Search This Blog


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Nomination run-down

They are here!  The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road cleaned up with, respectively, 12 and 10 nominations.  


-After a confusing precursor season, the Oscars actually only left us with a few big surprises. The biggest things most weren't predicting were Tom Hardy (The Revenant) for Supporting Actor and Lenny Abrahamson (Room) for Director.

-The biggest snub was definitely Ridley Scott (The Martian) for Director, who many thought was the most likely winner. Another snub was Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation) for Supporting Actor, which also means we get the second year in a row of 20 white people and the hashtag #oscarssowhite. This can't be blamed on no choices. Besides Elba, Michael B. Jordan (Creed) would have made a great Best Actor candidate to go in a somewhat weak category.

-Not a total snub but a disappointment was Carol missing out on Best Picture, despite its 6 nominations. Director Todd Haynes may always be a little too art-house to make it big.

-This year, I had the exact same stats as last year, 36/43 for 84% in the categories I predicted. Not too bad I think.

Stats: (36/43) 84% 

Below are the nominees, my thoughts, and in italics my foolish first predictions of who will eventually win.

The Big Short
The Martian
The Revenant
Mad Max: Fury Road
Bridge of Spies


Just like last year, we ended up with 8 nominees. I had predicted Carol instead of Room, although I had Room right on the cusp so no major surprises here. All in all, a pretty interesting group of films this year, although Carol and Ex Machina would have made my day!  I'm especially pleased the beautiful Brooklyn made it through. My guess is that this will boil down to a Spotlight vs. The Big Short, unless The Revenant keeps up momentum. I don't dare to hope that Mad Max: Fury Road will pull through, as awesome as that would be.


Alejandro G. Innarritu, The Revenant
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
Adam McKay, The Big Short
Lenny Abrahamson, Room


I (and everyone else online) predicted Ridley Scott for The Martian, whose spot got taken by Lenny Abrahamson in Room.


Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
Matt Damon, The Martian
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo


The easiest category to predict, and it went as expected. No more drama to see here folks. No one can touch Leo for this Oscar.


Brie Larson, Room
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy


I predicted Oscars would put in Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) instead of Lawrence, but the category fraud worked, so Alicia Vikander and Rooney Mara both ended up in Supporting, leaving room for Rampling and Lawrence.  With Room making it in both Picture and Director, I think Brie Larson has the steam.

Supporting Actor

Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight 
Tom Hardy, The Revenant


I had guessed Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation) instead of Hardy.  This contest will end up being Stallone vs. Rylance I think, with Bale having an outside shot.

Supporting Actress

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Rooney Mara, Carol
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight


I predicted Helen Mirren (Trumbo) over Rachel McAdams, who was frankly fine but not overly impressive in Spotlight. Either Mara or Vikander, with their huge "supporting" roles, will likely win here.

Original Screenplay

Inside Out
Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina
Straight Outta Compton


Tarantino missed out for The Hateful Eight and they went with Straight Outta Compton. It's hard to see Spotlight losing here.

Adapted Screenplay

The Big Short

The Martian


I'm happy to see Carol here, but sad it was at the expense of the excellent Steve Jobs screenplay. This one seems destined to go to The Big Short.

Film Editing

The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Star Wars, The Force Awakens

Foreign Language Film

Embrace of the Serpent, Colombia
Mustang, France
Son of Saul, Hungary
Theeb, Jordan
A War, Denmark

Original Score

Bridge of Spies
The Hateful Eight
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Production Design

Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Visual Effects

Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Animated Feature

Boy and the World
Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep Movie
When Marnie was There


The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

Costume Design

The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant


Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom

Documentary Short

Body Team 12
Chau, Beyond the Lines
Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
Last Day of Freedom


Mad Max: Fury Road
The 100-year-old man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared
The Revenant


Earned It, 50 Shades of Gray
Manta Ray, Racing Extinction
Simple Song #3, Youth
Til it Happens to You, The Hunting Ground
Writings on the Wall, Spectre

Look guys! 50 Shades of Gray is an Oscar nominee. And maybe winner?

Animated Short

Bear Story
Sanjay's Super Team
We Can't Live Without Cosmos
World of Tomorrow

Live Action Short

Ave Maria
Day One
Everything will be OK

Sound Editing

Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Sound Mixing

Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Final Predictions

This has probably been the most up in the air Oscar season since I've started blogging, with lots of unknowns throughout just about all categories. You'll see my contenders list is pretty long throughout just to cover my ass! I'll be shocked if I do better than average in my percentages, but I'll take it if it means an Oscar race this exciting.

A few wishes for tomorrow morning:

-Mad Max leads nominations
-Ex Machina makes it in for Best Picture
-Brooklyn gets in for Picture, Actress (a given), and Screenplay
-Michael B. Jordan somehow makes it in for Creed.


1. Spotlight
2. The Big Short

Very Likely
3. The Martian
4. The Revenant
5. Mad Max: Fury Road

6. Bridge of Spies
7. Brooklyn
8. Carol
Straight Outta Compton
Inside Out
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Ex Machina
The Danish Girl

Oscars can go from 5-10 nominees, and I'm going to guess this is an 8 year like last year.


Very Likely
1. Ridley Scott, The Martian
2. Alejandro G. Innaritu, The Revenant
3. George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

4. Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
5. Adam McKay, The Big Short
Todd Haynes, Carol
Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies
John Crowley, Brooklyn
Dennis Villenue, Sicario
Lenny Abrahamson, Room


1. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Very Likely
2. Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
3. Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
4. Matt Damon, The Martian
5. Bryan Cranston, Trumbo

Steve Carell, The Big Short
Johnny Depp, Black Mass
Michael B. Jordan, Creed
Ian McKellan, Mr. Holmes
Michael Caine, Youth
Jacob Tremblay, Room

This is the one category that seems to have gelled, but there's probably room for an upset. If there is an upset, my strong hunch is it will be Carell as The Big Short has picked up steam.


1. Brie Larson, Room
2. Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
3. Cate Blanchett, Carol

4. Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
5. Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Rooney Mara, Carol (If voters reject the Supporting campaign)
Maggie Smith, The Lady in the Van
Lily Tomlin, Grandma
Emily Blunt, Sicario
Helen Mirren, Woman in Gold

Vikander is being campaigned for Supporting, but Oscar voters very well may put their foot down on the category and decide she belongs in lead.  The same with Rooney Mara, but I'm guessing she stays in supporting. That fifth slot seems like a fight between Rampling and Lawrence.

Supporting Actor

1. Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Very Likely
2. Christian Bale, The Big Short
3. Sylvester Stallone, Creed

4. Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
5. Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Paul Dano, Love & Mercy
Benicio del Toro, Sicario
Michael Keaton, Spotlight
Michael Shannon, 99 Homes
Jacob Tremblay, Room

I will be 100% shocked if I nail this category. It's been all over the place this season, and I wouldn't be surprised to see any of the contenders in the last two spots. I toyed with leaving Ruffalo off, but if Spotlight is really strong it would make sense to have some acting nominations to go with it. If Elba misses here, we'll probably end up with another #oscarssowhite year,.
Supporting Actress

Very Likely
1. Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
2. Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina (or for The Danish Girl if voters put it here instead of lead)
3. Rooney Mara, Carol

4. Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
5. Helen Mirren, Trumbo
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Jane Fonda, Youth
Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria
Julie Walters, Brooklyn
Joan Allen, Room.

Another really confusing category, so much so I'm not willing to call anyone a lock. Many are predicting McAdams, but its a really unshowy role.  In words I never thought I'd say, I'm really hoping for Kristen Stewart, who has won lots of the critics awards for her role in a great small movie, to get in here.

Original Screenplay

1. Spotlight
2. Inside Out

Very Likely
3. The Hateful Eight

4. Bridge of Spies
5. Ex Machina

Adapted Screenplay

1. The Big Short

Very Likely
2. Steve Jobs
3. The Martian

4. Brooklyn
5. Room
The Revenant
45 Years
The Danish Girl

There seems to be a sense that Carol is fading. If so, I think this is one place we might see it drop out.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Golden Globe Night Liveblog

I'll be posting here with updates throughout the night. Newest posts up top!

The Show!

-That's all for now folks! Thanks for following.

-Remember earlier when I listed my favorites in the conversation (Mad Max, Brooklyn, The Big Short, Carol)?  They all went home empty handed tonight.  An unpredictable night in an unpredictable season.

-Here we go with the last one.  Is it The Revenant? Spotlight, Mad Max, and Carol are all awardless right now, but might come back here. The Globes do like to spread the wealth. It is The Revenant. I have a feeling this won't repeat at the Oscars.....

-Leo and Kate Winslet both won awards tonight. #Titanic4eva

-Actor/Drama. Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant. He's one three Globes now (The Aviator and The Wolf of Wall Street), but no Oscars. It certainly seems like this is his year. I'm at 6/13- can I make it to 50% this year?

-Actress/Drama. Brie Larson in Room.  I was hoping for Saoirse, but I really love all these actresses. I did predict this one, so I'm 5/12. That cut to young Jacob Tremblay! He looks so moved.

-Best Picture Comedy/Musical: The Martian.  Missed this one too, so 4/11. Lots of folks carping about how this is classified as comedy. I actually don't have a problem with it- lots of jokes in the movie and it plays a lot lot lighter than something like Gravity. I'm pretty bummed The Big Short is coming up.... well short. Also Ridley Scott saying "screw you" to the orchestra. Funny or abrasive?

-Actress in a Comedy to Jennifer Lawrence in Joy. THIRD globe for her at such a young age. Short and sweet speech. Lots of folks were thinking this was Schumer's. 4/10 now, probably my worst year ever.

-TV Actress in a Drama. Taraji P. Henson in Empire. DC represent! Super excited, a little drunk, or both? Just the big film awards left now.

-Director to Innaritu for The Revenant. Seems kind of like a makeup award since they didn't give it to him last year for Birdman. Guys, my predictions really suck this year. 4/9.

-Denzel! Damn he's good. True love from the crowd too.

-When they went to commercial, Jane Fonda was caressing Terrence Howard's face. Man, I'd love to be a seat filler at the Globes.

-TV Drama to Mr. Robot. They like their new shoes here at the Globes, and this is supposed to be really good.

-Mad Max: Fury Road. I want to watch it again RIGHT NOW! So freaking amazing.

-"We all know who Mel blames....." BURN.  Context :( )
Also, when he was bleeped Ricky said "What the fuck does sugar tits mean?"

-Ricky's got a new beer... what will he say next?

-Best song. Pretty lackluster this year.  Writing's on the Wall-Sam Smith from Spectre. We can all agree that, as modern Bond songs go, this is no Skyfall by Adele, right? 4/8.

-Actress-Limited series/TV movie. Lady Gaga????????? In American Horror Story. We've seen it all, right? So the Globes do tend to be a little into their stars. (Not so) fun fact: Madonna (Evita) beat Frances McDormand (Fargo) in 1996. And check out this!

-Alright Ricky.... that Brad/Angelina joke was funny.

-Foreign Language Film. Son of Saul. 4/7 now.

-Actor in a TV Comedy. Gael Garcia Bernal (Mozart in the Jungle) over Jeffrey Tambor. WHY ARE THEY IGNORING THE SECOND SEASON OF TRANSPARENT??? This also makes Aziz Ansari's stunt (Reading the book "Losing to Jeffrey Tambor with Dignity") kind of awkward.

-Screenplay. Aaron Sorkin for Steve Jobs.  Whoa!  I definitely thought this was a Spotlight vs. The Big Short fight, although this might be my favorite screenplay of the nominated ones. I'm sucking in these predictions. 3/6.  Happy for the movie tonight. It's really good and really bombed at the box office.

Sly pulls out the best speech of the night too.  If you guys haven't seen Creed yet, please do. It's really good.

-Supporting Actor to Sly Stallone in Creed. Didn't predict this one. Stallone was really solid in this movie, and clearly a sentimental favorite, but how did they not nominate Michael B. Jordan for his incredible lead performance? Missed this one so I'm now 3/5.

-Animated to Inside Out of course. 3/4. Fun fact: director Pete Doctor just mentioned his wife Amanda, who was my wife's babysitter!

-Kate Hudson gets my vote for worst dressed of the night.

-Actor in a Comedy/Musical. Matt Damon in The Martian. 2/3 now.  The Martian was fun but has been a bit overhyped (IMO) as a "best" of the year. But no arguments with Damon's performance. It really carried the movie.

-Is Joy one of those movies where the previews look great and then it disappoints?  That's what I've heard.

-JLaw and AShu.  Up against each other tonight! Do they use the same hair dye?

-OK, just saw the Morricone has actually won two Golden Globes.... odd that Tarantino wouldn't know that.  Drunk, perhaps?

-Actor in a Drama. Jon Hamm in Mad Men! Still missing the Sterling Cooper gang.

-Jamie Foxx... and there's our Steve Harvey joke of the night. Best Score goes to Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight. 1/2 now. Quentin Tarantino accepting for him- giving a really fun speech.

-Supporting Actor- Christian Slater in Mr. Robot. Another one I haven't seen of course.

-Spy had some good moments for sure, but it was no Bridesmaids, right?

-Actor in a TV Movie.  Oscar Isaac in Show Me a Hero!!! Finally one I've seen. This is a great miniseries written by David Simon of The Wire.  And I love Oscar (Llewyn Davis forever!).

-Limited TV Series goes to Wolf Hall.  Supposed to be good- maybe I'll check it out.

-Gervais still has his glass of beer- think it's still his first?

-TV Comedy. Mozart in the Jungle..... what???? Not Transparent.  That Season 2 was incredible. The Globes do tend to go for the new shiny shows though.

-Actress-TV Comedy- Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend). No idea what this show is about.

-Supporting Actress-TV: Maura Tierney in The Affair.  One I haven't seen.  So many shows to watch, so little time.  I did used to like her a lot on ER back in the day.

-Supporting Actress in a movie: Kate Winslet! A bit of a shocker here.  I know some had problems with her accent in Steve Jobs, but I thought she was great in the movie.  0/1 so far.

-First few jokes are about trans people/characters.  Just as expected.

-As Ricky is showing front and center, this is the awards show where everyone gets to drink!

-Ricky Gervais.... too bad they couldn't get Tina Fey and Amy Poehler back. His schtick worked better in The Office and Extras than live.

Red Carpet

All right folks, I'm no Joan Rivers in the fashion coverage department, but I'll see if I can manage a snarky comment or two.

-Why does Matt Lauer get this gig?

-I'll just say I've loved new it-girl Alicia Vikander for a while- she had a great supporting part in Anna Karenina and was in foreign nominee A Royal Affair a few years ago.

-Viola Davis is amazing but I just can't get into these Shonda Rimes shows. Not my bag.

-Amy Schumer with her sister: "We're both on fleek."

-Jamie Foxx's daughter is our awkward Miss Golden Globe for the night. And wearing a terrible dress.

-Denzel up for the Lifetime Achievement award. Well deserved!

-Just spotted Kate Hudson. Has anyone else had such lasting celebrity for such mediocre output over the years?  It's been 15 years since Almost Famous!

-And.... Rooney Mara will win the award for most oddly-styled nominee. She's definitely smiling more than she did a few years ago though.

Predictions (Film Awards Only)
It's been a while since I've blogged, and it's been an unpredictable year full of great movies. The Globes can be notoriously hard to predict, but I'll do my best. As for what I HOPE will win, put me on team Mad Max (!!!!!), Brooklyn, The Big Short, and Carol, perhaps in that order. Here's a quick rundown.

Picture, Drama

Carol, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Room, Spotlight

Will Win:Spotlight
Might Win: Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win: Mad Max Fury Road

Actor, Drama

Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl), Will Smith (Concussion)

Will Win: DiCaprio
Might Win: Fassbender (but DiCaprio's got this pretty locked down)
Should Win: I've only seen Steve Jobs here, and Fassbender would make a nice winner.

Actress, Drama

Cate Blanchett (Carol), Brie Larson (Room), Rooney Mara (Carol), Saorsie Ronan (Brooklyn), Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)

Will Win: Larson
Might Win: Ronan
Should Win: Ronan (but wow, what a category)

Picture, Comedy/Musical

The Big Short, Joy, The Martian, Spy, Trainwreck

Will Win: The Big Short
Might Win: The Martian
Should Win: The Big Short

Actor, Comedy/Musical

Christian Bale (The Big Short), Steve Carell (The Big Short), Matt Damon (The Martian), Al Pacino (Danny Collins), Mark Ruffalo (Infinitely Polar Bear)

Will Win: Damon
Might Win: Carell
Should Win: Bale

Actress, Comedy/Musical

Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Melissa McCarthy (Spy), Amy Schumer (Trainwreck), Maggie Smith (The Lady in the Van), Lily Tomlin (Grandma)

Will Win: Schumer
Might Win: Lawrence
Should Win: Schumer

Supporting Actor

Paul Dano (Love & Mercy), Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Michael Shannon (99 Homes), Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

Will Win: Rylance
Might Win: Stallone
Should Win: Dano

Supporting Actress

Jane Fonda (Youth), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Helen Mirren (Trumbo), Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina), Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)

Will Win: Vikander
Might Win: Leigh
Should Win: Vikander


Todd Haynes (Carol), Alejandro Gonzales Innaritu (The Revenant), Thomas McCarthy (Spotlight), George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), Ridley Scott (The Martian)

Will Win: Miller
Might Win: Scott (really almost anyone could take this
Should Win: Miller


The Big Short, The Hateful Eight, Room, Spotlight, Steve Jobs

Will Win: Spotlight
Might Win: The Big Short
Should Win: Steve Jobs


Carol, The Danish Girl, The Hateful Eight, The Revenant, Steve Jobs

Will Win: The Hateful Eight
Might Win: Carol
Should Win: Carol


Love Me Like You Do (50 Shades of Gray), One Kind of Love (Love and Mercy), See You Again (Furious 7), Simple Song #3 (Youth),  Writing's On the Wall (Spectre)

Will Win: One Kind of Love???
Might Win: Writing's On the Wall
Should Win: Simple Song #3

Foreign Film

The Brand New Testament, The Club, The FencerMustang, Son of Saul

Will Win: Son of Saul
Could Win: Mustang
Should Win: Haven't seen any, so I abstain!

Animated Film

Anomalisa, The Good Dinosaur, Inside Out, The Peanuts Movie, Shaun the Sheep Movie

Will Win: Inside Out
Could Win: Anomalisa
Should Win: I've only seen Inside Out, and it's great!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Best of 2014

7 months after the end of 2014, I'm ready to unveil my top 10 list! The delay has given me time to catch up on lots of good films from last year. I found last year (like most years) a really strong year in cinema if you knew where to look. There were lots of good foreign films and, despite what the Academy Awards looked like, movies made by or focused around women.  Of the 63 movies I saw last year, here are the ones that rose to the top!

Since I hate to leave them off, here are my #16-25 in alphabetical order, all movies well worth watching: The Babadook, a gripping Australian horror film; Beyond the Lights, a hugely entertaining musical drama with a breakout performance by Gugu Mbatha-Raw; Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the rare special effects film with lots of ideas up its sleeve; Gone Girl, David Fincher's much-discussed thriller; Le Week-End, a film at turns caustic and touching which reminded me of an older version of the Before Sunrise movies; Mommy, a crazy Canadian melodrama from the young director Xavier Dolan; A Most Wanted Man, a smart thriller with Phillip Seymour Hoffman's last major role; Night Moves, director Kelly Reichardt's low-key thriller about environmental activists; and The Overnighters, a moving and surprising documentary about a pastor caring for workers in North Dakota.

Runners-Up (These 5 almost made it!):

Calvary: A funny and moving film about a good Irish priest (the excellent Brendan Gleeson) doing his best to minister to a town of wayward souls. It has a dark Irish humor and heart that I love.

Dear White People: The great and rare combination of really sharp satire and a cast of characters that the audience cares about. This film follows four black students at an Ivy League college, taking on ideas of racism, identity, and campus culture.

The Immigrant: I didn't love the subplot with Jeremy Renner's character, but large portions of this historical drama were among the most beautiful and moving of the year. Chief among its virtues is the luminous cinematography and and enormously powerful performance by Marion Cotillard as a woman clinging to her goodness and dignity in a tough new world. I hate to leave this one off my top 10.

Life Itself: Roger Ebert is near and dear to my heart, one of my guides as a film-loving teenager in the 90s. This documentary perfectly captures his life, his influence, and the happiness he found at the end of his life.

Wild: Beautifully filmed and fully focused on one woman's personal journey, I was completely immersed in Wild. In my mind, director Jean Marc-Valee took a big step up from his more-awarded Dallas Buyers Club. It even inspired me to take a 3-day hike!

Now on to my top 10:

10. Two Days, One Night: The Dardenne Brothers are masters at creating realist portraits of working-class residents in Europe. This is one of their best, starring Marion Cotillard as a factory worker facing modern capitalism as she forced to beg her coworkers for her job.

9. Leviathan: It's long, it's Russian, and I wasn't bored for a second. Leviathan is about family and class struggles in modern-day Russia and it has the scope and feel of a great novel. Beautifully shot and full of deep emotions, it had one of the most powerful endings of the year.

8. Selma: Director Ava Duvernay's skillful and moving historical drama will be remembered for years to come. Centered on David Oyelowo's riveting performance as Dr. King (let's take a moment of silence for his missing Oscar nomination....), the movie also uses its ensemble incredibly well, showing how many people were crucial to the civil rights movement.

7. Ida: The Academy crowned Ida the best foreign language film, and I agree. A quiet movie about a young woman in 1960s Poland preparing to be a nun, finding out she's Jewish, and spending time with her worldly and haunted aunt. Ida features two great performances, some of the best cinematography of the year, and two characters that haunted me for weeks.

6. Love is Strange: A beautiful film about community, family, love, and aging, Love is Strange focuses on two older men (Alfred Molina and John Lithgow) finally getting married and navigating tricky family relationships. The movie keeps a delicate tone that builds and culminates in its incredible ending sections.

5.Whiplash: The most thrilling and tense movie of last year, this is about a driven drummer and his domineering teacher. Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons work magic together, and the movie hooks you from the first scene. Director Damian Chezelle gave one of the best debuts I've seen in a long time.

4. Birdman: After winning Best Picture and Best Director, we saw the inevitable backlash against Birdman. It's perhaps not the deepest movie of the year, but man is it a lot of fun. I love backstage dramas, and every single cast member is perfect. Throw in the incredible single-take cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, and you have a real winner.

3. Under the Skin: This mix of science fiction, performance art (part of this was filmed "undercover"), and modern art film is certainly not to everyone's taste, but give it the time and it will haunt you. It's about.... well, an otherworldly being (Scarlett Johannson) experiencing modern life. I think it also has much to say about being human, being a woman, and the ways we look at and experience one another.

2. The Grand Budapest Hotel:  Grand Budapest contains the heaviest themes director Wes Anderson has ever done, but its pulled off with his assured and light touch. Anderson's meticulous style is a perfect match for this wartime comedy/drama of old manners, new threats, and the memory of things past.  Ralph Fiennes is absolutely perfect, robbed of an Oscar nomination.

1. Boyhood: From the moment I saw it, I  knew this would be my number one film of the year.  Director Richard Linklater broke new ground in fiction cinema, in filming the same actors over 12 years, letting the audience watch the passage of time before our very eyes. A landmark in film history, and emotionally stunning in the best, most natural way. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

2015- First half of the year

I've had a bit of a hiatus on the blog, so here's some thoughts on some 2015 releases, many of which are essential viewing. I can't remember the last time I saw two early releases I loved as much as my top 2.

In order of my preference....

Mad Max: Fury Road

This movie is absolutely as awesome and amazing as you've heard. Weird, thrilling, and filled with wall-to-wall action, this is one of the best theater experiences I've had in a long time. My usual problem with action movies is their muddled action sequences that exist just to have some cool tricks. Director George Miller does an incredible job of showing the stakes of each sequence and helping you know exactly what's going on, no matter how weird things get.  Whether you rate Mad Max as groundbreaking feminism or just kick-ass girl power, it's great seeing Furiosa (Charlize Theron) as an amazing action heroine. I could go on and on about everything I loved about this movie, but it's best to go in fairly fresh.


Grade: A

Ex Machina

I've thought about Ex Machina a whole lot since I saw it a few months ago. It's a parable about a eccentric billionaire (Oscar Isaac) testing his lifelike robot (Alicia Vikander) on a naive young man (Domnhall Gleeson). The movie has many twists and turns, and its expert in the way it plays with the expectations and sympathies of the audience. After some great indie and foreign performances (A Royal Affair, Anna Karenina), Alicia Vikander becomes a star here, absolutely nailing a tricky role. Oscar Isaac is more than her equal, playing a megalomanic as chilled-out-bro. See it with someone who like to talk- I promise you it will lead to many discussions!

Grade: A

Inside Out
As you probably know, Inside Out has the high concept of taking place largely inside the mind of a young girl going through a life transition. The main characters in her head are Joy (Amy Poehler) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith), and they are joined by Fear, Anger, and Disgust.  It's a great concept and Pixar has a lot of fun playing with the ideas of how emotions are formed and change as we age. I especially loved the forays into other character's minds and into the land of dreams. That said, it didn't quite hit the (admittedly high) Pixar pinnacle for me. I think the idea is so strong that it becomes a little harder to connect on a human level with all of the goings-on.  While it was consistently funny and clever, I think the Toy Story films are a little more moving and honest about the process of growing up and letting go. You can probably ignore my criticisms, though, because it's still a really terrific movie. The standout for me of the movie was sadness as played by Phyllis Smith (The Office). Her voice is perfectly matched to the character, and she ends up being the most important character in the film. Another triumph for Pixar.

Grade: A-/B+

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

After winning both the audience award and the Grand Jury prize at Sundance, Earl seemed to arrive with weaker reviews and box office than expected. It's certainly a very "Sundance" movie, in the sense of being small, quirky, obsessed with other films, and a wee bit twee. Yet I think it owns its vibe and pulls it off with charm. Perhaps it's because I (or my teenage self) identified with Greg (Thomas Mann), a kid making it through high school based on his love of film. He and his friend Earl (RJ Cyler) spend their days making parody films of classics until they befriend Rachel, a girl diagnosed with cancer. It definitely has a young adult novel feel, but in a really entertaining and lovely way, touching without being overly sentimental. If the movie was called Me and the Dying Girl, I would have really loved it.  Unfortunately the African-American Earl comes across as a two-dimensional character, existing more to teach Greg lessons than to be his own character. I also really loved the parental performances by three great TV performers, Connie Britten, Nick Offerman, and Molly Shannon.

Grade: B+

While We're Young

As someone in my 30s, caught between the characters in this movie, I could easily relate to director Noah Baumbach movie's culture clash comedy of a couple in their 40s (Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts) befriending a hipster couple in their 20s (Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried). I REALLY LOVED this movie in the first 40 minutes or so. It absolutely nailed the way the character's talked, the idiosyncrasies of urban life, and the social anxieties of adult friendships. Unfortunately, the second half becomes pretty schematic, getting too tied up into a who did what story involving a documentary film being filmed by Driver's character. I wish Baumbach had the courage to just let his characters be and interact, just as he did in 2013's Frances Ha (one of my favorite films of the past few years). It's not that the rest is terrible, it's just not up to Baumbach's best work, including the first half of the movie.  

Grade: B (First half A, second half C+)

Love and Mercy

This biopic of Brian Wilson is split into two halves, once with Paul Dano as Pet Sounds-era Wilson and one with John Cusack as post-300 pound yet still troubled Wilson in the 1980s. I'm often slightly underwhelmed by biopics, preferring those that get really abstract (I'm Not There) or focus on a finite part of the story (Lincoln, Capote). Love and Mercy lands somewhere in the middle. While it does only focus on two short periods of Wilson's life, its story of downfall and redemption is still easy to map from the beginning. While I liked Cusack as the older Wilson and especially Elizabeth Banks as his love interest, I did think the earlier scenes were more interesting. The movie does a great job of giving us a sense of how Wilson's unique mind led both to the creative musical experimentation of Pet Sounds and to his troubles surviving in the music business and the world. Paul Dano is really great as the young Wilson, digging deep into the character.  A good movie you'll probably like even more than I did if you enjoy biopics.

Grade: B


Another hit from Sundance, Dope is a story of a trio of 3 nerdy smart kids, living in a troubled inner-city neighborhood.  They inadvertently get caught up with some local drug dealers, and hijinks ensue! If you can picture a mash-up of Boyz in the Hood, Ferris Bueller, and Superbad, you'd be somewhat in the ballpark of Dope. That's fun in a lot of ways, but also a little disconcerting. The tone of the movie shifts so much its hard to really get your handle on it, even while you're enjoying the experience. I think I preferred it most in its Bueller moments, having fun with the heists without getting overly heavy or over-the-top with its teen gross-out humor. The best part of the movie is the central trio (Shameik Moore, Tony Revilori, and Kiersey Clemons). Whenever they're interacting on screen they have a natural chemistry that carries you through the movie. Let's see more movies like this that give great non-stereotyped roles to young actors of color. Let's just make the scripts a bit tighter.

Grade: B-/C+

Up Soon: My (Very Late) Top 10 of 2014

Sunday, May 10, 2015

2014 in Review: Best Performances

After a particularly long post-Oscar hiatus, I'm back with a wrap-up of 2014 (yes, even though we're almost halfway through 2015).   I'll start with my favorite performances of last year. Look for my Top 10 of 2014 soon!

Best Actress

Martion Cotillard (The Immigrant)

For my money, the two best performances of last year were given by Cotillard, in The Immigrant and in Two Days, One Night (which landed her a nomination).  I debated between which to pick for my nominations, but in the end went with The Immigrant. Cotillard plays a Polish immigrant exploited and forgotten when she gets to America. Cotillard never lets her character succumb to victimization, though, playing a fierce integrity and passion throughout the movie. The scene in the confessional booth is one for the ages.

Essie Davis (The Babadook)

The Babadook is an Australian horror movie that plays on both supernatural horror and the everyday horror of having a child you can't understand and sometimes don't like.  Without giving spoilers, let's just say actres Davis (unknown to me before this film) has to play an incredible swath of emotions and volumes.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beyond the Lights)

Mbatha-Raw is simply luminescent in this highly enjoyable and moving melodrama which didn't find the audience it should have.  She plays a R & B singer who hits bottom and finds her own way out.  I can't wait to see what else Mbatha-Raw has in store as an actress.

Julianne Moore (Still Alice)

Moore won an Oscar for this performance, and she's incredible as always. As Alice, a professor dealing with early onset Alzheimers, Moore uses her incredible skill to show the slow decline that happens and easily maps the emotions at each moment. While the movie around her isn't amazing, there's no denying the power of her performance.

Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

A brave, stripped-down performance from Reese, which just may be her best (give or take Election). Witherspoon plays Cheryl Strayed, who deals with her mother's death and her own downward spiral through a hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. Witherspoon is on screen just about every moment, and she is unafraid to show all sides of this story which is both inspiring and painful.

My Pick: Marion Cotillard (The Immigrant)
Second: Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

Runners-Up: Emily Blunt (Looper), Scarlett Johansson (Under the Skin), Lindsay Duncan (Le Week-end), Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Jenny Slate (Obvious Child)

Matches with Oscar: They also went with Moore, Witherspoon, and Cotillard (although for Two Days, One Night).  Felicity Jones is in my runners-up list in a very good performance. The fifth slot went to Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl, a performance I can't make up my mind on in a movie I really like.

Best Actor

Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

An all-time great comedic performance, perfectly witty and charming the whole way through as M. Gustav, a preserver of old world manners in a rapidly changing world.  How did the Academy love this movie, give it 4 Oscar wins, and yet ignore the amazing performance at the center? Inexplicable.

Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler)

Gyllenhaal is Lou Bloom, a smiling, amoral opportunist. Gyllenhaal is doing something very different than he's ever done before, and it's fascinating to watch, even when the script becomes too obvious.

Michael Keaton (Birdman)

What an amazing comeback for Keaton! Playing on his past as Batman, Keaton gives a kinetic, physical performance that carries you with wild abandon through the film. I was rooting for him all through Oscar season.

David Oyelowo (Selma)

Is there more intimidating figure to play than MLK? I think not, and Oyelowo does a flawless job. Without simple physical or vocal mimicry, Oyelowo gets at the thoughtful soul of a man leading a movement. Another performance inexplicably overlooked by Oscar.

Miles Teller (Whiplash)

JK Simmons got most of the acting attention for Whiplash this year, but Teller is just as integral to the success of Whiplahs. As a driven young drummer, Teller throws his blood, sweat, and tears (literally.... all of these) into this character.

Runners-Up: Jesse Eisenberg (Night Moves), Brendan Gleeson (Calvary), Alfred Molina (Love is Strange), Jack O'Connell (Starred Up), Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything),

My Pick: Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Second: Michael Keaton (Birdman)

Matches with Oscar: Just Keaton.  With so many great performances to choose from, Oscar went a little bland this year. Redmayne is on my runners up list. Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) was good but not great, Bradley Cooper (American Sniper) pretty good in a terrible movie, and I found Steve Carrell the weakest performance of the three men in Foxcatcher.

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

The movie is called Boyhood, but it wouldn't be 1/10 as affecting without the mother's story at its core. Arquette plays Olivia, a struggling single mother with questionable choice in men.  She loves her children fiercely, but also follows her own path towards fulfillment. Arquette's performance, filmed over 12 years, digs deep into the joys and pains of motherhood.

Agata Kulezca, Ida

Few characters were as fascinating to me this year as Wanda, a judge in communist-era Poland reconnecting with her niece and digging up a painful past. Kulezca plays the hard exterior well, and gradually reveals the pain underneath.

Rene Russo, Nightcrawler

The best scenes in Nightcrawler all involve Russo as Nina, a jaded news producer who falls into a strange alliance with Jake Gyllenhaal's Lou Bloom. It's the kind of career redefining performance that should lead to a renaissance for an actress many had forgotten about.

Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer

Is there anything Swinton can't do?  In the sci-fi Snowpiercer, Swinton is equal parts Adolf Hitler and Margaret Thatcher as Mason, an authoritarian figure so ridiculous she's chilling.  She also gets perhaps the best line of the year: "Know your place. Keep your place. Be a shoe."

Naomi Watts, Birdman

You could literally fill this whole category with the women of Birdman. My favorite was Naomi Watts as an actress dealing with her egotistical actor partner (Edward Norton) while getting a big shot on Broadway. Watts has been one of my favorite actors since Mulholland Drive, and she delivers another riveting performance here.

Runners-Up: Carrie Coon (Gone Girl), Laura Dern (Wild), Carmen Ejogo (Selma), Emma Stone (Birdman), Marisa Tomei (Love is Strange)

My Favorite: Patricia Arquette
Second Place: Agata Kulezka

Matches with Oscar: Just the winner (Arquette).  Oscar went with my runner-ups Emma Stone (Birdman) and Laura Dern (Wild). They also picked Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game), who was strong in an unremarkable role, and Meryl Streep (Into the Woods), who was good in a role that ends up being a bit one-note.

Best Supporting Actor

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Hawke and director Richard Linklater go hand in hand, and this might be Hawke's best performance. His character starts out as the prototypical absent disappointing dad, but soon morphs into something much more complex, showing how kids aren't the only ones that change over 12 years.

Edward Norton, Birdman

Norton gets some of the biggest laughs of the year as vain actor Mike Shiner.  Norton has never been this funny before, bouncing his character off Michael Keaton's with effortless grace.

Tony Revilori, The Grand Budapest Hotel

In his major movie debut, Revilori is charming as lobby boy Zero, the mentee to M. Gustav. His young charm and physical performance are right at home in Wes Anderson's world.

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

The best moments of Foxcatcher belong to Mark Ruffalo's Dave Schultz, the wrestler pulled into the Dupont dysfunction by his brother Mark. Ruffalo's performance keeps the movie naturalistic and grounded, making sure we see the real brotherly love and not just the prevading creepiness that consumes so much of the movie.

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Simmons dominated the awards circuit, and it's easy to see why. His music teacher Terrence Fletcher is a terrifying character, ripping through his students' ego and dignity in the search for greatness. A great standout role for this longtime character actor.

Runners-Up: Zach Galifanakis (Birdman), Jeff Goldblum (Le Week-end), Charlie Tahan (Love is Strange), Tyler Perry (Gone Girl), Peter Saarsgard (Night Moves)

My Favorite: Edward Norton
Second Place: Mark Ruffalo

Matches with Oscar: 4! All but Revilori. Oscar went with Robert Duvall in The Judge, a movie I have no intention of seeing. A rare instance where Oscar gets a category almost exactly right.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Liveblogging the show

The Show (Latest Updates up Top)


Actor to Redmayne. Wished it was Keaton but happy for Eddie. He's so happy!

McConaughey is looking so greasy!

Julianne Moore for Stil Alice! 17/22. Finally she's an Oscar winner.

Best Picture to....Birdman.  Loved this movie.  Yes, I loved Boyhood even more but I don't begrudge this.  There's gonna be a nasty backlash tonight/tomorrow.

Some great speeches tonight though. My final results were 18/24, probably my worst showing ever.... There weren't really huge surprises, just several close races where I picked the wrong way.


Director to Inarittu for Birdman.  I think I'm 15/19 now. Second year in the row a Mexican director wins (after Cuaron for Gravity). /16/21


Original Screenplay to Birdman.  A good category and a good choice. Looking like some Birdman wins coming up.... Director, probably Picture, maybe Actor? 12/17

Adapted Screenplay to The Imitation Game. If Redmayne wins, all the Best Picture nominees will win something.  I wish Whiplash would have won here. 13/18


Scarjo- love the dress but I miss her younger, voluptuous look.

Lady Gaga as Maria- so weird and unnecessary!! Stop now.

But seeing Julie Andrews is amazing.... does she ever age?

Score to Grand Budapest for Alexandre Desplat. 8 nominations and 1st win. Love the score! Didn't pick it though. 12/16. So many for Grand Budapest!


Glory performance. Just amazing. Tears here.  This better win best song....

And it does.  Whew. 12/15.  John Legend gives a heartfelt speech daring to make a statement.


Editing to Whiplash. A sign Boyhood is definitely an underdog for Best Picture now. Missed this. 10/13.

Terrence Howard.... a little intense there introducing the movies.

Documentary to Citizenfour. 11/14.  Issues a thank you to Edward Snowden!


Why don't they just do a song while they show the people?


Production design to Grand Budapest. 9/11 now, and another for Budapest!  I'm not a big fan of how they are not actually showing examples of the nominees when they read the nominations. Don't you want to see the production design?

Cinematography to Emmanuel Lubezki for Birdman! Second year in a row to a truly amazing film artist. 10/12


Visual Effects to Interstellar. 7/8. I predicted this but really think it should have gone to the Apes.

Animated Short to Feast. 8/9 now.

Animated Feature to Big Hero 6. Another miss for me, so 8/10. Most were picking How to Train Your Dragon 2.


Guys- NPH was pulling out a wedgie as he walked out!

Sound Mixing- Whiplash! 5/6.  Let's keep shutting American Sniper out.

Sound Editing- Spoke too soon. Goes to  American Sniper. 6/7. Let's keep it there, voters.

Supporting Actress. Patricia Arquette. 7/8.  What a speech and gave us the best moment so far- Meryl Streep with her "You go girl!"reaction.


Live Action Short: The Phone Call. I saw this one.  Great performance by Sally Hawkins.  5/5.

Doc Short: Crisis Hotline. I didn't pick this one, so my first loss. 5/6.  What a fun dress on the winner!

Oh Gwyneth.... why have you become so annoying. You were great in Shakespeare in Love. Tim McGraw singing this Glen Campbell song.... unimpressed.


Chiwetel has glitter in his beard!

Foreign to Ida.  See it everyone! It's on Netflix Instant. 4/4.

Everything is Awesome.... that was awesome.

Also, we've noticed that Eddie Redmayne's wife looks constantly uncomfortable.


Costumes and Makeup both to Grand Budapest. So happy Wes Anderson is getting recognition- and he looks so thrilled.  I'm 3/3 right now (like many people I'm sure).


NPH nailed the opening song!  What the people wanted... an old fashioned opener.

Not sure Oprah was a big fan of being used in the joke....

Supporting Actor to J.K. Simmons of course.  Kind of a weird speech from him. 1/1

Presenting Grand Budapest and American Sniper together.... very weird juxtaposition.

Adam Levin with "Lost Stars" from Begin Again. I think if Glory hadn't come out, this might have won best song.

Red Carpet Coverage

We start off with the red carpet coverage. A rainy night so actors are all worried about their looks.

First impression- Rosamund Pike looking amazing. Surprisingly, the only nomination from Gone Girl.

Conversation in my living room. Both Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones (Theory of Everything) are really toothy. Can either close their mouth?

Julianne Moore.... one of my all-time favorites.  Soon to be Oscar winner.  I wish she had won for Boogie Nights..... or Magnolia.... or Far From Heaven.

Marion Cotillard. What a class act and great actress. My favorite of the best actress nominees.

Chris Pratt.  This just reminds that Parks & Rec is ending this week..... sniff sniff.

The red carpet always leads to inevitable..... is their [wife/husband/partner] famous?

Lupita Nyongo is wearing 6,000 pearls. This also reminds me of her amazing win and speech last year for 12 Years a Slave.

Reese Witherspoon looking great. Wild was a very underrated movie this year.  Also, promoting the hashtag #askhermore.  YES!!! Ask them about their work, not just their dresses.

Naomi Watts. Loved her in Birdman and even more in Mulholland Drive, one of my favorite movies (and performances) ever.

Bradley Cooper talking about how much Chris Kyle's family supported the movie. Could one problem with American Sniper be that..... they were too deferential to Chris Kyle's family? There was a more interesting movie to be told from that story.

Why does Lady Gaga sound like she is from another country? It appears she'll also be performing in a "Sound of Music" tribute..... could be kind of fun or a disaster.