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.

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Best Picture Breakdown (87th Academy Awards)

January 10, 2015

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I’ve been slacking a bit this year during the awards season but I’ll try to make up with it from this point on. This year is quite unique in the sense that it seems like it’s a wide open race for Best Picture. At this point last year we knew that Gravity and 12 Years a Slave would be favorites. The year before we knew Lincoln would be a favorite, with Argo’s momentum pushing violently towards the top. But this year? Not only isn’t there a real favorite but there are so many films that have a legitimate shot at receiving a Best Picture nomination. I would guess that there are usually about 12 or so films that have a real chance at a Best Picture nod, but this year? I counted 18.

That’s not saying that there are certainly films that are more likely to receive a nod than others. So let’s start out with our first tier films that are locks to receive a nomination.

First Tier:

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  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • The Imitation Game

These are the cream of the crop during this year’s awards season. They all have the support from the SAG, the Golden Globes and plenty of critic circles. Simply put, there is no doubt that these films will be nominated for Best Picture, but at the same time there isn’t a clear front-runner from these three.

Second Tier:

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– The Grand Budapest Hotel
– The Theory of Everything

These two films in the second tier are practically locked to receive a nomination for Best Picture. The Theory of Everything always felt like a Best Picture nomination with its moving story and its incredible Oscar-worthy performances from the two leads, Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. The Grand Budapest Hotel always had the quality to be a Best Picture nominee, but I was always skeptical because it was by the quirky Wes Anderson and because it was released so early on in the year that I thought it would be quickly forgotten. Thankfully it hasn’t and has been receiving a ton of support through awards season. Look for these films to be nominated, but don’t expect either to win unless it upsets during the Guild awards.

Third Tier:

– Whiplash
– Foxcatcher
– Selma
– Into the Woods

This is when the movies get tricky. In this third tier, I find that these films have a good chance at rounding out the Best Picture nominees, but I’m not overly confident about my picks. I loved Whiplash, but aside from JK Simmons receiving attention the film isn’t quite doing enough to lock down a nomination (I blame Sony Pictures Classics for backing Foxcatcher and Mr. Turner over Whiplash). As for Foxcatcher, it’s getting attention for its actors but not really for the movie as a whole. Selma has been receiving great reviews, but it’s the epitome of the difference of opinion between the critics and the Academy. And Into the Woods is close, but missing out on that SAG Ensemble nod really is hurting its chances.

Fourth Tier:

– Gone Girl
– Nightcrawler
– Unbroken
– American Sniper

All of the films here in the fourth tier have a chance to be nominated for Best Picture, but it’s an uphill battle. Gone Girl, Nightcrawler, and American Sniper all got boosts from the PGA nominees, but still don’t have enough momentum yet to be considered Best Picture material. As for Unbroken, it’s on very thin ice at this point but I’m not willing to completely give up on it yet.

Fifth Tier:

– Interstellar
– Wild
– Mr. Turner
– A Most Violent Year
– Inherent Vice

Interstellar was one of the most highly anticipated films of the year. Will that be enough? There usually is one sci-fi film that gets nominated, including Nolan’s Inception in 2010. Wild has been great for Reese Witherspoon and even for Adapted Screenplay, but remember when Into the Wild didn’t receive an expected Best Picture/Best Director nod? Wild could have the same fate. As for Mr. Turner, A Most Violent Year, and Inherent Vice, all are films from very talented directors but haven’t been as well-received from the Academy as they expected.


Movie Review: Gone Girl

October 27, 2014

Gone Girl (2014)
149 minutes
Rated – R
Directed by David Fincher
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike

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Grade: A-

For the record, I have read the novel before seeing the movie. It shouldn’t matter but it’s a fact that it does, especially with a plot that contains plenty of twists and turns. You can never relive that first time experience with a great story, whether you read it or you view it. So for me, I loved the book and as for the film, it was a very worthy adaptation.

Novelist Gillian Flynn also wrote the film’s screenplay, something pretty rare in the movie business. She does a great job at splicing up her book, eliminating some characters and plot points, but still retaining the dark tone and the twisty story full of surprises. Of course, David Fincher does a great job as director, truly engaging us in the action and also in the mystery that lurks behind every corner of every scene. You feel uneasy without knowing what’s being said is a lie or the truth. You feel even more uneasy when you start to understand the characters’ motives. This isn’t a film for those who love happy endings, but I think that’s pretty obvious right from the get-go.

Nick Dunne (Affleck) discovers on his fifth wedding anniversary that his wife, Amy, (Pike) has gone missing. A police investigation goes under way as Nick, his twin sister Margot, and Amy’s parents become involved. Nick and the police specifically pay attention to an anniversary tradition of Amy’s, an elaborate scavenger hunt that sends Nick to different places of sentimental value. But as the story unwinds, we learn that this supposedly happy couple have a lot of things they both have been hiding from each other.

The film does its best to imitate the novel’s back-and-forth perspective between the present day of Nick and the police investigation, and Amy’s diary entries from the past that leads up to the current situation. Masterfully, the story unravels to reveal more of the puzzle and bit-by-bit we get more evidence to a possible conclusion. This is what the film does best. The plot is so compelling that it’s impossible to somewhat ignore the characters and to be completely focused in on what will happen next. This isn’t a flaw, but it’s a method that can hide some shakiness within the characters that the movie simply doesn’t have time to go into detail about. While Affleck and Pike give very good performances, they’re over-powered by the complexity of the film and the curiosity of finding answers.

Gone Girl is also a film about manipulation, whether it’s the way married couples can manipulate each other or the way the media can manipulate the public’s view on things. And more times than not, it’s very important to be perceived well by the public, especially when you’re a man wanted like Nick Dunne finds himself to be. While half of the story is about figuring out answers to Amy’s disappearance, the other half is about how Nick can use the media to spin the story to his advantage, which he finds out time after time how difficult that truly can be.

This is an intelligent thriller that splits itself into two sub-genres: the straight up mystery thriller and the psychological thriller. While this will probably make plenty of people roll their eyes that the film is too long, with an argument that “They solved the mystery, why is the movie still running?” but what happens after the mystery is solved is just as intriguing as everything leading up to it. Gone Girl isn’t going to be loved by everyone, that’s a simple fact, but for those who want a dark, twisted, smart thriller for the modern age, this should be near the top of your list.

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Movies Left to Watch in 2014

August 28, 2014

It’s been a good year so far in the world of cinema. I usually like to break up the calendar year into three movie phases. First, there is the Oscars hangover phase that usually deliver films that didn’t screen well for the awards season (like Monuments Men) and then films that didn’t want to compete with the summer blockbusters. There’s usually one film that sneaks in the first phase and comes out a real winner, but this year we had two: Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The LEGO Movie.

The second phase is the summer blockbuster phase, and it’s the season that makes all the money. Guardians of the Galaxy is on its way to becoming the biggest film of the year, and movies like Transformers: Age of Extinction, Maleficent, and X-Men: Days of Future Past aren’t too far behind. This phase also has its fair share of independent gems, such as this year’s Boyhood. For the public, this is the phase of movies they’ll remember the most, even though almost every films is some kind of sequel or reboot.

And finally, the third phase (and my favorite phase) the awards season. Typically, the awards bait films are released towards the end of the calendar year so these specific films remain fresh in Academy members’ minds. But after being brainwashed by a million ads from expensive movies all summer long, it’s easy to have no idea what films are coming out this fall/winter. That’s what I’m here for! Below are the films I’m looking for:

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (9/12)

the-disappearance-eleanor-rigbyThe trailer intrigued me the first time I saw it. Starring Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy, this film revolves around this young couple and how they try to will themselves to stay together after a tragedy strikes. This isn’t going to be a romantic-comedy, but instead a powerful film focused on their relationship. Last year at the Toronto Film Festival, two separate films in the perspective of the two characters were released and both were well received. This version will be a collaboration of both films, but if you want to check out the two separate films they will be released in October.

Gone Girl (10/3)

gone-girl-photoHow many times has David Fincher done us wrong? Not many, and Gillian Flynn’s crime thriller is a perfect match for Fincher’s style. Sure, Ben Affleck wouldn’t be at the top of my list to play Nick Dunne, but he is a superstar and will surely fill the seats with those who haven’t read the best-selling novel. Can this be the film where Fincher finally wins an Oscar?

Whiplash (10/10)

whiplashMiles Teller is arguably my favorite young actor in the business and in Whiplash he’ll take on a whole new territory in acting. He plays a young drummer who is pushed to the limit by an abusive instructor at a prestigious music school. That instructor is played by JK Simmons. The trailer captures the intensity of the plot and you can already see the chemistry that Teller and Simmons have in the movie. This one should definitely be on your radar.

Fury (10/17)

fury-filmStarring Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman and Shia LaBeouf, this is a period war film that has a lot of potential. Written and directed by David Ayer, this film follows his acclaimed movie End of Watch from 2012. Ayer seems to be at home with cop-thrillers as he’s written films like Harsh Times, S.W.A.T., Training Day, and The Fast and the Furious. If anything, Fury should be entertaining.

Birdman (10/17)

birdman-filmOne of my favorite directors is Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel, 21 Grams, Amores Perros). His new film stars Michael Keaton as a washed up superhero trying to reclaim his fame. Let’s forget that Keaton did play Batman back in the day, this film seems odd but just odd enough for Inarritu to really dig his teeth into. Also, rounding out the film’s cast are Ed Norton, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts and Amy Ryan.

St. Vincent (10/24)

st-vincent-movieIf you’re looking for a good laugh, St. Vincent might be the perfect option. Starring Melissa McCarthy and Bill Murray as neighbors, Murray winds up babysitting McCarthy’s 12-year-old son. Yes you guessed it, Murray plays a hedonistic, war veteran. This one will most certainly have a handful of hilarious moments, though I’m skeptical if it will be well-received by all.

Interstellar (11/7)

interstellar-photoChris Nolan. Is there anything else that needs to be said? But there’s more… a pretty well-known actor named Matthew McConaughey! Though I’m not sure what the movie is about yet, it does have something to do with space. Chris Nolan and a space movie? Who wouldn’t be excited about that?! Plus Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain are in the film. After Gravity’s major splash at last year’s Oscars, will Interstellar receive the same praise?

A Most Violent Year (11/12)

a-most-violent-yearSet during the winter of 1981 in New York City, this thriller is sure to grab your attention once it’s released. Once again, Jessica Chastain is starring (does she ever take a break?!) alongside Oscar Isaac, who was brilliant in Inside Llewyn Davis. Directed by J.C. Chandor, I loved the first two films he’s directed (Margin Call, All is Lost) and I’m hoping this makes it three.

Foxcatcher (11/14)

foxcatcher-photoThis film received plenty of praise at the Cannes Festival, but was pushed away from last year’s Oscar season. This year it’s looking to be a serious contender about the U.S. wrestler Mark Schultz and the schizophrenic John du Pont. Starring Steve Carell and Channing Tatum, and directed by Bennett Miller (Moneyball, Capote), this is one drama you won’t want to miss.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (11/21)

hunger-games-mockingjayI don’t know about you, but I love The Hunger Games series. It performs at the box office like a summer blockbuster, but it’s more than that. With as all-star cast led by the beautiful and talented Jennifer Lawrence, it has action, drama, suspense, and political messages to boot. This is the beginning of the end, with the last book being split into two. I’m ready for the rebellion!

Wild (12/5)

wild-movieAre you ready for a tour de force bio-pic starring Reese Witherspoon? Wild is the story of a woman’s solo journey traveling over 1,000 miles. And while I love Witherspoon in her Legally Blonde days, she’s much better when tackling challenging roles like June Carter in Walk the Line and Juniper in Mud. Oh, did I mention this is directed by Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club). As you can see, this has a lot of potential.

Inherent Vice (12/12)

inherent-vice-photoOne of my favorite directors is Paul Thomas Anderson, so his new film is obviously one that I’m looking forward to. He’s re-teaming up with Joaquin Phoenix again, which is even better news! The film is set in 1970’s Los Angeles and is about a P.I. investigating the disappearance of an ex-girlfriend. Yeah, this one is going to be good.

Into the Woods (12/25)

into-the-woodsThis is a classic musical that won Tony awards not only for its original Broadway show, but also for its revival. If that’s not impressive enough for you, the screen-adaptation is directed by Rob Marshall, known for directed musicals such as Nine and Chicago. On top of that, it’s starring Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Johnny Depp, Chris Pine, and James Corden. Now are you interested? You should be!

Unbroken (12/25)

unbroken-movieHere’s a true story about an Olympic runner who enlists in the army and is captured and tortured for years. It’s not going to be your family-friendly Christmas movie, but with Angelina Jolie as director, with a screenplay by the Coen brothers and the cinematography by the legendary Roger Deakins, this has all the working parts in becoming an Oscar favorite.

The Interview (12/25)

the-interview-movieIn case you want to take a break from all the heavy dramas during awards season, James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg have just the movie for you. The Interview is about a celebrity TV host and his producer who go undercover by the CIA to assassinate Kim Jong Un after he gives them rights to an exclusive interview. Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but with Superbad, Pineapple Express, and This is the End, shouldn’t we all just be really excited for this film? Because I am!


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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