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Another month comes to a close and the big Oscar night is just a few weeks off. We finally have some changes in our top five lists.

John

1. Inception
2. The Social Network
3. Get Low
4. Green Zone
5. Carlos

Adam

1. Inception
2. Red
3. The King’s Speech
4. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
5. The Social Network

Brian

1. The Social Network
2. Inception
3. Please Give
4. Four Lions
5. Toy Story 3

Jared

1. The Social Network
2. Inception
3. The King’s Speech
4. She’s Out of My League
5. Hot Tub Time Machine

Nominations are up and we have a lot to chew on for the next few weeks.

The John vs Jared prediction contest came right down to the wire with me eking it out, 83-82. For perfect categories, Jared nailed Animated Feature while I got Picture, Original Screenplay, Sound Editing, and Makeup. But both of us did quite well in other categories, usually only missing one. A common pattern was us picking the same slate except for one in a given category with both of our dissenting picks correct and one common pick incorrect.

We got two of three of our biggest wishes, just one of our outlandish picks hit, and no luck on our technical category hopes, but one of our anticipated disappointing locks failed to materialize.

Beyond that, how are the Grouches feeling today?

Jared:

I suppose after all that buildup, feeling a little let down by the nominations is inevitable.  On first glance, I see a few themes to this year’s crop.  There weren’t really any major surprises.  Yeah, Waiting for Superman felt like a frontrunnner, but the documentary branch is a notoriously hard one to pin down.  I’m not sure anyone guessed Nolan would miss a director’s nod, but he’s clearly yet to be completely accepted by the Academy.  Perhaps the biggest questions is whether The Social Network is still the favorite to win Best Picture, since The King’s Speech tallied more nominations.  I’m a little hesitant to go there yet, because the only category in which the Facebook movie really missed was supporting actor, but Garfield was never a shoo-in and we already knew that The King’s Speech had the more widely respected actors.  Otherwise, I’m happy, of course, that Hawkes and Ruffalo both received nominations.  And looking forward to slicing and dicing these things up with you guys over the next month.

Brian:

I too am looking forward to debating these categories with you all as well. I’m pretty disappointed about Inception missing director and editing, yet somehow still getting a screenplay nomination. If any of those three deserved to be left out, it was Nolan’s writing that often verged on psychobabble. I probably would have gone to the mat pushing a Nolan win for directing, but now I won’t have the chance.

The Social Network vs. King’s Speech fight will be a lot of fun to analyze and look at, as prognosticators will call the race closer than it likely is in order to spruce up interest in the evening. Consider me pleased that The Town got overlooked it most every category but supporting actor, and I’m even willing to let that slide with John Hawkes popping up as one of the few surprises of the morning.

Looks like we have a few more movies to add to our list, fellas.

John:

I’m a bit bummed about a shut out for Get Low but there aren’t many egregious choices and I’m pleasantly happy with a way a few of the races broke. I’m surprised at how few films got nominations in major categories: just 16. The last three years saw 19, 18, and 21, respectively. Maybe the ten Best Picture nominees aren’t inviting anyone new to the party.

And, despite Brian’s claim above, there’s not much left to see!

Nominations are just a few hours away, so we’re finally revealing our predictions. I doubt you’re reading this before the nominations are announced, but see what we predicted and gape in awe at our prowess/snicker at our idiocy.

Later we’ll tally up our predictions and see who did best! I think this year we have a decent amount of differences (highlighted in pink). I’m amused at how often Jared and I differed on technical categories with him always choosing Black Swan.

Oscar nominations arrive Tuesday, January 25. To prepare, we’re giving you our sharpest insight and predictions. Our last topic: what are you most hoping will happen tomorrow? If you’re reading this Tuesday, give your favorite Grouch a high five or a supportive pat on the back, depending on what happens.

Brian: Reznor needs to score

Only in the fantastical world of the Oscars would it be possible for a nominee to be just on the edge of being recognized yet should it get nominated, be a favorite for win. That’s the general consensus around Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score for The Social Network. Having already won the Golden Globe for Best Score, you’d think this is a shoo-in. But you’d be wrong. It’s rather astonishing and remarkable that such a simple series of 6 notes could be so evocative. Listening to it while writing this post, I could visualize so much of the film in my head. Like Sorkin and Fincher’s portrayal of Zuckerberg, the score is isolating and contemplative, not to mention brilliant.

Honorable mention: Please Give for Best Original Screenplay. My hobby horse for the year — great storytelling with subtle character development. More to come from me on this one.

John: A Duvall-less Oscars would make me Low

I didn’t have a pet cause this season until right at the last minute. That cause is Get Low, a delightful and touching drama with a nice comedic streak. Robert Duvall gives a wonderful, subtle performance. He’s on the bubble for a Best Actor nomination and I’m rooting hard for him. (I also hold out very small hope for Bill Murray.)

On some smaller notes, I’m rooting for Eddie Vedder to finally land a Best Song nod, this time for “Better Days” from Eat, Pray, Love. It’s actually not a very good song, but… Eddie Vedder! Cmon!

Finally, I just want an out of left field surprise (provided it doesn’t push out a favorite of mine) and/or some better-than-expected love for some smaller films like Another Year.

Jared: Snub Hawkes and I’ll have a Bone to pick with the Academy

I think the other Grouches will agree that this year it is difficult to find too much to root for, nomination-wise.  Films and performances I loved are either safely in the club or so far off the radar that there’s really no chance at all to pick up a nomination.

Still, what fun is this if you can’t root for something?  When I first heard a few months ago someone suggesting that John Hawkes could nab an Oscar nomination, I laughed it off, thinking the person was probably just a huge Winter’s Bone fan forgetting the crush of performances that would enter the fray come Oscar season.  And Hawkes almost didn’t factor into awards season.  Except for getting a SAG nomination.  Which has to establish him as a viable contender, given the frequent overlap between the SAGs and the Oscars.  Hawkes’s role may not be as showy as Bale’s, on the nose as Renner’s, or have the screen time of Rush’s, but his performance is incredibly memorable nonetheless.  Yeah, it would be nice to give someone his first nomination and share some indie love.  But more than that, it’d be nice to recognize a performance that I believe really is one of the best of the year, name recognition be damned.

(As a side note, I’m not hoping for Hawkes as the expense of Ruffalo.  And the thing that would conceivably make me the happiest is a screenplay nom for How to Train Your Dragon, but that seems a little more remote.)

Oscar nominees are announced on the 25th.  Yay!  So let’s summarize what we (the royal we, at least) know.  Keeping in mind, of course, that when it comes to the Academy, no one knows anything.  Especially me.  This time: Best Picture

VIRTUAL LOCKS

  • The Social Network
  • The King’s Speech
  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • Inception
  • True Grit

Before the PGAs, The Social Network had won everything.  Now it is has just won almost everything.  It could mean we are seeing the start of the inevitable front-runner backlash, but that’s a discussion for after nominations.  When word of The King’s Speech first arrived, you could hear lots of collective groaning about Oscar bait and how the Academy is a complete sucker for anything to do with British royalty.  Two funny things, though: pretty much everyone actually likes the film, and it really isn’t Oscar baity at all.  Speaking of unlikely Oscar movies, how about a ballerina horror film likely to pull down $100 million at the box office?  Black Swan pulled off the trick.  The Fighter, led by a strong cast, seemed to peak at the right time, nomination-wise, and should continue the Academy’s love affair with boxing movies.  One of the few movies released prior to Oscar season likely to get an Oscar love in major categories, Inception pretty much speaks for itself.  A vast, cold, scifi/psychological epic, it is completely unlike traditional Oscar movies and yet so obviously one.  Perhaps the easiest prediction, before any of these movies had been seen, was that Joel and Ethan Coen remaking a classic western would be a best picture nominee.  But hey, they still had to follow through on the thing, and by all accounts, True Grit does so.

LIKELY IN

  • Toy Story 3
  • The Kids Are All Right

Metacritic has Toy Story 3 has the second-best reviewed wide release of 2010, as does imdb (to different movies, interestingly enough).  So clearly lots and lots of people really like this film.  Up‘s nomination last year showed that the move to ten best picture nominees allowed the Academy to be OK with nominating an animated film for the big prize, so there’s no real reason it should miss.  I’ve heard a couple people theorize that The Kids Are All Right‘s spot is in danger.  I certainly don’t know enough to dispute that, I’m just a little hard-pressed to see how it could miss when its rivals appear to be indier and/or not having the support from at least one acting nomination, like this one.

LAST TWO IN

  • Winter’s Bone
  • The Town

I have this (completely unfounded, I’m sure) feeling that a lot of the love for Winter’s Bone comes from Hollywood patting itself on the back for supporting indie movies and wanting to show they are totally OK with films taking place in America’s backwoods.  I’m not sure if anyone really loved The Town, but undoubtedly many people liked it, so I’m wondering if its broad appeal could lead it to nab the final slot for the big prize.

FIRST ALTERNATE

  • 127 Hours

Most predictions you’ll read have the prior two films and 127 Hours in a battle for the final two spots.  This one was directed by recent Oscar winner Danny Boyle and features a likely Oscar-nominated performance by Oscar co-host James Franco.  So it certainly has a legit chance.  I just happen to think it peaked a little too early and that it wasn’t quite compelling enough to hold up.

DARK HORSES

  • Blue Valentine
  • The Ghost Writer
  • Shutter Island
  • Another Year
  • The Way Back
  • Biutiful
  • How to Train Your Dragon

If voters want to get indie and perhaps prove a point, they may turn to Blue Valentine.  The Ghost Writer connected with a good number of people, and the Academy wasn’t afraid with The Pianist to give awards to Polanski.  I’m still confused at why Shutter Island, a Martin Scorsese film that grossed over $100 million domestically isn’t making a bigger play here.  I’ve prattled on a number of times about the Academy’s love for Mike Leigh, the logic certainly applies to Another Year.  I’m not sure if The Way  Back isn’t good or is a victim of a poor release strategy, but it was supposed to be a contender and then it wasn’t, for reasons still unclear.  John says Biutiful and How to Train Your Dragon are dark horses, and he is smarter than I am.

SHOULDA BEEN A CONTENDER

  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  • Please Give

Oscar nominations arrive Tuesday, January 25. To prepare, we’re giving you our sharpest insight and predictions. Today’s topic: Call your longshot nominations. No guts, no glory! We actually have nailed a couple of these over the years.

John:

Everyone has 11 films vying for the 10 Best Picture slots. Something outside of that list of 11 will slip in instead. The top contenders are, in order of likelihood: Another Year, Blue Valentine, Biutiful, and How to Train Your Dragon.

Four Lions for Original Screenplay.

A big studio picture won’t take the third Animated Feature slot, instead falling to My Dog Tulip or The Illusionist.

Brian:

The academy satisfies Jared and me muchly by giving Nicole Holofcener a nod for her sweet and endearing script for Please Give in the Best Original Screenplay.

In its attempt to give the HFPA strong competition for their starf*cker reputation, the voters pull a Timberlake out of their hat, recognizing him for his role as Sean Parker in The Social Network.

Jared:

Shutter Island for Best Picture

Noomi Rapace for Actress

Rooney Mara for Supporting Actress

Vincent Cassel for Black Swan for Supporting Actor

Oscar nominees are announced on the 25th.  Yay!  So let’s summarize what we (the royal we, at least) know.  Keeping in mind, of course, that when it comes to the Academy, no one knows anything.  Especially me.  This time: Best Director.

VIRTUAL LOCKS

  • David Fincher, The Social Network
  • Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
  • Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech

Confession time: I don’t really have any clue how to discern exactly what the director’s contributions to a film are.  And I don’t think many other people know either, other than a general assumption that good movie=good directing.  People are saying that David Fincher was exactly the director to make Aaron Sorkin’s script shine.  Maybe that’s true, I just hope the evidence is stronger than that regatta scene.  This’ll be Aronofsky‘s first Oscar nomination, an honor for which he’s probably overdue.  I don’t really see what others do in the movie, but given the script’s weakness, sure, I’m happy to pass some credit to the director for elevating the film into something better.  I really liked The Damned United, and the film was different enough from the book that I’ll begrudgingly pass some credit to screenwriter Peter Morgan and director Tom Hooper.  His follow-up, of course, has been a bit more successful.  I look forward to seeing his work in the future and I imagine that’ll only increase once I get around to watching Prime Suspect.

LIKELY IN

  • Christopher Nolan, Inception

Like everyone else, I do believe there’s a spot for Nolan, I’d just feel a little more comfortable if the buzz for the film was a little more palpable.  Still, it’d be shocking if he gets snubbing after creating such a visionary, successful film.

LAST ONE IN

  • David O. Russell, The Fighter

I’ve always heard that if you can’t say something nice, you should shut your big fat mouth.

FIRST ALTERNATES

  • Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, True Grit
  • Danny Boyle, 127 Hours
  • Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right

I was really tempted to put the brother Coen in that last spot, but since I haven’t seen that anywhere else, I figured it is just my bias against that film in the fifth spot.  The Academy loves them some Coen Bros, but they do only have the one directing nomination (for No Country for Old Men, which they won).  I dunno, I won’t be surprised at all if they get the nomination.  The claustrophobia of 127 Hours sure is different from the vastness of Slumdog Millionaire, huh?  Maybe Boyle‘s film was released just a little too early to hit at the Oscars, or maybe it wasn’t quite as good as originally expected.  I hope to see Lisa Cholodenko get a directing nomination someday, but this year is just so tough, with so many well-respected auteurs in line to get their due.

DARK HORSES

  • Ben Affleck, The Town
  • Debra Granik, Winter’s Bone
  • Mike Leigh, Another Year
  • Martin Scorsese, Shutter Island

Affleck‘s two for two in critically acclaimed directing successes and this one even made a nice chunk of a change.  This kid may just have a career in the industry.  After what Down to the Bone did for Vera Farmiga and this film did for Jennifer Lawrence, if I were an agent with a starlet on my hands, I’d be busting my balls to get her an audition for whatever Granik has next on her plate.  As I mentioned elsewhere, it is always dangerous to count Mike Leigh out with the Academy.  But maybe next time he should make sure his film’s trailer doesn’t make it seem like the most boring film ever.  Shutter Island just edged out The Departed as Scorsese‘s highest-grossing film (in worldwide dollars).  What, now that’s he mainstream the Academy has no use for him?

SHOULDA BEEN A CONTENDER

  • Edgar Wright, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Oscar nominations arrive Tuesday, January 25. To prepare, we’re giving you our sharpest insight and predictions. Everyone cares about the big categories, but you need in depth coverage from visionaries like us to know: What are some nominations in technical categories that must happen?

Jared: Scott Pilgrim’s effects are essential

Some might say the visual effects are the only thing keeping Scott Pilgram afloat. But Jared wouldn't say that, and it would be an abuse of this poster's editorial position to suggest anything of the sort

This isn’t the spot to discuss all the merits of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, many though they may be.  The film didn’t connect with nearly as many people as it should have, most frequently dismissed as something along the lines of “that video game movie.”  Well, you know what made it seem like a video game movie?  The visual effects!  Regardless of whether you think the film was actually the generation-defining movie of the year or a trifle never rising above something meant for kids, I think you have to concede the visuals were both wildly inventive and crucial to the story.

As a devotee of the graphic novels, I’m a little biased, but more than any Facebook movie, I think this one better sums up kids turning to adults these days.  And that’s due in an extremely large part to the whiz-bang visuals.  Frequently borrowing from or reminiscent of video games, sure, but that’s the entire point.  Edgar Wright and his team unleashed an often unrelenting barrage of visual effects, but always in service of the story.  And always, as is perhaps most important, looking really really cool.

John: Fighter costumes effective and entertaining

You know what this character's about without even seeing the movie

My support is going to Mark Bridges for Best Costume for The Fighter. Now, no one has accused me of having a sense of style, but I appreciated the clothing in the film for both defining the time period and the characters. Set in the early 1990s in blue collar Massachusetts, the film makes good use of the era’s most garish fashion.

A film set in the near past often has a hard time establishing its time period. Fewer electronics on sets, maybe. Older cars. But the clothing is the most effective, without resorting to misplaced Desert Storm jokes. Plus, in this case, the clothing establishes the characters’ class.

Melissa Leo’s character has some really zany outfits, but the one scene that stands out in my head is Christian Bale leaving his crack house, multicolored parachute pants flapping in the wind.

Oscar nominees are announced on the 25th.  Yay!  So let’s summarize what we (the royal we, at least) know.  Keeping in mind, of course, that when it comes to the Academy, no one knows anything.  Especially me.  This time: Best Actress.

VIRTUAL LOCKS

  • Natalie Portman, Black Swan
  • Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone

I remember the good ol’ days when I could talk about Portman‘s riveting  and undeniably Oscar-worthyperformance of a ballerina in a yin-yang struggle for perfection.  Too bad she’s dead to me now.  I’ll be honest, I don’t quite see why Bening should be nominated for her portrayal of a lesbian Mama Bear protecting her cubs, but she appears to be in a two horse race for the statue.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a slight on the actress (I would probably give a nomination this year for Mother and Child), probably more a reflection that everyone else in the world seems to see something in the film that I don’t.  I’m also maybe a little bit lower on Lawrence than others, but that may be more due to my issues with the script and my belief that people have just zeroed in on the concept of a backwoods girl struggling to keep her family afloat than looking at the actual movie itself.

LIKELY IN

  • Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole

I haven’t seen any prognosticators leave Kidman out of the final five, but her place just feels a little shakier to me than the others.  Maybe it is because I’m not really sure Rabbit Hole has registered with voters. Or me, I guess, because I haven’t felt like being mortally depressed for two hours yet.

LAST ONE IN

  • Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right

The last spot in this category is huge crapshoot.  I changed my pick a few times before settling on four-time Oscar nominee Moore, who I think gave a more memorable performance than Bening.  John bemoaned the traditional Oscar wave of films the Academy loves racking up nomination after nomination, but it does seem like it will happen again and seems as good a reason as any to pick someone for this slot.

FIRST ALTERNATES

  • Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
  • Lesley Manville, Another Year
  • Hilary Swank, Conviction
  • Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit

Yeah, there’s a lot of them, but I don’t think anyone would really be surprised should any of these four women pull down the last nomination.  Michelle Williams stole my heart in The Baxter, so I’m probably rooting for her here.  Mike Leigh has a well-established history of getting his actresses Oscar noms, so Manville has a great shot even if she may be the least recognizable name on the list.  I’m really hoping I don’t have to see Conviction, which probably means that Swank should be the leading contender here.  We’ve discussed Steinfeld‘s category fraud, we’ll just have to wait and see if she ends up the category she should be in, the category she’ll win, or if the confusion made her miss in both.

DARK HORSES

  • Noomi Rapace, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Tilda Swinton, I Am Love

Rapace has been mentioned on enough lists that maybe she’s a bit more than a dark horse, in a weaker year she might have been able to break through.  A bunch of people are obsessed with I Am Love, the film clearly isn’t my cup of tea, but Swinton turns in her usual solid performance.

SHOULDA BEEN A CONTENDER

Emma Stone, Easy A (duh)
Naomi Watts, Mother and Child
Patricia Clarkson, Cairo Time

Oscar nominees are announced on the 25th.  Yay!  So let’s summarize what we (the royal we, at least) know.  Keeping in mind, of course, that when it comes to the Academy, no one knows anything.  Especially me.  This time: Best Actor.

VIRTUAL LOCKS

  • Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
  • Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
  • Jeff Bridges, True Grit
  • James Franco, 127 Hours

One of your lockiest locks of Tuesday morning is hearing Colin Firth‘s name called.  And I can’t imagine anyone complaining, as Firth turns in a characteristically wonderful performance that has been universally lauded for its nuance, subtlety and faithfulness to how stutters actually sound and feel.  Jesse Eisenberg could have been nominated for The Squid and the Whale, should have been nominated for Zombieland (OK, maaaaybe that’s just me), but will have his first nomination this week for a truly memorable performance portraying Mark Zuckerberg.  Maybe someday I’ll get around that post to what the rise of nerd chic, led by Eisenberg, Michael Cera, and Jay Baruchel, means for Hollywood.  Jeff Bridges got his career achievement Oscar last year (ostensibly for Crazy Heart, but let’s be realistic here) and is still going strong.  Anyone who can take on a non-Genghis Khan John Wayne role and not make fool of himself, yeah, probably deserves a nomination.  127 Hours may be fading, Oscar-wise, but Franco‘s performance is still demanding to be noticed.  With a role like his, there’s really no middle ground, I feel, since there’s absolutely nowhere to hide.  Either it is going to be awards-worthy or it will be a joke.

LAST ONE IN

  • Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter

And here’s my upset special for this year’s Oscars.  I know Wahlberg hasn’t really gotten any precursors other than a Golden Globe, but stay with me for a sec.  He’s an Oscar-nominated lead actor in a film that peaked at the exact right time and that’s getting at least two acting nominations.  We’ll get to his competition shortly, but nobody has seen their respective films and neither of which seems likely for other nominations.

FIRST ALTERNATES

  • Robert Duvall, Get Low
  • Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine
  • Javier Bardem, Biutiful

Duvall‘s been nominated for six Oscars, winning one of them for…Tender Mercies?  He’s probably the best bet for the last nomination here and has been for maybe six months, but Get Low never quite got the traction of which some thought it was capable.  I haven’t seen Blue Valentine yet, but have made a half-dozen jokes about how you wouldn’t want to see it with your significant other.  Ryan Gosling is always good in his movies, which tend to be either really great or really atrocious.  Here’s hoping Blue Valentine is the former.  I’ll be perfectly honest, I’ve probably read dozens of blog posts on Biutiful, but I know absolutely nothing about it, short of the performance Javier Bardem is supposed to give.

DARK HORSES

  • Paul Giamatti, Barney’s Version
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Inception/Shutter Island

If someone wins a Golden Globe, as Paul Giamiatti did, he gets to make my dark horses list, even if he’s got no shot.  I’m a little surprised they couldn’t build a stronger campaign for DiCaprio for one of his performances.

SHOULDA BEEN A CONTENDER

  • Martin Landau, Lovely, Still
  • Andy Garcia, City Island
  • Ed Norton, Leaves of Grass
  • David Duchovny, The Joneses
  • Casey Affleck, The Killer Inside Me
January 2011
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