Tuesday, October 30, 2012

2013 Grammy Awards: First Look at Best New Artist

Frank Ocean
Carly Rae Jepson
One Direction
Lana Del Rey
Jessie J.
Ellie Golding
Alabama Shakes
The Wanted
Emeli Sande
Ed Sheeran
Cher Lloyd
2 Chainz
Childish Gambino
Azealia Banks
Imagine Dragon
Hunter Hayes
Phillip Phillips
Of Monsters and Men
Sleigh Bells
Rita Ora
Commentary - I am sorry, while Fun. will probably be nominated, I refuse to put them on this list in the hopes that the Academy realizes that they were The Format for years, and that they are not new at all (although they are bad about ignoring the past, so my guess is that in my final predictions they'll make the cut). That being said, I think that Gotye will probably make the cut although they are probably going to end up being a one hit wonder, and not being new either, so apparently I am a hypocrit. Frank Ocean is probably the frontrunner, due to his prowless in other categories. At least one big pop act (Jonas Brothers, Justin Bieber) gets nominated despite lack of talent, so look for Carly Rae Jepson and the annoying One Direction to get a nod, if for nothing else, then at least for ratings. In the final slot, I think one of the British songstresses are going to make the cut. Although I would love to see both Ellie Golding and Jessie J. make the cut, I am going with Golding because her Lights is a little more recent that Domino, and so she may be more on people's minds.

October Predictions
Frank Ocean
Ellie Golding
Carly Rae Jepson
One Direction

Top 100 Films of the 1990's: Part X

10. Hoop Dreams (1994) - More often than not the Documentary branch of the Motion Picture Academy simply screws up. They overlook the documentary with the most impact in favor of campaigning or politics. But in 1994, they really screwed up when they left off the list probably one of the most successful, influential, and simply best documentaries of all time, let alone the 1990's. Its depth and educational status is only heightened by its incredibly emotional and narrative quality. It is one of those films that doesn't just hit the now moment, but instead is one that continues to have impact and heft even today. it shows how high school sports provides some kids who have nothing else the dreams of doing something better (a topic that is still relevant for those who are reading or have read J.K. Rowling's new book you know what I am talking about). It explores not only the dreams on the court, but the hardships, inequalities, and racial implications that make what happens on the court so much more important. In my humble opinion, this film should be shown to ever high school student, and every college student, every mind of the next generation. Because what this film tells us is that we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the last generation. It is a documentary which set out to change people's minds, and make people determined to use not just sports, but every tool possible to save urban youth and give them the opportunity to live.

9. Three Colors: Red (1994) - Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy remains one of the most celebrated of the decade, and while all three individual films are well-done, it is its finale (which earned Kieslowski two Oscar nomiantions), that remains the most celebrated, and simply the best of the bunch. The plot is a dense one, and not really worth spending a blog page trying to describe it, but within its narrative lies overencompassing themes that are universal, particularly the age-old battle of fate versus human free will. It features stunning performances, a dense, but navigable script, and finishes off Kieslowski's incredible trio with both style and substance. It is hard to describe why Red is so great, hell why Blue and White were so great for that matter. It is one of those great films that can only be discovered if you take the time to view its beautifully shot frames. It is the story of humans, of encounters, of fate and love and opportunity. It is something that every human no matter where they live can connect to. Maybe that is why it has survived the test of time as one of the 90's best, one of the best of all time, because it connects like so many films fail to do. A modern masterpiece.

8. Fargo (1996) - The Coens won the Oscar for Director/Picture in 2007 for their incredible work on No Country for Old Men, an honor which was well-deserved and long overdue. Because a decade (and a year) earlier, they hit creative heights with the dark and gruesome crime dramedy Fargo. Based in the snowy corners of North Dakota, a gruesome murder is committed by a guys who don't know how to cover their tracks properly and the pregnant and sharp Frances McDormand who handidly and deservedly won an Oscar for this role. At times it is laugh out loud funny in a dark and twisted sense, and then suddenly it is a nail-biting thriller that is downright scary. It is superbly acted, not just by McDormand, but by the whole cast including Steve Buscemi and William H. Macy. But essentially, this film is a success due to the distinctive style and constantly superb direction and script by the Coen Bros. While not all of their efforts have been as successful, they all play on the Coen's wit and their ability to have perfect timing, something several directors need to have a better understanding of. Put it simply, Fargo is the Coen's crowning achievement, and one of the best of all time.

7. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) - Sci-Fi films are underrated species of the craft, and some like Star Wars, Avatar, etc. have been able to break their genre limitations and become film masterpieces. In the 1990's the film that broke those barriers was the sequel to James Camerson's classic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Arguably a lot better than its predecessor, Cameron's Terminator 2 is a bad ass film. It is action-packed, utilizes the newer technology of the time to create special effects which are still cool today, and never lets up on its entertainment value. But unlike most action movies, Terminator 2, like its predecessor it has universal themes, but it also manages to move away from its predecessor's darkness to focus on something a lot more connective, humanity. We continue to hate, yet love to watch, the Terminator's brutality, but we also get to see the impact it has on humans. That is what makes great sci-fi films. Those that focus solely on the futuristic elements or the special effects tend to be lacking. Instead, those that also add a dose of humanity, an emotional impact are the ones that last in our conscience. Terminator 2 is one of the best in recent memory to do just that, and it remains one of the most emotionally charged and superbly entertaining films of the 1990's.

6. Fight Club (1999) - Fight Club is the ultimate cult classic. It shows a psych case and a crazy soap maker starting an underground club for men to blow off steam by beating the shit out of each other every night. If it sounds like a ridiculous premise, you're not alone. But when you combine all of its ridiculous elements together Fight Club is absolutely brilliant, and has an almost Tarantino pulpiness that makes it brutally entertaining. The performances from Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter are nice editions, but it is Edward Norton's genius that sucks you in, he is brilliant, psychotic, and only adds to his impressive resume. When you add in Norton's performance with Jim Uhls script, and David Fincher's fearless direction, Fight Club is all around simply a well-made movie. While Fincher has delved more recently into more mainstream fair (although arguably his latest The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has some Fight Club and Se7en qualities), he has never lost his instinct for making great movies. And Fight Club is probably his best, which is saying a lot.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

2013 Grammy Awards: First Look at Record of the Year

Adele "Set Fire to the Rain"
Fun. feat. Janelle Monae "We Are Young"
Mumford & Sons "I Will Wait"
Gotye feat. Kimbra "Somebody That I Used to Know"
Florence + The Machine "Shake It Out"
Black Keys "Lonely Boy"
Kelly Clarkson "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)"
Frank Ocean "Thinkin Bout You"
P!nk "(Blow Me) One Last Kiss"
Carly Rae Jepson "Call Me Maybe"
One Direction "What Makes You Beautiful"
Taylor Swift "We Are Never Getting Back Together"
M.I.A. "Bad Girls"
Katy Perry "Wide Awake"
Jay-Z & Kanye West "N**gas in Paris"
Carrie Underwood "Good Girl"
Jessie J "Domino"
Katy Perry "Part of Me"
Nicki Minaj "Starships"
Drake feat. Rihana "Take Care"
Green Day "Oh Love"
Commentary - So Adele could return to this race, but due to Grammy rules she is going to have to make history to do so. Apparently she can't submit the recorded version from 21 because the album has already won several Grammys, so she'll have to take her live album's version. The problem is that while a Pop Performance nod is almost a guarantee, no live recording has ever been nominated for Record of the Year. I will currently leave her out of the predictions until some clarification comes from the Recording Academy, or there seems to be overwhelming support coming for her. It may be that we are reading their rules wrong and they will allow it, which puts her back on top of the race. If we exclude her, there are still plenty of names that will be fighting for the top five. In the pop field there are two tiers. There are the quality, yet still catchy choices from P!nk, Kelly Clarkson, Fun feat. Janelle Monae, Jessie J, Gotye, & Florence + The Machine, and then there are the not so great, but really popular choices from the likes of Carly Rae Jepson, Taylor Swift, and One Direction. While Jepson may make the cut simply because Call Me Maybe was everywhere this summer, I hoping that otherwise the Grammy voters stick to the higher quality choices. The outlier for me is Katy Perry. Still incredibly popular, she has two possibles, but neither Part of Me or Wide Awake had the impact of Firework, so she'll have a tougher go this time around. In the rock field, I think that either or maybe both of Black Keys and Mumford & Sons will make the cut, Green Day being their only real other rock competition. Rap has some choices including the title track from Drake and Rihanna, the one that should be nominated from Jay-Z and Kanye West, and the incredibly catchy Starships from Nicki Minaj. But I don't know if any of them will have enough to break through. Finally, while Frank Ocean is strong in Album of the Year, I am not as confident about his single Thinkin Bout You, but don't count it out.

October Record of the Year Predictions
Drake feat. Rihanna "Take Care"
Florence + The Machine "Shake It Out"
Fun. feat Janelle Monae "We Are Young"
Gotye feat. Kimbra "Somebody That I Used to Know"
Mumford & Sons "I Will Wait"

Friday, October 26, 2012

2013 Grammy Awards: First Look at Album of the Year

After last year's pop onslaught in the Album of the Year race, I hope that this year the Recording Academy is a little more diverse in its selections, and just from looking at the long list below, this is definitely a possibility.

Frank Ocean "Channel Orange"
Mumford & Sons "Babel"
Drake "Take Care"
Bonnie Raitt "Slipstream"
Rihanna "Talk That Talk"
Black Keys "El Camino"
Florence and the Machine "Ceremonials"
P!nk "The Truth About Love"
Jack White "Blunderbluss"
Maroon 5 "Overexposed"
Dave Matthews Band "Away From the World"
Lionel Richie "Tuskegee"
Carrie Underwood "Blown Away"
Miranda Lambert "Four the Record"
Rick Ross "God Forgive's, I Don't"
Nas "Life is Good"
Bruce Springsteen "Wrecking Ball"
Esperanza Spalding "Radio Music Society"
Nicki Minaj "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded"
John Mayer "Born and Raised"
Justin Bieber "Believe"
Norah Jones "Little Broken Hearts"
Paul McCarthy "Kisses on the Bottom"
Madonna "MDNA"
Coldplay "Mylo Xyloto"
Fun "Some Nights"
Bob Dylan "Tempest"
Green Day "Uno"
Zac Brown Band "Uncaged"
Gotye "Making Mirrors"
Commentary - While the Grammys will probably lack the star power of Adele this year, there are still some popular and quality choices across various genres. On the rap side, I wish that Rick Ross' latest effort got some recognition, although if one of them makes the cut its going to be Drake for his hit album Take Care. Also look out for Nas and Nicki Minaj, both of whom may be hurting due to mixed reviews. On the Country side, there really isn't much to talk about. While Zac Brown Band's, Miranda Lambert's, and Carrie Underwood's efforts were all good, none of them were powerhouses. Rock has some excellent choices including Green Day, Coldplay, Paul McCartney, Dave Matthews Band, Bruce Springsteen, Jack White and Bob Dylan who are all Grammy favorites, but I'm a little more inclined towards Black Keys and Mumford & Sons as better possibilties due to their albums successes. R&B basically has one great entry in Frank Ocean, who will probably rack up on Grammy nods. The ever-expanding pop field also has some big names including a nominee last year Rihanna, P!nk (who should finally get a nod in my opinion), Madonna, Norah Jones, Fun, Florence and the Machine, Maroon 5, and John Mayer. But I think that many of these will be tossed out for some old Grammy favorites especially the always fantastic Bonnie Raitt, and the newly minted country star Lionel Ritchie. At the moment here are my predictions

Album of the Year October Predictions
Drake "Take Care"
Frank Ocean "Channel Orange"
Mumford & Sons "Babel"
Bonnie Raitt "Slipstream"
Rihanna "Talk that Talk"

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Jessica Chastain Goes Lead for Zero Dark Thirty

I think that this is a big piece of news if Kathryn Bigelow's newest film Zero Dark Thirty is as popular with the Academy as her previous effort. Since the full trailer debuted for Zero Dark Thirty, it appeared to most of us that Jessica Chastain played a bigger role than previously thought. Our suspicions are correct, as it has been announced that she is going for lead actress, which mixes up my Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress predictions. I think that her status as a hot ticket in Hollywood, and her acting abilities will play well, and if the film is a hit I think she can easily break into this Best Actress race despite some big names and performances. Names like Emmanuelle Riva and Quvenzhane Wallis have to overcome language barriers and issues with authenticity of the performance (both of which are crap, but unfortunately are real hurdles), and neither have the star power of Marion Cotillard (who also has to overcome a language barrier although she already has once before). Kiera Knightley and Naomi Watts are both previous nominees, but both of their films will turn off some voters. So in the end I think there is a place for Chastain, and despite conventional wisdom, I think I am going to include her in my predictions which now stand as (Thanks to AwardsDaily for the Photo!):

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain "Zero Dark Thirty"
Marion Cotillard "Rust & Bone"
Jennifer Lawrence "Silver Linings Playbook"
Emmanuelle Riva "Amour"
Quvenzhane Wallis "Beasts of the Southern Wild"

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams "The Master"
Sally Field "Lincoln"
Anne Hathaway "Les Miserables"
Helen Hunt "The Sessions"
Kerry Washington "Django Unchained"

Monday, October 22, 2012

State of the Race: October Oscar Winner Predictions

So we are at a bit of lull in the Oscar race, which means it is a good time to look at the point where we stand in terms of winners. I know it is bad luck to predict movies or performances that have not been seen, but sometimes it is a necessary evil. So here is where I think we stand heading into November and the critics in December.

Best Picture - Argo
Best Director - Ben Affleck "Argo"
Best Actor - Daniel Day-Lewis "Lincoln"
Best Actress - Jennifer Lawrence "Silver Lining's Playbook"
Best Supporting Actor - Philip Seymour Hoffman "The Master"
Best Supporting Actress - Sally Field "Lincoln"
Best Adapted Screenplay - Chris Terrio "Argo"
Best Original Screenplay - Paul Thomas Anderson "The Master"
Best Animated Feature - Brave
Best Foreign Language Film - Amour
Best Production Design - Les Miserables
Best Cinematography - Life of Pi
Best Costume Design - Anna Karenina
Best Film Editing - Argo
Best Makeup and Hair - Cloud Atlas
Best Original Score - John Williams "Lincoln"
Best Original Song - Les Miserables - Suddenly
Best Sound Editing - Zero Dark Thirty
Best Sound Mixing - Les Miserables 
Best Visual Effects - Life of Pi

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Skyfall: Oscar Contender?

There has been some buzzing on the awards circuit lately about what many will consider an unlikely Oscar contender: the latest Bond flick Skyfall. While normally I would rule it out in major categories, and reserve it for only technical categories, I am starting to think there may be something more in its future. It is not just getting good reviews, it has been getting raves. Hiring Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes, adding Oscar winner Javier Bardem as the villain alongside superstars Daniel Craig and Judi Dench seemed to have paid off. It may be the best Bond film in terms of reivews of all time, or at least since some of the earlier efforts. I'm still not sure it will get a Best Picture nod, but if some of the other really big contenders fail or don't do as well, then maybe there is a slot somewhere in the 5-10 nominees for a really good Bond effort. We'll have to wait and see. And finally, I think that no matter what happens higher up, that it will do really well in technical nods.

Friday, October 19, 2012

State of the Race: October Oscar Predictions - Best Foreign Language Film

October Predictions
Amour (Austria)
Fill the Void (Israel)
The Intouchables (France)
No (Chile)
A Royal Affair (Denmark)

Other Contenders - Lore (Australia), Beyond the Hills (Romania), War Witch (Canada), Sister (Switzerland), Our Children (Belgium), Barbara (Germany), Children of Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina), The Hypnotist (Sweden), Biancanieves (Spain), After Lucia (Mexico)

Commentary - The foreign language branch always has some out of the blue nominee, so everytime we pundits think we have it nailed down, we're thrown into a tailspin. This year will surely lead to some surprises, if for anything else, because it is a stacked year with a lot of contenders, the most ever in fact. Some are clearly at the top of the pile, particularly Amour and The Intouchables which both had festival releases, and latter actually a film release in the U.S., and will probably have the most studio backing heading into the nominations. But there are certaintly some other big names. Denmark's A Royal Affair made a big splash, and maybe could play in tech categories like Costume Design and Art Direction giving it a little more overall buzz. Chile's No features a recognizable face for some voters in Gael Garcia Benal, and has gotten some great reviews. In the last slot I am basically shooting in the dark. In the last slot, I am going with Israel's Fill the Void. While names like Lore, Beyond the hills, War Witch, Sister, Barbara, and others are all gunning for the fifth slot, I am going with Israel at the moment. The film has done some festival rotations, and there is a large Jewish constituency within the Academy which might favor it. But really it is up in the air at this point.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

New Golden Globe Poll in Sidebar

Take at a look at the new poll in the sidebar and pick which five films you think will be nominated for Best Picture Comedy/Musical at this year's Golden Globe Awards! And stay tuned for the top ten films of the 1990s, continued Oscar coverage, and a first look at the upcoming Grammy race as well!

2012 Gotham Independent Film Award Nominees

So Beasts of the Southern Wild was snubbed for Best Picture but Zeitlen and Wallis both made it in. Silver Linings got ensemble, but once again not picture. But this isn't shocking because Gothams are weird sometimes. While Gothams are not the best Oscar indicator, I think that a film like Bernie got a nice publicity boost from its Best Featuer and ensemble nod, and could help Shirley MacLaine and Jack Black sneak into these acting races.

Best Feature

Bernie -- Richard Linklater, director; Richard Linklater, Ginger Sledge, Celine Rattray, Martin Shafer, Liz Glotzer, Matt Williams, David McFadzean, Judd Payne, Dete Meserve, producers (Millennium Entertainment)
The Loneliest Planet -- Julia Loktev, director; Jay Van Hoy, Lars Knudsen, Helge Albers, Marie Therese Guirgis, producers (SundanceSelects)
The Master -- Paul Thomas Anderson, director; Joanne Sellar, Daniel Lupi, Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison, producers (The Weinstein Co.)
Middle of Nowhere -- Ava DuVernay, director; Howard Barish, Ava DuVernay, Paul Garnes, producers (AFFRM and Participant Media)
Moonrise Kingdom -- Wes Anderson, director; Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales, Jeremy Dawson, producers (Focus Features)

Best Documentary
Detropia -- Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, directors; Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady, Craig Atkinson, producers (Loki Films)
How to Survive a Plague -- David France, director; Howard Gertler, David France, producers (Sundance Selects)
Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present -- Matthew Akers, director; Jeff Dupre, Maro Chermayeff, producers (HBO Documentary Films and Music Box Films)
Room 237 -- Rodney Ascher, director; Tim Kirk, producer (IFC Midnight)
The Waiting Room -- Peter Nicks, director; Peter Nicks, Linda Davis, William B. Hirsch, producers (International Film Circuit)

Best Ensemble Performance
Bernie -- Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey (Millennium Entertainment)
Moonrise Kingdom -- Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban (Focus Features)
Safety Not Guaranteed -- Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson, Karan Soni, Jenica Bergere, Kristen Bell, Jeff Garlin, Mary Lynn Rajskub (Film District)
Silver Linings Playbook -- Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, Anupam Kher (The Weinstein Company)
Your Sister’s Sister -- Emily Blunt, Rosemarie Dewitt, Mark Duplass (IFC Films)

Breakthrough Director
Zal Batmanglij for Sound of My Voice (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky for Francine (Factory 25 and The Film Sales Co.)
Jason Cortlund and Julia Halperin for Now, Forager (Argot Pictures)
Antonio Méndez Esparza for Aquí y Allá (Here and There) (Torch Films)
Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Breakthrough Actor
Mike Birbiglia in Sleepwalk With Me (IFC Films)
Emayatzy Corinealdi in Middle of Nowhere (AFFRM and Participant Media)
Thure Lindhardt in Keep the Lights On (Music Box Films)
Melanie Lynskey in Hello, I Must Be Going (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
Quvenzhane Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You
An Oversimplification of Her Beauty
Red Flag
Sun Don’t Shine
Tiger Tail in Blue

Top 100 Films of the 1990s: Part IX

20. Out of Sight (1998) - Just a few years after this, Steven Soderbergh received dueling Oscar nominations for Best Director and won for his brilliant look at drug trafficking in Traffic. But if I had had a vote, he would have been at least in the running for 1998's brilliant effort Out of Sight. It is one of those slick movies that after you watch you feel like you are just an inch cooler than you were before. It is part heist thriller, part romance, part dark comedy, and its elements combine together for a smooth concoction that does Elmore Leonard's novel justice. The cast also gives their best, including Ving Rhames, Albert Brooks, Catherine Keener, Don Cheadle, and a host of others. But still at the center of this film is the attraction and chemistry of George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez who slide into these characters with ease, and send crackling sparks flying from the screen. If today's romantic films (of any subgenre) won't to be successful, they need to be reminded that co-lead chemistry is the key, something apparently Soderbergh understood very well.

19. Jurassic Park (1993) - Every boy in America at some point went through a dinosaur phase. Steven Spielberg's phase apparently lasted well into adulthood (his house was built near a huge fossil site, so it's not hard to understand why), and I think we can all agree, that with 1993's Jurassic Park, we're glad it did. Spielberg managed in 1993 to make all of our dreams, and worst fears, about the awesomeness and magestic power of dinosaurs come true. It is a magical piece of filmmaking that takes us to a new world without ever really leaving the one we live in. He aptly adapted Michael Crichton's brilliant novel. stocked it full of amiable actors such as Sam Neill and Laura Dern, and utilized the new technology of the 1990's to make us truly believe that we were looking at real dinosaurs. While that year Schindler's List got all the credit (something I  don't necessarily disagree with, as you will see), I think that every generation since then has looked back at Jurassic Park as one of the most exciting, thrilling, and yes, scary, adventures of all time.

18. Forrest Gump (1994) - Oh Forrest Gump. How many people do you know who learned all of their 20th c. history from Forrest Gump? Who can quote almost every line? Some still debate the greatness of this film, calling it overly long, filled with too many cliches, etc. But whether you like it or not, Forrest Gump remains one of the most beloved American films, and has truly become a pop culture icon. It is emotional, humorous, and incredibly entertaining. While the supporting characters are great, especially Gary Sinise, Sally Field and Robin Wright, it is Tom Hanks lovable, deep, and incredibly moving performance that drives this film into greatness. He has created one of the singular most important film icons of all time, and even in the moments where the film seems to drag, it is Hanks that keeps it going, it is Hanks that makes us keep believing, and it is Hanks that we most care to see what happens to. Forrest Gump probably should not have beaten Pulp Fiction for Best Picture in 1994, but it doesn't mean that it isn't a truly wonderful American film.

17. Election (1999) - I have to admit, between The Descendants, About Schmidt, Sideways, and this stroke of comedic/high school genius, I really do find Alexander Payne to be one of the most creative and fascinating directors working today. 1999's Election is not as soft as his recent efforts, and at times can be brutally blistering. But it remains today a classic high school film, a richly dark comedy, and one of the best films of the 1990's. Led by Paynes apt direction, and brilliant script (written alongside his longtime writing partner Jim Taylor), Election is one of those great films that simply just clicks from its first frame to its last. It doesn't hurt that we have one of the best comedic performances of the 1990's exuding from this film in Reese Witherspoon, whose vicious Tracy Flick remains one of my favorite film characters, and certaintly one of Witherspoon's best performances to date. I think the most important thing that I have always taken away from Election is that high school is brutal, that politics on any level is dirty, and that morals are not so clean cut as people think they are, all of which are life lessons we all could use.

16. The Lion King (1994) - Disney began to revive itself in the late 80's and early 90's with films like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast which became the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture. But for me, Disney really reached their full swing in 1994, with Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff's brilliant rendition of Hamlet, The Lion King. I actually wrote a paper in high school, utilizing the C.S. Lewis/T.S. Eliot battle over what constitutes a work of art, to argue that in fact The Lion King was more of a work of art than its source material, Hamlet, which is still considered the greatest piece of literature in the English language (despite my futile protests). I argued that by adding humor, grace, awesome and catchy musical numbers, and a range of human emotion (all classic Disney features), that The Lion King was not only more enjoyable, but also more intriguing. Hey, maybe I'm wrong. But I guarantee you every child of the 90's like myself still loves The Lion King, still knows all the words to every song, and still watches it every time it's on television. If that isn't magic, I don't know what is.

15. Se7en (1995) - David Fincher has quickly become one of the most prolific directors of our time. His range and focus in his films is unlike any other. And Fincher was never better than in 1995's disturbing and thrilling masterpiece Se7en. A sick killer (Kevin Spacey), creates murders based on the 7 deadly sins, and makes us all sit on the edge of our seats wondering what exactly is in the box!? What makes Se7en really spectacular is that it takes a normal cop/murder thriller, and makes it a work of art. Complete with stunning visuals, a taut and deep script that incorporates sin and death, and the consequences of both, and great performances from Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, Se7en is no ordinary crime movie. It is a beautifully dark and twisted film that is entirely thrilling, shocking, and one of a kind. It also truly launched launched the career one of the best working directors, and did it with style.
14. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) - I am still so surprised that the stingy, old-fashioned Motion Picture Academy ever allowed a film like Silence of the Lambs to win Best Picture, especially since it was sandwiched by an films like Unforgiven and Dances With Wolves. But nonetheless, for at least one year, the Academy really did break the mold, and we are all grateful for that. It is not just any horror movie, it is a deep psychological drama about a cat and mouse game that takes us deep inside the mind of a cannabilisits serial killer, and never lets up on the chills and thrills. It features two stunning performances, although Anthony Hopkins Hannibal Lecter remains one of the greastest character creations in recent memory. What makes Silence of the Lambs such an effective and lasting horror film is not just Jonathan Demme's excellent direction, not Ted Tally's great screenplay, not even Hopkins' Lecter. No, what sets it apart is that it never dumbs itself down like so many standard horror films. Its is intelligent, deep, and well-paced, which makes it truly a scary and wonderful film.

13. Heat (1995) - Michael Mann's Heat is one of the most underrated crime thrillers of all time, still dwarfed by Scorsese and Coppola films. While I recognize that Scorsese and Coppola crime films are usually brilliant, so is this one. A grand ensemble film featuring a dozen or so great performances including Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer. But its pacing, its smart screenplay that aptly balances all of the different characters and action set pieces, is what makes it so great. Mann's vision of robbers and police clashing is violent, gritty, and at times utterly shocking and breathtaking. He also delves deep into the minds of both cops and criminals, blending the lines between good and evil, and providing full arcs for each individual, another accomplishment of great writing, acting, and directing. Most importantly, Heat is one of the most blisteringly entertaining films of the 1990's that is fast-paced and well worth the watch.
12. Boyz N the Hood (1991) - John Singleton has been recently reduced to a meandering director with a lack of vision. This is truly a shame considering some of his past work, particularly his 1991 case study of urban strife and race, the classic and brilliant Boyz N the Hood. L.A. went through so much turmoil in the late 80's and 90's, from poverty, to drugs, to the riots. Singleton perfectly captures the strife and hard times of the L.A. urban streets. It stands out from other efforts by not trying so hard to be gritty and urban. Instead it simply tells the story, which is at times brutal, and at other times poignantly honest. It features solid performances particularly Cuba Gooding Jr. (another promising artist, whose career has not matched his early efforts), and the always underrated, yet brilliant Laurence Fishburne. Most importantly, Singleton's film tells a story that needs to be told, it tells us of some of the underlying family issues that cause violence and drug use, and hopefully continues to be a reminder that there is still so much left to be done in the area of civil and economic rights in this country.

11. The Thin Red Line (1998) - I have not liked the last two efforts by Terrence Malick as New World was just not well done, and The Tree of Life wasted a wonderful story about a family with bookends that were either ridiculous or useless. But his previous efforts, including Badlands and Days of Heaven are pure genius, and this 1998 classic remains one of his best, and one of the best of the decade. Like all of Terrence Malick's films it is at times deep philosophical, and in the midst of action and character it springs forth with wisdoms and theories about war and humanity. But for me, The Thin Red Line still remains one of Malick's most accesible and real films. It provides in depth looks at the consequences, particularly human and psychological ones, while providing us a brilliant adaptation of James Jones' WWII classic autobiography. Probably most importantly, The Thin Red Line is a sweeping, beautifully rendered psychological humanist film that like the middle part of The Tree of Life, tells us a little more about ourselves. A cinematic experience like any other.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

State of the Race: October Oscar Predictions - Best Original Score and Song

Best Original Score - October Predictions
Dario Marianelli "Anna Karenina"
Alexandre Desplat "Argo"
Howard Shore "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
Mychael Danna "Life of Pi"
John Williams "Lincoln"

Other Contenders - Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek, Tom Tykwer "Cloud Atlas", Hans Zimmer "The Dark Knight Rises", Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlen "Beasts of the Southern Wild", Jonny Greenwood "The Master", Danny Elfman "Silver Linings Playbook", Alexandre Desplat "Moonrise Kingdom", Patrick Boyle "Brave", Thomas Newman "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel", Alan Silvestri "Flight", Alexandre Desplat "Rise of the Guardians", Gustavo Santaollala "On the Road", Fernando Velazquez "The Impossible", Thomas Newman "Skyfall", Danny Elfman "Hitchcock", Marco Beltrami "The Sessions"

Best Original Song - October Predictions
Joyful Noise - Dolly Parton "From Here to the Moon and Back"
Lawless - Willie Nelson "Midnight Run"
Les Miserables - (Not Sure Writer) "Suddenly"
Paul Williams Still Alive - Paul Williams "Still Alive"
Skyfall - Adele "Skyfall"

Other Contenders
Brave - Learn Me Right
Brave - Touch the Sky
Frankenweenie - Strange Love
The Hunger Games - Abraham's Daughter
Joyful Noise - Not Enough
Rise of the Guardians - Still Dream
Snow White and the Huntsman - Breath of Life
Sparkle - Celebrate
Stand Up Guys - Not Running Anymore
Stand Up Guys - Old Habits Die Hard
Ted - Everyone Needs a Friend
West of Memphis - Anything Made of Paper
Wreck-it Ralph - When Can I See You Again

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to Host Golden Globe Awards

First Seth MacFarlane, now this! The awards gods must be smiling on Andrew this year. The Hollywood Foreign Press has just announced that for its 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards, that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, two great friends and hilarious comedians are hosting! I think this is great, and think that they will have so much fun (maybe even a Sarah Palin/Hillary Clinton reunion!)  And I know that no matter what they do, that I will probably enjoy it because these are two of my favorite television stars. We'll have to wait and see, but I feel good about this one.

Monday, October 15, 2012

State of the Race: First Golden Globe Predictions

Best Picture - Drama
Django Unchained
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Master
Zero Dark Thirty

Best Picture - Comedy/Musical
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Hope Springs
Les Miserables
Moonrise Kingdom
Silver Linings Playbook

Best Actor in a Drama
Daniel Day-Lewis "Lincoln"
Anthony Hopkins "Hitchcock"
John Hawkes "The Sessions"
Joaquin Phoenix "The Master"
Denzel Washington "Flight"

Best Actress in a Drama
Marion Cotillard "Rust & Bone"
Kiera Knightley "Anna Karenina"
Helen Mirren "Hitchcock"
Emmanuelle Riva "Amour"
Naomi Watts "The Impossible"

Best Actor in a Comedy
Bradley Cooper "Silver Linings Playbook"
Hugh Jackman "Les Miserables"
Tommy Lee Jones "Hope Springs"
Bill Murray "Hyde Park on Hudson"
Channing Tatum "Magic Mike"

Best Actress in a Comedy
Judi Dench "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"
Jennifer Lawrence "Silver Linings Playbook"
Maggie Smith "Quartet"
Meryl Streep "Hope Springs"
Barbra Streisand "The Guilt Trip"

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin "Argo"
Robert DeNiro "Silver Linings Playbook"
Leonardo DiCaprio "Django Unchained"
Philip Seymour Hoffman "The Master"
Tommy Lee Jones "Lincoln"

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams "The Master"
Samantha Bark "Les Miserables"
Sally Field "Lincoln"
Anne Hathaway "Les Miserables"
Helen Hunt "The Sessions"

Best Director
Ben Affleck "Argo"
Tom Hooper "Les Miserables"
David O. Russell "Silver Linings Playbook"
Steven Spielberg "Lincoln"
Quentin Tarantino "Django Unchained"

Best Screenplay
Chris Terrio "Argo"
Quentin Tarantino "Django Unchained"
Tony Kushner "Lincoln"
Paul Thomas Anderson "The Master"
David O. Russell "Silver Linings Playbook"

Sunday, October 14, 2012

2012 New York Film Festival: Flight Reviews

So rumors have been circling that Flight was a return to form for Zemeckis, and that Denzel Washington is Oscar-worthy. Well last night, for the closing of the New York Film Festival, the rumors were confirmed true as Flight has landed with great reviews. I have left it out of the Best Picture top ten, to see how it does with more mainstream critics, plus because it is being called a great character study, I wonder if in the end it will be all about Washington. Anyway, here is a sampling of the positive reviews so far:

Todd McCarthy from The Hollywood Reporter:

"After 12 years spent mucking about in the motion capture playpen, Robert Zemeckis parachutes back to where he belongs, in big-time, big-star, live-action filmmaking, with Flight. A gritty, full-bodied character study about a man whose most exceptional deed may, ironically, have resulted from his most flagrant flaw, this absorbing drama provides Denzel Washington with one of his meatiest, most complex roles, and he flies with it. World premiering as the closing night attraction at the 50th New York Film Festival, the Paramount release will be warmly welcomed by audiences in search of thoughtful, powerful adult fare upon its Nov. 2 opening."

Eric Kohn at Indiewire:

"Beyond its impressive special effects (a touchstone of Zemeckis' career), "Flight" foregrounds movie stars in firm control of their material, particularly its leading man: Denzel Washington delivers one of his most astute roles in years as Captain Whip Whitaker, the alcoholic pilot of a doomed plane who manages to land it in a spectacular feat before dealing with the investigation into his culpability. Zemeckis' tight direction jives nicely with John Gatis' long-admired screenplay, resulting in a stylishly engaging character study with bold stabs at big ideas."

Peter DeBruge from Variety:

"Audiences buckle up for one kind of movie but end up strapped in for another in "Flight," director Robert Zemeckis' welcome return to live-action after a dozen years away. Serious-minded drama steers a horrifying nightmare at 20,000 feet into one man's turbulent personal struggle with his drinking problem -- and not in the jokey "Airplane!" sense, either. Denzel Washington is aces as a commercial airline pilot who pulls off a miraculous mid-air stunt while flying with a 0.24 blood alcohol concentration, only to face his demons on the ground. Pic should soar on all platforms -- except in-flight, of course."

State of the Race: October Oscar Predictions - Best Picture

October Predictions
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
The Master
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Other Contenders - Flight, Moonrise Kingdom, Hitchcock, Anna Karenina, The Impossible, The Dark Knight Rises, Amour, Rust & Bone, Promised Land, Skyfall, Cloud Atlas

Commentary - We know that five films: The Master, Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, Life of Pi, and Lincoln are all going to be pretty big contenders throughout the rest of the season due to their enthusiastic responses from the festival circuit. Now not all of these make make the final 5-10, but until we see some of the unknown big contenders, they are currently the ones on top. Speaking of those unseen contenders, I still think that Les Miserables, The Hobbit, Django Unchained, and Zero Dark Thirty will play relatively well at the end of this year, and with the Oscar pedigree's involved, I am going to continue to put them on top until told otherwise. And despite the onslaught of some well-reviewed films, I think I am going to hang on to Beasts of the Southern Wild for the moment, because I believe that the critics groups may keep it in the race despite its loss of potential SAG recognition. There are still a lot of films though that are looking to jump into the top ten or so, as new contenders emerge and older ones hang on in a year that could be one of the best in recent years in terms of quality films. Flight just had a great premeire at NYFF (I will do a post later dissecting the reviews), and has jumped to my #11 slot as I think it will be a huge audience and critics hit. Hitchcock is baity material and is also highly anticipated, especially for its performances, but could see Picture in its sights. Summer contenders like TDKR and Moonrise Kingdom still look pretty good months later and if some of these bigger unseen contenders fail, voters will begin to look back to eariler favorites. Also films like Anna Karenina, Amour, Rust & Bone, and Cloud Atlas have all been seen but must overcome stiff competition and their own personal hurdles. Finally, I am looking at the pedigree of Promised Land, and the initially really good reviews of Skyfall as indicators of something bigger for both productions. We'll just have to wait and see...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

State of the Race: October Oscar Predictions - Technicals

Best Production Design
Anna Karenina
Cloud Atlas
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Miserables

Other Contenders - Life of Pi, The Master, Prometheus, Moonrise Kingdom, The Dark Knight Rises, Django Unchained, A Royal Affair, Skyfall, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Mirror Mirror, Dark Shadows, Hitchcock, Snow White and the Huntsman, Hyde Park on Hudson

Best Cinematography
Django Unchained
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
The Master

Other Contenders - Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty, Cloud Atlas, The Dark Knight Rises, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Anna Karenina, Argo, Skyfall, The Impossible, Prometheus, The Hunger Games, Moonrise Kingdom, Samsara

Best Costume Design
Anna Karenina
Cloud Atlas
Les Miserables
Mirror, Mirror

Other Contenders - The Dark Knight Rises, Great Expectations, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Django Unchained, Moonrise Kingdom, The Master, A Royal Affair, On the Road, Snow White and the Huntsman, The Hunger Games, Hyde Park on Hudson

Best Film Editing
The Master
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Other Contenders - Life of Pi, Django Unchained, Cloud Atlas, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Les Miserables, Anna Karenina, Flight, Skyfall, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Moonrise Kingdom, Looper, End of Watch, Promised Land, The Impossible

Best Hair and Makeup
Cloud Atlas
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Other Contenders - Lincoln, Les Miserables, Anna Karenina, Men in Black III, Great Expectations, Django Unchained, The Impossible, Looper, Dark Shadows, A Royal Affair, Hyde Park on Hudson, The Hunger Games, The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus, Holy Motors, Life of Pi

Best Sound Mixing
The Avengers
The Dark Knight Rises
Les Miserables
Zero Dark Thirty

Other Contenders - Life of Pi, Django Unchained, Argo, Lincoln, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Flight, Cloud Atlas, The Impossible, Looper, The Bourne Legacy, The Hunger Games, The Master, Prometheus, Brave, Jack Reacher, Rock of Ages, The Amazing Spider-Man

Best Sound Editing
The Avengers
The Dark Knight Rises
Life of Pi
Zero Dark Thirty

Other Contenders - Lincoln, Flight, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Impossible, Django Unchained, Cloud Atlas, Les Miserables, Prometheus, Looper, The Master, Brave, The Bourne Legacy, The Hunger Games, The Amazing Spider-Man

Best Visual Effects
Cloud Atlas
The Dark Knight Rises
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Impossible
Life of Pi

Other Contenders - The Avengers, Prometheus, John Carter, Flight, Snow White and the Huntsman, Dark Shadows, The Amazing Spider Man, Skyfall, Looper, The Hunger Games, Total Recall, Men in Black 3, The Cabin in the Woods, Flight.

Zero Dark Thirty Trailer

Finally, we get a real trailer for Zero Dark Thirty, which I think looks pretty good, although films like these tend to be either really good or really not good. So we'll have to wait and see. But for now I think I am keeping it in my Best Picture predictions, and I am certaintly glad I added Jessica Chastain to the Best Supporting Actress mix because she seems to have a pretty prominent and baity role among all of those male cast members. On the action side, it looks tense, but still having a narrative, and its timeliness could not be more pertinent.

Friday, October 12, 2012

State of the Race: October Oscar Predictions - Best Director

October Predictions
Ben Affleck "Argo"
David O. Russell "Silver Linings Playbook"
Tom Hooper "Les Miserables"
Steven Spielberg "Lincoln"
Paul Thomas Anderson "The Master"

Other Contenders - Ang Lee "Life of Pi", Kathryn Bigelow "Zero Dark Thirty", Quentin Tarantino "Django Unchained", Peter Jackson "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", Benh Zehn "Beasts of the Southern Wild", Christopher Nolan "The Dark Knight Rises", Michael Haneke "Amour", Sacha Gervasi "Hitchcock", Wes Anderson "Moonrise Kingdom", Gus Van Sant "Promised Land", Robert Zemeckis "Flight", Juan Antonio Bayona "The Impossible", Joe Wright "Anna Karenina", Jacques Audiard "Rust & Bone", Lana & Andy Wachowski & Tom Tywker "Cloud Atlas"
Commentary - Lord there are just too many names, and since we're not sure about them, that means that Tarantino, Lee, Bigelow, and Jackson are all on the outside fighting for the top five. With its wide release today, Argo continues to earn rave reviews, and if it has a decent opening weekend, I think that Ben Affleck continues to remain a huge contender and gets his first directing Oscar nomination. David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook is a comedy, which helps it stand out among the nominees had was a huge festival hit, so despite a lot of competition I still think he is on the forefront of voter's minds. With Lincoln's surprise premeire, Spielberg proves he has found his stride again after the disappointing War Horse, and I think that it will be a huge hit with the older Academy members. While we haven't seen it yet, the positive buzz for Les Miserables has been slowly building, and while some would argue that Hooper didn't deserve his first Oscar, he is still a recent winner and if he knocks it out of the park then he is in. In the final slot I simply don't know where to go. I really want to put Tarantino, Bigelow, Lee, or Jackson, but for now I am holding on to PTA for The Master, which was a directoral feat (so was Lee, but I think The Master is still in a better position at the moment), and will have a passionate following.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hitchcock Trailer

I think that this trailer looks great on a personal level. We see the struggle of making one of the greatest movies of all time. We see both the humor and fright of the great Alfred Hitchcock, and we see great actors seemingly doing great work. Of course it could be a complete bomb, but for now I kind of doubt that. What I also like is that it seems as if the director and screenwriter have focused more on his marriage and his struggle to make the movie, and not too much on the glitzy movie stars. Overall, I am excited to see this film.

State of the Race: October Oscar Predictions - Best Actor

October Predictions
Daniel Day-Lewis "Lincoln"
John Hawkes "The Sessions"
Anthony Hopkins "Hitchcock"
Joaquin Phoenix "The Master"
Denzel Washington "Flight"

Other Contenders - Hugh Jackman "Les Miserables", Bradley Cooper "Silver Linings Playbook", Richard Gere "Arbitrage", Bill Murray "Hyde Park on Hudson", Matt Damon "Promised Land", Ben Affleck "Argo", Suraj Sharma "Life of Pi", Jean-Louis Trintignant "Amour", Jamie Foxx "Django Unchained", Tommy Lee Jones "Hope Springs", Logan Lerman "The Perks of Being a Wallflower", Martin Freeman "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", Jack Black "Bernie", Liam Neeson "The Grey", Brad Pitt "Killing Them Softly"
Commentary - So poor Hugh Jackman, he seems to be that sixth slot that fits in when its convienent and is left out when its not. I still think he could easily get a nod, and his role is baity, there is just so much competition at the moment, considering the five guys ahead of him are all either previous Oscar winners (three of them) or nominees (two of them). So while he is left on the outside, along with Bradley Cooper for his career best performance, Richard Gere, Bill Murray, Matt Damon, Jamie Foxx, Jean-Louis Trintignant, and others, it does not mean that they are not still in this race. At the moment, the four that seem to be in the lead have remained. John Hawkes and Joaquin Phoenix are definitely contenders with their praised performances, and I still think Flight will be good (we'll know soon enough) so Denzel remains in the top five. We now know from an advanced screening that Daniel Day-Lewis is great in Lincoln, and continues to remain the one to beat. But I think that if anyone can it will be previous winner Sir Anthony Hopkins playing yet another infamous historical figure, Alfred Hitchcock. I like the new trailer (which I will post later this evening), and I think it could be a nice combination of humor, terror, and behind the scenes of one of cinema's greatest masterpieces. Unless it ends up like My Week With Marilyn (which still managed two acting nods), it has all the makings of great Academy bait.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New York Film Festival: Lincoln Hits Big

So, a couple of disclaimers: 1) We have no official reviews yet 2) The film is technically unfinished. Now that that is out of the way, we can talk about Lincoln's surprising, unfinished screening last night at the New York Film Festival. Just from tweets alone, despite some detractors, the overwhelming positive reaction from fanboys and bloggers makes me believe that Lincoln is a real Oscar contender. Picture, Director, Actor, and both supporting from Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones, but others could be in play as well. The screenplay is apparently well put together by Tony Kushner, and the technicals are, as always, top notch. Of course the motto remains. This is just a first (unfinished) viewing, so we'll have to wait and see, but for the Lincoln team, it's looking good.

Monday, October 8, 2012

State of the Race: October Oscar Predictions - Best Actress

October Predictions
Marion Cotillard "Rust & Bone"
Kiera Knightley "Anna Karenina"
Jennifer Lawrence "Silver Linings Playbook"
Quvenzhane Wallis "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Emmanuelle Riva "Amour"

Other Contenders - Helen Mirren "Hitchcock", Naomi Watts "The Impossible", Meryl Streep "Hope Springs", Judi Dench "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel", Mary Elizabeth Winstead "Smashed", Viola Davis "Won't Back Down", Maggie Smith "Quartet", Anna Kendrick "Pitch Perfect", Laura Linney "Hyde Park on Hudson", Rachel Weisz "The Deep Blue Sea", Michelle Williams "Take This Waltz", Barbra Streisand "The Guilt Trip", Amy Adams "Trouble With the Curve"
Commentary - While this is a thin list in terms of number of contenders, there are some bona fide great performances that will make this race competitive among the top eight or nine. Emerging into the front of the race is Jennifer Lawrence who is receiving raves from Toronto for Silver Linings. She is young and attractive, a trait among many recent Best Actress winners, but is also a previous nominee, announcer of the nominees, and the star of now two big blockbusters (X-Men and Hunger Games). But she is up agains some baity and big roles. Marion Cotillard apprently gives a stunning performance in Rust & Bone, and while the Academy has seemingly ignored her for her English-speaking roles as of late, she won an Oscar in French, and Jacques Audiard is a popular director. While it may be hard to imagine two foreign language nominees, this year's race may afford us that opportunity as Emanuelle Riva gives an emotional turn in Amour from the popular Michael Haneke, and could have a late career awards surge. On the other end of the spectrum is youngster and newcomer Quvenzhane Wallis. While the ineligibility from SAG puts a wrench in this race for Wallis, I still think she is a powerhouse, and is still in this thing for now. In the final slot I am picking between a few different women, at the moment settling on Kiera Knightley for her praised role in Anna Karenina, although the film's direction and style could throw off some voters. Helen Mirren has joined the race, and joins other previous veteran winners such as Judi Dench and Maggie Smith who could secure a nod. The one though that I think could make a gain is Meryl Streep. Yes fatigue can happen, especially so quick after a win, but she is Meryl freakin' Streep, and she actually gives one of my favorite performances from her in recent memory in Hope Springs. In this weak year, with a lot of young or unknown names, someone like Streep (or Mirren, Dench, and Smith for that fact), could entice older voters.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

State of the Race: October Oscar Predictions - Best Supporting Actor

October Predictions
Alan Arkin "Argo"
Leonardo DiCaprio "Django Unchained"
Robert DeNiro "Silver Linings Playbook"
Philip Seymour Hoffman "The Master"
Tommy Lee Jones "Lincoln"

Other Contenders - Dwight Henry "Beasts of the Southern Wild", John Goodman "Argo", Bryan Cranston "Argo", Hal Holbrook "Promised Land", Hal Holbrook "Lincoln", David Strathairn "Lincoln", Matthew McConaughey "Magic Mike", Russell Crowe "Les Miserables", Michael Pena "End of Watch", William H. Macy "The Sessions", Ewan McGregor "The Impossible", Ezra Miller "The Perks of Being a Wallflower", Ifran Kahn "Life of Pi", James Gandolfini "Killing Them Softly", Tom Wilkinson "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel", Jim Broadbent "Cloud Atlas", Joseph Gordon-Levitt "Lincoln", Ian McKellen "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", Christoph Waltz "Django Unchained", Woody Harrelson "Seven Psychopaths", Jared Harris "Lincoln"

Commentary - Unlike its Supporting Actress counterpart, Supporting Actor is a stacked race with lots of veteran contenders battling it out (as of now I am predicting four previous winners and a previous mutiple nominee). In some cases, there are multiple possibilites from the same film, so we'll have to work out which contenders are the strongest from each, specifically Argo and Lincoln. With Argo, Arkin has gotten probably the best buzz, although Goodman and Cranston are certaintly possibilities. With Lincoln, the trailer shows a lot of Tommy Lee Jones, and less of David Strathairn, which makes me believe that Jones' is the meatier role. Philip Seymour Hoffman is probably the leading contender at the moment, because his semi-lead status and masterful performance in The Master are both huge boosts, and he is an Academy favorite. Robert DeNiro hasn't been in the race in a while, but he apparently is a scene-stealer in one of the biggest contenders Silver Linings Playbook. Finally, the mystery around Django Unchained remains, but I still get the feeling that DiCaprio will be a hit, and a nominee. Dwight Henry, Hal Holbrook, Matthew McConaughey, Ifran Kahn, Ewan McGregor, and William H. Macy are big contenders looking to break the top five. And Russell Crowe is probably the biggest name missing from the top five, but somehow it looks like Jackman and Hathaway are bigger roles, and in this competitive year he is going to have to knock it out of the park.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Mel Brooks to Receive AFI Lifetime Achievement Award

This year we were treated to Shirley MacLaine's long overdue AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, and this year, it is sure to be another riot with the honoring of one of my favorite entertainers, an EGOT winner, a comedic legend, and simply one of the coolest guys out there, Mel Brooks! Congrats, and I can't wait till next June to enjoy the show.

State of the Race: October Oscar Predictions - Best Supporting Actress

October Predictions
Amy Adams "The Master"
Jessica Chastain "Zero Dark Thirty"
Sally Field "Lincoln"
Anne Hathaway "Les Miserables"
Helen Hunt "The Sessions"

Other Contenders - Samantha Barks "Les Miserables", Maggie Smith "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel", Kerry Washington "Django Unchained", Pauline Collins "Quartet", Jacki Weaver "Silver Linings Playbook", Ann Dowd "Compliance", Rebel Wilson "Pitch Perfect", Helena Bonham Carter "Les Miserables", Emily Blunt "Looper", Jennifer Ehle "Zero Dark Thirty", Salma Hayek "Savages", Judi Dench "Skyfall", Frances McDormand "Promised Land", Shriley MacLaine "Bernie", Emma Watson "The Perks of Being a Wallflower", Alicia Vikander "Anna Karenina", Rosemarie DeWitt "Promised Land", Olivia Williams "Hyde Park on Hudson", Olivia Colman "Hyde Park on Hudson", Nicole Kidman "The Paperboy", Jessica Biel "Hitchcock", Toni Collette "Hitchcock", Scarlett Johanssen "Hitchcock"
Commentary - This race is not the strongest this year, but can be a bit tough if all the films that we think are going to be good turn out to be good. If Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Lincoln, and Zero Dark Thirty don't stand up to the hype, then this category becomes incredibly weak. But at the moment, I am going with the hope that they are good. We know that Helen Hunt and Amy Adams, which have emerged out of the festival circuit, are safe bets, both giving fine performances in well-received movies. On Monday we will find out if Lincoln is up to par, although some early viewings have not been as kind to Sally Field. But it has been a while since she has been in the Oscar race, and if the latest TV spot is any indication, the actors across the board put in fine work. Anne Hathaway has continued to make the top five for Les Miserables which seems to be looking better by the day. While she is slightly on the outside looking in, I think that Samantha Barks is also a big contender for Eponine. In the final slot, I am putting a contender I had left out for most of the season, but whose stock seems to be on the rise. After last year's successes, Jessica Chastain has emerged as one of the hottest new talents. As the possible female standout in a largely male movie, she could be a real scene stealer for Kathryn Bigelow's highly anticipated Zero Dark Thirty. On the outside looking in are some big names including Pauline Collins, Maggie Smith, Kerry Washington, Jacki Weaver, Frances McDormand, Ann Dowd, and maybe even the Hitchcock gals. So while this isn't the strongest race in this year's derby, there are plenty of contenders to battle it out for the top five.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

New Oscar Poll in Sidebar

As we all began to really dive into the Oscar race, there is still so much unseen. So which unseen Oscar contenders do you think will be the biggest hit with Academy voters? Make your pick in the sidebar!

68 Foreign Language Film Submissions

So the deadline has passed, and we now know all of the contenders for Best Foreign Language Film including big films like No, Amour, The Interrupters, A Royal Affair, Fill the Void and others are all in this. Now, the Academy may tweak this slightly, but basically this is what were working with, and I must say it looks like an exciting year for the category with lots of great potentials. Thanks to the guys at In Contention for compiling this list!

"The Intouchables" (France)
"Amour" (Austria)
"No" (Chile)
"Lore" (Australia)
"Our Children" (Belgium)
"A Royal Affair" (Denmark)
"Sister" (Switzerland)
"Fill the Void" (Israel)
"War Witch" (Canada)
"Barbara" (Germany)
"After Lucia" (Mexico)
"Blancanieves" (Spain)
"Children of Sarajevo" (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
"The Hypnotist" (Sweden)
"Beyond the Hills" (Romania)
"The Patience Stone" (Afghanistan)
"Pharmakon" (Albania)
"Zabana!" (Algeria)
"Clandestine Childhood" (Argentina)
"If Only Everyone" (Armenia)
"Buta" (Azerbaijan)
"Pleasure Boy Kamola" (Bangladesh)
"The Clown" (Brazil)
"Sneakers" (Bulgaria)
"Lost Loves" (Cambodia)
"Caught in the Web" (China)
"El Cartel de los Sapos" (Colombia)
"Cannibal Vegetarian" (Croatia)
"In the Shadows" (Czech Republic)
"Check Mate" (Dominican Republic)
"Mushrooming" (Estonia)
"Purge" (Finland)
"Keep Smiling" (Georgia)
"Unfair World" (Greece)
"Inuk" (Greenland)
"Life Without Principle" (Hong Kong)
"Just the Wind" (Hungary)
"The Deep" (Iceland)
"Barfi!" (India)
"Tiny Dancer" (Indonesia)
"Caesar Must Die" (Italy)
"Our Homeland" (Japan)
"Myn Bala" (Kazakhstan)
"Nairobi Half Life" (Kenya)
"Gulf Stream Under the Iceberg" (Latvia)
"Ramin" (Lithuania)
"The Third Half" (Macedonia)
"Death for Sale" (Morocco)
"Kauwboy" (The Netherlands)
"Kon-Tiki" (Norway)
"When I Saw You" (Palestinian Territories)
"The Bad Intentions" (Peru)
"Bwakaw" (The Phillipines)
"80 Million" (Poland)
"Blood of My Blood" (Portugal)
"White Tiger" (Russia)
"When Day Breaks" (Serbia)
"Made in Ash" (Slovakia)
"A Trip" (Slovenia)
"Little One" (South Africa)
"Pieta" (South Korea)
"Touch of the Light" (Taiwan)
"Headshot" (Thailand)
"Where the Fire Burns" (Turkey)
"Firecrosser" (Ukraine)
"The Delay" (Uruguay)
"Rock Paper Scissors" (Venezuela)
"The Scent of Burning Grass" (Vietnam)

State of the Race: October Oscar Predictions - Best Animated Feature

October Predictions
Le Tableau
Rise of the Guardians

Other Contenders - From Up on Poppy Hill, The Rabbi's Cat, Wreck-It Ralph, From Up on Poppy Hill, Zarafa, A Liar's Autobiography - The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman, The Lorax, The Secret World of Arriety, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, The Secret of the Wings, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

Commentary - Is it possible to have Finding Nemo 3-D eligible? Just kidding, this year actually has a lot of names, and will most likely have five nominees, although none of them are really standing out at this moment. While Brave may not have been up to par, it is probably still in the lead, although two recent releases Frankenweenie and ParaNorman are both getting decent reviews, and could be late contenders. The one main studio release that I'll be interested to see is Rise of the Guardians, which has some positive buzz, but could end up not living up to expectations. The question I have is: after last year's success with two nominations, how many films will GKids get in this year. The one with the most buzz is Le Tableau, so it is currently in my predictions, but if they get much better reviews then some of these studio releases then films like The Rabbi's Cat, From Up on Poppy Hill, and Zarafa could all be in play.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

State of the Race: October Oscar Predictions - Best Original Screenplay

October Predictions
Michael Haneke "Amour"
Quentin Tarantino "Django Unchained"
Paul Thomas Anderson "The Master"
Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola "Moonrise Kingdom"
Mark Boal "Zero Dark Thirty"

Other Contenders - Matt Damon, David Eggers, and John Krasinski "Promised Land", John Gatins "Flight", Sergio G. Sanchez "The Impossible", Reid Carolin "Magic Mike", Rian Johnson "Looper", Vanessa Taylor "Hope Springs", Nicholas Jarecki "Arbitrage", Zoe Kazan "Ruby Sparks", Martin McDonagh "Seven Psychopaths", Sarah Polley "Take This Waltz", Oliver Nakache and Eric Toledano "The Intouchables", Whit Stillman "Damsels in Distress", Brenda Chapman and Irene Mecchi "Brave", David Ayer "End of Watch", Randy Brown "Trouble With the Curve", David Chase "Not Fade Away", James Ponsoldt and Susan Burke "Smashed"

Commentary - If Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty are not up to par, this will throw this race into a tailspin, because, despite all the names listed, there aren't that many big contenders for the prize. That being said, I think that both will end up being good films, and it could be a rematch of 2009, with Tarantino and Boal going at it again. But there are some that will put up a fight. Probably the biggest is Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master. While it may not be mainstream or entertaining enough for Best Picture, the masterful script could really go over well at the Writer's Branch. Another big possibility is Michael Haneke's Amour. Last year A Separation broke through the language barrier to get a nomination, and I think Amour is even better positioned to do well with the Academy, so I expect a similar result. In the final slot, I am choosing at the moment between two films. Promised Land has the pedigree with Van Sant and Matt Damon, but the trailer was a little underwhelming. So at the moment, I am sticking with Wes Anderson's great script for Moonrise Kingdom, which I hope survives the onslaught and manages a nomination in the end, because it truly is original.

2012 News and Documentary Emmy Winners

ABC News Special Report/Nightline                                                 ABC
        Gadhafi Speaks

ABC World News with Diane Sawyer/Nightline                              ABC
        Crisis in Libya

ABC News Nightline                                                                          ABC
        American Valor: The Land of the Brave

CBS Evening News                                                                     CBS
        Gunwalker:  Fast and Furious             

Good Morning America, World News with Diane Sawyer & Nightline        ABC
The Center for Public Integrity and ABC News Brian Ross Investigates: 
Green Energy:  Contracts, Connections and the Collapse of Solyndra

FRONTLINE                                                                                      PBS
        Revolution in Cairo

FRONTLINE                                                                                     PBS
        Syria Undercover

48 Hours                                                                                       CBS
        Grave Injustice

60 Minutes                                                                                    CBS
        Gospel for Teens

ABC News 20/20                                                                        ABC
        Brian Ross Investigates: Peace Corps--A Trust Betrayed

60 Minutes                                                                                   CBS
        The Next Housing Shock

AC360                                                                                               CNN
        Bullying:  It Stops Here

CNN/CNNi Breaking News Simulcast                                             CNN/CNNi
        Revolution in Egypt:  President Mubarak Steps Down
POV                                                                                                    PBS
        Where Soldiers Come From

POV                                                                                                    PBS
        Enemies of the People

The Tillman Story                                                                     Showtime

HBO Documentary Films                                                                 HBO
POV                                                                                                    PBS
        Last Train Home
Rock Center with Brian Williams                                                     NBC
        Sandusky Speaks

Independent Lens                                                                               PBS
        The Woodmans

Decoding Immortality                                            Smithsonian Channel

OUTSTANDING NATURE PROGRAMMING                                                
Nature                                                                                                 PBS
        My Life as a Turkey

ABC News Nightline                                                                                   ABC
        American Valor: The Land of the Brave

20/20                                                                                                            ABC
        Brian Ross Investigates: Peace Corps--A Trust Betrayed

POV                                                                                                              PBS
        Last Train Home
Council on Foreign Relations & MediaStorm            cfr.org/MediaStorm.com
        Crisis Guide: Iran   

TIME Video                                                                                       TIME.com
        Beyond 9/11: Portraits of Resilience

The New York Times Magazine                                         NYTimes.com
        Touch of Evil

60 Minutes                                                                                          CBS
        Hard Times Generation ‑ Families in Cars

60 Minutes                                                                                          CBS
        Hard Times Generation ‑ Families in Cars

Dateline NBC                                                                                   NBC
        Rescue in the Mountains

Human Planet                                                            Discovery Channel
60 Minutes                                                                                          CBS
        Gospel for Teens

POV                                                                                                   PBS

Rising:  Rebuilding Ground Zero                               Discovery Channel
        Stories from the Pile

HBO Documentary Films                                                                 HBO
        Saving Pelican 895

NBC News Education Nation                                                           NBC
        Education Nation Summit           

New Generation Explorers Campaign     National Geographic Channel

Rising:  Rebuilding Ground Zero                                 Science Channel 

WFAA‑TV News 8 at 10pm (Dallas, TX)                              WFAA‑TV
        A Day of Weather

WTHR Eyewitness News Nightbeat (Indianapolis, IN)          WTHR‑TV
        Reality Check:  Where Are The Jobs?