LIVE BLOGGING the 2013 Academy Awards!

2 03 2014

12:00 A.M.  S0 7 Oscars for “Gravity,” 3 for “12 Years a Slave” and “Dallas Buyers Club,” 2 for “Frozen” and “The Great Gatsby” … and none for “American Hustle.”  The Oscars, so great and so cruel.

12:00 A.M.  Steve McQueen jumping up and down, how joyous!

11:59 P.M.  Seeing Paul Dano on stage makes me angry.

11:59 P.M.  Two years in a row of a split Best Picture/Best Director.  Wow.

11:58 P.M.  Two years too late for “Shame,” but still glad for Steve McQueen.

11:57 P.M.  Brad Pitt, now an Oscar winner.

Chiwetel Ejiofor

11:57 P.M.  BEST PICTURE: “12 YEARS A SLAVE”

11:54 P.M.  YES ALRIGHT ALRIGHT ALRIGHT!

11:52 P.M.  I think Woody Allen got more applause than God, yikes.

11:51 P.M.  I see Matthew McConaughey’s mom, the real star of “Bernie!”

Matthew McConaughey

11:50 P.M.  BEST ACTOR: MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, “DALLAS BUYERS CLUB”

11:47 P.M.  Oh, Cate.  So classy.  And a beautiful dish on “Gravity.”  Muted applause on the mention of Woody Allen, eek.  Thank you so much for calling out Hollywood for not making movies about women and applauding intelligent audiences!

Cate Blanchett

11:44 P.M.  BEST ACTRESS: CATE BLANCHETT, “BLUE JASMINE

Cuaron

11:34 P.M.  BEST DIRECTOR: ALFONSO CUARON, “GRAVITY

11:29 P.M.  So “American Hustle” has now gone from once-frontrunner to completely blanked … it’s not going to win anything left.  GRR!  This reminds me of back in 2009 when “Up in the Air” lost Best Adapted Screenplay.

11:28 P.M.  Nice, short speech – poor Spike Jonze, he should be less humble!

Her Production Design

11:27 P.M.  BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: “HER”

12 Years a Slave

11:24 P.M.  BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: “12 YEARS A SLAVE”

11:18 P.M.  What an awesome speech to their daughters.  Here’s to EGOT for Bobby Lopez!

Let It Go

11:16 P.M.  BEST ORIGINAL SONG: “LET IT GO,” FROZEN

Gravity once more

11:14 P.M.  BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: “GRAVITY

11:07 P.M.  Also, they handled the Sarah Jones controversy nicely.  Forgot to mention.

11:02 P.M.  Ellen’s selfie broke Obama’s record for most retweets!

10:57 P.M.  Wow, we lost some incredible talent from the film industry this year.  Much of them too soon.

10:53 P.M.  In Memoriam, here come the tears…

10:46 P.M.  Of course, the first person on the Chris Evans-introduced montage is … Captain America.

Gatsby sets

10:44 P.M.  BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: THE GREAT GATSBY

10:42 P.M.  Wonderful outfit change, Ellen.

10:34 P.M.  P!nk?!  What the heck?!

10:31 P.M.  THE FIRST OSCAR FOR ALFONSO CUARON!

Gravity Score

10:31 P.M.  BEST FILM EDITING: GRAVITY

10:29 P.M.  Two years too late for “The Tree of Life,” but about time Lubezki gets his Oscar!  (P.S. – Great shout-out by Bill Murray to the late Harold Ramis.)

Gravity Cinematography

10:27 P.M.  BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: “GRAVITY

10:26 P.M.  “Baby, you look like $146 million domestic.”  - Bill Murray, to Amy Adams

10:22 P.M.  Jared Leto giving the pizza to his mom!  Adorable.

10:22 P.M.  Brad Pitt, waiter of the year.

10:16 P.M.  What a beautiful speech by Lupita Nyong’o.  Everyone is so moved, including a teary-eyed Brad Pitt.  BRILLIANT!  Melissa Leo, shame on you.

Lupita

10:14 P.M.  BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: LUPITA NYONG’O, “12 YEARS A SLAVE”

GRAVITY

10:09 P.M.  BEST SOUND EDITING: “GRAVITY

10:07 P.M.  BEST SOUND MIXING: “GRAVITY

10:03 P.M.  THE MOST EPIC SELFIE EVER TAKEN!

9:56 P.M.  The tasteful simplicity of U2 and Karen O makes me realize just how tacky Pharrell was.

The gREAT bEAUTY

9:50 P.M.  BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “THE GREAT BEAUTY

9:43 P.M.  Seriously, why wouldn’t they show the dang Honorary Oscar winners in the crowd?  Ok, one shot of Angelina Jolie…

9:40 P.M.  YES TO THE FRANK UNDERWOOD ACCENT!

9:39 P.M.  Hooray for Darlene Love getting her big moment in the spotlight!  Standing ovation!

9:37 P.M.  BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: “20 FEET FROM STARDOM”

9:35 P.M.  I really want to see this short now.  Like, SO badly.

9:33 P.M.  BEST SHORT FILM (DOCUMENTARY): “THE LADY IN NUMBER 6″

9:31 P.M.  BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION): “HELIUM”

9:24 P.M.  I’m melting, “The Moon Song” is so adorable!

GRAVITY

9:22 P.M.  BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: “GRAVITY

9:18 P.M.  I spent the entire first half of the montage trying to figure out what the song in the montage was … it was the theme song from “Revolutionary Road.”  Ears, why didst thou fail me?

9:16 P.M.  Aww, his son!  Beautiful.

Frozen

9:15 P.M.  BEST ANIMATED FILM: “FROZEN

9:13 P.M.  BEST SHORT FILM – ANIMATED: “MR. HUBLOT”

9:04 P.M.  “American Hustle” should win!!!  Why did Harrison Ford sound so bored?!

Rayon

9:00 P.M. BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: “DALLAS BUYERS CLUB”

Gatsby

8:58 P.M.  BEST COSTUME DESIGN: “THE GREAT GATSBY

8:56 P.M.  Ellen to Jonah Hill: “No, I don’t want to see it.”  Dig this running gag.

8:53 P.M.  Time for a commercial break!  This is like watching “The Wolf of Wall Street” – overwhelming.

8:52 P.M.  Ok, Meryl Streep dancing … joyous.

8:51 P.M.  That hat … Pharrell … stop.

8:47 P.M.  Jim Carrey, you scare me.

8:46 P.M.  Ellen’s picture reminds me of her 2007 shenanigans…

8:45 P.M.  Nice of Leto to go shake Jonah Hill’s hand.  And love the shout-out to Ellen.  But best of all is his heartfelt tribute to his mother!  A beautiful speech that gets political but not too touchy.

Jared Leto

8:42 P.M.  BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: JARED LETO, “DALLAS BUYERS CLUB”

8:40 P.M.  “Possibilty #1: ’12 Years a Slave’ wins Best Picture.  Possbility #2: you’re all racists.” – Ellen

8:37 P.M.  “If you [J-Law] wins, I think we should bring you the Oscar!”- Ellen

8:36 P.M.  So jealous of Nicholas Hoult right now…

8:35 P.M.  “One of the nominees is ‘Her,’ and by ‘her,’ I mean Meryl Streep.” – Ellen

8:33 P.M.  “Movies offer us an escape.”  Gulp.  THEY OFFER SO MUCH MORE!

8:32 P.M.  Aww, June Squibb!  Come on, Ellen, that’s kind of mean…

8:30 P.M.  Ellen in pantsuit, called it.

8:23 P.M.  So close!

8:11 P.M.  The fashion winners, because obviously:

Lupita Nyong'o

JLaw red carpet

June Squibb

June Squibb is just too awesome!

8:03 P.M.  And once again, I have mistaken the ending of E!’s program for the start of the ceremony.  Classic!

8:00 P.M.  BEST PICTURE AND BEST DIRECTOR WHAT IT CAN’T BE TIME TO PREDICT THOSE NO NO NO

Gravity

Best Director

Will win: Alfonso Cuarón, “Gravity
Could win: Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”
Should win: David O. Russell, “American Hustle”
Should be nominated: Sarah Polley, “Stories We Tell

The passion project 4 years in the making gives Cuarón an easy win.

Best Picture

Will win: “Gravity
Could win: “12 Years a Slave”
Should win: “American Hustle”
Should be nominated: “Spring Breakers”

I go “Gravity” because it’s going to win everything else, it’s never wise to split Best Picure/Director, and I think people might be over-manufacturing the whole need for “12 Years a Slave” to win.  I keep reading that people will not watch it.  So I give the edge to “Gravity.”

And in case you missed the thread running through this post, “Spring Breakers” should be making a huge appearance in these awards if justice had been served this year.

7:54 P.M.  Supporting categories – one easy, one that’s so tight I’m still agonizing about it.

Best Supporting Actor

Will win: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Could win: Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”
Should win: Bradley Cooper, “American Hustle”
Should be nominated: James Franco, “Spring Breakers”

Leto wins this one easily.  Too bad for Fassbender and Cooper.

Best Supporting Actress

Will win: Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
Could win: Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”
Should win: Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”
Should be nominated: Emma Watson, “The Bling Ring

I give Nyong’o the edge since J-Law won last year, and “12 Years a Slave” is more of a threat to win Best Picture.  But I honestly don’t know!

7:46 P.M.  Leading actor categories!  The time is coming, I can barely type straight!

6) Blue Jasmine

Best Actress

Will win: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine
Could win: Amy Adams, “American Hustle”
Should win: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine
Should be nominated: Berenice Bejo, “The Past”

No-brainer.  Maybe Adams surprises, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.  Amy Adams will win on her next nomination, I bet.

Best Actor

Will win: Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Could win: Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street
Should win: Bruce Dern, “Nebraska
Should be nominated: Robert Redford, “All Is Lost”

McConaughey walks away with this one … alright, alright, alright.

7:40 P.M.  Can’t believe I’m already at the screenplays!!!  Ahhh we’re getting close!

Bale Hustle

Best Original Screenplay

Will win: “American Hustle”
Could win: “Her”
Should win: “American Hustle”
Should be nominated: “Inside Llewyn Davis”

I’m hoping that David O. Russell gets his first Oscar win in this category, though Spike Jonze could get his first here too.  The love for “American Hustle” ran deeper than “Her,” so that broke the tie.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Will win: “12 Years a Slave”
Could win: “Philomena
Should win: “Philomena
Should be nominated: “Lone Survivor

The only no-brainer for “12 Years a Slave” of the night.

7:30 P.M.  J.Law just tripped on the red carpet!!! She’s my idol.

7:25 P.M.  Cate Blanchett’s a little out on a limb with that dress, but she still looks stunning.  Anyways, got to crank out more predictions!

Best Film Editing

Will win: “Captain Phillips
Could win: “Gravity
Should win: “American Hustle”
Should be nominated: “Spring Breakers”

Tom Hanks

I think the more traditionally edited “Captain Phillips” prevails here over the minimally edited “Gravity.”  But it could easily sweep the techs.

7:21 P.M.  Ok, finishing out the tech categories … I actually hadn’t even made up my mind before writing this, so here we go!

Best Production Design

Will win: “The Great Gatsby
Could win: “Gravity
Should win: “Her”
Should be nominated: “Inside Llewyn Davis”

I assume the opulence of “The Great Gatsby” wins out here, but I think “Gravity” or “Her” could surprise.

Best Costume Design

Will win: “American Hustle”
Could win: “The Great Gatsby
Should win: “American Hustle”
Should be nominated: “Her”

1) American Hustle

This is a bit of a guess.  I love what the threads of “American Hustle” said about the characters, though the more traditionally elaborate work on “The Great Gatsby” or “The Invisible Woman” could easily win.

7:08 P.M.  If only someone foreign had arrived for me to usher in my prediction for Best Foreign Film…

Best Foreign Language Film

Will win: “The Great Beauty
Could win: “The Hunt
Should win: “The Hunt
Should be nominated: “The Past”

9) The Hunt

As much as I’d love to see “The Hunt” happen, 21 months after I first saw it in Cannes, I think the Oscars are going to succumb to the opulence of “The Great Beauty.”  Funny, last year at Cannes it had no buzz upon its premiere…

7:06 P.M.  Jared Leto and June Squibb, officially dating – you heard it first on E!

7:05 P.M.  June Squibb, so adorable!

7:04 P.M.  Now that Naomi Watts has arrived, it seems like a good time to predict Best Hair and Makeup.  (Bit of a non-sequitur, but who cares?)

Best Hair and Makeup

Will win: “Dallas Buyers Club”
Could win: “Bad Grandpa”
Should win: “Dallas Buyers Club”
Should be nominated: “American Hustle”

I think voters will be too embarrassed to vote for one of the other two nominees.  “Dallas Buyers Club” seemed to have enough love across the board to score here.  Surprisingly, its makeup budget was $250.

7:00 P.M.  Ok, let’s get the “Gravity” awards – I mean, the technical awards – predicted.  P.S. Lupita Nyong’o, you are adorable.

Best Cinematography

Will win: “Gravity
Could win: “Inside Llewyn Davis”
Should win: “Gravity
Should be nominated: “12 Years a Slave”

Sandra Bullock in Gravity

Emmanuel Lubezki will finally get his due, redeeming his snub for “The Tree of Life.”  Maybe next year for Roger Deakins…

Best Visual Effects

Will win: “Gravity
Could win: no one
Should win: “Gravity
Should be nominated: “The Great Gatsby

Duh.

6:51 P.M.   Pharrell Williams … in shorts?!  What?!

Also, Cate Blanchett, why did you have to be so good that I can’t root unequivocally for Amy Adams?!  Ok, more predictions.

Best Animated Film

Will win: “Frozen
Could win: “The Wind Rises”
Should win: abstain
Should be nominated: “Monsters University

Another no-brainer.  Maybe Miyazaki love surprises, but “Frozen” is too big of a hit to deny.

Best Documentary Feature

Will win: “20 Feet from Stardom
Could win: “The Act of Killing
Should win: “The Square”
Should be nominated: “Stories We Tell

Similar to the above category, crowd-pleaser over intellectualism.  Still so bitter that “Stories We Tell” isn’t here.

6:40 P.M.  Jason Sudeikis and Olivia Wilde, still one of the more puzzling Hollywood couples.

6:34 P.M.  In keeping with the theme of sound, here are my predictions for the sound categories.

Best Sound Mixing/Editing

Will win: “Gravity
Could win: “Lone Survivor”
Should win: “Gravity
Should be nominated: “Spring Breakers”

I know these categories are separate, but “Gravity” is easily going to win them both.  (For those curious about the difference, sound mixing is the adjustment of sound levels and sound editing is the creation of sound.  At least I think…)

SoundWorks Collection: The Sound of Gravity from Michael Coleman on Vimeo.

6:28 P.M.  HOT DAMN AMY ADAMS!!!

6:26 P.M.  More music predictions as I hear Pharrell’s “Happy” in the Fiat commercial.

Best Original Score

Will win: “Gravity
Could win: “Philomena
Should win: “Gravity
Should be nominated: “Spring Breakers”

The sonic experience of “Gravity” will probably go for 3-for-3.  Maybe Alexander Desplat finally gets his moment in the sun (much needed since “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button“) but the time doesn’t feel right.

6:20 P.M.  So I just mistook Portia Di Rossi for Helen Mirren … yikes.  So how about another prediction?!

Best Original Song

Will win: “Let It Go,” Frozen
Could win: “Happy,” Despicable Me 2
Should win: “The Moon Song,” Her
Should be nominated: “Young and Beautiful,” The Great Gatsby

Mega-hit “Frozen” ought to run away with this category, which has two chart-toppers gunning for Oscar gold.  Though I’d love to see Karen O surprise and earn Spike Jonze his first Oscar.  (Maybe if the newest version was in the film, it would have had a better chance.)

6:14 P.M.  Viola Davis, so classy.  You rock.

5:53 P.M.  Come on, celebs, show up already!

5:41 P.M.  I’m going to go ahead and log my first set of predictions.  Might as well get the ball rolling.

Best Short Film (Live Action/Animated/Documentary)

Will win: “Helium,” “Get a Horse,” “The Lady in Number 6″

I made an effort to go see the shorts this year, but I was thwarted by bad weather.  These are the general consensus across the Internet.

5:38 P.M.  Watching Dave Karger dumb down his Oscar picks for the E! crowd is amusing.

5:30 P.M.  Time to start the Oscars LIVE BLOG!  The red carpet has begun on E!  (I’m a little later than normal this year, my apologies for anyone who was really hoping for extremely early coverage.)





LISTFUL THINKING: 2013 Superlatives

2 03 2014

It’s hard to believe every year (though perhaps not as hard this year given the prolonged season), but it’s time to close the book on 2013 in film.  The Oscars will have their say, and then history will either smile or frown on their decision.  No matter the outcome, tonight ought to be an exciting exclamation point on a fantastic year in film.   But remember, their favorite movie does not do anything to change YOUR favorite and whatever it may mean to you.

So in that spirit, I give out my superlatives, both the good, the bad, and everything in between!

MOVIES

Amy Adams

The Best

  1. “American Hustle”
  2. Stories We Tell
  3. “Spring Breakers”
  4. “The Past”
  5. “Inside Llewyn Davis”
  6. Blue Jasmine
  7. Philomena
  8. “12 Years a Slave”
  9. The Hunt
  10. “Enough Said”

Spectacular Now

The Worst

  1. Post Tenebras Lux
  2. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
  3. The Butler
  4. The Hangover Part III
  5. Jobs
  6. The Internship
  7. Prince Avalanche
  8. See Girl Run
  9. The Spectacular Now
  10. Man of Steel

The Purge

Surprising

  1. Philomena
  2. The Purge
  3. Drinking Buddies
  4. “Spring Breakers”
  5. Stories We Tell

Anchorman 2

Disappointing

  1. The Hangover Part III
  2. Only God Forgives
  3. Gangster Squad
  4. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
  5. Trance

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY

Forgettable

  1. What Maisie Knew
  2. “Cutie & The Boxer”
  3. The Invisible Woman
  4. “Stoker”
  5. Violet & Daisy
  6. “Parkland”
  7. Admission
  8. The Company You Keep
  9. The Iceman
  10. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Emma Watson in The Bling Ring

Rewatchable

  1. “American Hustle”
  2. “Spring Breakers”
  3. The Bling Ring
  4. “Enough Said”
  5. Blue Jasmine

Before Midnight

Glad to See Once … But Never Again

  1. The Wolf of Wall Street
  2. Fruitvale Station
  3. Lone Survivor
  4. Before Midnight
  5. Blackfish

Gatsby

Underrated

  1. The Great Gatsby
  2. Lone Survivor
  3. “The Book Thief”
  4. The Way Way Back
  5. The Kings of Summer

Blue is the Warmest

Overrated

  1. The Act of Killing
  2. Blue is the Warmest Color
  3. Mud
  4. 20 Feet From Stardom
  5. Gravity

Frances Ha

Better Over Time

  1. Blue Jasmine
  2. “Inside Llewyn Davis”
  3. “Spring Breakers”
  4. “The Past”
  5. Frances Ha

The Place Beyond the Pines

Worse Over Time

  1. Fruitvale Station
  2. The Spectacular Now
  3. “To The Wonder”
  4. The Place Beyond the Pines
  5. The Butler

Catching Fire

Felt Shorter

  1. “American Hustle”
  2. “12 Years a Slave”
  3. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  4. “Enough Said”
  5. “Warm Bodies”

Man of Steel

Felt Longer

  1. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
  2. The Act of Killing
  3. The Great Beauty
  4. Man of Steel
  5. I’m So Excited

ACTING

Inside Llewyn Davis

Breakout Performances

  1. Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
  2. Oscar Isaac, “Inside Llewyn Davis”
  3. Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips
  4. Brie Larson, “Short Term 12″
  5. Tye Sheridan, “Mud

The Way Way Back

Breakthrough Performances

  1. Greta Gerwig, “Frances Ha
  2. Joel Edgerton, “The Great Gatsby
  3. Dane DeHaan, “The Place Beyond the Pines
  4. Olivia Wilde, “Drinking Buddies
  5. Sam Rockwell, “The Way Way Back

Sean Penn and Josh Brolin

Breakdown Performances

  1. Sean Penn, “Gangster Squad
  2. Jonah Hill, “The Wolf of Wall Street
  3. Rachel Weisz, “Oz the Great and Powerful”
  4. Ashton Kutcher, “Jobs
  5. John Goodman, “The Hangover Part III

McConaughey

Best Body of Work

Matthew McConaughey, “Mud“/”Dallas Buyers Club”/”The Wolf of Wall Street

Worst Body of Work

Michael Shannon, “The Iceman“/”Man of Steel

Identity Thief

Most Similar Body of Work

  1. Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Great Gatsby“/”The Wolf of Wall Street
  2. Melissa McCarthy, “Identity Thief“/”The Hangover Part III“/”The Heat

This is the End

Most Disparate Body of Work

  1. James Franco, “Oz the Great and Powerful”/”Spring Breakers”/”This Is The End“/”As I Lay Dying”
  2. Bradley Cooper, “The Place Beyond the Pines“/”The Hangover Part III“/”American Hustle”

Nail polish

Best Ensemble

“American Hustle”

Worst Ensemble

“Oz the Great and Powerful”

Kristin Scott Thomas in Only God Forgives

Best Performance in a Bad Movie

Kristin Scott Thomas, “Only God Forgives

Worst Performance in a Good Movie

Paul Dano, “12 Years a Slave”

Olaf

Needed More Screen Time

  1. Carey Mulligan, “Inside Llewyn Davis”
  2. Josh Gad, “Frozen
  3. Matthew McConaughey, “The Wolf of Wall Street
  4. Emma Watson, “This Is The End“/”The Bling Ring
  5. June Squibb, “Nebraska

Oprah

Needed Less Screen Time

  1. Colin Farrell, “Saving Mr. Banks
  2. Steve Carell, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
  3. Terrence Howard, “The Butler
  4. Olivia Wilde, “Rush
  5. Ken Jeong, “The Hangover Part III

Blue Jasmine

Most Obvious Casting

  1. Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine
  2. Emma Thompson, “Saving Mr. Banks
  3. Sean Penn, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  4. Tina Fey, “Admission
  5. Shailene Woodley, “The Spectacular Now

Least Obvious Casting

  1. Will Forte, “Nebraska
  2. Ellen Page, “The East
  3. Amy Adams,”Man of Steel
  4. Sandra Bullock, “Gravity
  5. Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”

Most Random Casting

  1. Taran Killam, “12 Years a Slave”
  2. Catherine Keener, “Captain Phillips
  3. Jerry Ferrara, “Lone Survivor
  4. Spike Jonze, “The Wolf of Wall Street
  5. Christopher Meloni, “Man of Steel

7) Philomena

Best Hero

Judi Dench, “Philomena

df-26130_lg

Worst Hero

Forest Whitaker, “The Butler

Fassbender

Best Villain

Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”

Worst Villain

Guy Pearce, “Iron Man 3

JLaw AH

Best Comedic Performance

Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”

Worst Comedic Performance

Zach Galifianakis, “The Hangover Part III

Best Cameo

(tie) Channing Tatum, “This Is The End” and Robert DeNiro, “American Hustle”

Worst Cameo

Leonard Nimoy, “Star Trek Into Darkness

OTHERS

Abdi

Best Lines

  1. “Look at all my s–t!” – Spring Breakers
  2. “Maybe all we have in life are poisonous, f—ed up choices.” – American Hustle
  3. “I wanna rob.” – The Bling Ring
  4. “I’m the captain now.” – Captain Phillips
  5. “Take yo panties off!” – This Is The End

5) Inside Llewyn Davis

Best Singing

  1. Oscar Isaac, “Hang Me, Oh, Hang Me,” Inside Llewyn Davis
  2. Keith Stanfield, “So You Know What It’s Like,” Short Term 12
  3. Craig Robinson feat. Rihanna, “Take Yo Panties Off,” This Is The End
  4. Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak, “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” Saving Mr. Banks
  5. “Baby One More Time,” Spring Breakers

Best Worst Singing

  1. James Franco, “Everytime,” Spring Breakers

Best Karaoke

  1. Jennifer Lawrence, “Live and Let Die,” American Hustle

Worst Karaoke

  1. Ken Jeong, “Hurt,” The Hangover Part III

American Hustle

Best Music Montage

  1. “I Can’t Stop,” The Great Gatsby
  2. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” American Hustle
  3. “Modern Love,” Frances Ha
  4. “Crown on the Ground,” The Bling Ring
  5. “The Moon Song,” Her

Worst Music Montage

“Mrs. Robinson,” The Wolf of Wall Street





REVIEW: Lone Survivor

29 01 2014

There’s no sugar-coating or sanitization of the conflict in Afghanistan to be found in Peter Berg’s “Lone Survivor.”  His adaptation of Marcus Luttrell’s memoir of pulls no punches in its visceral portrayal of the unlikely triumph of one man over relentless enemies and harsh earth.

Despite the film’s ultimate resolution being implied in the title, the action is always gripping and engrossing.  Berg’s riveting handheld camerawork ensures that we’re buckled in to feel every moment leading up to the climax.  Every fall down a cliff, every bullet entry wound piercing flesh, and every last dying breath lands deeply in the gut with tremendous force.  When coupled with masterfully precise sound mixing and editing, “Lone Survivor” has the impact of a film like “127 Hours.”

It’s not all about the action, however.  Perhaps the biggest testament the effectiveness of Berg’s multifaceted approach to “Lone Survivor” is that the film’s most nail-biting scene comes not in combat but in a moral debate.  As Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg) and his SEAL recon team (Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster) weight the respective merits of killing three of their prisoners to save their own hide or letting them go and risking their own lives, a quintessential problem for America in contemporary geopolitics becomes an immediately necessary quandary to mull over.

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REVIEW: The Invisible Woman

28 01 2014

The Invisible WomanLondon Film Festival

I generally try to avoid Victorian-era costume dramas as I usually find them quite stuffy and more attentive to the threads of the clothes than the threads of the story.  I didn’t need a reminder of their mediocrity, but Ralph Fiennes’ “The Invisible Woman” provided one for me anyways.  For nearly two hours, I endured the screen as a runway for the fashions of two-centuries past while a story played out in the background.

Abi Morgan, writer of films as brilliant as “Shame” and as dull as “The Iron Lady,” veers closer to the latter with her script for “The Invisible Woman.”  The movie tells the story of Charles Dickens’ mistress, Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones).  She’s supposedly the true love of his life and an inspiration to his work, but it’s hard to feel any affection for Ternan from Jones’ performance.

Jones is as inaccessible here as she was in the brutal ultra-indie “Like Crazy.”  Ternan shows little emotion throughout the film save a scene where she walks alone on an expansive beach.  Though her silence does reflect the Victorian social norms, it makes for a tough watch with such a distant protagonist.

Fiennes’ Dickens becomes infatuated with Ternan while she is little more than an attractive wallflower in the background of a theatrical production.  They carry out an extended affair in the shadows, as both must protect their reputations, him as a public figure and her as a lady.  I felt as if  “The Invisible Woman” was pulling me to pull for Ternan, but I ultimately sympathized most with Dickens’ matronly wife Catherine.

I guess maybe you ought to call me a Victorian with that set of morals pulling for the married couple over what might be classified as love.  If I admit it, can I stop watching movies set in that era though?  C+2stars





REVIEW: Labor Day

27 01 2014

London Film Festival

I’ve made no effort to hide my love of writer/director Jason Reitman. With each of his first four films, I’ve been impressed with his ability to push himself in terms of tone, characterization, and style. Reitman is the first director that I have followed critically since the beginning of his career, and I have truly enjoyed watching him evolve before my eyes.

His fifth feature, an adaptation of Joyce Maynard’s novel “Labor Day,” shows perhaps the biggest stride in his visual storytelling to date. The film boasts impressive atmospheric editing with some eerie impressionistic flashbacks. His sets and staging seem much more delicately composed here, as does the cinematography.

Yet with this step forward, the bedrock of his past films – the characters and the script – take two big steps back. The narrative is essentially stillborn, providing us with three high-strung characters but little accompanying plot tension.

Labor Day” is an odd fit for Reitman’s talents as shown by his previous films, although it’s hard to fault a director willing to go this far out of their comfort zone. The story follows the odd events in 1987 that unfold when the withdrawn Adele (Kate Winslet) takes her son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) to the grocery store … and they come back home with the escaped convict Frank Chambers (Josh Brolin). At first, they appear to be his hostages, but Frank and Adele fall into an odd romance that soothes the sores of their troubled pasts.

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REVIEW: Gimme Shelter

26 01 2014

Gimme ShelterFor a brief interlude in “Gimme Shelter,” James Earl Jones appears as a hospital chaplain.  You read that right: the James Earl Jones, no confusion such as there might be with the directors named Paul Anderson (Paul Thomas made “The Master” while Paul W.S. made the “Resident Evil” franchise).  We’re talking the James Earl Jones with the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award.

Jones’ inclusion in the film’s cast is one of many touches director Ronald Krauss adds to “Gimme Shelter” to increase its credibility and reach.  A name like Jones lends prestige to a project, and a star like Vanessa Hudgens has the potential to open up an audience of younger viewers that a film about teenage homelessness and pregnancy might not have otherwise.

But all these flourishes meant to endow legitimacy to “Gimme Shelter” only serve to emphasize the disparity between its ambitions and what it is actually capable of achieving.  Though it aims for the nitty-gritty reality of contemporary homelessness, Krauss is really only working with a Lifetime movie-quality script.

Moreover, the drama falls consistently flat.  It’s really a shame as I don’t think Krauss and his cast were truly attempting to turn real-life struggle into pure kitsch.  Hudgens certainly cares for her character Apple, transforming herself physically and accessing some very dark emotional places to convey some searing pain.  But neither she or Ann Dowd (on a career upswing after her fantastic turn in “Compliance“), who plays the saintly Kathy DiFiore with grace, can escape the mire of the cliché-riddled script.

The campy drama detracts from the real problems that “Gimme Shelter” raises.  But issues dramas should do more than just portray a tough subject; they ought to call us to action.  And rather than compel me to immediately help the homeless, the film just drove me to laugh at Vanessa Hudgens trying to outact James Earl Jones from her hospital bed.  She’s the best thing about the movie, to be sure, but that does not mean she can take down Darth Vader and Mufasa.  C2stars





REVIEW: Nebraska

25 01 2014

Cannes Film Festival – Official Competition

It’s tempting to analyze frequent writer/directors like Alexander Payne, Jason Reitman, and Noah Baumbach as if both their contributions to a film are dependent upon each other. Especially for someone like me who values the power of the written word, it’s easy to think that a good script might just direct itself.

Nebraska,” a film directed but not written by Alexander Payne, offered a unique chance to observe his helming prowess independent of his writing. As it turns out, maybe I’m a bigger fan of Payne’s writing than I am of his directing. Payne’s critical stance towards his native Midwest almost seems to be working against the gentle tenderness of Bob Nelson’s script.

Payne’s previous scripts have all had a certain kind of bite to them. Perhaps that comes with the territory, though, as they mostly explore people going through crises – midlife, old age, the death of a spouse. “Nebraska” is remarkably simple, a tale of a grown son indulging his demented father in a road trip to claim a million dollar Publisher’s Clearinghouse prize.

For such a quaint tale, it’s refreshing to see a cast so free of pre-existing iconography assembled for “Nebraska.”  Perennial character actor Bruce Dern stars as Woody Grant, a patriarch of no particular distinction other than his unrecognized charity.  He’s calculatedly remote, both out of learned habit and elderly retreat.  Woody is often absent, but Dern is always present, making his character most alive in those dead moments.  It’s fascinating to watch the way he slowly reveals what Woody has mostly kept silent for years to a son with whom he’s not particularly close.

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