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And the Wheels Started Turning…

December 3, 2011 2 comments

Okay. Take a second. Deep breath…there we go. It’s been a bit of a big week with a lot to take in. However, this is just the opening salvo, and some much heavier ones are soon to come. However, in the last several days, we’ve had two extremely influential critics groups weigh in along with nominations announced by one of the more prestigious awards bodies in the country. So, while the jigsaw puzzle is far from complete, we’re getting a glimpse of the outline through the forming edges.

Let’s start with the antsiest of the lot, who just couldn’t wait their turn in line. The New York Film Critics Circle, being about as bigheaded as a group of big apple critics could be, pushed their awards announcement up by about two weeks. This was in an attempt to better influence the Oscars and separate themselves from the other critics. In case there was a critical darling such as “The Social Network” of yesteryear, they at least wanted to make it seem as though it were their idea. This has, honestly, put a rotten taste in the mouth of the whole awards season. The circle defied convention and tradition, forced movies to hurry their final touches in order to be screened in time, didn’t care to take a moment’s pause to reflect on their decisions and in the end made some really safe and traditional decisions from a group that usually champions the edgy and bold. I really must say…for shame.

For their high honors, the NYFCC went with “The Artist,” the silent film with a heart of gold. I definitely am looking forward to catching this one, though not quite as much as others. Director Michael Hazanavicius also took home high honors. By the time that Best Picture rolled in, I was hoping that “Moneyball” would pull through, after it had already won Best Actor for Brad Pitt and Best Screenplay for Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zallian. “Tree of Life” also had a pretty big day, winning Best Cinematography, sharing in Brad Pitt’s Best Actor award and Best Supporting Actress for Jessica Chastain (who also won for “Take Shelter” and “The Help”).

The other two acting awards were picked up by Albert Brooks for “Drive” and Meryl Streep for “The Iron Lady.” I’m straight-up not wild about Brooks who gives a couple of great scenes in only a good performance. Not worthy of any high accolades. As far as Meryl Streep is concerned, I’m on the fence. Whenever La Streep is once again up for her third Oscar, I just can’t decide whether I want it or not. As weird as it sounds, she is more due for an Oscar than practically any other actress, being that she is widely considered to be the greatest living performer and yet hasn’t won gold in nearly thirty years. However, when it comes to critics, Meryl is the safest choice that can be made. It’d be nicer to see some hutzpah with a choice like Tilda Swinton or Olivia Colman.

“The Descendants” turned out to be S.O.L., a surprise considering that Alexander Payne’s previous film, “Sideways,” swept this particular group, taking awards for Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress and Screenplay. George Clooney especially had a bad day, even missing out on a Best Actor nomination from the Spirits. However, he and the film lucked out that the National Board of Review voted differently, so much that it would seem they from a different planet (when really they’re centered out of the same city).

Here, Payne’s festival favorite came up big, taking down the awards for Best Actor (Clooney), Best Supporting Actress (Shailene Woodley) and Best Adapted Screenplay. Sadly, the prizes for Picture and Director went to “Hugo.” While it’s nice to see a wrench thrown in the works, this choice baffles me based on merit. Personally, the immensity of critical love for this film, in general, blows my mind. Pretty and heartwarming, but low on entertainment, conflict and drama. Christopher Plummer received Best Supporting Actor for his career-best performance in “Beginners,” hopefully asserting himself as the man to beat. And where NYFCC dropped the ball, the usually straight-as-an-arrow NBR chose the dicey performance of Tilda Swinton in “We Need to Talk About Kevin” for their Best Lead Actress. God, I can’t wait to see that film.

Quite strangely, the three big winners from the NYFCC went home almost completely empty-handed. “The Tree of Life” and “The Artist” only received spots on the NBR’s top ten, while “Moneyball” disturbingly did not even make that cut. However, they weren’t the unluckiest films of the day. “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” failed to receive even a single nomination from anyone. If it continues to fly under the radar with critics, it will need a massive push from the guilds to stay alive.

Also, there’s “Martha Marcy May Marlene.” The big hit at Sundance failed to even make the NBR’s top ten independent films and received only a pair of acting nominations from the Independent Spirits, an organization many would have thought the film would have championed. It has a giant hole to climb out of if it wants to stay in any kind of Oscar contention. Personally, I’m not too bummed. A great concept that failed to achieve an emotional surge and tries so hard for subtlety, but often comes off as light-handed. I do hope that Elizabeth Olsen is able to pick up some steam for her deeply nuanced performance.

So, barring any surprise announcements from critics, we’re being given a bit of a lull for the next eight days. However, starting on Sunday, December 11th, it’s going to be difficult to find a busier week. Kicking off with honors from the Los Angeles and Boston Film Critics, we’ll then be receiving nominations from the Screen Actors Guild, the Broadcast Film Critics and Golden Globes, one day after another. Until then, I’ll be reporting anything I can and probably re-evaluating my current Oscar predictions. Stay tuned.

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2011 Independent Spirit Award Nominations

November 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Wow. Busy morning. Lots of multitasking. I will try to add my two cents about these later. But in the mean time, I ask one question.

WHERE IS “SHAME”?

Eligibility? Who knows. I’ll try to come up with some hard information on why one of best-reviewed films of the year was shut out of the awards that it should have owned.

Here’s the full list of nominees:

Best Feature
50/50
Beginners
Drive
Take Shelter
The Artist
The Descendants

Best Director
Mike Mills, Beginners
Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive
Jeff Nichols, Take Shelter
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants

Best First Feature
Another Earth
In The Family
Margin Call
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Natural Selection

Best Male Lead
Demian Bichir, A Better Life
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Ryan Gosling, Drive
Woody Harrelson, Rampart
Michael Shannon, Take Shelter

Best Female Lead
Lauren Ambrose, Think of Me
Rachel Harris, Natural Selection
Adepero Oduye, Pariah
Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

Best Supporting Male
Albert Brooks, Drive
John Hawkes, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
John C. Reilly, Cedar Rapids
Corey Stoll, Midnight in Paris

Best Supporting Female
Jessica Chastain, Take Shelter
Anjelica Huston, 50/50
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Harmony Santana, Gun Hill Road
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants

John Cassavetes Award for films made under $500,000
Bellflower
Circumstance
Hello Lonesome
Pariah
The Dynamiter

Best Documentary
An African Selection
Bill Cunningham New York
The Interrupters
The Redemption of General Butt Naked
We Were Here

Best Cinematography
Joel Hodge, Bellflower
Benjamin Kasulke, The Off Hours
Darius Khondji, Midnight in Paris
Guillaume Shiffman, The Artist
Jeffrey Waldron, The Dynamiter

Best First Screenplay
Mike Cahill & Brit Marling, Another Earth
J.C. Chandor, Margin Call
Patrick DeWitt, Terri
Phil Johnston, Cedar Rapids
Will Reiser, 50/50

Best Screenplay
Joseph Cedar, Footnote
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Tom McCarthy, Win Win
Mike Mills, Beginners
Alexander Payne, The Descendants

My 25 Most Anticipated Films of the Season

September 21, 2011 1 comment

Tis the season. What season is that? It’s kind of hard to say. I suppose it’s a combination of fall and winter. I suppose it’s when the awards season really starts to heat up. More than that, however, it’s the time of year when good movies are released. That’s what it is, primarily. It’s the season of good movies, and I look forward to it all year long.

In honor of that, I thought I’d throw up a little list entailing the movies that you absolutely should not miss. Now, these are not necessarily films that you’re guaranteed to like. I’m not even guaranteed to approve. Neither is this an Oscarish type of list, for its guaranteed that nearly half of these movies will never even see a nomination at the Kodak.

What these films do have in common is that they have not yet been released to the general public and from trailers, stills, stories, festival performances and what some critics have already said about them, they look pretty good to me. These are the movies that I really cannot wait to see. With each title in the countdown, I’ve included a few words about why I find these films so promising. I’ve also posted each film’s trailer (except for the small few that have yet to release one). So without further adieu, enjoy, and remember this list if you plan on seeing at least twenty-five movies in the next few months.

NOTE: Two films most would expect to be on here, are not. “Moneyball” would have made a spot on the list, but I have already caught an advance screening of it (AND LOVED IT). “Drive” would also certainly find its place on here, since I have not yet gotten a chance to see it, but since it has already been released, it excludes itself from the rest of films featured.

_____

25. “Margaret”

September 30th (limited)

WHY IT’S  HERE: Pretty weird situation here. The film looks to have an interesting plot, a great cast. However, after being delayed release for six years, you’d think this film’s going to have some severe flaws and issues. The winning flip side is that after that much time of waiting and hoping, the amount of anticipation this film carries with it is more than enough reel me in.

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