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Updated Oscar Predictions

December 19, 2010 Leave a comment

What with everything that has happened in the last month in regards to the critics, the Globes and the SAGs, I figure that it’s time to do a full update on my Oscar predictions. Not a lot has shifted in the technical cateogories, except that “The Social Network” is looking more and more like a sure thing for a Best Original Score nomination. I’ve also taken “The King’s Speech” out of Best Editing. If it does miss that nomination, and somehow goes on to win Best Picture, it will be the first film in 30 years to win the big one without the support of the editors. Those two awards somehow go hand in hand.

As far as the acting categories go, Best Actor seems pretty much locked. Jesse Eisenberg has carved his name in stone and is just as solid as the top two contenders. There’s an outside chance that Ryan Gosling might break in and knock out one of the two veterans, but becoming less and less likely. A big question for Best Actress is who will take the place of Hilary Swank, after the odd as hell SAG nomination. I’m still betting on Lesley Manville, and not just because of the NBR stat, but because it’s a truly endearing character. However, much like Gosling, Williams is looming, and I can definitely see her getting a nomination, much like Laura Linney did for “The Savages” in 2007, and she didn’t even have the Golden Globe nod.

I think its safe to say that Justin Timberlake has fallen out of the running, especially since Andrew Garfield is no longer a lock. I refuse to predict Jeremy Renner until there’s no hope left. Never thought I’d find myself rooting against one of my favorite performers. My how the tables turn. I am however, hoping that the Academy will remain as bold as the SAG and nominate John Hawkes, but its a crap shoot. In Best Supporting Actress, it’s pretty solid that both of “The Fighter”‘s ladies will be making it in, though Leo definitely has the edge. Mila Kunis and Jacki Weaver will fight it out for the last slot.

One thing that I think is safe to say is that “The Fighter” is now as solid a contender as it has ever been. We shall see how it fares with the rest of the guilds, but from the SAGs and Globes, alone, it has gained even more ground than “Black Swan.”

Read all of my predictions after the jump:

BEST PICTURE

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

Alt 1: The Town
Alt 2: Another Year

Read more…

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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”

“Conviction” Review

November 16, 2010 1 comment

When a movie has a very strong plotline and/or message, it can sometimes take its time to manifest itself. It will beat around the bush and make the viewer wait patiently until it has sufficient structure and weight to dig into the meaty part of the story. This is not one of those films, and whether or not that’s a good quality is up for grabs.

“Conviction,” directed by Tony Goldwyn, is based on the true story of Betty Anne Waters, a small town woman who’s brother, Kenny, is wrongfully accused and convicted of murdering a woman. Betty puts her entire life on hold for nearly two decades and puts herself through law school in order to prove Kenny’s innocence, when the authorities line up against her, for fear of having their mistakes revealed.

From the moment it was first announced, this film’s plot sounded like Oscar gold. A powerful human interest story of people overcoming huge obstacles in the search for truth and redemption, with the added bonus of being true to life. However, I’ve discovered that this type of story’s line that separates it between high art and Hallmark Saturday afternoon fare is very thin. “Conviction” straddles that border quite precariously.

Much more than a directing or writing heavy piece, this film is really an acting showcase, and in that respect, it mostly prevails. Hilary Swank is very good, as usual. Forceful and direct, she can definitely carry a scene, even if I’ve never really been that fond of her as an actress, in regard, at least, to everything she’s done after “Boys Don’t Cry.” Minnie Driver matches that Swank’s no-nonsense intensity, and adds a decent dose of humor.

More than anyone else, however, this film is a major Oscar vehicle for the long-overdue for a nomination Sam Rockwell. In all honesty, the performance isn’t really much better than anything else he’s ever done, which isn’t to say that it isn’t stellar. Rockwell is just an actor of such extraordinary depth and naturalism that, aside from Duncan Jones’ “Moon,” nothing has ever fully encompassed the range of his talent. Will he finally get a nomination? With such a crowded field, maybe not, but one of these years, he will score big with them and it will be worthwhile.

The biggest and most delightful surprise of the film is Juliette Lewis in a tiny part that brings back the acting prowess that made her such a commodity in the early to mid-nineties. She completely envelops her character of a trashy misanthrope who is a key witness for the prosecution in both appearance and quality. I would love to see her take on more roles like this and perhaps she could become a compelling leading lady once again.

The film itself doesn’t quite live up to its performances. The directing lacks a certain artistic finesse. It plays out like a TV movie, bland and by the numbers. The script is really kind of all over the place, in a manner of speaking. It’s chronologically skewed, but not in a beneficial or coherent way. It takes a good 40 to 45 minutes for the plotline to truly take shape.

The movie’s message, that goes kind of unspoken for a while, until it is literally spoken, is one of capital punishment. It’s true that had Kenny Waters’ gotten the death penalty, he never would have survived long enough for his sister to pull out all the stops for his redemption, but couldn’t they have come out with a better way of getting that across than by simply saying: “If your father had gotten the death penalty, he’d be dead by now.” A note to Tony Goldwyn: exercise subtlety.

One highlight is that the film has a very clear sense of where and when it takes place. The mis en scene is crafted to create a vivid portrait of this down and out family brought up in a rundown rural environment throughout the past three decades. The wardrobe, in particular, does a fantastic job in capturing the kind of motionless world of poverty and torpor that Hilary Swank’s character fights to come free of.

All in all, this is not much more than an exercise in mediocrity. It’s got a few moments that are hot and cold, but mostly just lukewarm and by the numbers. And, I’m not gonna lie, I’m kind of sick of reviewing lukewarm movies. 2010 has got to give me something that I can shout about soon…please?

GRADES:           B-           * * * / * * * * *           6.2 / 10.0