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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Nominations Podcast

The nominations came, and there were definitely some small and big surprises.

For the categories I predicted (not including Best Picture, with its confusing new rules), I went 30/35, or 86%.  Last year I got 87%, so I'm consistent at least.  Listen below for my thoughts!  Or, find us on itunes!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Final Oscar Predictions

Oscar nomination morning is tomorrow (kind of like Christmas for me....) so it's time to do my final predictions.

This year is trickier than most, I think.  There are a few categories that feel really unsettled.   I'll list what I predict in order of likelihood.  We'll see how I do!


The Artist
The Descendants
The Help
Midnight in Paris

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Tree of Life
War Horse
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

This is obviously the hardest to predict as, due to some sort of complex new rules, there will be anywhere between 5-10 nominees.  I'm going with 6 for now, although I almost went with 7 and put in Dragon Tattoo.


George Clooney, The Descendants
Brad Pitt, Moneyball
Jean DuJardin, The Artist
Michael Fassbender, Shame
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar
Michael Shannon, Take Shelter
Damian Bechir, A Better Life

The top 4 I'm predicting have shown up the most often on the precursors.  The Top 3 are surefire, the last 2 I'm not so sure.  Is Shame too explicit? Will they really nominate Leo for a movie nobody loved?  Will the Brits in the Academy nominate Oldman?  Will Shannon surprise, as he did for Revolutionary Road a few years ago?  Perhaps against my better judgment, I'm betting against Leo in a Eastwood biopic and instead going with Gary Oldman for the last spot.  We shall see.


Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Viola Davis, The Help
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin

Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Charlize Theron, Young Adult
Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia
Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids

The 5 I'm predicting are kind of the consensus list.  In a really strong year for Best Actress contenders, I'm wondering if we won't see a surprise.  I won't be too surprised if Mara shows up since she is getting lots of buzz.  I will be thrilled if Theron or Olsen somehow makes it in.

Supporting Actor

Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Albert Brooks, Drive
Nick Nolte, Warrior

Corey Stoll, Midnight in Paris
Brad Pitt, The Tree of Life
Patton Oswalt, Young Adult
Ben Kingsley, Hugo
Viggo Mortenson, A Dangerous Method

As with Best Actress, I'm playing it safe and going with the consensus list.  I feel like someone unexpected might make it through though.  I'm most hoping for Stoll (an amazing Ernest Hemingway) or Pitt (giving him 2 nominations).

Supporting Actress

Octavia Spencer, The Help
Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs

Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
Carey Mulligan, Shame
Vanessa Redgrave, Coriolanus

This seems very much like a 6-person race.  I think either McTeer or Woodley is out.  I'm guessing Woodley gets left out.


Michel Hazanivicus, The Artist
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life

David Fincher, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Tate Taylor, The Help
Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive
Asghar Fahadi, A Separation

Even though I'm not predicting The Tree of Life (my favorite of the year) for a Best Picture nomination, I still think Malick will make it through here.  I'm hoping that at least the director's branch will see what a true directorial vision The Tree of Life was.  Wishful thinking perhaps, but my fingers are crossed.

Original Screenplay

Midnight in Paris
The Artist
A Separation

Win Win
Young Adult
Margin Call

Adapted Screenplay

The Descendants
The Help
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Ides of March

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Golden Globes Live Blog

Overall thoughts...... not an overly exciting show, but it certainly helped to clarify the Oscar race.  It looks like George Clooney, Christopher Plummer, and Octavia Spencer are ahead in the race for Oscar.  I think Actress is still a nice 3-way race between Streep, Michelle Williams, and Viola Davis (who just won the Broadcast Film Critics Award).

Also, Ricky Gervais was a bit much even for me.  Let's get someone else next year.

Thanks for following!!


Motion Picture Drama.... The Descendants.  Meh.  More thoughts on this movie here.



Actor in a Drama....George Clooney in The Descendants.  I really don't want this performance to win the Oscar.  I found The Descendants pretty disappointing and was hoping Brad Pitt could come through here.  Ah well.

10/13, my percentage is dropping.


Best Picture Comedy/Musical... The Artist, of course.  And UGGIE the dog comes on stage!!  Have you all seen The Artist yet?  It's certainly the crowd-pleaser of the year.  10/12


Actress in a Drama.... Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady.  So gracious in her speech.  I love Meryl but I was hoping Viola would win this one.  I certainly had my problems with The Help, but Viola added so much to that movie.  Didn't predict another one, so 9/11.


Actor Comedy/Musical.... Jean DuJardin in the Artist.  I've heard he's just been learning some English to work the awards circuit.  Quite impressive I think.  Also love the silent bit!  9/10 so far.


TV Comedy.... Modern Family!  I'm certainly glad Glee didn't win, because I think it's jumped the shark about 20 times over.  I really like Modern Family, but why no nominations for 30 Rock or Parks and Recreation??

Also, the translation bit is funny, but a little rehearsed, like they were too sure they would win.


Best Director.... Martin Scorsese for Hugo.  Not my absolute favorite of the nominated movies, but you can tell it was such a labor of love for Scorsese.  I love how much he loves movies.

Doing well on my predictions!  8/9.


Cecil B. DeMille Honorary award to Morgan Freeman.  What are your favorite performances?  I like Shawshank, Glory, and Unforgiven.  Damn it if I didn't tear up watching those Shawshank clips.


Supporting Actress... Octavia Spencer in The Help.  While not my favorite performance in The Help (I was hoping Jessica Chastain would win this), I'm glad for her.  This was a competitive category, so this may just set her on the path to Oscar.

7/8 on my predictions.


Actor in a Comedy.... Matt LeBlanc in Episodes.  This just reminds me that I wasted a lot of hours in my life watching friends.


Actress in a TV Drama... Claire Danes in Homeland.  Angela Chase (from My So-Called Life) will always hold a place in my heart.


Foreign Film.... A Separation.  I've only heard remarkable things about this movie.  I cannot wait to see it.

6/7 so far.


Supporting Actress/TV.... Jessica Lange, American Horror Story.  Have not seen this, but I know that it also stars Connie Britten from Friday Night Lights.  Her portrayal of Tami Taylor over 5 seasons of FNL was truly a work of beauty.  Watch them all if you haven't.


Best Screenplay.... Midnight in Paris.  5/6.  Woody NEVER comes to awards shows.  He didn't even show up to the Oscars when he won Best Picture in '77 for Annie Hall.


Animated Film.... The Adventures of Tintin.  I've only seen Rango of the nominees, and I was not a big fan.



Supporting Actor in TV... Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones.  Another I'm looking forward to catching up with on DVD.  Also, do you think other little people are mad that Dinklage gets every single role written for them??


Erection joke from Seth Rogen. Classic.

Actress in Comedy/Musical..... course Michelle Williams for the "hysterically funny" My Week With Marilyn.  The joke is that they only qualified it in Comedy/Musical (an easier category for Michelle to win) by having a couple musical numbers in it.  3/4 on my predictions.


Actor in a Drama.... Idris Elba!! I haven't seen the show Luther, but I will ALWAYS be excited when an alum from The Wire wins something.  And he was up against McNulty.  Go Stringer!


Best Score... The Artist.  How could it not win?  Without dialogue, it had so much work to do. 2/2

Best Song... Masterpiece from W.E.  This movie was directed by Madonna and looks really bad.  The Globes really love their stars... I missed this one, so 2/3.  Also, why does Madonna always slip in and out of a British accent?


Actor TV Drama.... Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) in Boss.  I know nothing about this show.  I am in the midst of watching Breaking Bad Season 2, and Bryan Cranston is awesome. He should have won.

TV Series Drama.... Homeland.  I've heard great things but I am cableless and it's on Showtime.  Guess I'll wait for Netflix.


TV Movie/Miniseries.... Downton Abbey of course because it is so crazy good and addicting.  Watch Season 1 if you haven't-it's on Netflix Watch Now.  I can't wait to catch up with Season 2.

Actress Miniseries/Movie... Katie Winslet in Mildred Pierce of course.  She's probably my favorite modern actress.  And looking good tonight.


TV Comedy Actress.... Laura Dern in Enlightened.  Haven't seen this show but heard it's good and am really glad that Zooey Deschanel didn't win.  I was hoping for a Tina Fey or Amy Poehler speech, though.


Supporting Actor... Christopher Plummer in Beginners!  A great performance if you haven't seen the movie yet.  I expect he'll be repeating this at the Oscars. 1/1 on predictions.


Wow, Ricky Gervais is trying to outdo his off-color remarks from last year.  The Jodie Foster and Justin Bieber remarks especially.... yikes.


OK, the fashion portion of the show is definitely not my strong suit.  Nevertheless, I have to say that Charlize Theron, Tina Fey, Viola Davis, and Emma Stone were looking great.  And I love Amy Poehler, but her dress is terrible.  Also, I find Zooey Deschanel and think she acts like she is 16. She said she painted her nails with tuxedos so that they were her date..... ugh.


I'll be liveblogging tonight for the Golden Globes, which have become the awards seasons second-biggest night.  They are important for a couple of reasons.  They give us a sense of momentum in the race, and, if winners give really great acceptance speeches, it can definitely help them on their road to Oscars.... So Below is my blog.  Newest posts will be on top!

Before the red carpet even starts, here are some predictions for the movie categories!

Picture-Drama (The Descendants, The Help, Hugo, The Ides of March, Moneyball, War Horse)
Will Win: The Descendants
Runner Up: The Help
Should Win: Moneyball

Tough call.  I think it could go The Descendants, The Help, or Hugo.

Actor-Drama (George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt)
Will Win: Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
Alternate: George Clooney (The Descendants)
Should Win: Michael Fassbender (Shame)

This is definitely Clooney vs. Pitt, and I really hope Pitt pulls it out.  He was so terrific in Moneyball, and I think Clooney has given better performances before.

Actress-Drama (Glenn Close, Viola Davis, Rooney Mara, Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton)
Will Win: Viola Davis (The Help)
Alternate: Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
Should Win: Viola Davis.  Actually the only one I've seen, but she deserves it.

A real horse race between Davis and Streep, as I expect it might be throughout the rest of the season.

Picture-Comedy/Musical (50/50, The Artist, Bridesmaids, Midnight in Paris, My Week with Marilyn)
Will Win: The Artist
Alternate: Midnight in Paris
Should Win: The Artist

Nothing much to say.  The Artist will definitely win here.  Last year this category was kind of a dumping ground, but this year a lot of really good movies showed up.

Actor-Comedy/Musical (Jean DuJardin, Brendan Gleeson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ryan Gosling, Owen Wilson)
Will Win: Jean DuJardin (The Artist)
Alternate: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (50/50)
Should Win: Jean DuJardin (The Artist)

The Comedy/Musical acting awards are very locked up.

Actress-Comedy/Musical (Jodie Foster, Charlize Theron, Kristen Wiig, Michelle Williams, Kate Winslet)
Will Win: Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn)
Alternate: Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids)
Should Win: Charlize Theron (Young Adult0

Another lock.

Supporting Actor (Kenneth Branagh, Albert Brooks, Jonah Hill, Viggo Mortenson, Christopher Plummer)
Will Win: Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Alternate: Kenneth Branagh (My Week With Marilyn)
Should Win: Christopher Plummer (Beginners)

Supporting Actress (Berenice Bejo, Jessica Chastain, Janet McTerr, Octavia Spencer, Shailene Woodley)
Will Win: Octavia Spencer (The Help)
Alternate: Berenice Bejo (The Artist)
Should Win: Jessica Chastain (The Help)

A little up in the air category.  Hard to pick between Spencer and Bejo, and I even think Chastain has a chance.  Look for whoever wins here to get major Oscar momentum.

Director (Woody Allen, George Clooney, Michel Hazanivicus, Alexander Payne, Martin Scorsese)
Will Win: Martin Scorsese (Hugo)
Alternate: Michel Hazanivicus (The Artist)
Should Win: Michel Hazanivicus (The Artist)

If Hazanivicus wins, The Artist is on a major role.  The Globes tends to love star directors though, so my money is on Scorsese.

Other quick predicitions:
Foreign Film: A Separation
Screenplay: Midnight in Paris
Original Song: The Living Proof (The Help)
Score: The Artist
Animated: The Adventures of Tintin

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Review Round-Up: The Artist, Hugo, Shame, Young Adult....

Now is the time of year when studios release “Oscar” movies,  movies I missed in theaters come out on DVD, and I get a nice little break from work.  Needelss to say, I’ve recently seen a few 2011 releases.  Here are some thoughts on them.

In Theaters

The Artist

The Artist is a silent, black-and-white, French movie that is the crowd-pleaser of the year and probably the frontrunner for Best Picture.  I was thoroughly charmed by The Artist.   The story is about movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) who spirals down with the advent of “talkies,” and the young ingénue Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), who finds her own star on the rise.  These two actors, prominent in their native France, could not be more well-suited to their roles.  Director Michel Havanicus stages the movie with limited dialogue cards, and the two stars have to portray so much with their faces and bodies.  They echo the greats of the past while at the same time feeling completely fresh.

 For a lover of film such as myself, The Artist has numerous points of reference that play not as steals but rather as loving echoes to great films of the past.  The story has clear hints of A Star is Born, Singin’ in the Rain, and Sunset Boulevard, while stylistic elements remind viewers of Citizen Kane, The Thin Man series (the adorable dog!!), and Fred and Ginger movies.  With all of this nostalgic look back, is there a message for us now?  I’m not quite sure, and I don’t quite think it has the depth of Far From Heaven (2002), where director Todd Haynes used the style of 1950s melodrama to both portray and comment upon that time period and our own.   A lark it may be, but it’s a delightful trip for movie buffs and casual viewers alike.

Grade: A-


Hugo is another movie that looks backward at silent film.  It’s not giving too much away to say that this story of  a young orphan in a Paris train station eventually expands to include a celebration of the advent of film.  Hugo comes to us from director Martin Scorsese, but this is certainly not the Mean Streets of gangsters, boxers, or taxi drivers.  Scorsese and his collaborators have created a movie that has to be one of the most gorgeously designed movies I’ve seen.  The train station is intricately detailed, the costumes are colorful and distinctive, and all of Paris feels pulled out of a storybook (as it was adapted from the wonderful young adult book The Adventures of Hugo Cabret). 

Hugo consists, more or less, or two halves.  One half shows us Hugo’s life in the train station, his meeting of a young friend, and his obsession with an “automaton” of his dead father’s.  The second half shifts our focus onto “Papa George,” an elderly man who runs a toy shop in the train station.  As the movie develops, the two stories intersect in ways that I won’t fully reveal here.  I think the movie is strongest in its first half hour or so, as we are brought into this gorgeous world, and in its second half, and the emotional heft of the film hits the viewer.   For what is a family movie, it feels a little overlong, and I think Scorsese could have cut about 15 minutes and made a tighter, stronger movie.  It’s a labor of love for Scorsese and, like The Artist, sure to be a hit for those who are emotional about the movies.

Grade: B+


Care to take a turn away from the nostalgia and sweetness of The Artist and Hugo?  Shame is most decidedly a movie about the way some people live now, trapped in money and gratification over relationships.  Michael Fassbender gives what I think is the performance of the year in this movie about a sex addict.  This movie, somewhat infamous for its NC-17 rating, is both fairly explicit and decidedly unsexy. 

Michael is a character who treats his whole life as an opportunity for sexual escape, and director Steve McQueen (no, not the 1970s star) does an excellent job of consuming us in his head as the movie opens.  The somewhat minimalist plot is primarily about Michael’s relationship with his sister Sissy, played by Carey Mulligan, a similarly troubled person who comes to visit him.  Fassbender and Mulligan are absolutely fearless and riveting in their roles as damaged siblings.  I was also impressed by Nicole Beharie who plays a co-worker of Brandon’s who tries to have a normal romantic relationship with him.  The plot of this movie is not so different from addiction movies you’ve seen before, but what sets it apart is the supreme directorial control over the movie.  McQueen films scenes in long takes that immerse you in the experience, cause discomfort, and allow for reflection.  Easy to watch it’s not, but I think it’s one of the best movies of the year.

Grade: A

Young Adult

I was decidedly not a fan of screenwriter Diablo Cody’s annoying contrived Juno, so I went into this movie with low-to-moderate expectations.  I’m happy to say that it was easily one of the most pleasant surprises of the year.

Charlize Theron plays Mavis, a young-adult fiction ghostwriter who returns to her small Minnesota town to try to win back her high school boyfriend, who happens to be married with a  child.  Mavis does some truly terrible things in this movie, and I know her character turns some people off of the movie.  I couldn’t get enough of Charlize Theron’s brilliant performance.  She makes Mavis both hilarious and pathetic.  I also credit Diablo Cody with writing a script that doesn’t go for the easy notes or the tidy ending.  She pushes Mavis’ actions to their logical conclusion. 

Grade: A


A Better Life

Mexican actor Demian Bechir recently received a surprise Screen Actors Guild nomianation for this movie, and he is excellent.  He plays an illegal-immigrant gardener in L.A. who is struggling to make a better living for his teenage son, who is also being tempeted by the gang life.  If the story sounds a bit familiar, it’s because it feels that way as you are watching it too.  While Bechir was very strong in the lead role, the whole movie felt overly familiar, like a TV-movie I’ve seen before.

Grade: C+

Crazy, Stupid, Love

In a landscape of romantic comedies which I usually avoid at all costs, this movie came as a pleasant surprise.   I can’t remember the last rom-com I saw where I didn’t anticipate every plot twist, and this time I didn’t.  The movie takes it’s time looking at it’s central 4 characters, played by Steve Carrell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, and Emma Stone.  With a cast like that, we expect some great acting moments, and the foursome delivered.  I especially liked the interactions between Ryan Gosling, as a young lothario, and Emma Stone, as a more reserved young lawyer. These two actors are obviously two stars on the rise, and it is fun to watch them together.  I was less impressed at the subplot involving Carrell and Moore’s teenage son and the babysitter, and the movie doesn’t entirely steer clear of clichés.  All in all, though, a fun, light movie with some really good performances.

Grade: B

Margin Call

Sporting a prominent cast that includes Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, and Demi Moore, this is a fictional movie detailing the fall of a Lehman Brotherseque financial firm.  I liked the way the movie is tightly focused and takes place all in several hours.  It gives viewers a good sense of what is might have felt like when everything fell apart.  I appreciated it more on an intellectual level, however, than an emotional one.  This movie has been winning a lot of best first director prizes, rather surprisingly , over Martha Marcy May Marlene, and I don’t quite see the enthusiasm.

 Grade: B

Meek’s Cutoff

The third feature from director Kelly Reichart, who made Wendy and Lucy and Old Joy.  This movie travels far back in time to look at pioneers traversing the arid terrain through Oregon.  I loved the way this movie deconstructs the whole Western genre.  There are fights here, but they are over hushed campfires and not done on horseback.  There is “Cowboy-Indian” drama, but it is mysterious and fraught with anxiety rather than moral certitude.  Michelle Williams has the lead role as the most independent of the travelers, and Bruce Greenwood is ominous as the unhinged Meek, who is leading the group.  It’s sense of foreboding and ambivalence is a little unsettling to watch, but this is a movie that has stayed with me.   

Grade: B+