Friday, February 28, 2014

My Official 2014 Oscar Predictions

I am going with 12 Years A Slave taking the statue for Best Picture, that will be one of its three total Oscars, the other two for Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress to Lupita Nyong'o.
Gravity will win seven Oscars, all in technical categories, plus most notably, Alfonso Cuarón for Best Director. There is a very good chance that Gravity could basically sweep and snap up Best Picture as well. The Best Picture race is almost too close to call.
Dallas Buyers Club will also earn three Academy Awards, two for Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto's acting and for Best Makeup. Frozen will get two, The Great Gatsby two, and Cate Blanchett will be Best Actress. I have also landed on 20 Feet From Freedom for Best Documentary Feature and Her for Best Original Screenplay.

What follows are images of my full Oscar ballot of predictions for the 86th Annual Academy Awards, how I would vote if I were a member of the Academy and my viewing ballots. Filling out a ballot of how I would vote as opposed to predictions is a highly rewarding activity after seeing so many of the nominated films. The viewing ballot is the one I print the morning the Oscar nominations are announced and excitedly check off as I see the nominated films. I also write notes of DVD release dates and available formats to assist me in my homework. I do reserve the right to make changes to my paper ballot of predictions up until the first envelope is opened on March 2nd. The same rule applies for party guests.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


A stodgy old man with a questionable state of mind believes that he has won a million dollars by way of junk mail and insists that he collect it in person. The old man, Woody Grant, is played by Bruce Dern and he is nominated for Best Actor for the role. Will Forte portrays his son David. It would be obvious to say that the role is a surprising dramatic turn for Forte. It is true, however, statements like that seem to say more about the lack of respect granted to comedic acting than to standout performances. Acting mainstay with all the buzz of newcomer, June Squibb is the mother of David and wife of Woody. Squibb will appear on the next episode of Girls, ironically airing during the Oscar telecast. Bob Odenkirk, or Saul for the Breaking Bad fans, has a similar dramatic turn as Ross, the other son and brother in the Grant family. It was nice seeing Odenkirk as a realistic character. Buzz from Home Alone has a small role in the film. David decides to drive his father from Montana to Nebraska to collect the million dollars. The film is directed by Alexander Payne (the Descendants, Sideways, Election and About Schmidt). The black and white cinematography never seemed to be for an artistic or symbolic reason to me. Payne has said that he made that choice because the modest story seemed to lend itself well to the austere characters and that the artistic decision to not film in black and white is often driven by commercial reasons, not artistic. The movie is categorized as a drama and certainly has a sad tone but it is full of quirky humor.
Seeing Bruce Dern on Inside the Actors Studio as well as his posture at the Oscar Nominee Luncheon, his demeanor was a little off putting. Maybe he is too old to care but it seems he had an overconfident attitude that is nothing new. Reading that Dern liked Forte so much that he wanted him to date his daughter Laura Dern was pretty cute though. Nebraska is nominated for six Oscars and six Spirit Awards. The film was also nominated for three BAFTAs and five Golden Globes. The film received nominations from the Academy for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. It is not anticipated that it will win any Oscars. Regardless, 84 year old Best Supporting Actress nominee June Squibb has been making the talk show rounds and done hilarious bits on Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen about her nomination. The movie's Spirit Award nominations are similar for Best Feature, Best Director, Best First Screenplay for Bob Nelson, Best Male Lead, Best Supporting Female and Best Supporting Male for Forte. Nelson is expected to win Best First Screenplay (though I had really hoped that Lake Bell would win for the In a World... script). Nebraska is available for home viewing.

Now Playing...
I had not intended to see Frozen but the thought that I had not seen a movie expected to win two Oscars got me to the theater, as did seeing the animated short Get a Horse!, another expected winner. Frozen is the highest grossing animated Disney film of all time. It has been playing in theaters since November and is still in the top ten at the box office, nearing one billion globally. Frozen is the likely winner of Best Animated Feature and Best Song for "Let It Go." The animation is very good and it is deserving of the feature win. The plot of Frozen was your typical fairy tale, though it was based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, as lesser known story. The little snowman guy is pretty cool. The effort to be sure to see Get a Horse! was unwarranted, the other Best Animated Short nominees are much more deserving. Now I know.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Monuments Men

The cast of men in the movie is fantastic. An opening scene when George Clooney's character is hatching his plan with Matt Damon's character is reminiscent of an Ocean's scheme. Except now they will be assembling a crew to recover and preserve art from Nazis. A much more admirable and serious feat. George Clooney wrote and directed the movie. I love that George cast Jean Dujardin; Dujardin beat Clooney for Best Actor two years ago. Bill Murray is at his best and partners off with Bob Balaban humorously and heartwarmingly. John Goodman continues to have a very busy career, appearing in award winning fare like Argo, Flight and Inside Llewyn Davis as well as comedies like the Hangover III over the last two years. Goodman's exchanges with Dujardin have a similar feel to the Murray-Balaban banter.
Hopefully we will be hearing about the Monuments Men again during next year's award season. Maybe I would just like that to be the case. It is historical and the Academy tends to like that. The remarkable story was also unknown prior to the film. The box office has been decent but it had little chance against the Lego Movie. It debuted in second place and was fifth this past weekend at the box office. The film will recoup its 70 million dollar budget and make modest profits. It may not be enough to keep the movie visible ten months down the line. The movie's Rotten Tomatoes and imdb ratings are also not very promising. Movies released in February and March rarely make it into awards season and it may need more popularity to be memorable enough without soaring critical acclaim. Here's hoping because it is a very good flick.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Oscar Ballots Due and Show Preparations

Six more days to go! Final Oscar ballots are due Tuesday February 25th at five pm Pacific Standard time.
While PricewaterhouseCooper prepares to count the ballots, let's take a look at what we know about this year's show.

If 12 Years A Slave does not win Best Picture, it would be due to the preferential voting system that the Academy uses for the Best Picture category. All nine nominees are ranked from 1st to 9th by the voter. The film to receive the most number 1 votes must also have been voted number 1 by a majority of the Academy. If it does not, then the counting moves on to the number 2 picks and so on. The buzz is that the Academy thinks it should select 12 Years A Slave as Best Picture but loves Gravity; they usually vote for what they like not what they should. However, I am sticking with 12 Years A Slave.
Two weeks ago I thought this could be my year to get more than 19 categories correct. After Jennifer Lawrence won the BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress, I began to wonder. Ultimately I did not change any of my picks. The BAFTAs did show us that the acting categories were a lot closer than previously thought. Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey were not nominated at the BAFTAs and their leads remain strong, especially Leto's. Lawrence has all but disappeared from the awards circuit in the last couple of weeks. Film journalists have started referring to this as her "anti-campaign" campaign. I think Lupita still has Best Supporting Actress. Cate Blanchett has had zero competition for Best Actress.
Some of the closest races are in four categories: Original Screenplay, Production Design, Foreign Film, and Documentary Feature. I'm going with narrow leads respectively for American Hustle, The Great Gatsby, The Great Beauty and 20 Feet From Stardom. There are always shockers and that keeps the show fresh and interesting. It would not be any fun to predict all 24 categories without any surprises.

Jennifer Lawrence will present Best Actor, as is tradition. The winner of the previous year presents to the opposite gendered actor in their category. Anne Hathaway in turn will present Best Supporting Actor, Daniel Day-Lewis Best Actress and Christoph Waltz to Best Supporting Actress (hopefully to Lupita). The Oscars like to have some surprise presenters for big categories, particularly Best Picture. Good Morning America anchors Robin Roberts and Lara Spencer and Editorial Director of People and Entertainment Weekly Jess Cagle will host the pre-Oscar Red Carpet coverage which begins at 4pm Pacific, 7pm Eastern. The Oscars are advertising those times as the start of the show, but the ceremony will start at 5:30pm Pacific time, 8:30pm Eastern.
All of the artists who performed the songs in movies nominated for Best Song will sing them live on the Oscar stage. U2 will perform their nominated song from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, "Ordinary Love." Pharrell Williams will be singing "Happy" from Despicable Me 2. Will he be wearing his signature hat? It is a formal event and that hat is hideous so hopefully not. Karen O will sing "Moon Song" from Her and Idina Menzel will be there to sing "Let It Go" from Frozen. Sometimes different artists perform the nominated songs. I prefer when the performers from the movies sing their songs at the ceremony. It has been announced that Bette Midler will perform for the first time on the Oscar stage.

The Academy will present the first ever live "Oscar Concert" celebrating the year’s nominated scores and songs on Thursday, February 27 in Los Angeles. An 80-piece orchestra will perform pieces from each of the nominated original scores. They include: William Butler and Owen Pallett for Her, Alexandre Desplat for Philomena, Thomas Newman for Saving Mr Banks, Steven Price for Gravity and John Williams for The Book Thief. Nominated songs will be performed by other artists. "Let It Go" from Frozen will be sung by its writers Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and "Happy" from Despicable Me 2 by Jill Scott.
The Oscars will celebrate movie heroes and will honor big-screen real-life heroes, super heroes, popular heroes and animated heroes, both past and present, as well as the filmmakers that brought them to life. The 75th anniversary of the Wizard of Oz will also be featured. Perhaps Bette Midler will be involved with music from the Wizard of Oz. 1939 is often known to be one of the greatest years in film history. The Oscars will be held Sunday, March 2nd at the Dolby Theater at Hollywood and Highland Center and televised live on ABC. The show is produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, hosted by Ellen Degeneres and will also be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide. If you are antsy for the awards show to arrive like me, check out the Oscar countdown on ABC Thursday, February 27th at 8pm.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Next Year's Oscar Movies

These could be way off, but I want to take a stab at predicting which films will be prominent in next year's awards season. Some of these I am really excited to check out. Some I hope that I am wrong about just so that I do not have to watch them. Goes to show how spoiled I was this year. I wanted to see the movies on the ballot and there were none I had to force myself to see. This should be an interesting exercise and I will be interested to know which ones we'll be hearing about at the end of 2014. Release dates are subject to change. The 87th Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, February 22, 2015.
  • Unbroken Directed by Angelina Jolie, the biopic of Olympic track star and World War II vet Louis Zamperini. The kicker, the Coen Brothers wrote the script. In theaters Dec 25 
  • Grand Budapest Hotel Wes Anderson's latest and looks to be greatest. At the very least, this one will get a Best Original Screenplay nod. In theaters March 7   
  • Rosewater Jon Stewart took time off the Daily Show to direct this film based on the non-fiction book about a journalist being mistreated in an Iranian prison. He also produced and wrote the adapted screenplay. TBD 
  • Gone Girl Directed by David Fincher. Starring Ben Affleck, looks like a movie Affleck would direct. In theaters Oct 3
  • The Monuments Men May get lost being released so many months before awards season but it has some Oscar hallmarks, it's about World War II and has a strong cast. Written and directed by George Clooney. Now playing
  • Inherent Vice Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. This one actually sounds ok but after his last picture, the Master, my stomach still churns at the thought. It does reunite Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. TBD 
  • Interstellar Directed by Christopher Nolan. In theaters Nov 7 
  • Foxcatcher Bennett Miller's Moneyball follow-up. TBD 
  • Into the Woods Fairytales with a twist, it's a musical and Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp are among the cast. In theaters Dec 25 

Stewart directing his first project.

Big Hero 6 
Little is known about this project but it is Marvel's first fully animated film after being acquired by Disney and is based on an obscure title in the Marvel archives. In theaters Nov 7
How To Train Your Dragon 2 Sequel to the Oscar nominated original. In theaters June 13
Big Hero 6

X-Men: Days of Future Past
The first trailer for this gave me chills. I loved the first three (original) X-Men and have recently enjoyed First Class. Bryan Singer, director of the first two X-Men flicks, returns. It should get some technical category love. In theaters May 23
Dawn of the Planet of Apes Likely to receive a technical nomination or two much like the first in the revamped series. In theaters July 11

Looks cheesy to me but Darren Aronofsky of Black Swan and The Wrestler acclaim directed. And Hollywood does not usually stop bestowing its accolades all of the sudden (see Paul Thomas Anderson). Or it could blow up like the Matrix when they started making sequels. In theaters March 28 Which brings me to...
Jupiter Ascending 
The Wachowski Brothers return. This one looks cheesy to me too but it could land in the technical categories. In theaters July 18
Cesar Chavez 
Biopics can go either way, they can be Ray or J Edgar. Even the so-called bad ones are usually pretty decent, it is most often decided in their reception. In theaters March 18

Friday, February 21, 2014

2014 Oscar Nominated Shorts

This year in the Live Action Short category, all nominated films were from Europe. The nominated animated shorts featured films from around the world as well. With the animation, subtitles are often not needed as there is no dialogue. The music and the imagery completes a story that can be enjoyed universally.

Live Action:
Alfred is a dying boy and when Enzo the new janitor at the hospital arrives to clean his room, he begins telling Alfred stories about a magical land. When the boy is moved to an isolated wing, Enzo risks all to find Alfred and finish their stories of Helium. With wonderful visual effects, this short from Denmark is heartbreaking and very sweet.

The Voorman Problem
Martin Freeman, Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit films, portrays an English psychiatrist who has been asked to evaluate a prisoner claiming to be a god. If Dr Williams certifies that he is insane, Voorman will be sent to an asylum. Sounds like an open and shut case, unless you're in Belgium. The shorts categories, particularly the live action and documentary, can be the most difficult of the Oscar winners to predict. The Voorman Problem has been and remains the frontrunner.

Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything) 
This short is about a French woman trying to flee from her abusive husband with her two children. Most of the film occurs at her workplace as her co-workers try their best to assist her.

Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn't Me)
The bleakest of all the live action shorts, the Spanish film flashes back on the horrors experienced by a child soldier in Africa. Extremely difficult to watch, I often had to look away and at times even muted the sound.

Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)
A story of the antics and wacky obstacles a Finnish family faces as they attempt to get ready to attend a wedding.

Mr Hublot
The title character is an eccentric little man who lives in a very mechanical world and keeps to himself. His home is disrupted by the arrival of a robot pet.

A boy raised in the wild is discovered by a hunter and brought back to civilization. The boy struggles to adapt to his new environment.

A man seeking shelter from a storm stumbles upon a broken down shrine. Discarded objects that now have souls presents themselves to the man. By mending or setting the souls of the objects free he is able leave the shrine and the storm has passed.

Room on the Broom
A witch travelling through the woods encounters more and more critters that need to hitch a ride on her broom. Max Lang, one of the co-writers and directors, also co-wrote and directed The Gruffalo, a 2010 Best Animated Short nominee. The two shorts have a very similar animation style, as well as a similar narration technique. The two shorts actually seem like they could be part of a series. Simon Pegg narrates and Gillian Anderson voices the witch.

Get a Horse!
This short plays in theaters before Best Animated Feature frontrunner Frozen. The short uses archived Walt Disney voiceover work as Mickey Mouse and features Minnie, Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow and Peg-Leg Pete. Get a Horse! is the anticipated winner for the animated short category. It has also been lauded as the first time Mickey will finally win an Oscar.  It was not included with the other nominees that I watched. I would say that it was left out because it is Disney but animated Disney shorts have been included before. I was none too pleased. It does look like the in theater showings include Get a Horse!, perhaps that is the difference or that the feature film that it precedes is still in its initial release.
I have seen the trailers for all of the documentary short nominees and an extended section of the likely winner, The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life. It's about a beautiful 109 year old woman who survived the Holocaust and her thoughts on how to have a happy life.

The Shorts HD channel continues to provide information about viewing the short nominees each year. This is their site, though it is not always the most helpful. I visit the site throughout Oscar season and eventually find the info I need to see the films. For instance the site listed that the films would be available on iTunes, Amazon Instant View and OnDemand February 25th. At the time of posting, the site is experiencing technical difficulties. I stumbled upon the live action and animated nominees OnDemand on the 20th. The live action and animated films are more accessible in my area and I have not seen the documentary nominees in theaters nor are they available OnDemand currently. In the previous two years I saw the live and animation shorts in one showing at Century/Cinemark theaters. This year I opted for OnDemand due to less showtimes and impatience. Home viewing made it easier to keep track of each of the nominees; writing on a Milk Duds box in the dark does not lend itself to thorough notes. At the same time, watching in theaters gives it an official feeling.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Cinetopia Cult Fiction Series

I have been meaning to write about the Cult Fiction Series that is now taking place at Cinetopia ever since I saw Shaun of the Dead there two weeks ago. I had never seen it before and I was glad to find that it was less gruesome than the Walking Dead and very funny. I'm not sure if there would have been a Zombieland or last year's Warm Bodies without Shaun of the Dead. I would also like to see the other two movies in the "Three Flavours Cornetto" trilogy, Hot Fuzz and The World's End. The name of the trilogy comes from a different Cornetto ice cream flavor being mentioned in each of the three movies. Last night the movie was Raising Arizona. The Progress Ridge and Westfield Vancouver Cinetopia locations are holding the event. Each location has two Grand Auditorium showtimes, 7pm and 10pm, on Wednesdays. Tickets are individually $10 and if you pre-purchase the series, all twelve movies are $85 for a season pass.
In the late summer and fall of 2013, Cinetopia also did a Sci Fi series. I am eager to see what the next series might be. I hope something with comedies. Cinetopia basically mints money but hats off to the clever person that thought of the way for them to bring in extra revenue mid week. There normally is not food and drink service in the Grand Auditoriums but for the film series there is. I've discovered I can have hot tea at the movies! If anywhere, it would be Cinetopia.

The Big Lebowski, Fight Club, The Shawshank Redemption and Groundhog Day were also played earlier in the series. Next Wednesday is 12 Monkeys and the series culminates on March 26th with Pulp Fiction. Here's the info on the Cinetopia site.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

In A World...

Written, directed and starring Lake Bell, In A a quirky indie look at the voiceover world. Full of a supporting cast of many recognizable, comedic character actors including, Michaela Watkins, Ken Marino, Demetri Martin, Rob Corddry, and Nick Offerman, the acting is very strong throughout. Eva Longoria and Cameron Diaz appear as themselves and Geena Davis also turns up.

There are almost no movie trailers that feature female voiceover talent. Gone in 60 Seconds, a rare trailer that did, used Melissa Disney and she also briefly appears in the movie. Lake Bell had been intrigued that the typical voice behind film trailers was male. This inspired her to write a story in which a woman struggled to overcome that environment and it resulted in her feature length writing, directing, and producing debut. The title of the film references the phrase used by Don LaFontaine at the beginning of many film trailers.
Bell is recognizable from her work in It's Complicated and What Happens in Vegas. She was also in Over Her Dead Body and that was the first screening I ever attended. While it is a terrible movie, I recall it well. Bell starred with Longoria. It looks as though several of Bell's previous castmates appeared in her film as support for her efforts. Corddry and Diaz were in What Happened in Vegas with Bell.

The movie is really funny and well written. After seeing the film, the first time you hear an ad begin with "In a world...",  and it won't take long, you can't help but smile. In A nominated for Best First Screenplay at the Spirit Awards and won Best Screenplay at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

Available for home viewing...
X-Men: First Class
The trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past made me want to watch First Class because I had not seen it. The May 23rd release of the next chapter in the X-Men franchise finds characters from the original trilogy and the younger versions of many of them existing in one movie with what appears to be a cleverly conceived script. Expand the cast without having to add characters. First Class is just as good as the first three X-Men movies and I am glad to have finally seen it. There is something about superhero movies that is very yea or nay. There is not a lot of middle ground. It really seems to depend on the writing and then as the franchise continues, sticking to the things that worked while keeping it fresh and not just retreading prior films. Dissecting superhero movies could be a series of posts but the main thing about First Class is that it develops the backstories of the older generation in the previous X-Men stories in a historical context. Putting the two together makes Days of Future Past look very promising. Bryan Singer is also back directing.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Lone Ranger

The Gore Verbinski flick was beaten up in the press for its high cost and supposed poor quality before it was even released. The movie is not as bad as it was made out to be and its low box office seems to be a result of bad buzz, not a terrible movie. It is fairly long at two and a half hours. It is also a Western, not really the typical summer blockbuster genre but they did it well. Let's not forget that Verbinski wrote and directed Rango and directed The Mexican. And he is of course the man behind the first three Pirates movies, regardless of your opinion of the franchise.

I venture to guess that my dad would like the movie; Western fans and people that watched the tv show as kids must love it. The best parts are when they play the classic Lone Ranger theme music over the action. The Lone Ranger is nominated for two Oscars in the technical categories for Makeup and Hairstyling and for Visual Effects. Dallas Buyer's Club is anticipated to win for Makeup and Gravity for Visual Effects. If you like Westerns, or Johnny Depp, or Armie Hammer, you will probably enjoy this movie. I imagine Disney would have liked Lone Ranger to become a franchise like Pirates but that seems unlikely due to its box office. Depp and Hammer are very well cast. Depp makes the role of Tonto his own and Hammer embodies the Lone Ranger. I had completely forgotten that Hammer was ever a Winklevoss.
And because I thought of the quote every time the nephew was on screen, from A Christmas Story:
Mr. Parker: "What is the name of the Lone Ranger's nephew's horse?"
Mother: "Ah... Victor! His name is Victor."
Mr. Parker: "How the hell did you know that?"
Mother: "Everybody knows that! "
Available for home viewing...
Iron Man 3
The third chapter of the Iron Man franchise maintained the quality and attitude of the first two movies. I was concerned when Jon Favreau announced that he would not be directing. I was happily surprised to see that he did return for his role as Happy Hogan, Tony Stark's driver/head of security. I couldn't help but wonder if the summer blockbuster was originally slated for a holiday release as it is Christmas time in the movie. The Marvel universe continues to dominate the pop culture lineup. The third Iron Man movie was the seventh film in the franchise. There is a television show now, Marvel's Agents of Shield, Captain America 2 comes out April 4th and the second Avengers film is set to debut Summer 2015. Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy trailer just came out. Iron Man 3 has one Oscar nomination for Visual Effects. As mentioned before, Gravity is the likely winner, and rightly so.  The effects in Gravity are based on new technologies developed specifically for the film.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Enough Said

Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as Eva, a masseuse, who meets James Gandolfini's television archivist Albert at a party. This movie is fantastic. It is incredibly hilarious and the dialogue is excellent. The first act is the most humorous, though drama sets in as the plot turns to the second act. I sincerely hope that Enough Said wins the Spirit Award for Best Screenplay. Much like Philomena, ultimately these were characters I liked spending time with and I did not want either of the movies to end. The cast is full of great actors, Toni Collette, Ben Falcon, Catherine Keener and even brief appearances by Michaela Williams, Jessica St Clair and Christopher Nicholas Smith.
James Gandolfini is nominated for Best Supporting Male at the Spirit Awards and Julia Louis-Dreyfus was at the Golden Globes for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical. She won for her television show Veep. Nicole Holofcener wrote and directed Enough Said. She also did for Friends With Money, Lovely and Amazing, Walking and Talking and Please Give. Catherine Keener has been in all her film work to date. Keener appeared, at least briefly, in many other movies involved in this year's awards season, Bad Grandpa (her part as the deceased Grandma, as well as a gag with Spike Jonze, was cut), Captain Phillips and The Croods. Enough Said is available at Redbox, OnDemand, on Amazon Instant View and on DVD and Blu Ray.

Enough Said is the first of the final two films of James Gandolfini to be released posthumously. We have lost many more actors than usual as of late, and many so young.

Available for home viewing...
All is Lost
Robert Redford stars as a man who wakes up to find that a stray shipping container has collided with his sailboat. To say the least, difficulties ensue. Redford is the only member of the cast and is only known in the credits as "Our Man." I am so sorry, but this movie was very boring. I think Tom Hanks already mastered the whole alone and lost at sea thing in Castaway. Granted these are very different films but without a Wilson, it is difficult to remain engaged with practically no dialogue for nearly two hours. I kept watching because I did want to know how it ended. Zachery Quinto is an executive producer which I did find very interesting. All is Lost has one Oscar nomination for Best Sound Editing. Often when a film is nominated for sound editing it is also nominated for sound mixing. Four of this year's nominees in the two categories are the same. Sound editing is the selection and assembling of sounds for a film. Sound mixing is the layering of sounds, putting them all together for the finished product. An interesting blog describing the differences can be found here. For the cut and dry answer, scroll down to Some Basic Definitions in bold. Gravity is expected to win both of the sound categories. All is Lost is nominated for four Spirit Awards and lost Best Sound at the BAFTAs. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

2014 BAFTAs

The 67th Annual British Academy of Film Awards took place in London this evening at the Royal Opera House. Stephen Fry singled out A-List names in his opening and even got Leonardo DiCaprio to blow a kiss at that camera. His best joke was that Dame Helen Mirren was attending with her grandson -- Prince William was in attendance (where was Kate?! -- home with George?) and she of course earned a BAFTA and an Oscar for her role as the Queen. Then there was a somewhat strangely paced live performance of a rap song with clips from the nominated movies playing on an overhead screen. Then Oprah presented the first award, Outstanding British Film, to Gravity and the awards show proceeded.

I was shocked, and I mean SHOCKED that Jennifer Lawrence got Supporting Actress and not Lupita Nyong'o. Chiwetel Ejiofor won the BAFTA for Leading Actor in 12 Years A Slave and Barkhad Abdi for his supporting role in Captain Phillips. Cate Blanchett took home the award for Leading Actress. Alfonso Cuarón won Best Director for Gravity and 12 Years A Slave took home the big prize for Best Film. What was most striking about the awards ceremony was how genuinely happy the fellow nominees were for the winners. Leonardo Dicaprio stood and clapped for Ejiofor and Tom Hanks whistled. Jeremy Irons presented the Fellowship (a lifetime achievement award) with Prince William to Helen Mirren. Prince William is the president of BAFTA. He even returned the joke from the opening monologue and said he should call her granny. Also of note, with the same number of categories as the Oscars and no playing the music to cut off speeches, the BAFTAs stuck to their two and a half hour timeslot. I was puzzled by this and wondering how they do it when I came to realize, they are not broadcast live, they are edited and not all 24 awards are shown.
Outstanding British Film nominees Gravity, Philomena, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Saving Mr Banks, The Selfish Giant and Rush. 
Watching the BAFTAs, host Stephen Fry brought attention to the fact that so many of the films this year are based on true stories. Four of five of the nominees for Best Film at the BAFTAs are based on true stories, no matter how loosely. Indeed, six of the nine Oscar Best Picture nominees are based on true stories.

There is a very different voting body for the BAFTAs but it may shed some light in the close Oscar categories of Production Design, Foreign Film, Documentary Feature and Original Screenplay. The Great Gatsby won the BAFTA and it has a slight edge for the Production Design Oscar. The Act of Killing is nipping at the heels of 20 Feet From Stardom for Documentary Feature and took home the BAFTA. The Great Beauty's Best Non-English Language Film win strengthens its Oscar chances. Oscar voting began February 14th and ballots are not due until February 25th. Perhaps the news of the BAFTAs will influence the Academy voters. American Hustle won best the BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay. Her still has a lead in the Oscar forecast. I find it enjoyable that the Brits had nothing to do with Her and it received no BAFTA nominations.

All the more interesting are the acting categories that seemed all but predetermined for Oscar victory before tonight. The acting and supporting actor Oscar frontrunners Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto were not nominated for BAFTAs. Dallas Buyers Club is just now being seen in England and this explains that. Leto is still as good as gold but Chiwetel Ejiofor's win for 12 Years A Slave heats up the Best Actor race. Cate Blanchett has not lost a major award and will undoubtedly win the Oscar. The Best Supporting Actress race seems to have blown wide open with Jennifer Lawrence's BAFTA win. My hunch is that Lupita Nyong'o will still win the Oscar. Lawrence won the Oscar just last year and did not win the BAFTA. Personally I think Nyong'o is more deserving as well. The main take away is how Ejiofor's win will affect McConaughey's Oscar prospects.

Before the complete list of winners, the red carpet fashions.
Dior Haute Couture

Victoria Beckham
Angelina's Saint Laurent
Alexander McQueen
Rita in Jenny Packham
Maria Grachvogel

Noamie Harris in Gucci

BEST FILM 12 Years a Slave
BEST ACTOR Chiwetel Ejiofor
BEST ACTRESS Cate Blanchett
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
RISING STAR Will Poulter
BEST SHORT ANIMATION Sleeping with the Fishes
OUTSTANDING BRITISH DEBUT Kieran Evans for Kelly and Victor

Saturday, February 15, 2014


I discovered this movie while waiting in line to use a Redbox machine. The little movie poster on the display caught my eye because it featured Keri Russell and because of its name. I am a huge Keri Russell fan. Austenland is like the Jane Austen Book Club infused with Bridget Jones' quirkiness and then magnified by a dish of lithium laced ice cream. Russell's character Jane Hayes is beyond obsessed with Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice and on a whim travels to a Jane Austen themed resort in England. Jennifer Coolidge co-stars as a guest that arrives at the same time as Jane. Her role is thankfully more Legally Blonde endearing and less her annoying appearances on television's 2 Broke Girls. Georgia King from the New Normal is another guest and Jane Seymour is Mrs Wattlesbrook who runs the estate. JJ Feild plays the most Darcy like of the characters and James Callis, who was also one of Bridget Jones' best friends Tom, in the movie adaptations, plays another gentleman at the estate. Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords plays a farm hand and another potential love interest.
The film is based on the 2007 novel of the same name by Shannon Hale. From what I can tell the catalyst that leads Jane Hayes to Austenland in the book is less extreme than in the movie. There is a second book in the Austenland series featuring a new cast of characters. The film was produced by Stephanie Meyer and premiered at Sundance in 2013. There the distribution rights were purchased by Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions and had a limited release in theaters in August 2013. The DVD came out this week and is also available OnDemand and on Amazon Instant View. I am always fascinated when I have not heard of a movie and even more so when it stars one of my favorite actors. The soundtrack is also very good. What a delightful little find.

Friday, February 14, 2014


A heartbreaking and true story, Philomena is a real woman and the events the film depicts are based on the published work of journalist Martin Sixsmith. Co-star, producer and writer of the movie Steve Googan portrays Sixsmith. The script is based on Sixsmith's novel, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee. Judi Dench stars as Philomena, an old-fashioned, yet at the same forward thinking, devout woman seeking to find her lost child. The poignant drama of the circumstances are balanced with Coogan's comedic relief at just the right moments.
Coogan co-wrote the script with Jeff Pope and it is nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. The film is also nominated for Best Picture, Best Score and Dench for Best Actress. Philomena is not expected to take home any Oscar statues. Which is too bad because it is such a lovely film. It has a good shot at Best British Film at the BAFTAs this weekend. Dench is right behind Blanchett for the BAFTA as well. Philomena is one of this year's award season movies that I enjoyed the most. At one point the thought crossed my mind that I did not want it to end.

After seeing the movie I participated in the trailer market research that takes up residency frequently at Regal Bridgeport. It was a very interesting experience and actually for a trailer I had not seen yet -- the Equalizer with Denzel Washington. C and C Market Research was the company and they encourage you to participate whenever you are back at the theater. It takes maybe twenty minutes so it is not always feasible but for this movie nut worth the time if I have it.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

2014 BAFTA Nominations

The 67th British Academy Film Awards, generally known as the BAFTAs, will take place Sunday, February 16th. Stephen Fry will be hosting for the ninth time at the Royal Opera House in London. There are 24 categories in the BAFTA Awards like at the Oscars, most are the same, and this year the nominees overlap considerably. The BAFTAs air on BBC America at 8pm on Sunday. If you have an east coast feed in your cable or HD programming, you can catch them at 5pm, in Pacific Standard time. They may also be listed as EE British Academy Film Awards.

A bit of background. The British Academy of Film and Television has several award types. Film, Television, Television Craft, Games and Children's each have their own awards ceremonies. The film awards are the ones most commonly referred to and reported on in the States. The Britannia Awards are part of BAFTA Los Angeles. Benedict Cumberbatch won the Britannia Award for British Artist of the Year for the truly amazing year he had appearing in five major feature films and starring in television's Sherlock. The Britannia Awards celebrate individual achievement and awards are giving to people and not films. There are also BAFTA branches in Scotland, Wales and New York. The gist is that the Brits are really organized. While there are certainly other British awards, the highest honors come from one organization. It would be like if the Oscars and the Emmys had one Academy, plus additional entities.

BAFTA results can shed light on Oscar categories that remain unclear. The closest Oscar races are in the Best Original Screenplay, Best Production Design, Best Foreign Film, and Best Documentary Feature categories. American Hustle has a slight edge over Her for Original Screenplay, The Great Gatsby is ahead of Gravity for Production Design and if it wins the BAFTA, it may be another indication that Gatsby has it. The splashiest picture usually wins the category. For Foreign Film, The Great Beauty is running in the front for the Oscar. Documentary Feature is probably the closest race of the year. 20 Feet From Stardom is leading among Oscar experts but The Act of Killing is close behind.

12 Years A Slave is expected to win Best Film, much like the Oscars. Outstanding British Film is a close race between Philomena and Gravity, with Philomena having a slight edge. Reflecting a global film community, only one of the nominees for Outstanding British film is simply a British picture, The Selfish Giant. Rush needs little interpretation though it was filmed in England and Germany, it featured a British crew and an American director. Gravity is considered a British Film despite its two stars being Hollywood actors and that it is set in space, not Britain. It was filmed in the UK and its groundbreaking visual effects were made in Britain, with a British crew. Director Alfonso Cuarón lives in Britain. If there is a question of a film's Britishness if it receives 16/31 criteria, it is British. Elements include, having the dialogue in the English language, being set in the UK, using British locations, director, cast, writer, composer and producer.

Winners at the BAFTAs and red carpet coverage will be posted Sunday night. The long list of nominees follows.
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Saving Mr. Banks
The Selfish Giant

12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen
American Hustle, David O Russell
Captain Phillips, Paul Greengrass
Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón
The Wolf of Wall StreetMartin Scorsese

Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Christian BaleAmerican Hustle
Leonardo DiCaprioThe Wolf of Wall Street
Tom HanksCaptain Phillips

Amy AdamsAmerican Hustle
Cate BlanchettBlue Jasmine
Emma ThompsonSaving Mr Banks
Judi Dench, Philomena
Sandra Bullock, Gravity

Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Bradley CooperAmerican Hustle
Daniel Brühl, Rush
Matt DamonBehind the Candelabra
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave

Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Julia RobertsAugust: Osage County
Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
Oprah WinfreyLee Daniels' The Butler
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine

American Hustle, Eric Warren Singer and David O Russell
Blue JasmineWoody Allen
Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón and Jonás Cuarón
Inside Llewyn Davis, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Nebraska, Bob Nelson

12 Years a Slave, John Ridley
Behind the Candelabra, Richard LaGravenese
Captain Phillips, Billy Ray
Philomena, Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
The Wolf of Wall Street, Terence Winter

Good Vibrations, Colin Carberry (writer) and Glenn Patterson (writer)
Saving Mr. Banks, Kelly Marcel (writer)
Kelly + Victor, Kieran Evans (director/writer)
For Those in Peril, Paul Wright (director/writer)
Shell, Scott Graham (director/writer)

The Act of Killing
Blue Is the Warmest Colour
The Great Beauty
Metro Manila

The Act of Killing
The Armstrong Lie
Tim's Vermeer
We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks

Despicable Me 2
Monsters University

12 Years a Slave, Hans Zimmer
The Book Thief, John Williams
Captain Phillips, Henry Jackman
Gravity, Steven Price
Saving Mr. Banks, Thomas Newman

12 Years a Slave, Sean Bobbitt
Captain Phillips, Barry Ackroyd
Gravity, Emmanuel Lubezki
Inside Llewyn Davis, Bruno Delbonnel
Nebraska, Phedon Papamichael

12 Years a Slave, Joe Walker
Captain Phillips, Christopher Rouse
Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger
Rush, Dan Hanley and Mike Hill
The Wolf of Wall Street, Thelma Schoonmaker

12 Years a Slave, Adam Stockhausen and Alice Baker
American Hustle, Judy Becker and Heather Loeffler
Behind the Candelabra, Howard Cummings
Gravity, Andy Nicholson, Rosie Goodwin, and Joanne Woodlard
The Great Gatsby, Catherine Martin and Beverley Dunn

American Hustle, Michael Wilkinson
Behind the Candelabra, Ellen Mirojnick
The Great Gatsby, Catherine Martin
The Invisible Woman, Michael O'Connor
Saving Mr. Banks, Daniel Orlandi

American Hustle, Evelyne Noraz and Lori McCoy-Bell
Behind the Candelabra, Kate Biscoe and Marie Larkin
Lee Daniels' The Butler, Debra Denson, Beverly Jo Pryor, and Candace Neal
The Great Gatsby, Maurizio Silvi and Kerry Warn
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Peter Swords King, Richard Taylor, and Rick Findlater

All Is Lost
Captain Phillips
Inside Llewyn Davis

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
Pacific Rim
Star Trek Into Darkness

Everything I Can See From Here
I Am Tom Moody
Sleeping With the Fishes

Island Queen
Keeping Up With the Joneses
Orbit Ever After
Room 8
Sea View

THE EE RISING STAR AWARD (voted for by the public)
Dane DeHaan
George MacKay
Lupita Nyong'o
Will Poulter
Léa Seydoux

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Winter's Tale

Winter's Tale is based on the 1983 novel by Mark Helprin. The film spans between 1895 to present day in Manhattan. The movie follows the story of Peter Lake, a thief who falls in love with Beverly Penn, a dying girl. This much can be gleaned from the trailer. Lake is portrayed by Colin Farrell and Penn by Jessica Brown Findlay. While the two actors have a sweet chemistry together, the movie has one insurmountable flaw. From almost the first frame, there is just too much to suspend ones disbelief.
I suspect the book is rather good, as many books that are turned into movies are. Perhaps reading the tale, it is easier to digest. Also, if the movie was marketed as fantasy of the Lord of the Rings variety, not a Valentine's Day date movie, it might give the viewer more of a warning of what they are in for. Unfortunately, the execution of the material is just not there. Many scenes are laughable because they seem so implausible. I am not talking about rom com unrealistic, I mean supernatural animals appearing out of the blue unreal. Akiva Goldman, who wrote and directed, has a fairly good track record on his previous work as a screenwriter, including Practical Magic, A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man, The Client, A Time to Kill, The DaVinci Code and Angles and Demons. All but Cinderella Man are based on books. He has not directed a feature film before and it is almost like he tried to use all the genres of his previous work in one film. Multiple actors from his previous adaptations appear in Winter's Tale, most notably Russell Crowe.

The cast is so strong it is really a shame that the overall result is poor. Colin Farrell and newcomer Jessica Brown Findlay give strong performances despite the writing and editing. There is also some pretty heavy-handed narration. Russell Crowe, William Hurt, Jennifer Connelly, Graham Greene, and even classic film star Eva Marie Saint round out the cast. There is a bit of stunt casting that unfortunately I was aware of before seeing the movie and it would have been cool to not have known. Avoid cast lists and imdb if you insist on seeing Winter's Tale for at least that surprise.

It had been some time since I attended a screening and that is always an enjoyable experience. Thanks for sharing passes with me Emily! I wanted to see Winter's Tale but with Oscar season I was not sure if I would make it to theaters. Colin Farrell was so good in Saving Mr Banks that I was eager to see him in a starring role again. He did the best with what he had. This is definitely one to miss in theaters. Miss it at Redbox and do not pay for it OnDemand. Catch it on TNT when you are at home on a rainy Saturday afternoon doing laundry if you must at all. As it may be, sometimes a negative review can encourage one to watch, but fair warning was given.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

2014 Oscar Nominee Luncheon

Yesterday on Monday, February 10th, more than 150 Oscar nominees in all 24 categories gathered at the Beverly Hilton Hotel for the traditional nominee luncheon. The event is a chance for nominees to meet each other, have a shared experience and to receive their official certificates of nomination. Nominees are seated at the lunch not by category but all mixed up dinner party style. Ethan Hawke arrived with his daughter, Maya Thurman Hawke. Steve Coogan and Philomena Lee, the real inspiration for his best-picture nominee Philomena, were also in attendance. The entire category of Best Director nominees were there, Alfonso Cuarón, Steve McQueen, Alexander Payne, David O Russell and Martin Scorsese. Other guests in attendance were Amy Adams, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper from American Hustle, Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto of Dallas Buyers Club, Cate Blanchett of Blue Jasmine, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill of The Wolf of Wall Street, Sandra Bullock for Gravity and Nebraska stars June Squibb and Bruce Dern.

Lupita Nyong'o continued to stun and dominate the red carpet. The first time nominee said, "There's no way that I could have dreamt any of this stuff up. It's just been an incredible journey and it continues to be that. A very exciting one. A very rewarding one."

Another first time nominee, June Squibb said, "It's very exciting, I feel like I'm a part of a community. It's great fun."

Sandra Bullock said of her nominated work, "It was probably one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had. I was very familiar with Alfonso’s work; I had watched him for so many years and always longed to work with him. I trusted him 100 percent because you had the body of his work as proof...We didn’t know what we were making really and it was unknown territory."

Lupita Nyong'o complimented her print Christian Dior with earrings, purse and shoes all in the same deep violet. Cate Blanchett wore a silver Prada dress with bronze Christian Louboutins. American Hustle stars Amy Adams was in Elie Saab and Bradley Cooper wore Ralph Lauren. Sandra Bullock wore a great Stella McCartney print dress. Pharrell Williams sported one of his now infamous Vivienne Westwood hats.