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2012 Independent Spirit Award Winners

February 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Happy Oscar morning, everyone! It’s obviously a pretty busy day. I’ve got to finalize my predictions, prepare for my night of live-blogging and tweeting, and help my girlfriend get our place ready for our Oscar party. Therefore, I’ll keep this brief. Needless to say, anyone not predicting “The Artist” for a Best Picture win, tonight…you know what, I’m not even going to go there. It may be just another one of the Academy’s heart-warming, middle-of-the-road, de facto winners. However, after a nearly unprecedented sweep of the Indy Sprits, last night, following victories in almost everything else, there’s no reason not to bet everything you have on tonight to follow suit.

Interestingly enough, as much as both last night’s and tonight’s victories have been expected, “The Artist” will break a long-standing curse. In the twenty-six year existence of the Indy Spirits, it’s been twenty-five since the last time their Best Picture choice lined up with Oscar (“Platoon”). The last films to come close were “Pulp Fiction,” “Brokeback Mountain” and “Little Miss Sunshine.” Yet, alas, “The Artist” will be the one to finally bust down that barrier.

The highlights of the night? “Margin Call” picking up two awards for Best First Feature and the Robert Altman Award was a nice touch. Meanwhile, I am thrilled to see Steve James’ “The Interrupters” win Best Documentary. The Academy not even adding that film to its shortlist was a grievous mistake. Thank you to the Spirits for helping to rectify that wrong.

On one more note, following Jean Dujardin’s victory last night, it’s become too difficult to continue predicting George Clooney for the Best Actor win. I’d always hoped that if someone were to upset the longtime frontrunner, it would have been Brad Pitt. But with three straight victories with the SAG, the BAFTA and now the Spirit, Dujardin has ultimately transformed himself into the frontrunner. Granted these were some weird awards, with both Clooney and Michael Shannon failing to pick up nominations, despite their films getting Best Picture noms. Boy, I tell ya, if Clooney still wins after I’ve waited this long to change my mind, I will not be a happy camper. But, as Aaron Sorkin would say, that’s life in the NFL…

Here are the winners of the 2012 Independent Spirit Awards:

BEST PICTURE: “The Artist”

BEST DIRECTOR: Michel Hazanavicius – “The Artist”

BEST MALE LEAD: Jean Dujardin – “The Artist”

BEST FEMALE LEAD: Michelle Williams – “My Week with Marilyn”

BEST SUPPORTING MALE: Christopher Plummer – “Beginners”

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE: Shailene Woodley – “The Descendants”

BEST SCREENPLAY: “The Descendants”

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY: “50/50”

BEST FIRST FEATURE: “Margin Call”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: “The Artist”

BEST DOCUMENTARY: “The Interrupters”

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD: “Margin Call”

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD: “Pariah”

Stay tuned for my last minute Oscar predictions sometime this evening. It should be an interesting night…

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The SAG Nominations: My Thoughts

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m not going to lie. While occasionally the Screen Actors Guild throws a curveball or two in the mix when it comes to their nomination day, I have never seen anything like this, before. In every single category (aside from Best Actress, which I managed to score five for five in my predictions), there was at least one major shocker. Not to mention that several films that seemed to be on an absolute roll were left out in the cold.

Let’s start with Best Ensemble Cast. Things here went pretty much as expected. I got four out of five, with my first alternate taking that final spot. Without a doubt this definitely does put the final nail in “The Ides of March'”s coffin. I suppose it might still have a chance with the WGA, especially with the long list of ineligible films, but Best Picture is completely out of its grasp. What these nominees have proven is that “The Help” is going to be a force to be reckoned with. We can now all but stencil it in on Oscar nomination morning, along with “The Descendants” and “The Artist,” but we already knew that. “Midnight in Paris” scored a nice mention, but I’m still not thoroughly convinced it has what it takes to make it all the way to Best Picture. And while “Bridesmaids” certainly had a good morning, after the Globes, it can probably call its awards contention about done. Melissa McCarthy will surely continue her ride to the Kodak, but the rest of the cast and crew will have to sit on the sidelines.

While discussing ensemble, its worth pointing out that it’s exclusion of certain performers in the “Midnight in Paris” cast is really quite appalling. This usually happens every year. When “The Social Network” was nominated in this category, Rooney Mara was disturbingly left out of the finalists, despite being an absolute standout in a small role. This year, some of the most memorable roles from Woody Allen’s film did not make the final cut. Allison Pill and Tom Hiddleston, who played Ella and F. Scott Fitzgerald were left off the list. Perhaps the most disturbing omission of, however, was the lack of Corey Stoll who’s breakout portrayal of Ernest Hemingway was probably the film’s best feature. One has to wonder how the SAG even goes about picking these names and how they could slip up so bad as to miss such brilliant talent.

On to Best Actor, which went pretty much according to plan…aside from one glaringly obvious surprise that was Demien Bechir. Wow. Talk about a wrench thrown into the works. Though, there’s a difference between being flabbergasted and being upset, and its hard to get mad about such an underdog breaking onto the scene in such an enormous fashion. Personally I had no interest in seeing the film, but good for him, nonetheless. Clooney, Dujardin and Pitt earn their expected nods while DiCaprio still holds onto a slim chance for his long overdue gold. At least his chances for a nomination have drastically increased.

I am also not shy at all about predicting the lack of love for “Shame” while nearly everyone else on the web thought Fassbender was a shoo-in at this point. I’m not proud of them for snubbing him, just proud of myself for calling it. He should have a bit heavier chances with the Academy itself, however, who’s selection of voters isn’t at all as random or spontaneous as the Actors Guild is. It really is too bad for Oldman, though. His last hope of resurrecting his chances will be an assured nomination and hopefully a win from the British Academy. It’s certainly helped others in the past.

I don’t have a lot of words to describe the Best Actress race, suffice to say that this could very well be the same lineup we see announced next month. Each of these actresses has overcome what barriers they need and while Close and Swinton are not exactly locks yet, it will still be difficult for them to miss at this point.

On the supporting side of actresses, the biggest shocker was the absence of Shailene Woodley, who, after conquering the National Board of Review was thought to be serious contender for all awards to follow. I feel like a lack of name recognition might have attributed to this miss. It might also just be the overwhelming love for “The Help,” which managed to score two nods in this category. Berenice Bejo proved that “The Artist” is not a one man show and Janet McTeer managed to make it in on Glenn Close’s coattails (actually I have no right to say that without seeing the performance which apparently stands out just as much the lead does). Finally, Melissa McCarthy grabbed the last slot. She is fast becoming my favorite acting contender this year. Probably the funniest performance I’ve seen all year.

Finally, we get to the category that pretty much just threw the entire contest for a loop. First off, the would-be frontrunner and winner of the most awards for any supporting role this year by about two times over, Albert Brooks, failed to even achieve a nomination. Even if he still manages an eventual Oscar nomination, this move has all but ensured Christopher Plummer as the de facto frontrunner. While two other older actors  (Kenneth Branagh and Nick Nolte) made the cut, other veterans like Max von Sydow and Ben Kingsley were beaten out by two performers that I feel actually quite bad for counting down and out. Jonah Hill gets a huge boost for himself and his film with his nomination for “Moneyball” and Armie Hammer, who I spent the last few months predicting but finally gave up when support for “J. Edgar” all but tanked. Now, I’m more than thrilled to see him back in the running.

Well, I gotta wrap this up real quick so I can move on to my globe predictions, which hopefully I’ll have up while some of you are still awake.

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.

National Board of Review Crowns “Hugo”

December 1, 2011 Leave a comment

This is quite a disturbing bit of news this afternoon, at least in my mind. While I’m glad that “The Artist” didn’t take this down and assert itself not only as the critical darling of the year, but also the frontrunner for Best Picture. There’s just way too many more qualified films to give this to.

Plenty of other things to talk about here, including the disturbing snubbage in all categories of “Moneyball,” but I’ll get into all of that in an all-encompassing post of the entire week later.

Here’s the full list of winners, including their Top Ten Lists:

Best Picture: “Hugo”

Best Director: Martin Scorsese – “Hugo”

Best Actor: George Clooney – “The Descendants”

Best Actress: Tilda Swinton – “We Need to Talk About Kevin”

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer – “Beginners”

Best Supporting Actress: Shailene Woodley – “The Descendants”

Best Original Screenplay: Will Reiser – “50/50”

Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash – “The Descendants”

Best Animated Feature: “Rango”

Breakthrough Performance: Felicity Jones – “Like Crazy”

Breakthrough Performance: Rooney Mara – “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Debut Director: J.C. Chandor – “Margin Call”

Best Ensemble: “The Help”

Spotlight Award: Michael Fassbender (“A Dangerous Method,” “Jane Eyre,” “Shame,” “X-Men: First Class”)

NBR Freedom of Expression: “Crime After Crime”

NBR Freedom of Expression: “Pariah”

Best Foreign Language Film: “A Separation”

Best Documentary: “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”

Special Achievement in Filmmaking: The Harry Potter Franchise – A Distinguished Translation from Book to Film

Top Films (in alphabetical order)
“The Artist”
“The Descendants”
“Drive”
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”
“The Ides of March”
“J. Edgar”
“The Tree of Life”
“War Horse”

Top 5 Foreign Language Films (in alphabetical order)
“13 Assassins”
“Elite Squad: The Enemy Within”
“Footnote”
“Le Havre”
“Point Blank”

Top 5 Documentaries (in alphabetical order) 
“Born to be Wild”
“Buck”
“George Harrison: Living in the Material World”
“Project Nim”
“Senna”

Top 10 Independent Films (in alphabetical order)
“50/50”
“Another Earth”
“Beginners”
“A Better Life”
“Cedar Rapids”
“Margin Call”
“Shame”
“Take Shelter”
“We Need To Talk About Kevin”
“Win Win”