pictures and Passion Pictures; ITVS in association with American Documentary | POV)
Bill Cunningham New York
Richard Press, director; Philip Gefter, producer (Zeitgeist Films)
Hell and Back Again
Danfung Dennis, director; Mike Lerner, Martin Herring, producers (Docurama Films)
The Interrupters
Steve James, director; Alex Kotlowitz, Steve James, producers (The Cinema Guild)
The Woodmans
C. Scott Willis, director; Neil Barrett, Jeff Werner, C. Scott Willis, producers (Lorber Films; Kino Lorber, Inc.)

Best Ensemble Performance:
Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Mélanie Laurent, Goran Visnjic, Kai Lennox, Mary Page Keller, Keegan Boos (Focus Features)
The Descendants
George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Beau Bridges, Robert Forster, Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard, Nick Krause, Amara Miller, Mary Birdsong, Rob Huebel (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Margin Call
Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Mary McDonnell, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci, Aasif Mandvi (Roadside Attractions)
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Elizabeth Olsen, Christopher Abbott, Brady Corbet, Hugh Dancy, Maria Dizzia, Julia Garner, John Hawkes, Louisa Krause, Sarah Paulson (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Take Shelter
Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Tova Stewart, Shea Whigham, Katy Mixon, Kathy Baker, Ray McKinnon, Lisagay Hamilton, Robert Longstreet (Sony Pictures Classics)

Breakthrough Director:
Mike Cahill for Another Earth (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Sean Durkin for Martha Marcy May Marlene (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Vera Farmiga for Higher Ground (Sony Pictures Classics)
Evan Glodell for Bellflower (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
Dee Rees for Pariah (Focus Features)

Breakthrough Actor:
Felicity Jones in Like Crazy (Paramount Vantage)
Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Harmony Santana in Gun Hill Road (Motion Film Group)
Shailene Woodley in The Descendants (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Jacob Wysocki in Terri (ATO Pictures)

Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You:
Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same
Madeleine Olnek, director; Laura Terruso, Madeleine Olnek, producers
Sophia Takal, director; Lawrence Michael Levine, producer
The Redemption of General Butt Naked
Eric Strauss, Daniele Anastasion, directors and producers
Scenes of a Crime
Blue Hadaegh & Grover Babcock, directors and producers
Mark Jackson, director; Mark Jackson, Jessica Dimmock, Michael Requa, Jaime Keeling, producers
New this year, IFP will present a Calvin Klein Spotlight on Women Filmmakers ‘Live the Dream’ grant, a $25,000 cash award for an alumnus of IFP’s Independent Filmmaker Labs. This grant aims to further the careers of emerging women directors by supporting the completion, distribution and audience engagement strategies of their first feature film.
The nominees are:
Jenny Deller, director, FUTURE WEATHER
Lucy Mulloy, director, UNA NOCHE
Rola Nashef, director, DETROIT UNLEADED

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

State of the Race - October Predictions: Screenplay Awards

Best Adapted Screenplay
Nat Faxon, Alexander Payne, and Jim Rash "The Descendants"
Eric Roth "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"
Steve Zaillan and Aaron Sorkin "Moneyball"
Bridget O'Connor and Peter Strong "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"
Richard Curtis and Lee Hall "War Horse"

Other Contenders - George Clooney and Grant Heslov "The Ides of March", Tate Taylor "The Help", Steve Zaillan "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo", Cameron Crowe and Aline Brosh McKenna "We Bought a Zoo", Roman Polanski and Yasmina Reza "Carnage", John Logan "Hugo", Rory Kinner and Lynne Ramsey "We Need to Talk About Kevin", Steve Kloves "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2"

Commentary - This one has a lot of potential contenders, so narrowing it down is difficult. For example, I am currently excluding The Ides of March, until some precursors, as its box office/reviews were simply less than stellar. Moneyball is experiencing the opposite reaction than Ides, and its witty script seems to be at the heart of its success. While Tinker needs to boost its campaign, we've heard great things about it, and adapting such a popular novel is no easy feat. The Descendants, like Sideways in 2004, is one of the biggest contenders for this category, and is getting great reviews. In the final two slots I am putting two films we have yet to see, but are probably two of the biggest contenders, War Horse and Extremely Loud...Once again, we'll have to wait and see.

Best Original Screenplay
Michel Hazanavicius "The Artist"  
Abi Morgan "The Iron Lady"
Dustin Lance Black "J. Edgar"
Woody Allen "Midnight in Paris"
Diablo Cody "Young Adult"

Other Contenders - Will Reiser "50/50", Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones "Like Crazy", Terrence Malick "The Tree of Life", Jeff Nichols "Take Shelter", Sean Durkin "Martha Marcy May Marlene", Sarah Polley "Take This Waltz", Thomas McCarthy and Joe Tibani "Win Win", Mike Mills "Beginners", Kristen Wiig  and Annie Mumolo "Bridesmaids"

Commentary - This category has so many unknowns, that I am only confident at this point of two. Woody Allen is most likely a shoo-in for Midnight in Paris, especially since he is a veteran in this category. The Artist is most likely the frontrunner at this point, but most of the script is simply direction. Will the Academy be brave enough to go for a film with hardly any dialogue? I'm thinking the answer is yes. Beyond that there are so many question marks. At this point I am not taking any risks, which may be stupid, but safer is not sorry this early in the game. So films like 50/50, Bridesmaids, Like Crazy, Win Win, Beginners, Take Shelter, The Tree of Life,  and Martha Marcy May Marlene, all great films but all may have trouble registering with the Academy. Diablo Cody has already won an Oscar, so until Young Adult gets a thumbs up or down, I'm going to include her. In the final two slots, I am going with the two unknown biopics, which both have the potnetial to suceed, or to fail. I am going positive at this moment, but we'll have to wait and seat.

Monday, October 17, 2011

State of the Race - October Predictions: Technical Awards

Later this week, I will do my State of the Race for the major categories, but I have not updated by technical predictions in months, so here is the state of the race, in my opinion, for the technical categories.

Best Art Direction
The Artist
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
War Horse

Other Possibilities - The Help, A Dangerous Method, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Tree of Life, J. Edgar, Anonymous, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Thor, Captain America, Jane Eyre, Midnight in Paris. Albert Nobbs, X-Men: First Class,

Best Cinematography
The Artist
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
The Tree of Life
War Horse

Other Possibilities - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, J. Edgar, Midnight in Paris, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Moneyball, Anonymous, The Ides of March, Rampart, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Drive, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Help, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Best Costume Design
The Artist
The Help
War Horse

Other Possibilities - My Week With Marilyn, Jane Eyre, Albert Nobbs, A Dangerous Method, Captain America, W.E., Three Musketeers, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, J. Edgar, Iron Lady, Midnight in Paris, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

Best Film Editing
The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
War Horse

Other Possibilities - The Ides of March, Moneyball, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, Drive, The Help, Midnight in Paris, The Tree of Life, Hugo, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, J. Edgar, Carnage, A Dangerous Method, Young Adult

Best Makeup
The Iron Lady
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Other Contenders - Hugo, Captain America, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, Albert Nobbs, Coriolanus, The Skin I Live In, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Thor, X-Men: First Class, My Week With Marilyn, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Best Original Score
Loudovic Borce "The Artist"
Nico Muhly "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"
Alexandre Desplat "The Ides of March"
John Williams "War Horse"

Other Contenders - Hans Zimmer "Rango", Thomas Newman "The Help", Alberto Iglesias "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy", Mychael Danna "Moneyball", John Williams "The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn", Hans Zimmer "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows", Michael Giacchino "Super 8"

Best Original Song
Get back to you later on this one...

Best Sound Editing
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Super 8
Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Other Possibilities - Captain America, Hugo, Harry Potter and the Deatly Hallows Part 2, Cars 2, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Drive, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Warrior, Real Steel, War Horse

Best Sound Mixing
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
The Artist
Super 8
Transfomers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

Other Possibilities - Rango, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, The Tree of  Life, Hugo, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Cars 2, Drive, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Happy Feet 2, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Best Visual Effects
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Other Contenders - Super 8, The Tree of Life, Thor, X-Men: First Class, Captain American, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Real Steal, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, Cowboys & Aliens, The Green Lantern, Anonymous

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Top 100 Films of the Last 50 Years (1960-2010): Part X

10. The Dark Knight (2008) - The film that changed the Oscar game. Whether people want to believe or not, but it is because of The Dark Knight that we had ten nominees the last two years and the reason we still have more than five this year. There is a reason that this film has had such an impact on the Academy, and more importantly, such an impact on American popular culture. No comic book film, in the history of American cinema has had quite the impact as The Dark Knight. Not only did it set the bar for those to come (including next year's sequel), but it completely washed away memories of its predecessors. The Dark Knight may feature a man in a batsuit, but boil down the comic book lore and what Nolan created is a brilliant crime thriller, in the spirit of films like Michael Mann's Heat. The part about Batman was just an added plus. Nolan's vision of a darker, sleeker, more realistic Batman, with stunninly emotional storylines, and incredible action sequences is a far-cry from any of its cheesier previous installments. What also made The Dark Knight such a great film were the incredible performances, particularly that of Heath Ledger. His Joker was one of the most vile, shocking, and deeply disturbed villains in cinema history. And while his tragic death still haunts, at least he was able to show the world just how talented he was. He truly was taken from us too soon. The Dark Knight is one of the most succesful films in history, but more importantly, its brilliant combination of action and emotion will make it go down as one of the best as well.

9. The Empire Strikes Back (1980) - The first film set the stage, but its darker and more compelling sequel, at least in my opinion, will go down as the greatest of this iconic series. After the triumph of the first film, Lucas and his team took a very interesting diversion with Empire Strikes Back, by doing what is seemingly unthinkable in many films, it make the bad guys lose. By the end of the film, they are practically defeated, broken down, and emotionally scarred. This was a risky move especially considering the success of A New Hope, but Lucas' risk paid off tremendously, as it allowed Star Wars to reach new dramatic depths, set the stage for a perfect comeback in Return of the Jedi, and allowed for emotional and dark scenes that would have been good in any film, let alone a sci-fi film. Furthermore, the climax, after this dark journey, the big reveal that Darth Vader is in fact Luke's father is quite possibly one of the greatest scenes in movie history, and at the time would have shocked audiences like few films could have. It is a truly winning cinematic achievement, and the best film in  one of the greatest films series of all time. Now that is an achievement.

8. Almost Famous (2000) - If you have read any of the articles from this blog about this particular film, then you will know how much I love this film. And while some may scoff at my constant overpraise, I will not be deterred by haters. For me it is simply movie magic, most likely because it was such a passion project for Crowe, as it was semi-autobiographical, and showed his love of 1970's rock n' roll. With a witty, yet surprising emotional script, Crowe crafted a set of well-drawn characters and a beautifully touching story. Furthermore, the cast is pitch perfect. Of particular importance are the strong female characters of Penny Lane and Elaine Miller, beautifully crafted by Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand, which are funny, yet emotional, and stunning in their own rights. While Hudson's career never really took off after this performance, I will go to my grave believing she was completely robbed of an Academy Award for this performance. If you have yet to watch this film, you better get to it, as I am completely convinced that you will become as completely wrapped up in it as I was, and will laugh, cry, smile when they sing Tiny Dancer, and fall in love with 1970's rock all over again.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Grammy Preview: Album of the Year

Before December when the Oscar season goes nuts, and Grammy news/predictions gets drowned out by the constant coverage of critics awards and other stuff, I would start to early on give you all a preview of potential contenders for the main Grammy categories.

Top Contenders
Adele "21"
Tony Bennett "Duets II"
Lady Gaga "Born This Way"
Taylor Swift "Speak Now"
Beyonce "4"
Kanye West "My Beautiful Dark and Twisted Fantasy"
Nicki Minaj "Pink Friday"
Jay-Z and Kanye West "Watch the Throne"
Paul Simon "So Beautiful or What"
Alison Krauss & Union Station "Paper Airplane"
Foo Fighters "Wasting Light"
Brad Paisley "This is Country Music"
Rihanna "Loud"
Cee-Lo Green "The Lady Killer"
Foster the People "Torches"

Commentary - This is by no means an exhaustive list, but they are definitely the ones to look at. This year has seen solo female artists top the charts and outsell their male counterparts, which is why people like Adele, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift, and Beyonce. And while I don't think it will happen like that, they could be the five nominees. Adele in particular has a great shot of winning, and I acutally think her greatest competition is not a young female artist, but an old pro in Tony Bennett. His Duets II is getting great reviews, was the number 1 album (which is shocking in this day for a jazz/easy listening album), and has so much star power, that I think it may be hard to ignore. The rap field (beyond Nicki), has some interesting choices, especially since both are Kanye West albums. Fantasy is the better album, but Watch the Throne is more recent and has Jay-Z as a backing, so they may go with that to get a two for one deal. I just hope that the anti-Kanye rhetoric, doesn't cause the Recording Academy to ignore West's great albums. In the rock/country fields there are some interesting choices like the Foo Fighters, Paul Simon, and Allison Krauss. All are Grammy favorites, old pros, and each has a decent shot at Grammy recognition this year. Brad Paisley could unseat Swift for the country spot, as his album was much better received by critics, although Swift is the selling power house. At his point, my predictions are:

1) Adele "21"
2) Tony Bennett "Duets II"
3) Kanye West "My Beautiful Dark and Twisted Fantasy"
4) Lady Gaga "Born This Way"
5) Foo Fighters "Wasting Light"

Friday, October 14, 2011

Academy Awards - Documentary Short Finalists and Foreign Film List

Once again I seem to be behind on the news, but the Academy announced its eight finalists for the Documentary Short category:

  • “The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement,” Purposeful Productions, Inc.
  • “God Is the Bigger Elvis,” Documentress Films
  • “In Tahrir Square: 18 Days of Egypt’s Unfinished Revolution,” Downtown Docs
  • “Incident in New Baghdad,” Morninglight Films
  • “Pipe Dreams,” Leslie Iwerks Productions
  • “Saving Face,” Milkhaus/Jungefilm
  • “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom,” Supply & Demand Integrated
  • “Witness,” Buche

And it has announced the 63 Foreign Films in the running:

Albania, “Amnesty,” Bujar Alimani, director;
Argentina, “Aballay,” Fernando Spiner, director;
Austria, “Breathing,” Karl Markovics, director;
Belgium, “Bullhead,” Michael R. Roskam, director;
Bosnia and Herzegovina,”Belvedere,” Ahmed Imamovic, director;
Brazil, “Elite Squad: The Enemy Within,” José Padilha, director;
Bulgaria, “Tilt,” Viktor Chouchkov, Jr., director;
Canada, “Monsieur Lazhar,” Philippe Falardeau, director;
Chile, “Violeta Went to Heaven,” Andrés Wood, director;
China, “The Flowers of War,” Zhang Yimou, director;
Colombia, “The Colors of the Mountain,” Carlos César Arbeláez, director;
Croatia, “72 Days,” Danilo Serbedzija, director;
Cuba, “Havanastation,” Ian Padrón, director;
Czech Republic,”Alois Nebel,” Tomás Lunák, director;
Denmark, “Superclásico,” Ole Christian Madsen, director;
Dominican Republic,”Love Child,” Leticia Tonos, director;
Egypt, “Lust,” Khaled el Hagar, director;
Estonia, “Letters to Angel,” Sulev Keedus, director;
Finland, “Le Havre,” Aki Kaurismäki, director;
France, “Declaration of War,” Valérie Donzelli, director;
Georgia, “Chantrapas,” Otar Iosseliani, director;
Germany, “Pina,” Wim Wenders, director;
Greece, “Attenberg,” Athina Rachel Tsangari, director;
Hong Kong,”A Simple Life,” Ann Hui, director;
Hungary, “The Turin Horse,” Béela Tarr, director;
Iceland, “Volcano,” Rúnar Rúnarsson, director;
India, “Abu, Son of Adam,” Salim Ahamed, director;
Indonesia, “Under the Protection of Ka’Bah,” Hanny R. Saputra, director;
Iran, “A Separation,” Asghar Farhadi, director;
Ireland, “As If I Am Not There,” Juanita Wilson, director;
Israel, “Footnote,” Joseph Cedar, director;
Italy, “Terraferma,” Emanuele Crialese, director;
Japan, “Postcard,” Kaneto Shindo, director;
Kazakhstan, “Returning to the ‘A,’” Egor Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky, director;
Lebanon, “Where Do We Go Now?” Nadine Labaki, director;
Lithuania, “Back to Your Arms,” Kristijonas Vildziunas, director;
Macedonia, “Punk Is Not Dead,” Vladimir Blazevski, director;
Mexico, “Miss Bala,” Gerardo Naranjo, director;
Morocco, “Omar Killed Me,” Roschdy Zem, director;
Netherlands, “Sonny Boy,” Maria Peters, director;
New Zealand,”The Orator,” Tusi Tamasese, director;
Norway, “Happy, Happy,” Anne Sewitsky, director;
Peru, “October,” Diego Vega and Daniel Vega, directors;
Philippines, “The Woman in the Septic Tank,” Marlon N. Rivera, director;
Poland, “In Darkness,” Agnieszka Holland, director;
Portugal, “José and Pilar,” Miguel Gonçalves Mendes, director;
Romania, “Morgen,” Marian Crisan, director;
Russia, “Burnt by the Sun 2: The Citadel,” Nikita Mikhalkov, director;
Serbia, “Montevideo: Taste of a Dream,” Dragan Bjelogrlić, director;
Singapore, “Tatsumi,” Eric Khoo, director;
Slovak Republic,”Gypsy,” Martin Sulík, director;
South Africa,”Beauty,” Oliver Hermanus, director;
South Korea,”The Front Line,” Jang Hun, director;
Spain, “Black Bread,” Agusti Villaronga, director;
Sweden, “Beyond,” Pernilla August, director;
Switzerland, “Summer Games,” Rolando Colla, director;
Taiwan, “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale,” Wei Te-sheng, director;
Thailand, “Kon Khon,” Sarunyu Wongkrachang, director;
Turkey, “Once upon a Time in Anatolia,” Nuri Bilge Ceylan, director;
United Kingdom,”Patagonia,” Marc Evans, director;
Uruguay, “The Silent House,” Gustavo Hernández, director;
Venezuela, “Rumble of the Stones,” Alejandro Bellame Palacios, director;
Vietnam, “The Prince and the Pagoda Boy,” Luu Trong Ninh, director

Thursday, October 13, 2011

2011 American Music Award Nominations

I completely missed this yesterday, but here are the AMA nominations, lead by Adele and Lady Gaga.

Artist of the Year
Lady Gaga
Katy Perry
Lil Wayne
Taylor Swift

Pop or Rock Music: Favorite Female Artist
Katy Perry
Lady Gaga

Pop or Rock Music: Favorite Male Artist
Justin Bieber
Bruno Mars

Pop or Rock Music: Favorite Band, Duo or Group
Maroon 5

Pop or Rock Album
Adele, 21
Rihanna, Loud
Lady Gaga, Born This Way

Rap/Hip-Hop Music: Favorite Artist
Lil Wayne
Nicki Minaj
Kanye West

Rap/Hip-Hop Album
Lil Wayne, Tha Carter IV
The Throne, Watch the Throne
Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday

Soul/R&B Music: Favorite Male Artist
Chris Brown
Trey Songz

Soul/R&B Music: Favorite Female Artist
Kelly Rowland

Soul/R&B Album
Chris Brown, F.A.M.E.
Rihanna, Loud
Beyoncé, 4

Alternative Rock Music: Favorite Artist
Foo Fighters
Black Keys
Mumford & Sons

Adult Contemporary Music: Favorite Artist
Bruno Mars
Katy Perry

Latin Music: Favorite Artist
Enrique Iglesias
Jennifer Lopez

Country Music: Favorite Female Artist
Sara Evans
Miranda Lambert
Taylor Swift

Country Music: Favorite Male Artist
Jason Aldean
Brad Paisley
Blake Shelton

Country Music: Favorite Band, Duo or Group
Zac Brown Band
Lady Antebellum
The Band Perry

Country Music: Favorite Album
Jason Aldean, My Kinda Party
Taylor Swift, Speak Now
The Band Perry, The Band Perry

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Top 100 Films of the Last 50 Years (1960-2010): Part IX

19. A Clockwork Orange (1971) - I think I have a thing for both Kubrick and Spielberg (as you shall see below), and while some may scoff, or call me a populist, I don't think there is anything wrong with that. And if you want any further proof, then look no further than Kubrick's 1971 controverisal thriller, A Clockwork Orange. Commenting on a devastating future, which in the midst of the Cold War was a perfect anti-Communist commentary, A Clockwork Orange is a striking and scary, but not in the conventional gotcha! kind of way, but in an oddly creepy potential for a world just like this one. Malcolm McDowell definitely shocks the audiences, and like many of Kubrick's films, he is not afraid to bend the rules of cinema, to make the audience uncomfortable, yet still combine great acting, a sharp storyline, and an entertaining experience. In my opinion, that is the perfect combination.

18. Jaws (1975) - I know you are looking at this via a computer screen, but I want any of you reading this to raise your hand if you still have trouble going back in the water because of Spielberg's 1975 horror classic Jaws (and yes like an idiot, I too raised my hand, which confused by roommates). So many horror films nowadays reduce themselves to idiotic and gross exercises that shock the audience, not with real fear, but with blood and guts. Spielberg takes what could have been a conventional scare story, and with visual enticements, crackling chemistry between the cast, a score that still sends shivers up my spine everytime I hear it, and some nice movie magic, transforms it into one of the greatest horror films of all time. More importantly, for me however, is that in 1975, Spielberg was not the legend he was today, this was before Indiana Jones, ET, Close Encounters, Schindlers List, and Saving Private Ryan. Jaws was not only a movie masterpiece, but it launched the career of one of the most popular and greatest directors in film history. And we can't thank it enough.

17. E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982) - Magical is a word that is seemingly used to often to describe films that simply don't deserve that recognition. But Steven Spielberg's 1982 classic E.T., about a cute alien who befriends a young earthling, Elliott, is, in my humble opinion, the perfect example of movie magic. On the surface, this is a nice fantasy/science fiction film about a boy helping an alien escape out of Earth and back to his home planet. But Spielberg manages to dig so much deeper than that, pull at our heartstrings, and make you laugh, cry, and fall in love with no only the adorable alien, but the everlasting friendship that is formed between two individuals who wouldn't fit in. E.T. is a story of bravery, friendship, and adventure that never pushes the sentiment, but never remains to lightweight either. It is a stunning technical achievement and tells a beautiful story, which is why it has become engrained as one of the most iconic films of contemporary pop culture. Yes, it is in fact a truly magical experience.

16. The Social Network (2010) - I know some of you may scoff at the notion, but it is hard to deny the social impact and film brilliance of last year's The Social Netowrk. It will most likely go down as one of the films that defined and perfectly captured the culture and socialization of the Facebook era. Maybe twenty years from now, people won't appreciate it, as I'm sure Facebook will have then become completely obsolete. But for those of us who grew up in the social networking era, who have cleverly divided our different groups of friends into "Facebook friends" and "real friends", The Social Network represents who we are, and why we are the way we are. On a simplistic level, The Social Network is a brilliantly written, impreccably acted, and stunningly directed modern drama, with so much zip and sharpness, that the film flies before your eyes, and you are so sad when the impeccable thrill of the ride is over. Simply put, The Social Network will go down as one of the greatest films of all time. Until then, go check your Facebook.

15. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) - Stanley Kubrick was known for creating controversial, yet vibrant and thrilling films, never listening to convention, but instead creating a style entirely on his own. And his filmography is proof that the method to his madness was a success. And Kubrick was never better than in the 1968 classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Brilliantly commenting on the growing fear of machines, and is able to create one of the most terrifying villains in film history, with just a voice. But unlike modern thrillers and horror movies, that ruin the thrill with cheap dialogue and gimmicks, Kubrick avoids much dialogue, allowing his audiences to figure it out for themselves. In this way, Kubrick was a revolutionary, a visionary, who was willing to take risks for the sake of art. So 2001, with its incredible technical elements, its incredibly frightening premise, and its bravery is simply one of the best.

14. Chinatown (1974) - Say what you will about Roman Polanski, but there is not doubt that the man knows how to make incredible films, and he has never been better than in the 1974 classic thriller, Chinatown. It takes a lot of effort to make a story about corruption and water seem interesting. But Polanski's brilliant allegory about Los Angeles in the 1930's was so thrilling and so compelling that it puts away any previous doubts. His masterwork behind the camera (and in front of it for a brief cameo) exerts passion and tenacity which is aptly displayed on the screen. The beautifully dreary cinematography not only enhances the murder and corruption of the story, but also paints an accurate picture of LA. It also didn't hurt that some of the greatest actors of the time gave sizzling performances including the always good Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and a particularly noteworthy John Huston. What makes Chinatown so damn good and so lasting however, was its breathtaking way of knocking the audiences on its ass, reinventing his horror roots into a sleek thriller, and beautifully capturing the history and noir of a classic time period. It turns out Polanski's film was the real classic.

13. Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001/2002/2003) - It is a true tell of how great these films were, that each one of them was nominated for Best Picture, and that the last installment actually became the first, and currently, the only, fantasy film to win Best Picture. The Academy has never embraced the genre, and for them to award it with such heft shows the power behind it. A perfect translation from the wonderful mind of J.R.R. Tolkien, I can't think of any modern director that would have handled this sacred material with the care and passion of Peter Jackson. Add in a wonderful cast, including standouts such as Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Cate Blanchett, and Ian McKellen, and in any genre, this would have been a great movie. But then you add in the vision of Jackson's world, the technical achievements, the mystical creatures, the stunning cinematography, and this simply tale of good and evil is simply brought to life in an extraordinary way. To this day it will go down as one of the best film franchises in movie history, and considering how each one was an excellent film on its own (compared to some series, where certain ones are less than stellar), and it is quite possibly the best.

12. Saving Private Ryan (1998) - In 1998, the world was introduced to the what has quickly become one of the greatest war films ever created, particularly its opening scene of the invasion of Normandy. It was praised by critics for its intensity and grittiness, and most importantly, praised by World War II veterans who where on the beach, as one of the most accurate depictions ever seen on the silver screen.  From the first triumphant scene, many directors and screenwriters might have lost their steam and failed to live up to its initial hype. But the combined talents of Steven Spielberg and Robert Rodat, take their explosive first segment, and translate it into a heartfelt, warm, and sad film about the horrors of war, the brotherhood that develops between soldiers, and the lengths that soldiers will go to to protect and save one of their own. For me, it was a true travesty when this film did not win Best Picture. No offense to Shakespeare in Love which was a fine enough movie, but the fact that pure brilliance of Saving Private Ryan was ignored to me is unforgiveable.

11. Star Wars (1977) - In my college apartment, I have a Star Wars poster hanging in my room, which is a tribute to the cultural impact that this 1977 classic has had not only on cinema, but on American society in the last 34 years. It was a high-concept movie from the brilliant mind of George Lucas that was so original, so daring, so far ahead of its time, that its hard to believe that it was ever made in the first place. It wasn't the creation of a story or a film, but rather the creation of a whole new world (no Aladdin puns intended). It was movie magic unlike anyhing that had ever been seen, and it spawned the most sucessful movie in human history (until Harry Potter came along). It is sometimes hard to remember that behind all of this hype and praise is a singular film. So when you boil down this game-changing talk, you'll see that Star Wars is first and foremost a great film. It has great actors, a wonderfully entertaining storyline of love, loss, and triumph, and is a visual treat even in 2011 for the eyes and the ears. A winning achievement to say the least.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Avengers: Teaser Trailer

So far, the films leading up to this have been pretty well-received, and I think that if it avoids the cliche problems of say, Fantastic Four, then it could be an enjoyable comic book movie experience. Here is the teaser trailer below:

Monday, October 10, 2011

NYFF: My Week With Marilyn Reviews

Well, as expected, the cast of My Week With Marilyn, is apparently very good, the standouts being of course Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh, which was also expected. Particularly the praise is being heaped on Williams for avoiding mimicry, and creating a full-fleshed version of Marilyn, apparently stealing the show. Apparently, Eddie Redmayne also holds his own against Williams, and brings a warmth to the screen. All of that being said though, the overall reaction to the film has been mixed to negative to say the least. People love the cast, but many are comparing the film to a Lifetime movie: stylish, big stars, great productions values, and most importantly, hollow. Here is a snippet of some of the reviews we have seen thus far.

Ronnie Scheib from Variety writes:

"Taking no chances, unlike its star, "Marilyn" complacently coasts on Williams' bravura perf amid mostly stodgy showbiz re-creations, but awards buzz and ever-reliable Anglophilia could spell solid B.O. returns for the Weinstein Co....[But Williams] The genius of the performance lies in the way Williams stresses the interconnectedness of these personalities: The neediness fuels the impudence, the vulnerability turns sexually provocative, and the little girl and sexpot together drive the screen role."

Howard Fienstein of Screen Daily is mixed:

"Most of the time, especially in her own solo renditions of “When Love Goes Wrong (Nothing Goes Right)” and “That Old Black Magic” (the two songs bookend the film), with nothing and no one around her, she gets it right, while at other times, especially in scenes of the film within the film, she wanders off the mark."

Eric Kohn of Indiewire, thinks the role is lacking, no thanks to the script:

"But the script lands only the most basic laughs, failing to dig into the mystique surrounding its subject. While the movie goes through conventional motions, Williams has little to do save for offering her best Marilyn voice and grin."

Cole Smithey boldly states:

"Michelle Williams gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Marilyn Monroe in director Simon Curtis's thoughtful adaptation of diaries by Colin Clark."

I think that Williams, and Branagh (potentially Redmayne and Dench), are going to be in the Oscar discussion, especially with the Weinsteins behind them. However, the film is going to need better reviews to really make a mark, and is going to need a huge push to overcome some of it apparently glaring flaws. Like the rest of the season has played out, we'll simply have to wait and see.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Shirley MacLaine to Receive AFI Lifetime Achievement Awards

It is a shame that so few women have received this prestigious award, so I was thrilled when I heard that the great Shirley MacLaine would be awardede the AFI Lifetime Achievement honor. She is an acting legend, with such memorable roles as: The Apartment, The Turning Point, Terms of Endearment, Some Came Running, Steel Magnolias, Postcards from the Edge, Guarding Tess, Sweet Charity, and countless others.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Oscar Poll in Sidebar

I am starting to put up some polls in the sidebar regarding the Oscars, and see what you guys think. So make sure to check the sidebar and vote!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Young Adult Trailer

I like it, but I could see where some may be turned off. Early buzz is good, but we need reviews to make sure. Here is the trailer:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

State of the Race: Why We Know Nothing Yet

This still young Oscar season has been one of wait and see. This is a far-cry from last year, where at this point, the only big contenders we had yet to see were The Fighter and True Grit, although both of their buzzes were so big that we just assumed they were contenders. For some reason this year, even the unseen contenders don't have that slam-dunk quality (with the exception of maybe War Horse), and among Oscar pundits, there seems to be a hesitance to making bold predictions.

In the Best Picture race, there are only a few huge contenders that have been seen, a few possibles, and a lot of unknowns. Even those we are "certain" about seem to be tinged with hesitancy. The Artist is the critical darling of the year, but will the Academy go for a silent movie? The Descendants is great, but its slightly comedic, and can it work its magic like Sideways did? Can The Tree of Life or Midnight in Paris last through the long and grinding season? Can big blockbuster, feel-good movies crack the top ten like The Help, Bridemaids, and Moneyball? What about smaller films like Like Crazy, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Martha Marcy May Marlene? What about biopics, J. Edgar, My Week with Marilyn, and The Iron Lady? And most importantly, what about the big contenders like War Horse and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close? Will they live up to the hype? These incessant questions may get annoying, and that is because us pundits are starting to get antsy. We simply have way too many questions, and not enough answers.

The Best Actor race is actually starting to solidfy with Brad Pitt, Jean Dujardin, Gary Oldman, and George Clooney leading the pack. Although most likely the biggest contender, Leonardo Dicaprio, is currently in a precarious position, with lots of buzz, but a trailer that does his no help, as it is getting mixed reviews at best. In the wings there are a few waiting like Michael Fassbender, but beyond eight or nine names, this one is turning out to be slightly predictable. Slightly predictable in terms of nominations that it. Who will win? There is no clear Colin Firth this year,. If Jean Dujardin is the one, he is going to have to overcome the silent film status, and Dicaprio needs to prove its worthy. Pitt is too lightweight, Oldman too often ignored, Fassbender too racy, Clooney too, well Clooney. So who wins? Only precursors will help put someone in the lead, for now it is a mess.

Best Actress race is just as confusing, except there are plenty of hot names just for the nominations. Viola Davis will get a nomination whether she goes lead or supporting, and is the frontrunner for the win now. Glenn Close was a slam dunk nod until Albert Nobbs premeired and the reception for the film was less than stellar, and it seems that the only way she will pull through is because she is Glenn Close. The juggernaut in the room of course is Meryl Streep. She will most likely be good, but will the film? If Mamma Mia is our benchmark, then we have reason to worry. From there, there is a pantheon of younger actresses, such as Felicity Jones, Elizabeth Olsen, and Rooney Mara, and some veterans in smaller/comedic roles such as Tilda Swinton, Charlize Theron, Jodie Foster, and Kristen Wiig. With the exception of Davis, each and every one of these actors is a question mark, even the ones we've seen. And if Davis goes supporting, then there will be even more confusion.

Best Supporting Actress is incredibly confusing, but not because of a plethora of contenders, but because of a lack thereof. Octavia Spencer is the only safe bet, and if Davis goes supporting, this could hurt her chances. Sandra Bullock is in a baity role, but we know nothing about the film. Jessica Chastain is surely a contender, but for which film? Some are banking on The Tree of Life, but if my money were on the table, I'd go with The Help. Vanessa Redgrave is great in Coriolanus, but the film is not really Oscar worthy (from early word at least). Berenice Bojo could be a surprise, but is it all about Jean Dujardin? Beyond those names, there are not many that seem to be getting a lot of buzz: Janet McTeer, Melissa McCarthy, Kiera Knightley, Carey Mulligan, Angelica Huston, Judi Dench. But none of these are certain, and many have some anti-Oscar or unknown stigmas attached to them which make it even harder.

While the Best Supporting Actor race has some solid emerging contenders, there are very few, similar to its female counterpart. Christopher Plummer is the clear frontrunner, but the emergence of Max von Sydow could pit legend vs. legend, and split the votes. Albert Brooks and Nick Nolte are other veteran choices, but both of their films failed to make a box office dent despite hitting it off with the critics. Kenneth Branagh certaintly looks to be a contender in My Week With Marilyn, but the film needs to be seen first. Viggo Mortensen, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jonah Hill, John Hawkes, Armie Hammer, Jim Broadbent, and Patton Oswalt all are in the race, but all face similar hurdles to their female counterparts.

So what does all of this mean? All the question marks and the confusing maybes that are protruding through the main categories boil down to the simple fact: we don't know anything yet.