Thursday, February 27, 2014


     The Academy Awards are this Sunday night and here are my predictions. I am expecting a big night for Gravity, but really hope that 12 Years a Slave pulls off a Best Picture win. I know that The Wolf of Wall Street will not win, so no use complaining about that. Watch out for American Hustle as well. Just give us some surprises! It is a tight year, so I am hoping for something intriguing and suspenseful. We shall see. The awards will air on ABC, Sunday, March 2nd, with coverage beginning at 7pm eastern. Here are my predictions.

  1. American Hustle
  2. Captain Phillips
  3. Dallas Buyers Club
  4. Gravity 
  5. Her
  6. Nebraska
  7. Philomena 
  8. 12 Years a Slave
  9. The Wolf of Wall Street
WILL WIN:   Gravity
SHOULD WIN:   The Wolf of Wall Street 

I want The Wolf of Wall Street or 12 Years a Slave to win, but I am sticking with the Academy's recent run of awarding soft, entertaining films over profound ones. That is not to say I do not find Gravity to be a truly exceptional, groundbreaking film, but the other two are just far superior and more relevant of a Best Picture in my opinion. 

  1. David O. Russell, American Hustle
  2. Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
  3. Alexander Payne, Nebraska
  4. Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
  5. Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
WILL WIN:   Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
SHOULD WIN:   Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street 

Cuarón is taking this one home. Fine with that and glad to see one of the finest directors getting recognition. Scorsese is still, and will always be, the man and what a film he directed.

  1. Christian Bale, American Hustle
  2. Bruce Dern, Nebraska
  3. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
  4. Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
  5. Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
WILL WIN:   Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
SHOULD WIN:   Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street

In all honesty, I will be fine with any five of these actors winning this award. Great work from all the nominees, but McConaughey is tearing up the award circuit, minus the BAFTA, and will take this home. Should be DiCaprio...

  1. Amy Adams, American Hustle
  2. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
  3. Sandra Bullock, Gravity
  4. Judi Dench, Philomena
  5. Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
WILL WIN:   Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
SHOULD WIN:   Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Cate Blanchett has had this wrapped up since the summer. Done deal. Amy Adams was almost my "should win" pick, but Blanchett is ridiculously great in Blue Jasmine.  

  1. Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
  2. Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
  3. Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
  4. Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
  5. Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
WILL WIN:   Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
SHOULD WIN:   Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

I think Leto gave one of the best performances of the year and has swept the precursors, with the exception of the BAFTA. I could possibly see an upset here, but still believe he will win. He just barely beat out Hill in my "should win" pick.

  1. Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
  2. Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
  3. Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
  4. Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
  5. June Squibb, Nebraska
WILL WIN:   Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave      
SHOULD WIN:   Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave

Too me, a no-brainer. Nyong'o should be a shoe-in. Watch out for Jennifer Lawrence, but not two years in a row. I do believe Nyong'o will take home the statue.

  1. Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke, Before Midnight
  2. Billy Ray, Captain Phillips
  3. Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope, Philomena
  4. John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
  5. Terence Winter, The Wolf of Wall Street
WILL WIN:   John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
SHOULD WIN:   Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke, Before Midnight

Both screenplay categories are difficult picks and the Academy could go with any of these nominees. Could be a surprise here, but I think it will be John Ridley for 12 Years a Slave. His toughest competition is Billy Ray for Captain Phillips and he could easily win this one. Love Before Midnight.

  1. Eric Warren Singer & David O. Russell, American Hustle
  2. Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine
  3. Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack, Dallas Buyers Club
  4. Spike Jonze, Her
  5. Bob Nelson, Nebraska
WILL WIN:   Spike Jonze, Her
SHOULD WIN:   Spike Jonze, Her

I hope this is where Spike Jonze gets his much deserved recognition for his wonderful love story Her. I think it is between him and the American Hustle team, but this also could go to Nebraska or Dallas Buyers Club. Sticking with Jonze.

  1. The Croods
  2. Despicable Me 2
  3. Ernest & Celestine
  4. Frozen
  5. The Wind Rises
WILL WIN:   Frozen
SHOULD WIN:   The Wind Rises

Hoping Hayao Miyazaki receives his much overdue Oscar, but Frozen has this one wrapped up.

  1. The Act of Killing
  2. Cutie and the Boxer
  3. Dirty Wars
  4. The Square
  5. 20 Feet from Stardom
WILL WIN:   The Act of Killing
SHOULD WIN:   The Act of Killing

This should be an interesting selection. The Act of Killing has been winning many, if not all of the precursor awards, but how Academy friendly is it? It is a challenging, visceral watch and they could easily go with the delightful 20 Feet from Stardom. I would be happy with either film winning, but Ibelieve The Act of Killing will take home the win. 

  1. The Broken Circle Breakdown
  2. The Great Beauty
  3. The Hunt
  4. The Missing Picture
  5. Omar
WILL WIN:   The Great Beauty
SHOULD WIN:   The Great Beauty

Another tough category to pick. I am going with Paolo Sorrentino's amazing The Great Beauty and think the Academy will too. Watch out for The Broken Circle Breakdown, which might be a little more attuned to the Academy's taste. 

  1. Phillipe LeSourd, The Grandmaster
  2. Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity
  3. Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis
  4. Phedon Papamichael, Nebraska
  5. Roger Deakins, Prisoners
WILL WIN:   Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity
SHOULD WIN:   Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis

Lubezki has deserved an Oscar for quite some time: Children of Men, The New World and The Tree of Life. I love his work in Gravity. So innovative and beautiful. Still, my personal pick is the hazy brilliance of Bruno Delbonnel for Inside Llewyn Davis. Lubezki will win.

  1. Michael Wilkinson, American Hustle
  2. William Chang Suk Ping, The Grandmaster
  3. Catherine Martin, The Great Gatsby
  4. Michael O'Connor, The Invisible Woman
  5. Patricia Norris, 12 Years a Slave
WILL WIN:   The Great Gatsby
SHOULD WIN:   12 Years a Slave

This is a tight category to choose from. I believe the Academy is going to pick The Great Gatsby for its decadence and beauty, but would not be surprised if 12 Years a Slave or the great 70s style of American Hustle snags a victory.

  1. Cave Digger
  2. Facing Fear
  3. Karama Has No Walls
  4. The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
  5. Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall
WILL WIN:   Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hill
SHOULD WIN:   Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hill

My favorite of the shorts and the one I think the Academy will award, but it could also go to The Lady in Number 6.
  1. Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers & Alan Baumgarten, American Hustle
  2. Christopher Rouse, Captain Phillips
  3. John 'Mac' McMurphy & Martin Pensa, Dallas Buyers Club
  4. Alfonso Cuarón & Marc Sanger, Gravity
  5. Joe Walker, 12 Years a Slave
WILL WIN:   Christopher Rouse, Captain Phillips
SHOULD WIN:   Joe Walker, 12 Years a Slave 

A big category and one where Captain Phillips amazing editing will get awarded. I would be happy with 12 Years a Slave winning here as well, but it should be interesting to see how this one unfolds. Winner usually leads to Best Picture winner. Would not be shocked if Gravity wins either. Could be a huge night for Mr. Cuarón and I am cool with that.

  1. Adruitha Lee & Robin Mathews, Dallas Buyers Club
  2. Stephen Prouty, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
  3. Joel Harlow & Gloria Pasqua-Casny, The Lone Ranger
WILL WIN:   Dallas Buyers Club
SHOULD WIN:   Dallas Buyers Club

$200 budget for makeup and hair! Dallas Buyers Club should have this one wrapped up, but can Bad Grandpa win?

  1. John Williams, The Book Thief
  2. Steven Price, Gravity
  3. William Butler & Owen Pallett, Her
  4. Alexandre Desplat, Philomena
  5. Thomas Newman, Saving Mr. Banks
WILL WIN:   Gravity

The Gravity train continues. I liked Price's score but it was extremely redundant throughout the entirety of that film. I really would love to see Arcade Fire's score for Her get the victory.

  1. "Alone Yet Not Alone," Alone Yet Not Alone
  2. "Happy," Despicable Me 2
  3. "Let It Go," Frozen
  4. "The Moon Song," Her
  5. "Ordinary Love," Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
WILL WIN:   Frozen

I'm pretty sure "Let It Go" from Frozen has the win here, but this should go to Karen O for "The Moon Song" in Her.

  1. American Hustle
  2. Gravity
  3. The Great Gatsby
  4. Her
  5. 12 Years a Slave
WILL WIN:   The Great Gatsby

More sumptuousness from The Great Gatsby, but if it does not win I really want the beautiful sophistication of Her to win. Really, any of the five nominees could take home the Oscar here, so this one should be interesting as well.

  1. Feral
  2. Get a Horse!
  3. Mr. Hublot
  4. Possessions
  5. Room on the Broom
WILL WIN:   Get a Horse!
SHOULD WIN:  Mr. Hublot

Mr. Hublot was my favorite of the five, but would not be surprised if the Academy goes with Get a Horse!. This is up in the air.
  1. Aquel No Era Yo 
  2. Avant Que De Tout Perdre
  3. Helium
  4. Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa?
  5. The Voorman Problem
WILL WIN:   Helium
SHOULD WIN:   The Voorman Problem

I like the The Voorman Problem the best, but the Academy could go with the emotional tug of Helium. Beautiful looking films in this category.
  1. Steve Boeddeker & Richard Hymns, All Is Lost
  2. Oliver Tarney, Captain Phillips
  3. Glenn Freemantle, Gravity
  4. Brent Burge, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  5. Wylie Stateman, Lone Survivor
WILL WIN:   Gravity
SHOULD WIN:   All Is Lost

Gravity has this one and mixing wrapped up, but All Is Lost deserves this one. Such a great film and with such limited dialogue, the sound editing was phenomenal.

  1. Captain Phillips
  2. Gravity
  3. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  4. Inside Llewyn Davis
  5. Lone Survivor
WILL WIN:   Gravity
SHOULD WIN:   Inside Llewyn Davis 

Gravity has got this one too, but give the win to Inside Llewyn Davis. Real music being played on set and the sound mixing is superb. 

  1. Gravity
  2. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  3. Iron Man 3
  4. The Lone Ranger
  5. Star Trek Into Darkness
WILL WIN:   Gravity
SHOULD WIN:   Gravity

Like there is any doubt here...Gravity.

And that is it. Let's see what goes down on Sunday night. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Oscars: BEST PICTURE Preview

     And the big one. The final award of Sunday night and the most coveted. Over the last couple of years, the Oscars have gone really soft, picking more straightforward, entertainment driven films for Best Picture instead of films with more substantial cultural, social and cinematic endeavors. Whether it is the very well-made, suspenseful Argo (2012), the silent film The Artist (2011) or the decent The King's Speech (2010), the Academy has passed are more meaningful films. 2012 should have gone to the more suspenseful and impressive Zero Dark Thirty. In 2011, a very weak year for quality films, but The Descendants was a far better film than The Artist. And in 2010, how do you not award Fincher's brilliant, engrossing The Social Network. It was a far better film then The King's Speech.
     I do not see this changing this year, even though the eventual winner is of far superior quality and filmmaking than of the winners from the last three years. I have a feeling that Gravity is going to win Best Picture. It is entertaining and safe, and one of the best films of the year, but not a Best Picture winner. I feel the same way about American Hustle, which is a soft, entertaining piece of cinema, from a top notch director, but not in the same category as the two films that should be duking it out: 12 Years a Slave and The Wolf of Wall Street. It is not as good Gravity or Her either. This has been one of the best years in film since that amazing year of 1999, but these two films stand far ahead and above the rest. I just wish the Academy would see that. 12 Years a Slave is too real, too graphic and I imagine most of the voters avoided watching it. The Wolf of Wall Street is one of the best social critique films of the last 20 years and one of the funniest, but too vulgar and full of depravity. It is sad that the Academy will be going soft and for just straight entertainment once again. I hope I am wrong and surprised on Sunday night. On a side note, no nomination for the Coen's Inside Llewyn Davis is a flat-out embarrassment on their part as well.

The Best Picture nominees are:

  • American Hustle, d. David O. Russell   A perfectly acted film of old school Hollywood entertainment, but just not as great as everyone says it is. Russell is fantastic and gets great performances from all involved, but pacing issues and an ending you could see a mile away kept it from being really great. That is not to say I did not enjoy it, but I expected more. The Academy honored it with 10 nominations and it could win the whole thing Sunday night.
  • Captain Phillips, d. Paul Greengrass   Probably the best thriller of the year. Great performances, directing, editing and a wonderful screenplay, this film was excellent from start to finish. Hanks showed what a powerhouse he can still be and a breakout role from Barkhad Abdi really stands out. I do not think it has a shot of winning, but the film received 6 nominations and has a real shot in the screenplay and editing categories.
  • Dallas Buyers Club, d. Jean-Marc Vallée   One of the big surprises of the year and easily one of the finest acted films, featuring career-defining turns form nominated stars Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. A film full of education, hope, anger and fight. It has been one of the best reviewed movies of the year and rightfully so. It is hard not to walk out of theater with dry eyes. The film received 6 nominations and will win for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor.
  • Gravity, d. Alfonso Cuarón   The best entertaining, suspenseful, roller coaster rides of the year and in a long time. Gravity was fantastic on all accounts and is exactly what it is, a piece of amazing technical achievement, visual wonder and the kind of suspenseful entertainment I really enjoy. I believe it is the frontrunner for the Best Picture win, but I will not be completely disappointed with this, although there are two other films that deserve it more than this one. Still, an amazing achievement from the immensely talented and innovative Cuarón. Nominated for 10 Oscars, it should have the cinematography, visual and sound awards in the bag. I believe it will also win Best Director and, most likely, Best Picture.
  • Her, d. Spike Jonze   I would be really excited and surprised if Spike Jonze's beautiful love story Her was to win Best Picture. A fantastic film from a truly innovative artist. Phoenix is astounding in the picture and Johannson's voice is breathtaking and sharp. I really fell in love with this film after sitting on it for a couple of days. Everything about it is relevant and so perfectly poignant. The film received 5 nominations and its best shot at a win is in the screenplay and music categories.
  • Nebraska, d. Alexander Payne   This is film I finally saw this past week and what a wonderful, small, personal joy from one of the most talented and honest filmmakers working today. Dern gives one of his finest performances and the gorgeous black and white cinematography works perfectly with the small towns in Middle America. The film is nominated for 6 Oscars, but probably has no shot of taking home the big prize.
  • Philomena, d. Stephen Frears   The only Best Picture nominee I have yet to see. The film has an excellent cast, including Judi Dench and co-writer/actor Steve Coogan. Frears is always consistent and this true story of a woman in search of her son appears to be a competent, well-made film. The film received 4 nominations and is the least likely to win Best Picture.
  • 12 Years a Slave, d. Steve McQueen   A profound, brilliant, brutal piece of filmmaking from one of the best stylists in cinema. Steve McQueen's film is so rich and agonizing, but, in my opinion, is required viewing for everyone. A film that is so important in its showing of the visceral realities and heartaches of slavery in America. If the Academy, as reported on, refused or avoided watching this film due to its harsh brutality, shame on them. This is one of the best films of the year and one of the most important ever made. The film received 9 nominations and I really hope it can win Best Picture.
  • The Wolf of Wall Street, d. Martin Scorsese   Although I really hope 12 Years a Slave pulls off the win for Best Picture, this is the one that is without a doubt the Best Picture of the year. This is my pick for Best Picture, but it has no shot. Too cynical, sarcastic and vulgar. A master still at the top of his game and easily the best living director, if not the best of all-time. The Wolf of Wall Street is a wild ride of debauchery and extreme decadence of the arrogant 1%. The film is so true, so funny and so dead-on. It contains Leonardo DiCaprio's finest performance and amazing turns from Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie. This will not win, but it should. The film received 5 nominations. 
     And that is all. I really loved Gravity, but do not think it should win over 12 Years a Slave or The Wolf of Wall Street. That is just how it is. The Academy needs to get back to being more profound and gritty. Back to the 70s, before films turned into nothing more than a bank. We shall see what goes down on Sunday night. Enjoy.

Photo credit by IMDB.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014



Directed by Alexander Payne
Written by Bob Nelson

     Set against, and in, the vast rural landscape of Middle America, Alexander Payne's minimal, beautiful Nebraska is a touching, honest and, at times, darkly funny film on aging, fathers, sons, marriage, family and the inevitable realities of life. Payne focuses his film on the isolated, yet free, expanses of the Midwest and examines, through the smallest of lenses, the ways of life that stay still, but carry so much weight. Nebraska, in its gorgeous monochrome palate, is full of real looking Americans that are presented as truth and not a figment of a Hollywood's assumed imagination, even if this lifestyle, as simple as it may appear, is a simplistic bore and monotonous reality. A film full of life in the glances, weathered faces and appreciative fulfillment of being alive. 
     Nebraska follows the journey of Woody Grant (Bruce Dern),  an elderly man living in Billings, Montana, that believes he has won a million dollars from a marketing scheme. You know, the ones that say your a winner, but the fine print details the specifics of this fake contest that winds up costing you money and adds magazines to your mail. Woody is set on going to Lincoln, Nebraska to pick up his million dollars and, in the first scene of the film, he is walking the highway on his way. His wife Kate (June Squibb) is fed up with his meandering dream and wants to put him in a home. She wants their son David (Will Forte) to talk some sense in to him, but he eventually appeases his father and takes him on a road trip to Lincoln. It might be Woody's last trip, or dream, and if it can please his father, he is willing to do it. 
    Right away you can see that Woody is fighting old age. He has been drinking heavily since his return from the Korean War and it has had an unpleasant effect on himself and his familial relationship. Woody could be facing Alzheimer's and just the unavoidable slowing of his body, but he wants to get his million dollars. He wants a new truck, air compressor and to have something for his sons, the other one being Ross (Bob Odenkirk), when he passes. Woody has not been overtly successful or rich, but never dirt poor either. Late in the film, he desires this money to buy a new truck, which he has never done. You can see it in his eyes that this is it and he just wants some sort of fulfillment and completion to his existence. Woody is a cantankerous drunkard who has not always been there for his kids or wife, and maybe this cash will fill the void. The hope for financial glory played on the desperate and dreamers. The elderly coming to terms with impending death, trying to make right a wrong.
    As the road trip continues on, Woody has one goal, to get to Lincoln. David wants to stop and see Mt. Rushmore and Woody is, of course, reluctant. They stop anyways and see it for a minute and Woody is instantly ready to go, complaining, with wonderful humor, that it is not complete and it is just a bunch of faces on a rock. They stop off in Woody's hometown of Hawthorne, Nebraska, where much of the film was actually shot, and time feels as if it has stopped. This is one thing that Payne is the best at. He captures the real look, feel and places of rural America. Nothing city-like or fancy. All the actors that played characters in Hawthorne look as if he picked them out of houses in the town. I grew up in a tiny town in Northern Wisconsin and I can appreciate this honesty on screen. He nails it. All anyone does is go to the tavern, talk about cars or hunting, and live in isolation, happily, for the most part. It is all they have ever known and most of them do not reach out to the expanses of the world, but stay right at home. Payne is a genius at getting this down perfectly.
     The film also travels the sad realities of aging. We are going to have to witness, if they are still alive, are parents age and go through the stages that eventually lead to death. It is heartbreaking seeing Woody, who is played brilliantly by Mr. Dern, needing help walking up the stairs and being fairly delusional in his quest for his million dollars, but it does come with a sly smirk. He is a drunk and loses his teeth on the train tracks one night and busts his forehead open on another night from being too drunk. It is not all sorrow, but addiction and stupidity. 
    I cannot imagine anyone being Woody Grant other than Bruce Dern. It is such a quiet, subdued performance that you do not see enough of these days. He owes much to the wonderful screenplay from Bob Nelson, but Dern gives those long glances full of experienced eyes that show personal damage and an intense desire for quiet isolation. The scruffy demeanor and baggy Levi's exemplify a man that has lived his life and nothing more. Nothing needed. He served his country, worked his job, supported his family and desired, on the exterior, little else. A man that enjoyed plenty of nights at the tavern and beers on the couch. Dern is absolutely phenomenal as Woody and I loved every lived-in, reactionary note of his touching, hilarious portrayal.
     I loved June Squibb just as much. Another lived-in, truthful performance, but one that is full of gossip and vitriol. Not evil, but a brutal honesty that cares little for what the other person thinks or cares. When she visits the boys in Hawthorne and they go to the cemetery to pay their respects, she lets loose on the dead Grant's. Calling the sister a whore and not holding back around her son David. Brilliant piece of acting And Will Forte. In his first dramatic role, he really nails it on all levels. What a casting choice. I was not sure at first because his delivery felt slightly forced and unnatural, but as the film went on, I believed his sincerity and resentment towards his father. Forte really expresses a son that missed his father throughout his life, but loves him just as much. And I have to mention a rather cynical, conniving turn from Stacy Keach as Ed Pegram, a former business partner of Woody's in Hawthorne that is out for money he feels Woody owes him. Great acting from all involved.
     This appears to be a very personal film for Payne. Being from Omaha, he has presented Nebraska as it is and as it will be. There are moments of social commentary that mention the impact of the economic crisis, but nothing forced or didactic. A journey and road trip for fathers and sons. A learning experience on lessons not taught or left at the end of a bottle. Payne blends compassion, honesty and humor efficiently, and like a true academic. He and the Coen's are the absolute best at making films and characters that feel true, honest and do not look like a imagined Hollywood creation. These people are real. Nothing fake. Even though this may not be as profound as Sideways or About Schmidt, it feels small in scale and large with feeling and realism. The black and white cinematography from the immensely talented Phedon Papamichael makes everything look as if it is stopped in time. The towns, lights and pastures are emblems of a unchanging landscape of simplicity, repetition and safety. I cannot imagine seeing this film in color. It just would not to be the same or work as well.
     Nebraska has turned out to be one, amongst a crowded field, of my favorite films of 2013. A beautifully told, flawlessly acted film about love, time and the importance of relationships. I cannot speak highly enough of Dern and Squibb, who are just so damn perfect. Dern, the legend, is so spot-on throughout and Squibb delivers some of the best lines of the year. Payne's Nebraska is one of those films I hope he continues to make. One on the everyday lives of real, honest people. Nothing phony, just an honest examination of life and all its challenges and faults. This film just affirms my appreciation for Alexander Payne and I am thankful we have a talented, understanding filmmaker like him putting truth on the screen.

Photo credit by IMDB.

Oscars: BEST DIRECTOR Preview

     On to the Best Director category. It appears that Alfonso Cuarón is the frontrunner for his groundbreaking work on Gravity, but I would not be surprised if Steve McQueen steals the show for his equally groundbreaking work on 12 Years a Slave. I really admire both directors quite a bit. It would be a huge surprise if anyone but Cuarón wins since he has won every major directing award he has been up for. Once again, it should be Martin Scorsese winning his second Oscar, cannot believe he only has one win, for the brilliant The Wolf of Wall Street. He would be my pick, but I do not think I will be disappointed if Cuarón or McQueen win. Russell also has a good shot since the Academy admires American Hustle and if the race is tight between Cuarón and McQueen, he might be the default winner. I do not think Scorsese or  Payne have a shot, even though Payne's work on Nebraska is some of his best. Also, look at the directors left off: Joel & Ethan Coen (Inside Llewyn Davis), Spike Jonze (Her), J.C. Chandor (All Is Lost), Richard Linklater (Before Midnight), Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips) and Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club). 

Best Director nominees are:
  • David O. Russell, American Hustle (5 nominations: 3 directing; 2 screenplay)   Russell is one of  the best directors working today. He is so successful working with actors, see all the nominations for his actors over the last three films, and even when his films do not fully work, like American Hustle, they are still enjoyable. I have problems with this film, but not so much with Russell's expert direction. He might surprise or be a default winner on Sunday night.
  • Alfonso Cuarón,, Gravity (6 nominations: 1 directing; 2 screenplay; 2 film editing; 1 producing)   A truly visionary talent beyond words. Cuarón has been knocking it out of the park since his breakthrough hit Y tu mamá también in 2000. The amazing craft, technical brilliance, creativity and the pure genius behind the camera is all presented in Gravity. He definitely deserves a win, but I feel he deserved it more for Children of Men. The frontrunner right now.
  • Alexander Payne, Nebraska (7 nominations: 3 directing; 3 screenplay; 1 producing; 2 wins)   A personal, touching and hilarious film. It is one of the directors best and one that embraces all that is wonderful about Payne. No one does it better at presenting middle, everyday, honest looking America like Payne does. He gets it. He knows it. I do not think he has a shot to win, but what a beautifully bleak film about aging, relationships and love.
  • Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave (2 nominations: 1 directing; 1 producing)   A visceral masterpiece of brutality and grace. McQueen took the challenge of directing an honest portrayal of slavery in America and crafted a near-perfect film. He is brilliant with actors, see Hunger and Shame, and, even though my pick would be Scorsese, he should probably be the winner just for the risk and talent being presented on the screen. A wonderful, gifted and beautiful director. 
  • Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street (12 nominations: 8 directing; 2 screenplay; 2 producing; 1 win)   The greatest living director in the business and he proves that with ferocious intensity in his blazing critique of greed and human disregard in The Wolf of Wall Street. The man has still got it and will never lose it. It is just an amazing film and the best of the year. He should win, but the wins and losses will never be a detriment to how great and masterful Mr. Scorsese is in  film history.
Tomorrow, the last main category: Best Picture. Enjoy!

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Oscars: BEST ACTRESS & ACTOR Preview

     The next preview is of the Best Actress and Best Actor categories at the upcoming Academy Awards. It will be one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history if Cate Blanchett does not take home the prize for Best Actress for her brilliant turn as Jasmine, in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine. This race is over and has been since the summer. If anyone could upset her, it would probably be Amy Adams, who gave my favorite performance, next to Bale, in American Hustle. I really wish Brie Larson would have gotten nominated for her great performance in Short Term 12. In the Best Actor race, it is a little tighter, but the favorite, based on his wins at the SAG and Golden Globes, is Matthew McConaughey for his stellar turn as Texas electrician Ron Woodroof, who is diagnosed with the HIV virus and must struggle to survive, in Dallas Buyers Club. He is probably going to win, and deservedly so, but watch out for DiCaprio, Ejiofor and Dern. Bale has no shot, but is fantastic in American Hustle. If McConaughey does not win though, it will be a surprise. All of these nominated men deserve to win, but think about the actors not nominated that could have easily be in the top five: Robert Redford (All Is Lost), Joaquin Phoenix (Her), Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis) and Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips). Still mad that Redford was left off. Anyways, here are the nominees.

Best Actress nominees are:
  • Amy Adams, American Hustle (5th nomination)   One of the best Actresses of her generation and what a performance. Shows so much nerve, energy and power. After seeing her in American Hustle, she has proven there is nothing she cannot do. I loved her in every scene of this film and just does a pretty good British accent. Any other year she probably would win, but not this year.
  • Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine (6th nomination; 1 win)    The clear-cut favorite and I have no problem with that. She is absolutely flawless in Blue Jasmine and she is just damn good in everything she is in. The scenes where she is talking to herself are just amazing and there might be no better actress in the business that is more powerful and as great as Cate Blanchett. She will be taking home her second statue this Sunday.
  • Sandra Bullock, Gravity (2nd nomination; 1 win)   She should have won for this film over The Blind Side. That movie was annoying. Bullock showed her talent in drama and action with the immense challenges she incurred filming Gravity. She is great in this film and probably deserves more attention, but the film's technical achievements and directing will overshadow all. And she is up against Blanchett.
  • Judi Dench, Philomena (7th nomination; 1 win)   It is Judi Dench and she is perfect in everything. I have not seen Philomena yet, but you can tell by the trailer that she is amazing. Her only win was in 1999 for Best Supporting Actress in Shakespeare in Love. She is due for another win, but not this year.
  • Meryl Streep, August: Osage County (18th nomination; 3 wins)   The legend. The most nominated actor/actress in Oscar history. I have not seen this film yet either, but you can tell she is great in it. Royalty. Enough said.
Best Actor nominees are:
  • Christian Bale, American Hustle (2nd nomination; 1 win)   Along with Adams, the best performance in American Hustle. Shows his unbelievable range and ability to do it all. He just gets it and never fails. The most unlikely winner on Sunday, but a great performance.
  • Bruce Dern, Nebraska (2nd nomination)   The last, and only, time this masterful actor was nominated, was for Best Supporting Actor in Coming Home in 1979. What a career and what a performance in Alexander Payne's beautiful Nebraska. A legend, who helped change American film history in the late 60s and throughout the 70s, Dern is a grumpy old drunk, who is really delusional and slipping. Timing, delivery and look are down perfect, and Dern is just amazing in this film. Would be a huge upset if he was to win.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street (5 nominations: 4 acting; 1 producing)   The best performance of the year, in my opinion, and a balls-out breakthrough for this already established, talented actor. Who knew he had the comedic talents he delivers in The Wolf of Wall Street. I do not think he will win, but what a performance!
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave (1st nomination)   Speaking of groundbreaking performances. What a powerful, harrowing, touching turn form Chiwetel Ejiofor, as Solomon Northup, in Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave. The guts, talent and grace he brings to this film are nothing short of euphoric brilliance. If anyone can take it away from McConaughey it will be Ejiofor, and it would not surprise me if he does.
  • Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club (1st nomination)   The career turnaround, or resurgence, of McConaughey is catapulted even further with his hard-nosed, powerful turn as a homophobic Texas electrician diagnosed with the HIV virus. The weight loss, which always helps with the Academy, was disturbing and truthful. The Texas conservative attitude, balanced with compassion and the ability to understand and educate is unbelievable. McConaughey is brilliant and has earned a win, and I believe he will take home the Oscar on Sunday.
     And that is it for the Best Actress and Actor categories. Tomorrow, the blog will preview the Best Director category. See you then. Enjoy.

Photo credit by

Sunday, February 23, 2014


     The Best Supporting Actor field is most likely set in stone, but the Best Supporting Actress is a tight race between two wonderful actresses. Jared Leto, who has been winning everything for is amazing performance in Dallas Buyers Club, probably deserves the win and I think it is one of the best performances of the year all around. A great group of actors, with stellar performances from all nominated on the men's side. The race between Lupita Nyong'o, for her powerful work in 12 Years a slave, and Jennifer Lawrence's great turn in American Hustle, is very tight. In all honesty though, this should not even be a question. Nyong'o should be a shoe-in and Lawrence, who is good in her film, does not even come close to the level of acting that Nyong'o brings. It baffles me that this race is even this close. The Academy does love American Hustle so we shall see how this race unfolds.

The nominees for Best Supporting Actress are:
  • Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine (1st nomination)   A wonderful, touching performance as the sister of Cate Blanchett's Jasmine in Woody Allen's film of one woman's fall from the social elite. A great performance, and one that deserved more attention throughout the year. Great to see her get the attention here. 
  • Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle (3rd nomination; 1 win)   A really great performance, no doubt, but not even in the top two best performances in that film. If anyone takes the win away from Lupita Nyong'o it will be her, but that should not happen. The Academy loves American Hustle and with her 3rd nomination before she is even 25 years-old, they do respect and admire her star ability and talent. 
  • Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave (1st nomination)   The should-be clear favorite in this race. So full of power, grace and strength. Nyong'o nailed her role as Patsey down perfectly. She was absolutely amazing in Steve McQueen's film and stole every scene she was in. In my opinion, once again, she should win this easily, but somehow I feel the Academy is going to go safe and let the big star of the moment Lawrence win this one. I hope Nyong'o gets the victory. She earned it without a doubt.
  • Julia Roberts, August: Osage County (4th nomination; 1 win)   An Academy favorite and Hollywood icon, Roberts, whose film I have not seen yet, looks extremely solid in the film. Cannot say too much, but the cast is amazing and she is always someone that brings her A game all the time.
  • June Squibb, Nebraska (1st nomination)   A delightful and truly hilarious portrayal of a mother at her wits end with her drunken, delusional husband. Squibb gives the best performance in Nebraska and feels so true and honest in every scene. She felt so lived-in and pure. Not fake, that is for sure. The nomination is the win, but if there was a major upset, I would love it to be her.
The nominees for Best Supporting Actor are:
  • Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips (1st nomination)   One of the best performances of the year by any actor and what a debut. Abdi is so believable, so true, so real. A man on a mission, even if it is bad, but shows the sacrifice and determination of someone doing what he has to do to survive in a world torn apart by years of conflict. And, he holds his own with Mr. Hanks. No win here, but a profound performance.
  • Bradley Cooper, American Hustle (2nd nomination)   Keep working with Russell and he will get that win eventually. He really got to show off his comedic and dramatic chops in this role, but it is still is nowhere near as amazing as his performance in Silver Linings Playbook. Russell gets great performances out of his actors and this is another good turn from Cooper. Least likely to win though. 
  • Micahel Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave (1st nomination)   It is kind of surprising that this is his first nomination with wonderful turns in McQueen's other two films Hunger and Shame. He played the slave/plantation owner Edwin Epps with ferociousness, hate and religious disillusionment. Wonderful all around and if it was not for Hill and Leto, he might have a shot at winning.
  • Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street (2nd nomination)   I love Leto in DBC, but I could probably make Hill my pick in this category...maybe. His best role to date and just a knockout in every scene. Holds his own with DiCaprio and, once again as he did in Moneyball, shows he is so much more than just a comedic actor. Top notch stuff.
  • Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club (1st nomination)   The clear-cut favorite and rightfully so. He has won almost every award so far and I do not see that stopping at the Oscars. Leto, who went through his own weight-loss manifestation, as did McConaughey, is brilliant as Rayon. But, it should be no surprise. He was amazing in Requiem for a Dream, Fight Club and Lord of War. The guy has the ability and will most likely win on Oscar night. I think it might be the best performance of the year.
     And that is it for Best Supporting Actress and Actor categories. Leto has it in the bag, but the real race is between Nyong'o (obvious choice) and Lawrence. Tomorrow, the Best Actress and Actor rundown on the blog. Enjoy.

Photo credit by the

Saturday, February 22, 2014


     Well, the Academy Awards are just about a week away and I am going to do a little preview for the main categories leading up to the big show. Today, I will preview the Adapted and Original Screenplays races, following with write-ups on the Acting categories, Directing and the Best Picture during the week. After these are completed, I will serve up my predictions and will also be live blogging the winners as they are announced on March 2nd. Here we go.

     The Adapted Screenplay category is a tight one with two heavy favorites in 12 Years a Slave and The Wolf of Wall Street, but there could always be a surprise here. Not likely. The nominees are:
  • Before Midnight, written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke.   A wonderful screenplay in the third film of this trios "Before"trilogy. A well-deserved nomination and a film that is so poignant and almost perfect in its depiction and unveiling of the ups and downs of a "real" relationship. Some of the best ever put on screen. Writing that really understands Jesse and Celine as real people, not just characters in a story. No shot of winning, but one of my favorites of the year.
  • Captain Phillips, written by Billy Ray.   Ray's screenplays, based off the real events of Richard Phillips and the Somali pirate who hijacked his freight ship and himself, is a striking, detailed account of these occurrences. Sharp, swift and a film that is perfectly acted and directed. If any screenplay can steal the thunder away from 12 Years a Slave and The Wolf of Wall Street, it might be this one. 
  • Philomena, written by Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope.  First off, I have not seen this film yet, so I do not want judge the merits of the film or writing, but everything I have read is that Coogan and Pope have done justice to the story of a woman in search for her son who was taken away from her when she was forced to live in a convent. I do not think this one has a shot at all, so the nomination is the victory.
  • 12 Years a Slave, written by John Ridley.   Probably the frontrunner, even ahead of Wolf. Ridley's adaptation of Solomon Northup's autobiography, is strong, resilient and full of the horrors of slavery. The period and dialogue are perfect. Ridley has a great talent at really supplying the details and getting at the heart of the struggle and not shying away from the horrifying realities of slavery and oppression in America. 
  • The Wolf of Wall Street, written by Terence Winter.   On a personal level, this is probably my favorite screenplay of the year. Fast, in your face and full of F-bombs, Winter nailed it on every level. The time period, the arrogance and the appalling distaste and disdain for any human sincerity and respect. The "me first" generation has never been brought to life with such disregard and vitality as it has with Winter's wonderful adaptation of Jordan Belfort's autobiography. 
     On to the Original Screenplay category and although I enjoyed and respect all five films nominated, it is a terrible injustice that the Coen's near perfect original writing (maybe adapted since it is loosely based on a book about Dave Von Ronk) for Inside Llewyn Davis is absent. I am focusing on the nominees here, but this is bad when the Coen's do not get nominated from something so good. Enough on that. It is between American Hustle and Her in this category, but if there is a surprise, it could be Nebraska. The nominees are:
  • American Hustle, written by Eric Warren Singer & David O. Russell.   Maybe the top film in this category, according to the Academy at least. The screenplay is ok, but did not do it for me. This is a film that is all about the performances and the soft, although enjoyable, piece of Hollywood entertainment that it is. The writing is good, but nowhere near as high quality as Russell's last two films, The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. This might be the easy, soft choice for the Academy.
  • Blue Jasmine, written by Woody Allen.   The controversy surrounding Allen right now will not effect his place in film history or in this category. He will not win, but he is the absolute best at writing strong female roles and gets an amazing performance from Cate Blanchett, as well as Sally Hawkins. Jasmine's fall from elite society and the affected of the Wall Street crash of 2008 is shown in drastic, personal measures by Allen.
  • Dallas Buyers Club, written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack.   A strong film, with excellent performances and a screenplay that is the backbone of a heartbreaking, important story. Although I felt it became a little too stretched out near the end, this is a brilliant, true story about acceptance and the fight for life. It will not win, but this would be an enjoyable surprise.
  • Her, written by Spike Jonze.   One of the best screenplays in years and something fresh, innovative and extremely touching. Jonze crafted a story about the future of love and longing, while not being pretentious or untrue. Funny, lovely and futuristic, Her should win this category if the Academy wants to show the world that it is not out-of-date and because it is just that damn good. I loved this screenplay and the film.
  • Nebraska, written by Bob Nelson.   No filmmaker today is better at showcasing honest depictions of middle America better than Alexander Payne, and Bob Nelson's screenplay for Nebraska is another piece of brilliance and comedic purity. The film is a little bit darker than the rest of Payne's filmography, but what greatness it is. I loved the writing and these characters come to full life with Nelson's honest, truthful words. Could surprise here.
     And that is it for the nominated Screenplays. Still mad about Inside Llewyn Davis not getting nominated and I also wish Destin Daniel Cretton's beautiful script for Short Term 12 would have gotten some attention. Tomorrow I will be previewing the Best Supporting Actor and Actress categories. Enjoy.

Photo credit by

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


     I know that I am not big into these Marvel films, but for some odd reason I am mildly intrigued in this new film Guardians of the Galaxy. First off, it has Benicio Del Toro in it, so that is a huge plus. Second, James Gunn has a very dry, odd sense of humor and you can see some of that in the trailer. Third, I want to see this crazy-ass raccoon. The film is a stretch, branching out from the traditional hero-laden films such as Iron Man, Thor and Captain America. The film stars Chris Pratt as a pilot named Peter Quill/Star Lord, who steals a coveted orb and is chased by the villain Ronan (Lee Pace). He unwillingly is brought together with a group of misfits, including Groot, a tree-like human (voiced by Vin Diesel), Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Gamora (Zoe Saldana) in another shade of bluish-green, ala Avatar and the vengeful Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista). Benicio Del Toro plays The Collector and I will be interested to see how he is in this film. Gunn will bring it, but how much is yet to be seen. It is a studio film so who knows. The film will be released on August 1. Enjoy the trailer.

Photo credit by and trailer by YouTube.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Criterion Collection Releases for May 2014

     The Criterion Collection announced their new releases for the month of May and although the month is light on new films with just two of them, one of them is a big release that is finally arriving. Legendary director Howard Hawks is finally in the collection and what a film to bring him in: Red River (1948). A classic western that played with traditional western motifs and storytelling and is one of the most distinctive westerns Hollywood ever produced. John Wayne plays a Texas rancher who has a contentious relationship with his adopted son (Montgomery Clift). The parallels and dissent between the old and new are enough to make this film a classic, but the cattle drive to Missouri adds the suspense and action. This film has a bit of everything and Clift became a star after its release, but this is probably Wayne's greatest role. Tough, dictator-like, but shows so much range in this film. Hawks is one of the greatest directors of all-time. Never made a film that felt unoriginal or fake. The real deal and one of the best. The film has been in the pipeline for what seems like forever, but thankfully it is getting a wonderful release and proper restoration. Both versions, one Hawks approved of more than longer version, will be on the dual-format set. I also love the cover. The big, in-your-face letters that almost fly off the cover and that sepia-ish color of a picture from the film. An instant buy and cannot wait to revisit this film. Maybe my favorite Hawks film next to The Big Sleep (1946). The film will be released on May 27.
     The other new release is a more recent, contemporary film from another legendary filmmaker, Abbas Kiarostami. The Iranian filmmakers latest, Like Someone In Love (2013), takes place in present-day Tokyo and follows the relationship between a part-time call girl and her elderly client. The film hit all the big film festivals a few years back and, like with most of Kiarostami's films, received raves from around the world. I have only seen one film from Kiarostami, Close-up (1990), which I really admired, but I really need to catch up with this master of international cinema. The film will be released on May 20 in dual-format. 
     The other three releases during the month of May are all upgrades of previously released titles. The exciting thing about May is that you get titles from not just one great Hollywood filmmaker, but two, with the dual-format upgrade of Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole (1951). Wilder directed one of my favorite films of all-time in Sunset Boulevard (1950) and he came back with Ace. The film stars Kirk Douglas as a newspaper man that will do whatever it takes to get the story. He ends up in Albuquerque and attempts to saturate and exploit a story about a man stuck in a cave to reignite his career. The realities of his actions and literature lead to devastating consequences for all. Douglas, as usual, is supposed to be phenomenal in the role and Wilder is as much a legend as Hawks. These are some of the greatest classics of the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema and this is a film that I am eager to buy and watch for the first time. The dual-format release will be out on May 6.
     Wes Anderson's cult favorite The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) gets a blu-ray upgrade in May as well. You know the film. Great Bill Murray performance and an all-around starry cast, with amazing turns from Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Anjelica Huston and Michael Gambon. The film is not one of Anderson's best, being more visual stimulation than quality storytelling, but it is still an enjoyable watch. The stop motion animation, gorgeous color schemes and cinematography are enough on there own. Oh yeah, it stars Bill Murray! The film will be released on May 27. 
     The other upgrade for the month of May is a film I am completely unfamiliar with, minus its title. Overlord (1975), directed by Stuart Cooper, is a striking account of a young British soldier's journey during World War II. I have seen this film in the collection for years, but have never taken the time to look into it all that much. I like British films and especially ones from the 70s, so this might be something I eventually look into. Seems as if it is one of those small films that packs a powerful punch. The film will be released on May 13. And that is it for the month of May. A somewhat light month, so hopefully June will be full of new releases. Still waiting on a Lynch title...

Photo credits by Criterion Collection.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

BAFTA Winners

     The last big Awards before the big night in Hollywood on March 2nd. The British version of the Academy Awards were handed out tonight and the big win went, respectively, to Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave. The slavery drama took home Best Picture and also won Best Actor for Chiwetel Ejiofor. These are big wins going into the Oscar race. It is still a three-way race for Best Picture between 12 Years a Slave, Gravity and American Hustle, and Cuarón and Russell's films each took home awards with the Brits. Cuarón won Best Director and the film won Best Cinematography, Best Music, Best Sound and Best British Film. Hustle won for Jennifer Lawrence in the Best Supporting Actress category, which should have went to Nyong'o from 12 Years a Slave, as well as Best Original Screenplay. The race is tight and I feel if the Academy does not go soft for American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave will bring it home. Cuarón is going to win Best Director and he directed the hell out of that film, but it should be all about Scorsese for his brilliant, risk taking work with The Wolf of Wall Street. We will shall see in a couple of weeks. My Oscar predictions will be out a few days before the ceremony. Here is a complete list of BAFTA winners. Enjoy.

BEST FILM: 12 Years a Slave
BEST DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
BEST ACTOR: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
BEST ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope, Philomena
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: David O. Russell & Eric Warren Singer, American Hustle
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity
BEST DOCUMENTARY: The Act of Killing
BEST MUSIC: Steven Price, Gravity
BEST HAIR/MAKEUP: American Hustle

Saturday, February 15, 2014


     Here is the "safe for work" trailer for the first half of Lars Von Trier's latest Nymphomaniac. The film recently premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, and also had a sneak peek screening at Sundance, and received mixed reviews, but that is to be expected. You do not really care about reviews when looking into a Von Trier film. Risky = Yes. Controversial = Oh God, Yes. Artistic = Yes. The film follows a woman's sexual escapades, awakenings and shocks throughout her life. It stars Von Trier's latest muse Charlotte Gainsbourg. His new mainstay on film. The first volume will be released on March 21st and Volume 2 on April 4th. Both versions will available On Demand weeks prior to their respective releases. Enjoy. 

Trailer credit by YouTube.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

2014 SXSW Film Lineup

     The official, and growing, film lineup for the 2014 South by Southwest Festival was announced earlier this week and it contains some rather lackluster world premieres, but excellent festival favorites. To start, the festival will kick off with Jon Favreau's Chef on Friday, March 7. Meh... It might be ok, but my interest level is below mid-level. It follows a renowned chef (Favreau) who leaves a high-end Los Angeles restaurant and reignites himself working out of a food truck. It could be good and Favreau as some skills, but not rushing to see this one. There are two more premieres that are just completely uninteresting to me in Veronica Mars and Neighbors. The former, a feature film based off the popular TV series starring Kristen Bell. Never watched the show. Do not care. The latter, being the Seth Rogen/Zac Efron film Neighbors. Might be funny and will probably contain plenty of funny one-liners, but who cares about this either. SXSW really did not go all out with big premieres, but they made up for it with some festival favorites form this year and last.
     The first one is a special screening of Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel, which will include a Q&A with the distinctive director following the screening. Cannot wait for this one and really hope I can get into this screening. The film has already received glowing reviews from its recent premiere at the Berlin Film Festival. It is Anderson. It will be good and has an absolutely stellar cast of Anderson favorites. Another film from a director I admire quite a bit that is showing at SXSW is Jim Jarmusch's vampire film Only Lovers Left Alive. This is another one I am dying to see and really hope I can get in to. The film stars Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as vampires who have been passionately in love for hundreds of years. I love all of Jarmusch's films and his brilliant use of comedy. A must-see. It screened at Cannes and many other film festivals last year, receiving very good reviews.
     Some more films that have previously screened at other festivals that I am really looking forward to are Jason Bateman's Bad Words and David Gordon Green's JoeBad Words is Jason Bateman's directorial debut and he stars as a vindictive adult who lost a spelling bee as a youngster and seeks revenge. Joe, which stars Nicolas Cage in a return to quality filmmaking, seems to be similar in narrative taste to last years Jeff Nichols' Mud. A southern tale of adults and youth, men seeking redemption and revenge, and Green going back to his indie roots. The trailer is definitely promising and Cage needs to get back to doing films that matter.
    One of the biggest screenings for me is Richard Linklater's Boyhood. A film that he has been working on for over 12 years here in Austin. It chronicles a young boys life form age 5 to 18. Great, positive notices out of this year's Sundance Film Festival and, in my opinion, Linklater hardly ever makes a mistake. Well, the remake of The Bad News Bears, but we will let that one slide. 
     There will be many films from all over the world and hopefully a great surprise like last year's excellent Short Term 12. Other films include The Raid 2, Frank, Predestination, Cesar Chavez, Obvious Child, Ping Ping Summer and Hellion. Plus, a 40th Anniversary screening of Tobe Hooper's classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre
     The fest will also contain many conversations and keynote addresses, some being from Marc Webb, Robert Duvall, Tilda Swinton, Lena Dunham, Alejandro Jodowrosky and Mike Myers, to name a few. It is going to be great. Cannot wait to volunteer and see many, many films. It is going to be a good one. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Quaalude Scene in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

     One of the funniest scenes in the film and of any film this past year is the 'Quaalude' scene in Martin Scorsese's brilliant The Wolf of Wall Street. The timing, narration, acting, editing, cinematography, writing and, of course, the directing are perfect. Everything works seamlessly and DiCaprio really shows off here. He shows his impeccable range and comedic talents that had really never before been seen. Even if you have not seen the film yet, which you should correct immediately, this scene shows the craziness and blitzkrieg inducing euphoria that is present throughout the whole film. Big props to all involved and DiCaprio is the man. This is so damn funny and brilliantly performed. Just a taste of the best film of 2013 and one of the best performances as well. Enjoy!

Trailer credit by YouTube

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


In A World...

Written & Directed 
Lake Bell

        Writer-director-actress Lake Bell's first feature film In A World... is a smart, delightful comedy that revolves around the movie trailer voice-over world. A competitive, male dominated world where Bell plays Carol Solomon, an underachieving voice-over coach and daughter of a famous voice-over talent Sam Sotto (Fred Melamed). She wants to be in the business. It is all she has known her whole life, but does not want to be put on the back burner because of her more successful father or the fact she is a woman. She also has to fight against the burgeoning talented new "it-man" in the voice-over business Gustav Warner (Ken Marino), but has the help of a shy sound recordist Louis (Demetri Martin) who not only wants to help her succeed because she has a damn good voice, but has a little crush on her as well. In A World... is a great success and a wonderful introduction to the overall talent of one Lake Bell.
     Other than seeing her in the flat HBO series "How To Make It In America" where she was the only good thing about the show, I have not seen Ms. Bell in a lot of films or TV. I know she is in the cult favorite "Children's Hospital," but she is really impressive here, in all aspects: writing, directing and acting. Funny as hell and so strong and on point. The film is constantly funny without being dopey or stupid. Good humor is good humor and Bell has an eye and ear for it. I love how throughout the whole film she really states, without being overtly pushy, how sexist this industry is. Her father, at one point where he finds out that Carol is up for a huge blockbuster gig, gets so upset that he goes out of his reluctant retirement and attempts to beat her out. Her father is a legend and is getting a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Trailer Awards. Gustav gets so offended and befuddled when he finds out she is up for the films too that he feels he should be the obvious choice. It is just a great point she makes about the perverse sexism in the voice-over world, and still as a whole in our society, that still is evident and terribly lives on. A world that needs someone to take over and dominate, especially a woman with the talent of Carol Solomon.
    The cast is great in this film. Lake Bell is really funny and plays Carol as an honest woman with  truthful observations and convictions. Beautiful and real. She is something else and someone to watch out for. Not only is Ken Marino fantastic at playing a cocky, arrogant bastard, but Fred Melamed steals the show. He has the over powering, graspy voice to begin with, but he is funny as hell throughout. The chemistry between Bell and Martin is wonderful also and was very believable about two young people, in their thirties, with a flirtatious crush on each other. Full of neuroses and hilarious situations. The two are dynamite. High praise for Rob Corddry who plays Moe. He is the husband of Carol's sister Dani (Michaela Watkins) and shows great depth and range. He is very troubled when he believes his wife has slept with another man. Watkins is wonderful as well, but I wish Corddry would get more roles like this to really showcase what a wonderful actor he is.
     In A World... is a very good comedy, with some wonderful social commentary mixed in with that sublime humor. I really loved when Carol commented on the "baby doll" voice some girls use way too much. Great stuff and very concise. This film is something that has a little bit of everything and contains some wonderful performances, but it is all about Lake Bell. A wonderful talent on the page, behind the camera and in front. This is a great little film and worth any one's time. I really want to see what she comes up with next and what a voice.

Photo credit by IMDB.

New TRANSCENDENCE Trailer and Poster

     After watching the first trailer for Transcendence, I was intrigued and excited. I just watched the new trailer, or second trailer, for Wally Pfister's directorial debut and while I still have a high level interest, there is a little hesitation with my initial excitement. Sometimes these A.I., new technology films can be rather disappointing upon delivery, even though the ideas are bold and intriguing. I like Johnny Depp working in something that is not Disney related and the cast Pfister has brought together is fantastic. My trepidation is not so much fearful, but that this one might disappoint. Espceially with Pfister, known for his camera work on most of Christopher Nolan's films, being his first film and dealing with such a bold and expansive. We shall see. I am hoping it lives up to the hype. It definitely looks trippy enough. The film will be released on April 17th. Enjoy.

Poster and trailer credit by

New, Quality Posters and Trailers for UNDER THE SKIN and ENEMY

     Two films I am really excited for over the next couple of months are Jonathan Glazer's alien-on-Earth film Under the Skin and Denis Villeneuve's film of a José Saramago novel titled Enemy. Glazer's film will be a dark, surreal trip. Most of the reviews out of last years Toronto Film Festival were divisive, with many thinking the film was a challenge and something a bit too much, or just plain terrible. Other reviews stated it was a masterpiece, a word that gets thrown around way too carelessly. Scarlett Johansson plays an alien who seduces hitchhikers in Scotland where she then eats...tortures...etc. The trailer looks great and I really am excited to see this one. Anything that draws comparisons to Kubrick, Lynch and Von Trier has me hooked automatically. Surreal films are always going to be highly intriguing. The film will be released on April 4th.

    Denis Villeneuve's follow-up to his very well made Prisoners is the Kafka-esque thriller Enemy. Reuniting with one of his Prisoners stars, Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays a man who sees his double in a movie. He goes on a search to find the man that could be his double or is he does he discover he is just losing his mind. This film also played at last years Toronto Film Festival and received positive notices. The film looks great and I love the fact that Gyllenhaal is really testing himself with dark, deep roles as of late. The film will be released on March 14th and available on some online sites right now. 

Also, both of these posters are fantastic!!! A lot of thought went into both of them.

Photo credit for Under the Skin by Photo credit for Enemy by IMDB. Trailers by YouTube.

Monday, February 10, 2014

More Awards for 2013 Films

     The awards season keeps rolling on, and on, and on... It is still a three dog race for Best Picture at the Oscars between Gravity, 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle. Gravity is gaining a lot of momentum with its recent, and easily predictable, victory for Best Cinematography with the American Society of Cinematographers. Emmanuel Lubezki's work is mesmerizing, regardless of how much is computer generated. The lighting, spacing and camera work has to brilliant and he, who along with Roger Deakins are best in the business, never disappoints. They raise the level of any film and I hope Lubezki continues to work with Cuarón for a long time. Lubezki should have the Oscar in the bag and there is a lot of internet chatter about how Gravity, an entertaining, quality piece of straight on entertainment, might be the new frontrunner at the Academy Awards. It has as good a shot as the other two favorites, but does not contain the importance and cultural significance of 12 Years a Slave or my personal favorite The Wolf of Wall Street. In all honesty, the Academy is too soft as of late.
    Carrying on, 12 Years a Slave writer John Ridley won the USC Scripter Award for his eloquent and intense adaptation of Solomon Northup's memoir. Excellent and very deserving. Personally, the Best Adapted Screenplay category is between 12 Years a Slave and The Wolf of Wall Street. These are my top two films of 2013 (Top Ten and Best of will be posted and revealed by the end of February) and the screenplays are crafted so well. I like 12 Years a Slave winning here and it has the best shot of winning at the Oscars.
     In an intriguing turn of events, the American Cinema Editors had their award ceremony, the Eddies, and Captain Phillips won for Best Dramatic Feature Editing. A bit of a surprise beating out 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, Her and Saving Mr. Banks. In the Best Comedy/Musical Feature category, American Hustle won for Best Editing. This is just wrong. The Wolf of Wall Street was easily the best edited film all year and American Hustle's editing I did not find all that special. American Hustle is easy entertainment with some great performances, but it is just a mediocre film. Expected a lot more from Russell.
     Finally, the Art Director's Guild gave more awards to Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity. The film won Best Production Design - Fantasy Film. Other awards went to The Great Gatsby for Best Production Design - Period Film and Her for Best Production Design - Contemporary Film. All nominated for Oscars and it would not surprise me if The Great Gatsby gets some love here. Hoping the great work by K.K. Barrett wins for Spike Jonze's lovely Her. Academy Awards are only a couple of weeks away on March 2nd. It is almost over...


     Here is the new trailer for Terry Gilliam's latest The Zero Theorem. You know with Gilliam you are going to get something unique, visionary and eccentric, but not necessarily something concise or strong in the narrative sense. That is not a harsh criticism, but his films of late have not been good and rather sloppy. I know The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus was filming during the death of star Heath Ledger, but the film did not deliver and Tideland was awful. A great filmmaker throughout the 80s and 90s, plus his fantastic work as a founding member of Monty Python, but he has not had a good film since Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998). Here, Christoph Waltz plays a computer hacker who is attempting to discover the reason for human existence. His work is constantly interrupted by 'The Management' and the story goes from there. The cast also includes Tilda Swinton, Matt Damon, Ben Whishaw, Mélanie Thierry and David Thewlis. Gilliam can always get a top-notch cast and as aforementioned, the vision should be intriguing. Here is hoping the result is a success. Enjoy the trailer!

Poster credit by IMDB and trailer by YouTube.