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Final 2013 Oscar Predictions with Analysis

February 24, 2013 Leave a comment

AMPAS Monday Nights With Oscar Screening Of "Driving Miss Daisy"

Only a couple hours left to go. Below, you can see my predictions for this year’s Oscar winners, finally set in stone. I’ve included a bit of insight and reasoning for each category.

Make sure to also check back for live updates as the awards are announced.

BEST MOTION PICTURE OF THE YEAR

Will Win: “Argo”
Could Win: “Lincoln”
Analysis: This year’s Best Picture race is, without a doubt, the most upside down it’s been in recent memory. All logic (and good judgment) would point to “Lincoln,” as not only the year’s best film, but also the most nominated and a genuine perfect storm of concept and execution. However, the combination of a sweep of all four guilds, the BAFTA, the BFCA and the Globes, along with (and perhaps the cause of the former) the sympathy vote for Affleck and his lack of a Director nomination, one would have to be a fool not to predict it for the final showdown. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for an upset, but not my predictions.

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Oscar Winner Predictions: The Impossibility of Reason

February 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Argo_oscar_winner_predictions

I’ve taken somewhat of a backseat to much of this year’s Oscars and how they’ve unfolded. Maybe I don’t have as much time on my hands anymore, or perhaps I’m getting a little bit lazy. However, there’s also the immutable fact that this is, without a doubt, the weirdest Oscars I’ve ever bore witness to. Pundits like myself have bitched and moaned for years about the Oscar race becoming a predictable formality. Now, we’ve had so many wrenches thrown into the works that all of the precedents, reason and logic have just gone clear out the window. 2012 is the ultimate crapshoot.

Perhaps it’s a good thing, overall. Because while this year’s awards season has spiraled into an enormous whirlwind of indecision and confusion, I believe we can all find a consensus in the overwhelming class and quality that was on display in filmmaking during the past year. I can’t have enough good things to say about 2012 and I believe it will go down as shining star in the chronology of cinematic history, up there with the likes of 2001, 1980, 1976, 1960 and, of course, 1939. I also believe that, in some way, the less focus on awards and accolades, we can foresee that it’s ultimately the movies that we’ll remember decades from now, while fiasco over the gold will simply be an afterthought.

lincoln_oscar_winner_predictions

Nevertheless, at it’s roots, this is an awards site and it’s time to get down to business. Bottom line, the award for Best Picture (and more than a few others) was completely thrown for a loop the morning that the nominations were announced, when two of the year’s biggest heavyweights were absent from the shortlist. Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow being left in the cold was perhaps the strangest occurrence in this category since Ang Lee and Ron Howard failed to receive nominations for their respective work back in 1995 (“Apollo 13” and “Sense and Sensibility”). Yet, this may have overall worked in Affleck’s favor, for since that morning, every critic, actor, producer, director, grip, PA and their mother has seemed to fall head over heels for the film. At this point, it seems that enough voters will sway towards “Argo” for the Best Picture, out of sheer sympathy, more than anything else. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also a fantastically entertaining and uplifting piece that pulls at Oscar’s heartstrings like a toddler on a hoop earring.

Meanwhile, there’s a flip-side to every equation. “Argo” may have taken every award since that fateful morning, yet that doesn’t change the fact that the snub still happened. Affleck missing out on Best Director makes a huge statement. It has to be more than just a fluke or the notion of the Academy leaning so heavily on what the guilds have done in the past. Plus, while one can compare the strangeness of this year’s circumstances to ’95, it’s important to be reminded how that year turned out, with neither Lee or Howard taking home the big prize at the end of the night. For now, I’ll go with the odds-on favorite, but can easily see the winds shifting. This weekend’s WGA will may be a largely determining factor.

Alas, my first round of winner predictions for the 85th Academy Awards:

BEST PICTURE: “Argo”

alternate: “Lincoln”

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NEW “J. Edgar” Trailer

September 20, 2011 1 comment

Well, it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for…well at least I have. Perhaps the Oscar season’s biggest contender has finally shown its face. Now that we have a glimpse, from this point in the game, anyone not putting this film at the head of the pack for practically every single award should take a good long look in the mirror and rethink themselves.

This trailer does not disappoint. It displays absolutely phenomenal performances by DiCaprio, Dench and the man who I have said will be the key to this film all along, Armie Hammer. On top of that, the lavish costumes, production design, cinematography and, surprisingly, the music, if that is in fact the film’s score, appear to all be top notch.

At this state of the race, this is not only the film to beat, but the film to see as well.

Check out the HD trailer below or watch the gorgeous Apple version below that.

 

Apple HD

Pete Hammond Analyzes the Oscars by Studio

August 30, 2011 Leave a comment

As I roll out my first predictions of the year, one of the best analysts in the awards industry asks an important question: will budget be a major indicator of this year’s Oscars? In recent years, the Academy has made a sizable shift away from awarding Best Picture to big budget studio films and giving credence to smaller projects with big themes and touching stories. “The King’s Speech,” “The Hurt Locker” and “Slumdog Millionaire” all had budgets of 15 million dollars or less. Quite a change from the days of “Lord of the Rings,” “Gladiator” and “Titanic,” which had a combined budget of nearly 400 million.

So now the question is will the Academy continue to show love for David in the fight against Goliath, and if they do, will the public continue to care about the Oscars at all? I do believe it’s healthy for low budget indies to get noticed by an organization like the Academy, for in turn, the public begins to open their eyes to them, as well. Yet, overall, I wouldn’t feel bad if the studios fought their way back into the fray, especially if they’re packing as much potential as they seem to be.

Hammond has written two pieces on the subject, outlining a heavy portion of this year’s contenders and mapping them out by studio. Here’s an excerpt about which company may have the strongest potential:

“Sony (Pictures) is a partner on Spielberg’s “Adventures of Tin Tin” as well, distributing internationally where the property is much better known. The studio has its own domestic animated entry this fall with “Arthur Christmas,” a holiday-themed ‘toon that I hear from at least one animation uber-expert could be a real spoiler in that race. We’ll see. On the live-action front, Sony is coming back strong with a slate of potential contenders to avenge its “Social Network” Best Picture loss, starting with “Network” director David Fincher’s apparently very intense English-language version of the Swedish phenomenon “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara. That doesn’t get unveiled until Dec. 21. Sony’s three other hopefuls are all hitting the fall fest circuit beginning with the Venice fest opening of George Clooney’s political drama “The Ides of March” co-starring Ryan Gosling. Buzz is already major on this Oct. 7 release, and Clooney is an Academy darling (and just a few weeks later, he’s back starring in Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants”). Brad Pitt, who has earned some Oscar talk earlier in the year for “The Tree of Life,” is back in the baseball yarn “Moneyball,” which debuts at Toronto and will try to overcome Oscar’s aversion to most things baseball. Soderbergh was originally to direct but came to a parting of the ways with Sony and “Capote”’s Bennett Miller took over. Finally there’s Roland Emmerich’s 17th century costume drama “Anonymous,” opening Oct. 28 but playing Toronto first. It already sounds like a front-runner for Costumes at least.”

Here are the links to Hammond’s articles about Big Studio Fare and Independent Film Potential. You can also find them at Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood.

 

EW 25 Movies They “Can’t Wait to See”

August 17, 2011 Leave a comment

I really do enjoy Entertainment Weekly’s periodic lists. Last year, they announced what they felt were the ten most undeserving Best Picture wins of all time and I offered my own up for comparison. Also, I’ve thought that their piece on the 25 most controversial films ever made is worth taking another look at every once in a while. Every year, I look forward to their categorical opinions on filmmaking.

Recently, they released a preview list of some of their most anticipated films of the upcoming Oscar season. The article features some exclusive photos and info that I haven’t come across for certain features. In particular, my excitement towards Clint Eastwood’s Hoover biopic “J. Edgar” has reached a fever pitch. News that Leonardo DiCaprio will be donning a large amount of prosthetic make up to portray the crime-buster in his later years is highly enticing.

EW hasn’t ranked their list, and I definitely can’t say that all of these look very appetizing (“Abduction”? Really?), but I’d say my top five from these selections would look like:

5. “Drive”
4. “Contagion”
3. “J. Edgar”
2. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
1. “The Ides of March”

I will try to come out with a list of my own must-see list, soon. In the mean time, check out some of the new photos and tidbits over at EW’s official site, here.

Oscar Voting: Revamped and Reconfigured

Two years ago, the film awards community was rocked when the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced its plan to increase the number of Best Picture nominees from five to ten. This takes us back to the Academy’s roots, nearly seventy years ago, before the Academy cut its nominee count in half. Many people were appalled by the shift in policy, but I was one of the few on the supportive side of things.

This wasn’t just because of the “Dark Knight” snub debacle or that a top ten list is more rounded and proper than a top five, though both of those are good reasons. The truth is, there have been far too many snubs for a shot at the grand prize over the years and two many great films overlooked. I still have nightmares over the fact that brilliant work like “United 93,” “Children of Men,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Mulholland Dr.” never appeared on a Best Picture ballot. Overall, ten was just a more efficient number to catalogue the best films of the year.

Well, as of this year, the debate over whether it be five nominees, ten nominees or six and three quarters no longer exists, because no one will have any idea until the morning of. Sources report that, this winter, the Academy will have a to-be-determined number of nominees, and that amount will be subject to change on a yearly basis pending on how many votes each film receives. According to Academy executive director Bruce Davis, all films garnering at least five percent of the vote will be nominated. Based on former numbers, that would include somewhere between five to nine selections.

While, I will miss the uniformity and satisfaction of having an Oscar top ten list, this could be a much more efficient way of honoring the films. It’s not entirely logical that if seven films receive upwards of five to ten percent of voting and three more films get about one to two percent a piece, that they should be mandated for inclusion.

However, this policy is a bit of a double-edged sword. Just like the expansion to ten nominees was meant to allow for blockbuster films to make the cut, vote percentage regulations may hinder the chances of smaller indy films from making the cut. Sadly, this is not due to disdain for the films or bad marketing. It’s simply because voters don’t get around to seeing them. Using hypothetical numbers, let’s look at the case of a small film like “Winter’s Bone.” Fifty percent of voters who see the film might choose to nominate it. However, the amount of people who see the film may only be a small fraction compared to those who went to see something like “Avatar.” So even if only five percent of “Avatar” viewers choose to nominate it (compared to “Winter’s Bone”‘s fifty) that number may still dominate over the tiny indy. “Bone”‘s percentage might have been enough to gain its place in a top ten, but five percent of the vote is unlikely.

Meanwhile, on top of percentages, the Academy has chosen to revolutionize Oscar voting by taking steps to providing online ballots. This would be the first time that an awards show with as much history and prestige has made such a shift (the Emmys refuse to commit). Online balloting may help reduce the possibility of error and could help expedite the process, bumping the broadcast up to January. However, it raises the very real concern of computer hacking.

The Oscar results are one of the best kept secrets in the world up until the names are read out on live television. And while the services of PricewaterhousCooper is are beyond reproach, there is always an “if” factor. With hacking groups such as “Anonymous” breaking into everything from Sony to the CIA, the possibility exists. What self-repecting, however disrespecting to the public they may be, hacker wouldn’t want the opportunity to crack the Academy’s database and announce to the world Hollywood’s best kept secret.

Will it happen? Someone like me worries about a situation like that with the same fear of nuclear terrorism. I suppose only time will tell. In closing, I leave you with one of my favorite Oscar speeches.

“The King’s Speech” Wins – Welcome to Reality

March 1, 2011 4 comments

All right, it took some time to process what has happened, but I’m ready to say my piece.

I’d like to preface this article by stating very clearly that I do not dislike “The King’s Speech.” I think that it is at least a solid film and a “good” film. The film at least deserved a few nominations, as even I gave it in the Edgy Awards last week. Try to keep that in mind, even if everything I am about to write flies in the face this statement.

Furthermore, I’d like to state a disclaimer. It is my dream to do this for a living. I want to be a professional film critic and awards pundit and I would very much hope this blog to be a launching point for that goal. However, it is important for all of my readers to remember that this IS a blog. If I was to write for a syndicated newspaper or established professional website, I would do my best to keep my opinions dutifully in check and maintain an even-keeled view on the world of cinema. Yet, on this blog, I reserve the right to tell it like it is, as they say, and let slip my own dogs of war upon the current situation.

I’ll just start things off by just coming out and stating it: “The King’s Speech” winning Best Motion Picture of the Year has got to be one of the worst decisions that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has ever made. I do not say this only because the film is grossly undeserving of such a distinction. I say it because of the audacity in picking what is obviously the safest route among a crop of much edgier and, ultimately, better films.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, and I know you all never get tired of hearing it. “The Social Network” is the best film of the year. In my opinion, this statement is indisputable. It deserved the Oscar perhaps more than any other film in at least the last decade. Last night was a proverbial snub, one of the very worst kind. However, it’s much more than that.

i don’t know about everyone else, but I think that it’s the goal of human civilization to move forward with the times. We should always be advancing as a people. The Academy it seems, does not see it that way. Filmmaking is always a changing medium, constantly progressing and reinventing itself. Many films this year, including “Black Swan,” “Inception,” “Toy Story 3,” “127 Hours,” and above all else, “The Social Network” are indicative of this notion. “The King’s Speech” represents a backwards-moving logic; filmmaking of the most basic, uninventive and insipid quality.

Last night’s events were not only a disappointment for cinema and those who believe that the Oscars should reflect the best that the industry has to offer. They were not just a slap in the face of some of the finest filmmakers at the top of their game producing some of the greatest work of their careers. What it is, however, is the setting of a dangerous precedent. The Academy has made it very clear that the award for Best Picture does not have to be based on what’s the best film, but rather what is the best film for them, so to speak.

“The Social Network” had practically a monopoly on all critics’ awards for Best Picture. This was not a fluke. These are individuals who know about film. They are paid for their opinions because their opinions are intelligent, educated and respected. They are also people who take great pride in their work. They are not influenced by outside parties and they are not in cahoots with each other. With one voice, these critics from dozens of different outlets and cities almost universally declared “The Social Network” as the best film of the year.

So what happened? David Fincher’s film was on a winning streak like has never been seen before up until the awards shifted from the critics to the industry itself. “The King’s Speech” captured awards from the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild and the Screen Actors Guild. So why is that the people who make movies have such a unified opinion against “The Social Network”? It’s because “The King’s Speech” is the epitome of Hollywood’s ideal movie. It’s low-budget. It was a huge box office success. It has an enchanting cast and a heartwarming story. It’s noncontroversial. It’s likeable. Bottom-line: it’s easy. This is the type of movie that Hollywood wants to make: ones that the audience will eat up hook, line and sinker. Not the best, just good enough. That’s the reality we live in.

Well, speaking as one of the hundreds of critics in the country who were just informed that we were flat-out wrong, I consider this a disgrace.

If that’s the present world, then I guess all that’s left is the future. And what will the future tell about the current situation? I personally can’t wait. I can’t wait for the day, maybe twenty years from now, when “The Social Network” is considered a classic; an artful and original masterpiece that is completely indicative of our time and culture. And what will “The King’s Speech” be? It will be forgotten. It will go down as a second-rate “Shakespeare in Love,” remembered only in passing simply as the film that, quite oddly, beat “The Social Network” for Best Picture. Like it or not, only one of these films will truly stand the test of time.

In the meantime, we have to accept reality and just hope that next year will bring better results. Only twelve months to go, and you can bet I’ll still be here writing about it. Hope you all are, too.