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The Sundance awards were announced last night, so let’s see how Ian and I did, in draft order (and I’ll include the distributor, if any, who bought the film, because why not):

Ian – Ain’t Them Bodies Saints – WINNER – Cinematography (tie) – Distributor: IFC Films

Jared – Upstream Color – WINNER – Special Jury Sound

Jared – Kill Your Darlings – Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Ian – The Spectacular Now – WINNER – Special Jury Acting – Distributor: A24

Ian – Fruitvale – WINNER – Grand Jury Prize AND Audience – Distributor: Weinstein

Jared – C.O.G.

Jared – Touchy Feely

Ian – May in the Summer

Ian – In a World… – WINNER – Screenwriting

Jared – Mother of George – WINNER – Cinematography (tie) – Distributor: Oscilloscope

Jared – Concussion – Distributor: Radius-TWC

Ian – Afternoon Delight – WINNER – Directing

Ian – Toy’s House – Distributor: CBS Films

Jared – Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes

Jared – Austenland – Distributor: Sony Pictures

Ian – The Lifeguard

 

We didn’t quite finalize the scoring, but Ian has it as: Ian 10, Jared 3, and that sounds about right to me.  A big thanks to Ian for suggesting this, taking the time to do it, and for breathlessly reporting the results.  I look forward to getting revenge next year.

It is a well-established fact that just about any endeavor is made better by turning it into a draft.  If you thought drafts were just for fantasy sports, you’ve missed some golden opportunities in life, my friend.  So when friend of blog Ian suggested doing a fantasy Sundance draft for the 16 movies in the U.S. Dramatic Competition in Sundance (which has kicked off this weekend), I sure as heck wasn’t going to say no.  After some discussion, we (or, really, Ian) came up with the following scoring system:

Grand Jury Prize: 3 points
Audience Award: 2 points
Special Jury Prizes: 2 points each
US Directing Award: 1 point
Screenwriting Award: 1 point
Cinematography Award: 1 point
Alfred P. Sloan Award: Tiebreak

Like any good draft, ours snakes (for the uninitiated, that means whoever ends the first round will start the second round.  So, since there are two of us, Ian will take the first pick, then I’ll take second and third picks, Ian will take fourth and fifth, and so on).  I think I originally told him I wasn’t going to post this, but then we decided to write about our picks and critique the other’s, so it seemed a shame to waste all this writing.  Plus, I think Ian has now written more for the blog than any of my fellow Grouches in the past year.

With the first pick of the 2013 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints: I can’t say this was an easy top choice, as I think other directors and screenwriters were more pedigreed than David Lowery, who as far as The Internet tells me, is a graduate of the Sundance Institute and first-time feature filmmaker (apologies if I get any facts wrong, I think half-assed opinions are fundamental to a Fantasy Sundance League). That’s not a dealbreaker, though, and the presence of so many indie darlings augurs well for it. With my top pick, I was trying to shoot for a film that could compete in as many categories as possible, and I think this has to be a contender for every award. I could imagine a film with this premise and cast being a strong Grand Jury Prize contender, but also potentially placing for director, or editor. The premise also feels cinematic to me, or at minimum reminds me of one of my favorite movies, Paris, Texas. Even if it strikes out everywhere, would Sundance be able to resist dropping a special jury award on It-Girl Rooney Mara? Or an Ensemble award for the cast? From the outside, this film appears to be a contender in every category, if not a favorite.

Jared’s Reaction: I think the movie is a fine 1/1.  Like you say, it is hard betting against any movie starring Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, and Ben Foster.  My concern, as with most of these, is that the two sentence premise suggests a number of different ways the film could break.  It actually almost reads like it has too much action to be successful at a film festival that often rewards character studies, I guess.

With the second pick of the 2013 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

Upstream Color:  My overall strategy was to aim for movies that I thought could hit the top prize, and in a year with a number of seemingly accessible comedies in competition, I was looking for something that would stand out.  Shane Carruth’s last (and first) movie, Primer, may have come out almost a decade ago, but it won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, along with four Spirit Award nominations, a pedigree I couldn’t resist.  After reading the film’s description and watching the couple of clips made available, I still have absolutely no idea what the movie is about, which I think only helped the film’s case, in my eyes.

Ian’s ReactionThis was high on my list as well, and I’d have taken it next had it come back to me. If nothing else, it’s a shoo-in for our tiebreaker, the Alfred P. Sloan Award celebrating science in film. And yes, it’s hard to advocate against a former Grand Jury Prize winning director, but my only hesitation was whether it could truly compete in categories such as Audience Award or Screenplay, or whether a mostly unknown cast would be worthy of a Special Jury Prize.

With the third pick in the 2013 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

Kill Your Darlings:  I could pretty much copy and paste what you wrote above for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.  Except that director and co-writer John Krokidas went to Yale undergrad and then NYU film school.  And he’s had some award luck with a couple of shorts he directed.  But Ben Foster is also in this one and Elizabeth Olsen is a pretty good comp for Rooney Mara, I’d say.  Biopics and real life characters actually don’t appear to have had much luck in recent years, but again, that’s something that seems like it could make this one stand out.  Plus, a story about the genesis of the Beat generation seems like something that could play to this crowd.

Ian’s ReactionI agree, this is the other film with a clear indie darling cast, even for Sundance. Jack Huston and Dane DeHaan are also scene-stealers, and I could easily imagine Sundance judges rewarding Daniel Radcliffe. But isn’t there a decent chance that this is just a bad movie? I mean, I haven’t seen it or read anything about it, as is my wont, so my opinion is less than worthless, but it’ll take a lot to convince me that this well-trod ground is worth exploring again.

With the fourth pick in the Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

The Spectacular Now: I was fairly certain you were going to nab this one from me, as it was my overall #2 pick. As with Kill Your Darlings and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, this is a cast packed full with young indie darlings who are filled with dewy award-recognition promise (Although I grant you, no one has as yet broken out at the Rooney Mara/Elizabeth Olson level). Unlike those movies, though, the director James Ponsoldt has a Sundance pedigree with Smashed, a movie that broke out to some extent after the festival. Maybe the judges will consider this a make-up call? Also, when in doubt, you’ll want to bring in the TV ringers from Friday Night Lights, The Wire, Justified, and Breaking Bad (yes, and The Secret Life of the American Teenager). I see this as a Grand Jury and Audience Award contender that could also potentially compete in all categories except for cinematography.

Jared’s Reaction: It was a tough call, and to be honest, the fact that I’m so looking forward to it was probably the deciding factor against me picking it.  And no, me not wanting to jinx how good a movie is by not taking it in a fantasy Sundance draft is not a sign that I have a problem.  I don’t really have anything negative to say about it.  Though I expect I’ll have more to say once I see Smashed.  And I suppose it is a little surprising that Smashed never really found the awards traction it seemed like it could.  (500) Days of Summer either, for that matter.  Apologies if I’ve brought this up, but I’m constantly amused that Brie Larson was a teenage pop star.  And am still waiting for the movie version of the She Said video.

With the fifth pick in the 2013 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

Fruitvale: I might be out on a limb here. Not all of the Grand Jury or Audience Award winners are sad slice-of-life dramas, but maybe this is Winter’s Bone or Precious? By that I mean it’s possible that this is a film of uplift in a non-Hollywood setting that relies upon a star turn by its lead actor. If so, I’m comfortable betting on Michael B. Jordan to deliver that level of performance, with Octavia Spencer serving as an ace in the hole. The premise also sounds something that could alternately be heavily cinematic or script-driven, and either way, that could be worthy of recognition. It would probably have helped my cause if I tried to find out how heartbreaking the “true story” of Oscar really is.

Jared’s Reaction: I’m going to go ahead and assume that “limb” line was a pun.  If you want to be spoiled, here is the backstory to the movie.  Also sounds vaguely like a Good Wife plot.  Anyway, I think you may have made a good choice.  Michael B. Jordan is obviously all kinds of awesome, and clearly could be comfortable in a movie that pulls at heartstrings.  The (presumably) ending and/or beginning of the movie seems like a slam dunk, but I have absolutely no idea what the rest of the movie is going to be like, and I think that’s the big question mark, if they can come up with enough to hold up the middle.

With the sixth pick in the 2013 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

C.O.G.: Wait.  This isn’t a movie about pogs?  I’m not the biggest David Sedaris fan, but his name does carry a certain cachet, and as the first of his essays to be made into a movie, I think the film already has some people rooting for it.  Plus, director Kyle Patrick Alvarez won the “Someone to Watch” Spirit Award a few years back.  I expect to see something about Jonathan Groff and Casey Wilson in your reactions, but Dale Dickey and Corey Stoll already have Spirit noms, Denis O’Hare has an Emmy nom and Dean Stockwell has (and I swear this is true) an Oscar nom.  So it doesn’t seem unreasonable they could generate some awards buzz through playing crazy Sedaris characters.

Ian’s Reaction: Gotta admit, this one felt like a slight reach to me, mostly because I share your trepidation about David Sedaris, and I wonder how his intensely personal and slight work transfers to film (I haven’t read Naked, so I could be off-base here). I certainly agree that the cast is well-chosen, and Jonathan Groff, in particular, seems like a strong Broadway-to-Hollywood candidate, but I’m not sure this movie will be strong enough to be in the running for the big awards, or cinematic enough for the more technical options. It probably stands some chance at screenwriting, though, and I think there are definitely movies in the running that are less likely to win.

With the seventh pick in the 2013 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

Touchy Feely: Another one of those where I feel more comfortable drafting movies I’m probably not going to like.  Writer/director Lynn Shelton garnered a Special Jury Prize for Humpday, and Your Sister’s Sister pulled down a Spirit Award nomination for Rosemarie DeWitt.  It kinda feels like mumblecore is slowly moving toward mainstream.  Or mainstream is moving toward mumblecore.  Regardless, Shelton seems like she keeps progressing, and maybe that means she’s due for a critical misfire, or maybe she’s hitting her groove.  And the cast may the secret weapon, with DeWitt, Ron Livingston, Alison Janney (2 Spirit noms and countless others), Ellen Page and Scoot McNairy (who has a Spirit nom and who may well be the next indie breakout star).

Ian’s Reaction: It’s funny, I think your strategy was to pick movies that you weren’t excited by, and my strategy was to pick movies that I was excited by. I feel a strong affinity with mumblecore, but I’ve actually never seen anything that Lynn Shelton has directed outside of her TV work. You’re probably right that she’s on an upward climb with every movie, and my sense is that her work is probably more likely to crossover than something more Duplass-y, but I have to wonder if this style is one that will ever be audacious enough to actually take an award. I say that as someone who strongly prefers realistic-sounding improvisational dialogue in my movies, by the by. This may well be my personal favorite cast in any of the selections.

With the eighth pick in the Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

May in the Summer: Amreeka is not a movie that I’ve seen, but it is a movie that I know from hearing about it in the ether. Now writer/director Cherien Dabis comes back to Sundance with a movie that I chose on premise alone. I’m expecting a tightly written family drama, set in a world that the audience and judges may be somewhat unfamiliar with, and that definitely sounds like awards-bait to me. Moreover, it stands a strong chance of actually being good. As the lead actor, writer, and director of the movie, and as a Sundance favorite, I’m hoping for the jury to award Dabis with something, assuming that this movie is not up for the whole enchilada. I’d imagine that there’s an outside shot at the more technical awards, too, if only because the setting isn’t an upper middle class Los Angeles suburb.

Jared’s Reaction: I mostly stayed away because the foreign (or foreignish) films are a crapshoot.  I could see Hiam Abbass being due for some recognition.  And Alexander Siddig was quite good in Cairo Time.  It has been a little bit now since our draft, but I’m wondering if I accidentally downgraded it because I was looking at the film from a Spirit perspective.

With the ninth pick in the Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

In a World…: Yes, maybe this is a reach, and I don’t believe there’s any chance of a Grand Jury Prize here, but this isn’t just a vanity pick. My thinking for this movie is that if Sundance judges and Sundance audiences are anything like I think they are, they’d probably love nothing more than to see a movie about themselves. And hey, In A World is set to deliver. Plus, this may be a secondary concern, but there’s a chance that this movie is actually really good and pretty freaking funny. I’m pulling for an Audience Award here, or at least a Special Jury prize for best use of the Children’s Hospital cast. Fred Melamed is inspired casting as Lake Bell’s father, for what it’s worth.

Jared’s Reaction: Hey, a chip and a chair, right?  Audience Award seems like a good fit, like I may have mentioned earlier, I was trying to target films that seemed more likely to have a wider chance at awards.  I want this film to be great, so maybe, like you said, I was staying away from films I’m looking forward to.  The synopsis doesn’t give us a lot to go on, it just seemed a little too…I dunno, light? broad? to make a huge impact.

With the tenth pick in the Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

Mother of George: This one was maybe a little bit more of a gut feeling.  Director Andrew Dosunmu’s prior film, Restless City, played Sundance a couple of years ago.  Star Danai Gurira is apparently some sort of badass zombie killing machine on Walking Dead, and Yaya Alafia has received acclaim for roles in Take the Lead, Honeydripper, and The Kids are All Right.  Otherwise, I view this as a boom/bust pick.  This recap may well be the last time I ever think about the film.

Ian’s Reaction: I’m not sure if it’s more that there’s actually not a lot to go on, or if that’s my ignorance talking, but I agree that this film seems like a crapshoot as an outsider. This is kind of a silly statement, but I think the one screenshot I did see of the movie looks pretty rich and colorful, and I wonder if this may not be a Beasts of the Southern Wild-style surprise.

With the eleventh pick in the Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

Concussion: Writer/director Stacie Passon’s first imdb credit, so not a whole lot to go on there.  I know I just said that I was staying away from one category films, but this one seems like it could have some actress potential for star Robin Weigert, who has been in roughly every TV drama ever and picked up an Emmy nom for her role in Deadwood.  But I guess the comparison I’d make is to Smashed, a movie I still have yet to see, but which apparently rode Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s killer performance to pick up additional acclaim.  And who knows, maybe Passon turns out to be a Sundance darling.

Ian’s Reaction: Another film that needs to refine its elevator pitch; from the description, it could be about literally anything. The tagline makes me a little gunshy, however. It’s tough to pull for acting awards, simply because Sundance doesn’t necessarily even have to give out any of them, but Robin Weigert and Maggie Siff make for a decent one-two punch.

With the twelfth pick in the Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

Afternoon Delight: I don’t know if this is going to be an award-favorite, but I know that I stand a pretty good chance of enjoying the heck out of this, which makes it a fine pick here in the 6th round. I think Jill Soloway is a strong TV writer, and I found her memoir, Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants, crisp and engaging. If that’s not enough, she then stacks the deck by adding Kathryn Hahn, who’s long overdue in my book for carrying some sort of project. Juno Temple should add some indie cred, and Josh Radnor can add…whatever it is that he brings to projects. If it lands well, it could be an outside contender for Screenplay or even the Audience Award.

Jared’s Reaction: Jill Soloway has credits on The Steve Harvey Show, Dirty Sexy Money, and the Nikki Cox vehicle “Nikki”, so she’s A-OK in my book.  A movie with a TV pedigree that looks really funny doesn’t exactly strike me as the description of an award-winning Sundance movie, but hey, it got into competition.  And if this year’s theme is funny movies, maybe it does have a shot.  Also, the poster looks delicious.

With the thirteenth pick in the Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

Toy’s House: Speaking of Smashed, Jordan Vogt-Roberts last directed Successful Alcoholics, a short that I know we both loved. I know he’s been a comedy director in the UCB/Funny-or-Die universe for a while, but that short also proved him capable of pulling nuanced performance out of comic actors–a talent that should serve him well here. The cast is loaded with comedy ringers, from actors with a comic sensibility such as Alison Brie, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and the Offerman/Mullally Team, to crack stand-ups Hannibal Burress and Kumail Nanjiani, to improv stalwarts including Angela Trimbur, Eugene Cordero, Craig Cackowski, and Fake Radio’s own Sparks Nevada, Marc Evan Jackson. My sense is that they’ll be providing much of the color, and the story will rise and fall on the three young leads. I’m willing to see if this is Stand By Me, and if it is, it may have some chance at the Audience Award. Even if not, I’m personally still all in.

Jared’s Reaction: This one seemed to have wide error bars.  The tagline isn’t terribly descriptive and I think I’d rather watch this movie without the three young boys plot.  I don’t think that came out pervy?  I check my spam folder, like, hourly to see if there is any news I’m missing about the Thrilling Adventure Hour poster that should hopefully be mailing to me soon, so I’m not going to argue with you too much here.

With the fourteenth pick in the Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes: Doesn’t that just sound like a Sundance movie?  Francesca Gregorini wrote and directed Tanner Hall, which I’m still not certain if I actually saw or just came across the trailer so manner times that it feels like I watched it.  Imdb says that Kaya Scodelario was twice nominated for something called a Golden Nymph award, which….good lord, Monte Carlo.  Show some respect for yourself.  The tagline sounds like it comes from a horror movie, but I wonder if maybe the rest of the field is so light, this film’s darkness could play.  Taking a movie starring Jessica Biel is certainly a gamble, but seems like maybe she’s due for a turn where she can show off her acting chops.  Plus, Alfred Molina seems like a guy who is always 3/1 to pick up a supporting actor nomination, at this point in his career.

Ian’s Reaction: Just like you, when I read the title, I assumed it would be one of my top picks, and then it just…never happened. I thought Kaya Scodelario was a fascinating spectral presence on the first series of Skins, and then she started speaking. I’m also pretty sure that Jessica Biel does not have hidden depths to plumb as an actress, but I guess I could always be proven wrong. On the upside, this will be a contender for cinematography, direction, and more, but I think it’s more likely that this becomes a laughable mess.

With the fifteenth pick in the Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

Austenland: From the wife of the husband-and-wife Hess team comes a movie about a women who goes to a Jane Austen theme park.  I guess it is kind of obvious this was my last pick, huh?  I don’t really have any idea how I’m going to spin this one.  It was based off a novel, so maybe there’s a built-in audience?  Like an audience award play?  I got nothing.  I think I was more just trying to not jinx Ian’s pick.

Ian’s Reaction: Yeah, I thought this one was coming back to me. You mentioned the Hesses, but Stephenie Meyer is also a producer here, and…how is this not an out-of-competition film again? I suppose there is always the chance that this breaks out as an audience hit the way Napoleon Dynamite had before the shame spiral set in, but I’m not optimistic about your choice here.

With the sixteenth and final pick in the Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

The Lifeguard: Of course, I’m not optimistic about my last choice here either. For the benefit of readers/random Googlers, I think it’s safe to say that Veronica Mars is one of the earliest cultural touchstones in our friendship. So for a Kristen Bell-led feature to slip to 16th place out of 16 choices is not a promising sign. It’s not that it sounds like a bad movie, necessarily. It seems to have some personal significance/specificity, and I’m intrigued as to whether former Cold Case (and Wonderfalls!) writer Liz Garcia falls closer to Meredith Stiehm or to Veena Sud in terms of her ability to write for characters. It’s more that the concept seems so pedestrian for Sundance that I’d have a hard time imagining this movie earning any traction whatsoever unless it’s flat out terrific. But who knows! That’s why we’re gambling with our ill-considered opinions in the first place.

Jared’s Reaction: It is also entirely within the realm of possibility that on a recent baseball trip in California, Ian and I took two different detours to check out Veronica Mars filming locations.  As someone who has seen Reefer Madness: The Movie MusicalFifty PillsFanboysSerious MoonlightCouples RetreatWhen in Rome, and You Again, believe me, I’m rooting for this movie.  If only so I can start watching some Kristen Bell movies that are good.  Actually, I just checked, and I sent Ian an excited email back in July when I came across some details about the movie.  So if the film tips the scales for him I guess I only have myself to blame.

Click Here for the Golden Globes liveblog!

Because no one is tired of movie awards news, here are some quick thoughts on Thursday night’s Critics’ Choice Awards.  Which are the awards handed out by the BFCA (Broadcast Film Critics Association).  Which isn’t confusing.

–For me, the moment of the night was Ben Affleck winning Best Director.  The BFCA masterfully scheduled this thing the night of Oscar noms, so the snubs and surprises still rang fresh in our minds and especially in the minds of those in attendance.  The sheer joy in the crowd at hearing Affleck’s name after he missed an Oscar nom is an emotion I won’t soon forget.  As was the look of disbelief fading into something like relief on Affleck’s face.  It has surely been a rough day for him, but his speech was nothing but charm and class.

–Quick review of the show itself.  Ran on time, so well done there.  Though it helped that two winners didn’t show.  I really liked the shots of the stars as the show went to commercial breaks, it actually seemed relatively candid.  I didn’t like the I’m XX and I’m a critic shtick that shows like this and the SAG awards do, but I was amused when Jon Lovitz showed up.  Host Sam Rubin was exactly like what you’d expect an entertainment reporter to be like hosting: professional, star-gazing, and not entirely memorable enough that no one really noticed when he largely went away during the middle chunk of the show, as hosts are wont to do.

–Also, let me once again advertise my banter writing services.  I just don’t understand the point of having a movie star up there to dispense two sentences of platitudes.  Seems like a wasted opportunity.  Especially since most of these people are capable of reading lines.  And I come cheap.

–Especially if I can write for Emmy Rossum.  I secretly believe she’d be a great host and am not so secretly madly in love with her.

–Kris Tapley (and I’m sure others) made the point that the show is obsessed with the Oscars.  I don’t disagree, but I find it odd the major critics organization would model its awards after the Oscars and pride itself on being a predictor for the Oscars.  Or maybe I just am hoping for an Armond White awards show.

–Hard to get too worked up over any of the awards.  I guess Silver Linings for Best Ensemble is a mistake, but really, it seems like I’m OK with most nominees and winners this year.  I like that the Critics’ Choice has Action, Comedy, and Sci-fi/Horror categories.  Though I wouldn’t say Silver Linings is a comedy.  Jennifer Lawrence won a bunch of stuff, but she’s awesome, so I don’t mind.  Bradley Cooper dropped a David Wain/Wet Hot American Summer reference, so he’s A-OK in my book.  Jessica Chastain laid down a weighty Brecht reference, so she just wins.  Quvenzhane Wallis read her speech from an iPhone, which is somehow even more adorable than it sounds.

–Rebel Wilson introduced Judd Apatow for a career achievement thing.  You will not be surprised to learn both were funny.

–Final thought: I think the Critics’ Choice and other awards shows succeed when they remember they are putting on a show for a TV audience and fail when they forget that no one cares about their specific group.  I think I speak for most people when I say that on some level, I don’t really care who the voting body is or what they stand for or how this show is different from the dozen others I’ll watch this season.  I’m in it to root for/against people and movies and to see movie stars.  Preferably engaging in witty banter.

The Grouches traditionally do a series where we write up our biggest hopes, expected disappointments, and things of that ilk in the days leading up to the nominations.  For a variety of reasons we decided to just put together a single post summarizing some of our feelings.  I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot more from us in the days leading up to the Oscars.

JOHN

I find myself somewhat disengaged this year and I’m not sure if it’s my fault or the films’. I will say I haven’t found myself blown away by much this year and I haven’t uncovered much in the way of pet causes like the Richard Jenkins or In The Loop of years past. Part of that may be that I’ve seen fewer films than usual given the early nomination date. I’ll probably see Beasts of the Southern Wild or something next week and fall in love with it.

One nomination that could still possibly happen is an Original Screenplay nod for the inventive Looper, one of my favorite movies of the year. Some precursors have recognized the film, so my fingers will be firmly crossed.

Beyond that, my hopes are such long-shots that they’re not worth expending energy wishing for them:  Adapted Screenplay (or any category, really) for Bernie or a Best Actor nod for Logan Lerman in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Finally, I’ll finish with some fairly unambitious desires. Brave moved me more than most, it seems. I think it will be fine but I hope the mild critical response and backlash about it being “lesser” Pixar doesn’t prevent it from getting its due in the Animated Feature category. And its two original songs are the best of the bunch so here’s hoping they get some recognition as well.

BRIAN

Biggest Hope:
The Fix-it Felix Version (happy): Since we’re working within reason here, its that Beasts of the Southern Wild gets a picture nomination. I’m relieved that I get to make this statement before my fellow grouches see it and hate it, because I loved it. The Katrina-inspired fable had some monumental acting performances, the score is the best I’ve heard since The Social Network (or perhaps even There Will Be Blood), and it toed the line masterfully between realism and fantasy.

The Wreck-it Ralph Version (angry): That Tom Hooper gets shut out of the director category for absolutely butchering Les Miserables. Everything about his choices ruined any chances I had of enjoying the musical and sapped all the life and emotion out of what is theoretically a good musical.

Biggest Lock:
The Channing Tatum 2012 Version (happy): Daniel Day-Lewis. He carried Lincoln from beginning to end and absolutely disappeared behind the beard and top hat.

The Taylor Kitsch 2012* Version (sad): Les Mis for best picture. See above — or just read Jared’s review in which he stole all of my good lines.

*John Carter was actually good. Don’t listen to people and go see it.

Biggest Disappointment:
The 21 Jump Street version (for a nomination): When someone from the boring and dull Best Exotic Marigold Hotel gets nominated.

The Rust and Bone version (for a non-nomination): When Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson get shut out of the Best Supporting Actor category. They carry the second half of the film and kick Django into a whole other gear of awesomeness.

JARED

Usually when we are writing up these posts, at least one of us begs for the Academy to throw some curveballs our way with an out of left field prediction or two.  You won’t see that this time.  Every single category is in play this year, and there are seemingly limitless scenarios of how this thing plays out.  Maybe Lincoln steamrolls to 300 nominations.  Maybe we only get five nominees and something big gets left out.  Could Zero Dark Thirty be huge and pull down all sorts of crazy noms?  It is going to be a lot of fun watching the nominations come out regardless of whose names are called.

Unfortunately I find myself agreeing with my compatriots.  I can’t really find any films or people on the bubble who I really want to see get in.  The Perks of Being of a Wallflower‘s screenplay, I guess?  It would be great if Matthew McConaughey could get a nomination, it is just hard to get behind his role in Magic Mike when he’s so riveting in Killer Joe.  I suppose, staying in the category, it is kind of silly that De Niro seems to be on his way to nomination for a relatively pedestrian performance, I wouldn’t mind if he missed.

I really want to be rooting for Skyfall, because Bond so rarely flies this close to Oscar, I just wish the film was, you know, actually a Bond movie.  That said, a cinematography nomination would be a lot of fun, and well-deserved.  And a Bond bad guy nomination is long overdue, so I’d be in favor of Javier Bardem showing up.

And the only thing I can think of that would really make me sad is a Tom Hooper nomination, but Brian covered that.  Well, the Les Miserables best picture nomination as well, for similar reasons.

Woohoo, made it through all of the big eight categories.  Not that I don’t love you, other categories.

VIRTUAL LOCK

  • Lincoln
  • Argo
  • Zero Dark Thirty

I can’t wait to see how the best picture nominations play out this year.  These three seem like pretty safe bets, but after that, a lot depends on the number of nominees we see.

GOOD BET

  • Silver Linings Playbook

There are certainly scenarios where Silver Linings Playbook only gets two nominations and misses here, especially if we only get five nominees.

LIKELY IN

  • Life of Pi

I dunno, Life of Pi has always been the favorite that looked shakiest to me, but everyone has been saying that Oscar folks love this movie.

ON THE BUBBLE

  • Django Unchained
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • Amour
  • The Master

Any or all of these films could get in.  Where the rest of these films may have trouble finding popular support, Django Unchained‘s problem may well be overcoming its populist tendencies.  I almost wonder if the glut of indieish films are hurting their cases by having to go against each other.  Beasts was an early indie darling, but Oscar buzz is really difficult to maintain, especially on a microbudget.  Many say Moonrise Kingdom is Wes Anderson’s finest.  Is that enough to convince Oscar?  As I’ve mentioned, Haneke has his devoted followers, and each #1 votes is going to be precious this year.  I’ve repeated my The Master is losing ground mantra over and over.  But you know what?  Losing ground means it once had that ground in the first place, and ballots went out weeks ago.

DARK HORSES

  • Skyfall
  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  • The Intouchables

My esteemed colleagues see a nomination for Skyfall.  I hope they are right.  I think.  I can build a case for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but it didn’t do nearly as well at the BAFTAs as that line of reasoning would have suggested.  Kris Tapley is touting The Intouchables and knows way more than me.  The screener went out early and it is a feel good movie beloved by audiences, so sure, it has a shot.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED

  • The Dark Knight Rises
  • 21 Jump Street

 

Hey, maybe I’ll be able to get these all in before nominations are announced.

VIRTUAL LOCK

  • Ben Affleck, Argo
  • Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
  • Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty

Yup, that’d be Ben Affleck adding a directing nomination to his resume.  Which reminds me, you should really read Boston Magazine’s oral history of Good Will Hunting.  Sure, Spielberg missed a BAFTA nom, but there’s no way he’s missing an Oscar nomination.  Apparently the government redacted screenings of Zero Dark Thirty, because it isn’t playing here yet.  Part of me hopes this movie tells the story of the part in Point Break where Keanu Reeves says he spent like a year tracking Patrick Swayze down.

GOOD BET

  • Ang Lee, Life of Pi

Turns out that Life of Pi is a movie people just plain like, and since it isn’t the script or the acting, it probably had a lot to do with Mr. Lee.

LIKELY IN

ON THE BUBBLE

  • Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
  • David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Tom Hooper, Les Miserables
  • Michael Haneke, Amour

This last spot caused me no end of grief when putting together my predictions.  It’ll be fascinating to see where the Academy comes down here, especially how it relates to other nominations for these films.  Tarantino gets credit for executing a unique vision and his endless homages.  But will his take down of slavery play as well as killing Nazis?  I’m decidedly not a David O. Russell fan and found his direction distracting.  Plenty of people disagree with me.  We’ve been over Tom Hooper and his atrocious choices in Les Miserables, and I say that as a fan of both The King’s Speech and The Damned United.  Reaction has been sharply divided, but many respect his bold decisions.  Haneke has a devoted fanbase among the Oscar crowd, maybe they’ll lead to enough #1s to push him through.

DARK HORSES

  • Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master
  • Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom
  • Robert Zemeckis, Flight
  • Sam Mendes, Skyfall
  • Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

PTA also has his crew, but when everyone is talking about the dying buzz for your film, you have a problem.  Wes Anderson is another director who brings his specific vision to the screen, but he hasn’t hit the precursors.  Zemeckis hasn’t hit precursors either, but with a name familiar to Oscar in a triumphant return to live action, and that killer crash sequence, you could seem him sneaking in.  I’m personally not predicting a massive haul for Skyfall, but if it resonated wildly for voters, then maybe they are crediting Mendes.  Zeitlin seems like too much of an indie vote for Oscar, especially with the Andersons around to divert votes, but maybe the film’s earlier release date can work in its favor.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED

  • Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises

Nominations are less than a day away! Time to put our forecasting mettle to the test and see if we can’t pick the nominees. Jared and I did all non-short categories and Brian joined us for the big six. I’ve highlighted in yellow where we differ.

Check back tomorrow to see how we did!

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You know the drill.  Oscar nominations out on the 10th, I’m taking a look at the big eight categories.  This time: Actress.

VIRTUAL LOCK

  • Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

Zero Dark Thirty isn’t out here yet, and while I can totally appreciate the strategy, it still cheeses me off that Oscar nominations for 2012 movies will be out before the vast majority of people had a chance to see the movie.  I like playing along, you know?  Anyway, Jessica Chastain has a nomination for The Help and seems like a sure bet in this presumably two women race, assuming enough people saw the film.  I thought Lawrence was absolutely fantastic in Silver Linings Playbook and she absolutely deserves to be a front-runner.  She, of course, has a prior nomination for Winter’s Bone and that red dress.

GOOD BET

LIKELY IN

ON THE BUBBLE

  • Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
  • Marion Cotillard, Rust and Bone
  • Helen Mirren, Hitchcock
  • Naomi Watts, The Impossible
  • Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Rachel Weisz, The Deep Blue Sea

If you have any confidence in predicting this category, you are a braver person than I.  Riva is supposed to be fantastic, and director Haneke is essentially an arthouse cult figure at this point.  The question that everyone is asking is whether enough people managed to see the film in time.  Also, is there enough room in the category for two ladies speaking French?  Marion Cotillard sure hopes so.  I still maintain it is a supporting role.  As Adam surely remembers, Cotillard has an Oscar win for La Vie en Rose.  Having seen Hitchcock, I want to say Helen Mirren is in the weakest position of the lot.  Except, you know, it is Helen freakin’ Mirren, who has nominations for The Madness of King GeorgeGosford Park, and The Last Station, and a win for The Queen.  I haven’t gotten to The Impossible, partially because ugh.  But Naomi Watts is hitting her precursors and had a well-publicized endorsement from Reese Witherspoon.  She has an Oscar nomination for 21 Grams.  I’ve got Beasts of the Southern Wild at home from Netflix.  Wallis is supposed to be quite memorable, but the indie film has had a little bit of trouble navigating the Oscar race, and some people will have trouble voting for a nine year old who, apparently, doesn’t seem like she’s Acting.  The Deep Blue Sea came out months ago, was little seen, and is kind of not good, none of which bodes well for Rachel Weisz.  She did get the Globes nom, but the movie is in the Globes’s wheelhouse.  She’s pretty great in the film, though, which might be the most important factor of all.  Weisz has an Oscar for The Constant Gardener.

DARK HORSES

  • Judi Dench, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  • Keira Knightley, Anna Karenina

Count Judi Dench or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel out at your own peril.  I think the Grouches have had like six different email threads about going to see Anna Karenina, but it just hasn’t happened yet.  The film seems likely to get some technical nominations, so maybe Knightley can squeak through, even without any major precursors.  She has a nomination for Pride and Prejudice.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED

  • Carla Gugino, A Girl Walks Into a Bar
  • Michelle Williams, Take This Waltz

Oscar nominations on the 10th!  Yay!  I’m taking a look at the state of the race, because…uh…tradition.  This time: Actor.

VIRTUAL LOCK

  • Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

Ladies and gentlemen, your lockiest lock.  Day-Lewis has noms for In the Name of the Father and Gangs of New York along with wins for My Left Foot and There Will Be Blood.  No one needs me to say anything more about him or his performance.

GOOD BET

  • Denzel Washington, Flight
  • Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables

Sure, Denzel’s character isn’t necessarily as much a stretch for him as some would have you to believe.  That doesn’t make him any less good.  He’s got noms for Cry FreedomMalcolm X, and The Hurricane, and wins for Glory and Training Day.  If Hugh Jackman is shaky here, it is only because Les Miserables wasn’t the unanimous success some expected it to be.  And because Tom Hooper screwed over his non-Anne Hathaway actors.  Jackman has no Oscar nominations to his name.  Fun fact, though.  His Golden Globe nomination this year was his second.  Any guesses as to which film led to his first?  Obviously, it was Kate & Leopold.  Never change, Globes.

LIKELY IN

  • Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
  • John Hawkes, The Sessions

I’m certainly not claiming this category is set in stone, but the above five gentlemen have hit all of the major precursors (Globes, Critics Choice, and most importantly SAG), so you’d have to bet on them.  Bradley Cooper took some Tropic Thunder advice and didn’t go full retard, which should be Oscar catnip, especially if they take to the rest of the film, as it seems like they will.  I realize this is going to make me sound (even more) like an idiot, but it is only while writing this up that I’m realizing the import of Hawkes not being able to move for his performance.  Full body movement is so vital to the other four actors mentioned above, making Hawkes’s performance that much more impressive.  With a prior nomination for Winter’s Bone, if he misses, it is because not enough people saw the film.  Or an insufficient Oscar campaign, I guess.

ON THE BUBBLE

  • Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

Still haven’t seen this one.  The Master‘s buzz has fallen faster than perhaps any other contender this year, and Phoenix missing the SAG was tough.  But Phoenix has two prior nominations (Gladiator and Walk the Line), the film has been out long enough for people to have seen it, and there are a sizable number of fervent Paul Thomas Anderson fans.

DARK HORSES

  • Richard Gere, Arbitrage
  • Jean-Louis Trintignant, Amour
  • Anthony Hopkins, Hitchcock
  • Jamie Foxx, Django Unchained

Gere was pretty decent, and it is the type of role you would think could get him a nomination, I’m just not sure he has enough showy scenes.  Though word on the street is that there is growing support for him.  Pretty impossible to get any sort of read on Amour, and Riva has been generating more buzz than Trinignant.  But my understanding is that if you are for one, you are probably for both of them.  Sure seemed like all the stars were aligned for an Anthony Hopkins nominations.  But the movie is entirely inessential and he is content to let Hitchcock’s girth do all the acting.  I’m kind of surprised there hasn’t been more buzz for Jamie Foxx.  He’s quite good in the movie and has a nomination for Collateral and a win for Ray.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED

  • Channing Tatum, everything
  • Logan Lerman, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Liam Neeson, The Grey
January 2013
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