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My FINAL Oscar Predictions – 1/22

January 23, 2011 6 comments

This is it. Last call before closing. Nominations for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards will be announced this Tuesday, January 25th, at 7:30am CST (and you can bet I’ll be up hours before then, pumping myself up). For sure, there is a science behind the whole prediction game. A combination of elements, including what’s been happening with the critics groups awards, the different guild nominations and, in some cases, the film’s box office success. Along with that, there’s likability in each contender, how many times they’ve previously been nominated and won, a pseudo-mathematic question of their overall “due” status. Dozens of factors take shape in hugely methodic process, and this is all before anyone even takes into effect how good each contender is. Crazy, huh?

Well, a year-long process has now come to a close, and it’s time for me to nut up and offer my final predictions. The Best Picture line-up is basically down to 11 contenders, with two films vying for the final slot. It’s possible that either “Shutter Island” or “The Ghost Writer” could stage a massive coup and fight their way in their, but I doubt it. Some predictions that I’m sticking my neck out on? I’m still holding on to my convictions (and hopes) that the incredible John Hawkes can beat out Jeremy Renner in the Best Supporting Actor category. I’m also holding out hope that both of “Blue Valentine”‘s stars will outdo their older competition for leading notices. I’m also really hoping that “Exit Through the Gift Shop” can actually tickle the documentary branch’s funny bone (a feat not easily accomplished). Finally, here’s to “Winter’s Bone” edging out “The Town” for Best Picture. In fact, I’m predicting an across-the-board snub of the film. It’s only a slightly above action feature that has no business in the top ten. I have a strong feeling, though, that it will be this year’s “Blind Side.”

Without further adieu, here are the nominees (and once again, these are ranked in order of their chance of getting nominated, not winning):

BEST PICTURE
1. “The Social Network”
2. “The King’s Speech”
3. “The Fighter”
4. “Black Swan”
5. “Inception”
6. “Toy Story 3”
7. “True Grit”
8. “The Kids Are All Right”
9. “127 Hours”
10. “Winter’s Bone”

Alt 1: “The Town”
Alt 2: “Shutter Island”

Click READ MORE to see the rest.

Read more…

“The Dark Knight Rises” Villains Revealed

January 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Well, it has been months and months of speculation about just what the hell the next Batman movie is going to be about and who’s going to be in it. We’ve been through Joseph Gordon Levitt to Marion Cotillard to Phillip Seymour Hoffman with rumors ranging from the Riddler to Harley Quinn and the Penguin. Now, we have the official news from Christopher Nolan, himself.

That’s right, Warner Brothers reports that it’s going to be Catwoman, and Anne Hathaway is playing the part. This will be the first time Catwoman has been portrayed on screen since 1992 (I refuse to acknowledge the 2004 film because, really, what’s the point?). Anne Hathaway won the part in a competition that included, well, virtually every young actress in Hollywood. A fantastic choice if I do say so, myself. Hathaway is not only, what I would consider, one of the top ten most gorgeous women in show business, but an amazing actress to boot. Whether or not this part will require the same level of acting chops as the Joker (if that’s even possible) is a big question. However, it should be interesting to finally have some real sexual tension, or sexuality in general, in a Nolan Batman film.

In other news, the lid is off on who Tom Hardy will be portraying. I reported back in October that Hardy would be rejoining Nolan in the new film after a very successful venture with “Inception.” We now know that Hardy will be portraying Bane, the teddy bear-wielding, prison-born villain with drug-induced super-strength. Bane is best known for breaking Batman’s back in the comic book series. Tom Hardy is probably one of the best casting choices in a film since, well, Heath Ledger in the “The Dark Knight.” He’s an extremely capable and versatile actor, known for supporting roles in “Black Hawk Down” and “Band of Brothers,” as well as a lead role in the British psycho-drama “Bronson.” He is now ready to break out into super-stardom, and a great turn in this closing Batman chapter could do the trick.

Now, many people remember Bane being portrayed in “Batman and Robin,” really quite stupidly, if I may say so. But really, what didn’t “Batman and Robin” portray, stupidly? Still, the enormous character of Bane is difficult to imagine fitting into the realistic, contemporary atmosphere of Christopher Nolan’s Gotham City universe. This is one of the more fantastical comic book characters and I have trouble imagining the villain without the movie descending into silliness. However, in Nolan I trust. If he can twist the Joker into completely different, yet wholly believable and terrifying concept, then I believe that he can knock this one out of the park, as well.

All of this news is a bit less exciting to me as I would like, given the studio’s recent decision not to shoot in Chicago. Rumors are circulating that principal photography will be shot in Los Angeles, the UK, Louisiana and probably Detroit. This just angers me on so many levels. It pisses me off that one of the best parts of watching the first two installments is getting to see so much my town featured, not to mention the fact that Chicago is a perfect backdrop. I’m also pissed that Chicago won’t pony up the same incentives that other cities, like Detroit, are. Screw all of the parties involved. But hey, maybe if we’re lucky, Detroit can get hit by a meteor, get wiped off the face of the Earth and the production will come home where it belongs. I will keep you updated.

But seriously, folks, how do you find a better location? It bleeds Gotham.

Directors Guild Announces Nominees

January 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Finally, the big daddy of the guilds has announced its nominees. This is one of the most prestigious awards in the film industry. Some directors actually see it as a better form of recognition than the Oscar. It is also a very accurate predictor of who will win the eventual Best Director Oscar. The DGA and the Oscar have lined up in this category 54 of the last 62 years since the award’s beginning. It’s also worth noting that all of these films are pretty much guaranteed a Best Picture nomination. Back when there were five nominees, the DGA used to match Best Picture better than they matched the Best Director contenders.

Here is the list of nominees:

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film
Darren Aronofsky – “Black Swan”
David O. Russell – “The Fighter”
Christopher Nolan – “Inception”
Tom Hooper – “The King’s Speech”
David Fincher – “The Social Network”

It’s worth noting that even though I did not publish them, these were my exact predictions. Fincher, Aronofsky and Nolan were all pretty much locks for this nomination. Some expected Tom Hooper to miss here based on his lack of experience and the film being not so much a director’s piece, but rather a writing and acting showcase. But when a film chugs along as well as “The King’s Speech,” there was no reason to believe that he would be absent.

The individual most profiting from this nomination is definitely David O’Russell. Once considered a loose cannon, or even a lunatic in some circles, O’Russell is now DGA nominee and his film locked for a Best Picture nomination, perhaps even a contender for the win. Who did O’Russell oust? The answer is the Coen Brothers, who many were expected to come away with their third nomination (or at least Joel’s third and Ethan’s second, though anyone who’s anyone knows that these two have always been a team even both their names aren’t on the credit).

So will this be the Best Director line-up at the Oscars? It’s hard to say, but I would say: yes. The Coens may continue to gain traction. Their film was released near the end of the DGA balloting so it’s possible some voters did not see it. It’s also very possible that the Academy might try and continue last year’s legacy and nominate one of this year’s talented female directors like Lisa Cholodenko of “The Kids Are All Right” or Debra Granik of “Winter’s Bone” (Granik being the much more deserving).

Perhaps the most hurt by these nominations is Danny Boyle. Like the Coen Brothers, Boyle just won an Oscar within the last 3 years and isn’t considered as due as others. However, “127 Hours” is hanging onto its Best Picture nomination by a thread. and many are already starting to bump it for movies like “The Town,” “Winter’s Bone” or both. Boyle still has a long shot chance of a Best Director nomination, but his chances are becoming quite slim.

Oh, and David Fincher has this award IN THE BAG. He’s had it in the bag for a long time now and he really couldn’t be more deserving. A coronation is more accurate than an awarding.

The winners will be announced on January 29th. Stay tuned.

Producers Guild Announces….Exactly as Expected

January 4, 2011 1 comment

The PGA have announced their nominees for 2010. As I said, over the weekend, these awards are basically the Producers’ union’s equivalent of the Best Picture Oscar. And while I’m very happy to see certain nominees up there, this is really showing how boring the rest of the season will be. I was really hoping that “Winter’s Bone” was going to be able to beat out “The Town,” but c’est la vie. At least the actual nominees for Best Picture are balloted by the entire Academy and not just the producers, so it should fare a better chance in a few weeks.

Here’s the full list of nominees:

Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures
“Black Swan” (Scott Franklin, Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver)
“The Fighter” (David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, Mark Wahlberg)
“Inception” (Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas)
“The Kids Are All Right” (Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Celine Rattray)
“The King’s Speech” (Iain Cunning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin)
“127 Hours” (Danny Boyle, Christian Colson)
“The Social Network” (Dana Brunetti, Ceán Chaffin, Michael De Luca, Scott Rudin)
“The Town” (Basil Iwanyk, Graham King)
“Toy Story 3″ (Darla K. Anderson)
“True Grit” (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Scott Rudin)

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures
“Despicable Me” (John Cohen, Janet Healy, Christopher Meledandri)
“How to Train Your Dragon” (Bonnie Arnold)
“Toy Story 3″ (Darla K. Anderson)

Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures
“Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Elliot Spitzer” (awaiting final credit determination)
“Earth Made of Glass” (Reid Carolin, Deborah Scranton)
“Inside Job” (Charles Ferguson, Audrey Marrs)
“Smash His Camera” (Linda Saffire, Adam Schlesinger)
“The Tillman Story” (John Battsek)
“Waiting for Superman” (Lesley Chilcott)

Milestone Award
James Cameron

David O. Selznick Award
Scott Rudin

Nice to see Scott Rudin getting the Lifetime award at the end, there. The guy has really done a lot for film in the last decade. And it looks like he might be getting a chance at a second Oscar under his belt should “The Social Network’s luck continue. Rudin won three years ago for “No Country for Old Men.”

Interesting also to see “Despicable Me” beating out both “The Illusionist” and “Tangled” for Best Animated, However, once again these are producers, so box office success is taken much more into account.

As far as my winner predictions go, I am both hoping and believing that “The Social Network” will take this down. Since it probably has both the DGA and the WGA in the bag, a win here would all but seal it for a Best Picture victory at the Oscars. If “The King’s Speech” doesn’t make a stand here, all the Golden Globes in the world aren’t going to be able to help it. I’d say that if anything were to upset “Network” it would be either “Black Swan” or “Inception.” Both films are riding huge waves, right now. They are also the two biggest box office successes in their respective areas, “Inception” being a towering Hollywood blockbuster and “Black Swan,” the independent film that just won’t stop breaking records.

Perhaps the biggest dark horse for the win is “Toy Story 3.” The film is a monster box office success, turning in mountains more than any other film this year. The PGA also has a penchant for honoring animated films. They were nominating Pixar before the Academy ever got around to it, and this was before there were ten nominees. They even gave the Zanuck award to “The Incredibles” in 2004. If “Toy Story 3” can pull off a win here, it will be a massive coup, and then every awards-related news story for the next month will be “Can an animated film win Best Picture?” and the dominos may begin to fall from there. We’ll see.

The film will for sure clean up in the Animated Feature Award. Sad, really. If it wasn’t for Pixar constantly bombarding us with amazing cinema, “How to Train Your Dragon” would have had a huge chance. Best Documentary should be a showdown between “Waiting for Superman” and “Inside Job,” but the latter definitely has the edge.

Stay tuned for the WGA nominations which should be out within the next few hours. I was reminded earlier that I completely forgot to consider “Animal Kingdom” in the Best Original Screenplay category, which has a lot of potential for showing up.

Screen Actors Guild Nominations: My Thoughts

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

While trying not to put the cart before the horse, it is important to realize that the SAG is the real deal. What we have here is the most accurate precursor in regards to matching up to what the Oscar nominations will look like.

First of all, the actors make up, 3 times over, the largest contingent of the Academy, with producers and executives in 2nd, sound personnel in 3rd and writers in 4th. And while Best Ensemble does not always line up with Best Picture, the singular achievement nominations have lined up with Oscars, per say, about 80 to 90 percent of the time. Last year, was perhaps the most similar, with only 1 nominee in Best Supporting Actress not making it to Oscar (Diane Kruger). Best Actor, Actress and Supporting Actress lined up perfectly.

That being said, I’m mostly happy with these nominations, despite a few hiccups. Without a doubt, the most shocking and disturbing omission is Andrew Garfield in “The Social Network.” I thought that, if anything, he would be locked and Jesse Eisenberg would still have an uphill battle, despite all of the critical love. However, Garfield was the heart and soul of the film and anyone who can blaze through Sorkin dialogue, while still maintaining that level of emotion and integrity, deserves recognition.

The trouble is, who is to blame for this slight. If it is John Hawkes, then I cannot mourn for too long, because he is the one man that I want to appear in the eventual Oscar lineup ahead of Garfield. John Hawkes gives, quite simply, one of the best performances of the year and a true underdog story to boot. However, if it is Jeremy Renner who passed Andrew Garfield by, then I am appalled. Renner was absolutely stellar in “The Hurt Locker,” realistic, unique and all heart. In “The Town,” he is good, maybe the best performance in the film, but really nothing special at all. I still cannot believe the amount of buzz he’s receiving.

Another weird turn this morning was Hilary Swank getting in for her only slightly above average performance in “Conviction,” knocking out critical favorites Lesley Manville in “Another Year” and Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine.” What’s really weird about this is her inclusion, but not Sam Rockwell or Juliette Lewis, the individuals in the film that people have actually been talking about. A true out-of-the-blue nomination, and really kind of a hilarious one seeing that she is once again up against Annette Bening, who lost the Best Actress race to Swank twice in the last 11 years.

A little known fact, if Lesley Manville is not nominated for an Oscar, she will be the first woman to win the National Board of Review award for Best Actress and not go on to an Oscar nod since the year 1990 when Mia Farrow failed to secure a nomination for Woody Allen’s “Alice.” In superstitious terms, that’s a long streak to be broken.

Mila Kunis made a surprise appearance here. Kind of boggled by that, because as funny and peppy as she is, it’s really not that solid of a performance. Barbara Hershey was a standout, if ever anyone could stand out around Natalie Portman’s brilliance.

Now, the good things. I’ve already addressed my absolute elation for John Hawkes come-from-behind nomination, even if he has a long shot, even if hell does freeze over, of actually winning. I must also congratulate Jesse Eisenberg, who has now all but engraved his nomination in cement. Truly brilliant work. and while I haven’t seen “True Grit,” it’s nice to see Jeff Bridges show up here, especially after his snub at the Golden Globes.

While I wasn’t really expecting any kind of showing for it, it’s kind of sad to see yet another Christopher Nolan film snubbed from the Ensemble Cast category, let alone any other category in the case of “Inception.” True, the first thing the mind goes to when it comes to this film is the visuals, the story and the direction. Yet, it is an ensemble piece, through and through, with so many actors (Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joesph Gordon Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard, and, of course, Tom Hardy) all pulling their weight more than needed. And while “Black Swan” does have decent performances all around, it’s really Natalie Portman’s show. One deserved this nomination more than the other, and it’s going home empty-handed.

My longshot predictions for the win would probably go like this:

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST
“The King’s Speech”
alt: “The Fighter”

BEST ACTOR
Colin Firth – “The King’s Speech”
alt: James Franco – “127 Hours”

BEST ACTRESS
Annette Bening “The Kids Are All Right”
alt: Natalie Portman – “Black Swan”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christian Bale – “The Fighter”
alt: Geoffrey Rush – “The King’s Speech

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Melissa Leo – “The Fighter”
alt: Helena Bonham Carter – “The King’s Speech

We shall see.

17th Screen Actors Guild Nominations

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

All I will post my full reactions in the next few hours. In the meantime I leave you with one thought: John Hawkes, John Hawkes, JOHN GODDAMN HAWKES!!!!!!! Thank you very much.

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST
“Black Swan”
“The Fighter”
“The Kids Are All Right”
“The King’s Speech”
“The Social Network”

BEST ACTOR in a LEADING ROLE
Jeff Bridges – “True Grit”
Robert Duvall – “Get Low”
Jesse Eisenberg – “The Social Network”
Colin Firth – “The King’s Speech”
James Franco – “127 Hours”

BEST ACTRESS in a LEADING ROLE
Annette Bening – “The Kids Are All Right”
Nicole Kidman – “The Rabbit Hole”
Jennifer Lawrence – “Winter’s Bone”
Natalie Portman – “Black Swan”
Hilary Swank – “Conviction”

BEST ACTOR in a SUPPORTING ROLE
Christian Bale – “The Fighter”
John Hawkes – “Winter’s Bone”
Jeremy Renner – “The Town”
Mark Ruffalo – “The Kids Are All Right”
Geoffrey Rush – “The King’s Speech”

BEST ACTRESS in a SUPPORTING ROLE
Amy Adams – “The Fighter”
Helena Bonham-Carter – “The King’s Speech”
Mila Kunis – “Black Swan”
Melissa Leo – “The Fighter”
Hailee Steinfeld – “True Grit”

Broadcast Film Critics Association Nominations

December 13, 2010 Leave a comment

The BFCA is a collection of around 250 film critics from the TV, radio and online outlets. Their awards and nominations are usually quite closely linked with the Academy, something they actually pride themselves on as though they’re predicting the Oscars rather than awarding their favorite choices. However, that being said, the nominations and wins usually create an accurate template for how the Academy Award nominations roughly might look like.

In that respect, it appears that “Black Swan” (which led the noms with 12!!!), “The King’s Speech” and “True Grit” (each with 11 noms) aren’t going away anytime soon. Some might think that “The Social Network” came up short of these with only 8 nominations, but it is still the frontrunner for the win. It only cannot compete in the technical categories like Art Direction and Costume Design, among others. Riding its current wave, it would be one of the biggest upsets in history to not see David Fincher’s work go home with the grand prize, here.

Otherwise, there are virtually no surprises here. Lesley Manville was unfortunately snubbed for a Best Actress nomination. In fact, “Another Year,” which hasn’t been seen in the states much, yet, was left completely out aside from an Original Screenplay nod. Also, “The Town” managed a Best Picture nomination. It has officially positioned itself as the possible pedestrian nomination for Best Picture, an unfortunate side effect of having ten nominees. Surprisingly, it took the slot of “The Kids Are All Right,” a big heavyweight going into January.

Another big surprise was….wait….no, I’m afraid there are no surprises here. Read up, and I’ll try to report something with a little more edge hopefully. The New York Film Critics Circle announces sometime in the next 6 hours.

Full List of Nominations:

BEST PICTURE
“Black Swan”
“The Fighter”
“Inception”
“The King’s Speech”
“127 Hours”
“The Social Network”
“The Town”
“Toy Story 3″
“True Grit”
“Winter’s Bone”

Read more…

The Dark Knight….what?

October 27, 2010 1 comment

So, I’m in the crowd of a great many people who are closely following the next chapter in Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise (and not just because it is filming in Chicago and I am hoping to work on it). Therefore, I thought it right to post what I’m sure many have already read: the film has a title.

The bad news is that it’s probably one of the most unoriginal and, you know what, just plain dumb titles I’ve ever heard. “The Dark Knight Rises.” What? They just added a word to the title of the last film. Maybe it’s true. Perhaps the Dark Knight really does rise in this movie, but surely you can come up with a better way of saying that.

The good news that came with this announcement is that as far as the new villain goes, it will not be the Riddler. I am personally pretty pleased with this for the reason that I have trouble imagining a way of portraying this character without some severe overlaps to the now legendary role of the Joker. They need to go in a completely different direction with this final villain (or villains) However, I have faith that with Tom Hardy potentially filling that part, they shall prevail.