Posted on | February 24, 2015 | Add Comments
Despite plenty of surprise Oscar winners, Neil Patrick Harris’ 87th Annual Academy Awards show often felt safe, sometimes sedate, and comfortable with being fine but forgettable. Sure, there were the inevitable offensive jokes (“American Sniper with Bradley Cooper. The most prolific sniper in history, with over 160 confirmed kills. Or, as Harvey Weinstein calls it, a slow morning.”) But for most of the show Harris settled for innocuous predictability.
That’s not, however, entirely a bad thing. The opening number, “Moving Pictures”, was an ode to the escapist and inspiring power of movies, with costumed extras, clips, and a cameo from Anna Kendrick. It was rather delightful and, after so much controversy, refreshingly uplifting. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this kind of thing (host appears inserted in movie scenes and tells us how great movies are) performed at countless other Oscar shows. And though this year’s crop of nominees would’ve provided plenty of joke material, Harris opted to honor classic films we’ve seen countless times. Where were the Boyhood jokes? The pre-recorded video where Neil Patrick Harris grows up over twelve years? Where he marches along side MLK? Fights alongside Bradley Cooper? Luckily, a crotchety Jack Black interrupted Harris midway through with a hilarious song about Hollywood’s superhero problem.
On the whole, it was an enjoyable opening number. But almost immediately, it became apparent the show had major script problems. Around half of Harris’ jokes fell flat. The back-and-forth quipping between presenters was often awkward and stiff (Kendrick and Kevin Hart seemed to barely acknowledge each other). Worst of all was a prolonged briefcase gag that didn’t reveal it’s unfunny punchline until the last minutes of the show. Why did Harris’ “predictions” turn out to be a recap of the show’s big moments? My guess is the producers wanted to catch up viewers who tuned in at the end on everything that already happened (isn’t that what Twitter is for?).
To the producers’ credit, there were some truly winning moments. Lady Gaga toned down her antics but wowed with her astonishing voice during a 50th anniversary medley of The Sound of the Music, and Julie Andrews came out to congratulate her. Otherterrific musical performances included Tim McGraw’s tearjerking rendition of Glen Campbell’s “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” and Adam Levine’s flawless falsetto on Begin Again‘s “Lost Stars”. (Jennifer Hudson’s sorta bland In Memoriam number and Tegan and Sara’s candy-colored “Everything Is Awesome” spectacle were less awesome). The night’s high point came, as I had expected, when John Legend and Common performed their Selma song “Glory”. With Legend’s impeccable voice, Common’s rhythmic rapping, a soulful chorus, and lyrics that mention Ferguson, it was a poignant and undeniably affecting highpoint.
Neil Patrick Harris’ highpoint, meanwhile, came around halfway through the show. In a live video clip, Harris was shown backstage, struggling with a bathrobe caught in the door. Reluctantly, he walked away, dropping the bathrobe and clad only in underwear. Within seconds, clued-in cinephiles got the reference: Michael Keaton’s near-naked Times Square walk in Birdman. It was totally hilarious, and it only got better when Harris pushed the face of an anxious reporter away and then told a drumming Miles Teller “Not my tempo”. This type of movie in-joke comedy was sorely missing from much of the rest of the broadcast, but triumphed here.
As for the actual awards, I didn’t totally triumph with my predictions; I correctly forecasted 15 out of 24 categories. For the first ten or so, I guessed every one right (surprisingly, I did best in the technical categories and even correctly guessed the Best Documentary Short category). Though many of the big categories turned out different than I’d expected, in many ways, I wasn’t surprised. I predicted voters would award Original Screenplay to Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel, but they instead opted for Birdman (great dialogue, memorable characters). And I was wrong in thinking Whiplash‘s examinations of ambition and perfection would garner it the Adapted Screenplay prize; the award went to the tightly structured The Imitation Game. J.K. Simmons, Patricia Arquette, and Julianne Moore, respectively, all seemed to have won the Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Actress awards before the show began, and they all collected their trophies. Best Actor, meanwhile, didn’t go to Birdman‘s Michael Keaton (I thought that would be a sentimental career-achievement sign of respect) but to The Theory of Everything‘s Eddie Redmayne, who physically transformed himself for the role of ALS-suffering scientist Stephen Hawking.
And then there were the two biggies: Best Director and Best Picture. I predicted Boyhood would win both, or perhaps Birdman would nab one of the two. Wrong. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s dazzling dramedy walked away with both, again proving the Academy’s love for showbusiness stories (Shakespeare in Love, Chicago, The Artist, Argo etc.). As Oscar writer Mark Harris mentioned in an article, the Academy undoubtedly connected to the film’s story of a faded blockbuster star trying to prove his artistic integrity with a daring new project Hey, we can do more than superheroes, was the message conveyed by the win.
Boyhood‘s story (kid grows up) seems more universally relatable, since everyone was once a kid growing up and not everyone was once a very unstable movie star. But the Academy chose to go with a story personal to them. Boyhood may have been too slow, uneventful, artsy, maybe too good for the Oscars. Make no mistake, I thought Birdman was brilliant, but it just wasn’t Boyhood. No movie is, and that’s not only because of the filming-for-12-years thing. It’s the kind of film you feel genuinely lucky to have seen and truly grateful that someone thought to make it. Ultimately, Linklater’s movie walked home with a single Oscar (for Arquette). The one-time frontrunner lost a few key prizes and was left with as many prizes as…How to Train Your Dragon 2!? Birdman‘s final tally was a respectable four wins, tying with The Grand Budapest Hotel (which swept many technical categories) for the most. Whiplash also was next, with three wins; Boyhood and the other four Best Picture nominees each won a single award.
Finally, I want to discuss up the Academy’s struggle with race, which has been a topic of discussion since Selma was largely shut out of the nominations. How did the show handle it? Much the way the largely white SNL did, during their 40th anniversary special: a few mildly awkward, pretty funny jokes and then quickly sidestep the issue. ”Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest…I mean brightest” Harris joked during his opening line. Pretty daring first joke, sure, but that doesn’t solve any diversity issues among the nominees. Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs (herself an African-American woman) would’ve been wise to discuss the problem during her speech. She could’ve talked about how the problem exists not just in the Academy, but in the actors Hollywood casts. David Oyelowo wasn’t nominated and that was unfortunate, but not many other non-white actors were major contenders. That said, many Oscar winners chose to address important issues during their acceptance speeches. Imitation Game screenwriter Graham Moore talked about attempting suiccide at 16, then encouraged viewers to “stay weird”. During his Best Picture speech, Iñárritu asked for better treatment of Mexican immigrants in America. And Patricia Arquette called out unequal pay among men and women (Meryl Streep liked that).
Overall, this was a pretty average Oscar telecast. It wasn’t a straight-up disaster in the vein of Hathway/Franco or McFarlane. At the same time, it’ll be forgotten quicker than both those shows. Like Ellen DeGenres, Harris appealed to all demographics and pleased everyone…but ended up wowing nobody. And did I mention Boyhood should’ve won? Anyway, this particularly insane awards season is over…which means it’s time to through out some 2016 predictions. Here are a few: The Hateful Eight. The Revenant. Steve Jobs. Joy. Miles Ahead. The End of the Tour. Spielberg’s latest. And…Episode VII?
Posted on | February 22, 2015 | Add Comments
If you’ve read anything about the Oscars, you’ve heard about the neck-in-neck Best Picture race between Boyhood and Birdman, one of the closest in years. Since its summer release, Richard Linklater’s 12-year coming of age drama Boyhood has been racking up critics raves, which were followed by critics awards and then big wins from the Golden Globes and BAFTAS. Those two ceremonies, however, don’t have a lot of overlap in their voter-body with the Oscars. Meanwhile, the Producer’s Guild, Director’s Guild, and Screen Actor’s Guild share many of the same members with the Academy, and in theory are more helpful tell-tale signs. So when Alejandro González Iñárritu’s dazzling backstage dramedy Birdman swept all three ceremonies, the tides began to turn.
For months, Boyhood seemed like the little movie that could go all the way from a small indie release to the Oscar podium. But Birdman, a more conventionally showy Oscar favorite, has gained enough traction to make a win seem unsurprising. Besides, it’s a movie commenting on movies, which the Academy clearly loves (think The Artist and Argo).
So…why am I predicting Boyhood for the big win? The film has a timely yet timeless quality that feels perfect for a Best Picture winner; it also encapsulates 12 years of culture into one moving film. And, in a year that has seen the Academy nominate a large number of independent films, it seems like the right time for an indie champion. I’m also predicting Richard Linklater for Best Director. Sure, Iñárritu’s direction is more in-your-face dazzling (one-take camerawork, drum soundtrack, breathless dialogue) but Linklater’s long-term hard-work will likely be rewarded. All that said, I’m anything but sure about my picks. Birdman certainly could take Best Picture, or Iñárritu could win Director and split the big two with Boyhood (assuming it wins Best Picture).
Personally, I’m rooting for (and predicting) Boyhood for both awards…and, in such a close race, perhaps we should listen to our hearts.
Posted on | February 22, 2015 | Add Comments
Everything from predictions to analysis of the hosts is here and it’s all ready for you to devour just before Oscar night:
The Oscars have always been a momentous occasion, one which for the past six years we’ve had a great time celebrating with you. This years marks the 87th time little gold men have been given out to the best of the year’s films. Debates over the relevancy of the show have long been discussed and while the announcement a few years ago that Academy voters may be mostly white, male, and older has certainly sparked much debate, that doesn’t mean that bloggers, fashonitas, critics, and I will cease endless analysis around the big night. What it does mean is that the winners and losers of February 22nd will be taken with a grain of salt; we know that this isn’t the collective opinion of 20-something black women, 70-something asians, and 40-something hispanics. The fact that it’s mostly 63 year old white men (yes, that is the average voter) might help to explain some of the nominees.
Take for instance, the Best Actor category. The past year had a lot of fantastic performances, many of which are up for the award. Michael Keaton had quite the comeback, Eddie Remayne showed he has some serious acting chops, and Bennedict Cummberbatch weilded his brainy Britishness to charming effect. Throw in Bradley Cooper and Steve Carell, whose films I didn’t see, and you have all five nominees. Now, the three performances I did see were great, but which actor had the most memorable turn of the year?
My vote goes to David Oyelowo whose performance as Dr. Martin Luther King in Selma was flawless, yet didn’t warrant a nomination. He perfectly conveyed the worn-out, yet unwavering drive behind the brilliant, yet flawed King. One of the greatest things about his performance was his ability to approach the man as a man, not a historical icon but a real person dealing with complicated dilemmas. His scenes with Carmen Ejogo as his wife were some of the most powerful moments on screen all year. And yet the Academy failed to recognize him, as well as the film’s director, Ava DuVernay.
Asides from the social squabbles, there is of course the night’s entertianment. Neil Patrick Harris is this year’s host and while he did succesfully host the Tonys four times and the Emmys twice, competing with last years show hosted by Ellen DeGeneres will prove difficult. DeGeneres scored the most views since 2000, averaging 43.7 million viewers tuning in. Her selfie with Bradley Cooper, Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey, Angelina Jolie, and Julia Roberts (just to name a few) became the most retweeted Twitter photo ever. Throw in some pizza delivery and musical numbers, as well and you’ve got a show. It seemed as though the Oscars had finally overcome their identity crisis.
In this digital age, an awards show that has run anywhere from two to nearly four and half hours can begin to feel a bit tedious, at least to the 20 year olds with their hipster fingers ready to cement their thoughts permanently into social media. The show’s producers have tried it all. They tried two hosts instead of one, to add some excitement into the mix but of course that ended with an akward James Franco accompanied by an overexcited Anne Hathaway. After that, they tried to go back to their roots with the classic Billy Crystal, only to cater to younger and raunchier audiences the next year with Seth Macfarlane. Neither of those two hosts really worked because they were either too dated and not in touch with the audience (Crystal) or they totally ignored what the Oscars were about and decided to turn it into more of a crude roast (Macfarlane). What the Oscars really need is a host that can cater to many demographics: the movie buffs, those just there to watch the celebrities, the people who have watched all 87 Oscar ceremonies, and those just there to post something on Twitter. DeGeneres and Patrick Harris seem to fit into the perfect categrory of contemporary comedians, while still weilding the classy old-school quality. They may not be your absolute favorite host, but they succeed in appealing a little bit to a lot of people.
All of this talk about the show itself can sometimes can get in the way of what it’s really all about: no, not the fashion, the films. So, let’s take a look at the nominees. The two easiest of the major categories to predict are undoubetdly the Supporting Actor and Actress awards. J.K. Simmons and Patricia Arquette, respectively, were both phenomenal and have already won the SAG and Golden Globe awards. I’m putting my money for Michael Keaton in the Best Actor category, although Eddie Remayne is so hot on his heels that it could go either way. For Best Actress, Julianne Moore is a lock mostly because she’s never won. Director will go out to the amazing Richard Linklater and Best Picture?
If Boyhood doesn’t win it’ll be quite a shock. A few bloggers have said that Birdman will steal it and while I agree it’s certainly the runner up, I don’t think even the Academy could ignore the sheer scope and originality of Boyhood. It’s a film both seismic in ambition, while genuine in it’s emotion. In a year with so many great films, this was the one that will be remembered for years to come. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what the Best Picture category is supposed to decide? Not which film is your favorite (Boyhood is my favorite), or the one you could watch the most (I can’t wait to watch it for the third time), but the one that represents the year on a whole. If you look back at the past 87 years of cinema, which of the eight nominees deserves to enter into the pantheon of all-time greats alongside The Sound of Music, Casablanca, Gandhi, Gone with the Wind, Annie Hall, Lawrence of Arabia, The Godfather, and more? I say Boyhood and I sure hope the Academy does too.
Posted on | February 22, 2015 | Add Comments
Confused by all the excitement and outrage surrounding this year’s Oscars? Do your homework before the show today, and read my Oscar essay about Selma, American Sniper, Boyhood, and more. Predictions are included at the end. Here’s the speech/essay:
The awards season hoopla that surrounds the Oscars repeats itself each and every year and, to some extent, with little difference. Months of movie-geek forecasting, last-minute controversy, and other, lesser awards shows lead up to the big night, the Super Bowl of Hollywood, the Oscars. Actually, the show shares a few traits with that football spectacle, though it takes place not at a crowded fields and a packed arena but a Hollywood auditorium and at a podium. Yet like the Super Bowl, the Oscars are the outcome of tireless hype, careful marketing, and a whole lot of preparation; likewise, they inspire obsessively geeky debating, cheers of joy, some unsullied loser faces, and post-event speculation. And then, after a couple of weeks, the dust cloud of glitz and glamour fades away. Remaining hints of Oscar excitement are buried in awards blogs where anxious film-nerds are already predicting next year’s winners. By the time fall comes around, the film world is already revving its engine up again, preparing for another tough battle for gold.
This year’s “battle for gold” has been a little different, and I’m not just saying that to get your attention. Larger debates about race and politics have been at play, lending the event an unexpected touch of “importance”. It’s common for a few films to have their awards standings lightly, slightly tarnished by historical inaccuracy or a celebrity dispute or something else no one could’ve expected. But this year, two films, Selma and American Sniper, didn’t just have to politely sidestep a minor dispute; they had to face industry-wide discord head-on.
Selma, once considered a possible front-runner, was only nominated for two awards: Best Picture and Best Song. Why? The Selma filmmakers opted only to send screeners to the Academy, not other award-show voters, which meant the film was largely shut out of vital pre-Oscar award-show signifiers. There was also an inordinate amount of press lathered on the LBJ-Civil Rights kerfuffle, which involved historians chastizing the film for it’s less-than-squeaky-clean depiction of our 36th President . Both those factors certainly had something to do with the less-than-expected show of love for the film. But it’s hard not to look at the Academy-voting demographic (94% white, 76% male, average age of 63) and think some outmoded views on gender and race may have gotten in the way of nominations for lead actor David Oyelowo and director Ava DuVernay (who would’ve been the first black woman to get a Best Director nomination).
Clint Eastwood’s Iraq-war thriller American Sniper, another late entry into the race, got six nominations (Best Picture, Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, and Sound Editing and Mixing). How did Sniper, which received a fair share of tepid reviews, manage to get so much attention, while Selma, easily one of the best-reviewed films of the year, got sidelined? For one thing, critics don’t vote for Oscars. That demographic I previously mentioned (white, male, and old) may be the type of group that could get behind a film critic David Edelstein called a “Republican platform movie”, despite criticisms of glorified combat sequences and disparaging depictions of the Iraqi people. The Academy also loves a populist favorite and, perhaps perplexingly, Sniper may fill that spot: despite an R rating, the film has made 250 million dollars. Selma, meanwhile, has made 31 million, a third of what Sniper made in it’s first weekend.
So what do all these statistics mean? Are Oscar voters really racists who just love a good, old-fashioned war movie? No (actually, most of them are probably very nice people). But things need to change. I haven’t seen Sniper, but I did love Selma, a terrific film, made by a thoughtful director and starring one incredible actor. Aside from diversity, it was a great movie, and I’m not alone in wishing it had gotten more nominations. So, how will things change? On the bright side, this year’s controversy (which sparked a hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite) may influence voters to diversify future nominees. Yet the problem really lies in the heart of Hollywood. Many reporters have pointed out that all twenty acting nominees this year are white. A disheartening statistic, sure, but even if, say, David Oyelowo had gotten nominated there would still be more white nominees than those of other ethnicities because Hollywood is a largely white industry.
Now let’s look up on the upside. Take a good, hard look at the nominees for Best Picture. Yes, Oscar-baiting Weinstein-approved period pieces The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything are on the list. But you’ll also notice the Oscars really love independent movies, the kind that might not have gotten nominated twenty years ago. We can partly thank the new Best Picture rules. In 2010, ten, not five, films were allowed nominations and in 2012, the limit changed again: five to ten is the magic number(s?). I for one, like those rules (though ten would make more sense). But while many predicted the change would allow more big-budget crowd-pleasers to sneak in, the opposite has happened. At the 2010 show, a Hollywood epic (Avatar) lost to a small-scale war-drama (The Hurt Locker). While the Academy next chose a period-piece (The King’s Speech) over a zeitgeist-capturing tech-tale (The Social Network), they’ve since given the big prize to a silent French comedy (The Artist), a quirky thriller (Argo), and a slavery epic (12 Years a Slave), while nominating a diverse range of films (The Tree of Life, Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Her, to name the most esoteric).
This year continues that trend, with four of the eight Best Picture nominees being either independent or artsy or both. Those four films are Wes Anderson’s decades-spanning comic-caper The Grand Budapest Hotel, 30-year old Damien Chazelle’s drumming-drama Whiplash, Alejandro Iñáritu’s sorta-one-take showbiz dramedy Birdman, and Richard Linklater’s 12-year coming-of-age epic Boyhood. While acknowledging and bemoaning the Oscar’s lack of diversity, the Academy deserves at least a little credit for recognizing films both big and small. Some writers have complained that 2014 was a weaker-than-usual year for movies, but I was exhilarated, moved, surprised, and wowed by many films, particularly Whiplash, Selma, Birdman, The Wind Rises, We Are the Best!, Ida, Life Itself, The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, and two big-budget surprises, The LEGO Movie and Edge of Tomorrow. My favorite, however, is Boyhood, a film that evoked feelings of poignancy, honesty, beauty, and the thrill of cinema in ways I’ve never experienced at another movie. For my money, it’s going to walk away with Best Picture (though look, up in the sky and watch out for Birdman) and the 12-years-in-the-making win will be well-deserved.
Michael Keaton (Birdman)
Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
Best Supporting Actor:
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Best Supporting Actress:
Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Best Original Screenplay:
Best Animated Feature:
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Best Foreign Language Film:
Best Documentary Feature:
Posted on | January 15, 2015 | 3 Comments
When I first scrolled through the list of nominees for the 87th Academy Awards, I reacted with a “Whaaaat?”. Boy, were there were surprises abound. In the hours after the big announcement, the film world has been buzzing most about what wasn’t nominated, not what was. But while there were some eye-brow raising, disappointing, maybe even crushing snubs, there were also plenty of predictable but well-deserved nominations. Of the 11 categories I predicted, I was right about 42 out of 58 nominees; a fine, if imperfect, number. As always, everyone was left with a lot to talk about, and debate, defend, critique, argue over, and theorize about. Below, five big takeaways.
1. The Best Picture Category May Be The Least Surprising
Of the eight films that garnered Best Picture nominations, I had forecasted all (Boyhood, Birdman, Selma, The Imitation Game, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Theory of Everything, and Whiplash) but one (American Sniper). So, what happened with Sniper? Presumably, the older male demographic of the Academy (isn’t that everybody?) really loved the Clint Eastwood war drama, despite tepid critics reviews. Still, Foxcatcher‘s lack of a nomination was a surprise, especially since it fared well elsewhere. And Gone Girl seemed to have a pretty fair shot (alas, Unbroken couldn’t deliver on it’s early frontrunner status). But enough nitpicking. The rest of the bunch was a foreseeable but merited, fairly eclectic group. The Academy deserves at least one “Bravo!” right there.
2. It’s a Good Year You’re an Audacious Indie Auteur…
Despite the love for British biopics, The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game, the Academy reaffirmed it’s recently developed penchant for (relatively) low-budget feats of filmmaking artistry. Here’s proof: Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel scored nine nominations (largest tally for any film) while the current frontrunner, Boyhood, got six (in just every category it was expected to get nominated for). Budapest‘s beloved Wes Anderson scored his first Best Director nomination, while Foxcatcher’s Bennet Miller beat out Clint Eastwood in the same category (and Foxcatcher wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture!). Whiplash‘s five nominations, along with some esoteric surprises in other categories, were other examples of the Oscar’s newfound and refreshing indie sensibility.
3. But If You Made That Biopic That Wasn’t About a Brainy British Scientist…Sorry
Selma. Selma. SELMA!!!??? That was the general consensus from Twitter, which was set ablaze by Selma‘s surprising snubs. Though the MLK biopic did receive nominees for Best Picture and Song (no complaints there), director Ava DuVernay and lead actor David Oyelowo were missing in their categories. Why? Three possible answers. First and most importantly, yeah, there may be more than a little racism and sexism in the Academy, or at least some passé views on gender and race. Secondly, Paramount’s decision to only hand out screener copies to the Oscars coupled with the LBJ historical backlash may have had a negatively cumulative effect on the film, despite the trifling ridiculousness of both. And lastly, it is possible some voters liked other movies better (subjective taste is a thing). Unfortunately, we’re left with a great movie made by and about black people mysteriously passed over.
4. Snubs, Snubs, Everywhere!
Aside from Selma, there were some shocks in smaller categories, chiefly in the Best Animated and Documentary fields. In the former, unquestioned frontrunner The LEGO Movie was M.I.A., while Roger Ebert doc Life Itself was also left out. Both films were beloved by pretty much all who saw them, and got some of the more glowing reviews of the year. Little explanation there. French drama Force Majuere was left out of Best Foreign Film, while the acting categories included some unexpected nominees: Foxcatcher‘s Steve Carrell, American Sniper‘s Bradley Cooper, Two Days, One Night‘s Marion Cotillard, and Wild‘s Laura Dern. That said, I forecasted Inherent Vice‘s Adapted Screenplay nod when few others did.
5. And Take a Deep Breath Everybody
It’s hard not to be disappointed by some of the big snubs. But people laugh at the Oscars all year long…and then get upset when the nominees are as white and male as ever? Yes, Selma should’ve gotten more nominations. But the Oscars aren’t stopping anyone from seeing Ava DuVernay’s film. Go ahead, criticize the Oscars (and they do deserve criticism). But more importantly, go see Selma, and all the other films that were left out. Good movies are good movies, with or without awards recognition.
Posted on | January 8, 2015 | 1 Comment
As soon as the bloggers and journalists of awards-season finished analyzing (and retweeting) the 2014 Oscar broadcast, they began speculating about next year’s potential nominees (Jersey Boys? Big Eyes?). A lot has changed since then, with the aforementioned films falling short of expectations and some smaller films stealthily sneaking to the front of the pack. There’s been an excess of who-cares mini-controversies (op-eds bemoaning historical inaccuracies, category-placement confusions, straight-up obnoxious Twitter outbursts), while journalists squeeze out every headline they can. Film writers have called this year’s crop of contenders smaller than usual, but they’re far from correct. Sure, some categories are easy to call, but the Best Picture race still leaves plenty of opportunities for snubs and shocks. Unlike profesional Oscar pundits, I haven’t seen every film, overheard industry whispering, or attended any cast-and-crew luncheons. But after much copying-and-pasting, fact-checking, and second-guessing, I’ve come up with my predictions for the major categories, with the nominees ranked in order of likeliness.
A Note: During the past three years, the Academy has allowed five to ten films to be nominated, and nine has been the magic number each time. Deciding how many films will snag noms this time is sheer speculation, so I’ve listed ten.
4. The Imitation Game
6. The Theory of Everything
7. The Grand Budapest Hotel
8. Gone Girl
Drawing on the consensus of critics, box-office data, other Oscar experts’ picks, nominations from other awards-groups with overlapping voter-bodies, and my own forecasting, these are the ten films that have the best shot at a nom. Looking closely, my picks can be divided into debatably hyper-specific groups. At the front of the race are three films: coming-of-age journey Boyhood, showy show-business dramedy Birdman, and M.L.K. drama Selma. There’s no chance those films won’t get nominated. To a lesser extent, the same can be said about a duo of beloved indies (Whiplash and The Grand Budapest Hotel) and two period biopics (The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything). It’s the last three remaining spots spots that get tricky. Gone Girl (a populist pick voters can feel good about) and Foxcatcher, two relatively divisive early-fall psychological thrillers, should get in there.
Unbroken and American Sniper, two true-stories of war bravery released on Christmas, will be duking it out for the tenth spot. Many critics have been calling Bradley Cooper’s lead performance the best thing about Sniper, but it’s difficult to imagine him getting nominated in that busy field. That, coupled with liberal voters wary of director Clint “Empty Chair” Eastwood, will weaken the film’s chances. That gives the edge to Unbroken, which despite negative reviews, can be called two of the Academy’s favorite adjectives: “tough-to-watch” and “crowd-pleasing”. If one of those two doesn’t make it, an under-the-radar arthouse pic (Nightcrawler or Mr. Turner) or a Hollywood epic (Interstellar or Into The Woods) could sneak in. But don’t count on it. I’ll stand by my ten picks.
1. Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
2. Alejandro G. Inarritu (Birdman)
3. Ava DuVernay (Selma)
4. Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)
5. Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
1. Michael Keaton (Birdman)
2. Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
3. Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)
4. David Oyelowo (Selma)
5. Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler)
1. Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
2. Reese Witherspoon (Wild)
3. Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
4. Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)
5. Jennifer Aniston (Cake)
Best Supporting Actor:
1. J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
2. Edward Norton (Birdman)
3. Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)
4. Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)
5. Miyavi (Unbroken)
Best Supporting Actress:
1. Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
2. Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)
3. Emma Stone (Birdman)
4. Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)
5. Jessica Chaistain (A Most Violent Year)
Best Adapted Screenplay:
1. The Imitation Game (Graham Moore)
2. Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn)
3. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)
4. The Theory of Everything (Anthony McCarten)
5. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson)
Best Original Screenplay:
1. Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
2. Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, and Armando Bo)
3. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness)
4. Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)
5. Selma (Paul Webb)
Best Animated Feature:
1. The LEGO Movie
2. Big Hero 6
3. How To Train Your Dragon 2
4. The Tale of Princess Kaguya
5. Song of the Sea
Best Foreign Language Film:
1. Ida (Poland)
2. Leviathan (Russia)
3. Force Majure (Sweeden)
4. Wild Tales (Argentina)
5. Tangerines (Georgia)
Best Documentary Feature:
2. Life Itself
3. Keep On Keeping’ On
4. The Overnighters
5. Last Days in Vietnam
And those are my choices for eleven of the twenty-four Oscar categories. Tune in on January 15 for the announcement. One week to go…
Posted on | March 2, 2014 | 1 Comment
For the fifth annual time, Flack and I hosted an Oscar Party. Two films, endless trivia, good food, and speeches. That’s right, Flack and I both read our speeches to add some excitement and opinion to the night. Below, you can read my speech.
The unlikely friendship of a bear and mouse. A woman surviving alone in space. The untold story of backup singers. A dysfunctional father-son duo road trip. All of these stories and more were watched on screens big and small and all of them are up for an Oscar.
This year was an interesting year for film, with directors like Alfonso Cuaron taking bold chances with breakthrough special effects and Morgan Neville taking bold chances in different ways by telling an unknown story with true drama.
Going into this year, critics, industry know-it-alls, and audiences alike were predicting movie theaters to decline and while, yes, Netflix is growing bigger by the second and at home movie-watching technology is also growing at a surprising rate, there were a number of films that were undeniably great “movie theater experiences”. Take “Nebraska” for example, a film that is by no means a 3-D action spectacle, but is, by all means, a great “movie theater experience”. The B&W cinematography showing beatiful vistas was perfect viewing for the theater. Meanwhile, “Gravity” used IMAX and 3-D technology that felt uniquely new and different. After spending 16 minutes watching the camera slowly pan over Earth in one continuous opening shot, you are hurdled into a frightening crash sequence, one that uses sound, visuals, and storytelling to a combined effect of pure horror.
Music was also used to interesting effect this year, with more and more directors opting for pre-existing, well known music, rather than a score of their own. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” did this well, using songs like David Bowie’s Major Tom prominently. But, orchestra scores were also used well. Mark Orton used strings to interesting effect in “Nebraska” and Randy Newman used horns and drums to create a foot-stompingly energetic score for “Monsters University”. One more notable soundtrack mention would be “Inside Llewyn Davis” in which Oscar Issac and more sang folk ballads with minimal guitar strumming and maximum vocal chords.
With such a diverse year for films, there’s a lot to celebrate, which is what tonight’s all about. In just a few minutes we’ll be treating you to two screenings of Oscar nominated films. In the den: “Frozen”, nominated for Best Animated Film, a chilly musical comedy. And in the living room: “20 Feet From Stardom”, a documentary following multiple backup singers.
So without further ado…The films!
Posted on | March 1, 2014 | 3 Comments
They’re almost here.
After 6 months of obsessive predictions, studio scheming, marketing madness, Red Carpet overload, and one awards show after another, the Oscars (and the end of the awards season) are just a little more than 24 hours away.
Every year, the September-February thrill ride starts with Telluride and Toronto and just keeps on going. From Golden Globes fun and the Oscar nominations, to non-stop campaigns and Academy Q&A’s; through gossipy controversy and endless critique, past last-minute releases and release-date changes, over Oscar bets, shocking interviews, a nominee change (!), and… When does it stop?
Every year Awards Season feels a little bit…predictable. Yes, there’s the acting category surprises and the films that came out of nowhere to be claimed as “frontrunners” and the ballyhoo-causing cast and crew disputes that threaten to change everything (and normally change nothing). But, through all the nonsense, there’s always one film that gets called a Best Picture lock, gets called an “also-ran”, has a surprise comeback, gets rejected again, and ends up winning.
That’s exactly why this year’s Oscar race feels genuinely refreshing. When was the last time a nerve-wracking three-way-race for Best Picture had everyone biting their nails off? That’s certainly the case this year, with 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, and American Hustle all vying for the big win. But enough with all this talk…who’s going to win?
Well, I’ll cut to the chase: 12 Years a Slave. Sure, Gravity is as suspenseful and groundbreaking as movies get and American Hustle is the type of crowd-pleasing ensemble period-piece dramedy that seems like a shoo-in. But 50 years from now, voters will want people to look back at 2014 as the year the “Important Movie” won and12 Years a Slave fits that bill. Of course, they’ll also want to recognize a fine cast, careful direction, and a resonant script. But Oscar voters aren’t always known for picking Best Picture based on which is their favorite. Though it sounds (and is) silly, voters sometimes have other agendas. By selecting 12 Years a Slave, voters will be selecting the the indie studio flick, the critical favorite, the hard-to-watch controversy, the predictable-ish frontrunner, and the historical drama. Honestly, none of those descriptions will make the Academy look bad. So when everything boils down, there’s no real suspense for me. Based on everything I know about the Oscars, 12 Years a Slave will win Best picture. Now we just have to see if the Academy agrees with itself.
Here’s my other predictions…
Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Best Actor: Mathew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Best supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Best Original Screenplay: American Hustle
Best Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave
Best Animated Feature: Frozen
Best Documentary Feature: 20 Feet From Stardom
Best Foreign-Language Film: The Great Beauty
Best Cinematography: Gravity
Best Costume Design: American Hustle
Best Film Editing: Gravity
Best Makeup & Hairstyling: Dallas Buyers Club
Best Original Score: Gravity
Best Original Song: “Let It Go” from Frozen
Best Production Design: Gravity
Best Sound Editing: Gravity
Best Sound Mixing: Gravity
Best Visual Effects: Gravity
Best Animated Short: Get a Horse!
Best Documentary Short: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Best Live Action Short: Just Before Losing Everything
Alright, alright, alright. On with the show…
Posted on | February 21, 2013 | 1 Comment
All the categories. All the predictions. All the runner ups. It’s Oscar time…and Flick and Flack are here to cover it all in a 20 minute special. Watch as they dissect each and every category. And of course, tune into the Seth MacFarlane hosted show on Sunday, February 24th. More info here.
Posted on | January 9, 2013 | 1 Comment
Here are my predictions for the 2012/13 Oscars for the big, most important categories only. Watch the nominations being unveiled, tomorrow morning (more details at the end of the article).
1. Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
2. Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)
3. Ben Affleck (Argo)
4. Tom Hooper (Les Miserables)
5. Ang Lee (Life of Pi)
Thoughts: Either Michael Haneke (Amour) and, less likely, Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained) could push out Hooper. Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild) could make the cut for his brilliant debut/festival favorite. The Andersons, Wes (Moonrise Kingdom) and Paul Thomas (PTA, as he is known, for The Master), both got rave reviews for their indie flicks… But in a tight year, they don’t have enough pull to amass a nomination!
1. Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
2. Denzel Washington (Flight)
3. Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables)
4. Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)
5. John Hawkes (The Sessions)
Thoughts: Come Oscar Night, it’s going to be Daniel’s Day (or should I say night, even though it doesn’t sound as good!). But as for the other 4 guys… They’re gonna’ have a tough time… Richard Gere (Arbitrage), Jack Black (Bernie), Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), Tom Holland (The Impossible), or, most likely of all, Ben Affleck (Argo) could replace the 4. Washington seems an almost definite lock but Hawkes seems almost definitely iffy.
1. Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
2. Emanuelle Riva (Amour)
3. Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
4. Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
5. Naomi Watts (The Impossible)
Thoughts: The previous five seem pretty definitive, in my mind. Some say Helen Mirren (Hitchcock) is a possibility but I don’t think so, based on the overall negative reaction to Hitchcock. Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone) could take out Watts or Wallis but that’s slightly unlikely.
Best Supporting Actor
1. Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
2. Alan Arkin (Argo)
3. Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)
4. Phillip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
5. Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained)
Thoughts: The first four, I mentioned are frontrunners. Then there’s the question of “Who gets a nom from Django Unchained” While that answer could be Christoph Waltz or Samuel L. Jackson, I’m thinking DiCaprio. He played strongly against type and has already picked up some awards from early critics circles, always a good sign. Other than that there’s not too many possibles, except for the entire cast of Cloud Atlas which I think is out. However, if Skyfall gets a Best Picture nomination then count DiCaprio out and Javier Bardem in for his menacing turn as a Bond “baddie to boo for”.
Best Supporting Actress
1. Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables)
2. Sally Field (Lincoln)
3. Helen Hunt (The Sessions)
4. Amy Adams (The Master)
5. Judi Dench (Skyfall)
Thoughts: Hathaway has got a Day-Lewis lock on this one. Field and (less likely) Hunt will definitely get noms. But as for the last two spots…it’s murky territory!!! I’m going for Adams and Dench… Though either probably Ann Dowd (Compliance) and possibly Nicole Kidman (The Paperboy) could take one of those two out.
Best Original Screenplay
1. Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty)
2. Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom)
3. Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)
4. Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master)
5. Rian Johnson (Looper)
Thoughts: Boal will unquestionably win it. Anderson and Coppola, Tarantino, and Anderson, again, are fairly certain. But it’s the fifth spot that I’m still debating about with myself. Johnson (Looper), Michael Haneke (Amour), or John Gatins (Flight) could snag the final nom. I’m thinking the Academy will take the category literally by picking the most original screenplay for the fifth spot: Rian Johnson (Looper)!
Best Adapted Screenplay
1. Tony Kushner (Lincoln)
2. Chris Terrio (Argo)
3. Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
4. David O. Russel (Silver Linings Playbook)
5. Stephen Chobsky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)
Thoughts: Kushner’s got a lock for a win. Meanwhile, Terrio’s blend of comedy and seat-gripping set pieces, Alibar and Zeitlin’s exploding creativity, and O. Russel’s hilarious yet tragic tale should definitely grab noms. And for the fifth spot, I’m saying the Academy will honor Chobsky for adapting and directing his own novel. If they’re truly against the film, though, David Magee (Life of Pi) or William Nicholoson (Les Miserables) should be able to sneak up and…in! If those (this is an albeit unlikely situation) don’t get nominated then Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan (Skyfall) and possibly Ben Levin (The Sessions) should creep into the category.
Best Foreign Film
1. Amour (Austria)
2. The Intouchables (France)
3. A Royal Affair (Denmark)
4. War Witch (Chile)
5. No (Canada)
Thoughts: I completely agree with Flick in this category. Amour will totally win and The Intouchables got lots of Oscar buzz back in May which should carry over to this category (though not Best Picture, as I previously predicted!!!). From there on, I don’t have much insight but A Royal Affair, War Witch, and No are being widely said to be the three other nominees.
1. Wreck-It Ralph
5. Le Tableau (The Painting)
Thoughts: A tricky category to predict. I’ve seen all 5 films (except Wreck-It Ralph). The order of the first four is hard to predict but the fifth spot is a real toughie. Most people think Rise of the Guardians. But how about The Pirates: Band of Misfits? Or possibly Hotel Transylvania? Or Madagscar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted? Or possibly maybe even The Rabbi’s Cat? But no, no, no!!! I’m thinking the 3-D French flick Le Tableau (The Painting) will snag the fifth spot.
1. Searching For Sugar Man
2. The Gatekeepers
3. The Invisible War
4. The Imposter
5. How To Survive A Plague
Thoughts: A fairly certain bunch, though Bully or Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry could get noms. I predict Searching For Sugar Man will win, but I’m no expert at this one.
2. Zero Dark Thirty
4. Les Miserables
5. Silver Linings Playbook
6. Beasts of the Southern Wild
7. Life of Pi
8. Moonrise Kingdom
I’m guessing there will be ten nominees here. So below are my six possibilities for the 10th spot (in order of likeliness):
11. Django Unchained
12. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
13. The Master
14. The Impossible
15. The Sessions
Sorry Bilbo and Batman… Maybe next year!!!???
Don’t forget to turn on your TV and tune into ABC at 5:30AM PST and 8:30AM EST to watch Emma Stone, an actress from The Help and 2012′s The Amazing Spider-Man, and Seth McFarlane (this year’s Oscar host!!!) announce the nominations on Januray 10th.keep looking »