Reaction: The Nominations (87th Academy Awards)

January 15, 2015

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Well, you can’t be shocked by the amount of surprises that The Academy showed us this morning when the nominations were announced. The first surprise was how The Lego Movie wasn’t nominated for Best Animated Feature. Seriously, I thought that was a lock for a nomination, but it wasn’t acknowledged by The Academy. Then as the categories were getting announced, I noticed a few trends: American Sniper was receiving a lot of love (the exact opposite that I expected), Gone Girl and Selma was getting NOTHING, and how Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel were cleaning up the show (they both lead with 9 nominations). There are two other things that I noticed: with Bradley Cooper’s nomination for American Sniper, he’s been nominated three years in a row! Not too shabby at all. And finally, that there is not one film nominated for Best Picture that grossed over $100 million. Doesn’t that defeat the original purpose of expanding the Best Picture nominations? Anyway, let’s take a closer look at the Big 8 Categories:

Best Picture

  • American Sniper
  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • Selma
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Whiplash

First and foremost, there were only 8 nominees, instead of the 9 that a lot of people predicted. That being said, what surprised me was how Foxcatcher didn’t get a nomination. It’s even stranger because Bennett Miller was able to snag a Best Director nomination, which USUALLY means the film will get a Best Picture nod. On top of that, Steve Carell got a Best Actor nomination, so there was love for the film, but no Best Picture nod. Strange. Anyway, I’m so happy that Whiplash got a Best Picture nomination because it was one of my favorite films of the year, but it was certainly a smaller film that wasn’t getting the support or campaign from Sony Pictures Classics (who supported Foxcatcher instead). And finally, it was good to see Selma get a nomination, but for a movie that was receiving a lot of momentum heading into the Oscar nominations, it really limped its way into the big award. More to come about that.

Best Director

  • Alejandro Inarritu (Birdman)
  • Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
  • Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)
  • Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
  • Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)

While it was sure that Inarritu, Linklater, and Anderson was going to receive nominations, the final two were a bit up in the air. I’m glad Tyldum received a nod, reassuring The Imitation Game’s strength through awards season, but Miller was certainly the surprise here. The way The Academy supported American Sniper, I couldn’t believe that it received a Best Picture nod without a Best Director nod to Clint Eastwood. And Miller gets in without a Best Picture nod for Foxcatcher? Seriously, something doesn’t make sense here. Also, Ava DuVernay (Selma) was snubbed, which would’ve been the first African American female nominated for this category. This year’s Oscars is certainly a white-wash. To be fair, I haven’t seen Selma yet so maybe it didn’t deserve the nominations that a lot of people predicted.

Best Actor

  • Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)
  • Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)
  • Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)
  • Michael Keaton (Birdman)
  • Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

The snub: David Oyelowo of Selma. This is going to be a hard pill to swallow for fans of Selma, because Oyelowo was considered a lock for a nomination. Still, this race is between Keaton and Redmayne (who both won on the Golden Globes) with the edge going to Keaton. But if Keaton loses at the SAG Awards, then it’ll be a whole new ball game for Best Actor.

Best Actress

  • Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night)
  • Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)
  • Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
  • Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
  • Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

The snub: Jennifer Aniston (Cake). That was really it. I feel like there wasn’t enough people who saw Cake and therefore Aniston didn’t get enough votes. Though it wasn’t like Two Days, One Night was a big movie but The Academy loves her so they swung her way.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Robert Duvall (The Judge)
  • Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)
  • Edward Norton (Birdman)
  • Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)
  • J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

These were the nominees expected and The Academy came through. Nothing else to say here.

Best Supporting Actress

  • Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
  • Laura Dern (Wild)
  • Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)
  • Emma Stone (Birdman)
  • Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)

The snub: Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year). While Chastain can be considered a snub, these five women who received the nomination are all deserving. I’m glad Laura Dern snuck into the category because she was great in Wild. And this is Streep’s 19th Oscar nomination. Just wow!

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • American Sniper
  • The Imitation Game
  • Inherent Vice
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Whiplash

Again, I was a fool to think The Academy wasn’t going to go for American Sniper, but I guess that’s what happens when I don’t get to see a movie before the nominations. I’m glad that Whiplash got a nomination here, but I really felt Wild and Gone Girl would get a nod. But like I said above, there was love for American Sniper and none for Gone Girl.

Best Original Screenplay

  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • Foxcatcher
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Nightcrawler

The snub: Selma and Mr. Turner. Mike Leigh has been nominated five times before for his screenplays, so I was a bit surprised to see that Mr. Turner wasn’t in the mix for Best Original Screenplay. And of course, the lack of love for Selma from The Academy. I am glad that Gilroy’s Nightcrawler got in here because that was certainly one of the most underrated films of the year.

So those are the major awards. Some other things to point out: I couldn’t believe that Life Itself wasn’t nominated for Best Documentary. It was about the best movie critic of all time for crying out loud! And to me, I always look at the Film Editing category to see which films are really in the race for Best Picture. All five Best Editing nominations are also in for Best Picture, so in a way that’s a better standard than Best Director (especially from the past few years). And finally, Roger Deakins gets his 11th nomination for his cinematography work for Unbroken. He has yet to win. Come on Academy, throw the guy a bone! That’s all for now.

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Predicting the Nominees (87th Academy Awards)

January 13, 2015

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While it’s certainly fun to predict the winners, it’s even more challenging to try and predict the nominees and that’s what I’ll try to do right here, right now! Like I’ve said in my previous posts, 2014 had a great number of movies that are Oscar-worthy, but unfortunately not all of them can receiving nominations. No matter how the race shapes up on the announcement Thursday morning, there will be plenty of snubs. So without anything else, here are my predictions:

Best Picture

  • Boyhood
  • Birdman
  • The Imitation Game
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Selma
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Gone Girl
  • Foxcatcher
  • Whiplash

The top six films here seem to be set and there seems to be a consensus that nine films will be nominated, so that means the last three spots are up in the air. I’m going first with Gone Girl to receive a nomination because 1. we found out two years ago how much the Academy loves Ben Affleck, 2. its excellence from Fincher (director), Pike (actress), and Flynn (screenplay), and 3. it received a PGA nod.

With two films remaining (and plenty of films), my next prediction goes to Foxcatcher. The SAG gave nods to Carell and Ruffalo and the PGA also gave it a nomination. I think it has just enough momentum to snag a Best Picture nomination.

This means with only one spot left, my guess will be for Whiplash. This prediction is highly personal since I loved this movie so much, but I think it’ll squeak in over the likes of American Sniper, Nightcrawler, and Into the Woods. The only thing that might hurt its chances is if not enough voters saw it, but if voters did see it then I believe they’ll fall for its power the way I did.

Best Director

  • Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
  • Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman)
  • Ava DuVernay (Selma)
  • Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
  • David Fincher (Gone Girl)

With such a great year for cinema with plenty of talented directors, there will be a handful who get snubbed this year. It’s strange that with my predictions, I have directors such as Clint Eastwood, Bennett Miller, Mike Leigh, Christopher Nolan, and Paul Thomas Anderson not receiving a nomination. But that’s how it goes in such a competitive category. My slight upset in my predictions goes to Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) being snubbed, even though it’s likely he’ll receive a nomination.

Best Actor

  • Michael Keaton (Birdman)
  • Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
  • Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)
  • Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)
  • David Oyelowo (Selma)

There has to be some snubs in this category, so I think that Oyelowo and Carell will sneak in while Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler), Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel), and Bradley Cooper (American Sniper) gets snubbed.

Best Actress

  • Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
  • Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)
  • Jennifer Aniston (Cake)
  • Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
  • Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

I feel like these nominees are locks. Can Amy Adams or Emily Blunt spoil the party for one of these women? Maybe, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Best Supporting Actor

  • J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
  • Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)
  • Edward Norton (Birdman)
  • Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)
  • Christoph Waltz (Big Eyes)

Call me crazy, but the Academy loves Christoph Waltz so I think he’ll sneak in past Robert Duvall and Josh Brolin to snag another nomination.

Best Supporting Actress

  • Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
  • Emma Stone (Birdman)
  • Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)
  • Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)
  • Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year)

This category is probably the weakest of all the major ones, but this was the best I could come up with. Maybe Laura Dern will get a nod for Wild, maybe Rene Russo for Nightcrawler, but those are my predictions.

Best Original Screenplay

  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Selma
  • Mr. Turner

I feel like Selma will have a good showing and therefore will sneak into this category, bumping out either Foxcatcher or Nightcrawler. I originally had Mr. Turner off my predictions, but realized that Mike Leigh has been nominated five times before for his screenplays, so it’s hard to ignore that fact.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • The Imitation Game
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Gone Girl
  • Whiplash
  • Wild

I really feel like the Academy isn’t going to go for American Sniper the way that some people believe. Therefore, I’m snubbing it for this category, along with the disappointing Inherent Vice and Unbroken.

Well those are my predictions. Like I said before, this is a pretty wide open year for Oscar nominations. I think that films like Unbroken and Into the woods won’t have much of an impact. Even films like Interstellar and American Sniper could have had strong showings on another year, but not this year. And I feel like Gone Girl and Foxcatcher are two films that are right on the edge of being snubbed, but will end up doing quite well. Tune into Thursday for the full list of nominees.


Movie Review: Foxcatcher

December 7, 2014

Foxcatcher (2014)
134 minutes
Rated – R
Directed by Bennett Miller
Starring: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo

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Grade: B+

This review contains some spoilers.

What is it to be patriotic? What is the American Dream? Where does one draw the line between winning and losing? How far will you go to prove something to yourself or to someone else? In Foxcatcher, Bennett Miller explores the true story of three men who challenge themselves to find the answer to these questions.

Mark Schultz (Tatum) is an Olympic gold medalist for wrestling, but you wouldn’t think it seeing the way he speaks, the way he acts and the way he lives. He’s not charismatic or social and he eats instant noodles with hot sauce for dinner. In many people’s eyes, he’s successful for winning an Olympic gold medal, but if you were to take away that medal, he’s far from being seen as a success. And the one thing that remains behind everything that he has won is that he’s living in his older brother’s shadow.

Dave Schultz (Ruffalo) is also an Olympic gold medalist for wrestling and in contrast with his brother, he’s a personable, likeable wrestler who loves his family, Mark included. Most importantly, he actually seems happy with a healthy family and worldwide accomplishments for his hard work. Is this something that Mark envies? Possibly, but Mark keeps everything inside that strong, bull-like exterior.

Their lives will change forever after John E. du Pont (Carrel) enters. Being a wrestling fan, the millionaire takes a particular interest in the Schultz brothers and offers them an opportunity to train at his world-class facility, live at his Pennsylvania estate, and create and control their own wrestling squad preparing for the Olympics. Mark signs up, but Dave stays behind unwilling to uproot his family. This becomes the start of a strange and intense friendship between Mark and John.

Foxcatcher is full of dark and depressing tones and images. Starting with the gym where the Schultz brothers train, it’s grimy and in poor shape. You would think the United States would take care of their Olympic trainees a bit more, but there isn’t much glamour in wrestling. Du Pont understands that and even talks about the Battle of Gettysburg when discussing with Mark what America owes the men who sacrifice everything for their country. Needless to say, Mark is smitten.

The film is centered around these three men and how it will inevitably lead to the tragic events that took the nation by surprise. But in the film, Miller shows us the intimate relationships, the longing for approval, and the crossed boundaries between damaged men pushing themselves and each other to the limit. In a sports sense, all of this is traditional, but Foxcatcher isn’t your feel-good underdog story. It contains a grim mood throughout as we peak inside the underwhelming life of an Olympic gold medalist and the temptations when he sees the wealth and power of a dangerous man.

This isn’t an easy movie to watch. In fact, there are many moments that feel too talky and too drawn out. It’s a very slow-burn leading up to that moment when you know du Pont will snap. But it’s a worthwhile film nonetheless due to the incredible acting performance by the trio of Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo. Miller always gets the best out of his actors and Foxcatcher just adds to it. These actors simply lose themselves in their roles and as a result, we forget that they’re just actors on a screen. That’s when you know you’re watching something special.

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Films to Watch: 2014

March 26, 2014

It’s March, so the post-Oscar vibes are finally settled and now it’s time to look forward to the upcoming movie year! It’s going to be tough to beat 2013, but here are a bunch of films I’m looking forward to.

NOTE: I didn’t include many summer blockbusters for two reasons. 1. While they’re sure to make a lot of money, those aren’t the type of movies I enjoy for the most part and 2. Hopefully this will separate my list from the rest.

Foxcatcher

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There’s no release date yet, but this film was supposed to be one of the stronger Oscar candidates in 2013 before it got pushed back. Starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo, the film is based off the Olympic wrestling gold medalist Mark Schultz’s autobiography.

Noah

Release Date: March 28

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Darren Aronofsky has never shied away from the bizarre, so it makes sense he would be the one to tackle such an epic, Biblical story. Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly and Anthony Hopkins, I’m a bit skeptical about this one, but am still excited nonetheless. From the man who brought you Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, and Black Swan, Aronofsky is one of the boldest directors of our generation.

Boyhood

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Richard Linklater has written and directed arguably the first Oscar contender of the year. The film follows a child’s journey from boy to man in Texas. Word has it that star Ellar Coltrane is incredible. I wouldn’t expect anything less from Linklater.

Jersey Boys

Release Date: June 20

This musical adaptation is directed by the legendary Clint Eastwood. If that doesn’t intrigue you enough to get you to the theaters, then I don’t know what will. How about it stars Christopher Walken.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Release Date: July 11

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With the surprise that Rise of the Planet of the Apes was in 2011, we get more of Caesar and the war between humans and apes this summer! Matt Reeves directs and the film will star Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Judy Greer, and Andy Serkis.

Gone Girl

Release Date: October 3

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You have to always keep your eye out for anything that David Fincher touches, and this is his next project. Starring Ben Affleck and adapted from the best-selling novel, this is one not to miss.

Interstellar

Release Date: November 7

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Christopher Nolan is at it again with another science fiction film starring the hottest movie star in the business, Matthew McConaughey, plus Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, and more. Since everything Nolan touches turns to gold… well you get the picture.

Inherent Vice

Release Date: December 12

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Whenever I see Paul Thomas Anderson’s name pop up anywhere, I think about the way he loves to challenge his audience with films such as The Master, There Will Be Blood, and Magnolia. His next film is an adaptation from a Thomas Pynchon novel, a crime story starring Jena Malone, Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, and more. This is a must-see.

Unbroken

Release Date: December 25

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Angelina Jolie will take another crack at directing with this bio-pic of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II. Oh, did I mention this movie was written by the Coen brothers?

Into the Woods

Release Date: December 25

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Rob Marshall is back with another musical. He won big with Chicago but flopped with Nine, so there’s really no telling how good this one will be. But with the release date and the cast starring Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, and Chris Pine, I’d say this has good Oscar potential.


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