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Oscar nominations are out on the 10th!  I’m taking a look at the state of the race in the eight major categories.  This time: Original Screenplay.

VIRTUAL LOCK

GOOD BET

  • Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom
  • Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty

Many are hailing Moonrise Kingdom as Wes Anderson’s finest work, that combined with a pretty decent box office seems to suggest he could get in here, a category in which Oscar has seen fit to recognize quirkier fare.  Zero Dark Thirty isn’t out here yet, so I can’t speak to it, but by most accounts it will be a deserving nominee.

LIKELY IN

  • Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master

Buzz has been waning, but the field here doesn’t have many scripts dominating the conversation.  I haven’t seen the movie yet, but it sounds like a film where the screenplay is memorable.

ON THE BUBBLE

  • John Gatins, Flight
  • Michael Haneke, Amour
  • Rian Johnson, Looper
  • Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

The WGA nod signals that there’s support for Flight, the question may be how many people remember to credit the script for the mesmerizing crash scene and Denzel’s performance.  Amour isn’t out here yet, but from afar seems like the stereotypical arthouse movie: foreign, not widely screened, boring as all get out.  Here’s hoping that last part isn’t true.  Now isn’t the place to discuss, but a Looper nomination wouldn’t make me very happy.  Still, it got the WGA nom, and Rian Johnson does have a distinctive voice.  It is pretty difficult to predict with any accuracy how many nominations Django Unchained will get, but if the Academy is feeling the love, Tarantino could get in here for a script that’s certainly distinctive.

DARK HORSES

  • Reid Carolin, Magic Mike
  • Ava DuVernay, Middle of Nowhere
  • Martin McDonagh, Seven Psychopaths

Carolin’s script feels pedestrian to me, but he’s got 100 million good reasons to call me an idiot.  If the voters are feeling indie, they could go with DuVernay, whose film many people say deserves a wider exposure.  I heart McDonagh, and his script was unique, but this one missed more than it should have.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED

  • Max Landis, Chronicle
  • Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, and Wellesley Wild, Ted
  • David Wain and Ken Marion, Wanderlust
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As a year draws to a close, it’s time for top ten lists! But even though we get literally dozens of hits per week, the studios for some reason don’t invite us to early screenings and we’re stuck buying tickets and renting DVDs like mere mortals. So we need more time to get through all the films and we’ll stick to our usual top five format for a few more months.

Not a ton of movement this month compared to November even though we’ve seen a lot of Oscar films.

John

1. Bernie
2. Looper
3. Headhunters
4. Hope Springs
5. The Queen of Versailles

Jared

1. The Dark Knight Rises
2. 21 Jump Street
3. Wanderlust
4. Argo
5. Flight

Brian

1. Lincoln
2. Argo
3. Beasts of the Southern Wild
4. Django Unchained
5. 21 Jump Street

Oscar nominations are revealed on the 10th.  I’m taking a look at the state of the race for the big eight categories.  This time: Adapted Screenplay.

VIRTUAL LOCK

  • Tony Kushner, Lincoln
  • Chris Terrio, Argo

Kushner’s script isn’t my favorite of the bunch, but he does an impressive job cramming in a ton of characters and making a Congressional vote compelling.  It is hard to see how he could miss here.  Similarly, Terrio does a great job creating tension in a story with a lot of moving parts and (like Kushner) in a story where we already know the ending.

GOOD BET

  • David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

I wouldn’t.  I thought the script had a number of problems, which I won’t get into here.  Silver Linings Playbook‘s buzz has seemingly waned maybe a little bit recently, but only a fool bets against the Weinsteins.

LIKELY IN

ON THE BUBBLE

  • Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Ben Lewin, The Sessions
  • William Nicholson, Les Miserables
  • David Magee, Life of Pi
  • Ol Parker, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I’ve got Beast of the Southern Wild at home from Netflix, so I can’t comment on it quite yet.  If you are rooting for it, you have to be worried that it missed on the Spirit Award screenplay nomination.  Chbosky adapted his own work, which seems like a little bit different situation to me.  It has picked up some heat lately by hitting on precursors.  It would be on my ballot, may just come down to how many voters saw it in time.  I wouldn’t put Ben Lewin’s script on mine, and one wonders if the film came out a little too early.  That said, the film did feel fresh and it does have the feeling of a film that could get the fifth spot.  Les Miserables is essentially an opera, and terrible, so it has an uphill battle, but if voters loved it, they could fill out their ballot with nothing but nominees from the film.  Life of Pi has a good shot at a Best Picture slot, but the accolades are generally falling on the direction and the visuals.  I really don’t understand the love for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but it exists, and plays to the demographics of the Academy.

DARK HORSES

  • John Logan, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade, Skyfall
  • Tom Stoppard, Anna Karenina

Logan, Purvis, and Wade certainly turned in a different sort of Bond script.  The film appears to be getting some traction, so a nomination wouldn’t be out of the question, especially if there are a lot of frustrated fans of The Dark Knight.  Anna Karenina seems like a good bet for some of the technical categories, which means that people have seen it, and Tom Stoppard does already have an Oscar nomination for Brazil and a win for Shakespeare in Love.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED

  • Michael Bacall, 21 Jump Street
  • Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises

Oscar nominations come out on the 10th.  I’m looking at the state of the race in the big eight categories.  This time: Supporting Actress

VIRTUAL LOCK

  • Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
  • Sally Field, Lincoln

Say what you will about Hooper’s direction (and I did), but Hathaway’s “I Dreamed a Dream” may well have been the quintessential Oscar scene.  She has one prior nomination, for Rachel Getting Married.  In my mind, Sally Field’s Mary Todd Lincoln wouldn’t have been enough if the rest of the movie had turned out to not be very good.  As is, the two time Oscar winner (Norma Rae and Places in the Heart) should be through just fine.

GOOD BET

LIKELY IN

  • Helen Hunt, The Sessions

The only thing dropping Hunt down to this section is that The Sessions just hasn’t been in the Oscar conversation as much as I would have expected.  But she gets naked, and it is Meaningful, so the Academy should eat it up.  Hunt won an Oscar for As Good as It Gets.

ON THE BUBBLE

  • Amy Adams, The Master
  • Samantha Barks, Les Miserables
  • Judi Dench, Skyfall
  • Ann Dowd, Compliance
  • Nicole Kidman, The Paperboy
  • Maggie Smith, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Still haven’t seen The Master, but Amy Adams is supposed to be solid and in a role unlike most of her others.  She suffers from being a movie that appears to be losing ground in the Oscar race, though she does have three prior noms (JunebugDoubt, and The Fighter).  I thought Barks was quite good, but she is facing a movie with sharply divided reviews and is overshadowed by Hathway, plus she has no Oscar history.  Judi Dench has five Oscar noms (Mrs. BrownChocolat, IrisMrs. Henderson PresentsNotes on a Scandal) and a win (the infamous Shakespeare in Love), all since 1998.  Her role isn’t terribly showy, but it is a meaningful one in the Bond canon, and Skyfall‘s PGA nom may suggest support for the film.  I just figured out that Ann Down played Busy Philipps’s mom on Freaks and Geeks.  I haven’t seen Compliance yet, but Dowd is the easy to root for underdog, as the veteran character actress is self-financing her campaign.  The Paperboy is supposed to be dreadful, which would be entirely consistent with seemingly 90% of the films Nicole Kidman picks.  She’s picked up steam lately, and has past noms for Moulin Rouge! and Rabbit Hole, along with a win for The Hours.  I don’t understand the love for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  The characters really weren’t any fun at all, but Smith’s is the only one who shows even mild signs of development.  She has prior noms for OthelloTravels with My Aunt, A Room with a View, and Gosford Park along with wins for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and California Suite.

DARK HORSES

  • Emily Blunt, Looper
  • Jennifer Ehle, Zero Dark Thirty
  • Kelly Reilly, Flight
  • Amanda Seyfried, Les Miserables
  • Kerry Washington, Django Unchained
  • Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

I don’t really think any of these actresses have much of a shot, you basically have to believe in the wave theory of nominations and that the Academy really liked each respective film.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED

  • Emily Blunt, Your Sister’s Sister
  • Rosemarie DeWitt, Your Sister’s Sister
  • Anne Hathaway, The Dark Knight Rises
  • Taraji P. Henson, Think Like a Man
  • Emma Stone, The Amazing Spider-Man
  • Charlize Theron, Snow White and the Huntsman
  • Emma Watson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Rebel Wilson, Pitch Perfect

You guys.  Oscar nominations come out January 10th.  Let’s get excited!  As is tradition, I’ll take a look as to where the race appears to be.  First up: Supporting Actor

VIRTUAL LOCK

(none)

GOOD BET

  • Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

This category worries me a bit, but Tommy Lee Jones seems pretty safe to make it through to the next stage.  He’s riding a crowd-pleasing role in the presumptive favorite for Best Picture.  And he has history with the Academy (nominated for Best Actor for In the Valley of Elah, and Supporting Actor for JFK along with a win for Supporting Actor for The Fugitive).

LIKELY IN

  • Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
  • Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Alan Arkin, Argo

I haven’t seen The Master yet, but Hoffman’s role is apparently quite meaty.  Like Tommy Lee Jones, he’s got two unsuccessful Oscar noms (Supporting Actor for Charlie Wilson’s War and Doubt) and a win (Capote).  The only knock is that The Master seemed to have run out of steam about a month ago, so it is hard to say for sure that he’ll be safe.

Wanna take a guess when Robert de Niro last received an Oscar nomination?  That’d be 1992, for Cape Fear.  He also has noms for AwakeningsThe Deer HunterTaxi Driver, and wins for Raging Bull and The Godfather: Part II.  Sure seems like the Academy would LOVE to get de Niro back in the conversation.  The catch is that he actually isn’t terribly good in the movie, it just seems that way compared to the rest of his output over the last two decades (save for Stardust).

Alan Arkin has an Oscar win for Little Miss Sunshine and prior to that had two noms in the 60s for The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and The Russians are Coming the Russians are Coming.  He’s good in a small role which happens to be a movie producer, complete with a catchphrase, in a likely Best Picture nominee.  The only question mark is that there isn’t a ton to the role in a film that has a huge ensemble.

ON THE BUBBLE

  • Javier Bardem, Skyfall
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained
  • Samuel L. Jackson, Django Unchained
  • Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike
  • Eddie Redmayne, Les Miserables
  • Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

The fifth slot could go a ton of different ways.  “Genre” movies can occasionally break through, with Heath Ledger the obvious recent example.  Bardem’s role wasn’t quite in that league, but he’s been receiving a decent number of accolades and has a history with the Academy, plus Skyfall appears to have a chance at some Oscar traction.  Django Unchained came out late, of course, and it is still hard to gauge the reaction.  DiCaprio and Jackson both appear to have a lot of fun playing heavies, but Waltz is in a much larger role.  Matthew McConaughey has had a heck of year, which could lead voters to rally around his solid role in Magic Mike, buoyed by all those stories you hear of the film making $100 million off a $7 million dollar budget.  That said, it remains to be seen if the Academy is gender neutral about their strippers with hearts of gold.  I don’t know what to do with Les Miserables at this point.  Some people love it, that’s for sure.  Maybe that will mean enough support for Redmayne, since I don’t see people going for Crowe.

DARK HORSES

  • Russell Crowe, Les Miserables
  • John Goodman, Argo
  • John Goodman, Flight
  • Dwight Henry, Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Ewan McGregor, The Impossible
  • William H. Macy, The Sessions

Crowe is dealing with criticisms of his singing.  Goodman has to deal with votes being split between two tiny, but showy, roles.  Henry has to deal with fewer people seeing his movie.  What little capital The Impossible has left is being spent on the push for Naomi Watts.  And The Sessions is suffering from a lack of buzz, which would be needed to garner this nomination.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED

  • Ezra Miller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Matthew McConaughey, Killer Joe

The annual Christmas movie with the family failed disastrously, so later on Gavin and I, along with Brian, headed off to see a sold out Les Miserables at Gallery Place.  I hadn’t seen the musical before, for whatever that is worth.

There are a handful of solid songs – Walking out of the theater, I probably grumbled something about there only being a good song and a half in the lot.  Upon further reflection, that was wrong, colored by something I’ll get to in the next point.  Still not sure I’ll ever have a desire to listen through the whole soundtrack, but I’ve listened to “I Dreamed a Dream”, “On My Own”, and “One Day More” a few times in the past week, and they are growing on me a lot.  And I kinda dug the march.
Tom Hooper is the worst director of the year – Hooper’s controversial non-stop use of extreme closeups singlehandedly made the movie darn near unwatchable.  Sure, the technique was effective in Anne Hathaway’s arresting take on “I Dreamed a Dream”, even if Hooper was essentially cribbing from John Maybury’s direction for video of Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”.  You know what isn’t effective?  TWO AND A HALF HOURS OF THAT.
Actors who can sing are important to a musical – And the people in charge of casting generally acquitted themselves quite well.  All of the women (Hathaway, Barks, Seyfried) are more than competent singers.  Regardless of your take on his performance, Hugh Jackman can clearly sing.  Eddie Redmayne is maybe a little too froggy for my taste, but again, not a distraction.  And while Russell Crowe may have the most limited range of the group, I found the stiff raggedness of his singing to actually mesh quite well with his interpretation of Javert.  Of course, you should keep in mind that Guys and Dolls is my favorite movie musical, and it includes the musical stylings of Marlon Brando, so as with most things, it is entirely possible I have no idea what I’m talking about.

I think there’s a compelling story in there somewhere – I’m generally a fan of the 19th century epics, which seemingly always span decades and involve war/revolution, people hiding from their past which inevitably catches up with them, fallen women, true love, someone being spurned, the rigid nature of manners getting in the way of things, and orphans.  Always with the orphans.  Anyway, most of that stuff was in there.
Tom Hooper is the worst director of the year (part two) – Unfortunately, none of things were allowed to build into a cohesive story.  Granted, some of the blame is on the screenwriter and the original French adapters, and maybe even Victor Hugo.  But here’s the thing.    I shouldn’t have to be armed with the full backstory from the stage musical or novel to wishcast a fleshed out plot onto the film.  I also think Hooper’s obsession with extreme close ups prevented him from more completely showing the interactions between characters that I think was needed.
There are a few ‘quels I’d like to see – I found the idea of Javert kinda fascinating, that in order to enforce the laws you need to believe in them completely.  I bet his story would be pretty interesting.  As far as I could tell, Eponine was the only character who isn’t insufferable.  It was kind of frustrating to be dropped in at the tail end of her story, and a credit to Samantha Barks that the character was as compelling as she was.  Not to get all Nicholas Sparks up in here, but I think you’d have a heck of a tearjerker if you keep her portion of the movie as an ending and start at the beginning of her relationship with Marius (hopefully giving him actual depth).  Oh, and a Dennis Dugan-directed spinoff of the Thenardiers, of course.

Let’s not be too harsh on Tom Hooper – I actually enjoyed the “Master of the House” scene, for example.  I think Hooper deftly used space and camerawork to create a dementedly garish romp.
Tom Hooper is the worst director of the year (part three) – Of course, that scene was wildly different, tonally, from the rest of Hooper’s bleak, gray movie.  Jarringly so, to the point where I don’t see how it fits.  I’ve got one more (possibly unfair) criticism.  Again, I haven’t seen the musical on stage, but multiple sources have said part of the appeal is the spectacle of it all.  During the film, however, I noted the smallness of everything multiple times.  The hated close ups, sure.  But also the barricade seemed really insignificant.  And the funeral procession, to me, felt minor, which was off-putting, since the march seemed to indicate something grander.  I guess all this means Hooper was being relatively consistent in his choices, but…why?
I’m running out of nice things to say, so, um, Jean Valjean is a great name – No, seriously.  Say it out loud.  “Jean Valjean”.  It is great!  He should be a secret agent.

If the movie were a sandwich, it would be:  Hard to tell.  Something on a baguette, of course.  The filling smells kind of decent, but the fact that the chef keeps trying to jam the sandwich into your face kinda hinders your ability to enjoy it.

January 2013
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