I was actually going to write something…

26 08 2015

So I had grand plans to write either my Criterion Top 10 list or a piece about Marion Cotillard today, both of which tied into the Criterion Collection release of “Two Days, One Night” on Tuesday.  (Side note: Amazon.com, you need to get me this disc now, I don’t know why you can’t just put it in my darn mailbox.)

But then, something out of this world happened.  The video essay I posted yesterday popped up on IndieWire, a site that I check multiple times a day.  Needless to say, the excitement kept my mind sidetracked for a while.

Click the picture to be taken to the post itself.

The Playlist - Two Days, One Night video essay

It wasn’t just a link, either.  I hate to toot my own horn, but they gave me a truly flattering write-up as well.

“It’s hard to think that a pair of filmmakers who have won two Palme d’Or prizes at the Cannes Film Festival could be underrated, but the extent ofJean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s talents still feel insufficiently realized. Their latest work, ‘Two Days, One Night‘ — which is now available through the Criterion Collection— showcases an area of their acumen seldom discussed when praising their work: shot composition.” Marshall Shaffer’s 7-and-a-half-minute video essay begins with that big thesis.

What follows is extremely well edited video that deftly delivers on its premise, showcasing Shaffer’s astute eye for dissecting the latest work by the Dardenne brothers, known for movies like “L’enfant,” “The Son,” and “The Kid with a Bike.”

Watch below for Shaffer’s perspicacious analysis, including what he deems to be “the masterpiece of camera work and character blocking” in the Dardennes’ film.

So you could say I have been floating on cloud nine today.  Sorry if you were craving some juicy content or analysis today.  Sometimes it’s nice to just take a step back and appreciate that all the hard work pays off in some way.

But the reward is not in the recognition.  It’s in the work itself.  I love producing these video essays, and this certainly gives me some motivation to keep churning them out.  But the thrill I got from seeing my name on IndieWire does not measure up to the immense satisfaction of exporting the final cut of the video essay itself, knowing that I have truly wrestled with a film’s meaning and produced something enlightening for the benefit of the discourse around cinema.





Live Blogging the 2012 Oscars!

24 02 2013

12:53 A.M.  To put the finishing touches on the evening, “Life of Pi” was the big winner with 4 Oscars including Best Director.  “Argo” took home 3 trophies to boot including Best Picture, the one that really counts.  “Les Misérables” had a nice haul of 3 as well, winning Anne Hathaway her first Oscar!  “Django Unchained,” “Lincoln,” and “Skyfall” each won a pair of Academy Awards too.

Thanks for tuning in, everyone!  You were a wonderful audience!  And you helped make this a banner night for the site as well, breaking my all-time daily traffic record.

Check back tomorrow for my Monday morning wrap-up where I attempt to break down the implications of the night, the best-dressed women, and the precise moment I went and returned from heaven during the “Les Misérables” cast reunion.  Take care, readers and Oscar watchers!

11:59 P.M.  Aww, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner.  And what an incredible speech of redemption, justice, and vindication!

11:58 P.M.  Giving the Academy the finger with the mention of Affleck as a director.

11:56 P.M.  What a wild ride for Ben Affleck.  Congratulations to all involved on this fantastic movie!

11:55 P.M.  BEST PICTURE: ARGO

Ben Affleck for Argo

11:53 P.M.  Because Bill Clinton on the Golden Globes wasn’t enough, Michelle Obama had to upstage everyone at the Oscars…

11:52 P.M.  Does Jack Nicholson always present Best Picture?

11:51 P.M.  Biggest shocker of the night!  A nice, eloquent speech as always.  History has been made … and will probably be made again when he takes his next role.

11:48 P.M.  BEST ACTOR: DANIEL DAY-LEWIS, “LINCOLN

DDL

11:43 P.M.  BEST ACTRESS: JENNIFER LAWRENCE, “SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

JLaw

11:36 P.M.  If “Life of Pi” does not win Best Picture, that means Ang Lee will have won Best Director twice and never won Best Picture.

11:34 P.M.  BEST DIRECTOR: ANG LEE, LIFE OF PI

Netter_PI_1418R - Director Ang Lee on the set of LIFE OF PI

11:29 P.M.  Ugh, really?  Guess my distaste for Tarantino’s latest really killed my ballot.

11:26 P.M.  BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: “DJANGO UNCHAINED

Django

11:24 P.M.  BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: ARGO

Argo

11:17 P.M.  You da bomb, Adele!  The whole world loves you!

11:16 P.M.  BEST ORIGINAL SONG: SKYFALL FROM SKYFALL

Skyfall

11:10 P.M.  BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: LIFE OF PI

life-of-pi-lop-275_rgb

11:00 P.M.  We miss you, Nora Ephron!

10:57 P.M.  In memoriam, it always gets me…

10:49 P.M.  BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: “LINCOLN

Lincoln

10:36 P.M.  No one can silence a room quite like Adele.  She is unbelievable.

10:33 P.M.  BEST FILM EDITING: “ARGO

Argo BP

10:25 P.M.  YES YES YES!  “It came true,” channeling her best Mia Thermopolis.  And such a beautiful line about Fantines in real life!

10:22 P.M.  BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: ANNE HATHAWAY, LES MISERABLES

I Dreamed a Dream

10:19 P.M.  TIME FOR BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS!

10:16 P.M.  So cool, never thought I’d see a tie in my lifetime!  This is awesome!

10:14 P.M.  BEST SOUND EDITING: (tie) “ZERO DARK THIRTY” and “SKYFALL

Zero Dark

10:11 P.M.  BEST SOUND MIXING: LES MISERABLES

Les Mis

10:10 P.M.  Glad Seth MacFarlane can joke about his movie’s mediocrity.

"Ted"

10:07 P.M.  Is this what heaven is like?  Oh my god!

10:05 P.M. HYPERVENTILATION!

10:03 P.M.  I CAN DIE HAPPY NOW!  THIS IS SO FANTASTIC!

10:02 P.M.  LES MIS LES MIS LES MIS LES MIS I AM DYING

9:59 P.M.  Jennifer Hudson being amazing is good enough.  Why has she disappeared?!

9:57 P.M.  HOW CAN THEY DO “DREAMGIRLS” WITHOUT BEYONCE!?!

9:54 P.M.  I’ll never look at “Chicago” the same way.  Catherine Zeta-Jones sounds awful and looks like a totally different person than the woman that won the Oscar 10 years ago.

9:53 P.M.  I’m sorry, but I just can’t take John Travolta seriously…

9:50 P.M.  BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “AMOUR

Haneke

9:45 P.M.  “Jaws” theme again?  Wow, so rude.

9:44 P.M.  BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: “SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN”

9:41 P.M.  “The actor who really got inside Abraham Lincoln’s head was John Wilkes Booth.”  Yeah, maybe too soon…

9:40 P.M.  By breaking up the Best Picture nominees into 3 trios, I hope this doesn’t mean they think they can get away with not doing one giant montage…

9:37 P.M.  The modern American superhero who isn’t American … Liam Neeson.

9:36 P.M.  Darn, there goes my streak of getting all the short films right.

9:35 P.M.  BEST SHORT FILM (DOCUMENTARY): “INOCENTE”

9:33 P.M.  Love that feeling of getting a short film prediction right!

9:32 P.M.  BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION): “CURFEW”

9:30 P.M.  This is how I knew who Shirley Bassey was…

9:27 P.M.  Pretty impressive finish for Shirley Bassey there.

9:21 P.M.  So glad “Les Misérables” isn’t going home empty handed!

9:20 P.M. BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: “LES MISERABLES

Anne Hathaway

9:17 P.M.  BEST COSTUME DESIGN: “ANNA KARENINA

Anna Karenina

9:11 P.M.  What a terrible way to play someone off – with “Jaws!”  He was trying to say something meaningful about their company that was going bankrupt and they just totally cut him off!

9:1o P.M.  BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: “LIFE OF PI

9:07 P.M.  BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: “LIFE OF PI

Life-of-Pi-aerial-sea

9:05 P.M.  Awkwardly missing Scarlett Johansson on “The Avengers” reunion … now it’s a sausage fest.

9:04 P.M.  Adorable flexing Quvenzhané Wallis!  “I really hope I don’t lose to that old lady, Jennifer Lawrence!”

Beasts

9:02 P.M.  Chills all over again for “Les Misérables.”

Les Miserables

9:00 P.M.  Well, sorry for ever doubting Pixar owned this category, except when they don’t.

9:00 P.M. BEST ANIMATED FILM: BRAVE

Brave

8:59 P.M.  So great of the Academy to send out all the short films!

8:58 P.M. BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM: “PAPERMAN”

8:57 P.M.  Never mind, misread the envelope.

8:56 P.M.  Screenplay already?!  Not again….

8:55 P.M.  Loving all this “E.T.” music!

8:52 P.M.  Well, I guess lightning does strike twice.  The same performance wins another Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

8:50 P.M.  BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: CHRISTOPH WALTZ, “DJANGO UNCHAINED

Christoph

8:45 P.M.  Sally Field, what a great sport!

8:42 P.M.  So THAT’S why Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt showed up to their first Oscars (which is a fact that surprises me).

8:40 P.M. Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron seem like an odd couple to be doing this dance … but they have some kind of grace!  This reminds me of a “Family Guy” episode with all these random tangents.

8:37 P.M.  This “we saw your boobs” number is true but just rubs me wrong…

8:31 P.M.  Really, Tommy Lee Jones?  Way to break character!  Jimmy Fallon, you are in good company…

TLJ GG

8:29 P.M.  TIME FOR THE SHOW TO START!

Seth

8:20 P.M.  Reminder to COMMENT and I will answer!

8:18 P.M.  By my count, “Life of Pi“ wins five, “Argo“ and “Les Misérables“ take three, and “Amour“ and “Silver Linings Playbook“ steals two trophies.  How’s that for spreading it around?

8:10 P.M.  Best Picture.  The holy grail.

Best Picture

Amour
Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Will win: “Argo
Could win: “Silver Linings Playbook
Should win: “Les Misérables
Should be nominated: “The Master

Only the second movie since 1930 to win Best Picture without a Best Director nomination – that is the feat “Argo“ looks to pull off tonight.  On nomination day, I wrote “All that talk of it being a surprise come-from-behind winner all just came to a screeching halt with that Best Director snub.”  That has quickly been proven dead wrong as it wins top honors from the Critics Choice, Golden Globes, PGA, DGA, SAG, and BAFTA.  If it only had that pesky Best Director nomination, we wouldn’t think twice.

SLP BP

What looked to be a tough race to predict has been blown wide open by “Argo.”  But if anything will prove us wrong, it would be “Silver Linings Playbook.”  Then “Lincoln.”  Then “Life of Pi.”

8:05 P.M.  Ladies are looking PHENOMENAL tonight.  Scroll down for Chastain, and also check out Anne Hathaway, Amy Adams, and Jennifer Lawrence!

Amy Adams

85th Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals

reg_634.JLawrence.mh.022413

8:00 P.M.  Best Director will be more interesting tonight than it has been in quite some time … will they do it before or after the leading acting races?  Hopefully it’s just right before Best Picture.

Best Director

Michael Haneke, “Amour
Ang Lee, “Life of Pi
David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook
Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln
Benh Zeitlin, “Beasts of the Southern Wild

Will win: Ang Lee, “Life of Pi
Could win: David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook
Should win: Benh Zeitlin, “Beasts of the Southern Wild
Should be nominated: Kathryn Bigelow, “Zero Dark Thirty

Life of Pi

A part of me wonders if David O. Russell won’t steal this, but his nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay could lead to some vote splitting.  Steven Spielberg just doesn’t feel right, not with how “Lincoln” seems to have faded at the end of the season.  Ang Lee’s work on “Life of Pi” just seems director-y, so something tells me I ought to pick him.

7:50 P.M.  The “breath of fresh air” category of all former winners – Best Supporting Actor.  Who will win their second – or third – Oscar?  Saved this category towards the end because I was still thinking about it…

Best Supporting Actor

Alan Arkin, “Argo
Robert DeNiro, “Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln
Christoph Waltz, “Django Unchained

Will win: Robert DeNiro, “Silver Linings Playbook
Could win: Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln
Should win: Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master
Should be nominated: Eddie Redmayne, “Les Misérables

TLJ

He hasn’t won anything yet.  But it’s a gut feeling I’ve had since the nominations.  SAG winner Tommy Lee Jones or Globe/BAFTA winner Christoph Waltz seem to be more safe or likely choices.  But if Riva upsets Lawrence, they run the risk of nominating “Silver Linings Playbook” for all acting awards and then giving it zero wins.  I don’t think that happens, so DeNiro wins on sympathy and insurance votes.

7:40 P.M.  The Best Actress race is crazy tight this year, and I will be on the edge of my seat as the envelope is opened.

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, “Amour
Quvenzhané Wallis, “Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts, “The Impossible

Will win: Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook
Could win: Emmanuelle Riva, “Amour
Should win: Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty
Should be nominated: Marion Cotillard, “Rust and Bone

Silver Linings Playbook

Between the Golden Globe, the SAG, and “The Hunger Games,” this is Lawrence’s year.  There seems to be a late surge for Riva with her BAFTA win, but I think Jennifer Lawrence should take this one.

7:32 P.M.  How incredible does she look?!

Jessica Chastain

7:30 P.M.  I mean, do I even need to predict the next two categories?

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams, “The Master
Sally Field, “Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, “Les Misérables
Helen Hunt, “The Sessions
Jacki Weaver, “Silver Linings Playbook

Will win: Anne Hathaway, “Les Misérables
Could win: Sally Field, “Lincoln
Should win: Anne Hathaway, “Les Misérables
Should be nominated: Shirley MacLaine, “Bernie

Duh.

Best Actor

Bradley Cooper, “Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln
Hugh Jackman, “Les Misérables
Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master
Denzel Washington, “Flight

Will win: Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln
Could win: Hugh Jackman, “Les Misérables
Should win: Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master
Should be nominated: Jack Black, “Bernie

Again, duh.

7:20 P.M.  Best Adapted Screenplay is one of the night’s most unpredictable races involving five major Best Picture contenders.  Who will win?

Best Adapted Screenplay

Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook

Alan Arkin

Will win: “Argo
Could win: “Silver Linings Playbook
Should win: “Argo
Should be nominated: “Bernie

Again, since they can’t give Best Director to Ben Affleck, they’ll give “Argo” some consolation prizes so it doesn’t ONLY win Best Picture. Perhaps this is where “Silver Linings Playbook” breaks through, but I think the momentum is unstoppable for “Argo.”

7:00 P.M.  Time to move into the heavy hitters … can’t believe some of these people will be holding a golden statue soon!

Best Original Screenplay

Amour
Django Unchained
Flight
Moonrise Kingdom
Zero Dark Thirty

Will win: “Amour
Could win: “Zero Dark Thirty
Should win: “Zero Dark Thirty
Should be nominated: “The Master

Amour

Zero Dark Thirty” may be too controversial, but it did win the WGA.  However, it was not competing against Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” nor Michael Haneke’s “Amour.”  I’m seeing a foreign film triumph like in 2002 when “Talk to Her” unexpectedly took the trophy.  Just a gut feeling I have.

6:55 P.M.  Jennifer Lawrence just referenced “Father of the Bride” – MARRY ME!

6:53 P.M.  The sound categories always prove to be a bit of a conundrum – do you predict a split?  They haven’t done so since 2008!

Best Sound Mixing

Argo
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall

Will win: “Les Misérables
Could win: “Life of Pi
Should win: “Les Misérables
Should be nominated: “The Impossible

Did you know they sang live on “Les Misérables?”  No movie has shone more of a light on sound mixing than this one, so it should handily win.  And musicals always seem to score here.

Best Sound Editing

Argo
Django Unchained
Life of Pi
Skyfall
Zero Dark Thirty

Will win: “Life of Pi
Could win: “Skyfall
Should win: “Zero Dark Thirty
Should be nominated: “The Impossible

A “Life of Pi” technical sweep should get back on track and take the other sound category.
6:46 P.M.  Cute Quvenzhané Wallis and her adorable puppy purse!

puppy purse

6:45 P.M.  Best Film Editing, according to Dave Karger, is an even more necessary nomination than Best Director.  So having said that…

Best Film Editing

Argo
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Argo

Will win: “Argo
Could win: “Life of Pi
Should win: “Zero Dark Thirty
Should be nominated: “The Master

6:35 P.M. Happy one year anniversary, Angelina Jolie’s protruding right leg!

Angie's Leg

6:30 P.M.  Best Cinematography is a category I appreciate more and more each year.  So who will take it for 2012?

Best Cinematography

Anna Karenina
Django Unchained
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall

Skyfall

Will win: “Life of Pi
Could win: “Skyfall
Should win: “Skyfall
Should be nominated: “Les Misérables

I think it would be great if Roger Deakins, a perennial Oscar bridesmaid, won for his superb lensing of “Skyfall.”  But his name isn’t on the ballot, just the movie’s name.  And there seems to be a Bond bias in the Academy.  So I say the technical domination of “Life of Pi” continues here.

6:20 P.M.  That one time I ran into an Oscar nominee.  It’s super casual.

IMG_2647

(That’s Emmanuelle Riva of “Amour,” in case you couldn’t tell.)

6:15 P.M.  Almost forgot the other two short film categories … whoops!

Best Documentary Short

“Inocente”
“Kings Point”
“Mondays at Racine”
“Open Heart”
“Redemption”

Will win: “Mondays at Racine”
Could win: “Open Heart”

I’m thinking heartstrings-tugger “Mondays at Racine,” about two female cancer patients who become unlikely friends, will triumph over “Open Heart.”  The latter seems to similar to “Saving Face,” last year’s winner in the category about reconfiguring women’s faces in Pakistan that have been disfigured by acid.

Best Live Action Short

“Asad”
“Buzkashi Boys”
“Curfew”
“Death of a Shadow”
“Henry”

Will win: “Curfew”
Could win: “Death of a Shadow”

I did my research and “Curfew” sounded right, but now I don’t remember what it was about.  I do remember that Matthias Schoenaerts of “Rust and Bone” was in “Death of a Shadow,” though.

6:05 P.M.  Eddie Redmayne arrives!  Why isn’t he nominated for Best Supporting Actor?!

Les Miserables (2)

6:00 P.M.  What was once “Best Makeup” is now “Best Makeup and Hairstyling.”  So that adds a whole new dimension to the category (slightly kidding, slightly serious).

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Hitchcock
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Misérables

Will win: “Les Misérables
Could win: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Should win: “Les Misérables
Should be nominated: “Holy Motors

Anne Hathaway

Consider how much that makeup and hairstyling contributed to Anne Hathaway’s soon-to-be-Oscar winning performance.  I think that’s enough to trump the showier styles of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”

5:45 P.M.  Time for my predictions for the costume drama awards.  The movies that win here are usually made solely to win these Oscars.

Best Costume Design

Anna Karenina
Les Misérables
Lincoln
“Mirror Mirror”
“Snow White and the Huntsman”

Will win: “Anna Karenina
Could win: “Les Misérables
Should win
: “Anna Karenina
Should be nominated: “Moonrise Kingdom

I mean, “Anna Karenina” is way too gorgeous to be passed up here.

Keira Knightley in "Anna Karenina"

Best Production Design

Anna Karenina
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Lincoln

Will win: “Anna Karenina
Could win: “Life of Pi
Should win
: “Anna Karenina
Should be nominated: “Beasts of the Southern Wild

Some say the digital scenery of “Life of Pi” will triumph over the traditionally Oscar-y sets of “Anna Karenina,” like how “Avatar” won in 2009.  And maybe it will, indicating a HUGE technical sweep for the movie.  But I think given that the scenery and setting of “Anna Karenina” is a major plot device, it will walk away with the award.

4:45 P.M. 84, soon to be 85 years of Oscar, all in one picture. Awesome.

85 years

4:00 P.M. I saw all the Best Picture nominees so you don’t. Here are some of my favorite quotes from my reviews of each nominated film.

Amour

At times, it can be fairly difficult to watch … but how hunky-dory do you want movies about death to be? How can you even begin to comprehend the ennui of watching someone slowly lose their grip on life when you are treated to watch from a coolly removed distance?

Argo

However, I don’t attribute the success of “Argo” merely to coincidence and fate. The movie works because it was meticulously and intentionally crafted by director Ben Affleck, who continues to make leaps and bounds with each movie he makes.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Have no doubt about it, “Beasts” is a movie that could only by an uncorrupted visionary like Zeitlin. His ambition soars to the sky, and even in the rare occasions where it falls short, we are left in awe of the sheer gutsiness of the decision.

Django Unchained

[R]ather than use the forward momentum to lead to further exploration of his craft, Tarantino chose to take a victory lap fueled by the high of inhaling too much of the exhaust fumes of his own success. ”Django Unchained” just feels like Tarantino on autopilot, lacking the vibrancy or surprising eccentricity of his prior films.

Les Misérables

Even when the novelty of the close-ups wears off, we are still left to ponder just how radical and revolutionary Hooper’s “Les Misérables” is. The musical genre has favored sweeping grandiosity for years in an attempt to replicate the stage experience for cinematic audiences. Hooper, on the other hand, respects the live theatre’s conventions but throws out those that do not translate well to screen.

Life of Pi

The core ideas of “Life of Pi” get diluted, passed over in favor of a little more cinematic grandeur. Don’t get me wrong, Lee’s grand canvas for the movie is exciting and stunning. But I can get that in any movie; few dare to delve into the psyche like he meagerly attempted to do.

Lincoln

Once the process wraps up, it is revealed that Kushner and Spielberg are really more interested in hagiography than biography with “Lincoln.” While it delves deeper than just mere Honest Abe iconography, their film is not one that attempts to tell his story.

Silver Linings Playbook

Russell’s editing facilitates emotional rapport, [and] the two feel like parts of ourselves that we usually try to pretend don’t exist. But on screen and embodied by Cooper and Lawrence, we embrace them and allow them to illuminate the crazy that lives within us all.

Zero Dark Thirty

Through the journalistic proceedings of “Zero Dark Thirty,” Boal cleverly utilizes Maya as an important through-line to keep us drawn in. And Chastain in turns creates a character so scarily resolute that we can’t help but root and cheer for her.

3:45 P.M. Remember when “Zero Dark Thirty” was the frontrunner for Best Picture? Read my piece for “LAMB Devours the Oscars” to see what happened to what was once a prized darling.

ZDT

3:30 P.M. Animation is a little tougher than normal this year…

Best Animated Feature

Brave
“Frankenweenie”
“ParaNorman”
“The Pirates: Band of Misfits”
Wreck-It Ralph

Will win: “Wreck-It Ralph
Could win: “Brave
Should win: “Wreck-It Ralph

Vanellope

A few years ago, it would be unimaginable that Pixar could lose this category. They may not cede their turf tonight, to be fair. “Brave” won the Golden Globe and BAFTA, but “Wreck-It Ralph” had better reviews and took the PGA and Annie Award. I admit to picking the movie I think is clearly better and hoping the Academy feels the same way. But they could remind us that this category belongs to the studio of Woody and Buzz.

Best Short Film – Animated

“Adam and Dog”
“Fresh Guacamole”
“Head Over Heels”
“Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare”
“Paperman”

Will win: “Paperman”
Could win: “Adam and Dog”
Should win: “Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare”

Disney’s short film “Paperman” should clean up here. It seems like the most substantial nominee, but I could be totally wrong. I saw it before “Wreck-It Ralph” and was very impressed with the way it rehashed silent film charm.

3:15 P.M.Zero Dark Thirty” jokes are fun.

13GoingonZDT

ZD30Rock

3:00 P.M. Visual effects are fun. Check out some of these awesome videos demonstrating how the nominated films came together on a computer!

Best Visual Effects

The Avengers

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Life of Pi

Prometheus

“Snow White and the Huntsman”

Will win: “Life of Pi
Could win: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Should win: “Life of Pi
Should be nominated: “The Impossible

Best Picture nominees have dominated this category since 2008, so I give the advantage to “Life of Pi.” On the other hand, “The Lord of the Rings” did win this category three times in a row, so a sneak attack is possible.

2:45 P.M. Some more predictions for you … again, I consider these to be pretty much no-brainers.

Best Documentary Feature

“5 Broken Cameras”
“The Gatekeepers”
“How to Survive a Plague”
The Invisible War
“Searching for Sugar Man”

Will win: “Searching for Sugar Man”
Could win: “The Invisible War
Should win: “The Invisible War
Should be nominated: “The Queen of Versailles

Have only seen two of the nominated films, so I can’t speak much from my own aesthetic tastes. But “Searching for Sugar Man” has been totally dominant on the precursors circuit, and I don’t expect its dominance to let up now.

Best Foreign Language Film

Amour
“Kon-Tiki”
“No”
“A Royal Affair”
“War Witch”

Will win: “Amour
Could win: “Kon-Tiki”
Should win: “No”
Should be nominated: “Rust and Bone

Are any movies other than “Amour” in this category nominated for Best Picture? Nope, didn’t think so. Some have speculated crowd-pleasing “Kon-Tiki” could pull a “The Lives of Others”-style upset on Michael Haneke’s downer, but I think that’s doubtful at best.

And I base my should win for “No” on the trailer, which is seriously AMAZING! Shameless plug:

2:30 P.M. Honest posters for the Best Picture nominees. So incredibly accurate.

Amour Honest

SLP Honest

Lincoln Honest

2:25 P.M. Subtext?

2:15 P.M. Might as well start some predictions. What better place to start than with the music categories? This year’s ceremony promises to be quite a celebration of music between performances by Adele, Norah Jones, Barbra Streisand, and Shirley Bassey. There’s also the celebration of “Chicago,” “Dreamgirls,” and “Les Misérables.” And the show will close with a number by host Seth MacFarlane and Kristin Chenoweth. Oy.

Best Score

Anna Karenina,” Dario Marianelli

Argo,” Alexandre Desplat

Life of Pi,” Mychael Danna

Lincoln,” John Williams

Skyfall,” Thomas Newman

Will win: “Life of Pi
Could win: “Argo
Should win: “Anna Karenina
Should be nominated: “The Master,” Jonny Greenwood

Really don’t have any sense of certainty, but “Life of Pi” certainly seems to be headed towards a large below-the-line haul. And it won the Golden Globe. Perhaps if the momentum for “Argo” extends beyond Best Picture, it will lift up Best Score. It would be a much-deserved win for workhorse Alexandre Desplat. Then again, we also should not count out John Williams EVER. But I don’t think that will happen with the lack of “Lincoln” love in the late phase of the season.

Best Song

Before My Time from “Chasing Ice,” music and lyrics by J. Ralph

Suddenly from “Les Misérables,” music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

Pi’s Lullaby from “Life of Pi,” music by Mychael Danna, lyrics by Bombay Jayashri

Skyfall from “Skyfall,” music and lyrics by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth

Everybody Needs a Best Friend from “Ted,” music by Walter Murphy, lyrics by Seth MacFarlane

Will win: Skyfall from “Skyfall
Could win: Suddenly from “Les Misérables
Should win: Skyfall from “Skyfall
Should be nominated: Who Were We from “Holy Motors

Easiest race of the night to call. It’s “Skyfall” all the way.

2:00 P.M. Kids Oscars. Let’s go!

1:50 P.M. Feel free to comment below and I will respond in the post itself!

1:45 P.M. For reference’s sake, many people will refer to tonight’s proceedings as “The 2013 Academy Awards.” In fact, probably most people will. But I, for whatever reason, choose to refer to the ceremony by the calendar year in which the nominated films were released.

1:40 P.M. Already a quick note to the E! hostesses … stick to fashion, please. Leave punditry to Dave Karger. “Argo” will not win “Best Oscar,” it will win “Best Picture.”

1:30 P.M. Who the heck is already watching Oscars red carpet coverage?! ME, of course! I can’t get enough of this stuff, who cares if no one famous shows up for 5 hours? I’m now on my fourth live Oscars blog, and it has quickly become one of my favorite parts of the night. I love sharing my thoughts with everyone – and also being able to go back and see my thoughts from past ceremonies.

(If curious, check out the live blogs from 2011, 2010, and 2009.)

So who will win Best Picture, Best Director, and other coveted trophies? In a few hours, we will know. But in the meantime, we have this list of nine…

85th Academy Awards Nominations Announcement





HITCHCOCKED: “Vertigo” (1958)

22 08 2011

I’m fully prepared to take a lot of heat for what I’m about to say.  In fact, as I ponder making this statement in my head, I myself wonder if I’m a humongous hypocrite.  What I’m about to suggest could spark some serious outrage, perhaps on the level of suggesting “Citizen Kane” isn’t all that great (which I have gone on the record as saying is false).

I’d like to see “Vertigo,” with the same script, comparable actors, and the same Hitchcock penchant for filmmaking, be remade in the present day.

There, I said it.  It’s out there, I can’t take it back.  But while watching “Vertigo,” I was struck by the powerful and affecting portrait of a mentally disturbed policeman played by James Stewart.  I found Kim Novak’s work as the woman who claims to be possessed by the spirit of a dead woman to be frightening.  I felt Hitchcock’s masterful storytelling with the camera to be totally present.  I was totally engaged by the smart writing, which harkens to a mystery of almost mythical proportions.

Yet the visuals just felt so … outdated.  Yes, this is obvious given that the movie is over half a century old.  Obviously, it was about as good as it got back then.  But this is 2011, and when the camera is stuck in the past while the story remains timeless, it can’t help but be distracting.  In fact, it goes beyond that – it detracts.  The movie’s style now alienates us from the movie, pulling us out to remind us, “Oh, this is a movie, and this is how they could visually represent the fear of heights back then.”

So to maintain that pervasive sense of acrophobia, why not remake “Vertigo” with modern technology that would make this classic story work so much better for the audiences of today?  Isn’t that why we should be remaking movies?  Not just to be lazy or to sloppily “update” it to market to younger crowds, a remake of “Vertigo” that preserved the timeless integrity of the acting and storytelling would be perfect.  Because, perhaps with the exception of historic visual achievements, the look of a movie is something that should hold power no matter if it’s being shown in 1958 or 2011.  I’m convinced that it would have rocked me to my core had my eyes been borrowed from that era.





HITCHCOCKED: Rear Window (1954)

16 07 2011

Now I’m getting into Hitchcock’s most revered films, and I’m getting more and more excited to watch the movies.  While I had to trudge through some of his lesser known movies to get acquainted with his style so I didn’t fly blindly into the classics, now I’m starting to see why he has become such an iconic director.  “Rear Window” is definitely one that shows his unique knack for suspense.  It’s a slow (and sometimes a little tedious) build towards a frightening conclusion, told with an Old Hollywood sensibility yet still a thrill.

“We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms,” says Thelma Ritter’s nurse, Stella, to James Stewart’s wheelchair-bound Jeff, a photojournalist whose daring in the field has left him immobile in his apartment.  Left largely to his own devices while his socialite girlfriend, appropriately played by future princess Grace Kelly, he turns to voyeurism while looking out the titular aperture.  From afar, he watches his neighbors, imagining what their actions say about their lives and making up stories based on what he sees.  Hitchcock’s clever camerawork mimics Jeff’s eyeballs, jumping from place to place based on what’s interesting.

But one day, his intuitions tell him that by connecting some mental dots, his neighbor Thorwald has committed murder.  With nothing else to do but observe, he sneakily begins building a case against him despite the insistence of his friends and caretakers.  Hitchcock keeps the suspense held back until the very end, not giving us anything but Jeff’s hunches to be suspicious of Thorwald.

Perhaps the biggest thing I took from “Rear Window,” though, was how very seldom Hollywood makes movies like Hitchcock’s anymore.  His movies were all about using the artistic capabilities of cinema to manufacture suspense, thrills, and chills; now, filmmakers just through blood and gore at the screen, play some booming tune in the background, and call it a thriller.  While I loved “Disturbia,” the self-proclaimed modern take on this Hitchcock classic, it certainly lacks Hitchcock’s artistic flair.  I’m certainly more primed to like the Shia LaBeouf vehicle over the James Stewart starrer because of generational differences, but I recognize why one is a classic and the other is just a wannabe trying to cash in on the wizardry of one of cinema’s greatest icons.





HITCHCOCKED: “Dial M For Murder” (1954)

26 06 2011

The perfect murder is always the perfect scenario for a Hitchcock movie.  “Dial M for Murder” is then by definition a quintessential Hitchcock, and watching it would give anyone a taste of the director’s style and methods.  In fact, all it’s missing is some Jimmy Stewart.

The perfect murder here is planned by former tennis player Tony Wendice (Ray Milland), who hires the perfect stranger – or old friend – to execute it for him.  Through blackmail and clever thinking, Tony coerces a Cambridge acquaintance, C.A. Swann (Anthony Dawson), to murder his cheating wife Margot (Princess Grace Kelly).  He has the perfect alibi to save him from any suspicion; while Swann commits the murder, he will be at the gentleman’s club.  Yet things go haywire thanks to a pair of scissors, and Tony has to cover his tracks to avoid being discovered.

Hitchcock makes this single-room thriller compelling and suspensful, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has seen “Rope.”  The only real complaint I could lodge against this one is that at times it feels a little too theatrical (the movie is based on a play) and less cinematic, almost as if he filmed it a live performance on a Broadway stage.  But I have no problem with live theater, nor do I have a problem with Hitchcock, and this elaborately plotted murder mystery ranks up there with the best of them.





HITCHCOCKED: “The 39 Steps” (1935)

31 01 2011

NOTE: The name of this 12-part series reviewing some of Alfred Hitchcock’s finest features has been changed from “Hallowed Hitchcock” to “Hitchcocked” for the sake of compactness.

Can you believe I’ve gone 18 years of living and 18 months of blogging without seeing a single movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock?  Of course I’ve heard of his mastery and know of his influence over the craft of filmmaking as we know it, but as a New Year’s resolution, I decided to stop knowing about him and finally experience him.

So here we are, at the first of a monthly series running through 2011 hitting 12 high points in the filmmaking career of Alfred Hitchcock.  Where to start?  Before he came to America and made the films that made him an icon, I decided to start with one of his smaller British movies, “The 39 Steps,” to see if I noticed him returning to his roots.

While I didn’t watch this movie and instantly proclaim Hitchcock a men among boys and a god among men, what I did see was good, precise filmmaking that sure did entertain and engage.  It’s less of a thriller, the genre most fans associate Hitchcock with, and more of a captivating mystery with none of the ridiculous bells and whistles Hollywood movies add on nowadays.

Over the course of four days, Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) runs all over England and Scotland trying to escape the police after being wrongfully accused of murder and a league of spies who believe he holds dangerous knowledge about them.  The innocent Richard winds up assuming multiple identities to keep himself safe from his pursuers.  It’s an well-plotted adventure that keeps the audience on its toes for the duration of the movie.

I don’t really have any context to put “The 39 Steps” into, but it sure does make me look forward to exploring some of Hitchcock’s more famous filmography.  If something this good isn’t one of his most popular directorial ventures, then I’m expecting some real winners coming up.

 





10 for ’10: Best Movies (The Challenge)

31 12 2010

Catch up with the idea behind this series here.

By the time the clock runs down on 2010, I will have seen over 90 movies.  Most of them were average, nothing special but nothing horrible.  An alarming number were downright terrible.  But, as always, there are enough gems that shine above the coal to fill out a top 10 list.  It wasn’t quite as agonizing a process this year, but that’s beside the point.  I want to leave 2010 smiling because, for the most part, it was a good year for the movies – provided you were willing to look off the beaten path.

What I found in common with these 10 special movies released in 2010 was a challenge.  Each movie, in an entirely different way, issued a challenge to the moviegoer.  These movies weren’t complacent just providing two hours of escapism; they went so far as to engage our minds, hearts, and souls in the moviegoing experience.  They provided something that stuck with me, the movie watcher and reviewer, long after they ended and will continue to stick with me well into 2011.

So, here’s to the challenge, here’s to 2010, and here’s to movies!

#10

Easy A
(A Challenge to High School)
Directed by Will Gluck
Written by Bert V. Royal
Starring Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, and Amanda Bynes

It was about time that a movie like “Easy A” came along and perfectly encapsulated what it’s like to be a high school student in the era of texting and Facebook.  I was scared that my generation wasn’t going to get a Hollywood spotlight until twenty years later, and that would make us look like some kind of hokey antiques like the kids in “Grease.”  What makes “Easy A” so brilliant is how it incorporates the modern with the past, be it as distant as the Puritans or as recent as the Breakfast Club, to show how fundamentally different the high school experience has changed even since 2004’s “Mean Girls.”

For me, very few moments were so beautifully authentic this year as the movie’s high-speed mapping of the rumor mill, which now moves at the speed of light (or a 3G connection).  Propaganda posters after World War II suggested that loose lips cost lives, but in 2010, “Easy A” shows how it can cost reputations, something much more precious in high school.  Technology may have evolved, but high school hasn’t.  Society may have improved thanks to these innovations, so why haven’t we?

#9

Rabbit Hole
(A Challenge to Coping)
Directed by John Cameron Mitchell
Written by David Lindsey-Abaire
Starring Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, and Dianne Weist

Grief is either overdone or understated.  In “Rabbit Hole,” it’s presented in a manner so raw that it manages to be both at the same time, making for one of the most moving experiences of the year.  A story about a husband and wife, played to brilliance by Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, grieving their lost child, the movie shows many ways to cope.  Kidman’s Becca wants to move on, Eckhart’s Howie wants to live with it, and in the middle of it all is Becca’s mother, played by Dianne Weist, offering her advice on how to get to the peaceful state in which she resides.  There’s no answer to the question of who handles it best or which way is best; in fact, there’s not even an attempt to answer it.  But there’s something beautiful about an unanswered question, and maybe that’s why the grace of “Rabbit Hole” has stuck with me for so long.

#8

Get Him to the Greek
(A Challenge to Remain Silent)
Written and Directed by Nicholas Stoller
Starring Jonah Hill, Russell Brand, and Sean Combs

Okay, you can forget the challenge here.  It’s not coming from “Get Him to the Greek,” it’s coming from me – I dare you not to laugh at this movie.  Between the dynamite comedic pairing of Jonah Hill and Russell Brand, the scene-stealing farce that is Sean Combs’ foul-mouthed music exec Sergio, the ridiculous and totally awesome music of Infant Sorrow, and the hilarious situations that drive the movie, “Get Him to the Greek” was my favorite comedy of 2010.  It’s filled with endless quotables and capable of many repeat viewings without any diminishing laughter.

#7

Fair Game
(A Challenge to Patriotism)
Directed by Doug Liman
Written by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth
Starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn

Rather than fall into the pile of scathing movies about America’s involvement in Iraq, “Fair Game” takes its anger in a fresh and different direction and funnels it into something constructive.  The story of Valerie Plame Wilson, a scapegoat for the federal government in the wake of their exposure, is meant to rouse us, not to dismay us.  We are proud that there are still people in this country who believe in the Constitution and the principles on which we were founded, and staying silent is simply not an option.  While it hits you with rage, the knockout punch is of pride in Valerie and her courage to stand up for herself.  “Fair Game” stands out as an exuberant flag-waving fan while all other movies of the same vein just mope in dreary cynicism.

#6

Inside Job
(A Challenge to Care)
Written and Directed by Charles Ferguson
Narrated by Matt Damon

Who is responsible for the financial collapse of 2008?  Charles Ferguson lets us know who he thinks in the activist epilogue, which you can more or less disregard if you choose to do so, but in the hour and 40 minutes prior, he points the finger at just about everyone possible.  Including us.  Sure, there were many factors leading to a worldwide meltdown of the economy that were out of our control, but a little bit of oversight, we could have seen it coming.  By his systematic explanation of everything you need to know to understand what went down (call it “Global Meltdown for Dummies” if you must), he is challenging us to be the oversight that was lacking two years ago.  And judging by how things have developed since then, we are going to need a whole lot of it.

#5

Inception
(A Challenge to Imagination)
Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Marion Cotillard

For as much as I love the four movies I’m ranking ahead of “Inception,” none had such a monumental impact on the way movies are perceived and made quite like it.  Christopher Nolan successfully redefined what imagination means for millions of moviegoers, many of whom had to see the movie multiple times to figure out what was going on in his labyrinthian dreamscape.  With a massive spending allowance, he brought the spectacle to life and managed not treat the audience like children, which proved to be one of the most thrilling and psychologically satisfying experiences ever.  If a movie like this can’t change the fabric of filmmaking, maybe we are headed for the dark ages like Roger Ebert cries.

#4

The Social Network
(A Challenge to Modernity)
Directed by David Fincher
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, and Justin Timberlake

As an old adage goes, “Every time history repeats itself, the price goes up.”  David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s “The Social Network” may appear to be a movie planted in the digital era, but as has been said many times, it’s a movie about age-old themes like power, greed, and betrayal.  In essence, we’ve seen it before.  Yet retold as the story of the site we visit every day, it’s fascinating.  And it’s sublime thanks to brilliantly sculpted characters who never fit traditional hero/villain roles driving the narrative.  However, this is not just a rehash; it’s a brilliant cautionary tale for our times about individuality, innovation, and solitude.  “The Social Network,” along with its cryptic leading man Mark Zuckerberg, is the best movie of 2010 for serious conversation that’s relevant away from the screen and out of the theater.

#3

Toy Story 3
(A Challenge to Feel)
Directed by Lee Unkrich
Written by Michael Arndt
Voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and Joan Cusack

So maybe the whole prison escape plot wasn’t the most original thing in the world.  But “Toy Story 3” has a heart so big that nothing else matters.  I have no shame in admitting that I cried like the child that the movie made me feel like.  For the last 20 minutes of the movie, I felt the most beautiful mix of nostalgia, sadness, and joy that may just be the most powerful potion Pixar has brewed.  To be my age and watch this movie is like an ultimate realization that childhood can’t last forever.  But the tears aren’t just mourning, they are happy as the torch is passed to a new generation.  I pray, for their sake, that no technology can ever replace the comfort that a toy and a little bit of imagination can bring to any child.

#2

127 Hours
(A Challenge to Live)
Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy
Starring James Franco

Life-affirming isn’t a word I get to use to describe movies very often, and that’s precisely what makes “127 Hours” one of the most special experiences of 2010.  The perfect combination of Danny Boyle’s superhuman directing with James Franco’s rawly human acting makes for a movie experience defying the odds.  Who would have thought that a movie about a man losing his arm would be the movie that made me most glad to be alive?  The movie that made me most appreciative for the relationships in my life?  The movie that took me on the most gut-wrenching yet blissfully rewarding roller-coaster ride?  I don’t know if I’ll be able to watch “127 Hours” again, but I’m so glad I watched at least once because it truly was a movie I’ll never forget.

#1

Black Swan
(A Challenge to EVERYTHING)
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Written by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, and John MacLaughlin
Starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, and Vincent Cassel

It’s such a fantastic irony that “Black Swan” is a movie about the inability of humans to achieve perfection, yet Darren Aronofsky’s movie is the closest thing to cinematic perfection in 2010.  Behind Natalie Portman, who delivers one of the finest, if not the finest, performances I’ve ever seen from any actress, the movie soars to heights that I had previously thought unfathomable.  It challenges just about every cinematic boundary that still exists and then proceeds to demolish them.  But “Black Swan” doesn’t just destroy these boundaries for fun; it’s a purposeful and intelligent movie that gives a reason to change the boundaries of cinema for better and for good.  Fearless director Darren Aronofsky choreographs a master ballet of a movie that weaves together horror, beauty, and psychological breakdown with such poise that you’ll wonder why every movie can’t be as thrilling as his.  “Black Swan” is a glorious exaltation of cinema and a monumental achievement that will go down in history.