Wednesday, October 29, 2014

2014 International Documentary Association (IDA) Nominations

This year's crop, as always, features some big players in the upcoming Oscar race, check out the nominees below.

Best Feature
Finding Vivian Maier
Point and Shoot
The Salt of the Earth
Tales of the Grim Sleeper

Best Short Award
Ghost Train
Our Curse
Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall
Tashi and the Monk
The Queen

Best Curated Series Award
American Experience
American Masters
Independent Lens
Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel

Best Limited Series Award
COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey
The Sixties
Time of Death
Years of Living Dangerously

Best Episodic Series Award
Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown
Morgan Spurlock Inside Man
Oprah’s Master Class
Our America with Lisa Ling

Best Short Film Series Award
A Short History of the Highrise
Last Chance High
Planet Money Makes a T-shirt
Russian Roulette

David L. Wolper Student Documentary Awards
Cast in India
Director: Natasha Raheja
New York University

Evaporating Borders
Director: Iva Radivojevic
CUNY - Hunter College

Hotel 22
Director: Elizabeth Lo
Stanford University

My Dad's a Rocker
Director: Zuxin Hou
University of Southern California

Solitary Plains
Director: J. Christian Jensen

Stanford University

Humanitas Awards
How I Got Over
Keep On Keepin’ On
Limited Partnership

ABCNews Video Source Award
The Assassination of President Kennedy
Captivated The Trials of Pamela Smart
Concerning Violence
The Joe Show

Pare Lorentz Award 
Tashi and the Monk
Directors: Andrew Hinton, Johnny Burke

Best Cinematography
Cinematography By: Hatuey Viveros Lavielle

Best Editing
Last Days in Vietnam
Editing By: Don Kleszy

Best Music
Alfred and Jakobine
Music By: Nick Urata

Best Writing
Finding Vivian Maier
Written By: John Maloof & Charlie Siskel

Career Achievement Award
Robert Redford

Pioneer Award
Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato

Preservation and Scholarship Award
Rithy Panh

Emerging Documentary Award
Darius Clark Monroe

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

New Gotham Award Poll in Sidebar

Check out the new poll in the sidebar for this year's Gotham Awards. Pick which film you think will win Best Feature at this year's ceremony. Also be on the lookout. More Grammy predictions, the IDA nominees are announced tomorrow, and continuing coverage of this year's Oscar race!! Stay Tuned!!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

First 2015 Grammy Predictions: Record of the Year

Predicted Nominees
Idina Menzel "Let it Go"
Sia "Chandelier"
Sam Smith "Stay With Me"
Taylor Swift "Shake It Off"
Pharrell Williams "Happy"

Other Contenders - Beyonce feat. Jay-Z "Drunk In Love", Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX "Fancy", Eminem feat. Rihanna "The Monster", Ed Sheeran "Don't", Miley Cyrus "We Can't Stop", John Legend "All of Me (Live)", Bastille "Pompeii (Live)', Aloe Blacc "The Man", Hunter Hayes "Invisible", Katy Perry feat. Juicy J "Dark Horse", Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea "Problem", Meghan Trainor "All About that Bass", Jessie J, Ariana Grande, & Nicki Minaj "Bang Bang", Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)", Lorde "Yellow Flicker Beat", Barbra Streisand and Michael Buble "It Had to Be You", Chari XCX "Boom Clap", MAGIC "Rude", Coldplay "A Sky Full of Stars", Miranda Lambert "Automatic", Maroon 5 "Maps", Tegan and Sara "Everything is Awesome", Kendrick Lamar "i", Nicki Minaj "Anaconda", Jack White "Lazaretto", The Black Keys "Fever", U2 "The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)", Kings of Leon "Wait for Me", Mariah Carey "You're Mine (Eternal)"

Commentary - I don't know why I try to predict the Grammys, because they are scientifically proven to throw all of us a curve ball, but what the hell, might as well give them a shot. First is an interesting battle brewing between the two big Oscar contenders for last year's Best Original Song. Let it Go, like everything that Frozen touched, lit up the charts, and became a smash pop hit on its own. The Grammys have a history of rewarding visual media songs when their big hits, and this one fits right into their canon. The only major problem is that it has been awhile since a soundtrack, and its singles have had the power of Frozen's. Newer voters may not be as inclined as the old school bunch of a decade ago. The other big one is Happy, and I personally think this one is a lock. Unlike let it go, Happy became a hit disassociated from its original origins in Despicable Me 2. In fact a lot of voters may forget that it was originally connected to a movie, because it became so viral as a stand alone hit. And after Pharrell's stellar year last year, he is fresh on voters' minds. Sam Smith is being hailed as the male version of Adele, and while his singles and album weren't quite 19, 21, Rolling in the Deep, Chasing Pavements, or Someone Like You, he still has had a monster year, and his pop style is right in line with what Grammy voters like. Stay With Me is still blasting on the radio, and I expect it to strike a chord with Grammy voters. Speaking of pop, as you can tell, I think it is going to be a monster year for the genre in this category. For example, one of the inescapable hits this year was Sia's power-pop ballad Chandelier. It it fresh enough to play well on radio and with single sales, but I think it will appeal to the industry as a whole as well. These four seem like safe bets (although, as I previously mentioned nobody is really safe), but what about slot number five? Beyonce is set to have a monster year in terms of nominations, including, most likely, an Album of the Year nod. So it is probably a safe bet to put her in ROTY and SOTY, right? I am hesitating on this one right now. None of her hits have been smash singles compared to some of her previous work, and I think there is a lot of competition from artist whose singles really did take the charts by storm. Of the bunch, the best bet is Drunk in Love, which would be a double whammy with Jay-Z also in the mix, but right now I have them on the outside looking in. Two major rap stars have real bets here. Of the two I actually think The Monster has a great shot. It was a huge hit, great single reviews, and features two Grammy-winning superstars in Rihanna and Eminem. Fancy is still all over the place, but both Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX are untested newcomers. I honestly don't know how voters will react to Iggy Azalea. When Nicki Minaj hit the scene, she missed the cut on general categories, and has still yet to win a Grammy Award. In the male dominated industry, Iggy's climb might be too high. Aloe Blacc hit the ground running when Avicii took his song and added a nice beat to it, and then his hit The Man sailed on its own. It could be the type of feel-good R&B record that gives the genre its general nod. John Legend and Bastille couldn't technically submit All of Me or Pompeii, so they decided to go with live versions. This may work as both songs were popular, or the live aspect may block their chances. Ariana Grande has apparently decided not to submit for Best New Artist (which I don't know why), but she has two big hits that could play here, Bang Bang (my personal favorite of the two) with the star power of Nicki Minaj and Jessie J, and Problem feat. Iggy Azalea. Legends Barbra Streisand and Tony Bennett teamed up with hotshots Lady Gaga and Michael Buble, and could get back into major Grammy races with new adaptations of old classics. Grammy favorites like Lorde, The Black Keys, Jack White, Miranda Lambert, Katy Perry, Coldplay, Maroon 5, and the ever present U2 should also be on all of our horizons. Instead though, I am going to go with a safe bet in Taylor Swift. Last year was the first time she didn't win a bunch of awards, so their enthusiasm may be waning. But Shake It Off is catchy as hell, is a brazen new pop classic from the country starlet, and I refuse to underestimate her...again.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

2014 Gotham Independent Film Award Nominees

And so it begins!!! The first major precursor of the season has arrived, officially signaling the start of the next phase in Oscar Race 2015. I am so excited we have gotten to this point, and I am so thrilled to see a great list for this year's Gotham Independent Film Awards! Check out the full list of nominees below, and of course go to for more information on this awesome organization, and these prestigious awards for independent film. Among the nominees are hopeful Oscar contenders including: Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Boyhood, Love is Strange, Oscar Isaac, Michael Keaton, Miles Teller, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Julianne Moore, Ellar Coltrane, and several documentaries hoping to breakthrough to the final five.

Best Feature
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Love is Strange
Under the Skin

Best Documentary
Life Itself
Point and Shoot

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award
Ana Lily Amirpour "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night"
James Ward Byrkit "Coherence"
Dan Gilroy "Nightcrawler"
Eliza Hittman "It Felt Like Love"
Justin Simien "Dear White People"

Best Actor
Bill Hader "The Skeleton Twins"
Ethan Hawke "Boyhood"
Oscar Isaac "A Most Violent Year"
Michael Keaton "Birdman"
Millers Teller "Whiplash"

Best Actress
Patricia Arquette "Boyhood"
Gugu Mbatha-Raw "Beyond the Lights"
Julianne Moore "Still Alice"
Scarlett Johansson "Under the Skin"
Mia Wasikowska "Tracks"

Best Breakthrough Actor
Riz Ahmed "Nightcrawler"
Macon Blair "Blue Ruin"
Ellar Coltrane "Boyhood"
Joey King "Wish I Was Here"
Jenny Slate "Obvious Child"
Tessa Thompson "Dear White People"

Spotlight On Women Filmmakers "Live The Dream" Grant
Garrett Bradley "Below Dreams"
Claire Carre "Embers"
Chloe Zhao "Songs My Brothers Taught Me"

Special Gotham Jury Award
Best Actor special prize for the Foxcatcher trio of  Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, and Steve Carell for Foxcatcher

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Oscar Narrative: First Golden Globe Predictions - Best Picture - Drama

First Golden Globe Predictions
Gone Girl
The Imitation Game

Other Contenders -American Sniper, A Most Violent Year, Boyhood, The Theory of Everything, Selma, Wild, Mr. Turner, Big Eyes, Still Alice, Whiplash, Black or White, Fury, The Fault in Our Stars, A Most Wanted Man, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, The Judge, Tracks, Snowpiercer, The Homesman, Exodus: Gods and Kings

Commentary - This category is simply brutal. Especially if Big Eyes, American Sniper, Selma, and A Most Violent Year turn out to be good. I am currently predicting several of those films for the Oscars, but I have to remember that the Globes are a different game. For example, Gone Girl is certainly a bubble contender for the Oscars, do to its dark nature, but I think that its slick nature and star appeal will win over Globe voters a lot easier. I think that big bold action flicks like Unbroken and Interstellar, with their true star power backing them up will be easy picks. Plus, they backed Inception, and even gave Angelina Jolie's In The Land of Blood and Honey a nod. The last two slots are interesting. Foxcatcher is still a top contender, but it is going to have to survive the fall and winter onslaught of new contenders. Of the two British contenders I think only one will get in here (Both at the Oscars is a real possibility, but there are a lot of films fighting for five slots here). So I am going with The Imitation Game, which seems to be the stronger of the two right now. There is also sitting out there Still Alice, Whiplash, Black or White, Fury, The Fault in Our Stars, The Hobbit, And Mr. Turner, all with legitimate shots at making it in. Whatever happens on Globe nomination morning, someone big is going to be left out.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Oscar Narrative: First Golden Globe Predictions - Best Picture - Comedy/Musical

First Golden Globe Predictions
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Into the Woods
St. Vincent

Other Contenders - Inherent Vice, Begin Again, Top Five, Jersey Boys, Guardians of the Galaxy, Love is Strange, Get On Up, The Hundred-Foot Journey, 22 Jump Street, Neighbors, Maps to the Stars, The Skeleton Twins, Chef, Annie, Men Women & Children, Paddington, Magic in the Moonlight, Maleficent, Dear White People

Commentary - An interesting race is brewing, especially if Into the Woods is even half decent. Globe voters love musicals, and this is just the type of bold musical that is right up their alley. But Birdman is a critical hit, beloved by a broad base of voters, audiences, and critics, and could end up being one of the biggest Oscar players of the year. Of course so could Into the Woods if it lives up to its hype. As I said, a huge battle is brewing. But these are not the only two contenders in the race. I don't know if The Grand Budapest Hotel can summon any Oscar buzz beyond a few categories, but I expect Globe voters to remember it well. They like Wes Anderson, and it is a star-studded cast that makes their celebrity beepers go crazy. St. Vincent's success probably depends on whether it can reach its audiences, although with the dynamic duo of McCarthy and Murray, I think it has a good shot of doing so. It has the sheen of a raunchy comedy, but has enough heart to reach voters across the spectrum. I think it gets in. It is that last slot that its giving me trouble. Jersey Boys and Get on Up are summer hits that have the musical twist that HFPA members love. Top Five has the chance to be a real hit, and it is going to get some nice campaigning. I think it is right on the verge of a nomination, all it needs is a big opening. Begin Again, Love is Strange, Chef, The Hundred-Foot Journey are light and feel-good dramedies that a lot of the times beat out the more obvious choices.Guardians of the Galaxy is the big blockbuster of the bunch, but superhero movies have about as much luck here as they do in top Oscar categories. And finally there is Inherent Vice, which might just be a too bit out-there for voters.  Instead, I am going out on a bit of a limb. Pride is a feel-good British comedy that combines gay rights and labor rights into one movie chocked full of veteran British icons. It is getting good reviews, but it kind of crashed at the domestic box office. Still, I think it appeals to the international critics that make up the HFPA, and could be just the perfect movie to round out its top five.

Monday, October 20, 2014

2015 Finalists for Best Documentary Short Oscar

The Academy has announced its eight finalists for the Best Documentary Short category:

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Perry Films

Wajda Studio

Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace
Show of Force

The Lion’s Mouth Opens
Tree Tree Tree

One Child
New York University

Our Curse
Warsaw Film School

The Reaper (La Parka)
Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica

White Earth
Weary Traveler

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Oscar Narrative: First Golden Globe Predictions - Supporting/Director/Screenplay/Animated Feature

Best Director
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu "Birdman"
Bennett Miller "Foxcatcher"
David Fincher "Gone Girl"
Angelina Jolie "Unbroken"
Christopher Nolan "Interstellar"

Best Screenplay
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicholas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, and Armando Bo "Birdman"
Richard Linklater "Boyhood"
Gillian Flynn "Gone Girl"
Graham Moore "The Imitation Game"
Joel & Ethan Coen, William Nicholson, and Richard LaGravenese "Unbroken"

Best Supporting Actor
Johnny Depp "Into the Woods"
Robert Duvall "The Judge"
Edward Norton "Birdman"
Mark Ruffalo "Foxcatcher"
J.K. Simmons "Whiplash"

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette "Boyhood"
Laura Dern "Wild"
Keira Knightley "The Imitation Game"
Emma Stone "Birdman"
Meryl Streep "Into the Woods"

Best Animated Feature
Big Hero 6
The Book of Life
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
The Lego Movie

New Golden Globe Poll in Sidebar

This week, I am asking for your input for the Best Picture-Drama category at this year's Golden Globes. So please, take a second and pick your five nominees. Also keep expecting more Golden Globe predictions, as well as some first Grammy predictions in the main categories. This week we also have our first big awards of the season with the Gotham Nominations (remember 12 Years a Slave started its run there), and soon the IDA nods as well. So stay tuned. We may in a bit of a lull, but it is about to quickly change gears, so get ready for another wild ride.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Oscar Narrative: First Golden Globe Predictions - Best Actor in a Drama

First Golden Globe Predictions
Steve Carell "Foxcatcher"
Benedict Cumberbatch "The Imitation Game"
Oscar Isaac "A Most Violent Year"
Eddie Redmayne "The Theory of Everything"
Channing Tatum "Foxcatcher"

Other Contenders - Timothy Spall "Mr. Turner", David Oyelowo "Selma", Bradley Cooper "American Sniper", Jack O'Connell "Unbroken", Brad Pitt "Fury", Mark Wahlberg "The Gambler", Christoph Waltz "Big Eyes", Ben Affleck "Gone Girl", Miles Teller "Whiplash", Ansel Elgort "The Fault in Our Stars", Matthew McConaughey "Interstellar", Kevin Costner "Black or White", Kevin Costner "Draft Day", Martin Freeman "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies", Philip Seymour Hoffman "A Most Wanted Man", James Franco "True Story", Jonah Hill "True Story", Ellar Coltrane "Boyhood", Jake Gyllenhaal "Nightcrawler", Russell Crowe "Noah", Robert Downey Jr. "The Judge", Brendan Gleeson "Cavalry", Tommy Lee Jones "The Homesman"

Commentary - This category, like its Comedy/Musical counterpart is brutal, just like the Best Actor race at every awards ceremony will be this season. On the outside looking in are huge stars (something Globe voters love) including Brad Pitt for Fury (less than stellar reviews have dampened its overall awards chances), Mark Wahlberg (The Gambler is a big question mark), Kevin Costner (Two roles, neither standing out at the moment), Bradley Cooper (right on the verge if American Sniper turns out to be as good as it looks), Matthew McConaughey (science fiction and acting don't always go hand in hand), Ben Affleck (Gone Girl all about Fincher and Pike?), Robert Downey Jr for The Judge (once again mixed reviews), Russell Crowe (Will enough people come back to Noah?), Christoph Waltz (Tim Burton has been in a bit of a funk), Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler too dark?), and the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman (will it maintain its low buzz enough to keep him on the radar). That is how brutal this is, and that doesn't even include Timothy Spall's incredibly buzzed turn in Mr. Turner, David Oyelowo's potentially breakthrough performance as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, or newcomers Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, and Jack O'Connell all of whom are on the rise. So now let's get to the actual predictions. Oscar Isaac might have missed the mark with the Academy, but let's remind ourselves that Globe voters actually saw the brilliance in his performance in Inside Llewyn Davis and gave a well-deserved nod. I have huge hopes for A Most Violent Year, and now that he is already on their radar, he should not be ignored. There are two British guys that are taking the Oscar circuit by storm. Benedict Cumberbatch is now an Emmy-award winning actor whose performance as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game is carrying the film to Oscar-buzz heaven. Eddie Redmayne is apparently stellar as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, and is a young actor whose career is on the rise. Both are big threats for both the Oscar and the Golden Globe. Finally, I think a duo will make the cut. We all know that Steve Carell is going to be a tough competitor here, and probably the front runner. But let's remember that the Globe voters love their stars. I think that superstar Channing Tatum, who gets to really show off his talents up against Carell in Foxcatcher, will join his co-star in the race.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Oscar Narrative: First Golden Globe Predictions - Best Actress in a Drama

First Golden Globe Predictions 
Amy Adams "Big Eyes"
Jessica Chastain "A Most Violent Year"
Julianne Moore "Still Alice"
Rosemund Pike "Gone Girl"
Reese Witherspoon "Wild"

Other Contenders - Felicity Jones "The Theory of Everything", Hilary Swank "The Homesman", Shailene Woodley "The Fault in Our Stars", Jessica Chastain "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby", Marion Cotillard "Two Days One Night", Anne Hathaway "Interstellar", Octavia Spencer "Black and White", Rooney Mara "Trash", Emily Blunt "Edge of Tomorrow", Kristen Bell "Veronica Mars", Emma Stone "The Amazing Spider-Man 2", Scarlett Johansson "Lucy", Gugu Mbatha-Raw "Belle", Jennifer Aniston "Cake"

Commentary - This one is an interesting race. I think that one or possibly two of the younger stars to breakthrough here will make it in. A lot of it depends on how Big Eyes and A Most Violent Year turn out. Because if they are good, expect Golden Globe winners Amy Adams and Jessica Chastain to get back in. I also think that Julianne Moore and Reese Witherspoon, both of whom took the festival circuit by storm are pretty solid contenders, not only for the Oscars, but particularly for the star-whore Golden Globes. It is that lost spot though that gives me trouble. I think when it comes to Oscars that Felicity Jones might actually have a better shot at a nod thanks to the fact that The Theory of Everything will appeal to the Academy probably more than the darker Gone Girl. But I think, in reverse, that Gone Girl will be a hit with Globe voters, and that Rosemund Pike will edge out a nomination here. But as always, we'll have to wait and see...

Neil Patrick Harris to Host 87th Annual Academy Awards

Year after year, I tell the Oscar producers (telepathically of course), that they should Neil Patrick Harris to host. His Emmy and Tony broadcasts have been wildly entertaining and successful, he is a natural showman who can dance, sing, and tell the jokes. Plus, I think he can smooth over the awkward moments that are sure to occur with those producers at the helm. I am personally stoked by the choice, and there are sure to be some interesting Gone Girl jokes and references throughout the night.

Monday, October 13, 2014

2014 American Music Award Nominations

Artist of the Year
Iggy Azalea
Luke Bryan
Imagine Dragons
John Legend
One Direction
Katy Perry
Pharrell Williams

New Artist of the Year
5 Second of Summer
Iggy Azalea
Sam Smith
Meghan Trainor

Single of the Year
Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX "Fancy"
John Legend "All of Me"
MAGIC! "Rude"
Katy Perry feat Juicy J "Dark Horse"
Pharrell Williams "Happy"

Favorite Male Artist - Pop/Rock
John Legend
Sam Smith
Pharrell Williams

Favorite Female Artist - Pop/Rock
Iggy Azalea
Katy Perry

Favorite Band/Duo/Group - Pop/Rock
Imagine Dragons
One Directon

Favorite Album - Pop/Rock
Lorde "Pure Heroine"
One Direction "Midnight Memories"
Katy Perry "Prism"

Favorite Male Artist - Country
Jason Aldean
Luke Bryan
Blake Shelton

Favorite Female Artist - Country
Miranda Lambert
Kacey Musgraves
Carrie Underwood

Favorite Band/Duo/Group - Country
Eli Young Band
Florida Georgia Line
Lady Antebellum

Favorite Album - Country
Garth Brooks "Blame It On My Roots: Five Decades of Influence"
Eric Church "The Outsiders"
Brantley Gilbert "Just As I Am"

Favorite Artist - Rap/Hip-Hop
Iggy Azalea

Favorite Album - Rap/Hip-Hop
Iggy Azalea "The New Classic"
Drake "Nothing Was the Same"
Eminem "The Marshall Mather LP 2"

Favorite Male Artist - Soul/R&B
Chris Brown
John Legend
Pharrell Williams

Favorite Female Artist - Soul/R&B
Jhene Aiko
Mary J. Blige

Favorite Album - R&B/Soul
Beyonce "Beyonce"
John Legend "Love in the Future"
Pharrell Williams "G I R L"

Favorite Artist - Alternative Rock
Imagine Dragons

Favorite Artist - Adult Contemporary
Sara Bareilles
Katy Perry

Favorite Artist - Latin
Marc Anthony
Enrique Iglesias
Romeo Santos

Favorite Artist - Contemporary/Inspirational
Casting Crowns
Hillsong United

Favorite Artist - EDM
Calvin Harris

Favorite Soundtrack
The Fault in Our Stars
Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Oscar Narrative: First Golden Globe Predictions - Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical

First Golden Globe Predictions
Chadwick Boseman "Get On Up"
Ralph Fiennes "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Michael Keaton "Birdman"
Bill Murray "St. Vincent"
Joaquin Phoenix "Inherent Vice"

Other Contenders - Chris Rock "Top Five", James Corden "Into the Woods", Bill Nighy "Pride", Bill Hader "The Skeleton Twins", Jon Favreau "Chef", Mark Ruffalo "Begin Again", Alfred Molina "Love is Strange", John Lithgow "Love is Strange", Ansel Elgort "Men, Women & Children", Chris Pratt "Guardians of the Galaxy", Jamie Foxx "Annie", Colin Firth "Magic in the Moonlight", Andre Benjamin "Jimi: All is By My Side", Domhnall Gleeson "Frank", Michael Fassbender "Frank", Tyler James Williams "Dear White People", Zach Braff "Wish I Was Here", Jason Bateman "This is Where I Leave You", Zac Efron "Neighbors", Seth Rogen "Neighbors", Kevin Hart "About Last Night", Jonah Hill "22 Jump Street", Channing Tatum "22 Jump Street", John Lloyd Young "Jersey Boys"

Commentary - Unlike the actress category, this is a deep and long list of contenders, who not only are big names, but also give well-received performances, in well-liked movies, making for an interesting race to five. I think that no matter what happens it is going to be hard for anybody to topple Michael Keaton. He is a veteran movie star, has a performance that people can't stop talking about it, and is a sure-fired Oscar contender. Right behind him is Bill Murray who is getting an abundance of praise for his soft, yet raucous performance in St. Vincent. Oscar voters will most likely not respond, but I think Globe voters will eat it up. Ralph Fiennes got plenty of Oscar buzz out of the gate with the early premiere of Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel. But with so many names in the mix, his Oscar chances are looking slim. No fear though for the wonderfully funny Fiennes, I think that the HFPA will not overlook him this year. The last two slots are tricky. I am currently going with Chadwick Boseman, who was fantastic as James Brown. It is a mix of comedy and musical that could really pop for voters. But the film has disappeared off the radar, so it needs a campaign for it to happen. Finally, I am assuming that Globe Voters will have more love for the wacky Inherent Vice than Oscar voters, which puts Joaquin Phoenix back in the race. But he nor Boseman are a lock, there are a lot of big performances, and big stars waiting in the wings. Chris Pratt could get in if they embrace Guardians of the Galaxy, which I'm not sure of. Top Five was received with rapturous ovation on the festival circuit, and if they can kick their campaign into gear there is a lot of possibility for Chris Rock. Jon Favreau was engaging in Chef, Mark Ruffalo whimsical in Begin Again, Bill Hader surprisingly dramatic in The Skeleton Twins, and Ansel Elgort is said to be the standout of Men, Women & Children. The musicals have some big names, all of which could get in including James Corden for Into the Woods (will he be outshone by bigger names?), Jamie Foxx for Annie (it looks bad), and John Lloyd Young for Jersey Boys (tepid reception, but they love musicals). John Lithgow and Alfred Molina are an engaging pair in Love is Strange, and Andre Benjamin, Tyler James Williams could have breakthrough nominations. Finally, don't forget the raunchy comedies, every once in a while they reward things like Bridesmaids and The Hangover. The 22 Jump Street and Neighbors leads are certainly worthy, and could surprise a few of the more, oh how should I put this, stuffy contenders.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

New Golden Globe Poll in Sidebar

It has been so long since I have done a poll for you guys, I figured I would restart the tradition. I am beginning to look at this year's Golden Globe contenders, and I would like your input as well. I will continue to unveil my first predictions for this year's ceremony, and continue to cover the Oscar race as a whole. Enjoy this week's poll for Best Picture - Comedy/Musical, and stay tuned!

Top 100 Films of the 2010's...So Far: Part VI

50. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I (2010) - Harry Potter was split into two films in order to preserve the integrity of J.K. Rowling's sprawling finale. Unfortunately, since then, every major book to film series has done the same thing, in an attempt to cash in more money at the box
office. Of the bunch (The Hobbit, Twilight, and we'll see about The Hunger Games), Harry Potter is the only franchise which as justified the split. Part I of Deathly Hallows could have been a clunky and boring film that simply sets up the finale, and while it does pale in comparison to part II, I was so thrilled to see that it held up as an excellent film that happens to stand on its own merits. To be honest, yes most of this film is exposition, but writer Steve Kloves, and director David Yates never let the plot lag one bit. They keep things moving, throw in enough action to satisfy the fan boys, and bring A-Game technical elements that were some of the best in the field. What Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows truly achieved though, was emotional depth, depth that would play out beautifully in the series' final chapter. It developed its characters, and prepared them for their ultimate fates. It did justice to Rowling's work, and yet managed to make it its own. And in the films final scenes, we see the stakes that lie ahead for our characters, as a beloved one is killed, one of many that would perish in the final battle between good and evil. It is hard to be the redheaded step-child of a film series (actually that description probably belongs to The Order of the Phoenix), whose only purpose is to serve its final act. But Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I managed to rise above its meager expectations, and prove to be a unique and necessary entry into one of the best, and most popular film series of all time.

49. Looper (2012) - When I heard that Rian Johnson was directing two of the new Star Wars films, I knew that I had reason to be excited. He has lent his directorial efforts to Breaking Bad, so we know he can master tension and mood and 2005's Brick was a solid thriller. But the real reason to get excited about Rian Johnson is that he has already had an awesome entry into the sci-fi film canon with 2012's Looper. Looper has a pretty dense science fiction base. When the mob, way into the future, wants to kill some one, they send the victim into the past, where someone immediately kills
them. Joe, played by both Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of those killers, who soon realizes that his past and future self will meet in order to eliminate him. Looper has one of those plots that could bog down the film with simply too much science fiction for its own good. But in the hands of Rian Johnson, Looper avoids all of those potential pitfalls, and quickly emerged as one of the best science fiction films to hit theaters in the last decade. Two engaging leads, whose chemistry was enigmatic, were able to pull off playing the same role with ease. A solid supporting cast including Piper Perabo, Paul Dano, Jeff Daniels, and particularly the always underestimated Emily Blunt (who also proved to be well suited to her role in this year's Edge of Tomorrow, maybe she has a career in science fiction), round out the cast well.  But it is Rian Johnson and his technical team that deserve the most credit for Looper's success. It has top notch technical elements that keep the visuals and sounds sharp, and mesmerizing to the eyes and ears. And most importantly, it takes the classic science fiction concept of time travel in the future, and manages to give it a breath of fresh air, a refreshing twist on an old theme. The dialogue is sharp, the action perfectly timed, with plenty of room in between to develop its story lines and its characters. Most science fiction, fantasy, or action blockbusters that come about nowadays focus on blowing up as much stuff as possible. They all should take a lesson from Looper, and find out how to exercise the audience's mind and heart, as well as blow a bunch of stuff up.

48. Short Term 12 (2013) - Dealing with at-risk youths is a job for angels, those who have the patience and the stomach to deal with issues that many of these kids face. Short Term 12 is about not only the struggles of many of today's youth, the struggles of poverty, violence, and lack of parental support, but also about those that take on the task of trying to rehabilitate these kids to attempt to give them a better future than their lot in life originally allotted them. A tremendous cast of talented young actors is led by the mesmerizing Brie Larson, in a role that earned her a butt load of recognition. She
plays Grace, a young counselor whose decisions and choices not only affect her personal relationships, but end up affecting her kids as well. Short Term 12 was made on a small budget, featured mostly unknown actors, and yet that might have been its strongest component. The result is a completely organic, and realistic look at the scars of life. Its authenticity is balanced with brimming humor, scarring darkness, and a rhythm that mirrors that ups and downs of life perfectly. The acting, particularly Larson's central performance, is top notch. The script from Destin Daniel Cretton is, as I have said before, completely organic, and perfectly balances emotion, humor, and pain. His direction is simplistic, letting the actors work out the material without too many flashes and bangs, and it is a strategy that pays off. What I love most about Short Term 12 is its enduring hope in humanity. No matter how bad things get, it shows us that there is always light buried in the darkness. It is by no means a gushy or corny film, in fact it can be harsh to watch the events as they unfold, but it holds its center that these people are trying to make the world a better place, one troubled teen at a time. It is a message that will stand the test of time, and I hope that years from now people are still watching Short Term 12, and taking away its teachable moments about life as we know it.

47. Young Adult (2011) - Jason Reitman has hit a bit of a speed bump lately with Labor Day pretty much bombing, and Men, Women & Children landing incredibly soft on the fall festival circuit. Many people would include 2011's Young Adult as part of that decline, simply because it didn't get the awards recognition that his previous efforts Juno and Up in the Air did. I however, think that Young Adult was another excellent effort for the director, and truly believe that the reason a lot of people couldn't get behind it was because it was unlikable. I have never understood that whole "likable" argument anyway. I guess that the theory goes that just because a film featured unlikable people, or in general had an unpleasant overtone, it automatically means it is un-watchable. While
that sometimes may be true, luckily Young Adult was not one of them. Its central character, Mavis Gary, was brilliantly portrayed by Charlize Theron, in a role that should have earned her a third Oscar nomination. She brilliantly balances Mavis' evil, her delusion, and her vulnerabilities. The supporting cast is great, and it is Patton Oswalt who gives a surprisingly deep and heartfelt performance of a man whose torture in high school still haunts him. These are two individuals who had a hard time escaping the trappings of high school. One because of his physical and emotional scars, and the other because of her delusional refusal to actually grow up. They create an endearing duo that is at times hard to watch, and at other times, incredibly engaging and funny. The wonderful script from Oscar winner Diablo Cody creates a perfect balance of cringe-worthy drama, and laugh out loud hysterics. Young Adult succeeds because it refuses to shy away from the moments that make you cringe or wince, and it tackles the mental issues of Mavis and of Matt with a clear head and a strong sense of dark comedy that simply works. For anyone who has ever had a hard time with high school, for anyone who has ever felt like the will never outgrow the pain and pettiness of those formative and sometimes awful four years, then Young Adult is an important film, and despite popular belief, further proof that when the right elements combine, Reitman can pull off quite a cinematic punch.

46. ParaNorman (2012) - I recently went on a 2012 Best Animated Feature re-watch, and while I still love Wreck-It Ralph, it was ParaNorman that stuck out to me even more on a second viewing. ParaNorman is the story of a boy who can see the dead. No its not a Sixth Sense rehash. It is a sweet tale about a young boy who finds understanding among the dead, and fights to preserve both the living world and the dead one, and break an ancient curse. ParaNorman has many of the same themes
that have run through children's and teen films in recent years. Norman is bullied at school for being weird, and smaller than the other boys, his sister and parents do not understand his struggle, and there is even a sly reference to gay teens, and breaking through stereotypes. Yet ParaNorman is anything but stereotypical. It doesn't hit these messages over the head too much to the point of being cheesy or too obvious, yet it doesn't sweep them under the rug, nor belittle their importance. Instead it seamlessly blends them into a heart-racing, visually stunning, and wildly entertaining animated film that will appeal to kids of all ages (yes that includes you adults out there). Its voice cast is top notch including Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, and the late great Elaine Stritch, who was particularly fantastic as Norman's grandmother. It is also a sweet, sometimes terrifying, and always engaging film that educates, entertains, and perfectly blends horror, fantasy, humor, and humanity to perfection. ParaNorman had the unfortunate fate of being up against Frankenweenie, Wreck-It Ralph, and Brave when it came to awards, although a few brave critics groups broke from the mainstream and gave it well-deserved honors. After a second viewing, I recognize now that it is just as distinctive and well-made as any of those other films and deserves to not be forgotten any time soon.

45. Holy Motors (2012) - I have seen Holy Motors three times since it premiered in 2012, and I still don't fully understand what the hell happened from beginning to end. But with Leos Carax's Holy Motors, I don't think it actually matters. Holy Motors is the story of one night with a man named Monsieur Oscar. He completely becomes several different people at each of his stops along his strange journey of just a few hours. Denis Lavant brilliantly portrays the varying characters of Oscar's repertoire, completely becoming each character. It is a jaw-dropping performance with an incredible degree of difficulty. Not only did Lavant have to become so many characters and bring them to life as unique entities, but he also had to embrace the madness. Yes, Holy Motors is one of the strangest films, brilliantly brimming with ferocious energy that not only verges, but completely goes over the
cliff of madness. Leos Carax has a vision, and I think decades from now, that film scholars will still debating all the twists and turns, all the method to his madness. But until then, we must accept what is laid before us. Holy Motors is a visually enticing film, packed full of bright colors, flashing lights, and stunning cinematography. It is chocked full of music that makes your heart and head thump. Its stylistic approach is unlike anything I have ever seen on the screen. Its jump from persona to persona is so intertwined with the mood and the visual feel, that yes it can sometimes be confusing. But if you let yourself go for a while, stop trying to think it through all the way, and simply sit back and enjoy the events as they come, then you will have a much more enjoyable time with Holy Motors. It is not a film you watch, it is a film you feel, and while you may be a bit numb at the end of it, like any good trip it is worth the journey. Holy Motors was not seen by most average moviegoers. However, the Cesar Awards in France gave it a stunning nine nominations, it won and was nominated for many critics awards, and it made it on to a lot of top ten lists. It is time you add it to your list as well.

44. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) - The Coen Bros are two of the finest screenwriters and finest film makers working today. They have won a plethora of Academy Awards, their films are almost always hits with critics, and I cannot wait to see what they do with their upcoming script for Unbroken. While their straight up dramas like No Country for Old Men and True Grit have played better with the Academy, I personally love their comedies, and their quirkier, grittier dramas that show off their unique style. 2013's Inside Llewyn Davis was one of their finest, and underrated films in that vein (although 2 Oscar nominations is nothing to be ashamed of). It is the story of Llewyn Davis, a folk singer in the 1960's, who is a talented, yet starving artist, whose irritable and mooching personality makes him somewhat unlikable. Davis travels far to achieve his dream, he leans on his friends, family, and his lovers to try to make his dream, no matter how out of reach, come true. But Inside
Llewyn Davis is not a feel-good story about a plucky folk singer who rises to fame. No Inside Llewyn Davis is about an artist that decides, despite all of his talent, to give up. I think it is this basic plot line that prevented the film from becoming an awards favorite. What industry wants to reward a film that is about giving up on that industry? What group of artists wants to recognize one of their own who decided that the risk was no longer worth the reward? Whatever their reasoning, it is there lost, and twenty five years from now when critics and film lovers are still talking about the film, then they will be turning their heads in shame that they missed the opportunity to reward it when it presented itself. Oscar Isaac, as the leading player, was jaw-droppingly good in a role that has made him one to watch among the film community. He was vulnerable, unlikable, yet somehow endearing in a layered and subtle performance that shows his talent as a actor. Scene-stealing supporting roles from the likes of Carey Mulligan and John Goodman round out the performances well, but in the end it is the Coens that, not surprisingly, rise to the top. Their brilliant script, taut direction, along with Bruno Delbonnel's dark and pitch perfect cinematography, create the perfect mood, the perfect balance of great music, great performances, dark comedy, and painful drama that blends together for a slightly depressing, and always brilliant film.

43. Win Win (2011) - Early in 2011, a small indie comedy hit the screens with little fanfare, not much box office, and it quickly faded off the Oscar map despite some initial buzz. However, it did come back around come awards time with some recognition including an ALMA nomination, Critics Choice Award Nomination, an Indie Spirit nomination, various critical nominations, and a coveted WGA nomination for the wonderful script. While it failed to make much of a mark on the bigger awards ceremonies, I was so delighted to see even a small amount of recognition for Thomas McCarthy's winning, and delightful Win Win. His latest film, The Cobbler, landed with a thud at Toronto this year, which is a real shame, because McCarthy is such a talent both behind the camera, and behind a word processor. Win Win is the story of a lawyer and local wrestling coach who takes
on a case in order to collect the check that comes with it. Along with the check comes some baggage in the form of a troubled teenage boy, who happens to also be a star wrestler. As the two become close, complications arise including the return of a wayward parent, the truth about motivations, and the struggle to become a champion. In one of his more emotional and resonant roles to date, Paul Giamatti brilliantly balances his desperate economic outlook, with being a caring father figure for a troubled young man. Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Alex Shaffer, Margo Martindale, Jeffrey Tambor and Burt Young round out a talented and involved cast whose total talents melt perfectly into a well-rounded ensemble piece. Backing them up is a quiet, funny, and emotional resonant script from McCarthy, that is well-paced, full of excellent character development, sad, sweet, and funny all at the same time. Win Win is one of those movies that sneaks up on you, grabs your heart and your funny bone, and never lets up. It was a quiet film that turned out to be one of the best of 2011, and one of the best of this decade so far.

42. Black Swan (2010) - I don't know if any Darren Aronofsky film will ever top his work in 2000's Requiem for a Dream, but in 2010 (and in 2008 with The Wrestler) he got pretty damn close with his psychological ballet thriller Black Swan. Let me run that description by you one more time: psychological ballet thriller. Only Aronofsky has the mind and the vision to pull off a psychological thriller about ballet dancers. Like Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan is a visually stylish film, where the actual events, and the delusional and sickly fantasy moments are blended so seamlessly that you have to guess which world you are actually watching. But like Requiem, unless your cast is willing to
embrace your unconventional style, and dive into the depths of your emotional blackness, the way that Aronofsky expects his actors to do, then the project will not achieve any measure of success. Luckily, Aronofsky was surround by capable actors and stunning performers that were willing to dive into the depths of his darkness.Barbara Hershey, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder, and Mila Kunis all bring their A-game to the mix in scene-stealing supporting roles, but it is Natalie Portman that truly shines. We know the training that went into her performance was intense and showed great determination and dedication to her craft (despite that faux controversy), and she completely dives into the psychological depth of her character full force. It was a tour-de-force that earned her an Oscar, and proved that she was a talent to watch for (although since then she has yet to find a role that has matched this one's greatness). Every description so far of Black Swan has made it seem like one of those dark indie films that is only seen by those in the industry, small groups of cinephiles, and critics. But Darren Aronofsky and his team were able to blend the darkness with enough engagement to make Black Swan an accessible film that went on to become a smash at the box office, and gross over $100 million dollars at the domestic box office, a feat that shocked the numbers guys, and enticed millions of movie goers across the country. It shows the mark of a true talent that can make those two elements, dark indie and blockbuster smash, work together in harmony, so we should all praise Portman, Aronofsky, and the team behind this strange smash.

41. The Spectacular Now (2013) - The Spectacular Now joins The Fault in Our Stars and The Perks of Being a Wallflower as a new trio of young adult books adapted to the big screen. I know you could probably also include the likes of Divergent, Twilight, The Maze Runner, and The Hunger Games. But these three in particular stand out. First of all, unlike those other ones, these three films are actually pretty damn good (okay The Hunger Games movies have been good so far). Second, these films are not distopia, futuristic, or have vampires in them. They are realistic tales of teens in the modern age. They are about real things, like love, disease, sexuality, friendship, and it is these elements that have made them such a refreshing part of modern youth cinema. When most people think of high school films, they picture Grease, or some of those 80's comedies starring Molly
Ringwald and Matthew Broderick. While those films have their merits, they are simply there for fun. The Spectacular Now has its fun moments, but at its heart and core it is a fascinating drama, a wonderfully honest romance, and pitch perfect modern day story about the struggle of high school, the complexities of first love, and the reality of tragedy. At its center is an incredibly well-written script by Scripter nominees Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, which beautifully captures the spirit, wit, and emotion of Tim Tharp's remarkable young adult novel. But what we see play out on screen, that so beautifully unfolds, is due to the remarkable chemistry and stunning performances of its two young leads. Both Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller are getting plenty of Oscar buzz and praise for their performances in Whiplash and The Fault in Our Stars respectively, which is well-deserved to say the least. While well-deserved, it is not at all shocking, at least not to me. These two were simply extraordinary in The Spectacular Now. They radiate from the screen, fully capture the emotion of the story, and suck the audiences into their spellbinding love. This incredible film was just the beginning for Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller. I can't wait to see how their journeys play out.

The Oscar Narrative: First Golden Globe Predictions - Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical

First Golden Globe Predictions
Emily Blunt "Into the Woods"
Angelina Jolie "Maleficent"
Melissa McCarthy "St. Vincent"
Helen Mirren "The Hundred-Foot Journey"
Julianne Moore "Maps to the Stars"

Other Contenders - Kristen Wiig "The Skeleton Twins", Emma Stone "Magic in the Moonlight", Keira Knightley "Begin Again",  Diane Keaton "And So It Goes", Tina Fey "This is Where I Leave You", Jenny Slate "Obvious Child", Quvenzhane Wallis "Annie", Imelda Staunton "Pride", Rosario Dawson "Top Five", Melissa McCarthy "Tammy", Nia Long "Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club", Wendi McLendon-Covey "Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club", Cameron Diaz "The Other Woman", Leslie Mann "The Other Woman", Elizabeth Banks "Walk of Shame", Charlize Theron "A Million Ways to Die in the West", Nicole Kidman "Paddington"

Commentary - Like most years, we have to stretch to define Comedy/Musical. For example, despite being completely dramatic, and not a musical, it looks like Maleficent will compete in Comedy/Musical, probably just to get Angelina Jolie a nomination. And it most likely will work. Beyond that, it does look like most of the contenders will actually fit the mold. Emily Blunt has been promoted to lead while Streep and Kendrick will be supporting. Even if Into the Woods is a flop, it will probably be a hit with the HFPA, who love musicals (remember Burlesque). Julianne Moore came running back into the Oscar race with Still Alice, but she will still get a campaign for the Globes for Maps to the Stars, even if they shunned the Oscar push. I expect her darkly comedic performance here to be a hit with Globe voters. The final two slots could be interesting. Kristen Wiig could get in for The Skeleton Twins, although the film might be too small (compared to her first nod for Bridemaids which was a smash). Emma Stone, Diane Keaton, Tina Fey, Cameron Diaz, Leslie Man, Charlize Theron, are all award-winning movie stars who have big roles this year. They also all happen to be in films that were pretty much slammed by critics. But stars are favorites for the HFPA, so don't be surprised if one slips in based on name recognition alone. Imelda Stauton is most likely supporting, but could go lead here if Pride takes off. Quvenzhane Wallis could be a slam-dunk in Annie, another musical (they love musicals, it is worth repeating!), Rosario Dawson is apparently radiant in Top Five, and Jenny Slate and Keira Knightley could be indie breakthroughs. But I think that Helen Mirren and Melissa McCarthy will pull those last two slots. St. Vincent looks to be a comedy hit with both critics and audiences, and McCarthy is now a glorified Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning star who apparently holds her own up against Bill Murray (although she too could go supporting). Helen Mirren has won several Globes and been nominated dozens of times over the years in both film and television. Her light and frothy performance in Hundred-Foot Journey should tame Globes voters.

Updated Oscar Predictions in Sidebar

So I have finally updated my predictions for the post-fall film festival era, and have even made some changes due to updates in campaigns (Meryl Streep in supporting for Into the Woods, Felicity Jones confirmed lead for Theory of Everything). As I said in my Best Picture post, we have officially hit the lull in between the festivals and the critics. So I will finally continue by Top 100 Films of the 2010's...So Far (I know I am way behind and I apologize), will start to work on first Golden Globe predictions, and first Grammy predictions, and of course monitor the Oscar race as many films are starting to hit theaters. So stay tuned, and as always, we'll have to wait and see...

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Oscar Narrative: Post Venice/Telluride/Toronto Predictions - Best Picture

Post Venice/Telluride/Toronto Predictions
Gone Girl
The Imitation Game
Into the Woods
A Most Violent Year
The Theory of Everything

Other Contenders - Selma, Boyhood, Fury, American Sniper, Mr. Turner, Whiplash, Trash, Big Eyes, Inherent Vice, Get on Up, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Homesman, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Still Alice, Pride, A Most Wanted Man, St. Vincent, The Skeleton Twins, How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Boxtrolls, The Lego Movie, Big Hero 6, The Fault in Our Stars, Love is Strange, Cavalry, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Maps to the Stars, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Obvious Child, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, The Gambler

Commentary - We are in a bit of a lull right now. We are now waiting to see how the festival films play with broader audiences, and we are waiting with baited breath to see where these unseen contenders fall into place. Within about six weeks we will have most of our answers, right before the critics go to work. So here is our six-week lull right in the middle of the season. Let's take a moment to breathe, get ready for the work ahead, and look where we have been, and most importantly, where we are going. But first, let's start with the ones I am not predicting. Selma looks beautiful on paper, but I am holding back for now. Boyhood is so strong right now, but I still wonder whether it can survive the onslaught. Critics love it, the Academy may as well, but I still holding off. American Sniper has the look of a late entry that could sweep us all by storm. It could be Clint's Million Dollar Baby all over again. Whiplash is the indie favorite looking to join the club, Big Eyes could be Tim Burton's first Best Picture nomination, and The Grand Budapest Hotel hopes to go where Moonrise Kingdom failed to. Fury will hit in about a week, and its reception will determine its fate, although it could be easily encompassed by Unbroken by the end of the season. There is of course Stephen Daldry's Trash, which history suggests must remain on our radar. Inherent Vice is getting great reviews, but it looks like one of those eccentric films that could score a few nods, but not have enough broad support to reach the top. Feel good favorites like Pride, The Hundred Foot Journey, Get On Up, The Fault in Our Stars, the various well-reviewed animated films, and The Skeleton Twins are all possibilities, but there have got to be a lot of contenders fall out for any of them to actually happen. Now onto my actual predictions. Gone Girl got a mild reception at its Academy screening, as many reported that it received more respect than love. But respect is not something to discount, and if it continues to rage at the box office I think it could have enough power to go where The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo couldn't. And considering that I think it is much more palatable across the board, it is not hard to see it doing so. Foxcatcher and Birdman continue to have buzz, but their second hurdle comes when the actually open in theaters to see if audiences, and Academy members will respond with the same enthusiasm. The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything have Oscar written all over them: biopics, emotional heart-tugging, and saved by their performances (actors makeup up the biggest branch). But both need to breakout from each other (they seem to come as a package deal), get their directors involved in the mix (both seem to be absent at this point), and both have to hit stateside and crossover. Finally, I think a lot of people are underestimating Wild, the same way we underestimated Dallas Buyers Club last year. The performances are raved, the film apparently packs an emotional punch, and I think, like its director's predecessor, it will remain a scrappy fighter till the end. So that is what we have seen. The rest are simply shots in the dark. A Most Violent Year is making its presence known, and its campaigners must have faith in it to get its Oscar race going much earlier than its actual release date. Plus, with JC Chandor, Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac on board, it has the chance to be a real smash. Rob Marshall is due for another smash hit, and Into the Woods could be his second Chicago, or it could be his second Nine. Interstellar is getting rave reviews out of the studio, and I think it could land Christopher Nolan his second Best Picture nomination. Finally, there is Unbroken. If this film is even half as good as it looks on paper, then it will end up being an Oscar smash. And considering the folks involved, and the incredible story behind it, I hope it is.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

83 Films Compete for Foreign Language Film Oscar

The Academy today announced its finalists for the upcoming Oscars for the Best Foreign Language Film category. 83 is a record for the number of countries, and includes some first time contenders. Check out the full list below:

Afghanistan -  “A Few Cubic Meters of Love”
Argentina - “Wild Tales”
Australia - “Charlie’s Country”
Austria - “The Dark Valley”
Azerbaijan - “Nabat”
Bangladesh -  “Glow of the Firefly"
Belgium - “Two Days, One Night”
Bolivia - “Forgotten”
Bosnia and Herzegovina - “With Mom”
Brazil - “The Way He Looks”
Bulgaria - “Bulgarian Rhapsody”
Canada - “Mommy”
Chile - “To Kill a Man”
China  - “The Nightingale”
Colombia - “Mateo”
Costa Rica - “Red Princesses”
Croatia - “Cowboys”
Cuba - “Conducta"
Czech Republic - “Fair Play"
Denmark - “Sorrow and Joy"
Dominican Republic - “Cristo Rey'
Ecuador - “Silence in Dreamland"
Egypt -  “Factory Girl"
Estonia - “Tangerines"
Ethiopia - “Difret"
Finland - “Concrete Night"
France - “Saint Laurent"
Georgia - “Corn Island"
Germany - “Beloved Sisters"
Greece - “Little England"
Hong Kong - “The Golden Era"
Hungary -  “White God"
Iceland - “Life in a Fishbowl"
India - “Liar’s Dice"
Indonesia -  “Soekarno"
Iran - “Today"
Iraq - “Mardan"
Ireland - “The Gift"
Israel - “Gett, the Trial of Viviane Amsalem"
Italy - “Human Capital"
Japan - “The Light Shines Only There"
Kosovo -  “Three Windows and a Hanging"
Kyrgyzstan - “Kurmanjan Datka Queen of the Mountains"
Latvia - “Rocks in My Pockets"
Lebanon - “Ghadi"
Lithuania - “The Gambler"
Luxembourg - “Never Die Young"
Macedonia - “To the Hilt"
Malta - “Simshar"
Mauritania -  “Timbuktu"
Mexico - “Cantinflas"
Moldova - “The Unsaved,” Igor Cobileanski"
Montenegro - “The Kids from the Marx and Engels Street"
Morocco, “The Red Moon,”
Nepal - “Jhola”
Netherlands - “Accused”
New Zealand - “The Dead Lands"
Norway -  “1001 Grams”
Pakistan - “Dukhtar"
Palestine - “Eyes of a Thief”
Panama - “Invasion"
Peru - “The Gospel of the Flesh”
Philippines - “Norte, the End of History”
Poland - “Ida”
Portugal - “What Now? Remind Me”
Romania - “The Japanese Dog”
Russia - “Leviathan”
Serbia - “See You in Montevideo”
Singapore - “Sayang Disayang”
Slovakia - “A Step into the Dark”
Slovenia - “Seduce Me”
South Africa - “Elelwani”
South Korea - “Haemoo”
Spain - “Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed”
Sweden, “Force Majeure”
Switzerland - “The Circle”
Taiwan - “Ice Poison”
Thailand -“The Teacher’s Diary”
Turkey - “Winter Sleep”
Ukraine - “The Guide”
United Kingdom - “Little Happiness”
Uruguay - “Mr. Kaplan”
Venezuela - “The Liberator”

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Oscar Narrative: Post Venice/Telluride/Toronto Predictions - Best Director

Post Venice/Telluride/Toronto Predictions
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu "Birdman"
Bennett Miller "Foxcatcher"
David Fincher "Gone Girl"
JC Chandor "A Most Violent Year"
Angelina Jolie "Unbroken"

Other Contenders - Christopher Nolan "Interstellar", Morten Tyldum "The Imitation Game", James Marsh "The Theory of Everything", Clint Eastwood "American Sniper", Richard Linklater "Boyhood", Ava DuVernay "Selma", David Ayer "Fury", Rob Marshall "Into the Woods", Paul Thomas Anderson "Inherent Vice", Wes Anderson "The Grand Budapest Hotel", Tim Burton "Big Eyes", Mike Leigh "Mr. Turner", Jean-Marc Vallee "Wild", Tate Taylor "Get On Up", Damien Chazelle "Whiplash", Tommy Lee Jones "The Homesman", Lasse Halstrom "The Hundred-Foot Journey", Will Gluck "Annie"

Commentary - It is kind of funny that at the same time that The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything shot up the Oscar charts, most people could not name the two men who actually directed the films. They were being praised for their performances, being elevated by their subject matter, but neither came out of the gate with reviews talking about the directing. If both continue to do well, then I am certainly willing to move James Marsh and Morten Tyldum up the charts, maybe they can become the next Tom Hooper? Or maybe their films get all the glory without their help? We'll have to wait and see. For now I am sticking with the big guns, the proven favorites, until we get a clearer picture. Hype continues to rise for Unbroken, and it could be that Angelina Jolie becomes yet another actor to successfully cross over into directing. Birdman premiered to great reviews, and while its buzz has died as new contenders have emerged, I find it hard to believe that the directors will not recognize what is said to be a truly visionary film. Foxcatcher is one of those that so many are underestimating. Miller may have criminally missed the cut for Moneyball, but do not discount the power of that film, which I think has staying power. Gone Girl is getting great reviews, most of which commenting on the technical prowess and vision of David Fincher. He too missed the cut in 2011 for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but I think that Gone Girl will be an easier pill to swallow for Academy voters. The last slot is one where I am going out on a limb. Christopher Nolan seems like an easy choice but the directors have never nominated him (something I truly do not understand). Clint Eastwood is a two-time winner and American Sniper looks to be a taut thrill-ride. Richard Linklater could be rewarded for his visionary film, and should be recognized for the work he put into it. Ava DuVernay could breakthrough with Selma, which is getting tons of buzz out of production. Fury has the unfortunate mishap of being up against Unbroken, but it could be the big war film that wins the day, bringing along the talented David Ayer with it. Rob Marshall could rebound after several misfires and regain his Chicago glory. Tim Burton could knock it out of the park, get back on track as well and finally get a nomination for directing. Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice just hit New York, and so far the reviews have been good, and we know that The Grand Budapest Hotel is well-liked, but the dueling Andersons have a huge hill to climb as both films are uniquely un-Academy-esque. Mike Leigh has snuck in here several times, whose to say he doesn't pull it off again? In the end, I think that JC Chandor will finally get some due. I have said it ten times, and I will say it ten times more, A Most Wanted Man could be the big one for Chandor, and I think he will breakthrough big time come Oscar nomination morning.

Steve Martin to Receive AFI Lifetime Achievement Award

Steve Martin has never had enough recognition for his career, in terms of competitive categories. But lately he has be racking up the honors, and it is so nice to see such a talent finally get some recognition. He won an Honorary Oscar, and now he is getting the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute. Some of its recent winners include Jane Fonda, Shirley MacLaine, Mel Brooks, Morgan Freeman, and Mike Nichols. So let's just say that the guy who brought us awesome music, The Jerk, Roxanne, several Oscar ceremonies, Shopgirl, Father of the Bride, All of Me, Roxanne, Little Shop of Horrors, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and countless other iconic roles is in good company. The honors and the televised ceremony will be in June of next year, on TNT.

The Oscar Narrative: Post Venice/Telluride/Toronto Predictions - Best Actor

Post Venice/Telluride/Toronto Predictions
Steve Carell "Foxcatcher"
Benedict Cumberbatch "The Imitation Game"
Oscar Isaac "Inside Llewyn Davis"
Michael Keaton "Birdman"
Eddie Redmayne "The Theory of Everything"

Other Contenders - Bill Murray "St. Vincent", Joaquin Phoenix "Inherent Vice", Channing Tatum "Foxcatcher", Bradley Cooper "American Sniper", Timothy Spall "Mr. Turner", Brad Pitt "Fury", David Oyelowo "Selma", Jack O'Connell "Unbroken", Christoph Waltz "Big Eyes", Ralph Fiennes "The Grand Budapest Hotel", Jake Gyllenhaal "Nightcrawler", Chadwick Boseman "Get on Up", Ben Affleck "Gone Girl", Philip Seymour Hoffman "A Most Wanted Man", Bill Hader "The Skeleton Twins", Ellar Coltrane "Boyhood", James Corden "Into the Woods", John Lithgow "Love is Strange", Miles Teller "Whiplash", Tommy Lee Jones "The Homesman", Matthew McConaughey "Interstellar", Gael Garcia Bernal "Rosewater"

Commentary - As always, this category is just plain brutal, and if even half of the unseen contenders pan out then it only gets tougher from here. Remember last year when Tom Hanks was a lock? With so many quality names and performances, there will be no guarantees. Michael Keaton emerged first from Venice with his stunning work in Birdman. He is a hardworking veteran who has never managed to earn an Oscar nomination over the course of his career. I think that he could easily survive the onslaught and finally get some recognition. Right after Birdman hit, there can the onslaught of the young British guys with Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne. Both are talented young actors with enough of a resume behind them to warrant some attention, both are playing real life people (which is always a plus in these races), and both are said to carry their films to their high level of Oscar buzz. Cumberbatch in particular is on a high after winning an Emmy this year, proving that the American entertainment industry is paying attention to his talent. Foxcatcher has lot a bit of buzz as new contenders continue to pile on, but I think that it will be one that bide its time and reemerge when the critics start announcing. The question is, which of the two, or both, will make the cut. I still think Tatum should go supporting, although in either race he will be a potent contender. But I do think that no matter how the race plays out that Steve Carell, going against type, coveting a new face, and bringing the bad, will be the one that is definite. These four are out in the lead, with a lot of names fighting for a fifth slot. Bill Murray returns to comedy, but plays an emotional comedy that could get him a second Oscar nod for St. Vincent. Bradley Cooper looks great in the American Sniper trailer, and he is now a two-time nominee. Timothy Spall is a veteran British actor with a lot of early buzz that hopes to hang on and survive the onslaught. Joaquin Phoenix sneaked into the race last time for Paul Thomas Anderson's last film The Master, whose to say he doesn't repeat? Brad Pitt and Jack O'Connell lead the two big historical war movies, and after The Butler, I know that David Oyelowo's portrayal of Martin Luther King could be something spectacular. A couple of young guys, Miles Teller, Ellar Coltrane, and Chadwick Boseman are all looking to make a splash. Christoph Waltz has yet to lose an Oscar race, Ralph Fiennes is due for some recognition, Philip Seymour Hoffman could get some posthumous love, Bill Hader could defy the odds, and Ben Affleck has yet to get an acting Oscar nomination. But in the final slot, I am going out on a limb for Oscar Isaac. He should have been in the mix for Inside Llewyn Davis, and I think that JC Chandor's A Most Violent Year could be an Oscar breakthrough. Of course, with this race, we truly have to wait and see...