The 86th Annual Academy Awards

March 4, 2014

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Another Oscars telecast is in the books, and overall I felt it was a fine ceremony from start to finish. No, not everything went smoothly, and no, not every joke and skit worked as planned, but there isn’t a such thing as a great telecast. There are only ones that survive until the end where you’re not pissed off as the credits are rolling, and I was not pissed off by any means.

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Ellen did a fine job as a host, mostly staying within her comfort zone during her monologue and never really doing anything too whacky. Sure, the pizza skit got a bit old really quick, but it had Ellen written all over it. Who else would order three pizza pies and collect hundreds of dollars from Weinstein and Brad Pitt afterwards? Her finest moment was taking the star-studded selfie and actually crashing twitter by asking viewers to retweet. Her skits and improv certainly appealed to the younger viewers, but her class and general entertainment was fit for everyone.

Awards-wise, there really weren’t many, if any, surprises. Here are the things I was most happy about at the end of the night.

1. Spike Jonze wins Best Original Screenplay for Her.

This was the award I found myself rooting the hardest for. I absolutely loved Her and this was the best shot it had to win an Oscar. It was up against American Hustle, which many people had winning since The Academy seems to love David O. Russell, yet they don’t feel the need to reward him yet. That’s right, David O. Russell has now been nominated for 5 Oscars (just in the past three years!) and hasn’t won anything yet.

 

2. Gravity winning 7 Oscars

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My favorite film of the year truly displayed how dominant of a movie it was at the Oscars. With 10 nominations and 7 wins, there wasn’t a movie that could come close to the amount of golden statues leaving in Gravity’s limo. Sure, the film didn’t end up winning the big award, but it was clearly a dominant force throughout the entire ceremony.

3. American Hustle lays a goose egg

For the record, I did enjoy American Hustle very much… I just feel that it’s over-rated. The Academy seemed to be in love with American Hustle and I simply couldn’t understand why. There have been two movies on Oscar history to receive 11 nominations, but walked out empty-handed. American Hustle walked out empty-handed with 10 nominations. I guess the love wasn’t strong enough.

4. Catherine Martin and Alfonso Cuaron are big winners

The only individuals in the night to win two Oscars apiece were Martin and Cuaron. Martin is familiar with winning two Oscars in one night, as she did the same thing in 2002 by winning the same two categories for her work in Moulin Rouge! Meanwhile, Cuaron finally won his first and second Oscars for Best Director and Film Editing.

5. 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture

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It was quite uncertain towards the end if 12 Years a Slave would be able to put an end to Gravity’s dominance, but when Will Smith opened the envelope and announced the Best Picture, the 12 Years a Slave camp jumped with joy. It was definitely deserving, and it also proves that The Academy still sides with emotionally driven films rather than visual masterpieces. So we’ll have to wait longer until the first 3-D film wins Best Picture, but history was still made with the win to 12 Years a Slave.

These are my other favorite moments from the night:

1. The Star-Studded Selfie

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Ellen asked for it and the viewers carried it through. The selfie with celebrities such as Bradley Cooper, Meryl Streep, Lupita Nyong’o, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, half of Jared Leto’s face and Lupita’s brother crashed Twitter, with over a million retweets in less than an hour. Only Ellen.

 

2. Pharrell Gets “Happy”

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Pharrell’s performance of “Happy” was a great choice towards the beginning of the ceremony while the celebrities were still enjoying themselves (for the most part). Dozens of actors got out of their seats to dance along with the catchy tune, including the lovely Lupita Nyong’o. Which reminds me…

 

3. Lupita Nyong’o

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We all know Jennifer Lawrence is beloved by everyone and is arguably the biggest female movie star at the moment, but March 2, 2014 was the night of Lupita Nyong’o. Beautifully dressed and taking in every moment at the Oscars, Nyong’o made the world smile especially when she accepted the award for Best Supporting Actress. Beginning with, “It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s,” and ending her speech with, “No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.” It was a touching and great moment.

Overall, it was a fine telecast. For those who are still complaining how long the Oscars were, it was ten minutes shorter than the Grammy’s, so deal with it. While there weren’t many surprises in an awards standpoint, the night was sure entertaining enough to make it through without falling asleep. Now the question is, who’s going to win next year’s Best Picture?

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Predictions: The 86th Academy Awards

February 25, 2014

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We’re just a couple days away from the 86th Academy Awards! Are you excited?! Well you should be! Ellen is hosting, so you should expect some clean but entertaining humor throughout the night since she’s always a pleasure. On top of that, this is arguably one of the most unpredictable years, especially for big awards such as Best Picture and Best Lead Actor. In this post, I’m going to attempt to predict who WILL win while my buddy, Mike, will give his take on who SHOULD win. Let’s go!

Best Picture

American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Rob: This might be the toughest match-up of the entire night, but hey you get to save the best for last! This is a race between three movies: American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave. Each of them have reasons why they will win, which I have explored in previous posts. When it comes down to it, I just have to go with my gut. My gut is saying that there is a pretty decent chance that American Hustle can go through the entire night without winning an award. The record is held by The Turning Point (1977) and The Color Purple (1985) for having 11 nominations each, but laying a goose egg. American Hustle is nominated for 10 awards and has the best chance at winning Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Costume Design. I do feel like Lawrence will win her second Oscar though, beating out Nyong’o, so that takes care of the shut out.

As for Gravity and its 10 nominations, it’s set to win the most awards of the night, there’s no question about that. It should win most of the technical categories, along with Best Director for Alfonso Cuaron. The question is, if over 60% of the time the Best Picture and Best Director lines up, then why isn’t Gravity a heavy favorite to win Best Picture? Frankly, I have no idea. 12 Years a Slave seems to have that “important” factor, the one movie that everyone thinks SHOULD win. If you’re going to take the Oscars seriously, you’ll most likely vote for 12 Years a Slave. But for Gravity, the one thing it has going is how it’s generally liked by everyone. It’s not the difficult and violent picture that 12 Years a Slave is, and it’s much deeper and inspiring than the loose and fun American Hustle. If Gravity can rack up a good number of #2 and #3 votes during the preferential voting, then Gravity will take the big award.

But my prediction has to go with 12 Years a Slave, no matter how many awards Gravity wins throughout the night. It has good momentum going into the weekend and has the every-so-important PGA award (though Gravity also won). And when it comes down to it, 12 Years a Slave is the most emotional film of the Best Picture nominees. Sure, it’s a smaller film but it connects with the audience more than Gravity or American Hustle. You can almost make a connection to when The Hurt Locker beat Avatar. Avatar and Gravity are both 3-D heavy movies, and for one, the Academy might not be ready to reward a 3-D film yet. But more importantly, The Hurt Locker and 12 Years a Slave are familiar with its story-telling. Both films were considered “important” and “emotional”, both didn’t gross that much money compared to their Goliath rivals, and The Hurt Locker made history with Kathryn Bigelow being the first woman director ever to win. If 12 Years a Slave wins, it will consist of the first African American producers, actors, screenwriter, and director to win. I think everyone is aware of this and I feel like this isn’t going to be a situation like Brokeback Mountain where the Academy shied away from a tough subject matter. I feel that The Academy is ready to reward such a monumental film.

Will Win: 12 Years a Slave

Mike: So after I made all my picks to the categories leading up to Best Picture, you’ll see that I clearly think Gravity should win. Gravity was just a superior film. You could say the acting was a bit weak in comparison to other nominees, and I might be inclined to agree with you, but that doesn’t overshadow the fact that Gravity was superior in almost every other category. To have a film that exceeds expectations at every turn, well some could say that’s “not of this Earth.” I loved Gravity because it is a film I will surely watch over and over again. I really hope it wins the Oscar, but if it doesn’t, it still won the Oscar in my heart.

Should Win: Gravity

Best Director

David O. Russell – American Hustle
Alfonso Cuarón – Gravity
Alexander Payne – Nebraska
Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave
Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street

Rob: It’s hard not to pick Alfonso Cuaron here, especially since he’s won so many awards leading up to the Oscars. How do you not appreciate the brilliance that Gravity is, from a directorial standpoint? Could anyone else made such a fascinating and beautiful movie?

Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)

Mike: Marty! for the win!!!!! Lets face it, Marty Scorsese is the MAN! Plain and simple. I wasn’t sure based off the previews and a three hour run-time that I wanted to even see The Wolf of Wall Street. But I did see it, and it was awesome! It was not only hilarious and incredibly well acted, but the pace of the film was spectacular. I left the theater and only felt like I was in there for 45 minutes! If that is saying something, then it’s good directing.  He knew how to pace the story and how to get the perfect performances out of his actors. Wolf was just a fun ride to watch. They should call him Marty Oscor-sese

Should Win: Martin Scorsese

Best Actor

Christian Bale – American Hustle
Bruce Dern – Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club

Rob: Aside from the Best Picture race, this might be the closest category and one with a lot of upset potential. The whole year, McConaughey has been sweeping up the awards for Best Actor, including the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards (which DiCaprio wasn’t nominated). Meanwhile, Chiwetel Ejiofor has been the critics’ darling, winning the majority of their awards for his powerful performance. But here’s the twist! Leonardo DiCaprio has taken the scene by storm, offering an even bigger possible surprise come March 2. DiCaprio has been floating under the radar all season long because of the late release date for The Wolf of Wall Street. But by now, everyone has seen the Scorsese masterpiece. There is certainly a lot of love for Leo in The Academy and he’s definitely due for an Oscar. But is there a hotter actor than McConaughey at the moment? All three men are deserving for this award, but which one will take it?

Will Win: Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club

Mike: I think Leo should win for Best Actor. Why you ask? Leo is possibly the only true movie star left in Hollywood. Plus, the man gives an incredible performance in Scorsese’s film. Just when I thought he couldn’t get any better, he goes and knocks it out of the park. His performance led us into the mind of a money-hungry individual who will stop at nothing to preserve himself. He was giving us a class in masters acting.

Should Win: Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Actress

Amy Adams – American Hustle
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock – Gravity
Judi Dench – Philomena
Meryl Streep – August: Osage County

Rob: There’s no contest here.

Will Win: Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine

Mike: I think Meryl Streep should win. Because its Meryl freaking Streep! She was great in August: Osage county who plays a character you hate and yet somehow can relate to. Another home run performance from the master herself. That’s all I have to say about that.

Should Win: Meryl Streep – August: Osage County

Best Supporting Actor

Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper – American Hustle
Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

Rob: There’s not much to write about this category. While there are some great performances nominated, Jared Leto is a lock to win.

Will win: Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

Mike: I think anyone BUT Jared Leto should win. I know Leto will end up winning this category and I think he did a great job in Dallas Buyers Club. But I think every other single nominee did a better acting job than he did. Abdi did an amazing job as a pirate in Captain Phillips. Bradley Cooper was awesome in American Hustle. You really believed he was naive and power hungry throughout the film. Michael Fassbender was scary good in 12 Years a Slave. He is almost too convincing as a slave owner. And as for Jonah Hill… if you would have told me 3 years ago that Jonah Hill would be a two-time Oscar nominee, I woulds slapped you in the face and laughed. But damn can that kid bring it. He was awesome in Wolf of Wall Street and I think he edges out the rest of the competition.

Should Win: Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Supporting Actress

Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts – August: Osage County
June Squibb – Nebraska

Rob: We have quite a race in this category between Lupita Nyong’o and Jennifer Lawrence. Nyong’o is the new kid on the block since 12 Years a Slave is her first film, while it’s safe to say that Jennifer Lawrence has been the most popular actress for the past few years. Lawrence won the Golden Globes, but Nyong’o won the SAG award. This is practically a coin flip if you ask me. If 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture, it should win a few other big awards such as this one. But then again, like I said earlier this might be American Hustle’s best chance at winning an Oscar. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to see Jennifer Lawrence trip up the stairs to the podium again?

Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle

Mike: I think Lupita Nyong’o should win for Best Supporting Actress. She nailed her part in 12 Years a Slave and I felt horrible for her character and what she had to go through, especially having a slave owner like Fassbender who was using her in the wort ways possible. Her performance was haunting and will not be easily forgotten for years to come.

Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave

Best Original Screenplay

American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Dallas Buyers Club
Her
Nebraska

Rob: This will be David O. Russell’s third nomination for a screenplay category, but he’s up against the slight favorite, Spike Jonze for his screenplay for Her. This is Jonze’s first nomination for a screenplay, but he has a lot of support from the WGA. All signs are pointing at Jonze to win his first Oscar since he’s already won the Golden Globes for Best Screenplay and the WGA. Russell is certainly a spoiler possibility since there is still plenty of support for American Hustle, but I think Jonze will and should win.

Will Win: Her (Spike Jonze)

Mike: Possibly my favorite category every year, I think Her should win this category. The writing in this film was simply awesome. It’s full of down to earth crude humor, including phone sex, plus talking computers, and yet still managed to be incredibly moving and emotional. If that isn’t great writing then I don’t know what is. Jonze took a traditional story and re-imagined it with something that has been done to death, yet this still take seemed fresh and fascinating. It also did a great job of capturing a feel of where we are going to be very soon in society. This is awesome times ten.

Should Win: Her (Spike Jonze)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Before Midnight
Captain Phillips
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Rob: This is John Ridley’s to win for 12 Years a Slave. Ridley has been nominated once before for co-writing Three Kings with David O. Russell, but this is his year to shine.

Will Win: 12 Years a Slave (John Ridley)

Mike: Wolf of Wall Street should win for Best Adapted Screenplay. This was one of the funniest films of the year, and I don’t think there is a single joke in the film. That’s quite an accomplishment that takes good writing. There were also some really good monologues for both DiCaprio and McConaughey, and just a general tone with words that was fun to listen to. Also lets not forget to mention it had the most uses of the F word, ever. That sounds like an Oscar to me!

Should Win: The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Score

The Book Thief
Gravity
Her
Philomena
Saving Mr. Banks

Rob: Gravity is favorite to win this category, like it is with most of the technical categories. Though there is a slight road block in its way in the shape and form of the rock star power of William Butler (Arcade Fire). Butler and Owen Pallett scored Her, a film that is certaily beloved by many, which means it could make a serious push to try to win at least one award (though I still think its best chance is for Best Original Screenplay). Also, the legend that is John Williams is nominated for his work on The Book Thief. This is his 49th nomination!

Will Win: Gravity

Mike: Gravity should win here, in my opinion. A small part of the reason I’m picking Gravity is because none of the other nominees really jumped out at me. Where is American Hustle’s nomination? Or even The Hunger Games: Catching Fire? Both of those films had really cool original scores. Anyway, Gravity had a very different feel to the score. There were a lot of violins and it really felt kind of mechanical, which blended really well with the visuals of the film.

Should Win: Gravity

Best Original Song

“Happy” from Despicable Me 2
“Let It Go” from Frozen
“The Moon Song” from Her
“Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
“Alone, Yet Not Alone” from Alone Yet Not Alone

Rob: Frozen’s “Let It Go” is certainly the favorite, and it definitely deserves the award, but just like the Best Score category there is an obstacle in its way… the star power of U2 will try and upset the front-runner. U2’s “Ordinary Love” in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom won the Golden Globes award for Best Original Song, in the year that the great Nelson Mandela passed away. While I’m sticking with my gut, there is a strong stench of upset all over this.

Will Win: “Let It Go”

Mike: “Let It Go” from Frozen should win here.This movie was just a massive hit and that has a lot to do with the songs, with “Let It Go” as the stand-out selection. It’s being touted as the best animated film in a long time, and I’d have to agree with that. Also, it helps having a Broadway veteran belt out this powerful girl-power tune.

Should Win: “Let It Go”

Best Film Editing

American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
12 Years a Slave

Rob: This one is a two-way race between Gravity and Captain Phillips. In Captain Phillips’ corner, Christopher Rouse has worked with director Paul Greengrass before. Rouse has won an Oscar for The Bourne Ultimatum, and also received a nod for United 93. Greengrass and Rouse are known for their very quick cuts and fast editing to enhance suspense and tension in a frantic way. Meanwhile, Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger edited Gravity. Cuaron has been nominated once before for Children of Men. What really has made my mind is how this award tends to go towards thrillers. Past winners include Argo, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Slumdog Millionaire. Captain Phillips fits into this group of films more than Gravity does.

Will Win: Captain Phillips

Mike: OK, by now its going to seem as if i am very bias toward this movie, but again I think Gravity should win. My reasoning for this is while watching the movie I wasn’t aware of the “cuts” during the film. It seemed seamless. The transitions just weren’t noticeable, and when you watch a film that is a rare occurrence. Plus, to really make all the action in space feel believable, that includes plenty of editing tricks. Overall, Gravity has accomplished movie magic unlike any movie before.

Should Win: Gravity

Best Cinematography

The Grandmaster
Gravity
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska
Prisoners

Rob: Once again, Gravity is the heavy favorite here. Emmanuel Lubezki is a great cinematographer and his work in Gravity is simply stunning. He’s been nominated five times before for films such as The Tree of Life and Children of Men, but has yet to win. You can say that he’s over-due.

Spoiler Alert: Roger Deakins is nominated for his work in Prisoners. This is Deakin’s 11th nomination for Best Cinematography and he has yet to win! Will The Academy finally award Deakins the award that has eluded him for two decades? Some of his works include The Shawshank Redemption, No Country for Old Men, and Skyfall. Honestly, if Deakins steals this one from Gravity, I wouldn’t be upset.

Will Win: Gravity

Mike: Gravity should win for Best Cinematography. First of all, it’s a tragedy that The Wolf of Wall Street was snubbed from this category! But Gravity is a visually awesome film, you just cannot deny that. The wide shots of Earth, fixed in with the backgrounds of space really makes for some great eye candy that the cinematography had to imagine on his own while filming. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been. So my pick goes to Gravity.

Should Win: Gravity

Best Visual Effects

Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Lone Ranger
Star Trek Into Darkness

Rob: I’m not sure if there isn’t a more sure bet than this category. Gravity will certainly win this award.

Win Win: Gravity

Mike: Gravity should win this award, hands down! This was a film that made me feel like I was in outer space. Not that I was watching people in space, but that I was actually floating around myself! This is just a masterfully orchestrated visual landscape between space and Earth that left my brain gasping for oxygen. Beautiful!

Should Win: Gravity

Best Sound Editing

All is Lost
Captain Phillips
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Lone Survivor

Best Sound Mixing

Captain Phillips
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Inside Llewyn Davis
Lone Survivor

Rob: These awards should be towards the beginning of the telecast and when when Gravity will start racking up the awards. Being nominated for all 7 technical categories, there’s no doubt that Gravity was an amazing visual and special effects masterpiece. It shouldn’t have any problem winning these, especially when one movie usually ends up winning both awards, such as impressive technical films like Inception and Hugo.

Will Win: Gravity/Gravity

Mike: Let me preface both of these categories by saying it is next to impossible to identify how well thse jobs are done when watching a film in theaters. That being said, I think Gravity should win for Sound Editing because there were so many different elements of sound that needed to be keenly edited in order to sound realistic. Whether it was the breathing of Sandra Bullock or the jet thrusters on George Clooney, these sounds were very specific to the environment they were in.

Also, Gravity should win for Best Sound Mixing. They were able to combine all the different sounds so smoothly. It made for an acoustically believable film.

Should Win: Gravity/Gravity

Best Costume Design

12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
The Grandmaster
The Great Gatsby
The Invisible Woman

Rob: Period films usually win this award, so it looks like it’s going to be American Hustle vs. The Great Gatsby here. It’s really tough not to pick The Great Gatsby for both categories, especially since Catherine Martin is a past winner. But then again, there’s Patricia Norris (12 Years a Slave) who is a six-time Oscar nominee seeking her first golden statue. While American Hustle has a better chance upsetting than 12 Years a Slave does, I think Martin will win Best Costume Design.

Will Win: The Great Gatsby

Mike: American Hustle should win Best Costume Design. The film did a great job of re-creating the period and the costumes really  made me feel like they were in the ’80s. If I could pick a close second it would be 12 Years a Slave, because they also did a great job re-creating the period.

Should Win: American Hustle

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Dallas Buyers Club
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
The Lone Ranger

Rob: I can’t see Dallas Buyers Club losing this category, unless voters feel that the actors did most of the work by losing weight. I guess there’s a chance that Bad Grandpa can pull off the upset, but honestly, I can’t predict anyone else than DBC here.

Will Win: Dallas Buyers Club

Mike: I really feel like The Lone Ranger should win here. My simple reason is because there was the most amount of work to be done in this film. You have two versions of Johnny Depp’s Tonto, and both required a lot of makeup and hairstyling. It was a really well done job and I think better than the other nominees.

Should Win: The Lone Ranger

Best Production Design

12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Gravity
The Great Gatsby
Her

Rob: Let’s face it, Best Production Design has rarely gone to the winner of Best Picture. So it’s almost safe to say we can simply rule out 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, and Gravity right from the get-go. In the past 10 years, six winners have been period pieces (Lincoln, Hugo, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Pan’s Labyrinth, Memoirs of a Geisha, and The Aviator). Of the past four years, three of the winners have been quite colorful and” cartoonish” (Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, Hugo). Also, Catherine Martin (The Great Gatsby) has already won two Oscars for her work on Moulin Rouge!, another Baz Luhrmann film. I think it’s pretty safe to say The Great Gatsby will win this award.

Will Win: The Great Gatsby

Mike: I think The Great Gatsby should win. With art deco inspirations, it created almost a cartoon version of the 1920’s era. I felt every detail, from hair, makeup, costume, sets, and especially color throughout the film. There must’ve been a lot of work that went into the production and to me it’s the best.

Should Win: The Great Gatsby

Best Animated Feature

The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
Frozen
The Wind Rises

Rob: Frozen was one of the biggest films of the year, that cannot be disputed. It’s strange not to have a Pixar film nominated, but this is Disney’s chance to pounce (when it should’ve won last year as well for Wreck-It Ralph). There’s a slight spoiler alert in The Wind Rises, supposedly Hayao Miyazaki’s last film.

Will Win: Frozen

All right, well those are my picks. There were some categories that I didn’t focus on, but my picks are:

Best Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty
Best Documentary: The Act of Killing
Best Documentary Short: The Lady in Number 6
Best Live Action Short: The Voorman Problem
Best Animated Short: Get a Horse!

Anyway, let’s see how the ceremony goes on March 2. Hopefully I get at least 17 predictions correct. Will it be a complete Gravity sweep, including Best Picture? Will 12 Years a Slave win the most Oscars of the night, taking Best Pic, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress? Will American Hustle shock everyone and win its major categories?

Only time will tell.


American Hustle for Best Picture?

February 11, 2014

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We’re almost two weeks away from the Academy Awards, and I’m not going to stop scrutinizing them up until the ceremony. That being said, I still feel like American Hustle is going to win Best Picture, but that can easily change since this race is the closest in a very long time.

Do you want a statistic? Since 1960, there have been seven films (prior to this year) that have had nominations in all four acting categories:

1966 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
1967 – Bonnie and Clyde
1967 – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
1976 – Network
1978 – Coming Home
1981 – Reds
2012 – Silver Linings Playbook

Out of these seven films, guess how many won Best Picture? ZERO. Yes, even the year where two films had all four acting category nominees, neither of them won Best Picture. Will the trend continue, or can you say that American Hustle is over-due?

In Oscar History, American Hustle is the 15th film to have all four acting category nominations, and only two wound up winning Best Picture. So it’s not like it’s impossible, but you would think that receiving all those noms, they’d be a front-runner for Best Picture, unless it’s really not that big of a deal to the rest of the Academy.

So what am I saying? Well, actors usually thank their directors for their recognition. In the past two years, David O. Russell has scored EIGHT Oscar nominations for his actors. Has that ever happened before? Someone look that up for me, but I doubt it. While it looks like Alfonso Cuaron is in the lead for Best Director, American Hustle could very well be the first film to win Best Picture but lose on all of its acting nominations. It’s that tight and crazy of a year.

Hey, it can happen.


2014 Producers Guild Award Winners

January 20, 2014

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And just like that, we have a race again! While American Hustle looked to be steamrolling its way to a clear Best Picture win, the PGA throws us a curve-ball. Here were the nominees:

American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Saving Mr. Banks
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

For the first time in its history, the PGA Award for Best Picture resulted in a TIE! And even more surprising, American Hustle wasn’t one of the two films that tied. The award went to 12 Years a Slave and Gravity. Wow!

Everyone knows the PGA Award is a big deal. Looking at past winners, the PGA Best Picture has matched the Oscar Best Picture the last six years. So while American Hustle was the clear front-runner, it’s not anymore. We’re still left with a three-movie race for Best Picture between American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave.


2014 Screen Actors Guild Award Winners

January 20, 2014

sag_logo

The SAG is the largest guild who vote for the Oscars, and that’s exactly the reason why people pay close attention to the SAG awards. The nominees for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture were:

12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
August: Osage County
Dallas Buyers Club
Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Of these nominees, 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle are favorites for Best Picture, though Dallas Buyers Club is certainly gaining momentum with its support for McConaughey and Leto. But when they announced the winner, the front-runner took the award, American Hustle. Does this make it the clear favorite to win Best Picture? At the moment, yes.

Here are the other winners from the ceremony (winners are in bold):

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniels’ The Butler)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
Daniel Bruhl (Rush)
Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
James Gandolfini (Enough Said)
Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
June Squibb (Nebraska)
Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels’ The Butler)

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

All is Lost
Fast & Furious 6
Lone Survivor
Rush
The Wolverine

It’s noteworthy that Jennifer Lawrence didn’t win the Supporting Actress category, falling to Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave). This will be a huge shift to what everyone thought was a lock for Lawrence to win her second Oscar. Nyong’o might be 12 Years a Slave’s best chance at snagging a Top 6 Oscar award, and people may very well vote that way.

Here are the TV awards from the night

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

Matt Damon (“Behind the Candelabra”)
Michael Douglas (“Behind the Candelabra”)
Jeremy Irons (“The Hollow Crown”)
Rob Lowe (“Killing Kennedy”)
Al Pacino (“Phil Spector”)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

Angela Bassett (“Betty & Coretta”)
Helena Bonham Carter (“Burton and Taylor”)
Holly Hunter (“Top of the Lake”)
Helen Mirren (“Phil Spector”)
Elisabeth Moss (“Top of the Lake”)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

Steve Buscemi (“Boardwalk Empire”)
Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”)
Jeff Daniels (“The Newsroom”)
Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”)
Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series

Claire Danes (“Homeland”)
Anna Gunn (“Breaking Bad”)
Jessica Lange (“American Horror Story: Coven”)
Maggie Smith (“Downton Abbey”)
Kerry Washington (“Scandal”)

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

“Boardwalk Empire”
“Breaking Bad”
“Downton Abbey”
“Game of Thrones”
“Homeland”

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

Alec Baldwin (“30 Rock”)
Jason Bateman (“Arrested Development”)
Ty Burrell (“Modern Family”)
Don Cheadle (“House of Lies”)
Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

Mayim Bialik (“The Big Bang Theory”)
Julie Bowen (“Modern Family”)
Edie Falco (“Nurse Jackie”)
Tina Fey (“30 Rock”)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”)

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series

“30 Rock”
“Arrested Development”
“The Big Bang Theory”
“Modern Family”
“Veep”

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Television Series

“Boardwalk Empire”
“Breaking Bad”
“Game of Thrones”
“Homeland”
“The Walking Dead”


2014 Oscar Nominees Announced!

January 16, 2014

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So what do you think? To me there are a few surprises and snubs, first and foremost with Christian Bale‘s surprising nomination for Best Actor, beating out the likes of Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Robert Redford (All is Lost) and Joaquin Phoenix (Her). I’ll discuss this further later on.

Next, Saving Mr. Banks was expected to be nominated for Best Picture, but it was beat out by Philomena. Even more surprising was Emma Thompson being snubbed for Best Actress and Tom Hanks for Best Suppoting Actor. No love for Saving Mr. Banks.

I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I’m happy to say I did predict Jonah Hill to be nominated for his supporting role in The Wolf of Wall Street, though I’m disappointed that Daniel Bruhl didn’t get the recognition he most definitely deserves. And where is Oprah?! No Oprah in the Supporting Actress category for her performance in The Butler. Instead, Sally Hawkins took the nomination.

What else? Monsters University wasn’t nominated for Best Animated Feature… does this mark the first time a Pixar film wasn’t nominated? I’ll have to check into that. And Alexander Payne over Paul Greengrass for Best Director… while I don’t mind it, I was slightly surprised.

Here is the complete list of nominees:

Best Picture

“12 Years a Slave”
“American Hustle”
“Captain Phillips”
“Dallas Buyers Club”
“Gravity”
“Her”
“Nebraska”
“Philomena”
“The Wolf of Wall Street”

 

Best Director

Alfonso Cuarón, “Gravity”
Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”
Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”
David O. Russell, “American Hustle”
Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street”

 

Best Lead Actor

Christian Bale, “American Hustle”
Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”
Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”
Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street”

 

Best Lead Actress

Amy Adams, “American Hustle”
Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Judi Dench, “Philomena”
Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”
Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”

 

Best Supporting Actor

Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”
Bradley Cooper, “American Hustle”
Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”
Jonah Hill, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”

 

Best Supporting Actress

Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”
Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”
Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”
June Squibb, “Nebraska”

 

Best Animated Feature

“The Croods”
“Despicable Me 2”
“Ernest & Celestine”
“Frozen”
“The Wind Rises”

 

Best Cinematography

“The Grandmaster,” Philippe Le Sourd
“Gravity,” Emmanuel Lubezki
“Inside Llewyn Davis,” Bruno Delbonnel
“Nebraska,” Phedon Papamichael
“Prisoners,” Roger A. Deakins

NOTE: This is Roger Deakins’ 11th nomination for cinematography, and he has yet to win. Will this finally be the year?!

 

Best Costume Design

“American Hustle,” Michael Wilkinson
“The Grandmaster,” William Chang Suk Ping
“The Great Gatsby,” Catherine Martin
“The Invisible Woman,” Michael O’Connor
“12 Years a Slave,” Patricia Norris

 

Best Documentary Feature

“The Act of Killing”
“Cutie and the Boxer”
“Dirty Wars”
“The Square”
“20 Feet from Stardom”

 

Best Documentary Short Subject

“CaveDigger”
“Facing Fear”
“Karama Has No Walls”
“The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life”
“Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall”

 

Best Film Editing

“American Hustle,” Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten
“Captain Phillips,” Christopher Rouse
“Dallas Buyers Club,” John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa
“Gravity,” Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger
“12 Years a Slave,” Joe Walker

 

Best Foreign Language Film

“The Broken Circle Breakdown,” Belgium
“The Great Beauty,” Italy
“The Hunt,” Denmark
“The Missing Picture,” Cambodia
“Omar,” Palestine

 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

“Dallas Buyers Club,” Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews
“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa,” Stephen Prouty
“The Lone Ranger,” Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny

 

Best Original Score

“The Book Thief,” John Williams
“Gravity,” Steven Price
“Her,” William Butler and Owen Pallett
“Philomena,” Alexandre Desplat
“Saving Mr. Banks,” Thomas Newman

 

Best Original Song

“Alone Yet Not Alone” from “Alone Yet Not Alone”
“Happy” from “Despicable Me 2”
“Let It Go” from “Frozen”
“The Moon Song” from “Her”
“Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”

 

Best Production Design

“American Hustle,” Production Design: Judy Becker; Set Decoration: Heather Loeffler
“Gravity,” Production Design: Andy Nicholson; Set Decoration: Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard
“The Great Gatsby,” Production Design: Catherine Martin; Set Decoration: Beverley Dunn
“Her,” Production Design: K.K. Barrett; Set Decoration: Gene Serdena
“12 Years a Slave,” Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Alice Baker

 

Best Animated Short Film

“Feral”
“Get a Horse!”
“Mr. Hublot”
“Possessions”
“Room on the Broom”

 

Best Live Action Short Film

“Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)”
“Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything)”
“Helium”
“Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)”
“The Voorman Problem”

 

Best Sound Editing

“All Is Lost,” Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns
“Captain Phillips,” Oliver Tarney
“Gravity,” Glenn Freemantle
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” Brent Burge
“Lone Survivor,” Wylie Stateman

 

Best Sound Mixing

“Captain Phillips,” Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro
“Gravity,” Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson
“Inside Llewyn Davis,” Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
“Lone Survivor,” Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow

 

Best Visual Effects

“Gravity,” Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds
“Iron Man 3,” Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick
“The Lone Ranger,” Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier
“Star Trek Into Darkness,” Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

“Before Midnight,” written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
“Captain Phillips,” screenplay by Billy Ray
“Philomena,” screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
“12 Years a Slave,” screenplay by John Ridley
“The Wolf of Wall Street,” screenplay by Terence Winter

 

Best Original Screenplay

“American Hustle” Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
“Blue Jasmine” Written by Woody Allen
“Dallas Buyers Club” Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack
“Her” Written by Spike Jonze
“Nebraska” Written by Bob Nelson


Top Ten Movies of 2013

January 15, 2014

10. American Hustle

american-hustle-pic

David O. Russell brings back most of his acting favorites for one heck of a movie about a con-team who works with the FBI to bring down a number of politicians and mobsters in the ’70s. It’s a whole lot of fun with an ensemble that is second to none. What I enjoyed the most about American Hustle is how the film keeps you guessing around every corner. The plot weaves in-and-out, but never in a way that will leave you scratching your head. And you can just tell that most of these actors had the time of their lives being completely outrageous following the fun script. That just made it that much more fun to watch.

I foresee a lot of awards in its future, and while it’s somewhat worthy, I feel that the film substituted true substance for style. That’s why it found its way at the bottom of my list rather than at the top. But in a year full of great movies, American Hustle is definitely one of them.

9. Rush

rush-pic

One of the most underrated films of the year goes to Ron Howard’s racing bio-pic about the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda in Formula One competition. The film did a great job balancing Hunt and Lauda’s life and their passion for racing. Usually in films about rivals, the movie will nudge one character as the one you should root for, but not Rush. It’s a roller-coaster ride between Hunt and Lauda and I found my allegiance often swaying back-and-forth. This is what makes the film special.

Rush doesn’t shy away from exploiting their flaws either, and they both have plenty. Who do you root for towards the end? The handsome, playboy with pure talent but who doesn’t take the game seriously, or the douche-bag who has sacrificed and worked his whole life to perfect his cars and racing strategies? This isn’t your regular sports film. It’s much better.

8. Captain Phillips

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I just noticed that my 10 through 8 picks are all movies based on true stories. Anyway, Captain Phillips is one firecracker of a film. Paul Greengrass is a master of suspense and it sure doesn’t hurt having Tom Hanks in the middle of all the action. What starts off as just a pirate hi-jacking of a U.S. container ship turns into an international spectacle with the whole world watching.

The actors who portray the Somalis give a ruthless quality to the pirates, especially Barkhad Abdi. But all through the journey you’re alongside Tom Hanks, putting yourself in his shoes and wondering how long can he survive. With a number of movies this year about survival, Captain Phillips is one of the best.

7. Nebraska

nebraska-pic

I’ve always been a fan of Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants) and here he continues to explore the landscape of family dramas. The Grant family is a classic Payne product. Woody is losing it and truly believes he won a million dollars in a magazine sweepstakes while his son, David, reluctantly agrees to drive him to collect his winnings. Nebraska is funny, heart-felt, and like all Payne films a bit depressing.

Nebraska is an intimate look on the foundation of family, not just the Grants, but all families. While the film has its hilarious moments, specifically the scene where the sons attempt to steal back their father’s old air compressor, it’s careful enough not to make a mockery of the elderly. The father-and-son story-line drives Nebraska from the beginning and with Payne’s direction and the acting of Bruce Dern, June Squibb, and Will Forte, they all deliver an outstanding movie.

6. Mud

mud-pic

Matthew McConaughey has had a very impressive year, there’s no denying it. While his performance in Dallas Buyers Club is more noteworthy, Mud is the superior film. Tye Sheridon shines at the main character, a teenager named Ellis, who with his best friend Neckbone discover a mysterious fugitive living on an island in the Mississippi. The movie starts out simple, but pulls back layer-by-layer as the situation becomes more complicated. Every main character is fully developed and even the side characters offer a great deal to the background of the plot.

Enough can’t be said about this small, independent drama and how love is seen through the young mind of Ellis. There is also a lot of focus on the Southern rural setting the film takes place in, which provides Mud with a rich world these characters live in. And the ending is one of the most suspenseful sequences of all 2013. Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter) is becoming a true talent among the group of writer/directors. Look out for him to break out in the near future.

5. The Wolf of Wall Street

wolf-of-wall-street-pic

Martin Scorsese packs a punch in his new, lengthy satire full of chaos, debauchery, and offensive material. But boy, it was sure a fun ride! And has Leonardo DiCaprio ever been so good before? His performance as the out-of-control Jordan Belfort takes the rags-to-riches story to a whole new level.

In addition to DiCaprio, you have Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, and others providing their outbursts in small doses, but as a whole the overall performance of this ensemble is excellent. One thing that I didn’t anticipate from The Wolf of Wall Street was how legitimately funny it was. It’s impossible not to be mesmerized by the circus the movie creates, and you’re never bored during the three hours because everything is in constant motion. Sure, The Wolf of Wall Street isn’t for everyone, but it sure was for me.

4. 12 Years a Slave

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This is the most powerful film of the year and on that merit alone it places as my fourth favorite film of 2013. It’s not an easy film to watch, but for those who can stomach the violent scenes you will be rewarded by a top-class film not just of 2013, but in movie history.

Then why isn’t this my top film of the year? Well, the same reason why it’s hard for me to admit that I love Million Dollar Baby and Amour, because it’s challenging and depressing. Without a doubt it’s a great film and on those grounds alone it would arguably be my top pick, but I can’t say it’s my favorite film of the year. 12 Years a Slave will put you through pain and agony while watching, but it’s bold and deserves much credit where it’s due. Steve McQueen doesn’t hold back with what many have said is the most realistic portrayal of slavery ever shown.

What shoots out as most memorable for me (aside from the gruesome whipping scene) was how McQueen tested your patience with extended scenes. Many directors would have cut a scene much shorter, and in your mind you expect certain moments to end, but instead they keep going on. The additional seconds seem like minutes, and it certainly boosts the intensity level and rounds it out with even more weight. 12 Years a Slave is a daring, taxing movie that is one of the most important non-documentary films in the decade.

3. Her

her-pic

It’s such a simple title, but it’s one complex movie. Her is Spike Jonze’s latest and certainly one that will linger in your heart and on your mind because it’s that good. The movie asks questions that will make you wonder exactly where you stand in the world of relationships and human intimacy. The twist in this slightly-futuristic world is how Theodore falls in love with his operating system. How can this be?

But as you watch the film, you don’t doubt the closeness the two have nor do you doubt that the feelings really do exist between Theodore and Samantha. Instead, you’re worried like a parent is for their child about someone getting hurt. We can’t understand the programming of Samantha and it’s even more frustrating listening to how she can’t understand it either. It’s a quirky film, but it has mainstream power with great acting and a unique premise.

Joaquin Phoenix gives another great performance as Theodore, a man struggling through life after a divorce. He’s a kind, soft man, someone who is easy to sympathize with. After watching Her, you’ll re-evaluate your life, where you stand with your friends, families, significant other, and compare them with Theodore and Samantha.

2. Before Midnight

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This is the third installment of the Before series by Richard Linklater, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. After the cliffhanger from Before Sunset, all the questions are immediately answered. And just like the previous two films, Before Midnight is dialogue-heavy as Celine and Jesse spend some time in Greece with family and friends.

It’s refreshing that movies like these can still be made. The budget is low but the characters are as rich as any in the past decade. What Before Midnight does that the first two of the trilogy hasn’t was include more characters than just the two of them. The scene with everyone eating lunch is a great one that encapsulates the whole idea of these movies within a scene. Everyone has their own story to tell and has their own opinion about life and love. It all pours out during that scene and it’s incredibly intriguing.

The words that are spoken in Before Midnight are honest and heart-felt. There are many times when you forget your watching a movie because it feels like a home video. This is only possible when the acting is great and the direction is flawless. After the movie ends it still left me wanting more. One of the greatest feats for this trilogy is how the conversations change through the different stages of their lives. I really hope there’s a fourth movie in the works.

1. Gravity

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My favorite movie of the year was also my most anticipated movie of the year. I love Alfonso Cuaron and when the buzz started forming around a movie set in space that has mind-blowing visuals and effects, I was sold. I saw the movie in my IMAX theater in 3-D and it most definitely didn’t disappoint. It’s rare for films to truly make me wonder how it was done, but Gravity provided me with plenty of head-scratching scenes.

In addition to it being a visual masterpiece, the acting was well done by Sandra Bullock, the story contained a lot of emotion and heart with a story about survival, and the pacing was exceptional. When I say Gravity is the movie experience of the century, I mean it. And how many movies can you think of that MUST be seen in IMAX 3-D to fully experience it? Gravity is number one on that list.

Sure, there are scientific errors that have been pointed out all over the Internet, but is that really the point? It’s the same thing when there are arguments that a “based on a true story” film is inaccurate. These are movies that are purely meant to entertain, and there isn’t another movie that I enjoyed more this year than Gravity.


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