Oscar Moment: Final 2012 Predictions, Part 2 (Supporting)

6 01 2013

With the 2012 Oscar race now immobile until nominations are announced Thursday morning, January 10, now it’s time to take one last look at the contenders and the pretenders before the dust settles.  Today, I’ll be looking at Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress, two categories replete with former winners and nominees all vying for Oscar glory.

See my predictions for Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Anne Hathaway, “Les Misérables
  2. Sally Field, “Lincoln
  3. Helen Hunt, “The Sessions
  4. Amy Adams, “The Master
  5. Nicole Kidman, “The Paperboy

The race is Anne Hathaway’s to lose, and I’d be amazed if she did.  Even though so many critics are against “Les Misérables,” few can deny the power of her performance.  Some of the snootier groups have snubbed her, but take a look at this impressive domination of the category!

Hathaway Dominance

Safe to say, wins from the Critics’ Choice Awards, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards should lead her charge to take the stage at the Kodak Theatre.  Or they will hear the people scream.

FYC Anne HathawayAlthough, in the event of a “Lincoln” sweep (and me sticking my head in an oven), Sally Field could go 3-for-3 and win here for “Lincoln.”  She’s certainly had her fair share of recognition along the precursor circuit, including a high-profile win from the New York Critics’ Circle.

But in a year that could crown Daniel Day-Lewis (and maybe Robert DeNiro) a three-time champion, people will be aware that they would be ranking Field in an elite pantheon with Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, I bet they think twice and vote Hathaway.

Or maybe they vote Hunt, who’s all but assured a nomination for her work in “The Sessions.”  It’s the kind of role the Oscars eat up (good-hearted woman who likes to let loose), and the Best Actress of 1997 for “As Good As It Gets” has picked up the Big 3 nominations (Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe, SAG) along the way.  I think lukewarm support for the movie hurts her chances to win.  So does the fact that she’s competing against Anne Freaking Hathaway.

Beyond Hathaway, Field, and Hunt, the other two nominations are pretty much up for grabs.  The way I see it, there are 3 women vying for those two spots are Amy Adams for “The Master,” Maggie Smith for “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” and Nicole Kidman for “The Paperboy.”  Each has missed a key stop on the circuit: Adams crucially at SAG, Smith with the Globes and Critics’ Choice, and Kidman only with Critics’ Choice.

The PaperboyOn paper, the smart money would be on Nicole Kidman to snag a nomination.  SAG is always the best indicator of actors’ sentiment, and she also has a key Globe nod.

But the Golden Globes are notorious for sucking up to stars so they have to show up to the ceremony.  They are also notable for having many favorite actresses who seem to get nominated for just about anything they do, and this goes well beyond your obvious Meryl Streep.  Nicole Kidman has been nominated for a whopping 10 Golden Globes and has won 3.  So I take their nomination with a grain of salt.

SAG also usually throws a major out-of-left-field nominee into the fray, which at first sight could be considered Kidman.  (Then again, since Maggie Smith has shown up nowhere else, maybe that would be her.)  Last year, it was Armie Hammer for “J. Edgar,” although most thought it was Demian Bichir for “A Better Life” … until he got an Oscar nomination.  In 2010, it was Hilary Swank for “Conviction.”  2009 gave us Diane Kruger for “Inglourious Basterds.”

But “The Paperboy” is, well, quite frankly a bad movie.  And a part of me thinks the Academy will recoil at just how trashy and terrible it is.  There’s certainly precedent for an actor being nominated for a bad movie: Cate Blanchett got a Best Actress nomination for “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” which had a 35% on Rotten Tomatoes, and Sean Penn was nominated for the 34% fresh “I Am Sam.”  “The Paperboy” currently sits at 39%.

I predicted the snob factor would keep out Melissa McCarthy of “Bridesmaids” last year because she was crass and defecated in a sink.  I was wrong.  McCarthy didn’t even have the Globe nod that Kidman earned.  So, with that in mind, I will predict Nicole Kidman to get a bizarre Best Supporting Actress nomination for a role that involves her urinating on Zac Efron’s face.

The other spot, I believe, will go to Amy Adams for “The Master.”  Yes, the SAG snub hurt.  But she’s a new Academy darling, garnering three Best Supporting Actress nominations in six years.  And I’ll continue to assert that the Academy, though perhaps not quite ready to anoint her with a statue quite yet, wants to increase the inevitability of her win.  At four nominations, the cries of “why hasn’t she won yet?” will grow louder and louder.

Best ExoticAlthough don’t get me wrong, maybe they will not go with a perennial Oscar bridesmaid but rather a crowned Oscar queen.

Two-time winner Maggie Smith’s SAG nod makes her a formidable foe, though the fact that the Globes didn’t nominate her is troubling.  They were big fans of “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” nominating it for Best Picture (musical/comedy) and Judi Dench for Best Actress.  If they loved it so much, where was Maggie Smith?  I suspect SAG got sentimental for a more senior member, like they did in 2010 for Robert Duvall in “Get Low.”

Another possibility I wouldn’t count out is Judi Dench for “Skyfall.”  It’s a sentimental swan song for Dench in the M role, and it will be one of her final roles since she’s going blind.  She won in 1998 for “Shakespeare in Love,” which she was in for all of six minutes.  In this meaty, tragic role, could the Academy be won over?  The BFCA was and gave her a Critics’ Choice Award nomination, although that was in a field of six.  I don’t think Dench is out of the question, but I would still be shocked if she cracked this field.

The BFCA also nominated Ann Dowd of “Compliance,” a character actor who has paid her dues … and now is paying for her own campaign.  She won Best Supporting Actress from the National Board of Review, although that group has faded in relevancy since they are no longer first out of the gate.  Perhaps a surprise nomination is in store for a hard-working non-star, in the Demian Bichir/Richard Jenkins mold?  A more relevant precedent, however, might be Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom.”  However, she had the awards machine of Sony Pictures Classics working for her all fall.

But I’m sticking with Adams and Kidman.  I don’t have strong enough of a gut feeling to predict Dench or Dowd, and I don’t think Smith has enough heat to make it in the field.

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Robert DeNiro, “Silver Linings Playbook
  2. Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln
  3. Alan Arkin, “Argo
  4. Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master
  5. Javier Bardem, “Skyfall

Arkin

There are four set nominees in the field: DeNiro, Jones, Arkin, and Hoffman.  The latter three all scored the trifecta of nods from the BFCA, SAG, and HFPA, which essentially assures them nominations.  Last year saw two such actors, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tilda Swinton, get snubbed by the Academy.  I can’t pinpoint precisely why they got knocked out other than a strong field for DiCaprio in Best Actor and a strong competitor for Tilda Swinton in Rooney Mara.

The person I would assume is in the worst position is Philip Seymour Hoffman for “The Master” since it isn’t a slam-dunk Best Picture nominee like DeNiro, Jones, and Arkin’s movies are.  But Hoffman, the movie’s only SAG nominee, appears to be the one performance everyone can line up behind for the film.  And he’s been nominated for movies that did not play well with the Academy at large, as demonstrated by his nod for 2007′s “Charlie Wilson’s War.”

Argue as you might about the former being a sure thing because he missed out on a Golden Globe nomination, but watch his acceptance of their highest honor, the CecilB. DeMille.  Now tell me if you think the voting body of less than 100 would want to nominate someone after he essentially slapped them in the face a la Ricky Gervais?

If he’s nominated, I think DeNiro could win.  Though he has won twice, he hasn’t been nominated in two decades.  There’s a comeback narrative for one of the greatest actors of our time, and it may be too soon for Arkin and Hoffman to win again.  In the event of a “Lincoln” sweep, a rising tide could lift all ships including that of Tommy Lee Jones.

But who gets the fifth slot to compete against these four prior winners?  I had hoped it would be Eddie Redmayne or Russell Crowe for “Les Misérables,” but those are highly unlikely now.  If they were to pop up, put all your money on “Les Misérables” to win Best Picture.

Magic MikeCould it be Critics’ Choice nominee Matthew McConaughey for “Magic Mike?”  He’s had quite the career turnaround in 2012, and a nomination would be a nice pat on the back.  A nomination would be in the pattern of Robert Downey, Jr. in 2008 for “Tropic Thunder,” another unconventional comedic role from a resurgent actor.

McConaughey is unlikely, however, because the SAG Awards and Golden Globes overlooked him, two groups key to making people take Downey, Jr. seriously.  Though he won prestigious prizes from the New York Film Critics’ Circle and the National Society of Film Critics, McConaughey might have to wait until next year for his shot at Oscar glory.  Something tells me his massive weight loss for “The Dallas Buyer’s Club” is screaming Oscars 2013.

SAG didn’t leave off Javier Bardem for “Skyfall,” on the other hand.  Bardem, himself a prior winner in the category, would fit right in with the rest of the nominees.  His Silva from the movie would be the first Bond villain ever to be nominated for an Oscar, and though I was averse to his creepiness, others don’t seem to share my reservations.

Villains have been dominating the Best Supporting Actor category since Bardem’s win for “No Country for Old Men” in 2007.  There was Heath Ledger’s posthumous win for “The Dark Knight” and Christoph Waltz’s victory for “Inglourious Basterds.”  We’ve also seen nominations for Josh Brolin’s murderous monster in “Milk,” Stanley Tucci’s creepy rapist in “The Lovely Bones,” and Jeremy Renner’s tough-as-nails Jem from “The Town.”  Being bad has never been so good.

But the same argument could be made for Leonardo DiCaprio’s vile slave owner Calvin Candie in “Django Unchained.”  Tarantino wrote the despicable Hans Landa, the character that won Christoph Waltz an Oscar.  Could he earn DiCaprio his fourth Oscar nomination – or perhaps his first win?  I’d love to see it, but I’m worried about vote-splitting between DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz, back in the race for a character in “Django Unchained” not all that different than his Oscar-winning Hans Landa.

DjangoBoth DiCaprio and Waltz received nominations from the Golden Globes, but neither showed up on the Critics’ Choice list nor the SAG.  The latter can be explained by a lack of screeners being sent to the nominating committee, but the former is troubling.  I considered “Django Unchained” to be a non-factor in the season until it found some very vocal critical supporters and a large audience.  So I have to think at least one actor from the movie will show up, but I don’t think there’s a consensus on who that should be.

Waltz has won from a number of critics’ groups across the country, but none of them are particularly worth noting.  DiCaprio won from the National Board of Review, which is a far more significant accolade than anything Waltz has received.  If it was just Waltz from “Django Unchained” that DiCaprio had to contend with, I would predict him to receive his first Oscar nod since 2006′s “Blood Diamond.”  But there’s also Samuel L. Jackson from the movie, and many people are also a big fan of his performance.

Had “Django Unchained” unfurled earlier in the season, perhaps there would have been time for consensus to form around one actor.  DiCaprio could have helped himself by doing some press for the movie, yet he’s been remarkably silent.  The moment just doesn’t feel right for him either; I suspect 2013 will be more fortuitous for him with a juicy role in ‘The Great Gatsby” and another re-teaming with Martin Scorsese in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

So, in the absence of consensus, I think vote splitting will knock out all Tarantino’s performers, paving the way for Javier Bardem’s fourth Oscar nomination.

Check back tomorrow, January 7, for my final predictions in the leading acting categories!





LISTFUL THINKING: 2012 Superlatives

1 01 2013

New Year’s Day always marks a very interesting balancing act, reflecting on the old while also ringing in the new.  So while people are still thinking about 2012, let me offer up the first annual Superlatives post for the films of 2012.  I’ve already weighed in with the best and worst 10 of 2012, but what about the other 80 movies of the year?  What about the performances?  What about all sorts of other things?  This is the post where I get all sorts of stuff floating in my mind out there.

For the sake of review, I’ll go ahead and re-list my 10 best and worst of 2012.

Top 10 of 2012

10 Best of 2012: “21 Jump Street,” “Argo,” “Hitchcock,” “Killing Them Softly,” “Looper,” “Bernie,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Les Misérables,” “The Master,” “The Queen of Versailles

Prometheus

Honorable Mentions: “Rust and Bone,” “Prometheus,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Wreck-It Ralph,” “End of Watch,” “Holy Motors

Worst 10 of 2012

10 Worst of 2012: “The Grey,” “The Bourne Legacy,” “John Carter,” “Gone,” “The Vow,” “Killer Joe,” “The Paperboy,” “The Deep Blue Sea,” “The Watch,” “Casa De Mi Padre

pitchperfect2

Honorable Mentions: “Pitch Perfect,” “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap,” “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” “First Position,” “Keep the Lights On,” “Being Flynn

10 More 2012 Releases I Still Need to See: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” “The Impossible,” “Promised Land,” “The Intouchables,” “Seven Psychopaths,” “Hyde Park on Hudson,” “Not Fade Away,” “Smashed,” “The House I Live In,” “Searching for Sugar Man”

Vanellope

5 Most Surprising Movies of 2012: “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Bernie,” “End of Watch,” “Hitchcock,” “21 Jump Street

Denzel Washington in Flight

5 Most Disappointing Movies of 2012: “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Django Unchained,” “Lincoln,” “Flight,” “The Bourne Legacy

Bachelorette

10 Most Forgettable Movies of 2012 (in alphabetical order): “Bachelorette,” “Hysteria,” “Jeff, Who Lives at Home,” “Lola Versus,” “Man on a Ledge,” “Men in Black III,” “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,” “Take This Waltz,” “Trouble with the Curve

Silver Linings Playbook

5 Most Rewatchable Movies of 2012: “21 Jump Street,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Argo,” “Ted

Lincoln

5 Movies of 2012 I’m Glad I Saw But Will Never Watch Again: “Lincoln,” “Amour,” “The Invisible War,” “Compliance,” “ReGeneration

Killing Them Softly

5 Most Underrated Movies of 2012: “Killing Them Softly,” “Les Misérables,” “Prometheus,” “Safety Not Guaranteed,” “End of Watch

The Avengers

5 Most Overrated Movies of 2012: “The Sessions,” “Lincoln,” “Django Unchained,” “Life of Pi,” “The Avengers

PSH

5 Movies That Got Better with Distance and Time: “Killing Them Softly,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “The Master,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Prometheus

Brave

5 Movies That Got Worse with Distance and Time: “Brave,” “Lincoln,” “Flight,” “The Sessions,” “The Dark Knight Rises

Argo

5 Movies That Felt Shorter Than Their Runtime: “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Les Misérables,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Argo,” “Django Unchained

Keira Knightley in "Anna Karenina"

5 Movies That Felt Longer Than Their Runtime: “Lincoln,” “Anna Karenina,” “This Is 40,” “Damsels in Distress,” The Five-Year Engagement

BOTSW

Breakout Performances: Quvenzhané Wallis in “Beasts of the Southern Wild,”  Eddie Redmayne in “Les Misérables,” Ezra Miller in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” Garrett Hedlund in “On the Road,” Scoot McNairy in “Argo

Silver Linings Playbook

Breakthrough Performances: Bradley Cooper in “Silver Linings Playbook,” Michael Pena in “End of Watch,” Jack Black in “Bernie,” Channing Tatum in “21 Jump Street,” Elizabeth Banks in “People Like Us

Best Exotic

Breakdown Performances: Anna Kendrick in “Pitch Perfect,” Salma Hayek in “Savages,” Tom Cruise in “Rock of Ages,” Emile Hirsch in “Killer Joe,” Dev Patel in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

frame 01021605R

Best Body of Work in 2012: (tie) Anne Hathaway in “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Les Misérables,” Jennifer Lawrence in “The Hunger Games” and “Silver Linings Playbook

The Deep Blue Sea

Worst Body of Work in 2012: (tie) Rachel Weisz in “The Bourne Legacy” and “The Deep Blue Sea,” Taylor Kitsch in “John Carter” and “Savages

Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty

Best Heroes: Jessica Chastain as Maya in “Zero Dark Thirty,” Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk in “The Avengers,” Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables

John Carter

Worst Heroes: Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” Taylor Kitsch as John Carter in “John Carter,” Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross in “The Bourne Legacy

Catwoman

Best Villains: Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman in “The Dark Knight Rises,” Russell Crowe as Javert in “Les Misérables,” Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie in “Django Unchained

Skyfall

Worst Villains: Tom Hardy as Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises,” Javier Bardem as Silva in “Skyfall,” Rhys Ifans as Lizard in “The Amazing Spider-Man

Joaquin

Best Possessed Performance: Joaquin Phoenix in “The Master

The Paperboy

Worst Possessed Performance: Nicole Kidman in “The Paperboy

Bernie

Best Comedic Performance: (tie) Jack Black in “Bernie,” Channing Tatum in “21 Jump Street

The Watch

Worst Comedic Performance: The cast of “The Watch

Uggie

Best Cameo: Uggie in “The Campaign

Ryan Reynolds

Worst Cameo: Ryan Reynolds in “Ted

Eddie Redmayne

Best Singing: Eddie Redmayne in “Les Misérables

Alec

Worst Singing: Alec Baldwin in “Rock of Ages

That’s about all I can come up with for now … may add to this later!  Happy 2013, everyone!





REVIEW: The Paperboy

12 12 2012

The PaperboyThere’s no way Lee Daniels’ “The Paperboy” came from the same director as “Precious.”  A film this sweaty, steamy, and trashy simply does not follow a movie so emotionally searing and poignant.  And not only is the movie purely sordid, it isn’t even done artfully or tastefully.

I pray you haven’t seen director Lee Daniels’ debut film, “Shadowboxer,” because your eyes will never forgive you for it.  There’s a reason you probably haven’t heard of it, and that’s because the movie is an absolute mess from beginning to end.  Oh, and there’s also the matter of Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Helen Mirren having a pretty graphic sex scene.  Thanks, but no thanks.

But it’s Lee Daniels of “Shadowboxer” who showed up to direct “The Paperboy,” not Lee Daniels of “Precious.”  Now we are all left to wonder if Oprah directed “Precious” for him or something.  I’m serious, watch “The Paperboy” and try not to let these types of conspiracy theories bubble up in your head.  Well, actually don’t watch “The Paperboy” and just take my word for it that you would feel this way.

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REVIEW: Just Go With It

12 02 2011

Adam Sandler sure has fallen a long way since the glory days of “Billy Madison” and “Happy Gilmore” – and those days weren’t even that good.  Fifteen years later, we are invited to just go wherever with the comic who has long since worn out the welcome mat with “Just Go With It,” a typical Sandler comedy that might have been fairly amusing if it had been made a decade ago.  It’s a step above last summer’s “Grown Ups” but probably only because there is a strong female presence to whip him in line.

Taking a fairly unique premise, the movie follows Sandler’s Los Angeles plastic surgeon (cue some scary and derivative jokes involving lots of Joan Rivers-esque figures) Danny and his morally suspect way of picking up women without a hitch – pretending to be married.  It works out great for him until he meets the incredibly well-endowed, good-natured, and much younger Palmer (Brooklyn Decker), and he has to start an elaborate lie to keep her.  The ruse, which eventually requires index cards, grows to include his divorced assistant Katherine (Jennifer Aniston) and her two annoyingly precocious children as well as his horndog brother (Nick Swardson).

All things considered, this could have been more than just mildly entertaining, which is what the end product settles for.  There are a few chuckles, usually accompanied by a groan but thankfully not with eye-rolling.  So by all means, if you want to see Adam Sandler re-enact the movies from his prime, “Just Go With It” should provide you with what you’re looking for.  But you’re probably better off dusting off one of his older flicks so you can have the faintest hint of nostalgia of a time when these jokes and formulas weren’t stale.  C





Oscar Moment: December 10, 2010 Awards Round-Up

10 12 2010

Welcome back to another exciting awards round-up post!  It’s been a whole week since I’ve said anything about the Oscars, which is the longest I’ve gone since September!  It’s a good thing this week has been pretty stagnant aside from a few minor critics groups and some top 10 lists out in the mix.

Please remember to take the poll at the end of the discussion!  It will help to make these posts more community-driven – it’s fun just reading it and writing about it, but I sure do enjoy it more when I get your feedback!  You don’t have to live and breath Oscars like I do to take part!

As for last week’s poll, you all think that “The Social Network” will beat “The King’s Speech” for Best Picture.  And by you all, I mean all one voter that took the poll.  So let’s shoot for higher this week!

(And another reminder: I spent a lot of time linking the titles of movies in this post to their respective Oscar Moments/reviews if you want to know more about them.  So don’t hesitate to click!)

Awards

Washington, D.C. Film Critics announce. Generally not a very exciting bunch; Kris Tapley of In Contention said their picks are usually just guessing what the Oscars will nominated in about 7 weeks.  Like myself and several others, they think “The Social Network” is going to be the cup that the Academy sips from when picking their awards.

Their Best Picture line-up was absolutely stellar though: “Black Swan,” “Inception,” “127 Hours,” “The Social Network,” and “Toy Story 3.”  If those were Oscar’s five (way back when they only nominated that many movies for Best Picture), I would be a very happy man.  Since many are already boiling the race down to a horserace, it’s curious not to see “The King’s Speech,” but it got plenty of love, including a win for Best Actor for Colin Firth and Best Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, and Original Screenplay nominations.

Jennifer Lawrence took Best Actress for “Winter’s Bone,” which definitely showed some strength from the win as well as nominations for Supporting Actor (John Hawkes) and Adapted Screenplay.  I think we could definitely be looking at a critical favorite in Lawrence, although this is a very similar trajectory to Carey Mulligan last year who wound up not taking home any major prizes.

Predictable wins for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo in “The Fighter” in the supporting categories, with the former looking more and more like a lock with each passing day.  “The Social Network” also won Best Director and Adapted Screenplay, neither of which was surprising given the group’s love for the film.

Interestingly, “Inception” won Best Original Screenplay over the field of “The King’s Speech,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “Another Year,” and “Black Swan.”  This category has played out interestingly at the Oscars over the past two years.  2009 brought us “The Hurt Locker” ultimately triumphing over “Inglourious Basterds” with “Up” as a dark horse looming in the background.  2008 was the horse race between two totally different types of movies, “Milk” and the almost non-verbal “Wall-E.”  Given what’s been going on recently, “Inception” makes a fascinating wild card.  “The King’s Speech” is like past winner “Milk,” and “The Kids Are All Right” gives off “Juno” vibes.  There hasn’t been a movie like “Inception” in the race in a long time (unless you want to compare it to the mind maze of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”).

For a historical reference point, last year the group picked “Up in the Air” as their Best Picture.  Aside from the slam dunk supporting categories, the only Oscar winner they selected was Kathryn Bigelow as Best Director for “The Hurt Locker.”  Since 2002, they haven’t been a very reliable predictor at all of the ultimate selections of the Oscars.

For a full list of nominees, see the official press release from the WAFCA.

The British Independent Film Awards. Predictably, “The King’s Speech” cleaned house at the British Independent Film Awards, the equivalent of the Independent Spirit Awards across the pond.  The very British story of King George VI took home Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Screenplay.  Curiously, director Tom Hooper lost Best Director to Gareth Edwards for his work on the ultra-low budget “Monsters.”  Mike Leigh was also nominated for “Another Year” in this category.

These awards don’t really show us much other than that the British are firmly allied over their love of this movie.  Last year, “Moon” triumphed over eventual Best Picture nominee “An Education,” the movie considered to have the “British vote” going into the Oscars.  This faction will be crucial to “The King’s Speech” if it is to prevail in the Best Picture category, and this is a very reassuring ceremony for the movie.

Also worth noting: “Never Let Me Go” may be almost entirely forgotten, but apparently Carey Mulligan isn’t.  She won Best Actress for her performance, and I still wouldn’t count her out as a dark horse Oscar nominee.  I don’t think a Golden Globe nomination is entirely out of the question (a la Tobey Maguire in last year’s “Brothers“).

The European Film Awards. Not much to report here as the only awards contender really in play was “The Ghost Writer,” and it capitalized on its seven nominations by winning a stunning six categories.  Lesley Manville was in contention for “Another Year” but lost Best European Actress to an actress I’ve never heard of in a movie I’ve never heard of.

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REVIEW: Rabbit Hole

20 11 2010

Losing a child is painful in the real world, but in the sphere of cinema, it’s hardly breaking new ground.  In order to communicate the emotional trauma of such an event, movies have to take the material in different and unexpected directions.  “Rabbit Hole” is a success story, presenting the story of husband and wife affected by the preventable death of their four-year-old son in entirely different ways.  John Cameron Mitchell takes the great theatrical aspects of David Lindsey-Abaire’s Pulitizer Prize-winning play and reminds us the power that great dialogue can have while also using the great resources of film to supplement the already incredibly powerful film.

Nearing the one-year anniversary of their son Danny’s passing, Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) are still reeling.  Caught in the unenviable conundrum of choosing to mourn or move on, each find a different way to cope with the void in their lives.  Becca tries to find life by acting like the hole isn’t there, removing the traces of Danny that remind her that he is gone.  She finds solace, strangely, through talking with the teenager that hit her son.  Becca also has to deal with the pregnancy of her irresponsible sister (Tammy Blanchard), which only complicates her volatile emotional state, and the intervention of her mother (Dianne Wiest), eager to offer advice after going through the loss of a son in her own right.

Howie, on the other hand, tries to hang on to the fading memories of his son, particularly by watching a video of Danny on his phone.  Rather than try to adjust to life without his son, he advocates starting a new life altogether.  He pitches selling their house and having another child, neither of which are received well by his wife.  Howie has faith in the traditional methods of dealing with grief, holding onto the belief that the group therapy sessions can work long after Becca gives up on them. When those who look to religion to solve their problems finally drive her away from the group for good, he strikes up a friendship with an eight-year veteran (Sandra Oh) still looking to make peace with the loss of her child.

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Oscar Moment: “Rabbit Hole”

29 10 2010

We didn’t really enter 2010 with a huge frontrunner, but when “Rabbit Hole” was cast back in spring 2009, it sure looked like one.  With Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart tackling an intensely dramatic Pulitzer Prize-winning play, how could it not be an instant contender?

The movie flew under the radar for quite some time until it reemerged with a bang on the festival circuit, making a premiere in Toronto that got critics talking and buzzing.  In mere minutes, Nicole Kidman was sure-fire Best Actress nominee, and the trailer let everyone else know that this is a performance to make the Oscar voters giddy.  (For a hilarious take on Kidman and the trailer, see Stuart Heritage’s post for The Guardian.)

Kidman hasn’t exactly fared too well since her 2002 Best Actress win for The Hours, suffering unfortunate role after unfortunate role in the typical post-winner fashion.  Over the past fifteen years, only two winners in this category have been nominated again (Charlize Theron and Frances McDormand) and one has won again (Hilary Swank).  I think the Academy would love to recognize her again and show that an actress can maintain poise after winning their prize.  It also helps that the role won a Tony for Cynthia Nixon.  However, unless she gets serious traction from critics groups, I doubt she could be a real threat to win given the deserving factor of Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and potentially even Natalie Portman.

But beyond Kidman, what are the movie’s chances?  Her spouse is played by Aaron Eckhart, a fantastic actor deserving of some Academy recognition.  He has been getting good marks for his role as a grieving father from people in high places.  Dave Karger of Entertainment Weekly writes:

“[Eckhart] shines in the film’s comedic and dramatic moments, showing range I’ve never seen before. And he gets to rant and rave a bit more than Kidman does, which doesn’t hurt with the Academy. He’s delivered sturdy work for years (“In the Company of Men,” “Nurse Betty,” “Thank You for Smoking”), and I’d love to see him score his first career nomination. And fortunately, the supporting actor field isn’t nearly as dense.”

I’m a huge Eckhart fan, particularly of his underrated and overshadowed work in “The Dark Knight” and especially his fast-talking tobacco lobbyist in “Thank You For Smoking,” which I thought was the best leading performance for any male in 2006.  He could easily find a place in the Best Supporting actor category, which has some pack leaders but no top dog yet.  He would be fighting out competitive players like Geoffrey Rush, Andrew Garfield, and Mark Ruffalo, but he has enough prestige to do it.  Plus film adaptations of plays usually score acting nominations with a fair amount of ease – just look at “Doubt,” which collected four in 2008.

I have also heard lots of love for Dianne Wiest, who plays Kidman’s mother.  She’s a two-time winner of Best Supporting Actress, and something tells me that the Academy isn’t quite ready to put her in the same category as Jack Nicholson in the parthenon of actors great enough to win three Oscars.  Nonetheless, in this complete ragtag band of actress in the supporting category this year, we have to consider any possibility.  She’s clearly a favorite, 62 years old, and apparently turns in quite a performance.  According to Katey Rich of Cinema Blend, “Dianne Wiest delivers a monologue about grief that is all the more stunning for how simply and succinctly she presents it.”

Although the movie may become more of an acting showcase, let’s not forget that this play won a Pulitzer Prize, so it has to be considered in Best Adapted Screenplay.  “Doubt,” written for the screen by the same man who brought it to the stage, managed to score a nomination in 2008 for being a nearly carbon copy.  According to the film’s director, David Lindsey-Abaire, who will be adapting the movie from his play, will be staging a “complete cinematic reimagining of the material.”  If it manages to enchant on a different level, the movie could easily net a nomination.

What about Best Director?  John Cameron Mitchell has never taken on a directorial venture anything like this.  “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “Shortbus” were both for indie, off the beaten path niche audiences; “Rabbit Hole” is a venture into serious Academy territory.  It would take a lot to get him onto a list that is bound to include names like David Fincher, The Coen Brothers, and Danny Boyle.  Mitchell wouldn’t be the first outsider to make the cut, but it seems like a longshot at best.

And I’d say if Kidman keeps up the strong buzz throughout the season, “Rabbit Hole” is a serious Best Picture contender.  According to Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere, “A few people applauded at the end of [the] press screening. I haven’t heard any clapping at all at any TIFF press screenings so far, so this probably means something.”  It will clearly have support from the actors, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it get a SAG Ensemble nod (along with I’ll assume “The Social Network,” “True Grit,” “The Fighter,” and “The Kids Are All Right”).  The critics seem to really like it, and their support always helps.

The deciding factor could be the audience.  Are they going to fall head-over-heels for a depressing adult drama about a couple grieving the loss of their young son?  Not exactly light and uplifting, eh?  But “Precious” got a nomination, as have many movies considered too dark for the average moviegoer.  “Rabbit Hole” is definitely in the hunt, but it’s no sure bet at the present time.

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Actress (Kidman), Best Supporting Actor (Eckhart), Best Supporting Actress (Wiest), Best Adapted Screenplay

OTHER POSSIBLE NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Director





REVIEW: Nine

30 12 2009

About midway through “Nine,” Stephanie, the Vogue reporter played by the ravishing Kate Hudson, informs us that “style is the new content” for her readers.  Applying that quotation to Rob Marshall’s latest film adaptation of a Tony Award-winning musical, the movie is a flashy work of pure artistry that dazzles the eye.  While style is a crucial part of “Nine,” the movie will be remembered for its phenomenal cast who turn in mostly solid performances but are thwarted by inept direction.

The movie’s story is indirectly based on the life of Italian film director Frederico Fellini, yet it seems to now have some striking parallels to the recent downfall of Tiger Woods.  Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a beloved director, yet his last two films have been somewhat underwhelming.  He hopes to steer himself back on the path to success with a new film, “Italia.”  However, he is in such mental anguish because he cannot commit himself to anything or anyone.  Guido has a gorgeous wife, Luisa (Marion Cotillard) at home whom he constantly neglects in favor of the temptress Carla (Penelope Cruz).

And the problems with women don’t end there.  He has to deal with his indignantly querulous muse (Nicole Kidman), an American reporter who is quite the flirt (Hudson), a sassy costume designer and old friend who can sense the torment (Judi Dench), and his mother (Sophia Loren) whose legacy still haunts him.  As Guido tries to find inspiration through these women, bouncing between past and present, he only finds himself more conflicted and lost.  One major success of “Nine” is using cinematic devices like choppy editing and constant changes between black and white and color to show this torture.  Daniel Day-Lewis is plenty capable of showing it as well, although his voice lacks some of the vocal power that the Broadway actors had in this part.

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What To Look Forward To In … December 2009

14 11 2009

What is in my mind the finest month for the movies is almost here!  Let Marshall guide you through the best and steer you away from the worst, but most of all enjoy!  The studios have been holding back their best movies all year to dump them all here, where they can get serious awards consideration.

December 4

A major Oscars wild-card is “Brothers.”  No one really knows what to make of it.  If the movie hits big, it could completely change the game.  But it could just fly under the radar like most expect it to now.  However, the trailer makes it look as if it the movie could be absolutely mind-blowing.  Directed by Jim Sheridan, who has received six Academy Award nominations, “Brothers” follows Grace Cahill (Natalie Portman) as she and her daughters deal with the loss of her husband, Sam (Tobey Maguire), in war.  Sam’s brother, Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) comes to live with Grace to lend a helping hand.  But romantic sparks fly between the two at precisely the wrong time: the discovery that Sam is alive and coming home.  With the two brothers both tugging Grace’s heart for their share, a different type of sparks fly.

You have heard me say plenty about “Up in the Air.”  If you haven’t read my Oscar Moment on the movie or heard my bliss at the release of the trailer, let me give you one more chance to hope on the bandwagon.

But the movies don’t stop there.  “Armored,” an action-drama that is tooting its own moral horn, starring Matt Dillon and Laurence Fishburne.  “Everybody’s Fine” appears to be a holiday movie, so that might be worth checking out if you’re in the spirit.  The movie, a remake of a 1990 Italian film by the same name, stars Robert DeNiro as a widower who reconnects with his estrange children.  And “Transylmania” looks to cash in on the vampire craze sweeping the nation by satirizing it, but I doubt it will be financially viable because it is being released by a no-name studio and without any big names.

December 11

The highlight of the weekend for many will be “The Princess and the Frog,” Disney’s return to the traditional animation by hand musical.  The movie looks to capitalize on what we know and love Disney musicals for, adding some catchy tunes to a fairy tale we have known since childhood.  Anika Noni Rose, best known for her role as Lorrell in the film adaptation of “Dreamgirls,” lends her talented voice to the princess Tiana.  As a huge fan of “Dreamgirls” during the winter of 2006, I couldn’t think of someone better equipped to handle the sweet, soft Disney music (which isn’t designed for belters like Beyoncé or Jennifer Hudson).  That being said, the music won’t sound like anything you’ve ever heard from a Disney fairy tale.  It is being scored by Randy Newman, not Alan Menken (“Beauty and the Beast,” etc.), and will have a jazzy feel much like its setting, New Orleans.

This week also boasts the opening of three major Oscar players. Two have been featured in Oscar Moments, “Invictus” and “A Single Man.” The former opens nationwide this Friday, the latter only in limited release. I’ll repost the trailers below because they are worth watching. But read the Oscar Moment if you want to know more about the movies.

According to the people that matter, “The Lovely Bones” has all the pieces to make a great movie. But for summer reading two years ago, I read the source material, Alice Sebold’s acclaimed novel. I found it dreadfully melodramatic and very depressing without any sort of emotional payoff to reward the reader for making it through. But maybe Hollywood will mess up the novel in a good way. If any movie could, it would be this one. With a director like Peter Jackson and a cast including Saiorse Ronan (“Atonement”), Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, and Susan Sarandon, it could very well happen.  It opens in limited release on this date and slowly expands until its nationwide release on Martin Luther King Day weekend in 2010.

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Oscar Moment: “Nine”

25 10 2009

This edition of “Oscar Moment” concerns one of the favorites since last year’s Oscars finished.  People have huge expectations for “Nine,” and if it fails to live up to them, the repercussions could be disastrous.  It has every reason to succeed, though, based on a pedigree so impressive that it could be never be matched again.  It has been a favorite in the Oscar race ever since it was announced; however, at the time of this posting, it remains a wild card in the race because no one has seen the full film yet.

Christmas Day always brings some of the year’s most spectacular movies.  Possibly the best of this year’s offerings is the musical “Nine.”  If it is anything less than spectacular, it will be a disappointment.  It is directed by Rob Marshall, the Oscar-nominated director of Best Picture winner “Chicago.”  The star of the movie is two-time Academy Award-winner Daniel Day-Lewis as Guido, a film director tormented by the women in his life.  And these are not just ordinary women.  They are played by Oscar winners Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Sophia Loren, nominee Kate Hudson, and the illustrious Fergie.  The musical which provides the basis of the film won 5 Tony Awards including Best Musical.  The musical is based on the life of beloved and renowned director Frederico Fellini.  Are you impressed yet?  “Nine” had me at Rob Marshall. (NOTE: Recognize this?  It was in my November preview post, but Harvey Weinstein decided to push the movie’s release back to December.  It’s not plagiarism if you quote yourself, right?)

Let’s talk the ladies of “Nine.”  Because barring an absolute flop of the movie, Daniel Day-Lewis is assured a nomination just by virtue of being Daniel Day-Lewis.  The Academy loves him, and because he makes so few movies, they make it a point to reward him when he does.  Five of the women seem to have a legitimate shot at Oscar gold (Fergie and Kate Hudson have only minor parts), but as I discussed with “Up in the Air” earlier, this is great for moviegoers and bad for actresses.  The three scenarios I outlined there (one gets nominated, both get nominated, neither gets nominated) work when dealing with two actresses; “Nine” could have up to five campaigning for supporting actress.  Thus, we must deal with “Nine” in a completely different way.

Word on the street (and by street, I mean blogs) is that Marion Cotillard, who plays Guido’s wife, has enough screen time that she can be put in the leading actress category.  The filmmakers showed enough confidence in Cotillard that they turned a new number written for three women into a solo for her.  My guess is that this is where the ad money will push her.  Harvey Weinstein knows how to work the system, and he wants the most nominations he can get.  Voters might be hesitant to put three “Nine” ladies in one category, but he knows they would probably be willing to vote one for lead and two for supporting.

So if Cotillard goes lead, who will be the nominee(s) for Best Supporting Actress?  Despite all the talent, history tells us that “Nine” will probably be limited to two nominees in the category.  Only “Tom Jones” in 1963 managed to sneak in three women; that movie won 4 Oscars including Best Picture.  More notable though is that it did not collect the statue for Best Supporting Actress.  The loss is due to a familiar phenomenon: vote splitting.  It is how “Dreamgirls” and “Enchanted” managed to lose Best Original Song.  Voters want to reward the movie, but they can’t rally behind a single nominee and someone else wins.  But luckily for “Nine,” Harvey Weinstein has played this game many times.  My guess is that he will start campaigning all the actresses evenly, but as more reviews come in and people see the movie, he will push the clear favorite.

At this time, the favorite is unknown.  But based on the Broadway productions of the musical, an educated guess can be formed.  In the original Broadway production, the Tony Award winner for Best Featured Actress was Liliane Montevecchi for her portrayal of Lilliane, Guido’s producer.  In the movie, Liliane will be played by Judi Dench, who won this category back in 1998 for playing Queen Elizabeth for all of six minutes in “Shakespeare in Love.”  Dench also has 5 other nominations, only one of which came from the supporting category.  However, the research I have done seems to suggest that Lilliane is not a very flashy role.  She does not have a solo song, and even if she is an integral part of other numbers, that seems to suggests that she is more of a subtle presence than a central part of the plot.  (This is my interpretation from three years of musical theater experience.)

On the other hand, Penelope Cruz has the fiery role of Carla, Guido’s mistress.  This role won Jane Krakowski (“30 Rock”) a Tony Award for the revival of “Nine” in 2003.  Contrastingly to Lilliane, Carla has an absolute show-stopping number: “A Call to the Vatican.”  All the pictures of Cruz doing acrobatics in skimpy clothing are from this number.  I have been listening to it for months, and I am really excited to see what she can do with it.  Carla is more directly involved with the main storyline, really closer to a lead than a true supporting actress like Lilliane.  I think Cruz is the most likely nominee from the bunch for this reason, although voters might be hesitant to give her the prize because she won it last year.

The remaining prospects left to touch on are Sophia Loren, who plays Guido’s mother, and Nicole Kidman, who plays Claudia, the star of Guido’s new movie.  Guido’s mother barely appears in the plot summary anywhere, so I can only see a nomination plausible for Loren if the Academy falls head over heels for “Nine” and nominates Loren for nostalgic purposes.  Although I will say, Guido’s mother sings the titular track “Nine,” and it is the sweet thing that melts voters.  Claudia, on the other hand, has several beautiful numbers with Guido.  Nicole Kidman has shown her capability with handling musicals – in fact, it’s how she got her first Academy Award nomination.  But as for being an audience or critical favorite, Claudia has seem to have fallen short on Broadway.  The role was only nominated for one major award, the slightly less prestigious Drama Desk, during its two runs on the Great White Way.  I am most excited to see how this story plays out; that is, if audiences treasure Kidman especially or if she plays second fiddle to the other actresses like on stage.

As I now look back and see how much I have written, it just gets me more and more excited for Oscar season to really kick off!  Can we get the countdown started until Christmas please?

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Director (Rob Marshall), Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress (Penelope Cruz/Judi Dench), Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Song

OTHER POTENTIAL NOMINATIONS: Best Supporting Actress (Nicole Kidman/Sophia Loren), Best Adapted Screenplay

P.S. – Check out this amazing new trailer, showing the transformation of “Nine” from rehearsal to production.








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