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2012 Oscars Winner Predictions – Round One

January 29, 2012 2 comments

Well, there’s no turning back now. There’s no more debating to be done on the Academy Award nominees. No more discussion of who’s too young or too old, too white or too black, too new or two powerful, and no more weighing out each person’s clout within their particular groups of peers. The nominations are in, and it’s a whole new ballgame. Some frontrunners have fallen and others still sit at the top. Yet, I fully believe that barely a single category is the same as it was three days ago.

Instead of just highlighting a few select categories and offering my thoughts, I’m going to go through each award, one by one, and discuss how things have shaped up.

See the full list after the jump:

BEST PICTURE

Despite a couple shifts in the power balance a few days ago, this is an award whose frontrunner hasn’t shifted at all. “Hugo” may have beat it out by one to become the nomination leader (and thus the only competition for the award), but “The Artist” has a massive lead. It will take a whole lot to knock it from the top of the ladder. “The Help,” once considered a possible underdog upset, showed up little support, including a lack of the crucial Best Editing nomination. Meanwhile, “The Descendants” has lost this battle in the guilds. “Hugo” is the only film that really holds any kind of chance, but only in theory.
MY PREDICTION: “The Artist”
SPOILER: “Hugo” Read more…

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Updated Oscar Predictions – 1/6

January 6, 2012 Leave a comment

These might be my final set of predictions before last call on January 23rd. There’s still a mess-load of guilds on their way and a box office that could still declare certain films winners (or losers), but I still feel pretty confident about these choices. Feel free to comment whether you agree or think I’m crazy.

One note: I have spent the entire year not predicting “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” while everyone else was jumping on the bandwagon. Now that the film has all but completely fallen off the radar (thanks to the utter panning of critics), I can’t help but feel a sense of unadulterated joy. Maybe I’ll be eating my words, later on, but for now…huzzah.

One more note: The Academy’s new method of having and indiscriminate amount of Best Picture nominees has made predicting that category nearly impossible. Therefore, I will still guess on the full ten and you can go ahead and judge by the numbers I provide as to what will make it if there are nine or eight, etc…

BEST PICTURE

1. “The Artist”
2. “Hugo”
3. “The Descendants”
4. “The Help”
5. “War Horse”
6. “Midnight in Paris”
7. “Moneyball”
8. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
9. “Bridesmaids”
10. “The Tree of Life”

Alt 1: “Drive”
Alt 2: “My Week with Marilyn”

Read more…

18 Official Contenders in Best Animated Film

November 7, 2011 2 comments

According to the Academy’s press release, there are 18 full length films that have been submitted in the category of Best Animated Feature, this year. As some of you know, there are certain Oscars (including Visual Effects and Documentary Feature) which actually get narrowed down to a series of finalists before the big event. Here is the list of films that have a shot of being nominated in this column:

“The Adventures of Tintin”
“Alois Nebel”
“Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked”
“Arthur Christmas”
“Cars 2″
“A Cat in Paris”
“Chico & Rita”
“Gnomeo & Juliet”
“Happy Feet Two”
“Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil”
“Kung Fu Panda 2″
“Mars Needs Moms”
“Puss in Boots”
“Rango”
“Rio”
“The Smurfs”
“Winnie the Pooh”
“Wrinkles”

This list is pretty significant for two reasons. For one, the number of eligible films will dictate that there will be five nominees instead of just three. In order for that number to be assured, the Academy dictates that there must be at least fifteen qualifiers. Therefore, as long as all of these films meet their 2011 release dates, five of these films will be going to the Oscars. Since the award’s inception in 2001, we’ve only seen five nominees once in 2009 when “Up” took home the gold (wrongfully, in my opinion, over “Fantastic Mr. Fox”).

Another significant update this news seems to unveil is that “The Adventures of Tintin” will apparently compete as an animated film. Steven Spielberg and Paramount originally put up a fuss that the film should have it’s own category of motion capture media. In response, I like to quote Morgan Freeman from an Oscar round table in 2009 when he qualified “Avatar” and all motion capture projects as “basically cartoons.” Way to be a boss, Red. In the end, I suppose the film’s director conceded, perhaps realizing the film’s real potential at winning the Animated Feature award. It will likely be in a showdown with the year’s other major contender, the gorgeous yet creatively flawed “Rango,” if only since that seems to be the only other likely challenger that isn’t a hodgepodge sequel to a former winner or nominee.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this year’s race is that, for the first time in five years, it appears that Pixar will not be taking home the gold. To find the last time that another studio was able to take down that juggernaut, one must go all the way back to 2006 (the year “The Departed” won Best Picture, to put things in perspective) when “Happy Feet” narrowly beat out “Cars” for the Oscar. Ironically, both films have sequels competing against each other again this season. Since then, Pixar has kept knocking down the competition like bottles in a shooting gallery with films like “Ratatouille,” “WALL-E,” “Up” and “Toy Story 3.” I guess they will have to keep their seats this year and let the mantel pass to someone else.

The way this is shaping up now, I’d say our field will look like:

1. “The Adventures of Tintin”
2. “Rango”
3. “Cars 2”
4. “Puss in Boots”
5. “Happy Feet 2”

Alt 1: “Arthur Christmas”
Alt 2: “Winnie the Pooh”

In reality, the race really is down to those top two. “Cars 2” will make it in just based on the clout of it’s studio. Six months ago, “Puss in Boots” seemed like an odd choice for a contender. Yet the film is performing extremely well, barely dropping a dime in its second weekend from its opening gross. The “Happy Feet” sequel is very much up in the air right now. It will probably need to break the bank in order to stay ahead of the other dark horses.

Keep reading The Edge of the Frame for more updates to this year’s Oscar race. The finalists for Best Documentary Feature shouldn’t be too far away.

“Rango” Review

March 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Granted that last year was a phenomenal one for animated features (“Toy Story 3,” “How to Train Your Dragon”), I have to say that I didn’t give animated fare enough of my time through the course of the season. Therefore, I thought I’d get things started early this year. However, while Gore Verbinski’s “Rango” is certainly not a bad film, it doesn’t set the bar very high, in the same way that Lee Unkrich’s masterpiece did almost a year ago.

“Rango” is a simple story of an unlikely hero. The before-nameless chameleon (Johnny Depp) is stranded hopelessly in the desert. He is half-rescued by a local lizard (Isla Fisher) who brings him to her water-deprived township. Through a series of mishaps and good luck, the iguana wins the respect from the townspeople, their job of sheriff and the title-name “Rango.” Yet, when all that’s left of the people’s dwindling water supply is stolen and the town’s most ominous figures are suspect, Rango realizes that he might be out of his league. The chameleon must find the courage that he never thought he had and prove himself to a group of people who have nothing left to hope for.

The story itself certainly isn’t anything in the realm of high art. It’s a standard tale of a seemingly weak individual thrown into extraordinary circumstances and forced to become the person, or chameleon, he only dreamed that he could. That structure isn’t a bad one. It’s worked time and time again in phenomenal films, but only when there’s an added element of creativity, which this film lacks…other than all the character’s being cowboy-animals, which is a little more preposterous than it is creative. However, we’ll get into that later.

The voice cast does great work. One can tell, right off the bat that the title role was directly written for the talent of Johnny Depp. From the soft-spoken quips to random outbursts, it’s really difficult to imagine anyone else reading these lines. Bill Nighy and Ray Winstone use their sinister tones to great extent as a few of the film’s many antagonists. The only actor I could do without is the ever-growing-more-annoying Abigail Breslin. Her entire cute, mousy, adorable relief could be done away with, entirely, in my opinion.

There is one aspect of this film that is a monkey I just can’t get off my back. Some people will call me unimaginative or argumentative, but I’m sorry, this just bugs me. I’m put off by the absence of any effort to have the setting, characters or events make logical sense. This is a world in which desert animals wear Hawaiian shirts and cowboy hats. They drink out of shot glasses, sit under ceiling fans and play mean riffs on the guitar. It just doesn’t compute for me. The film takes whatever liberties it wishes and stretches the boundaries of reality however it pleases. Just because a film is animated does not mean that there are no cinematic guidelines that should be respected.

To further illustrate my point, certain other animated features have a fantastic premise, while keeping their roots firmly planted in reality. “Finding Nemo,” “Happy Feet” and all of the “Toy Story” films create improbable plotlines, but never escape the boundaries of logic. The animals in “Finding Nemo” and “Happy Feet” have a defined society, talk to each other, and in some cases, sing and dance. Yet, they don’t build auditoriums to do their routines. All of the animals basically exist the same way they do in nature. And in the case of “Toy Story,” obviously toys are inanimate objects, and yet in their world, they don’t escape the realm of possibility. They create tools out of accessible household items and their environments are their owners’ bedrooms and toy boxes.

It’s this creative sense of plausible fantasy that not only make the plot and setting of said movies easier to entertain in the mind, but funnier and ultimately more entertaining. And it’s not just the lack of logic, but the unmitigated disregard for it in “Rango” that really knocks it down in my book. It puts up as a nicer-looking version of “Sponge Bob Square Pants,” so, congratulations if you like that kind of thing. It’s that same ode to ridiculousness that ruined Pixar’s “Up” for me. The first act of that film, and especially the opening ten minutes, are absolutely extraordinary and heartbreaking. However, once the talking dogs (that could fly planes, no less) came in, I checked out.

Speaking of nice-looking, one positive note that I must leave this film on is just how incredible its appearance is. An impressive amount of detail was put into all of the visual aspects, from the fur on the chin of the hedgehog to the shine on the drinking glasses. One can definitely tell that Roger Deakins had a hand in this, being credited as a visual consultant (just as he was on “How to Train Your Dragon” and “WALL-E”). Every shot is incredibly predetermined, framed and orchestrated. It’s a real shame, in fact, that the quality of the story could not match the film’s astounding look.

GRADES:           B-            * * * / * * * * *           5.8 / 10.0