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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Nomination Thoughts and Stats

So here they are, the nominations!

My stats this year for the major categories are 36/44, or 82%.  Last year I was 84% and the two years before that I hit 87%. My stats are going down!  Or perhaps this just means the categories were more competitive this year.

A few thoughts before the full rundown.

Did well or surprisingly well
-American Hustle. Very well indeed, with acting nominations in every category and the co-leader (along with effects-heavy Gravity) in nominations. Do we have to call this the frontrunner now? I hope not.
-Gravity. Co-leading with 10 nominations, this still looks like a major contender.
-Wolf of Wall Street. Picture, Director, Screenplay, Leo and Jonah Hill.  It seems that divisive doesn't matter so much if some love you.
-Nebraksa.  Hit all the major nominations it was really in contention for. Could Bruce Dern ride the love to a Best Actor win? I hope so.
-Philomena.  Picture, Actress, and Adapted Screenplay. Not bad for a small movie.
-Dallas Buyers Club.  Several nominations, including an inexplicable Best Editing nomination.  Guess voters loved this one a whole lot more than I did.

Did Pretty Well
-12 Years a Slave. The runner-up for nominations with 9. It hit all the major ones, but had troubling (and strange) misses in Cinematography and Score. I hope this can bounce back to frontrunner status.
-Her. 5 nominations, although it missed out on a Best Director nomination I thought it might get.

Not so Hot
-Inside Llewyn Davis :(.  My tied for favorite movie of the year only got a cinematography and sound nomination. I guarantee you history will not look kindly on this.
-Lee Daniels' The Butler. Totally snubbed. At one point, everyone thought Oprah would win Best Supporting Actress.
-Saving Mr. Banks. This contender fizzled, even missing an Emma Thompson nomination.

The best movies with 0 nominations.
5 movies are currently on my top 10 list, but got no love at all: Frances Ha, Stories We Tell, Mud, Enough Said, and Short Term 12.

The least deservering movies with lots of nominations.
I kind of liked Dallas Buyers Club, but I really don't see the love beyond the good performances.  And while I liked American Hustle quite a bit more than Dallas Buyers Club, I'm puzzled by its emergence as the frontrunner in such as great year.

For those who are still reading, here is my category by category breakdown.

Best picture 
"12 Years a Slave" 
"The Wolf of Wall Street" 
"Captain Phillips" 
"American Hustle" 
"Dallas Buyers Club" 
I predicted there would be 8 nominees, and they are all here.  The ninth was Philomena, which I had in 11th place.  A small movie that snuck in.  Philomena and The Wolf of Wall Street are the only ones I need to catch up with.
Best director 
Steve McQueen -- "12 Years a Slave" 
David O. Russell -- "American Hustle" 
Alfonso Cuaron -- "Gravity" 
Alexander Payne -- "Nebraska" 
Martin Scorsese -- "The Wolf of Wall Street"
3/5 in this category.  I thought they would go with Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips) and Spike Jonze (Her) instead of Payne and Scorsese.  I'm very happy that Payne made it in though.
Best actor 
Bruce Dern -- "Nebraska" 
Chiwetel Ejiofor -- "12 Years a Slave" 
Matthew McConaughey -- "Dallas Buyers Club" 
Leonardo DiCaprio -- "The Wolf of Wall Street" 
Christian Bale -- "American Hustle"
4/5 here.  A very surprise snub for Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips). In his place is Bale. They really really loved American Hustle.
Best actress 
Amy Adams -- "American Hustle" 
Cate Blanchett -- "Blue Jasmine" 
Judi Dench -- "Philomena" 
Sandra Bullock -- "Gravity" 
Meryl Streep -- "August: Osage County"
4/5. I knew in my bones they couldn't deny Streep.  What I didn't guess is that Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks) was vulnerable, so I missed Amy Adams here.
Best supporting actor 
Barkhad Abdi -- "Captain Phillips" 
Bradley Cooper -- "American Hustle" 
Jonah Hill -- "The Wolf of Wall Street" 
Jared Leto -- "Dallas Buyers Club" 
Michael Fassbender -- "12 Years a Slave"
4/5 here. I predicted Daniel Bruhl (Rush) but they went with Jonah Hill.  Can anyone believe we can now call Hill a two-time Oscar nominee?
Best supporting actress 
Jennifer Lawrence -- "American Hustle" 
Lupita Nyong'o -- "12 Years a Slave" 
June Squibb -- "Nebraska" 
Julia Roberts -- "August: Osage County" 
Sally Hawkins -- "Blue Jasmine"
4/5 here.  Sally Hawkins got in and Oprah Winfrey (The Butler) is surprisingly absent.
Best original screenplay 
"American Hustle" -- David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer 
"Blue Jasmine" -- Woody Allen 
"Her" -- Spike Jonze 
"Nebraska" -- Bob Nelson 
"Dallas Buyers Club" -- Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
4/5. Dallas Buyers Club over Inside Llewyn Davis. Man, it hurts to type that....

Best adapted screenplay 
"12 Years a Slave" -- John Ridley 
"Before Midnight" -- Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater
"The Wolf of Wall Street" -- Terence Winter 
"Captain Phillips" -- Billy Ray 
"Philomena" -- Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
5/5.  My only perfect category!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Final Nomination Predictions

A great year in film leads to lots of question marks in the Oscar nomiantions.  I've divided each major category into locks (meaning there's no way they miss...although don't forget Affleck missing out last year on Best Director), Very Likely, Possibilities, and Dark Horses.  I'm doing my best to list everything that has any chance of getting in.   Without further ado, here are my best shots, in order of likelihood...

Best Picture

1. 12 Years a Slave
2. American Hustle
3. Gravity

Very Likely
4. Captain Phillips
5. Nebraska

6. Dallas Buyers Club
7. Her
8. Wolf of Wall Street
Saving Mr. Banks
Inside Llewyn Davis
Blue Jasmine

Dark Horses
Lee Daniels' The Butler
Fruitvale Station

With the new rules, we could go anywhere between 5-10 nominees.  The last two years it's been 9, but I'll predict 8 this year.  I am REALLY crossing my fingers Llewyn Davis makes it, despite missing many precursors.

Best Actor

1. Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
2. Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Very Likely
3. Bruce Dern, Nebraska
4. Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips

5. Leonardo DiCaprio, Wolf of Wall Street
Robert Redford, All is Lost

Dark Horses
Forest Whitaker, Lee Daniels' The Butler
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis
Joaquin Phoenix, Her
Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station
Idris Elba, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

This category is chock full of contenders, and in a weaker year every single possibility would have been a shoo-in.  If you had asked me a week ago, I would have kept Redford in, but Leo is coming on strong and even those who don't like Wolf of Wall Street tend to like Leo's performance.

Best Actress

1. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
2. Sandra Bullock, Gravity

Very Likely
3. Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
4. Judi Dench, Philomena

5. Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Amy Adams, American Hustle

Dark Horses
Brie Larson, Short Term 12
Adele Exarchopolous, Blue is the Warmest Color
Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Enough Said

Another intense competition over that last slot.  Adams beat Streep at the Globes, but Meryl gets in for just about everything she does.  If it goes as I predicted, this will be a category of all former Oscar winners over 40.

Best Supporting Actor

1. Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
2. Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave

Very Likely
3. Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips

4. Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
5. Daniel Bruhl, Rush
 James Gandolfini, Enough Said
 Jonah Hill, Wolf of Wall Street

Dark Horses
Tom Hanks, Saving Mr. Banks
Will Forte, Nebraska
James Franco, Spring Breakers

Another confusing category in those last couple slots.  My heart says to put in Gandolfini in a movie I loved, but my head tells me Daniel Bruhl has hit all the right precursors.

Best Supporting Actress

1. Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
2. Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave

Very Likely
3. June Squibb, Nebraska
4. Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels' The Butler

5. Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Octavia Spencer, Fruitvale Station

Dark Horses
Margo Martindale, August: Osage County
Margot Robbie, Wolf of Wall Street
Scarlett Johannson, Her (This would be a BIG shocker since it's a voice performance)

If Blue Jasmine does better than expected, expect to see Sally Hawkins here.  As it is, I'll stick with Julia.

Best Director

1. Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
2. Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave

Very Likely
3. David O. Russell, American Hustle

4. Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
5. Spike Jonze, Her
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
Martin Scorsese, Wolf of Wall Street

Dark Horses
Joel & Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis
Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine
Jean-Marc Vallee, Dallas Buyers Club

Another nail-biter for that fifth slot.  Stats would say Scorsese, but I'm guessing Her and Nebraska were liked better than WoWs, so one of those will make it instead.

Best Original Screenplay

1. American Hustle
2. Nebraska
3. Her

4. Blue Jasmine
5. Inside Llewyn Davis
Dallas Buyers Club
Enough Said
Saving Mr. Banks

One place where Llewyn Davis can't miss right? Well, it probably can but I'm guessing the slightly more cerebral writers' branch will go for it over Dallas Buyers Club or Gravity.

Best Adapted Screenplay

1. 12 Years a Slave
2. Captain Phillips

Very Likely
3. Before Midnight
4. Philomena

5. Wolf of Wall Street
August: Osage County
Short Term 12
The Spectacular Now

If the Wolf of Wall Street gets a Best Picture nod (as most are predicting), it stands to reason it will score here as well.  A great surprise would be if Short Term 12 (see it now if you haven't!) snuck in.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Golden Globes Live Blog

Golden Globe Liveblog (Newest posts on top!)

My predictions went 11/14.  I feel pretty proud that I got all the main categories, missing only score, song, and foreign film.

PIcture/Drama: 12 Years a Slave!!!!!!!! This is shaping up to be a very interesting Oscar race!!

Actor/Drama: Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club. I like him... and he's good in this movie.... but can 12 Years a Slave really go home empty handed tonight??

Actress/Drama: The wonderful Cate Blanchett.  Probably the best theater experience I've had was seeing her in Uncle Vanya at the Kennedy Center.  She's amazing and it's a VERY well-deserved award.

Comedy/Musical: American Hustle of course.  Haven't seen WoWS, but I greatly prefer Inside Llewyn Davis (!!), Nebraska (!), and Her.

Actor in Comedy/Musical. Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street. I really really wanted Bruce Dern (or Oscar Isaac) to win.  But the Globes love their stars.... Classy speech, though, for sure.  Haven't made it to the Wolf of Wall Street yet, so I can't weigh in on it yet.

Best Comedy... Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I've never heard of this show until tonight.

Director... Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity. I wanted Steve McQueen but definitely a worthy winner.  He's made 3 movies I love.... Y Tu Mama Tambien, Children of Men, and Gravity.  I'm also really glad American Hustle is not steamrolling. Interesting that Best Director at Globes has not correlated to Oscar since 2008 (Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire).

Diane Keaton. Looking classy with her updated Annie Hall look, fully gray hair,  and Woody glasses. A highlight of the show.

Side note.... a Revolution Foods commercial. It's my school lunch program.  Weird.

Actress in a Comedy.  AMY POEHLER!!!! This makes me so happy!! This amazing show finally gets some love.

Animated Film... Frozen.

Actor in a Miniseries... Michael Douglas in Behind the Candelabra of course.

Foreign Film. The Great Beauty.  A bit of a surprise over Blue is the Warmest Color.  This could be our Oscar winner as well.

Actor in a Comedy- Andy Samberg in.... something I've never heard of (Brooklyn Nine-Nine).  I realize I watch none of these shows.

Screenplay.  Spike Jonze for Her! Well-deserved! Perhaps (and I hope) American Hustle is not unstoppable.

Supporting Actor... Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club.  He continues his road to Oscar.  Who ever thought Jordan Catalano would be here.  Also, the second male messy bun winner of the night.

In this year on the women. High neck and side boob.

Actress in a Drama... Robin Wright in House of Cards.  Really thought (and hoped) this would go to Kerry Washington, but it went to the OTHER DC scandalous drama.   Not a bad pick.

Amy Poehler as Tina Fey's son.... wow.  Priceless!!

Actress in a Comedy/Musical. Amy Adams for American Hustle.  Looks like it is cleaning up tonight.  Not my pick, but I've always really liked Adams.  I might have to predict her for an Oscar nom.

Supporting Actor to Jon Voight.  With him and Jacqueline, going for the old folks this year.  Aaron Paul was robbed. "Yeah, bitch."

Best song.  "Ordinary Love" from Mandela.  You can't beat Bono I guess.

Original score to All is Lost. A surprise!  That composer looks like the coolest (most pot-smoking) guy in the room though. And... I guess he partied with P. Diddy. Just realized he is from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes.

They must have seated all the TV people in the back.  These walks are taking way too long.

Drama to Breaking Bad!

Actor in a drama.... Bryan Cranston for Breaking Bad.  First Golden Globe EVER for the show. I hope it wins everything tonight.  A great show.

Miniseries to... Behind the Candelabra. This was a very good movie, although I loved Top of the Lake more.  It's on Netflix, so check it out.

Actress (Miniseries) to Elisabeth Moss (Top of the Lake).  Well-deserved!  Fun fact- she was married to Fred Armisen.

Jacqueline Bissett..... just so weird.

Supporting Actress goes to.... Jennifer Lawrence.  I really wanted Lupita to win.  Is she on her way to back-to-back Oscar wins.  There's a really good chance.

Amy and Tina are killing it.  Best jokes.... Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and George Clooney "who would rather float away in space and die then spend another minute with a woman his own age."

All right.  I love Kerry Washington, but posing with her hand on the baby bump is a bit much.

OK. Julia Roberts. A white shirt under an evening gown.... worst dressed so far!


The double belt on Jennifer Lawrence is a mistake I think.  You can't win them all, Jen!


Zooey Deschanel: "I had a cookie for breakfast.... which maybe I shouldn't have." Could she be any more annoying??


I guess Amy Adams decided she liked the deep cleavage of American Hustle. Can't blame her!

6:55 pm

Here we are at the Golden Globes, the (even more) starstruck version of the Oscars that mixes in the TV categories as well. They also let people drink during the show, which makes for lots of drunk speeches and presentations!  The Globes separate the main awards into Drama and Comedy-Musical, so they don't always work well as predictors of Oscars.  They are useful to see who gives a good speech.  Here are my predictions for the film awards.  There are some tight races, so I can't wait to see who wins!

Picture Drama
Will Win: 12 Years a Slave
Could Win: Gravity
Should Win: 12 Years a Slave

Actor Drama
Will Win: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Could Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Should Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave

Actress Drama
Will Win: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Could Win: No one else..... but runner-up is probably Judi Dench, Philomena
Should Win: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Picture Musical/Comedy
Will Win: American Hustle
Could Win: Nebraska
Should Win: Inside Llewyn Davis

Actor Musical/Comedy
Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, Wolf of Wall Street
Could Win: Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Should Win: Bruce Dern, Nebraska

Actress Musical/Comedy
Will Win: Amy Adams, American Hustle
Could Win: Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Should Win: Julie Delpy, Before Midnight

Supporting Actor
Will Win: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Could Win: Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Should Win: Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave

Supporting Actress
Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Could Win: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
Should Win: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave

Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Could Win: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Should Win: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave

Will Win: Her
Could Win: American Hustle
Should Win: Nebraska

Original Song
Will Win: Let it Go from Frozen
Could Win: Please Mr. Kennedy from Inside Llewyn Davis
Should Win: Please Mr. Kennedy from Inside Llewyn Davis

Original Score
Will Win: Gravity
Could Win: 12 Years a Slave
Should Win: 12 Years a Slave

Animated Film
Will Win: Frozen
Could Win: The Croods

Foreign Film
Will Win: Blue is the Warmest Color
Could Win: The Great Beauty

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Hustlers, Operating Systems, and Folk Musicians

The most recent movies I've seen are hotly anticipated, critically acclaimed end-of-year movies.  While I liked them to varying degrees, they are all most certaily must-sees.  Here are my thoughts.

American Hustle

Director David O. Russell has a signature style of throwing a bunch of characters into a somewhat familiar genre (war movie in Three Kings, sports drama in The Fighter, romantic comedy in Silver Linings Playbook), letting actors improvise, and ending up with something thornier and more interesting than its plot summary would indicate.  American Hustle is loosely based on the Abscam scandal, when FBI agents used con artists to entrap dirty politicians.
American Hustle stars a quartet of great and funny actors (Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence), and its a joy to watch them interact onscreen.  I liked them all, but if you put a gun to my head my favorite would be Cooper's earnest, desperate, permed, FBI agent.  The movie has its own sort of rhythm, which at times is fun and at other times feels a bit flabby.  While I loved watching the actors, I often wished scenes had been a bit tighter, the plot a bit clearer, and the stakes a bit higher.  With Oscar nominations coming out next week, American Hustle is often mentioned as one of a trio of frontrunners along with 12 Years a Slave and Gravity.  While I enjoyed it a lot, for me it doesn't even come close to the achievements of the other two films.

Grade: B


From director Spike Jonze comes Her, the story of a recently-divorced and depressed man (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in deep love with his operating system "Samantha" (voiced by Scarlett Johansson).  The most remarkable thing about Her is the way they make this high-concept story into something that feels utterly believable in the not-too-distant future.  The world, with everyone entwined with their operating systems and finding new ways of connection (or faux-connection, director Jonze refuses to pick a side), feels quite close to our own and never strains probability.  The best part of the movie was its first half, as we the audience marvel at all the aspects of this brave new world, pitched somewhere between marvel and melancholy.  I also loved the philosophical questions of soul and body and consciousness that this movie effortlessly entertains.  In the second half of the movie, the tone shifts to romantic drama as the relationship is strained, and it almost doesn't matter that we're talking about a man and operating system.  I liked this part of the movie too, but it didn't quite catch me the same way.  I value tremendously all the things this movie does well, and yet a part of me remained engaged at a more intellectual than emotional level.  It's definitely one to see again.

Grade: A-

Inside Llewyn Davis

Here it is, what just might be a perfect movie.  I am a huge fan of The Coen Brothers, and here they do everything so beautifully right.  The story of Llewyn, a wandering folksinger in early-1960s New York, is a movie with the courage of its convictions as the movie  isn't afraid to present Llewyn in all his contradictions.  He's a great singer who doesn't snatch opportunity when it's in front of him.  He's a cad who can't connect with others in life, but uses music to make his points and show others his soul.  As we follow him through a week in his life, the Coens bring a deep vein of compassion to his journey.  That isn't to say this movie isn't funny.  It has many laugh-out-loud sequences, form an Upper West Side dinner party to a strange and desolate road-trip with an obnoxious jazz aficionado, played with great skill by John Goodman.  In the lead role, Oscar Isaac is astonishing, playing his emotions whether speaking or singing.  In addition, every element of the craft, from the washed-out cinematography to the impeccably rendered 1960s New York, looks perfect.  It also has one of the best endings, elliptical and haunting, that I've seen in quite some time. I've loved many a Coen Brothers movie, but this just might be my favorite.

Grade: A