Saturday, March 1, 2014

Final Oscar Predictions: That Red Carpet is about to get Redder

It's on now. It's on now for real.

Long story short: tomorrow night's going to be a bloodbath. Fancy frocks and tuxes will snipe at each other across the aisles until the Dolby Theater runs red with the blood of discarded acceptance speeches that will never be used.

And it's going to be awesome.

In case you didn't get the gist of that, here it is: this Oscar season has been extremely competitive, it's going to continue to be so right down to the wire, and a whole lot of people are going to go home disappointed. We should all take a little time to be thankful for this--most years we already know most of the outcomes by now. A little suspense on the night is a rare thing indeed. So time to throw some darts at the wall and see what sticks!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Best of 2013, part 5: My Dream Oscar Ballot

Alright, here's the end of the list madness. This post is basically just a way of summing everything up and putting it into one neat little package. So I'll just list the nominees in alphabetical order, sans commentary, with the winners in bold. For added hours of fun, I'll put an asterisk next to the nominees which overlap with the Oscar nominations. Funny story: I think the Oscar noms were a pretty good crowd this year, and yet I don't think there's ever been so little overlap between their choices and mine as this year. Funny how these things shake out.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Best of 2013, part 4: craft categories

Commence with the weeping and lamentation, for today marks the last big list-dump before I go crawl back into my cave and blog-hibernate for another year. It's a tough blow, I'm sure, but we'll get through it together. Today, we're going to spend a little time showing some love for all the elements that go into making a movie great but never make anyone famous: the craft categories, aka where the cool kids are at.

Before we get going, here's handy guide to the categories, in case you want to know what I'm talking about:

Art Direction: Production design: creating, designing, and building the world in which the movie takes place. Generally associated with set-building, but also stretches to conceptual aspects
Costume Design: ...The design of the costumes.

Visual Effects: Special Effects. CGI, models, etc.
Makeup: ...makeup.
Film Editing: Editing the movie: cutting in some places, lengthening in others. Generally responsible for the rhythm of a film, as well as keeping continuity and making sense of the plot.
Cinematography: In layman's terms, how pretty the movie is. Screen composition, lighting, camera techniques, etc.
Original Score: Music composed for the film itself.
Sound Mixing: Blending the four film sound elements (dialogue, sound effects, ambient noise, music) to create a coherent overall mix.
Sound Effects Editing: creating the sound elements and sound effects heard in the film.
Original Song: Songs written specifically for the film.

Moving right along, then...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Best of 2013, part 3: Acting

Once more into the breach, dear friends (hey there, Henry V! I was wondering when you'd show up). It's a funny thing, acting--it's the most visible and easily praised aspect of movies by average-joe viewers like us, and yet I find it more difficult to say something compelling about acting than just about anything else. Want me to talk about sound editing? I'll do it and I'll like it. Get me to talk about movie stars and crying scenes and such though, and suddenly I clam up like a big clammy clam. So we're gonna try anyway and see what happens, but I apologize if my use of adverbs gets a little...irresponsible. That happens sometimes.
Note--I'll try to include youtube clips of the performances where I can, but no guarantees.

Check it out after the jump!



Friday, February 21, 2014

Best of 2013, part 2: Directing/Screenplays

Welcome back! Mind you, I say 'welcome back' knowing full well that yesterday's post probably left most of you in a deep, deep coma, so this 'welcome back' is mostly hypothetical. But welcome back anyway, dear viewers who have yet to succumb to the acute brain trauma caused by reading these things. As a bit of an olive branch and/or act of mercy, today's post will be much shorter. We'll keep it to three categories--directing and screenplays. Commence with the rejoicing after the jump!


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Best of 2013, Part 1: Top 20, Zen Awards

Hey guys, remember last year? That one with the Zack Snyder movie about the flying alien with the cape? Yeah. That year happened. And I know that most of us have already giddily skipped to on to 2014, visions of Endless Love and The Lego Movie dancing in our heads. And that's ok, but I'm just not there yet. Maybe it's a by-product of setting your movie calendar by the Oscars (which happen next weekend), but for me, the 2013 film year is still going strong. Which is basically how I'm going to justify my not posting any kind of "best of" list until near the end of February. But hey, I've been busy, and have also been waiting for a couple films to open/come out on DVD so I could catch them before trying to make this list. Well that failed, at any rate (sorry, Blue is the Warmest Color and The Wind Rises--if you wanted the dubious internet honor of being on my blog, you shouldn't have waited until next weekend to find your way to my face).

So here we go. Now, I'm just going to start off by enthusiastically slapping the decaying remains of a long-dead horse and saying that 2013 was an utterly ridiculous year for movies (in a good way). There are things that could have easily taken the #1 spot in other years that didn't make it into my top 10. And the warm feels that I've got for my top 10 are just totally, over-the-top preposterous. Movie years like this make me want to start dancing and never stop (except to watch movies, because seriously, who dances in a movie theater). I'm going to try for a top 20, but even that is going to exclude some movies that I really wish I could talk about more. So if you want to talk about any movie, ever, just say the word and I will drown you in a never-ending torrent of opinion. The Internet, folks--that's what it's here for. If you stick around past the top 20, you'll get my annual silly awards--just as much fun, and a whole lot less work than trying to read me waxing poetic about the glowing devil penises in Post Tenebras Lux. So I know the top 20 is work, but stick around until the end and hopefully you'll find a few giggles.

Check it out after the jump!




Thursday, January 16, 2014

Oscar Nominations: Stupid, Stupid, Stupid Dallas Buyers Club

Luckily, nobody comes here for the accuracy of my predictions (hopefully), because this year I dropped the ball quite a bit. That's a whole lot more fun, though--if I predicted everything correctly, that would mean that there was never a contest, which is no fun. So let's get to it! Some good picks, more boring ones, you know, the usual.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Alright kids, here's how it works. Tomorrow morning at about 6:00 AM mountain time, the Academy is going to do it's level best to make everyone who predicts these things look foolish. And let's be honest--they're pretty darn good at it. So by tomorrow we can all laugh at what we thought might happen, and analyze what did happen until we're blue in the face. But that's tomorrow. Today, I'm delivering my final predictions--there's no going back now. I'll just present every category in order of likelihood sans commentary, allowing myself one alternate. Surprisingly, I made very few changes from my original predictions. The only significant ones were changing Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) to first alternate in supporting actress over Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station), and moving American Hustle into my top 5 for production design, which meant kicking Saving Mr. Banks out.

Note: I know it seems a bit silly spending all of this time and effort talking about what might get nominated for awards when I haven't actually posted anything about what I'd like to get nominated for awards, but, as usual, my annual 'best of' lists will be coming in mid-February. Given the release dates of prestige-y movies and catching up on things I've missed, it just wouldn't be possible for me to post a decent year-end list in early January. Here's a taste, though: if I could guarantee one nomination, it would be Inside Llewyn Davis for best picture (or best actor), and if could prevent any nomination, it would be Dallas Buyers Club in original screenplay (or best picture) (good lord I hate that movie) (seriously).

See them all after the jump...


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Oscar Predictions 2013, part 4: Craft Categories

Rest easy, y'all, because today's the last big day of predictions before Thursday's announcement--a day which is basically better than Christmas in my eyes. In case you're not the kind of person who's getting super worked up about who's going to get nominated for sound editing this year (go Upstream Color!), I'll keep today's commentary brief; in part because attempting to predict these kinds of awards can be a bit silly. That's right, today we're diving into the craft categories--the ones the cinephiles love, and the ones everyone else uses as an opportunity to go to the bathroom. Fun for the whole family! So here goes.

Production Design
The Great Gatsby
12 Years a Slave
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Gravity
Saving Mr. Banks
Alternates: American Hustle, Inside Llewyn Davis

I actually feel pretty confident about this lineup. The only strong spoiler is American Hustle, which just might be a huge player across the board. If so, it might knock out The Hobbit (but no Lord of the Rings film has ever missed a nomination in this category), Gravity (it might be seen as too many space shots and not enough set-work, but this movie's also gonna be a sweeper) or Saving Mr. Banks (if they don't love this movie like I think they will). If the branch is feeling frisky, they'll spring for Her or Inside Llewyn Davis, or if they're feeling super-traditional they'll go for The Butler or The Invisible Woman.

Costume Design
The Great Gatsby
12 Years a Slave
Saving Mr. Banks
American Hustle
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Alternates: The Invisible Woman, The Butler

It's probably a bit risky predicting The Hunger Games' wacky, gorgeous capital couture here, but it is the highest-grossing film of the year, and only two highest-grossers in the past 30 years have failed to score a nod with the Academy. So Hunger Games gets shuffled in. I really ought to have The Invisible Woman in the top 5, given this branch's incurable love affair with Victorian-era England. Alas. I'm fairly confident about the other four, and honestly I don't see anything else pushing past the seven I've listed. Maybe Her, if they're feeling super wacky? Maybe Inside Llewyn Davis? Probably not.

Visual Effects
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man Three
Pacific Rim
Star Trek Into Darkness
Alternates: Elysium, Oblivion

Obviously Gravity is going to win, but what four films will get the honor of losing to it? I feel awfully confident about the first four; the last slot is a total guess. As it were, the Academy has already released a list of 10 finalists in this category. The other three I haven't listed yet are Thor: The Dark World, The Lone Ranger, and World War Z. Honestly I don't feel confident predicting anything other than those top four, but I've got to settle on something. So I decided Elysium, Oblivion, and The Lone Ranger were too critically despised, and Thor and World War Z weren't bringing enough to the table. That left Star Trek, whose predecessor did score here, so weirder things have happened.

Makeup and Hairstyling
American Hustle
The Lone Ranger
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
Alternates: Bad Grandpa, Dallas Buyers Club

I've only got Hansel and Gretel in here because I read an article in a German magazine about the makeup work, and everyone seemed duly impressed with it, so it must be fate. I really ought to have Bad Grandpa in here, but I've decided not to include it, mostly because I don't want to feel obligated to sit down and watch the thing. Really, though, this is a category in which basically anything could happen. Like Visual Effects, it's already been narrowed down to seven finalists, the last of which are The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Great Gatsby. Any of these seven films getting in or missing wouldn't surprise me.

Film Editing
Gravity
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Rush
Alternates: The Wolf of Wall Street, Lone Survivor

Basically this category is a horse-race between Rush and The Wolf of Wall Street for the last slot. I'm going with Rush, if only because Wolf has a three-hour running time, and I've heard more than a fair share of people call the film bloated. Which isn't a great word when competing for editing, but oh well. Inside Llewyn Davis or All is Lost could surprise, but I really doubt it.

Cinematography
Gravity
Inside Llewyn Davis
12 Years a Slave
Nebraska
Prisoners
Alternates: The Grandmaster, Captain Phillips

Here's another race where it's down to seven, but I don't really see anything breaking my top 5. The first three are golden, Nebraska is in black and white which they always nominate here, and Prisoners is lensed by demigod Richard Deakins, who gets in more often than not, regardless of whether the film itself has support. I might be able to see The Grandmaster force its way in their, but don't count on it. Other long shots to not count on are Her, Rush, and All is Lost.

Original Score
12 Years a Slave
Saving Mr. Banks
The Book Thief
Gravity
All is Lost
Alternates: Philomena, Captain Phillips

I'm going out on a bit of a limb, predicting that All is Lost will kick Philomena out, but I've been kicking Philomena out of a lot of places lately, and All is Lost *did* win the Golden Globe in this category the other night. Still, don't be surprised to see Philomena make it instead. ...Which would make for a painfully boring category, but whatever. If they're feeling really crazy they'll go for Her, but when does this branch ever feel crazy? Never, that's when. This is the most notoriously insular and timid branch in the Academy--generally, only one new composer is nominated per year, and then it's back to playing old favorites. Which is why I probably shouldn't have both Gravity and All is Lost here (they're both written by un-nominated composers), but the hell with it.

Sound Mixing
Gravity
Captain Phillips
12 Years a Slave
Lone Survivor
Rush
Alternates: Inside Llewyn Davis, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

It was a last-minute call between Rush and Davis, but I decided to stick with Ron Howard's crappy little car movie. Don't be surprised to see Inside Llewyn Davis's live-recorded vocals sneaking in here, a la Les Mis from last year. All is Lost could also break the mold, and it would be wonderful to see World War Z find some traction here, but let's not get our hopes up.

Sound Editing
Gravity
Lone Survivor
Rush
Captain Phillips
Iron Man Three
Alternates: All is Lost, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

I should probably admit upfront that I'm terrible at predicting sound nominations. Oh well. Honestly, I'm only sure that Gravity will get in, and the rest is basically a crap-shoot. All is Lost could very easily score, and 12 Years a Slave could totally pull an Argo-esque pair of sound nods as the best picture frontrunner. Even summer blockbusters like Man of Steel or Pacific Rim could come into play here. Basically, take all of these picks with a very large and tasty grain of salt.

Original Song
"Let it Go"-Frozen
"Young and Beautiful"-The Great Gatsby
"In the Middle of the Night"-The Butler
"Ordinary Love"-Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
"A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)"-The Great Gatsby
Alternates: "You and I Ain't Nothin' No More"-The Butler, "The Moon Song"-Her

I'm being a little wonky here. Conventional wisdom suggests that Her's lovely little acoustic ballad is a sure thing. That being said, every year, some lovely little song that's integral to the plot but not particularly flashy misses the nomination to screams and howls of outrage, and "The Moon Song" seems tailor-made to do exactly that. Instead, I'm making a totally left-field choice and am picking the dance anthem that underscores Gatsby's most memorable party scene. Am I wrong? Probably. But this category is year in and year out the most difficult to predict, in that the people who vote for it have no sense of consistency, rules, or much of anything, really. So it's just throwing darts. Even 'sure things' like "Let it Go" and "Young and Beautiful" have been known to miss, so we'll just close our eyes, pin our tail on the donkey, and see where we go from here. Other possibilities include "I See Fire" from The Hobbit, "So You Know What It's Like" from Short Term 12, "Atlas" from The Hunger Games, "Amen" from All is Lost, and basically a ton of songs from movies neither you nor I have ever heard of (I kid you not, on the eligibility list are four songs from something called Kama Sutra 3D. The more you know).

Believe it or not (and I bet you're going to believe it), that's it as far as new predictions are concerned. Tomorrow I'll bang out a list of final *final* predictions (pretty sure I'm going to want to move a thing or two around), but we're almost to the finish line! Rejoice!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Oscar Predictions 2013, part 3: Acting

Back again. I had hoped to come up with an introduction a little wittier or involving, but I'm trying to knock this one out before I run off to work, so we'll have to save witty for later. I'm sure someday very soon I'll come up with some one-liners that will blow your friggin' mind. Probably. Anywho, limp intros aside, let's keep rolling here! Today we'll deal with the rest of the major categories; also, coincidentally, the last time we'll talk about names most of us actually recognize until nominations are announced.

Best Actor
So here's an academic question: is it harder to predict a category where everything's up in the air, or is it harder to predict when everything's nailed down except for one slot? I suppose we're about to find out, because this category is basically set in stone, except for one slot, which is probably going to cause me to eat my fingers or something. So here's how it goes--we've got four obvious 'gimme' slots that won't be stolen by anyone. They are:
Bruce Dern-Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor-12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks-Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey-Dallas Buyers Club
It's probably between Ejiofor and McConaughey (blarg) for the win, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. The real kicker is that fifth spot, which is making me feel like James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause--first they do one thing, then they do another, then they turn it all back again. So who's making me feel this bitter existential woe? Let's strut them out like a hirsute and manfully adult Miss America pageant:
-Christian Bale-American Hustle: No lie--I'm really bored by this performance. It's adequate enough, but I hardly think 'adequate' is a great adjective for what people are apparently considering for the best performance of the year. And they are, for whatever reason. Bale keeps popping up like a cheeky Whackamole, and I can't do anything about it. His movie is really firing on all cylinders on the awards circuit right now, which helps.
-Leonardo Dicaprio-The Wolf of Wall Street: some people are arguing (rightly or wrongly) that Dicaprio is due for some Academy love, and they just might get their wish this year. Wolf is hitting its stride at just the right time, which helps, considering most Academy members vote like they've got the attention span of a goldfish, and Dicaprio allegedly plays against the mopey, dead-wives-club thing he's been riffing on for the past six years.
-Robert Redford-All is Lost: If you'd asked me in October, I'd have said that Redford was the favorite to win. But then the the Oscar campaign for this maritime survival thriller really sunk (sorry), and now all may truly be lost (someone please stop me) for Redford's Oscar hopes. That being said, he is Robert friggin' Redford, which means there will be plenty of voters who'll chalk his name up out of some sense of patriarchal obligation.
-Forest Whitaker-The Butler: Yeah, I don't really want to consider this possibility either, but here we are. Granted, The Butler has been nowhere to be found lately, and Whitaker's performance is profoundly un-flashy (which is not great for easily distracted voters), but hey, stranger things have happened.

My Predictions, in order of Likelihood:
Chiwetel Ejiofor-12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey-Dallas Buyers Club
Bruce Dern-Nebraska
Tom Hanks-Captain Phillips
Robert Redford-All is Lost
Alternates: Leonardo Dicaprio-The Wolf of Wall Street, Christian Bale-American Hustle

Yep, I'm sticking with traditional, boring, conventional wisdom. I'm sure I'll regret that later, but oh well.

Best Actress
Continuing in the annals of "come on you guys, make up your minds already, because that last slot is seriously going to kill me," howdy this category! Honestly, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to know who I predict until I type it. Seriously, I've no idea right now. This category is killer. There are six ladies fighting for five slots, and I might have thought earlier that it was a two-way race, now I'm beginning to think that almost anybody's vulnerable. So let's start with what we do know: Cate Blanchett will be winning an Oscar for Blue Jasmine, which means that she's probably going to get nominated first. So that's one slot down. Sandra Bullock is also in great shape for her film-anchoring role in Gravity. So there's two. So what about the next three slots? Well, as Dante would say, abandon hope, all ye who enter here, because here is utterly ridiculous. The ladies:
-Amy Adams-American Hustle: Or should I say Golden Globe Winner Amy Adams, whose triumph last night in the Best Actress, Musical/Comedy category made me re-evaluate this performance's chance at being included. She's funny, she's sexy, she's arguably the heart of a best picture frontrunner. Why haven't I been more cavalier about her chances?
-Judi Dench-Philomena: Here's a woman about whose chance's I've been totally cavalier, and now I don't know how to feel about that. One the one hand, she's Judi Dench, and she's lovely. On the other hand, does anyone actually care about Philomena? Therein lies the crux--if the Academy secretly loves her movie, she's golden. If they don't, then she's in trouble.
-Emma Thompson-Saving Mr. Banks: Thompson's in exactly the same boat Dench is in--I'm just not sure how many people out there love her movie enough to nominate her. I do know, however, that people are absolutely over the moon about Thompson herself (as well they should be; she's basically a golden god), so I feel slightly more confident for her.
-Meryl Streep-August: Osage County: Oh look! What a crazy random happenstance! It's another possibility whose success depends on hitherto undisplayed expressions of love for the movie itself! August: Osage County doesn't exactly have a ton of support, but it is Meryl Streep, who could probably get nominated if she had personally murdered every Academy member's grandparents. What I'm saying is she doesn't need the movie's help to get in, and the performance is deliriously showy. But too showy? There's been a fair amount of criticism and calls of hamming thrown her way. That can't help.

Well that didn't really narrow anything down, did it? I'm kind of tempted to just predict a bunch of longshots here instead, like Brie Larson in Short Term 12, Adele Exarchapoulos in Blue is the Warmest Color, and Julie Delpy in Before Midnight. And while I'm not saying that none of those women can't sneak in while the higher-profile ladies are fighting like pigs in the mud, I'm not sure I'm crazy and/or brave enough to predict it happening. So, uh, here goes. Still not sure whose name I'm going to right. Yay!

My Predictions, in order of likelihood:
Cate Blanchett-Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock-Gravity
Emma Thompson-Saving Mr. Banks
Amy Adams-American Hustle
Meryl Streep-August: Osage County
Alternates: Judi Dench-Philomena, Brie Larson-Short Term 12

Well that's surprising. I actually was calling for Judi Dench to be a threat to win less than a month ago. Weird.

Supporting Actor
I wish I could tell you that things were easier here, but I don't want to lie to you. Nope, like Best Actress, this category is one big train wreck and I don't know what to do about it. While this is exciting from the perspective of a spectator, for predicting purposes it's kind of a slow-motion nightmare. So, once again, we'll start with what we know and move from there. What we know: Jared Leto will probably win for Dallas Buyers Club, Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave will nip at his heels, and Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips will just get to be thrilled that he's not driving limos anymore (....background: this is Abdi's first film role; he was previously a limo driver). So once more, we've got a limited number of slots (two, for those counting at home), and too many men trying to fill them. They are:
-Daniel Bruhl-Rush: I know, I know, I wasn't expecting Ron Howard's car movie to stick around either. And yet Bruhl keeps showing up (it is a good performance, and he is popular enough). Even though he keeps getting nominated for things, however, I've got a sneaking suspicion that he'll be left out. Or maybe not. Seriously, he's been nominated for basically everything.
-Bradley Cooper-American Hustle: I don't know if the world's ready for two-time Academy Award Nominee Bradley Cooper, but we just might have to get ready quick. It's a showy role in a best picture front-runner, and Cooper's pretty popular. Still, maybe his coke-addled ramblings will be too over-the-top for the older Oscar voters?
-Will Forte-Nebraska: Because every SNL alum needs an Oscar eventually. Nebraska's been looking a little weak lately, which makes me hesitant to predict Mr. Forte here, but he is a co-lead (which helps) in a respected movie with some strong emotional beats. He's got a good shot.
-James Gandolfini-Enough Said: aka the "sorry we didn't nominate you while you were alive" slot. Sure, he's good in the role, and maybe I'm being too cynical, but I can't help but feel like his chances have lasted this long because he's recently dead. So how sentimental will the Academy be feeling?
-Jonah Hill-The Wolf of Wall Street: If we're not ready for two-time nominee Bradley Cooper, we're definitely not ready for two-time nominee Jonah Hill. This one depends entirely on how much the Academy loves The Wolf of Wall Street. If it's a hit with them, he gets in. If it's not, he doesn't. Plain and simple.

My Predictions, in order of likelihood:
Jared Leto-Dallas Buyers Club
Michael Fassbender-12 Years a Slave
Barkhad Abdi-Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper-American Hustle
Will Forte-Nebraska
Alternates: Daniel Bruhl-Rush, James Gandolfini-Enough Said

Totally didn't expect that one. Will Forte? Really? That's definitely wrong.

Supporting Actress
Everyone rejoice! This category is probably really easy! And because this is already unbearably long, I'm going to keep it easy. So here goes: Lupita Nyong'o's heart-wrenching performance in 12 Years a Slave is in. Jennifer Lawrence's crazy housewife in American Hustle is in. June Squibb's crazy older housewife in Nebraska is in. Oprah's mildly crazy housewife in The Butler is in. Julia Robert's attempting-to-not-be-crazy recently divorced housewife in August: Osage County is probably in. ....Lots of housewives this year. Roberts is the only weak-ish one here. Maybe she'll be replaced by Octavia Spencer in Fruitvale Station or Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine (both wives with jobs! What a change of pace!), but this feels like the final five to me.

My Predictions, in order of likelihood:
Lupita Nyong'o-12 Years a Slave
Jennifer Lawrence-American Hustle
June Squibb-Nebraska
Oprah Winfrey-The Butler
Julia Roberts-August: Osage County
Alternates: Octavia Spencer-Fruitvale Station, Sally Hawkins-Blue Jasmine


That was so, so long. I'm so sorry for that. These categories were hard. I tried. If you're still here you're a stronger person than I. Tomorrow I wrap up analysis, before heading into super-serious final predictions on Wednesday.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Oscar Predictions 2013, Part 2: Directing/Screenplays

If you're reading this, you came back for more today. Apparently, so did I. Someone needs to have a long, sad conversation with us about our priorities. Maybe we need to re-evaluate our goals. Or we could talk about trophies for famous people! Goal re-evaluating is hard, so I'm just going to spend some time today talking about awards for the two careers I will someday inevitably fail at: directing and screenplays!

Best Director
So here's what we know: Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, and American Hustle are the frontrunners for best picture, which means it'd be totally silly to bet against any of their directors here--Alfonso Cuaron, Steve McQueen, and David O. Russell, respectively (sidebar: how wonderful is it that Cuaron's about to get a nod? I mean sure, I'm going to pretend that this is for Y Tu Mama, Tambien and Children of Men, but whatevs, Gravity's cool too). That leaves us with two spots.
The first spot: Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips. The movie's a big hit, it's critically respected, it's headed for a big nomination tally on Thursday morning, and it hasn't missed a beat. Greengrass *might* miss here, but I doubt it.
The second spot: Carnage. Silliness and carnage. Our three merry contenders:
Spike Jonze, Her: Jonze's movie has been a surprisingly powerful force on the awards circuit thus far, nabbingt critics awards and Golden Globe noms willy-nilly. And yet I'm still afraid that Her isn't going to play well for the notoriously blue-haired Academy, which is a shame, because whatever Her's faults may be, Jonze's precise direction is not among them.
Alexander Payne, Nebraska: Sure, he's scored for his past two movies, but eventually enough will have to be enough, right? I assume so, but I'm not sure the time is now--Payne's little ode to elderly plains denizens may hit an Academy sweet-spot.
Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street: Confession: I haven't yet seen this movie, no doubt due to the fact that I'm currently wintering at least 45 minutes away from the nearest theater. I'm going to rectify this next weekend during my joyful return to society, but for now, I can't comment too accurately on this movie's Academy appeal. Which is too bad, because I've absolutely no idea how to judge whether or not this movie's got any. It may be way too controversial, or it might seem attractively risky. And it is Scorsese, whom the Academy loves. ...Except when they don't. This is a really tough call.

Now, I'm not saying that only those three men have a chance at nabbing a spot (remember Benh Zeitlin and Beasts of the Southern Wild getting in here last year? Who saw that coming?), but I'm basically saying that these three men are the only ones with a chance of nabbing a spot.

My Predictions, in order of likelihood:
Steve McQueen-12 Years a Slave
Alfonso Cuaron-Gravity
David O. Russell-American Hustle
Paul Greengrass-Captain Phillips
Alexander Payne-Nebraska
Alternates: Martin Scorsese-The Wolf of Wall Street, Spike Jonze-Her

(Man, I am so going to switch Scorsese into the top 5 for my final predictions on Thursday.)

Original Screenplay
Something strange has happened this year, in that the original screenplay category--normally a steel cage match for scrappy indies, unlikely hits, and art-house foreign fare--is chockablock with best picture nominees. Wacky. While this may be good news for the state of original ideas vis a vis critical and box office hits in Hollywood, it does make this category a slightly joyless place. The tragedy. So let's start with what we know: American Hustle is in (even though it's allegedly very reliant on improv), because it's a legitimate shot to win best picture. Nebraska and Her should be golden; they're both likely best picture nominees, and they're both written by well-respected auteurs (Alexander Payne and Spike Jonze) who have scored in this category even when their films have missed in other places. So what's left? It looks like a rumble between slipperier, weirder best picture hopefuls and larger, less agressively "written" best picture hopefuls. Yay! Such suspense. On the slippery front, we've got Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine and the Coens' Inside Llewn Davis. Honestly, I'd feel like I could stop there, considering Allen and the Coens basically rule this category with an iron fist which clutches an attractive yet affordable pen, but Gravity and Dallas Buyers Club keep popping up everywhere, despite criticisms leveled at both films' screenplays. For now, I'm hoping the Academy goes for slippery rather than easy, but we never know.

My Predictions, in order of likelihood:
American Hustle
Nebraska
Her
Inside Llewyn Davis
Blue Jasmine
Alternates: Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity

(Man, I am so going to move Dallas Buyers Club into my top 5 before Thursday. ...You guys, I'm terrible at this.)

Adapted Screenplay
If Original Screenplay is stuffed with best picture hopefuls this year, then we must assume a corollary: that Adapted Screenplay this year is a torrid wasteland where failed prestige pics go to die. In a year with a relative dearth of quality work on this side, one would hope that the branch would work a little harder, nominating more challenging/little-seen fare like Blue is the Warmest Color or Short Term 12. Tragically, hoping is, generally speaking, stupid. So what have we got instead? Two sure things: 12 Years a Slave and Captain Phillips, whose presence in this category is basically the most certain thing around. And then we've got four films fighting for two slots. They are:
August: Osage County-here's the kicker; no one really loves this film, and most people agree that its adaptation from stage to screen was a fairly bungled process. That said, playwright Tracy Letts' dialogue really sings, and lazy voters could check this one off just because it gave Julia Roberts the chance to scream "eat the fish, bitch!" at a drug-addled Meryl Streep.
Before Midnight-in a just world, there'd be no question about this film getting nominated (or winning). Alas. As is, this scrappy little guy is going to have to throw some serious punches to shovel some of its higher-profile contenders out of the way.
Philomena-So confused by this one. I don't know that anyone remembers this movie, or that anyone particularly loves it, and yet it keeps showing up. So who knows? Maybe the branch will throw a curve-ball and leave this totally acceptable movie out in favor of better work, or maybe 'totally acceptable' is good enough.
The Wolf of Wall Street-see above, re: me, having no clue as to how this one's Oscar chances will shake out. I'm going to say....maybe? That seems like a good bet. Maybe.

My Predictions, in order of likelihood:
12 Years a Slave
Captain Phillips
The Wolf of Wall Street
Before Midnight
Philomena
Alternates: August: Osage County, Short Term 12


Shockingly, that's it for today. Tomorrow, I'll jump into acting categories, and will do my best to turn some silly phrases. Tonight, I'm going to watch movie starts get enjoyably drunk while having shiny pieces of hardware flung lovingly at their heads by equally drunk journalists. So the Golden Globes. Always fun. I don't know that I'll ever forgive the universe for not birthing me as the adopted sun of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Oh for what could have been. This is a cruel, cruel world.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Oscar Predictions 2013, part 1: Picture

Another year, another flotilla of Oscar predictions. As far as hobbies are concerned, Oscar-watching seems like a particularly dubious one--the Oscars are like high school political campaigns mixed with America's Next Top Model mixed with just so, so much glitter. It's all kind of strange. But, as I say every year, Tradition, Dammit! I've got a wacky, shiny-golden-man-induced illness, and all of you are here to enable me. Thanks. So today starts my annual 5-day blitz of Oscar nomination predictions, which will be unveiled bright and early on Thursday the 16th. Today we'll do Picture and a few categories no one follows, tomorrow will be directing and screenplays, Monday will be acting, Tuesday will be craft categories, and I'll be back on Wednesday to put up my final picks. Sounds fun! ....Probably. If you like shiny, golden men, I guess.

Best Picture
A quick reminder regarding the Academy's rules with this category--there can be anywhere between 5 to 10 nominees, depending on the balloting process. Although it involves some terribly complicated math, the gist of what determines the number of nominees is this: every nominee must receive at least 5% of the #1 votes from Academy ballots (although there's some readjusting that happens so that #2 and #3 spots sometimes become #1. It's weird. Don't ask me to explain). So what matters most here is a passionate following. Sure, a film can be widely enjoyed, but if it's not loved, then it's got a steep uphill climb. That being said:
Group 1: These movies are going to waste yours and my time, pretending that they might not get nominated, when come on guys, you're not fooling anyone:
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Gravity
Nebraska
So yeah. Like I said. These movies gotta stop pretending that we're not going to hear their names called on Thursday morning. These are done deals.
Group 2: Safe is a relative term, or: Yeah, I'm not qualified to make definite statements here.
Dallas Buyers Club
Her
Saving Mr. Banks
It's terribly difficult to come down on either side for these movies. All have serious positive and negative elements working for and/or against them. Dallas was never expected to be a serious player, but, lo and behold, every guild and awards body between here and the moon have collectively lost their knickers over it, which is frankly a little bit unfathomable to me. Her is a huge critics it, and very widely respected, but might its story about falling in love with your computer play a little young for Academy voters? The exact opposite can be saide for Saving Mr. Banks--it's hardly been critically respected, but it's the kind of middle-of-the-road, inspirational soft-ball that the Academy can't help but love.
Group 3: Oscars Beyond Thunderdome: Two films enter, one film leaves.
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Wolf of Wall Street
Every year we've had the preferential balloting system thus far, we've had nine nominees, so it seems silly not to predict nine again. That being said, who takes the ninth spot? One of these films, probably, but still, picking is kind of a bear. Wolf might be too controversial, Llewyn might be too definatly inscrutable. It's a toss-up. Alternately...
Group 4: And Suddenly, Harvey Weinstein. Harvey Weinstein Everywhere.
August: Osage County
Blue Jasmine
The Butler
Fruitvale Station
Philomena
For those of you who don't know, Harvey Weinstein basically invented the Oscar-game as we know it today, and all of the above movies except one are Weinstein productions. His company, Miramax, had a spectacular run of best picture winners in the 90s, and since founding his new company (named the Weinstein company, naturally) in 2007, there has yet to be a best picture lineup without a Weinstein-backed film. And yet here we are, and none of poor Harvey's films have really taken flight. Of course, that doesn't mean one of them won't muscle through (and I wouldn't be surprised if one did), but right now it seems all of the following Harvey films are on the outside looking in:
*note: I've also included Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine in here--it's not a Weinstein film, but it's still got a chance at crashing the party.

My Predictions, in order of likelihood:
12 Years a Slave
Gravity
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Nebraska
Her
Saving Mr. Banks
Dallas Buyers Club
The Wolf of Wall Street
Alternates: Inside Llewyn Davis, Philomena

Everyone bear in mind that I totally reserve the right to completely change my mind by Wednesday.

Next, we're going to blast through a few categories that few people really follow. Yay!

Animated Film
Unfortunately, this has been a notoriously grim year as far as quality in mainstream animation is concerned. Does this mean that the Academy will turn to indie fare and foreign work to fill the category, or will they resign themselves to voting for sequels? Good question. Here's what we do know: Disney's mega-hit Frozen will have to mud-wrestle Hayao Miyazaki's (allegedly) final film The Wind Rises for the win, and Pixar's brand is not yet so tarnished that Monsters University won't easily nab a nom. The rest, however, is more difficult. On the commercial side, The Croods and Despicable Me 2 look like the best bets, with only Epic being something else the voters can choose without feeling bad about themselves. On the indie side, French hit Ernest and Celestine is apparently fantastic, but how many voters will actually see it? The Same can be said for O Apostolo and A Letter to Momo: South American and Japanese productions, respectively, which are allegedly wonderful, but who has heard of them stateside?

My Predictions, in order of likelihood:
Frozen
The Wind Rises
Monsters University
Ernest and Celestine
The Croods
Alternates: Despicable Me 2, A Letter to Momo

Foreign Film
The Academy has already done most of the heavy lifting for us by narrowing down the category to a list of 9 finalists, which are:
The Broken Circle Breakdown-Belgium
An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker-Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Grandmaster-Hong Kong
The Great Beauty-Italy
The Hunt-Denmark
The Missing Picture-Cambodia
The Notebook-Hungary
Omar-Palestine
Two Lives-Germany
Bearing in mind that I've only seen one of these films (The Hunt), who to pick? The Hunt has been a prize hog all year, and is probably the frontrunner, while The Broken Circle Breakdown is probably enjoying its runner-up status right now. Beyond that, things get murky. Will the Academy go for the baity-sounding WWII narrative of Two Lives or The Notebook? Will the Fellini-esque shenanigans of The Great Beauty be just right, or too much? Will Cambodia's Khmer-Rouge-as-told-by-puppets The Missing Picture be too weird? Will The Grandmaster be too superficial? So many questions, and I don't have any answers. ...Other than the fact that I'm pretty sure An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker has no chance. Sexy title, guys.

My Predictions, in order of likelihood:
The Hunt-Denmark
The Broken Circle Breakdown-Belgium
Two Lives-Germany
The Notebook-Hungary
The Great Beauty-Italy
Alternates: The Grandmaster-Hong Kong, Omar-Palestine

Documentary Feature
Here's the category I know least about, mostly because the majority of these films will never come to a theater to me, and probably aren't on DVD yet. So I'm not going to spend much time here. 20 Feet From Stardom and Blackfish are immensely popular, Stories We Tell and The Act of Killing (two great films which I've actually seen) have been the clear critical favorites but might be too unorthodox for the Academy, and Tim's Vermeer, Dirty Wars, God Loves Uganda, and The Armstrong Lie all have points in their favor. I think the sneaky favorite, however, is The Square--a documentary about the Egyptian revolution which feels too timely to pass up.

My Predictions, in order of likelihood:
The Square
20 Feet from Stardom
Blackfish
Stories We Tell
Tim's Vermeer
Alternates: The Act of Killing, Dirty Wars

That's it for today. Tune in tomorrow as I continue chipping away at predictions before Thursday!