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My 2011 Top Ten List

February 16, 2012 2 comments

My favorite time of the year has finally come. It’s the time when I can finally take a break from reporting on other individuals and groups choices for best of the year and actually focus on my own. If any of you missed last year’s, here’s a link to last year’s big list. Over the next week, leading up to the Oscars, I’ll be writing a series of posts that will encompass my feelings on the 2011 year in films. I’ll start things out with my Top Ten List, featured here, followed by two posts chronicling the nominations and winners of the 2nd Annual Edgy Awards. Hopefully, I can maintain concentration and get all of this done before the entire awards season comes to a head.

To be quite honest, this is probably my least favored year of films in terms of quality in at least a decade. I’m not sure what exactly went wrong or rubbed me the wrong way, but there was something lacking in the overall caliber of releases. Disappointing to say the least. Perhaps, it’s not even the overall batch of films, but rather some favorites of the film critic and connoisseur community just did not register in my book. Yet, even with the diminished standard, I still feel compelled to give a shout out of recognition to the films that were more than respectable. The following seven films, listed alphabetically, are some examples of damn fine filmmaking, but had just a few too many flaws that kept them out the final ten.

Here we go. The runners-up are as follows:

“The Artist”

Written and Directed by
Michel Hazanavicius

A delightful and sometimes intriguing romp into the throwback world of silent filmmaking, highlighted by some great design qualities and a stellar lead performance by Jean Dujardin. Yet, the film really suffers from having…well…nothing really important to say or leave us with.

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Writers Guild of America Nominations Announced

January 5, 2012 Leave a comment

And the guilds keep rolling in. Now, when it comes to Oscar, one cannot hold the WGA up to the same predictive powers as, say, the SAG or the PGA. This is not because the voting bodies don’t match up very well, because they do. It’s because of the Writers Guild annual list of discriminatory ineligibility standards. This year, a number of very promising scripts have been cast by the wayside. The potential frontrunner for Best Original Screenplay “The Artist” will not be found here, along with “Shame,” “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” “Beginners,” and “Margin Call” (among many others). In adapted, “Carnage,” “My Week with Marilyn,” “Drive” and “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” are SOL. I don’t mind saying every year that the WGA needs to stop shunning great writers just because they don’t pay their annual dues. With that, on to who does.

If you take a good look at that ineligible list above, you will notice that Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse” is not there. That’s right, it missed out on this nom out of sheer lack of votes. This is the second guild in a row to snub the film, and yet, I still do not believe it’s Best Picture chances have been tarnished. What has, however, been taken down a notch is George Clooney’s “The Ides of March,” which got a bit of a boost with Tuesday’s PGA nominations, but really could have used this one, as well. If the man, himself, doesn’t grab a DGA nod on Monday, I’d consider “Ides” to be down and out.

So enough of what’s been missing guilds and on to what’s been racking them in. Out of all the movies from this year, only two have nailed nominations in each of the four guilds, thus far: “The Help” and…that’s right…”Bridesmaids.” Chew on that for a bit, and begin to accept the film’s Best Picture chances. I’m still not sold, but am certainly entertaining the idea. However, a film enjoying perhaps an even better week is “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and I could not be more pleased. Granted Steven Zallian’s script may be ousted by one of the ineligibles in a couple of weeks, this makes 3 out of 4 guild nominations (and let’s be real, an Ensemble Cast nomination was never really in the cards, given the film’s dynamic). If David Fincher is able to score his second straight DGA nomination, it will be difficult to deny this fantastic film’s chances.

One final note. Congratulations to Zallian and Sorkin for writing the BEST screenplay of the year. Hands down.

Well, I’ll let the nominees do the rest of the talking, themselves. Check them out:

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
“The Descendants” by Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Steven Zallian
“The Help” by Tate Taylor
“Hugo” by John Logan
“Moneyball” by Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zallian

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
“50/50” by Will Reiser
“Bridesmaids” by Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig
“Midnight in Paris” by Woody Allen
“Win Win” by Tom McCarthy
“Young Adult” by Diablo Cody

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
“Better this World” by Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega
“If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front” by Marshall Curry and Matthew Hamachek
“Nostalgia for the Light” by Patricio Guzman
“Pina” by Wim Wenders
“Position Among the Stars” by Hetty Naaijkens-Retel Helmrich and Leonard Retel Helmrich
“Senna” by Manish Pandey

The PGA Nominations Announced

January 3, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m going to avoid any general discussion on this at the moment, suffice a moment of ecstatic joy concerning the official end of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows” Best Picture run. It would take a miracle to get it in if the Producers won’t even give it the time of day. Apologies to “Potter” aficionados who read this blog, but I have never been a fan and I’d hate to to see that film steal away a spot on the shortlist, namely from films like “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” or “Moneyball”.

I’m currently crafting an all-encompassing post on the status of the current race which will be out later today. But for now, here are the nominations:

“THE ARTIST”
Producer: Thomas Langmann

“BRIDESMAIDS”
Producers: Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel, Clayton Townsend

“THE DESCENDANTS”
Producers: Jim Burke, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor

“THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO”
Producers: Ceán Chaffin, Scott Rudin

“THE HELP”
Producers: Michael Barnathan, Chris Columbus, Brunson Green

“HUGO”
Producers: Graham King, Martin Scorsese

“THE IDES OF MARCH”
Producers: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Brian Oliver

“MIDNIGHT IN PARIS”
Producers: Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum

“MONEYBALL”
Producers: Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz, Brad Pitt

“WAR HORSE”
Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg

The Producers Guild of America Producer of the Year Award in Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures:

“THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN”
Producers: Peter Jackson, Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg

“CARS 2”
Producer: Denise Ream

“KUNG FU PANDA 2”
Producer: Melissa Cobb

“PUSS IN BOOTS”
Producers: Joe M. Aguilar, Latifa Ouaou

“RANGO”
Producers: John B. Carls, Gore Verbinski

The 69th Annual Golden Globe Nominations

December 15, 2011 3 comments

Once again, I’ll have a full opinion piece out in a few hours. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the nominees (including a tally of how many I correctly predicted). Also, there’s one jarring thought that’s kind of occupying my mind right now?

WHERE THE HELL IS MELISSA McCARTHY!?!?!?!?!?! HFPA, just what were you thinking?

…and the nominees are…

BEST PICTURE: DRAMA  (4/5 + 1 alternate)
“The Descendants”
“The Help”
“Hugo”
“The Ides of March”
“Moneyball”
“War Horse”

BEST PICTURE: MUSICAL/COMEDY (5/5!!!)
“The Artist”
“Bridesmaids”
“50/50”
“Midnight in Paris”
“My Week With Marilyn”

BEST DIRECTOR (4/5 + 1 alternate)
Woody Allen – “Midnight in Paris”
Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”
Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”
George Clooney, “The Ides of March”

BEST ACTOR: DRAMA (4/5 +1 alternate)
George Clooney, “The Descendants”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “J. Edgar”
Michael Fassbender, “Shame”
Ryan Gosling, “The Ides of March”
Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”

BEST ACTOR: MUSICAL/COMEDY (3/5)
Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
Brendan Gleeson, “The Guard”
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, “50/50”
Ryan Gosling, “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”
Owen Wilson, “Midnight in Paris”

BEST ACTRESS: DRAMA (4/5)
Glenn Close, “Albert Nobbs”
Viola Davis, “The Help”
Rooney Mara, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
Tilda Swinton, “We Need to Talk About Kevin”

BEST ACTRESS: MUSICAL/COMEDY (4/5 + 1 alternate)
Jodie Foster, “Carnage”
Kristen Wiig, “Bridesmaids”
Charlize Theron, “Young Adult”
Michelle Williams, “My Week With Marilyn”
Kate Winslet, “Carnage”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR (3/5 + 1 alternate)
Kenneth Branagh, “My Week With Marilyn”
Albert Brooks, “Drive”
Jonah Hill, “Moneyball”
Viggo Mortensen, “A Dangerous Method”
Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS (3/5 + 1 alternate)
Berenice Bejo, “The Artist”
Jessica Chastain, “The Help”
Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs”
Octavia Spencer, “The Help”
Shailene Woodley, “The Descendants”

BEST SCREENPLAY (4/5)
Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, “The Descendants”
George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon, “The Ides of March”
Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian, “Moneyball”

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM (N/A)
“The Flowers of War”
“In the Land of Blood and Honey”
“The Kid With a Bike”
“A Separation”
“The Skin I Live In”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE (5/5!!!)
“The Adventures of Tintin”
“Arthur Christmas”
“Cars 2”
“Puss in Boots”
“Rango”

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (3/5)
Ludovic Bource, “The Artist”
Trent Reznor and Attivus Ross, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
Howard Shore, “Hugo”
John Williams, “War Horse”
Abel Korzeniowski, “W.E.”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG (N/A)
“Lay Your Head Down,” “Albert Nobbs”
“Hello Hello,” “Gnomeo and Juliet”
“The Living Proof,” “The Help”
“The Keeper,” “Machine Gun Preacher”
“Masterpiece,” “W.E.”

My SAG Predictions

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Well, I thought it’d be nice to actually do some predicting amidst all of this reporting. After all, the game of Oscar prognostication is all about what’s going to win, not what should win (if only wishing made it so). Therefore, I thought I’d offer up some quick guesses as to what’s going to make the cut tomorrow.

I’ve written a few thoughts down with after each category, as well:

 

BEST ACTOR in a LEADING ROLE

 

1. George Clooney – “The Descendants”
2. Brad Pitt – “Moneyball”
3. Jean Dujardin – “The Artist”
4. Leonardo DiCaprio – “J. Edgar”
5. Gary Oldman – “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”

Alt 1: Michael Fassbender – “Shame”
Alt 2: Woody Harrelson – “Rampart”

 

The first three are all but locks. It’s true that “J. Edgar” has not raised a lot of popularity (for legitimate reasons), yet the performance has often been singled out and has enough support to have achieved a BFCA nomination, so I’ll stick with it. I know that I’m going out on quite a limb by not putting Fassbender on there, but I’m just not sure “Shame” will have as much industry-support as it does with critics and festivals. Meanwhile, I think that Oldman’s chances are stronger here than anywhere else. He’s getting into his elder years and is more than overdue for recognition, two qualities that SAG usually jumps on. Also, they’re the only major awards body to have nominated him before (Best Supporting Actor, “The Contender”). Plus his popularity and respect among the acting community is pretty indisputable. If he’s going to make a stand in this race, I think it will be here.

 

BEST ACTRESS in a LEADING ROLE

 

1. Meryl Streep – “The Iron Lady”
2. Viola Davis – “The Help”
3. Michelle Williams – “My Week with Marilyn”
4. Glenn Close – “Albert Nobbs”
5. Tilda Swinton – “We Need to Talk About Kevin”

Alt 1: Charlize Theron – “Young Adult”
Alt 2: Rooney Mara – “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Once again, I’d say that the first three are pretty much locked in. Glenn Close’s campaign has been heading downhill, yet here, her “due” status will have a much bigger effect. Tilda Swinton should be a sure thing here, but it’s not a perfect world. Though, I think she’s the only other contender with enough clout to make it onto the shortlist. Olsen and Mara are definitely still in the running, but the SAG isn’t as partial to youth and sex appeal as the AMPAS are.

 

BEST ACTOR in a SUPPORTING ROLE

 

1. Albert Brooks – “Drive”
2. Christopher Plummer – “Beginners”
3. Kenneth Branagh – “My Week with Marilyn”
4. Nick Nolte – “Warrior”
5. Andy Serkis – “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”

Alt 1: Max von Sydow – “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”
Alt 2: Patton Oswalt – “Young Adult”

This category is definitely the biggest question mark of them all. Brooks and Plummer are practically written in ink already, and Branagh (while not yet awarded, this year) fits a good pedigree and is very likely. However, those last two spots are a mystery. All the major candidates have some serious detractors. Von Sydow, in particular, is impossible to read because his performance is so shrouded in mystery to the general public. He’s locked in review embargo hell. I’ll go with Nolte just because he’s got a great “comeback kid” story. Finally, I’m going to foolishly predict Serkis in believing that the campaign and mentality really are working and that his nomination will come as more of a statement than an honor.

 

BEST ACTRESS in a SUPPORTING ROLE

 

1. Octavia Spencer – “The Help”
2. Shailene Woodley – “The Descendants”
3. Melissa McCarthy – “Bridesmaids”
4. Vanessa Redgrave – “Coriolanus”
5. Jessica Chastain – “The Help”

Alt 1: Berenice Bejo – “The Artist”
Alt 2: Carey Mulligan – “Shame”

Pretty much the only lock in this category, as of now, is Octavia Spencer. She’s probably also the only acting candidate who’s close to having her name stenciled onto a golden statue in February, but that’s neither here nor there. Shailene is a good bet for this group loves to usually throw some love to at least one newly risen star. Melissa McCarthy is also riding on more buzz then nearly all these candidates combined, so she’s definitely close to being in. Redgrave’s film is on the opposite side of the buzz scale, but it’s been a while since this goddess of acting has set foot on a red carpet, and more then a few people are excited for that return. Finally, I am hesitantly putting Chastain in that final spot, however, I’m definitely wary about her many, many performances canceling each other out and making way for the silent film star or sex addict’s sister.

 

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST

 

1. “The Descendants”
2. “The Help”
3. “The Artist”
4. “Bridesmaids”
5. “The Ides of March”

Alt 1: “Midnight in Paris”
Alt 2: “Hugo”

No matter what happens, tomorrow is going to quite a coup for “The Help.” It’s guaranteed three nominations, with a chance at a fourth. Same goes to “The Descendants” which has a nomination, here, pretty sewn up. “The Artist” isn’t a true ensemble piece, but is so ahead of the pack that it will be difficult to miss a nomination in any major category. While “Bridesmaids” isn’t in big contention for any Best Picture awards, the film has been given more Ensemble Cast citations then practically any other film, so if the SAG has a sense of humor, they’ll probably throw it a bone. And perhaps my ballsiest pick of the night will be “The Ides of March.” True, the film’s steam has all but been extinguished, but it’s hard for anyone to deny the pure talent in this cast. I believe the voters will recognize it as well.

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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My First Round of 2012 Oscar Predictions

August 27, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s officially that time of year. Actually, I won’t lie about the fact that I’m showing up a bit late to the party. Some of my fellow prognosticators laid out their first set of predictions the day after the last Oscars closed the curtain, or at least when a few contenders began to emerge during the course of the summer. However, I have been plagued by indecision, distaste over the last event’s disappointments and general fatigue, overall. Yet, it’s time to lift the veil and get back to what I’m good at. It’s time to get down to business.

Where to begin? Everything written up to and including now should be considered speculation or strong theory, at best. However, before we dive too deep into what we haven’t even seen, yet, there have definitely been a few films already released that might have a decent run at the gold.

Perhaps the first big contender to emerge in the Best Picture race is “Midnight in Paris.” While Woody Allen has made far better films, this is certainly both an original and different pass for him. It doesn’t hurt that it’s easily the highest grossing film he’s ever made. Voters might enjoy seeing his mighty return to the Best Picture category for the first time in 25 years and could use this film as a platform to do it. I’m personally not buying into that logic, quite yet.

However, while “Midnight in Paris” seems like a long shot, another film seems almost assured to go all the way. That, movie is “The Help,” and it is a piece of cinema that the Academy will likely eat up with a spoon. Even if it somehow falls out of Best Picture contention, one should already consider Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer to be surefire contenders. But the film is burning through the box office and leaving audiences with a sweet taste in their mouths. This is the type of phenomenon that can easily survive all the way to the heart of the awards season.

Aside from Best Picture contenders, the summer has produced its usual slew of blockbusters that will have their way with the technical awards. Expect both “Transformers 3” and “Super 8” to sweep nominations in Best Sound, Sound Editing and Visual Effects. While I never bought into the brief debate over “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows” and its Best Picture status, I’d guess that the franchise’s last hurrah will make stabs for several awards including Best Art Direction and Cinematography. Finally, perhaps the strongest lock for a nomination and perhaps the win is this season’s biggest surprise, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and it’s extraordinary CG effects.

Now that we’ve gone through what we know, it’s time to move on to what’s important: what we don’t. A handful of question marks remain hovering above many titles. However, several films have emerged as being close to sure things as possible. Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse” has been on radar screens for a while now, but after the trailer hit the web a few months ago, expectations have exploded. Based on a Tony Award-winning play, the film must pack a powerful story, while the visuals look absolutely astounding. If the film is as good as it is expected, a clean-sweep is not out of the cards. Yet, voters may feel like holding off of awarding Spielberg again with his next film, “Lincoln” finally getting the go-ahead for next year.

Both of George Clooney’s vehicles, “The Descendants” in which he stars and “The Ides of March” which he also co-wrote and directed, seem primed for glory. The last time Clooney took to the director’s chair with a serious topic, the film earned 6 nominations. His new feature also bolsters a stellar cast and very relevant subject matter. Meanwhile, “The Descendants” features what seems to be fantastic, heartfelt story written and directed by Alexander Payne, who appears to be at the peak of his career and possibly primed for Oscar glory. Both films have issued trailers that tease strong potential for taking home the grand prize.

Ironically, the film that has, by far, the strongest pedigree is the one that we have seen the least from. Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar” has all of the chops of a Best Picture winner. It’s a biopic that shines a light on the little-known aspects of its subject. It has a solid cast including Leonardo DiCaprio (who might finally be poised to win his first Oscar), Naomi Watts, Armie Hammer and Judi Dench. It’s a period piece, sure to be flush with lavish costumes and set dressings. Yet, most of all, it has Clint Eastwood,  who has reached a point in his career in which it’s almost unlikely for him not to be the frontrunner for Best Director. Of all films this year, this one seems to have the most potential. Now all we need is a glimpse of it.

After those four principle films, any number of possibilities could round out the final spots. There’s Roman Polanski’s character study, “Carnage,” Tomas Alfredson’s thriller, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” Lynn Ramsay’s vicious drama “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” and Bennett Miller’s baseball biopic “Moneyball.” Not to mention the period piece, “A Dangerous Method,” centering on the rivalry between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. David Cronenberg has been passed over a lot for Oscar. Could this finally be his vehicle that will take him to his first Best Director nomination? We’ll see.

Meanwhile, two movies stand with a fog of uncertainty around them due to their subject matter. The Cannes smash hit “The Artist,” is the first mainstream silent film to be released in, well, nearly a century. While undoubtedly phenomenal, it’s unclear whether the Academy will embrace such a curveball of a narrative and stylistic choice.

Then there is the hugely anticipated “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” remake. Some say that it will be too brutal,grisly and depressing for the Academy. In its defense, I must point attention to “The Silence of the Lambs” which defied odd to be come the first horror movie to ever win Best Picture, twenty years ago. Others will believe that the Oscars won’t go for an American remake of such a recently released foreign film. Yet again, I must refer to the “The Departed” which remade an Asian film only four years after the original’s release. A lot of factors weigh against it, but I believe that David Fincher will not only pull off the film, but carry enough guilt over from last year’s outrageous snub to take the movie all the way.

Well, I’ve gone on for quite a bit so I’ll leave my discussion of this year’s acting contenders for another piece. Below, I have my full list of predictions which I will try to update at least once every month until nominations are announced. Remember that these are just speculation, but take heed that I’ve still put a lot of thought into them.

Enjoy the rest after the jump or view them under the prediction tab, here.

BEST PICTURE

1. J. Edgar
2. War Horse
3. The Descendants
4. The Ides of March
5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
6. The Artist
7. The Help
8. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Alt 1: A Dangerous Method
Alt 2: Carnage

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