Saturday, November 30, 2013

2013 Sight and Sound's Critics Poll

I always hate the way Sight and Sound structures their year-end list, with all those equal signs in can be a bit confusing. But either way, each year they poll a wide swath of international critics to find what is the consensus for the year's best films. In an interesting twist, they have picked an upset choice this year with The Act of Killing, and an even bigger shock is that 12 Years a Slave ended up out of the top ten (tied for 14th to be exact). The rest of the list is populated with many foreign entries as always, but also includes some potential Oscar/Indie Spirit contenders including Frances Ha, Upstream Color, All is Lost, the aforementioned 12 Years a Slave, Blue Jasmine, and Inside Llewyn Davis. And in the number 2 spot is Gravity. This makes me wonder if us pundits are underestimating its critics award potential, being blinded by the 12 Years a Slave love. It may not end up mattering in the end, but it is worth noting as NBR and NYFCC are just a few days away. Enjoy the list below:

1. “The Act of Killing” (Joshua Oppenheimer)
2. “Gravity” (Alfonso Cuaron)
3. “Blue is the Warmest Color” (Abdellatif Kechiche)
4. “The Great Beauty” (Paolo Sorrentino)
5. “Frances Ha” (Noah Baumbach)
6. “A Touch of Sin” (Jia Zhang-ke)
=“Upstream Color” (Shane Carruth)
8. “The Selfish Giant” (Clio Barnard)
9. “Norte, the End of History” (Lav Diaz)
=”Stranger by the Lake” (Alain Guiraudie)
11. “Before Midnight” (Richard Linklater)
=”Stray Dogs” (Tsai Ming-liang)
13. “Leviathan” (Lucien Castaing and Verena Paravel)
14. ”All is Lost” (J.C. Chandor)
=”A Field in England” (Ben Wheatley)
=“12 Years a Slave” (Steve McQueen)
17. “Bastards” (Claire Denis)
=”Gloria” (Sebastian Lelio)
=”The Missing Picture” (Rithy Panh)
=”Story of My Death” (Albert Serra)
=”Under the Skin” (Jonathan Glazer)
22. “At Berkeley” (Frederick Wiseman)
=”Beyond the Hills” (Cristian Mungiu)
=”Blancanieves” (Pablo Berger) 
=”Blue Jasmine” (Woody Allen)
=”Django Unchained” (Quentin Tarantino)
=“Ida” (Pawel Pawlikowski)
=”Inside Llewyn Davis” (Joel and Ethan Coen)
=“It’s Such a Beautiful Day” (Don Hertzfeldt)
=”The Last of the Unjust” (Claude Lanzmann)

Friday, November 29, 2013

American Hustle Deemed Comedy at Globes

They were pushing for a drama nomination, but Sony will have to settle for breaking into the Comedy/Musical category at the Globes. Word on the street is that people expect it to score a lot of nods at the Oscars, but it may not be deep enough, too entertaining, for any wins. But moving to Comedy might help them at the Globes, and give them some nice nominations, and maybe even a few wins if it plays it right, and it will be a big moment in the Oscar haul. And I think that entertaining + David O. Russell + that cast could still equal some Oscar glory, especially compared to the heavy-handed frontrunners 12 Years a Slave and Gravity. That being said I see Best Picture - Comedy/Musical, Actress, Actor, and probably both supporting, and never discount directing/writing either. I still think American Hustle is a player, and I wouldn't count it out just yet.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Oscar Narrative: November Predictions - Best Picture

November Predictions
American Hustle
August: Osage County
Captain Phillips
Inside Llewyn Davis
Lee Daniel's The Butler
Saving Mr. Banks
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Other Contenders - All is Lost, Dallas Buyers Club, Blue Jasmine, Fruitvale Station, Her, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Philomena, Lone Survivor, Out of the Furnace, Rush, Prisoners, Before Midnight, The Book Thief, Mud

Commentary - So American Hustle has dropped, and while it hasn't launched itself to the top of pile,
most insiders agree it will do well enough with Oscar voters. We still don't know about The Wolf of Wall Street, but I banking on it at the moment. Other than that, there is still not much movement. Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, and Captain Phillips are still the frontrunners, with Saving Mr. Banks recently joining their ranks. Nebraska hit it out of the park with the Indie Spirits, and I maintain that it will be a hit with older Oscar voters. These five plus American Hustle, and most likely Wolf of Wall Street, seem like the top contenders at this moment. Inside Llewyn Davis is still in this thing, although I still get the feeling it will not strike a chord with voters the way other Coen projects have in the past. Both Lee Daniel's The Butler and August: Osage County premiered to mixed reviews, but both have two things going for them. One is the acting branch, who will love the large casts packed full of top actors. The other major factor in their favor is Harvey Weinstein. Even with less than stellar efforts, he has managed to work as many positive angles as possible and get his films into the Best Picture race. I expect both to stay strong. Beyond these ten are smaller projects fighting to get in (Dallas Buyers Club, All is Lost, Her, Fruitvale Station, Before Midnight), a high quality Woody Allen film that would easily get in in a weaker year (Blue Jasmine), hardnosed action flicks (Out of the Furnace, Prisoners, Lone Survivor), and bigger films that are either fighting dying buzz (Rush), or less than stellar reviews, or what could be less than stellar reviews (The Book Thief, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and The Hobbit). But right now, few of them look like they will crack into this stacked race.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Oscar Narrative: November Predictions - Best Director

November Predictions
David O. Russell "American Hustle"
Paul Greengrass "Captain Phillips"
Alfonso Cuaron "Gravity"
Steve McQueen "12 Years a Slave"
Martin Scorsese "The Wolf of Wall Street"

Other Contenders - Alexander Payne "Nebraska", John Lee Hancock "Saving Mr. Banks", Joel and Ethan Coen "Inside Llewyn Davis", Lee Daniels "Lee Daniel's The Butler", Woody Allen "Blue Jasmine", John Wells "August: Osage County", JC Chandor "All is Lost", Spike Jonze "Her", Jean-Marc Vallee "Dallas Buyers Club", Brian Percival "The Book Thief", Stephen Frears "Philomena", Asghar Farhadi "The Past", Peter Jackson "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug", Ryan Coogler "Fruitvale Station", Richard Linklater "Before Midnight", Jeff Nichols "Mud", Ron Howard "Rush", Ben Stiller "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", Scott Cooper "Out of the Furnace", Peter Berg "Lone Survivor"
Commentary - Last year, the Directors branch through us for a loop when they picked indie and foreign auteurs (Michael Haneke and Benh Zeitlin) over the more popular choices (Kathryn Bigelow, Ben Affleck, and Tom Hooper). But this year, they have the chance to honor the popular choices and the auteurs in one fail swoop with two new entries to the nominee club: Steve McQueen and Alfonso Cuaron. Gravity and 12 Years a Slave remain the top two choices, and the vision that McQueen and Cuaron bring to their projects are surely to be rewarded. Beyond that, I think that there is a lot of fluidity and a lot of choices to choose from. Captain Phillips has remained strong since its fall debut, and Paul Greengrass is a previous nominee. I expect the film to remain a popular one, and Greengrass to add another nod to his career. American Hustle finally premiered to several groups. The reaction is not overly enthusiastic among many critics, but apparently the industry reception to the film was great. And even if critics are not as high on it as say Gravity or 12 Years, most of them agree that it will be an Oscar contender, and David O. Russell has earned two quick nods for his last project and is clearly in favor with the Academy. I suspect that as the film reaches a wider audience, does well at the box office, and ends up with a good score on RT/Metacritic, that more people will come around to Russell getting his third nomination in a row. The final piece to the puzzle is The Wolf of Wall Street, which will screen soon. If it is a hit, which I suspect it will be, then the directors will probably reward Martin Scorsese with another nomination. Right on the outside are previous nominees the Coens, Alexander Payne (who is close to the top five in my opinion), Lee Daniels, and Woody Allen, along with strong potential first time nominees JC Chandor, John Lee Hancock, John Wells, and Jean-Marc Vallee.

2013 PGA Documentary Nominations

The PGA has never had a great track record with its nominations correlating with the Documentary branch of the Academy's choices. Last year only two nominees crossed over, although one of those was the eventual winner of both Searching for Sugar Man. I still think that Blackfish and Twenty Feet From Stardom look like the types of films that will appeal to an Academy wide vote. Check out the nominees below:






The Oscar Narrative: The Indie Spirits Weigh In

So this year's independent scene is clearly one of the more competitive years in recent memory. And like last year, many of these nominees, and eventual winners could have a major impact on the upcoming Oscar race. Leading the pack this afternoon was 12 Years a Slave. This should be no surprise to anyone paying attention, but it does solidify itself as one of the major frontrunners in the upcoming months. It hit all the major points it needed to including Feature, Director, Actor, Supporting Male/Female, Screenplay, and Cinematography. The only category it missed was the newly created editing, which went way outside the box, missing most of the top contenders, so we won't worry about that one for now.

But if 12 Years a Slave dominated, the real winner today was Alexander Payne's Nebraska. This film has quietly been gaining ground since Cannes, and many wondered about its Oscar chances. Well, it has gotten a huge boost of confidence today with six nominations for Feature, Director, Actor, Supporting Female/Male, and First Screenplay. I hate that its beautifully filmed black and white cinematography was left out, but the inclusions of both Squibb and Forte show a lot of confidence in the film. I still maintain that if they can get this film into the hands of the older members of the Academy, it could be easily a top Oscar contender. The themes and storylines explored here will resonate with all ages, as we all age, or watch our parents age, and Alexander Payne is an Oscar favorite.

Rounding out Best Feature: All is Lost, Inside Llewyn Davis, and surprisingly Frances Ha. The first two also have Oscar on the mind. But Inside Llewyn Davis was not as strong as some may have hoped. It got Oscar Isaac, Cinematography, and Feature, but that's it. No directing or writing nods, no supporting nods. Maybe, they didn't want to go too mainstream with the selection of the Coens, but I also get the sense that while they liked the movie, it wasn't their favorite. And yes, I am still worried about its Oscar chances, and think that by the end of the year it maybe be shut out. All is Lost needed a major boost after its box office kind of sidelined it. With a feature, director, actor, and cinematography, I think it got the boost it needed, with positive press coming its way right as the critics are about to vote. It is probably the third film (besides 12 Years and Nebraska), that really stood out among the pack.

Other winners in today's nominations include, Jeff Nichols for Mud. Although the film missed out for McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, and other nods, the Robert Altman Award is all inclusive, and the Director nomination might actually help the film in the category it has a shot at, screenplay. Frontrunners in the Oscar race like Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Bruce Dern, June Squibb, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jared Leto, Matthew McConaughey, Lupita Nyong'o, and Michael Fassbender, all helped their cases for what will probably be assured nominations. But other outside contenders like James Gandolfini, Michael B. Jordan, Sally Hawkins, Brie Larson, Shailene Woodley, Will Forte, Oscar Isaac, and Julie Delpy, all have put their names back in the conversation in the hopes of upsetting as the season goes on.

Of course, with every nomination list, there are losers as well as winners. The biggest ones for me were Before Midnight and Fruitvale Station. Coming out of the hot summer months, both looked like the early indie films that might have the staying power to impact the race. Both getting excluded here is a real setback, as is the miss for Dallas Buyers Club which also has Best Picture aspirations. All three films got some key nods, and some of their stronger contenders continue to fight another day, but I wonder if these three films might not be able to survive the long haul that is about to take off in a few days. Some may wonder why I put Fruitvale Station as a loser with a couple of nods including First Feature. I just think that no writing/directing nods shows a lack of depth of love for the film. In the acting races, Greta Gerwig's snub probably takes away her outside chances at Best Actress, although a Globe nod would erase this oversight. And the biggest one is Octavia Spencer. Her co-star Melonie Diaz made the cut, which is great, but Spencer was the real contender for the film in supporting actress, and I think after this omission, I am moving June Squibb in the final five for the first time this season. Once again, some critics nods and wins, plus Globe/SAG could easily put her back in, but for now, she has taken a hit.

I have made a lot of bold assumptions about how the Indie Spirits will impact the Oscar race. And I know that many of them are not as definitive as I have made them sound. Those snubbed could easily regain traction with critics and the guilds, and those with nominations could fade as quickly as they rose. But for some contenders, if their independent film counterparts won't reward them, then the giant film industry that still dominates AMPAS will probably overlook them as well. As always though, take these nominations (and this analysis) with a grain of salt and hang on to faith for your favorites that may have missed the cut. We still have a long season ahead of us, and as always, we'll just have to wait and see what happens next.

2013 Independent Spirit Award Nominees

Best Feature
"All is Lost"
"Frances Ha"
"Inside Llewyn Davis"
"12 Years a Slave"

Best Director
J.C. Chandor, "All is Lost"
Jeff Nichols, "Mud"
Alexander Payne, "Nebraska"
Steve McQueen, "12 Years a Slave"
Shane Carruth, "Upstream Color"

Best First Feature
"Blue Caprice"
"Fruitvale Station"
"Una Noche"

Best Screenplay
"Before Midnight"
"Blue Jasmine"
"Enough Said"
"The Spectacular Now"
"12 Years a Slave"

Best First Screenplay
"Afternoon Delight"
"Don Jon"
"In a World"
"The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete"

Best Female Lead
Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"
Julie Delpy, :Before Midnight"
Gaby Hoffman, "Crystal Fairy"
Brie Larson, "Short Term 12"
Shailene Woodley, "The Spectacular Now"

Best Male Lead
Bruce Dern, "Nebraska"
Oscar Isaac, "Inside Llewyn Davis"
Michael B. Jordan "Fruitvale Station"
Matthew McConaughey, "Dallas Buyers Club"
Robert Redford, "All is Lost"
Chiwetel Ejiofor, "12 Years a Slave"

Best Supporting Female
Melonie Diaz, "Fruitvale Station"
Sally Hawkins, "Blue Jasmine"
Lupita Nyong'o, "12 Years a Slave"
Yolonda Ross, "Go For Sisters"
June Squibb, "Nebraska"

Best Supporting Male
Michael Fassbender, "12 Years a Slave"
Will Forte, "Nebraska"
James Gandolfini, "Enough Said"
Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club"
Keith Stanfield, "Short Term 12"

Best Cinematography
"All is Lost"
"Computer Chess"
"Inside Llewyn Davis"
"Spring Breakers"
"12 Years a Slave"

Best Editing
"Frances Ha"
"Museum Hours"
"Short Term 12"
"Una Noche"
"Upstream Color"

Best Documentary
"The Act of Killing"
"After Tiller"
"Gideon's Army"
"The Square"
"20 Feet from Stardom"

Best International Film
"Blue is the Warmest Color"
"The Great Beauty"
"The Hunt"
"A Touch of Sin"

Robert Altman Award

John Cassavetes Award
"Computer Chess"
"Crystal Fairy"
"Museum Hours"
"Pit Stop"
"This is Martin Bonner"

Piaget Producers Award
Toby Halbrooks & James M. Johnston
Jacob Jaffke
Andrea Roa
Frederick Thornton

Someone to Watch Award
Aaron Douglas Johnston, "My Sisters Quinceañera"
Shaka King, "Newlyweeds"
Madeline Olnek, "The Foxy Merkins"

Truer Than Fiction Award
Kalyanee Mam, "A River Changes Course"
Jason Osder, "Let the Fire Burn"
Stephanie Spray & Pacho Valez, "Manakamana"

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Oscar Narrative: November Predictions - Best Actor

November Predictions
Bruce Dern "Nebraska"
Chiwetel Ejiofor "12 Years a Slave"
Tom Hanks "Captain Phillips"
Matthew McConaughey "Dallas Buyers Club"
Robert Redford "All is Lost"

Other Contenders - Forest Whitaker "Lee Daniel's The Butler", Christian Bale "American Hustle", Leonardo DiCaprio "The Wolf of Wall Street", Michael B. Jordan "Fruitvale Station", Oscar Isaac "Inside Llewyn Davis", Idris Elba "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom", Joaquin Phoenix "Her", Mark Wahlberg "Lone Survivor"
Commentary - Last night American Hustle finally screened, and a few mixed reactions did not hold back a relatively enthusiastic response, especially from SAG and Academy members, which are the votes that count. Christian Bale is said to be fantastic in both Out of the Furnace and in a subtle role in American Hustle. Both will need some major campaigning to crack this tough race. Forest Whitaker continues to work the circuit, but once again subtlety could end up dooming his chances. Still on the outside are Leonardo Dicaprio (not sure yet), Oscar Issac, Joaquin Phoenix, and Michael B. Jordan (Harvey might campaign him as supporting, which is category fraud plain and simple). So I am still stuck with the same five I have been with for a while. I think that Ejiofor and McConaughey have broad enough performances to make the cut, and the last 20 minutes of Captain Phillips should gain Hanks another nod. Bruce Dern will have the support of the actors, I think, and older members will relate with his character. But Nebraska needs to be seen, needs more positive buzz, and needs a solid campaign to survive the onslaught. So Dern is still in, but he is vulnerable. The other one that I think is vulnerable may shock some readers and fellow bloggers. I think Robert Redford needs to keep up the pace. Some people are avoiding All is Lost, and Redford himself will probably not be a heavy campaigner. Once again, he is still in this race. But if Bale and DiCaprio come on strong, with bolder performances Redford could be pushed out. I know that seems crazy for some people, but this is a stacked year in this category, so not even the great Robert Redford is safe.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

2013 American Music Award Winners

I will updating the winners live:

Artist of the Year - Taylor Swift
Single of the Year - Florida Georgia Line feat. Nelly "Cruise"
Best New Artist of the Year - Ariana Grande
Best Pop/Rock Male Artist - Justin Timberlake
Best Pop/Rock Female Artist - Taylor Swift
Best Pop/Rock Duo or Group - One Direction
Best Pop/Rock Album - One Direction "Take Me Home"
Best Country Male Artist - Luke Bryan
Best Country Female Artist - Taylor Swift
Best Country Band, Duo or Group - Lady Antebellum
Best Country Album - Taylor Swift "Red"
Best Rap/Hip Hop Artist - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Best Rap/Hip-Hop Album - Macklmore & Ryan Lewis "The Heist"
Best Soul/R&B Album -  Justin Timberlake "The 20/20 Experience"
Best Soul/R&B Male Artist - Justin Timberlake
Best Soul/R&B Female Artist - Rihanna
Best Alternative Rock Artist - Imagine Dragons
Best Electronica Dance Music Artist - Avicii
Best Latin Artist - Marc Anthony
Best Adult Contemporary Artist - Maroon 5
Best Contemporary Inspirational Artist - Matthew West
Best Soundtrack - Pitch Perfect

The Oscar Narrative: November Predictions - Best Actress

November Predictions
Amy Adams "American Hustle"
Cate Blanchett "Blue Jasmine"
Sandra Bullock "Gravity"
Meryl Streep "August: Osage County"
Emma Thompson "Saving Mr. Banks"

Other Contenders - Judi Dench "Philomena", Julie Delpy "Before Midnight", Berenice Bejo "The Past", Julia Louis-Dreyfus "Enough Said", Kate Winslet "Labor Day", Brie Larson "Short Term 12", Adele Exarchopoulos "Blue is the Warmest Color", Greta Gerwig "Frances Ha"
Commentary - Still six for five slots, and probably will be until the nomination morning. I know that everyone is predicting Judi Dench, but to me, while Philomena is playing relatively well, she still feels like a placeholder. If Amy Adams nails her role in American Hustle, and the film ends up being a big Oscar hit (which it looks like it will), I think there may be more backing for her nomination. But beyond this semi-battle, I think the other four are locked and loaded. Blanchett and Bullock remain the frontrunners for their dynamic performances, and Meryl Streep chewing scenery like she does seems like a safe bet. Emma Thompson's character is apparently not that likeable through most of the film, but word at the Governor's Awards was that Academy members were in love with Saving Mr. Banks, and Thompson is a former winner in this category, so I expect her to get in. of course on the outside are some indie and comedy favorites like Louis-Dreyfus, Larson, Gerwig, Delpy, and Exarhopoulos, but I think that Indie Spirits and maybe Golden Globes will have to do. The critics awards that start next week will start to determine how this and every race will turn out.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Oscar Narrative: November Predictions - Best Supporting Actor

November Predictions
Bradley Cooper "American Hustle"
Michael Fassbender "12 Years a Slave"
Tom Hanks "Saving Mr. Banks"
Jonah Hill "The Wolf of Wall Street"
Jared Leto "Dallas Buyers Club"

Other Contenders - James Gandolfini "Enough Said", Daniel Bruhl "Rush", Barkhad Abdi "Captain Phillips", John Goodman "Inside Llewyn Davis", Jeremy Renner "American Hustle", Will Forte "Nebraska", Josh Brolin "Labor Day", Steve Coogan "Philomena", George Clooney "Gravity", Geoffrey Rush "The Book Thief", Matthew McConaughey "Mud", Matthew McConaughey "The Wolf of Wall Street", David Oyelowo "Lee Daniel's The Butler", Cuba Gooding Jr. "Lee Daniel's The Butler", Andrew Dice Clay "Blue Jasmine", Jake Gyllenhaal "Prisoners"
Commentary - This category actually looks to be an exciting one, after the last two years fell completely flat, in my opinion (although I did love the Christopher Plummer win). At the top of the heap is Michael Fassbender. Whether he chooses to campaign or not, his name will be thrown around a lot, and the film's coattails will be enough for a nomination. Winning may be more difficult, if he is not willing to show face. He has to knock it out of the park early, like Monique did in 2009, or he may be beaten at the finish line. Right now it looks like two guys are the ones to do it. First is Tom Hanks, who is getting rave reviews for Saving Mr. Banks, and plays one of the most famous film icons of all time Walt Disney. If Best Actor has too much competition, this could be a nice way to reward what has been an incredible comeback year for a film legend. The other is Jared Leto. Playing a transgender character doesn't necessarily spell an Oscar win (although I think the nod is in the bag). But he is so transformative, so warm, and such a soulful character in Dallas Buyers Club, that I think he is really a darkhorse here, as is the film as a whole. The last two slots at this point have a lot of room for movement. I have moved James Gandolfini out at the moment, but a campaign could easily put him back into a deserved slot. Not just because of his untimely death or his wonderful career, but also for an incredibly moving and wonderfully funny performance in Enough Said. Also on the outside are two contenders that need some campaigning, but are definitely possibiles. Barkhad Abdi is fantastic in Captain Phillips, but an unknown. John Goodman has been snubbed for years, but his role in Inside Llewyn Davis is small, and I'm still not 100% sold on the film as an Oscar hit. Other contenders include Steve Coogan, Will Forte, Jeremy Renner, George Clooney, Matthew McConaughey in two roles, and Daniel Bruhl, who has suffered from the dying buzz of Rush. So who is in instead? I am sticking with Bradley Cooper, who might be a standout in American Hustle (we will know soon as screenings are starting this weekend for the film). He is also a recent nominee, and once you are on the radar, you tend to benefit from afterglow. Finally, another actor who might see some afterglow is Jonah Hill. We were all shocked by his great performance in Moneyball and subsequent Oscar nomination. But apparently, early word suggests that he is once again a standout in Wolf of Wall Street, which could be a major player this year.  

Academy's Live Action Short Shortlist Announced

So the Jonas Cuaron Gravity companion piece was left out, but other than that, I am not familiar with any of these, so I will need to do some watching soon! Check out the finalists below:

"Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)"
Esteban Crespo, director (Producciones Africanauan)

"Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything)"
Xavier Legrand, director, and Alexandre Gavras, producer (KG Productions)

"Dva (Two)"
Mickey Nedimovic, director, and Henner Besuch, director of photography (Filoufilm Dani Barsch)

Anders Walter, director, and Kim Magnusson, producer (M & M Productions)

Shubhashish Bhutiani, director (Red Carpet Moving Pictures)

"Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)"
Selma Vilhunen, director, and Kirsikka Saari, screenwriter (Tuffi Films)

Jesse Atlas, director, and Thom Fennessey, executive producer (Collaboration Factory)

"Throat Song"
Miranda de Pencier, director (Northwood Productions)

"Tiger Boy"
Gabriele Mainetti, director (Goon Films)

"The Voorman Problem"
Mark Gill, director, and Baldwin Li, producer (Honlodge Productions)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Oscar Narrative: November Predictions - Best Supporting Actress

November Predictions
Jennifer Lawrence "American Hustle"
Lupita Nyong'o "12 Years a Slave"
Julia Roberts "August: Osage County"
Octavia Spencer "Fruitvale Station"
Oprah Winfrey "Lee Daniel's The Butler"

Other Contenders - Margo Martindale "August: Osage County", June Squibb "Nebraska", Sally Hawkins "Blue Jasmine", Sarah Paulson "12 Years a Slave", Jennifer Garner "Dallas Buyers Club", Scarlett Johansson "Her", Emily Watson "The Book Thief", Carey Mulligan "Inside Llewyn Davis", Naomie Harris "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom", Zoe Saldana "Out of the Furnace", Amy Adams "Her",  Kristen Wiig "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", Viola Davis "Prisoners", Maria Bello "Prisoners", Melissa Leo "Prisoners", Juliette Lewis "August: Osage County"
Commentary - I still hope that Margo Martindale scores a nod for August: Osage County, because she is apparently fantastic in the baity role, and she is just such a wonderful actress, who is finally getting her due. But I think that Harvey has a plan. First, I think he is bringing back Fruitvale Station, and is hoping it regains traction. That puts Octavia Spencer, a previous winner in an emotional turn, back into the race. I think, he may also go more for Julia Roberts, because she is the Oscar-winning movie star, and he may have an easier time pushing her in, than say Martindale. Of course, we will all know Harvey's intentions soon as the campaigns kick into high gear, but I still think he thinks (rightfully so), that in this category, if he can only get two, its Spencer and Roberts. In what we have seen of American Hustle, Jennifer Lawrence looks to be a standout. She is a recent winner, and they have often brought them back as a nominee quickly following a win, and she is right now the most popular movie star in the world with the very positive buzz and reviews for Catching Fire. If the film is what we think it is, she will be hard to ignore. But when it comes to the win, I still think that it is currently between Oprah and Lupita Nyong'o. I think both are easily locks for nominations, but who wins? I will do my first winner predictions when I finish by nominations predictions, but for right now, I am still leaning towards Oprah. Nyong'o has the Best Picture frontrunner, and probably the most difficult performance of the bunch. But Oprah is well, Oprah. She is the biggest name in the world, she has so many friends in the Academy, who knows when she'll do another movie, and she recently received an honorary Oscar. Anything can happen, but I fully expect Oprah to except an Oscar come early March. So who is on the outside looking in? Besides the aforementioned Martindale, there is June Squibb who is a scene-stealer in Nebraska, but will have to make a name for herself, as Bruce Dern takes the spotlight. Scarlett Johansson could receive the first voiceover nomination in Oscar history (an honor that should have gone to Ellen Degeneres for Finding Nemo), which would be cool, but let's face it, it aint going to happen. Also possibilities are the overdue Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine, Jennifer Garner, who apparently holds her own against the towering performances of Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto,  Sarah Paulson, who is quickly becoming a go-to actress for great roles, including this vicious turn, Emily Watson, Carey Mulligan, Naomie Harris, and the three from Prisoners.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Oscar Narrative: November Predictions - Techincal Categories/Foreign/Documentary Feature

Best Documentary Feature
Stories We Tell
Tim's Vermeer
Twenty Feet from Stardom
We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks

Other Contenders - The Act of Killing, The Armstrong Lie, Approved for Adoption, Bridegroom, Dirty Wars, Blood Brother, Muscle Shoals, Fallen City, Pussy Riot, Sound City, 99%: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film, Inequality for All, Expedition to the End of the World, Fire in the Blood

Best Foreign Language Film
Gabrielle (Canada)
Gloria (Chile)
The Hunt (Denmark)
The Past (Iran)
Wadjda (Saudi Arabia)

Other Contenders - The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium), Omar (Palestine), Bethlehem (Israel), The Rocket (Australia), The Wall (Austria), Child's Pose (Romania), Back to 1942 (China), Renoir (France), Two Lives (Germany), The Great Beauty (Italy), The Great Passage (Japan), The Cleaner (Peru)

Best Cinematography
Linus Sandgren "American Hustle"
Barry Ackroyd "Captain Phillips"
Emmanuel Lubezki "Gravity"
Roger Deakins "Prisoners"
Sean Bobbitt "12 Years a Slave"

Other Contenders - Rush, The Wolf of Wall Street, All is Lost, Saving Mr. Banks, Nebraska, August: Osage County, The Book Thief, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Great Gatsby, Lee Daniel's The Butler, Lone Survivor, Pacific Rim, Oz The Great and Powerful, Her, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Best Costume Design
American Hustle
The Great Gatsby
The Invisible Woman
Saving Mr. Banks
12 Years a Slave

Other Contenders - Lee Daniel's The Butler, The Book Thief, Oz The Great and Powerful, Inside Llewyn Davis, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Philomena, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Stoker, Therese, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, August: Osage County, Man of Steel

Best Film Editing
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Other Contenders - Saving Mr. Banks, Nebraska, Inside Llewyn Davis, Lee Daniel's The Butler, Rush, Prisoners, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers Club, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, All if Lost, Lone Survivor, Philomena

Best Makeup and Hair Design
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Lee Daniel's The Butler
Star Trek Into Darkness

Other Contenders - Rush, 12 Years a Slave, The Lone Ranger, Oz The Great and Powerful, American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club, August: Osage County, The Great Gatsby, The Invisible Woman, The Book Thief, Pacific Rim

Best Original Score
John Williams "The Book Thief"
Henry Jackman "Captain Phillips"
Steven Price "Gravity"
Thomas Newman "Saving Mr. Banks"
Hans Zimmer "12 Years a Slave"

Other Contenders - Randy Newman "Monsters University", Hans Zimmer "Rush", Mark Orton "Nebraska", Alexandre Desplat "Philomena", Howard Shore "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug", Carter Burwell "August: Osage County", Rolfe Kent "Labor Day", Danny Elfman "Oz the Great and Powerful", Theodore Shapiro "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"

Best Original Song
Frozen - Let it Go
The Great Gatsby - Young and Beautiful
Lee Daniel's The Butler - In the Middle of the Night
Lee Daniel's The Butler - You and I Ain't Nothin' No More
Short Term 12 - So You Know What Its Like

Other Contenders - See previous post on Best Original Song

Best Production Design
The Great Gatsby
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
The Invisible Woman
Saving Mr. Banks
12 Years a Slave

Other Contenders - Gravity, American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, Oz The Great and Powerful, The Book Thief, Lee Daniel's The Butler, Her, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Inside Llewyn Davis, Pacific Rim, Philomena, Therese, Elysium

Best Sound Mixing
All is Lost
Captain Phillips
Pacific Rim

Other Contenders - Inside Llewyn Davis, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Man of Steel, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Black Nativity, Lone Survivor, Out of the Furnace, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Great Gatsby, 12 Years a Slave, Enders Game, The Book Thief, Frozen, Monsters University, World War Z

Best Sound Editing
All is Lost
Captain Phillips
Lone Survivor
Pacific Rim

Other Contenders - Rush, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Man of Steel, Iron Man 3, Thor The Dark World, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Great Gatsby, The Book Thief, Frozen, Monster University, World War Z, 12 Years a Slave, Oblivion

Best Visual Effects
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
Pacific Rim
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Other Contenders - Star Trek Into Darkness, Ender's Game, Oblivion, Oz The Great and Powerful, Rush, The Great Gatsby, World War Z, The Wolverine, Thor The Dark World, This is the End 

American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Television Nominees

When the guilds announced around this time of year, through February, we not only get a glimpse at the Oscar race, but also at the early Emmy race as well. They are not as good of barometers of the Emmys as they are of the Oscars, but it is nice to see where guild members are falling, particularly on new shows. Dracula is probably going to be cancelled, so probably some tech nods may be all it gets. But getting Sleepy Hollow in is a nice touch, especially because I see it being a huge hit at the Creative Arts ceremony. Check out the nominees below:

One-hour Episodic Television Series
"Magic City" - "The Sins of the Father" (Steven Bernstein)
"Boardwalk Empire" - "Erlkönig" (David Franco)
"Game of Thrones" - "Valar Dohaeris" (Jonathan Freeman)
"The Borgias" - "The Purge" (Pierre Gill)
"Beauty and the Beast" - "Tough Love" (David Greene)
"Game of Thrones" - "Kissed by Fire" (Anette Haellmigk)
"Sleepy Hollow" - "Pilot" (Kramer Morgenthau)
"Dracula" - "The Blood is the Life"

Half-hour Episodic Series
"House of Lies" - "The Runner Stumbles" (Peter Levy)
"Alpha House" - "Pilot" (Matthew J. Lloyd)
"Drunk History" - "Detroit" (Blake McClure)

Television Movie/Miniseries
"Killing Lincoln" (Jeremy Benning)
"The White Queen" - "War at First Hand" (David Luther)
"Dancing on the Edge" - "Episode 1.1" (Ashley Rowe)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Casting Society of American Award Winners

As always, these have timing issues, so they feature mostly last year's cotenders. But the inclusion of Mud is a nice notice for an indie film hoping to make an impact on the circuit. If it keeps getting notices like this, it could bounce back into the conversation in several categories. Check out the winners for film and television below:

 Best Casting in a Big Budget Feature – Comedy
“Silver Linings Playbook,” Mary Vernieu, Lindsay Graham, Diane Heery (location casting), Jason Loftus (location casting)

Best Casting in a Big Budget Feature – Drama
“Argo,” Lora Kennedy

Best Casting in a Studio or Independent Feature – Comedy
Moonrise Kingdom,” Douglas Aibel, Henry Russell Bergstein (associate)

Best Casting in a Studio or Independent Feature – Drama
“Mud,” Francine Maisler, Diana Guthrie (location casting)

Best Casting in a Low Budget Feature – Comedy or Drama
“The Sessions,” Ronnie Yeskel

Best Casting in an Animated Feature
“Wreck-It Ralph,” Jamie Sparer Roberts

Best Casting in a Short Film
“The Learning Curve,” Kendra Patterson

Best Casting in a Television Pilot -- Comedy
“The Mindy Project,” Felicia Fasano

Best Casting in a Television Pilot -- Drama
“House of Cards,” Laray Mayfield

Best Casting in a Television Series -- Comedy
“Girls,” Jennifer Euston

Best Casting in a Television Series -- Drama
“Homeland,” Judy Henderson, Lisa Mae Fincannon (location casting), Craig Fincannon (location casting)

Best Casting in a Television Movie or Mini Series
“Behind the Candelabra,” Carmen Cuba, Wittney Horton (associate)

Best Casting in a Daytime Drama Series
“The Young and the Restless,” Judy Blye Wilson

Best Casting in a Children’s Series
“iCarly,” Krisha Bullock, Jennifer K.M. Treadwell (associate)

Best Casting in Television Animation
“Family Guy,” Linda Lamontagne

Career Achievement Award
Nina Tassler

Hoyt Bowers Award
Linda Lowy

New York Apple Award
Michael J. Fox

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Oscar Narrative: November Predictions - Best Adapted Screenplay

November Predictions
Tracey Letts "August: Osage County"
Billy Ray "Captain Phillips"
Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope "Philomena"
John Ridley "12 Years a Slave"
Terence Winter "The Wolf of Wall Street"

Other Contenders - Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, and Richard Linklater "Before Midnight", Michael Petroni "The Book Thief", Jason Reitman "Labor Day", Destin Cretton "Short Term 12", Phillppa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Guillermo Del Toro "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug", Peter Berg "Lone Survivor", Abdellatif Kechiche and Ghalia Lacroix "Blue is the Warmest Color", Steve Conrad "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", Robert L. Baird, Daniel Gerson, and Dan Scanlon "Monsters University"
Commentary - As I said before, this category is much weaker, in terms of depth, this year compared to its original screenplay counterpart. It looks like now there are six films fighting for five slots. The first is of course 12 Years a Slave, which still remains the frontrunner across the board. Then there is Captain Phillips, which will cross the $100 million mark at the box office soon, and once again, remains a formidable Oscar challenger.  Those two seem like locks at this point, and probably the frontrunners. We have yet to see The Wolf of Wall Street, but in this weaker category, a solid Scorsese effort will be an easy name to check off. The last two slots are a bit tricky. Before Midnight should be in the mix, and its predecessor was nominated, but it needs to get some precursors. Blockbusters like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Monsters University, and The Hobbit, could manage to snag some votes. Then there are the underground indies like Blue is the Warmest Color and Short Term 12, who need solid campaigns to gain traction. Then there is The Book Thief which is being pushed as an awards contender, despite reviews to the contrary. Of course do not discount a Holocaust movie at the Oscars. But I think that ahead of all of them currently are two films that have big stars and decent buzz. Philomena is premeiring to solid reviews, and the Brits don't have many big contenders to push, so this could be a rallying point. The final slot right now goes to August: Osage County. I know that the reviews are mixed, and that it may just be the acting branch that rewards it. But Tracey Letts is a big name, and in a year where there are not enough big contenders in this category, don't discount a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Top 100 Television Shows Since 2000: Finale

5. Friends (1994-2004) - Once again, this is a case of: it would be higher on a 90's list. In fact it might be my number one or near it (along with The Simpsons and Seinfeld) on a 90's list. But even as a new decade dawned, Friends was still one of the best sitcoms on television (in my opinion the best period), and while its
last two season lacked its previous luster, its 6th, 7th, and 8th seasons were some of its best yet. Good enough to put it in the top five. For its decade run, Friends was never the critics favorite. And despite the season 8 Best Comedy Series win, it was never really an Emmy favorite either. Only two of the cast members ever won (Lisa Kudrow and Jennifer Aniston), and for some ungodly reason, Courtney Cox was never even nominated, a true travesty to say the least. But in the end none of that mattered. We see year after year excellent television series ignored by Television Academy voters. Friends never needed any of that, as nice as it would have been. It had a legion of fans, literally millions of them around the world, that adored their favorite characters, and tuned in every week to knock the Nielson ratings off the charts. There have been plenty of successful shows over the years, who had plenty of long runs. But none of them had the power of Friends. But what really made Friends so successful, such a phenomenon, was the heart. These six actors inhabited our wacky and beloved characters with ease. No matter what situation they were in, we were rooting for them to suceed, to be happy, and to always stay together. We all wanted our groups of friends to be as close as Rachel, Ross, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe, and Joey. Friends was a success because we cared, and because their wacky, loving, and always funny shenanigans for a decade not only tickled our funny bone, but warmed our hearts as well. As of next year, it will have been a decade since Friends left us, and I think I can honestly say that the hole left in the heart of America will never quite be filled.

4. Breaking Bad (2008-2013) - When Breaking Bad first started, it was a good show, tackling a controversial subject, while also painting a portrait of the lengths some people must go to to survive. The story of a high school teacher who turns to cooking and selling meth after being diagnosed with cancer was meaty enough to begin with. But I don't think anyone knew what to expect, and no one could have guessed what was going to come. It didn't take long for Breaking Bad to literally explode into one of the best dramas to ever hit the small screen. The storylines became bolder and bolder, the twists more unexpected, and the characters became more engrained, deeper, and more explosive in each new season, that it took a couple of weeks after the final frame went black for all of our blood pressures to finally normalize. Vince Gilligan and his team of talented writers and directors impeccably created one of the most vivid, and dark views of suburban America, and never shied away from the horrors of the drug buisness, or the horrors of those facing crisis. At times it could be bleak, but it was always heart-stopping, brilliantly constructed, and utterly engrossing even in its darkest of times, and particularly in its moments of dark humor. Of course, it takes not just a talented cast, but a balls-out, willing for anything, group of actors to truly pull of the magnificence and darkness of Gilligan's vision. In particular, three stood out among a list of talented characters actors. First was the fantastic Anna Gunn, who finally got well-deserved recognition this year in the form of an Emmy. As the wife of our anti-hero Walter White, Gunn's Skylar brought her own brand of ferocity to the screen, while also maintaining a strong level of humanity. Her struggle as her husband descends into the drug world, and faces his illness was as compelling as the Walter's central struggle. At Walter's side was Aaron Paul's Jesse, who himself won several deserved Emmys. His intensity made him a star in his own right. But I think we can all admit that the real reason to tune in week in and week out, was because of Bryan Cranston's Emmy-winning portrayal, one of the greatest anti-heroes in television history, Walter White. His evolution from hardworking, cynical high school teacher, to full on breaking bad meth dealer was one of the most harrowing, entertaining, and fascinating portrayals on modern television, that will probably never be replaced.  

3. The Wire (2002-2008) - All of the great cop shows in television history were building towards one climatic point. And that point was HBO's The Wire. Considered by many to be the best show of the 2000's, and one of the greatest of all time The Wire never received much attention from Television Academy voters, and top-notch ratings always eluded it. But those of us who were brave enough, bold enough, and yes, cool enough to tune in, were treated to something spectacular, something never before seen on television. Yes, we all know about the police heroes who keep our streets safe. We even know the grittier versions that show the duplicity of most men in uniform, and the reality of a cop's life and career in shows like L.A. Law, Hill Street Blues, and The Shield. But never have we quite seen the struggle play out between cops, and yes between the drug dealers and criminals. Given equal time, and tons of fiesty interplay, the drama that sparked was sent through the wire. It was daring to give time to drug dealers, to run parellel stories that
evenutually crash into each other, causing explosions of drama, violence, and realism. But everything here is so well crafted, so intricately drawn, every character so precisely and authentically created, that you forget sometimes who is the hero and who is the villain, and most importantly, you forget that you are watching television, and instead feel like you are actually transported to the gritty streets of urban Baltimore. So many shows pretend to be realistic, so many pretend to be gritty, but in the end, what they are really missing is a huge dose of authenticity. And that is what makes The Wire so special, that is what makes it stand apart from the rest: the realism. It dares to be profane, yet have a sense of literary complexity all at the same time. It dares to showcase the violence and the sex, and the drug use, as if it is an every day part of life, and it dares to go into a level of darkness that so few television shows utilize. The question for the non-believers, has always been: Why? Why is this show different from every other crime procedural on television in the last half-century? The answer is hard to put into the words. The best advice I can give you is to get your hands on a copy of the first season, pop it into your DVD player, and let the show soak into you, wash over you like a wave. Then maybe you will completely understand, then maybe you will get it. Until then, you'll just have to take my word for it.  

2. The Sopranos (1999-2007) - When I did my Best of the Emmy Awards, I had a tie in my Best Drama Series final. I chickened out. I could not find the strength within me to make the hard decision. Well, the time has finally come, and I'm pretty sure this decision will shock some, infuriate and baffle others, and I still would not change it. In my opinion, the two greatest television dramas of all time, came in the exact same year. One of those shows, and the one probably most recognized as the best since 2000 is HBO's stunning mob drama, The Sopranos. Watching The Sopranos every week was like watching one of Coppola's or Scorsese's best. But instead of having to wait for years for a new installment, you only had to wait a week. It was crime drama at its best. On the surface, it had all of the blood, the crime, the shady dealings, and the manerisms and culture of the mob, and of Italian-Americans at the turn of the century. It has every great plotline, character, and style of the great mob movies in American history. But make no mistake, there was
nothing cliche, nothing stale about The Sopranos. If anything, it was The Sopranos that added depth, emotion, and greatness to an already fantastic genre, and pushed the boundaries of the genre by making it a weekly television series instead of a film or a film series. It dared to show the underlying fears and passions of men that commit crimes for a living. At its center was a truly American story of family, faith, and the importance of love, even in a world of extreme violence and pain. Of course it was an impeccably written and directed drama with deep and colorful characters, and a style of its own. But at its hard and center were its fantastic characters, beautifully drawn by a cast of magnificent artists. The supporting cast held their own against two great personalities, standouts being Drea de Mateo, Lorraine Bracco, Michael Imperioli, Jamie Lynn-Sigler, and Aida Turtorro. But the real passion, the real conflict, and the real reason to watch The Sopranos was the relationship and the trials of Tony and Carmela Soprano. James Gandolifini and Edie Falco gave two of the best performances ever seen on television, and their growth as characters, their chemistry that built this powerful relationship between these characters was truly one of a kind. As was this remarkable television achievement.  

1. The West Wing - So what made the difference? What put The West Wing over the top? I graduated with a degree in political science and American history, and maybe I am a little biased. But there has never been anything on television, nor will there ever be, as unique and wonderful as NBC's The West Wing. As our nation becomes even more divided by the lines in the sand including: race, religion, sex, sexuality, and of course political persuasion, perhaps we need to revisit the White House of President Jed Bartlett. It fulfilled every political fantasy, every political desire, every liberal's dream, that has ever played out in my head. It was a pitch-perfect drama about the intricacies, the relationships, and the struggle that the President and its staff must endure on a regular basis. It brought in big guns, former White House employees, White House journalists, and other important political figures to ensure a sense of authenticity. And it turns out, that the
only real difference is that the staff members neither walked, nor talked as fast as the actors. But other than that, we might as well have been watching a documentary on the interworkings and the day to day world of White House staffers. It was an incredible achievement, and my favorite show of all time. Aaron Sorkin deserves most of the credit, because even when he left the show, his mark was long felt on the style, direction, and storylines of The West Wing. His idea of the perfect liberal president, was not a perfect man who did no wrong. Not a man who never saw fault in his ideas. But instead, Sorkin created an incredibly deep President, who made tons of mistakes, who sometimes compromised his goals to achieve political success, but never lost hope in the democratic process, in his ideals, and in the abilities of his smart, funny, and hardworking staff. Led by Martin Sheen's monumental creation, Jed Bartlett, the cast, and the beloved characters that they created will forever go down in television infamy. The late John Spencers noble Leo, Stockard Channing's loving and determined Abby, Bradley Whitford's brilliant and passionate Josh, Richard Schiff's cynical, yet loveable Toby, Rob Lowe's ambitious and enthusiastic Sam, Janelle Maloney's gullible, yet caring Donna, and Dule Hill's wide-eyed and loyal Charlie, were all Sorkin's creations that were brought to life by some fine actors. At the top of the heap, along with Sheen, is Allison Janey, and her creation of C.J. Cregg, probably the finest female character (along with Falco's) in television history, definitely the best since 2000. The West Wing won four Best Drama Series Emmys in a row, and it could have won seven, and you would hear no complaints on this end. There is a reason that Emmy voters were so enraptured by The West Wing. It was beautifully drawn, impeccably written in its fast-paced, constantly moving way by Aaron Sorkin, and perfectly acted by a wonderful cast, and it remains one of the best. There is also a good reason why Americans of all persuasions loved this show as well. At its core, it was a visual experience that showcased the power of American democracy, the ability of leaders to find solutions to challenges, and the ultimate truth that those that dedicate their lives to public servie, truly do so because they firmly believe that what they are doing is bettering people's lives. As a local government employee, it was nice to see the recognition. In this blogger's humble opinion The West Wing is quite simply: the best. 

The Oscar Narrative: November Predictions - Best Original Screenplay

November Predictions
David O. Russell and Eric Singer "American Hustle"
Woody Allen "Blue Jasmine"
Joel and Ethan Coen "Inside Llewyn Davis"
Bob Nelson "Nebraska"
Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith "Saving Mr. Banks"

Other Contenders - Alfonso and Jonas Cuaron "Gravity", Spike Jonze "Her", Danny Strong "Lee Daniel's The Butler", Ryan Coogler "Fruitvale Station", Craig Borten and Melisa Wollack "Dallas Buyers Club", Nicole Holofcener "Enough Said", Jeff Nichols "Mud", Peter Morgan "Rush", Asghar Farhadi "The Past", Scott Cooper and Brad Inglesby "Out of the Furnace"
Commentary - This category looks like it is going to be much more competitve than its Adapted counterpart, a rare occurence.  But right now, I have Gravity (I think it could struggle to get in here, as many people seem to think that the narrative lacked something, they're wrong but unfortunately it could happen), Her (Is it too weird for voters? or will the writers go to bat for it?), Lee Daniel's The Butler (the screenplay wasn't really that great, the film was pretty good because of the actors and some of Lee Daniel's poignant images), Fruitvale Station (can it launch a comeback?), and Dallas Buyers Club (is it more than just McConaughey and Leto?) all on the outside looking in, along with indies Mud and Enough Said, just proving how stacked this category is. While Alexander Payne's name may not be attached to this screenplay, I tend to think that Bob Nelson's work for Nebraska is right up the writing branch's alley. Woody Allen could receive another nod for his stellar work in Blue Jasmine. He is a legend in this category, and the film is playing itself as an outside Best Picture contender, along with the guaranteed nod for Cate Blanchett. I'm not sure how the Academy will react to Inside Llewyn Davis, a very different piece from the Coen Bros. But they have done well in the screenplay categories, and the film is getting rave reviews. If it can stay strong, then I expect the film to at least get a nod here. The last two slots right now are going to big Best Picture contenders. We now know that Saving Mr. Banks is a bonafide threat for the top prize, and while some people have criticized John Lee Hancock for some of his choices, the critics are sticking by the quality of Marcel and Smith's script, which had been praised before the film was released. If the film is as popular with Oscar voters as it appears it will be, this should be an easy nomination to nab. We still have not seen American Hustle, but I believe that if it is as good as its early footage looks, we are in for a real treat, and an easy screenplay nomination for previous nominee David O. Russell, and his partner Eric Singer.   

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Oscar Narrative: November Predictions - Best Animated Feature

November Predictions
The Croods
Ernest and Celestine
Monster's University
The Wind Rises

Other Contenders - Epic, A Letter to Momo, Turbo, O Apostolo, Despicable Me 2, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, The Fake, Planes, The Legend of Sarila, Rio: 2096 A Story of Love and Fury, Khumba,  Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie - Rebellion.
Commentary - So there are enough contenders this year for five nominees, but I am starting to wonder whether there will be five films that score high enough to even make the cut. Furthermore, by opening up the voting process more, I wonder if studio films will start to dominate, and block out the more daring choices that the Animation branch makes, particularly with their GKids selections over the years. After initial reviews, it looks like Frozen could finally be Disney's ticket, as it is sure to make a lot of box office over the Thanksgiving weekend. It could finally beat the lesser Pixar effort of Monsters' University, and at least make some hay in the Original Song category as well. Speaking of Pixar, I am pretty sure that Monster's University will continue to play into this category, and don't discount it. It was actually a pretty good movie, and it was very popular and successful for the studio. The other film that seems like a sure bet is The Wind Rises. If this is in fact Hayao Miyazaki's last film, then I would think that animators would be glad to take this one last chance to add to his awards haul (which already includes an Oscar), with a final nomination. The film will probably be a critical favorite, but in a Academy-wide vote, I doubt it can beat Disney and Pixar. So that leaves two potential slots (if they go that far). I still think that GKids can grab a slot, especially in such a weak year as this. Their best shot is probably Ernest and Celestine, and a little bit of campaigning, and maybe some critical response will help it push through its indie and foreign barriers. In the final slot, there are two studio efforts, that both did well and got mildly decent reviews, but neither has the heat of its major competitors. Of the two I am going with The Croods, but Epic is not far behind (it is well-animated, so that could sway votes), and both could make it in if the smaller efforts get pushed out.   

Friday, November 15, 2013

The 2nd Annual Awards Psychic Music Awards: Nominees

I am proud to announce this year's nominees for the 2nd Annual Award Psychic Music Awards. This year in music there were many talented acts, and some really great choices. Check out the nominees below, and tune in, in a few weeks, for the winners! 

Album of the Year
David Bowie “The Next Day”
Kendrick Lamar “good kid, m.A.A.d city”
Janelle Monae “The Electric Lady”
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis "The Heist"
Justin Timberlake “The 20/20 Experience”
Kanye West “Yeezus”

Single of The Year
David Bowie “Where are We Now?”
Alicia Keys feat. Nicki Minaj “Girl on Fire”
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Mary Lambert “Same Love”
Janelle Monae feat. Erkyah Badu “Q.U.E.E.N”
Katy Perry “Roar”
P!nk feat. Nate Ruess “Just Give Me a Reason”

Best New Artist
Ariana Grande
Kendrick Lamar
Lana Del Rey
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Kacey Musgraves

Best Pop Album
Daft Punk “Random Access Memories”
Ellie Golding “Halcyon”
Lana Del Rey “Paradise
Lorde “Pure Heroine”
Tegan and Sara “Heartthrob”
Justin Timberlake “The 20/20 Experience”

Best Rock Album
David Bowie “The Next Day”
Elvis Costello and The Roots “Wise Up Ghost”
Elton John “The Diving Board”
Natalie Maines “Mother”
Paramore “Paramore”
Vampire Weekend “Modern Vampires of the City”

Best Rap Album
Big Boi “Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors”
Drake “Nothing Was the Same”
Ghostface Killah “Twelve Reasons to Die”
Kendrick Lamar “good kid, m.A.A.d city”
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis “The Heist”
Kanye West “Yeezus”

Best R&B Album
Brandy “Two Eleven
Fantasia “Side Effects of You”
Ariana Grande “Yours Truly”
Alicia Keys “Girl on Fire”
Miguel “Kaleidoscope Dream”
Janelle Monae “The Electric Lady”

Best Country Album
The Civil Wars “The Civil Wars”
John Fogerty “Wrote a Song for Everyone”
Kacey Musgraves “Same Trailer Different Park”
Brad Paisley “Wheelhouse”
Willie Nelson “To All the Girls…”
George Strait “Love is Everything”

Best Pop Performance
Kelly Clarkson “Catch My Breath”
Lorde “Royals”
Katy Perry “Roar”
P!nk feat. Nate Ruess “Just Give Me a Reason”
Tegan and Sara “Closer”
Justin Timberlake “Mirrors”

Best Rock Performance
David Bowie “Where are We Now?”
Elvis Costello and The Roots “Walk Us Uptown”
Kings of Leon “Super Soaker”
Natalie Maines “Without You”
Paramore “Still Into You”
Vampire Weekend “Diane Young/Step”

Best Rap Performance
Big Boi feat. Kelly Rowland “Mama Told Me”
Drake “Started From the Bottom”
Kendrick Lamar “Swimming Pools (Drank)”
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis “Can’t Hold Us”
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Mary Lambert “Same Love”
Kanye West “Black Skinhead”

Best R&B Performance
Alicia Keys feat. Nicki Minaj “Girl on Fire”
Ciara feat. Nicki Minaj “I’m Out”
Fantasia “Lose to Win”
Ariana Grande feat. Mac Miller “The Way”
Miguel “How Many Drinks?”
Janelle Monae feat. Erkyah Badu “Q.U.E.E.N”

Best Country Performance
The Band Perry “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely”
The Civil Wars “The One That Got Away”
Lady Antebellum “Downtown”
Kacey Musgraves “Blowin’ Smoke”
Willie Nelson feat. Mavis Staples “Grandma’s Hands”
Taylor Swift “22” 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Grammy Preview: Album of the Year

Justin Timberlake "The 20/20 Experience"
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis "The Heist"
Alicia Keys "Girl on Fire"
Bruno Mars "Unorthodox Jukebox"
Kings of Leon "Mechanical Bull"
Daft Punk "Random Access Memories"
Vampire Weekend "Modern Vampires of the City"
Janelle Monae "The Electric Lady"
Rihanna "Unapologetic"
Paramore "Paramore"
Kanye West "Yeezus"
Jay-Z "Magna Carta Holy Grail"
Kendrick Lamar "good kid, m.A.A.d city"
Elvis Costello & The Roots "Wise Up Ghost"
Drake "Nothing Was the Same"
Taylor Swift "Red"
David Bowie "The Next Day"
The Civil Wars "The Civil Wars"
Kacey Musgraves "Same Trailer Different Park"
Robin Thicke "Blurred Lines"
Lady Antebellum "Golden"
The Band Perry "Pioneer"
Lorde "Pure Heroine"
Phoenix "Bankrupt!"
Soundgarden "Animal Kingdom"
Patty Griffin "American Kid"
Elton John "The Diving Board"

Commentary - After a couple of years of five nominees from five different genres, we had two genres dominate the last two years. Two years ago, four pop albums were nominated alongside perennial favorite Foo Fighters. Last year, three rock nominees joined pop and R&B sensations fun. and Frank Ocean. So what will happen this year? Will they spread the love, or will they focus on one genre on their general votes? We know one thing, and that is that Justin Timberlake is almost a shoo-in, and it will be a huge upset if he is left off the list, from there, I think that it is a toss-up. The rap genre could re-enter the race after a two year absence, with several choices. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are the biggest new name in hip-hop, and The Heist certaintly has the credentials. But also look out for Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Jay-Z who all have big projects in the mix. And of course their is Kanye West. But if they won't nominated him for My Beautiful Dark and Twisted Fantasy (one of the worst snubs in recent memory), I don't see them going for the experimental and weird (but great) Yeezus. The rock category also has some great choices, but I wonder if any will rise about the fray. David Bowie, the hybrid Elvis Costello and The Roots, Elton John, Phoenix, Vampire Weekend, Paramore, and Kings of Leon. Of this bunch, I am not sure who will be out front, although Bowie, who has not be nominated since 1984 could inspire some votes as could Kings of Leon, and Costello/Roots. Country has newcomer Musgraves, and solid efforts from The Civil Wars and The Band Perry, Lady Antebellum, and of course their is Taylor-freaking-Swift, who I am sure will be out much better acts to get another undeserved Album of the Year nomination. Two R&B divas have great shots: Alicia Keys and Janelle Monae, as do some pop acts like Rihanna, Bruno Mars, and newcomer Lorde. The big wild card here is Daft Punk. No purely dance/electronica album has been nominated here, but the critics and sales for their latest have suggested a potential of Grammy glory. I am not sold on this quite yet, but I am counting them out just yet.

Current Predictions
David Bowie "The Next Day"
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis "The Heist"
Bruno Mars "Unorthodox Jukebox"
Taylor Swift "Red"
Justin Timberlake "The 20/20 Experience"

Monday, November 11, 2013

2013 British Independent Film Award Nominations

What I have always liked about BIFA is that they really stay true to their independent roots unlike their American counterpart the Indie Sprits which have become less indie and less spirited as the years have gone on. So no, most of these films will have no impact on the Oscar race, although the inclusion of Philomena across the board, shows its broad British support, helping its Oscar campaign. Also the inclusions of Blue Jasmine in the foreign race showcases some broader support for Woody Allen's latest. Hey, any press, and any support they an get helps along the way. Anyway, enjoy the always interesting BIFA nods, and start your Oscar countdown race as it is about to heat up!

 Best British Independent Film
"Metro Manila"
"The Selfish Giant"
"Starred Up"
"Le Week-end"

Best Director
Jon S. Baird, "Filth"
Sean Ellis, "Metro Manila"
Clio Barnard, "The Selfish Giant"
David Mackenzie, "Starred Up"
Jonathan Glazer, "Under the Skin"

Best Actress
Judi Dench, "Philomena"
Lindsay Duncan, "Le Week-end"
Scarlett Johansson, "Under the Skin"
Felicity Jones, "The Invisible Woman"
Saoirse Ronan, "How I Live Now"

Best Actor
Jim Broadbent, "Le Week-end"
Steve Coogan, "Philomena"
Tom Hardy, "Locke"
Jack O'Connell, "Starred Up"
James McAvoy, "Filth"

Best Supporting Actress
Siobhan Finneran, "The Selfish Giant"
Shirley Henderson, "Filth"
Imogen Poots, "The Look Of Love"
Kristin Scott Thomas, "The Invisible Woman"
Mia Wasikowska, "The Double"

Best Supporting Actor
John Arcilla, "Metro Manila"
Rupert Friend, "Starred Up"
Jeff Goldblum, "Le Week-end"
Eddie Marsan, "Filth"
Ben Mendelsohn, "Starred Up"

Best Screenplay
Steven Knight, "Locke"
Jeff Pope and Steve Coogan, "Philomena"
Clio Barnard, "The Selfish Giant"
Jonathan Asser, "Starred Up"
Hanif Kureishi, "Le Week-end"

Best International Independent Film
"Blue is the Warmest Colour"
"Blue Jasmine"
"Frances Ha"
"The Great Beauty"

Best Technical Achievement
Shaheen Baig (casting), "Starred Up"
Johnnie Burn (sound design), "Under the Skin"
Amy Hubbard (casting), "The Selfish Giant"
Mica Levi (music), "Under the Skin"
Justine Wright (editing), "Locke"

Best Documentary
"The Great Hip Hop Hoax"
"The Moo Man"
"Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer"
"The Spirit of '45"
"The Stone Roses: Made of Stone"

Douglas Hickox Award for Best Debut Director
Paul Wright, "For Those in Peril"
Tina Gharavi, "I Am Nasrine"
Jeremy Lovering, "In Fear"
Omid Nooshin, "Last Passenger"
Charlie Cattrall, "Titus"

Most Promising Newcomer
Harley Bird, "How I Live Now"
Caity Lotz, "The Machine"
Jake Macapagal, "Metro Manila"
Conner Chapman and Shaun Thomas, "The Selfish Giant"
Chloe Pirrie, "Shell"

Best Achievement in Production
"A Field in England"
"Metro Manila"
"The Selfish Giant"
"Starred Up"

Best British Short
"Dr Easy"
"Dylan's Room"

Raindance Award
"Everyone’s Going to Die"
"The Machine"
"The Patrol"
"Sleeping Dogs"