Oscar Nominees: Thoughts and Predictions

The Academy Awards are just around the river bend, so this morning Seth McFarlane and Emma Stone announced the nominees in their behalf. For a surprisingly good year in film, there are surprisingly good nominations. A full list can be found here. Let’s start off big and then go down.

Like last year, there are nine Best Picture nominees including:

Amour

Argo

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Django Unchained

Les Miserables

Life of Pi

Lincoln

Silver Linings Playbook

Zero Dark Thirty

Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln

Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln

Initially, my gut reaction is Zero Dark Thirty, but I hear through the grapevine that there is controversy surrounding the content and truth around the depictions in the finding and killing of Osama Bin Laden. And I’m turned off that Kathryn Bigelow didn’t get nominated for her directing for the film. So, if not Zero Dark Thirty, then what? I’m going to have to go for Lincoln or Les Miserables with an advantage for Lincoln. Because Tom Hooper (director of Les Miserables) got his gold with The King’s Speech two years ago, I don’t see him getting it again this early. Not saying it’s out of the realm of reality, but it’s just less likely. Also, Steven Speilberg is a seasoned veteran; his films Saving Private Ryan got nominated for Best Picture and he received Best Director, and Schindler’s List won Best Picture along with Spielberg winning Best Director for it. I think that the Academy is award his in depth take on history and give award Lincoln. After all, it is in the lead with 12 noms already.

This ties tightly in with Best Director. As I hinted at before, I think Spielberg is a sure thing in here, even though I think Benh Zeitlin deserves more recognition for his authentic and real camera work in Beasts of the Southern Wild. But my favorite has to be Ang Lee for being able to tell such an amazing survival and spiritual tale in Life of Pi.

Acting! This will be fun. For Best Actor in a Leading Role: I have only seen Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook, but I’m pretty sure this award is going to Day-Lewis as well. I’m sure all the other actors did stellar jobs in their respective roles, but Day-Lewis did encapsulating work with his mannerisms and voice that brought Lincoln into a three-dimensional historical character. It will be his third win with his wins for There Will Be Blood and My Left Foot.

In the Best Actress in a Leading Role we already have records being broken: the youngest and the oldest actress to be nominated: Emmanuelle Riva for Amour (the oldest woman ever nominated) and Quvenzhane Wallis for  Beasts of the Southern Wild (the youngest). Okay, I’m going to have to go with Jessica Chastain. The Academy has a tendency to always have their “golden girl” moment. They had it with Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side, Natalie Portman for Black Swan, and Meryl Streep for the Iron Lady. I haven’t seen Zero Dark Thirty yet, but that’s my pick. Either Chastain or Lawrence, who I’d like to win. She was insanely excellent in Silver Linings Playbook.

For the Best Actor in a Leading Role it’s a toss-up, I’m pretty stumped. For all these gentlemen, it’ll be their second time winning it. I loved Robert De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook, but I can only recall one scene where true emotion flowed. Tommy Lee Jones didn’t put out anything that new or interesting in Lincoln, and Alan Arkin in Argo was funny but nothing stood out enough, and Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained (who I adore as an actor) played a nicer version of Inglourious Basterds’ General Hans Landa. The only person I haven’t seen perform is Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master. So, my pick goes to Hoffman since I’ve heard such great things about what he did in that movie.

For Best Actress in a Supporting Role I think Jacki Weaver for her performance in Silver Linings Playbook. She had to play a mother and wife caught between her bipolar son and superstitious husband. A role which she nailed without hitch. And because I don’t think any of the other actresses are very likely to get it.

There’s a strong turn-out for the Best Animated Film, but I think Brave and The Pirates! Band of Misfits are out of the running. It’s the year of stop-motion which takes my favorite, Wreck It Ralph, out of the running. I think ParaNorman will get this one because they are the company that gave us Coraline, and I don’t think Frankenweenie had too much artistic merit to it. But then again, I haven’t seen it, so what do I know?

To cap off my explanation picks, I’ll go into the Best Adapted and Original Screenplay. For Best Adapted, I’ll go with Lincoln, just because I think that’s what the Academy will cater to: historical and accurate portrayals. My favorite: Life of Pi. My favorite category is Best Original Screenplay because I feel the best film comes straight from imagination and blank sheet of paper. My prediction is Flight because it comes from real world events with the writer John Gatins. I would rather see Django Unchained get the gold for having the gall to take on such subject matter as slavery in the south. Or Moonrise Kingdom, that was good too.

Other picks that I won’t dive into:

Cinematography:  Life of Pi (prediction and favorite)

Costume Design: Anna Karenina (prediction)

Editing: Zero Dark Thirty (prediction), Life of Pi (favorite)

Makeup and Hairstyling: Hitchcock (prediction and favorite)

Original Score: Lincoln (prediction), Life of Pi (favorite)

Original Song: Skyfall by Adele (prediction and favorite)

Production and Design: Anna Karenina (prediction), Life of Pi (favorite)

Sound Editing: Skyfall (prediction), Django Unchained (favorite)

Sound Mixing: Skyfall (prediction), Life of Pi (favorite)

Visual Effects: Life of Pi (prediction and favorite)

That’s it! Looking forward to the big night to see how wrong I really am!

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Finding Several Silver Linings in “Silver Linings Playbook”

As awards season is revving up, I am scurrying to see any potential Academy Awards contenders before the nominations are announced and when the prestigious Oscar statues are handed out on the night of February 24th. Last night I got to see Moonrise Kingdom, later I’ll see Beasts of the Southern Wild, but earlier today I got to see Silver Linings Playbook. 

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence

The premise is simple and practically writes itself: a bipolar and emotionally unstable but optimistic man, Pat (Bradley Cooper), is released from a psych ward to live with his parents until he gets his affairs in order. What sent him over the edge in the first place was the witnessing of his wife’s infidelity all while their wedding song played, which triggers a strong nerve in him. Pat’s father (Robert De Niro) is an avid and superstitious Philadelphia Eagles fan, and his mother (Jacki Weaver) serves as the anchor in this unstable household. As Pat is attempting to win back his wife by getting back in shape and bettering himself, he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a young widow who is just as imbalanced as Pat is.

Pat and Tiffany’s relationship plays out like any classic screwball comedy. As the back and forth dialogue ensues so does the understandings of their characters as they relate and understand each other. As Tiffany says, Pat truly says “more inappropriate things than appropriate things.” They’re relationship is as ever changing from love to hate in a blink of an eye. Never had I enjoyed Cooper’s work so much as his anxious explosions of misunderstanding and stress boil into a gripping and sometimes hilarious combinations. Lawrence pushes her boundaries of charisma which should land her at least a nomination for best actress in the Oscar race this year.

The snappy and overlapping dialogue is a surprisingly coherent wonder which is due to the writing as well as the editing. Even though director David O. Russell doesn’t bring anything new to the table in terms of shooting uniquely, he doesn’t do anything to detract from the narrative. But, to his credit, the even changing tone is done tremendously and without hiccup.

Silver Linings Playbook is a unconventional rom-com which leans more to the comedic side than the romantic. It’s about finding a person who can mold in to your insanity than changing yourself for another person. I’ve never been one for rom-coms in the traditional sense, but Silver Linings has laughs, jeers, shock and drama to satisfy any viewers. Really it’s a fresh look and feel of a genre that has been pounded out and routine.

Top 10 Movies of 2012

I know, I know. I’ve been slacking hard on this blog. This semester kicked my butt hard even though I pulled a 3.5 GPA. But this semester and continuing on I’ll be more consistent in posting about movies, music and games. Anyway, let’s do this!

I love top 10 lists. Any and all I’ll read, critique and compare with my own. With this year’s movies, especially, we have had so many stellar movies arrive in our cinemas that have brought in massive audiences and sent critics ravings. It was a good year for any fan of the moving picture.

All top 10 lists are purely subjective in taste and for the fact that there is an immense amount of release that haven’t been seen by the large percentage of the public. So, to disclaim this top 10 I’ll list the movies I have seen which didn’t make the top 10, but not discounting their quality: The Amazing Spider-Man, Men in Black 3, The Woman in Black, John Carter, Hunger Games, Brave, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Dredd, The Grey, 21 Jump Street, Lawless, Goon, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Premium Rush, The Hobbit, Argo, Safety Not Guaranteed, Lincoln, Man on a Ledge, Lockout, and Rise of the Guardians.

10. Chronicle- I’ve only seen this re-imagined superhero tragedy once, but it’s sitting on my shelf ready to be watched again. With all these movies that made my top 10, Chronicle made a lasting impression on me. When walking into the theater to watch this found footage picture, I wasn’t expecting what I was about to get. A serious and fun walk through the eyes of troubled teenager cursed with telekinetic powers. The action was gripping, story is thrilling and all came from a first time director. Josh Trank, I’ll be looking for more from you.

9. The Avengers- With all the hype surrounding this movie I went hot and cold with my impressions. Humbling myself and watching it a second and third time I realized that what Whedon set out to accomplish was done masterfully. It’s not small feat to bring together such diverse characters to have chemistry and a workable story intertwined within them. Avengers is fan-service, yes, but it’s well-done fan service that demands re-watching with a large popcorn and drink.

8. Wreck-It Ralph- Video games and movies have scarcely found common ground. But not for Disney Animation who blew all animation to the side this year. The story follows  an arcade “villain,” Ralph to redeem himself to prove that “bad guys” can be the good guys too. Wreck-It Ralph creates a vivid and fun world for our characters to interact with. Wreck-It Ralph succeeds at all front. Sure, it’s a kids’ movie, but it’s the best done kids’ movie (that I’ve seen) this year. I can’t wait to own this gem.

7. The Dark Knight Rises- It’s quite an accomplishment for a movie to be a tad disappointing but still find a spot for a year in review list. Mine and everyone’s expectations were sky high for the conclusion of Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. Bane is no Joker, and Catwoman is no Two-Face, but we should put it up to it’s own merits. The story may be hard to follow, but seeing it for the second time makes the full circle of the mythos of Batman come full circle to create a stirring and satisfying conclusion to a modern epic.

6. Seven Psychopaths- I reviewed this trailer when it reached the Internet months ago purely because of its quirkiness and absurdity. When I saw this is in the theater I got that and more. Psychopaths is an insane thrill ride of meta-mess which leaves the viewer thinking about how everything fits together so nicely, or not so nicely. Sam Rockwell puts on a captivating performance and Christopher Walken has never been funnier. Gruesome, violent and hilarious are the brushstrokes which Martin McDonagh writes and directs with in this classic Kaufmann-like self-indulgent laugh fest.

5. Django Unchained- If you know me, you’ll know that I am in love with (most of) the works of Quentin Tarantino. I wasn’t going to solidify my top 10 without seeing his latest; as I was fully expecting this to take the top spot. And up until the climax and conclusion, it might have been. The first two-thirds was a sight to behold; blood, dark humor and quick draw action splattered the screen. But the last act of the screenplay could have been smarter and better executed. I’m on the fence with my feelings about Django Unchained which is why it found its way to the middle of my list.

4. Life of Pi- At first glance of the trailers Life of Pi may appear to be a dialogue less tale of a boy and his tiger stranded at sea. Oh, how wrong it was. Lee’s adaption of the popular “unfilmable” novel had me intrigued through out the full two hours. The cinematography was stunning as it seemed more like moving work of art than a movie. But the narrative was always moving in one way or the other. The end leaves and open question to the audience for all interpretation to be had. I didn’t expect to be blown away, but I was.

3. Cabin in the Woods- Had to watch this one twice in theaters and once so far at home. Whedon, again, has struck gold with this meta take on the entire horror genre by turning it completely on its head. This extremely overlooked picture answers the ever-important question as to why the people in horror movies are so stupid within their environment. If you haven’t seen this movie, do yourself a favor and watch and have a great time doing so.

2. Perks of Being a Wallflower- I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t see this incredible film earlier. Perks is the perfect high school melodramatic movie about outsiders and what it’s like to be on the brink of adulthood. The subject matter spans from homosexuality to suicide, but writer/director Chbosky handles these matters with such great care and taste as he was the one it is based on. Every single young actor is perfectly cast and performed incredibly convincingly that tears are pulled from their ducts of the viewer. You really can’t ask more from a movie than this.

1. Looper- The best way to end a great year of movies is to watch the best one of the year. That’s what my wife and I did for New Year’s Eve. I’ve been anticipating Looper since the first leaks of story creeped online and it did not disappoint. There isn’t a set good guy/ bad guy to cheer for or root against. All intentions are noble to a certain point. Director Rian Johnson takes the notion of time-travel being a neat and tidy thing that can be explained simply is thrown to the wind so the story can work well. Levitt plays an impeccable Willis, and Willis plays his own self but with a strong core of nobleness in his actions. Johnson creates a narrative type of screenplay which shifts between future, present and even alternate realities to weave this clever narrative together in a tight, self-sustained way. Awfully overlooked and demands to be re-watched.

There it is! I hope you’re not too mad I left out other heavy hitters but these are the films I haven’t been able to see yet but want to: Les Miserables, Sleepwalk With Me, Haywire, Bernie, Moonrise Kingdom, Silver Linings Playbook, Hitchcock, Zero Dark Thirty, Cloud Atlas, Robot and Frank, Secret World of Arrietty, Jeff Who Lives at Home, The Master, Skyfall, Killer Joe, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Sound of My Voice. Hopefully I’ll be able to visit these in the near future and have my thoughts up on this blog.

Here is to 2012 and a just as good 2013!