REVIEW: Detroit

5 08 2017

Don’t believe the marketing. “Detroit” is not a film about a series of riots that took place 50 years ago. Those events merely provide the background for a stripped down story in which the long-flaring tensions between the police force and the minority communities they patrol reach a boiling point.

Not unlike director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal’s last joint, “Zero Dark Thirty,” they begin with a brief prologue of historical context. Then, it was the audio of phone calls coming out of the World Trade Center over a black screen; here, crucial subtitles establish the interrelated forces of geographic mobility driving the Great Migration and the suburbanization of America. When blacks move into an area, whites move out – but maintain their control over those spaces through aggressive policing. Rather than cohabitation, the more powerful group opts for occupation by proxy.

This is important to understand in “Detroit,” which hones in on a single portion of the half-century-old historical event. Amidst the unrest, a black man fires shots from a prop toy gun out a window, sufficiently spooking the police and National Guard on patrol into storming the Algiers Motel. A harmless prank quickly brings out the most terroristic impulses from the boys in blue – and yes, they are boys. The young guns recall a description of the police in James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time: “in their Cub Scout uniforms and with their Cub Scout faces, totally unprepared, as is the way with American he-men, for anything that could not be settled with a club or a fist or a gun.”

From there, the film essentially functions like a hostage caper or a home invasion story. With her “Zero Dark Thirty” editor William Goldenberg and Harry Yoon, Bigelow ratchets up the tension by the moment as the police use every trick in the book to strip away all humanity from their suspects (several black men and two women in their company) in order to identify the shooter. Will Poulter’s unrepentantly lawless Krauss leads the charge to insult, harass and pit these friends against each other; calling his crusade against the dignity of blacks vigilantism does not even begin to do his despicable behavior justice.

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Live Blogging the 2012 Golden Globes!

13 01 2013

10:00 P.M.  For those of you keeping track at home, “Les Misérables” ruled the Golden Globes tonight with 3 wins!  “Django Unchained” and “Argo” also won two trophies.  “Amour,” “Brave,” “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Skyfall,” and “Zero Dark Thirty” each won a single award.

10:00 P.M.  HFPA awkwardly and unintentionally flips the bird to AMPAS tonight…

9:58 P.M.  BEST PICTURE – DRAMA: “ARGO

ARGO

9:52 P.M.  Unexpectedly humorous speech from Day-Lewis.  Although I laughed much harder at how most of the back of the room gave him a standing ovation … and NO ONE up front did.  Awkward…

9:50 P.M. BEST ACTOR – DRAMA: DANIEL DAY-LEWIS, “LINCOLN

Lincoln

9:50 P.M.  What a beautiful speech, Chastain looked truly humbled and honored.  To the Oscars we go, hopefully!  (Hey HFPA, didn’t appreciate your shot of the audience where we could see you all flashing “WRAP UP.”)

9:48 P.M. BEST ACTRESS – DRAMA: JESSICA CHASTAIN, “ZERO DARK THIRTY

Zero Dark Thirty

9:41 P.M.  Adorable Anne Hathaway stealing the microphone quickly to do a few more thanks and then tightly hugging Amanda Seyfried.

9:40 P.M. BEST PICTURE – MUSICAL/COMEDY: LES MISERABLES

Les Miserables (2)

9:39 P.M.  Jeremy Renner bleeped…

9:34 P.M.  What a charming acceptance speech, and so much love for his wife!  Maybe he can beat Daniel Day-Lewis?!

9:32 P.M.  BEST ACTOR – MUSICAL/COMEDY: HUGH JACKMAN, “LES MISERABLES

Les Miserables

9:22 P.M.  They talked about actors, and then the category was Best TV Series – Musical/Comedy?  At least it was “Girls!”

9:18 P.M.  Take that, Academy!  Standing ovation for snubbed Ben Affleck!

9:18 P.M. BEST DIRECTOR: BEN AFFLECK, “ARGO

Argo

9:11 P.M.  What on earth did Jodie Foster just say?  Seriously, my TV audio went out in what I assume was a bleep.

9:04 P.M.  OK, people, time for you to go watch “The Beaver.”  It has Mel Gibson, sure, but it also has Jennifer Lawrence!

The Beaver

8:59 P.M.  “Taylor Swift, stay away from Michael J. Fox’s son!” – Tina Fey, who needs to be on this telecast far more

8:53 P.M.  Lena Dunham may have won the Golden Globe, but Tina Fey got to wait with J.Lo and Amy Poehler got awfully close to George Clooney.  It’s debatable who the overall winner really was tonight.

8:51 P.M.  Hooray for Lena – NOT Lisa, Aziz – Dunham!  Go watch “Tiny Furniture!”

8:50 P.M.  Aziz Ansari being carried by Jason Bateman … fantastic.

8:47 P.M.  BEST ANIMATED FILM: “BRAVE

Brave

8:46 P.M.  What on earth did that introduction have to do with Best Animated Film?

8:45 P.M.  Goodness gracious, Sacha Baron Cohen is drunk…

8:39 P.M.  4 Golden Globes for Claire Danes in her career.  She’s halfway to Meryl Streep!

8:35 P.M.  BEST FOREIGN FILM: “AMOUR

Amour

8:27 P.M.  “Best Picture nominee ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen‘” just sounds so wrong.

8:25 P.M.  Really, Golden Globes?  Tarantino for screenplay?  Not OK with that. “Inglourious Basterds” blows “Django Unchained” out of the water.  And the speech was a total MESS.  Someone was overserved…

8:23 P.M. BEST SCREENPLAY: QUENTIN TARANTINO, “DJANGO UNCHAINED

Django

8:18 P.M.  Give us more time with Anne Hathaway’s acceptance speech – we love her!

8:15 P.M. BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: ANNE HATHAWAY, “LES MISERABLES

Anne Hathaway

8:07 P.M.  Yes, JLaw, to answer the question you were so desperately trying to ask during that speech, OF COURSE we can be best friends!

8:07 P.M.  “Does this say ‘I beat Meryl?'” – Jennifer Lawrence

8:06 P.M.  BEST ACTRESS – MUSICAL/COMEDY: JENNIFER LAWRENCE, “SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

Jennifer Lawrence

8:04 P.M.  The sad thing is, Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig are saying what a lot of Americans are to their television sets right now.  Wondering what this “Silver Linings Playbook” thing is and cursing them for not nominating “The Avengers.”

8:02 P.M.  Nice abs, Kristen Wiig.

7:59 P.M.  Clinton introducing “Lincoln.”  Oscar for Best Picture is now in the bag, in case it wasn’t already.

7:58 P.M.  Really, Bill Clinton?!  What?!

7:55 P.M.  Tina Fey and Amy Poehler going and impersonating the absent celebrities is PRICELESS.

7:49 P.M.  Looks like we need more Grammy-winners to come freshen up film awards.

7:48 P.M. BEST ORIGINAL SONG: SKYFALL, “SKYFALL

Skyfall

7:45 P.M. BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: MYCHAEL DANNA, “LIFE OF PI

Life of Pi

7:42 P.M.  Woah, real Tony Mendez!

Argo

7:36 P.M.  Awkward teleprompter flub with Salma Hayek and Paul Rudd … hooray for “Homeland!”  Don’t understand why they present Best TV Series – Drama before Best Actress in a TV Drama?!

7:33 P.M.  Wow, now “Homeland” is set to dominate the Golden Globes too after Emmys domination.  Weird not to hear Damian Lewis speak in his gruff American accent!

7:32 P.M.  Didn’t get to see much from the red carpet, but from what I can tell … Jessica Chastain wins.  Just as she did at the Oscars last year.  Ehh, didn’t really get to look closely enough.  She’s gorgeous, sure, but the dress wasn’t that great.

Jessica Chastain

7:30 P.M.  “Call Me Maybe” needs to be left in 2012, HFPA lady.

7:23 P.M.  Don’t sing again, Catherine Zeta-Jones, unless it’s “Chicago.”  Thanks.  That line of “Do You Hear The People Sing?” was awful.

7:21 P.M.  If “Game Change” had been released in theaters, Julianne Moore would be in contention for Best Actress.  Think about it…

7:18 P.M. Hooray for “Game Change!”   One of the better movies I saw this year in any format!

7:12 P.M.  C’mon, Professor McGonagall.  It’s one thing not to do press for yourself – but not showing up to receive the inevitable award?!

7:10 P.M.  Please, Academy, you’ve already awarded Christoph Waltz for literally the same performance.  And oh, here goes Waltz again with the poetic metaphors in his speeches.

7:10 P.M. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: CHRISTOPH WALTZ, “DJANGO UNCHAINED

Django

7:08 P.M.  “This 70th anniversary celebration.”  OK.  Glad Tina and Amy mentioned that!

7:03 P.M.  “When it comes to torture, I trust the lady who spent 3 years married to James Cameron.” – Amy Poehler, much to the amusement of Jessica Chastain (who was DYING laughing)

7:02 P.M.  Already loving the Tina and amy combo.  Same humor, just with less bite!

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Oscar Moment: Final 2012 Predictions, Part 4 (Directing)

8 01 2013

TWO MORE DAYS!  I’m slowly starting to lose my mind … or at least become so consumed with thinking about the Oscar nominations that I can think of little else.

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

See my predictions for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

See my predictions for Best Actor and Best Actress.

Best Director

  1. Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln
  2. Kathryn Bigelow, “Zero Dark Thirty
  3. Ben Affleck, “Argo
  4. Tom Hooper, “Les Misérables
  5. David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook

Kathryn Bigelow ZDTIn case you caught on, yes, I did intentionally structure my prediction breakdown so that I would get to publish post-Directors Guild nominations.  If you didn’t catch those this morning, they were Ben Affleck for “Argo,” Kathryn Bigelow for “Zero Dark Thirty,” Tom Hooper for “Les Misérables,” Ang Lee for “Life of Pi,” and Steven Spielberg for “Lincoln.”

It’s worth noting, though, that the DGA has perfectly matched the Academy’s nominees only twice since 2000.

Having said that, Spielberg, Affleck, and Bigelow are in.  I don’t think anyone will debate that.  Even as “Zero Dark Thirty” seems to have knocked aback with the fatuous claims of torture endorsement, Bigelow remains firmly in place.  Heck, I think any of these three could win.  Who knows, maybe we could even have … a split year!

Spielberg won Best Director in 1998 for “Saving Private Ryan” even though “Shakespeare in Love” won Best Picture.  Could a similar surprise be in store this year?

Bigelow’s direction has earned her tremendous accolades again.  She’s been the critical choice pick of the year, often times winning even when “Zero Dark Thirty” doesn’t take Best Picture.  Will she take the prize again for her follow-up to “The Hurt Locker” just three years after winning her first Oscar?

Argo Best Director

And if “Argo” surges and looks poised to win Best Picture, Ben Affleck will likely win Best Director.  I don’t think he would benefit from a split.

Beyond the three of them, it gets dicier.  If you assume there are seven “safe” Best Picture nominees, you have four men competing for two spots: Ang Lee for “Life of Pi,” David O. Russell for “Silver Linings Playbook,” Tom Hooper for “Les Misérables,” and Quentin Tarantino for “Django Unchained.”  That’s an impressive group that contains two winners and two nominees.

Some people seem to think “Les Misérables” is weak because the critics have defined people’s perceptions of the movie’s standing in the race.  This is “The King’s Speech” on steroids.  That movie beat the critical favorite, “The Social Network,” with no trouble at all.  And it didn’t need the critics groups at all; it only took one Best Picture prize.  Colin Firth was keeping the movie in discussion and taking most of the accolades, just as Anne Hathaway is doing now.

Hooper beat out David Fincher, who almost undeniably did more impressive work in “The Social Network,” in a year that perhaps more than ever screamed for a Picture-Director split.  If he can win for “The King’s Speech,” I don’t see how he doesn’t get nominated for “Les Misérables.”

Life of PiWhile many would say Ang Lee was just below the “big three,” I would say Hooper is far more secure.  I think the movie will play well with Academy voters, and I still think it could win Best Picture.  It will likely win three, if not four Golden Globes.  It could also win the ensemble award at SAG.  And if “Les Misérables” made them feel anywhere near as much as “The King’s Speech,” they know who pulled the strings of their tear ducts.  A nomination feels pretty secure to me.

“Life of Pi” support is fading.  Though I still think it will power through and get a Best Picture nomination, Fox seems to have dropped the ball on keeping the momentum going.  Lee did get nominations from HFPA and BFCA, albeit in a field of six for the latter.  And the DGA nod certainly helps.

But for all this talk of Lee getting a nomination for “Life of Pi” simply because it is incredibly ambitious or challenging do little to persuade me.  I know this is a totally different case, but that didn’t help Christopher Nolan for “Inception” in a tight year (the directing branch of the Academy loathes Nolan but likes Lee for some bizarre reason).  While he’s now in my good graces because of “Les Misérables,” artistic merit often takes a backseat to feel-good stories as shown by Hooper’s triumph in 2010 over Fincher and Aronofsky.

I can’t help but wonder if Lee will get the cold shoulder like David Fincher did last year for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”  That film was getting love from the guilds left and right but was largely shunned by the Academy, including high-profile snubs in Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay.  Is “Life of Pi” that technical marvel that guilds will admire but Academy members won’t quite appreciate as much?

LincolnHowever, the Academy directing branch, comprised of only about 300-400 members, is notoriously snooty, arty, high-minded, or whatever adjective you want to use.  So maybe that will benefit Ang Lee.  But often times, it’s a boon to someone they respect but has received little recognition leading up to the nominations   With their out of the blue selections, they often provide some of the biggest surprises on nomination morning.

The ultimate case was in 2001 when they nominated David Lynch for “Mulholland Drive,” a movie that received no other nominations.  But more recent and reasonable examples are Terrence Malick for “The Tree of Life,” Paul Greengrass for “United 93,” and Mike Leigh for “Vera Drake.”  I think the most likely person to snab this kind of nomination would be Paul Thomas Anderson for “The Master.”  As much as I’d love to see that happen, I doubt it will.

They also like to nominate directors with vision working in foreign languages.  In the past decade, we’ve seen Best Director nominees Julian Schnabel for “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” Fernando Meirelles for “City of God,” and Pedro Almodóvar for “Talk to Her.”  For that reason, we can’t count out Michael Haneke popping up for “Amour.”  It’s certainly had the critical plaudits to be a non-shocking surprise.

David O

Maybe they really respect and admire the vision of Tarantino in “Django Unchained.”  They’ve been fans twice before, providing him nominations for 1994’s “Pulp Fiction” and 2009’s “Inglourious Basterds.”  Both of those, however, were preceded by DGA nominations.  The Weinstein Company has been floating the excuse that his passing over is due to DVD screeners not going out to DGA members.

But I think it’s telling that the Academy will stay away.  His only major nomination so far has been from the Golden Globes, and it’s clear they were high on “Django Unchained.”  I think it has proven to be much more of an audience success than a critical or guild one, though it has supporters amongst those groups.  The “Inglourious Basterds” nod was looking good from the beginning; this time around has not been so fortuitous for Tarantino.

I don’t feel that PTA or Haneke are nearly as revered as Malick and thus have the power to displace a sure-fire Best Picture nominee.  With all my reservations about Tarantino and Lee, I’m left to predict David O. Russell for “Silver Linings Playbook.”  Though overlooked by the DGA and the HFPA, he was a Critics Choice nominee and (perhaps more importantly) a nominee for Best Director for “The Fighter” in 2010.

Academy voters are creatures of habit.  If something works for them once, it often works again.  Why do you think so-called “Oscar bait” was born?  Once the studios figured out their tastes, they play right into their wheelhouse time after time.  “Silver Linings Playbook” is very similar to “The Fighter” in terms of tone and emotional payoff.  The only real difference this year is that he has directed a comedy as opposed to a drama.  (Although there is little funnier than Charlene beating up Micky’s white-trash sisters.)

So it looks like I’ll be predicting a more conservative, sure-fire Best Picture nominees slate here.  I know it’s at odds with the whole notion that the season is one of the most unpredictable ever.  But I’ve watched for the signs (to quote “Silver Linings Playbook”) and don’t get the sense that anything radically wacky is going to happen in Best Director.





REVIEW: Zero Dark Thirty

20 12 2012

If you asked me to do word associations for the subgenre procedural, I’d probably start with long, tedious, cold, and other such synonyms.  But I gladly say that none of these apply to director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal’s “Zero Dark Thirty,” the story of the ten-year hunt for Osama bin Laden.  Spoiler alert … he dies at the end.

Though I’m sure the pursuit was a lot messier than what we saw on the screen (and plenty took place in the shadows that we will never know), Boal makes the chase relatively easy to follow given all the leads and locations the CIA follows.  He perfectly strikes the delicate balance between capturing the fine details of the operation while also keeping the big picture squarely in focus.

And Bigelow matches his careful dance every step of the way.  Essentially, she takes the unbelievable suspense she was able to create in “The Hurt Locker” and puts it on a macro scale.  It’s not just Sgt. James anymore; it’s the United States of America.  It’s a goose chase so wild and riveting that the two and a half hours will feel like twenty minutes.

In the opening scenes of the film when the detainee program is yielding little to track down Bin Laden, “Zero Dark Thirty” had me at a distance, interested but not fully engaged.  Yet two hours later as Seal Team Six embarked on the raid that would ultimately take out the most wanted terrorist, I found myself on the edge of my seat with my heart racing at a million miles per hour.  And keep in mind, I knew what was going to happen!  Bigelow’s thriller is tightly constructed with not a moment wasted as it builds towards the inevitable payoff.

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F.I.L.M. of the Week (December 14, 2012)

14 12 2012

Blue Steel

It’s rare these days to find a taut, well-constructed thriller.  Usually these genre pics fall victim to throwing on cheap frills and pointless scenes that disrupt the forward momentum of the picture towards a heart-pumping finale.  Not Kathryn Bigelow’s “Blue Steel,” though.  This pick for “F.I.L.M. of the Week” is an early example of the director’s incredible ability to build tension to nerve-wracking effect, making it an interesting companion piece with her Oscar-winning “The Hurt Locker.”

Beyond just a thriller, “Blue Steel” is also a remarkable movie to watch from a feminist perspective.  Ironic that Bigelow would wind up being the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director as the film deals with many themes of male castration anxiety in the wake of female empowerment.  Bigelow uses a common symbol for masculinity, the phallically shaped gun, and makes many powerful and provocative suggestions in the film’s subtext.

But even if you don’t really want to do an intellectual read on the film, there’s still plenty for you.  “Blue Steel” also works as an grittier, pared-down “Fatal Attraction”-esque story, a narrative that captivates when combined with Bigelow’s remarkable ability to generate suspense.

The film begins with Jamie Lee Curtis’ policewoman Megan Turner gunning down an armed robber in a convenient store, but it quickly spirals into so much more as her bold gesture piques the interest of a bystander, Eugene Hunt (Ron Sliver).  Bizarrely inspired – or threatened – by Turner’s aggression, he begins committing strange deeds in her name to get her attention.  We never quite get a logical reason for his breakdown, but we don’t need one to be terrified and riveted by his sociopathic quest.

Even though it was released in 1990, “Blue Steel” still feels incredibly intense and gripping today.  It might have something to do with the odd parallels Megan Turner bears to Kathryn Bigelow’s journey to notoriety.  However, the more likely reason is that every scene in her film is essential towards progressing the film and not a moment seems wasted.





F.I.L.M. of the Week (March 12, 2010)

12 03 2010

The “F.I.L.M. of the Week” is Kathryn Bigelow’s “Near Dark.”  Rather than present a conventional review, I simply want to leave you with a “top 10 list” as to why you should watch this movie.

  1. For any of you who cheered on Kathryn Bigelow to Oscar gold a few days ago but had no idea what she had directed other than “The Hurt Locker,” you need to see “Near Dark.”  This is one of her earliest movies, and it’s a totally different experience than her most recent directorial effort.  Nevertheless, it showcases her excellent directorial prowess.
  2. Tired of the “Twilight” vampires and Stephenie Meyer’s romanticization of the blood-sucking creatures who haunt the night, also known as vampires?  “Near Dark” is the antidote to your woes.  It bears a few plot similarities (and I can unfortunately say this from experience because I read the book – DO NOT JUDGE ME), but you won’t see any tender moments in the fields here.  Bigelow makes the vampires fearsome creatures who burn in the sunlight and look disheveled and dirty.  Forget Team Edward, I’m on Team Bigelow.
  3. But for those of you that like “Twilight,” you should know that a remake of this movie was planned yet cancelled in the wake of the release of the vampire juggernaut.
  4. Bigelow superimposes the vampire story over the backdrop of a western town, and she mingles the two genres in ingenious ways.
  5. Need someone with better acting chops than Robert Pattinson playing your vampire?  Does Bill Paxton suffice?  He is the most recognizable actor that “Near Dark” has to offer, but each of the other vampires are equally as terrifying.
  6. If you want something that will capture your attention, just wait until the vampires go hunting for some food in a biker bar.  Bigelow builds the tension beautifully just like she did in “The Hurt Locker.”
  7. It was made in 1987, so it’s got some awesome 80isms about it.  Just  that generally awesome vibe that an 80s movie has is the best thing “Near Dark” has going for it.
  8. Almost the whole movie features the score of a German synth pop band.  It’s a serious movie, so try not to let it distract you too much.  But enjoy it, even laugh at it if you feel so compelled.
  9. And while we are on the subject of the ’80s, enjoy some of the special effects towards the end.  They match the quality of “Avatar” at their most brilliant moments (did you pick up on my sarcasm?)
  10. If you are just looking for an enjoyable moviegoing experience that offers you thrills, chills, drama, and maybe some comedy at the expense of the movie itself, then “Near Dark” is a pick that will suit you.  It veers toward the predictable at times, but who really cares?  It’s from the 80’s!!




Oscar Moment: Predictions As The Ballots Go Out

28 12 2009

Oscar nomination ballots have now been sent out to the Academy!  Thus, I felt it was time to issue a new set of Oscar Predictions.  Since I last went on record, we have heard from a multitude of critics groups, the National Board of Review, and have received nominations from the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild.  What conclusion can we draw from them?  I draw mine here.

Best Picture

  1. Up in the Air
  2. The Hurt Locker
  3. Avatar
  4. Precious
  5. Inglourious Basterds
  6. Up
  7. An Education
  8. Invictus
  9. Nine
  10. A Serious Man

Big changes this week, though nothing changes at the top.  I still think “Up in the Air” is going to win – and not just because I love it so much.  It is slowly picking up steam at the box office, and it is a movie that pretty much everybody really likes.  It is powerful storytelling with commanding performances, the recipe for usual Oscar success.

But its two biggest threats have changed since the last set of predictions.  “The Hurt Locker” has clearly established itself as the critical favorite, the movie that scores the most with the various critics groups from New York to Oklahoma.  This can be good and bad, but the good critical favorites are usually the ones that are mixed with audience support.  With only $12 million in the bank, it is clear that “The Hurt Locker” does not have this.  If people a more populist pick for Best Picture with the expansion of the field, this would most likely send a message of adherence to pretentiousness.

The opposite message would be sent with the selection of “Avatar.”  I resisted for as long as I could, but now it is virtually undeniable.  With critics clearly behind it and box office standing at a formidable $213 million, this has a lot going for it.  Yet it has a gender prejudice going against it.  Only rarely do action movies fly with the Academy; just look at how they snubbed “The Dark Knight” last year for “The Reader.”  I think many will see it as little more than a visual spectacle and technological innovator.

“Inglourious Basterds” has really jumped on the scene, getting top nominations from the Golden Globes and the SAG.  I didn’t think this was possible in August, but I guess I was wrong.

“An Education” didn’t really fall; everything else just went up.  Same goes for “Invictus,” but I think we are looking at this year’s “Frost/Nixon” or “Good Night, and Good Luck” here.  By that, I mean the movie that gets a bunch of nominations with no real chance at winning any of them.

“Nine” actually dropped, though.  Audiences didn’t receive it well as shown by the lackluster $5.4 million it posted Christmas weekend.  Critics aren’t digging it, and its Rotten Tomatoes score is now sitting at a dreadful 37% fresh.  On the other hand, we can’t forget that it did get a SAG Best Ensemble nomination over high-flying “Up in the Air,” among others.  This is a movie that the actors seem to like, and they make up a large portion of the voting body.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see it slip off the charts completely, but don’t count it out just yet.  (“Precious” dropped too, but I offer some explanation on that in the Best Director section.)

The tenth slot continues to puzzle me.  Now, I have it going to the Coen’s “A Serious Man,” but this is another big question mark.  It failed to get a nomination for Best Picture at the Golden Globes (where “It’s Complicated” did, so “ha!” to all my detractors on that one), which is pretty big considering that “Burn After Reading” made it last year despite being met with a slightly chillier reception.  And it pains me to pick this while so many of my favorite movies sit in the cellar.

Best Director

  1. Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”
  2. Jason Reitman, “Up in the Air”
  3. James Cameron, “Avatar”
  4. Quentin Tarantino, “Inglourious Basterds”
  5. Clint Eastwood, “Invictus”

Bigelow has gained a lot of strength with most of the critics groups on her side, and I can now see a Best Picture-Director split between “Up in the Air” and her.  The momentum for her to become the first female director to win the Oscar may just be too big to deny.  Not to mention the fact that if “Up in the Air” takes screenplay and picture, Reitman will walk away with two statues.

James Cameron is the real star of “Avatar,” and the Academy will no doubt want to honor his work.  This is a project that he has had in his head for over 15 years, and his patience while the technology caught up with the idea should be rewarded.

Tarantino takes over the fifth spot from Rob Marshall because of the lack of love for “Nine” (which is mostly because of him).  The “Inglourious Basterds” love the critics, Golden Globes, and SAG have displayed is enough to get its director a nomination.  After all, it really is his movie.

Lee Daniels drops off the chart because of his Golden Globes snub when “Precious” was clearly well received by the group.  “Precious” has lost a ton of momentum from its release in November, mainly due to bumbling Lionsgate who refused to capitalize on the limited release success by taking it nationwide then.

People see the Academy as Clint’s cronies, which isn’t necessarily true.  Maybe they just set out to make a statement last year with their “Gran Torino” shutout, but I think that the financial success came too late to make an impact.  “Invictus” hasn’t exactly lit the box office on fire; however, I just get the sinking feeling that he is still going to get nominated here.  Call me crazy.

Best Actor

  1. George Clooney, “Up in the Air”
  2. Colin Firth, “A Single Man
  3. Morgan Freeman, “Invictus”
  4. Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart
  5. Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”

The only change here is Bridges falling to number 4.  He has only won awards from critics whose awards truly mean something like the Los Angeles Film Critics Circle;  Clooney and Firth have been taking all the others.  I’m getting a vibe that this a performance that is being honored for honor, not because people really love it.  I am getting the latter vibe from Clooney, who has been taking the prizes from a lot of the smaller, less renowned critics circles.

This is the standard top 5 now among almost everyone.  I can’t help but feel like there has to be some kind of shake-up here, some surprise nominee.  But who?  Maybe Daniel Day-Lewis will find his way in like always, or perhaps Matt Damon will surprise for his turn in “The Informant!”  He had a heck of a year, and the Academy could see fit to honor that with two nominations.  Just spitballing here.

Best Actress

  1. Carey Mulligan, “An Education”
  2. Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia
  3. Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious” 
  4. Helen Mirren, “The Last Station
  5. Marion Cotillard, “Nine”

I’m sorry, but I cannot pick Sandra Bullock here.  I keep seeing all these raves for her and wonder if I saw the same movie and performance as they did.

I moved Sidibe back a spot because the critics awards seem to be hinting that this race will be a duel between Streep and Mulligan, the veteran and the fresh face.  However, I could see a possible vote split propelling the novice to victory.

With Abbie Cornish showing up nowhere and “Bright Star” seemingly forgotten, she falls off the list.  I replaced her with Marion Cotillard because the Academy loved her enough to give her an Oscar when no one knew who she was.  Even though the buzz on “Nine” is down, I have a feeling there will be plenty of love for the ladies.  Cotillard does have two emotionally wrenching numbers in the movie going for her.

And I’ll use this post to congratulate Meryl Streep on receiving her 25th Golden Globe nomination.

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”
  2. Stanley Tucci, “The Lovely Bones
  3. Christopher Plummer, “The Last Station”
  4. Alfred Molina, “An Education”
  5. Matt Damon, “Invictus”

This is the category with the big shake-up this week.

Christoph Waltz is winning almost everything, so I can still place him in the number one slot.

Stanley Tucci jumps from off the list all the way to number 2.  I think its a mix of career achievement and a very good year (despite the apparent “The Lovely Bones” flop).  Christopher Plummer shares the former of these; Matt Damon, the latter.  I think the fact that Plummer is 80 years old, well-respected, and has no nominations is enough to get him into the field.

Woody Harrelson, Alfred Molina, and Matt Damon were the three men vying for my last three slots.  Despite Globes and SAG snubs for Molina, I still feel confident that he can make it.  Damon and Harrelson got the two nominations that Molina missed, so logic would probably say that they would be the two to fill the spots.  But I just get the feeling that Damon will get in because of the one-two punch of “Invictus” and “The Informant!”

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Mo’Nique, “Precious”
  2. Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”
  3. Julianne Moore, “A Single Man”
  4. Vera Farmiga, “Up in the Air”
  5. Penelope Cruz, “Nine”

No large change here.  Mo’Nique is becoming quite the juggernaut, and unless she goes full Eddie Murphy, there’s no chance she loses it.

If she does go full Eddie, Anna Kendrick takes it.  Her “Up in the Air” co-star, Vera Farmiga, takes over the fourth slot from Penelope Cruz.  “Nine” love isn’t very strong, but she is the scene stealer.  And she gets her picture here because she was too stunning not to feature.

Best Original Screenplay

  1. Inglourious Basterds
  2. Up
  3. The Hurt Locker
  4. A Serious Man 
  5. (500) Days of Summer

Tarantino’s dialogue has won over the Academy once before, and I think he may do it again this year.  He could be the new Woody Allen (for the Oscar voters) – just don’t tell him that I said that.

“A Serious Man” moves into the the nominees mainly because I can’t ponder hearing “Winner of One Oscar Nomination – BEST PICTURE.”  I know it will happen eventually, but I don’t think it can the first year.

If “(500) Days of Summer” doesn’t get nominated here, I will hit something.  It is too creative and brilliant to be ignored.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. Up in the Air
  2. An Education
  3. Precious
  4. Invictus
  5. District 9

“Up in the Air” is still king here.  Even if it doesn’t take Best Picture, I have a hard time seeing it losing this category.

“An Education” moves up despite missing out at the Golden Globes.  There is a sizable British faction of the Academy, and they will see to it that he gets his just reward for this great screenplay.  “Precious” moves down not only because of the Globes screenplay snub, but also because of a general loss of momentum.

“Invictus” gets a bump up mainly because “District 9” moves into the field as a wild-card contender.  “Avatar” has probably dashed its hopes in the Best Picture field, so the Academy could reward it here.  This was a well-scripted movie that scored with audiences and critics alike, and it deserves more than technical nominations that it is bound to lose to “Avatar.”

So, what are your thoughts?  Am I crazy to still think “Up in the Air” will win Best Picture?  Or that Jeff Bridges won’t win Best Actor?  I’m dying to know what you think, so don’t hesitate to tell me!