Tag Archives: Oscars2015

The 2015 Oscars Telecast

640_oscar_winners_split2What a weird night. I’ll keep this brief, as you’ve probably read a plethora of commentary about Sunday night’s show (or on twitter as it was happening). ALso, CLICK HERE to see a full list of winners.

Who would have though that a night full of very few upsets with winners we’ve seen taking home the hardware for what feels like years giving new energy into their speech? Who would have thought the Neil Patrick Harris and his writing team would more or less fail us at home? Who would have thought that Lady Gaga singing ‘The Sound of Music’ and hugging Julie Andrews would have been a highlight? Not me said the Oscar lover.

There were plenty of wonderful moments during the telecast, but they sure didn’t come from the places I would have expected. Usually the telecast make the awards seem like they get in the way of a fully entertaining evening. This 518664702_c_570_411year, it was the opposite. The winners and their speeches were electrifying, so the production felt like it was sucking the energy out of the room. Neil Patrick Harris’s opening number was fine, albeit a little dull until Anna Kendrick and Jack Black showed up, but as the night progressed his jokes got worse and the “predictions box” joke died over the course of the three hour running time. I will say that NPH tried to sell the bad jokes for as long as possible, but, as I mentioned, it was a looooooooooooong show. Don’t get me wrong, there were some great one-liners and zingers here and there, but it wasn’t enough to compete with the excellent musical numbers and speeches.

Now the good stuff: Let’s talk speeches for a moment. Graham Moore’s now famous, “Stay Weird Speech,” Patricia Arquette’s equal pay shout (that riled up giphyJ-Lo and Streep), the Polish director speaking through the play off music, JK Simmons’s “call your parents” advice, Eddie Redmayne’s child-like giddiness, Julianne Moore’s elegance, and all of Iñárritu energy made these Oscars one of the better collection of unscripted moments. I ate it all up. Now, let’s talk performances for a second. I went Gaga for Gaga, got goosebumps for giphy-1Glory, and thought ‘Everything was Awesome’ was awesome. The musical numbers really did shine, infusing energy into that theatre and our living rooms. I mean, that ‘Glory’ staging made Chris Pine and David Oyelowo cry for good reason. The night may be dragged in places, but the musical numbers weren’t to blame.

 

giphy-3

Some other thoughts:

  • I went 19 for 24. While not my best year, I’ll take it. I should just stick to my gut. PGA winners are just going to win. Straight up. As soon as Birdman won Best Original Screenplay, the night was pretty much locked in.
  • The graphics all night were absolutely gorgeous—especially the ‘In Memoriam’ segment. While I would have loved to see some clips, it was a beautiful tribute to those we lost this year.
  • Where the F*CK was Joan Rivers in the ‘In Memoriam’? She basically invented the ‘Red Carpet’ and I’m pretty sure was in some movies here and there. That was an inexcusable mistake by the producers.
  • Terrance Howard loves movies so much. So much.
  • The middle of the show is always going to feel like it’s dragging because as entertaining as the speeches can be, they’re still for awards that the majority viewers at home don’t want to see. It’s a shame, but it’s true.
  • Lady Gaga was fantastic. It’s a shame that she went on at 11:15pm with 7 more Oscars to hand out. Somebody needs to come in and figure out time management. Please.
  • American Sniper won for sound. Sounds about right.
  • Neil Patrick Harris is an entertainer, not a true comedian and the show giphy-2was lacking in humor overall. Why they didn’t supplement this with more comedic presenters is baffling to me, but I will say that Idina Menzel and John Travolta’s two minutes on stage was epically funny.
  • At least we can depend on Sean Penn to be, well, Sean Penn.
  • That set. That set was the MVP. It was miraculous.

I haven’t talked about who won which awards because it really doesn’t matter. I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is a primetime television event that attempts to take subjective art and filter it through an objective lens for the sake of pomp and circumstance. My favorite movies aren’t going to win it all and I just can’t be disappointed anymore. (I would have loved to see ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ upset for Best Original Screenplay, but oh well.) What I found quite invigorating Sunday night was that each one of the eight nominees for Best Picture won at least one statue. I would have liked them to be allocated differently, but everybody was recognized and that was fitting.

Let me know what you thought below! Did you like NPH? Would you like to see a true comedian get the gig back? Did Steve Carrell get the biggest laugh of the night? What was your favorite speech?

Well, until next year!

Keep on Watchin’!

-Bryan

My 2015 Oscar Picks

academyawards-2015

WHO ELSE IS EXCITED!?!?!?!?!?!?! The time is here for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards! I will, of course, have my thoughts on the ceremony and its winners (and losers) later tonight or early Monday morning. For now, below are my Oscar picks for who is going to WIN the Oscar for each category. I’m not listing who I WANT to win. These are two very different guesses. For instance, I would love to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes win for Special Effects, but I’m going with Interstellar due to the Academy and their previous voting habits. Hopefully I can improve on my 22/24 last year. We’ll see, won’t we!?

Best Picture

JPBOYHOOD1-articleLarge-v2AMERICAN SNIPER

BIRDMAN

*BOYHOOD

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

THE IMITATION GAME

SELMA

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING

WHIPLASH

Thought: I honestly think that your guess is as good as mine in this category when it comes to the toss up that is Birdman vs Boyhood. Birdman has won most of the Guild Awards, but Boyhood has won the BAFTA’s and other statues here and there. Take all of the facts and figures that you’d like to look at and attempt to make whatever sense you can of it, then take your pick. I’m going with Boyhood (which could be a mistake) because I think the Academy is going to spread the love tonight. As for ‘stats’, I’m banking on the one that says the SAG winners don’t win best picture and BAFTA winners do.

Best Director

birdman*Alejandro Iñárritu – BIRDMAN

Richard Linklater – BOYHOOD

Bennett Miller – FOXCATCHER

Wes Anderson – THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

Morten Tyldum – THE IMITATION GAME

Thoughts: Again, it’s toss up, but here’s my logic on this one. Iñárritu won the DGA, which is usually a great indicator of who will win this statue. I don’t see Boyhood winning both this and Best Picture, as it lost the SAG and PGA, The academy may try to spread the love too and the technical direction of Birdman will win out (ie: Gravity and Life of Pi)  If they don’t, it’ll be a Birdman sweep, SO choosing Iñárritu is statistically the best choice here. Unless Linklater wins…

Best Actor

tumblr_naxb7qXlr71rzoznmo1_500Steve Carell – FOXCATCHER

Bradley Cooper – AMERICAN SNIPER

Benedict Cumberbatch – THE IMITATION GAME

Michael Keaton – BIRDMAN

*Eddie Redmayne – THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING

Thoughts: This is an extremely tight race. Could Cooper, who wasn’t up against Keaton and Redmayne at the SAGs or BAFTAs, be the spoiler? Probably not, as he’ll take votes from the other two, but not enough to win. While Keaton has the nostalgia and veteran factor working for him, the fact is that Redmayne has won the SAG, BAFTA, and Golden Globe. In the history of the SAGS (the youngest of the three awards), when all three wins line-up, the Oscar is guaranteed. I don’t see that changing this year.

Best Actress

665822002Marion Cotillard – TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT

Felicity Jones – THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING

*Julianne Moore – STILL ALICE

Rosamund Pike – GONE GIRL

Reese Witherspoon – WILD

Thoughts: She, literally, hasn’t lost a major award this season and it won’t stop here. The voters believe she is due (and she is), so we’ll see Moore up on stage for, what I hope to be, a heartfelt acceptance speech.

Best Supporting Actor

insta014Robert Duvall – THE JUDGE

Ethan Hawke – BOYHOOD

Edward Norton – BIRDMAN

Mark Ruffalo – FOXCATCHER

*J.K. Simmons – WHIPLASH

Thoughts: He, literally, hasn’t lost a major award this season and it won’t stop here. His 20+ years of popping up in everything (TV, Movies, Commercials) has led to this well deserved award. Like Moore, is consistency is a thing of beauty.

Best Supporting Actress

tumblr_nf1xj3QEVs1s89mq8o1_400*Patricia Arquette – BOYHOOD

Laura Dern – WILD

Keira Knightley – THE IMITATION GAME

Emma Stone – BIRDMAN

Meryl Streep – INTO THE WOODS

She, literally, hasn’t lost a major award this season and it won’t stop here. We’re in for a very predictable night for a little stretch, but all of these winners, especially this category, are earned to the fullest. The competition isn’t that great, but the predicted winner would have won in stronger years anyway.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

tumblr_nk3a4z9ccl1u9x3n5o2_500AMERICAN SNIPER – Written by Jason Hall

THE IMITATION GAME – Written by Graham Moore

INHERENT VICE – Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING – Screenplay by Anthony McCarten

WHIPLASH – Written by Damien Chazelle

Thoughts: This is tricky category, as ‘Whiplash’ wasn’t included here in earlier award ceremonies. (The Academy is saying that it is based on a short film used to raise funds to make the full length film nominated.) This throws a wrench into the plans of films like ‘The Theory of Everything’ and ‘The Imitation Game’, but I still see Graham Moore taking the prize home. He won the WGA and he’ll win here.

Writing (Original Screenplay)

giphy-1BIRDMAN – Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo

BOYHOOD – Written By Richard Linklater

FOXCATCHER – Written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman

*THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL – Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness

NIGHTCRAWLER – Written by Dan Gilroy

Thoughts: This a tough race, as the Boyhood and Birdman are duking it out for Best Picture. I think that academy will honor Anderson and his most successful movie to date. They’re going to spread the love around. He’s got the momentum with the DGA and BAFTA and it’s a way for the academy to award this film for it’s insightful quirkiness.

Production Design

*THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL – Adam Stockhausen (Production Design); Anna Pinnock (Set Decoration)

THE IMITATION GAME – Maria Djurkovic (Production Design); Tatiana Macdonald (Set Decoration)

INTERSTELLAR – Nathan Crowley (Production Design); Gary Fettis (Set Decoration)

INTO THE WOODS – Dennis Gassner (Production Design); Anna Pinnock (Set Decoration)

TURNER – Suzie Davies (Production Design); Charlotte Watts (Set Decoration)

Cinematography

*Emmanuel Lubezki – BIRDMAN

Robert Yeoman – THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski – IDA

Dick Pope – MR. TURNER

Roger Deakins – UNBROKEN

Foreign Language Film

*IDA – Poland; Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski

LEVIATHAN – Russia; Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev

TANGERINES – Estonia; Directed by Zaza Urushadze

TIMBUKTU – Mauritania; Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako

WILD TALES – Argentina; Directed by Damián Szifron

Animated Feature Film

tumblr_njy0tvzULw1rdqbfro5_500*BIG HERO 6

THE BOXTROLLS

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2

SONG OF THE SEA

THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA

Visual Effects

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER – Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES – Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould

*INTERSTELLAR – Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST – Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

Costume Design

*Milena Canonero – THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

Mark Bridges – INHERENT VICE

Colleen Atwood – INTO THE WOODS

Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive – MALEFICENT

Jacqueline Durran – MR. TURNER

Music (Original Score)

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL – Alexandre Desplat

THE IMITATION GAME – Alexandre Desplat

INTERSTELLAR – Hans Zimmer

TURNER – Gary Yershon

*THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING – Jóhann Jóhannsson

Music (Original Song)

“Everything is Awesome” from THE LEGO MOVIE – Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson

*”Glory” from SELMA – Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn

“Grateful” from BEYOND THE LIGHTS – Music and Lyric by Diane Warren

“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from GLEN CAMPBELL…I’LL BE ME – Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond

“Lost Stars” from BEGIN AGAIN – Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois

Documentary Feature

*CITIZEN FOUR – Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky

FINDING VIVIAN MAIER – John Maloof and Charlie Siskel

LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM – Rory Kennedy and Keven McAlester

THE SALT OF THE EARTH – Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and David Rosier

VIRUNGA – Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara

Film Editing

AMERICAN SNIPER – Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach

*BOYHOOD – Sandra Adair

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL – Barney Pillling

THE IMITATION GAME – William Goldenberg

WHIPLASH – Tom Cross

Makeup and Hairstyling

FOXCATCHER – Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL – Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White

Sound Editing

*AMERICAN SNIPER – Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

BIRDMAN – Martin Hernández and Aaron Glascock

THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES – Brent Burge and Jason Canovas

INTERSTELLAR – Richard King

UNBROKEN – Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro

Sound Mixing

AMERICAN SNIPER – John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin

BIRDMAN – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga

INTERSTELLAR – Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten

UNBROKEN – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee

*WHIPLASH – Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

Documentary Short Subject

*CRISIS HOTLINE: VETERANS PRESS 1 – Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry

JOANNA – Aneta Kopacz

OUR CURSE – Tomasz Śliwiński and Maciej Ślesicki

THE REAPER (LA PARKA) – Gabriel Serra Arguello

WHITE EARTH – J. Christian Jensen

Short Film (Animated)

THE BIGGER PICTURE – Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees

THE DAM KEEPER – Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi

*FEAST – Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed

ME AND MY MOULTON – Torill Kove

A SINGLE LIFE – Joris Oprins

Short Film (Live Action)

AYA – Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis

*BOOGALOO AND GRAHAM – Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney

BUTTER LAMP (LA LAMPE AU BEURRE DE YAK) – Hu Wei and Julien Féret

PARVANEH – Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger

THE PHONE CALL – Mat Kirkby and James Lucas

Listen, this year is incredible tough to guess Best Picture and Best Director. While I will be rooting for my picks to win, I’d LOVE to see some upsets. The night oscarcontention2013featuresis more fun with upsets! (Except for Best Picture. If America Sniper wins, I won’t ever watch the Oscars again. On the flip side, the more big awards The Grand Budapest Hotel can will, the better.) Hopefully, we’ll get to see Oscars go to as many movies as possible because this year there were a lot of great films that deserve all kinds of recognition.

Keep on Watchin’!

-Bryan

2015 Screen Actors Guild Awards Predictions

screen-actors-guild-awards-logo

The awards season took an interesting turn with last night’s announcement that ‘Birdman’ won the Producers Guild Award. Until last night, ‘Boyhood’ was suspected to be the frontrunner, but for the last seven years the PGA has predicted the Oscar for Best Picture. This is going to make predicting the race much harder, as these last few years hasn’t had a race this close. We’ll see if the PGA’s streak holds up in February. The SAGs, tonight at 8pm on TNT and TBS, predict Oscars acting winners with a relatively high accuracy (nothing’s perfect though). Between the PGA and the SAGs, I’ll have a lot to think about when sitting in front of my blank ballot this year.

Below are my predictions for the painless and quick awards ceremony that marks the start to the long month before the Oscars. We’ll have all the information we need for our final prediction, but will be waiting and waiting and waiting. Yeah, yeah, we all know it’s drawn out, but look, the Oscars used to be in March!

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

Birdman-3Birdman

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

The Theory of Everything

Should Win – Boyhood; Could Win – The Grand Budapest Hotel; Will Win – Birdman

This category is very different from the Best Picture race at the Oscars. For Example,  ‘12 Years a Slave’, ‘The Artist’, ‘Million Dollar Baby’, ‘The Departed’ and ‘The Hurt Locker’ all lost this SAG category and went on to win best picture. So, this race is a little bit up in the boyhood-posterair. As I mentioned, the changing shifts in frontrunner is like nothing we’ve seen in the recent past. A loss here for ‘Boyhood’ could hurt its chances come Oscar night, now that ‘Birdman’ is the PGA winner. It need another significant win from a voting body that overlaps with the Academy members to prove that this race is still alive. (Then again, with this track record of Oscars winner/loser it might even help it’s golden statue chances if it loses.) I hope it wins to keep conversations interesting. This all being said, the SAG voters will go with ‘Birdman’. A movie about acting and the legacy you leave behind starring some of the best actors working right now? It’ll be hard to beat at an awards show voted on by actors. (Then again, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ could be the grand ol’ spoiler of the night and I would love it.)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Lead Role

635488916742130002-birdmanv2Steve Carell – ‘Foxcatcher’

Benedict Cumberbatch – ‘The Imitation Game’

Jake Gyllenhaal – ‘Nightcrawler’

Michael Keaton – ‘Birdman’

Eddie Redmayne – ‘The Theory of Everything’

Should Win – Michael Keaton; Could Win – Eddie Redmayne; Will Win – Michael Keaton

This is a two horse race and it will stay that way for Oscars regardless of what happens tonight. Redmanye’s performance is of the stuff that awards shows salivate over. He went through a physical transformation to play a real disabled British genius in a period piece. I mean, come on, how can you lose? He will lose though because the SAG voters will have the actor playing the actor in a movie that echoes the real life comeback of Keaton.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Lead Role

cdn.indiewireJennifer Aniston – ‘Cake’

Felicity Jones – ‘The Theory of Everything’

Julianne Moore – ‘Still Alice’

Rosamund Pike – ‘Gone Girl’

Reese Witherspoon – ‘Wild’

Should Win – Julianne Moore; Could Win – Jennifer Aniston; Will Win – Julianne Moore

A lot of members could vote for Aniston, as she is a TV comedy actress who worked her way to up to a “serious role.” They may also want to award her since she didn’t get an Oscar nomination. However, this is Julianne Moore’s to lose and she’s not going to at all.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Whiplash-7567.cr2Robert Duvall – ‘The Judge’

Ethan Hawke – ‘Boyhood’

Edward Norton – ‘Birdman’

Mark Ruffalo – ‘Foxcatcher’

JK Simmons – ‘Whiplash’

Should Win – Ethan Hawke; Could Win – Edward Norton; Will Win – JK Simmons

This is a pretty dense category filled with incredbile performances (sans Duvall) Simmons will win, but Norton could very well give him a run for his money. ‘Birdman’ and it’s actor-centric plot is going to be unstoppable at the SAGs, but Norton won’t beat out Simmons. His respected 20 year character actor career and amazing performance in ‘Whiplash’ will continue this awards season domination.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

patty2_article_story_largePatricia Arquette – ‘Boyhood’

Keira Knightley – ‘The Imitation Game’

Emma Stone – ‘Birdman’

Meryl Streep – ‘Into the Woods’

Naomi Watts – ‘St. Vincent’

Should Win – Patricia Arquette; Could Win – Emma Stone; Will Win – Patricia Arquette

This is a weak field in general, but even in a strong year Arquette would win. This is the only true lock of the evening.

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

downton-abbey-logo-001Boardwalk Empire

Downton Abbey

Game of Thrones

Homeland

House Of Cards

Should Win – Game of Thrones; Could Win – House of Cards; Will Win – Downton Abbey

With ‘Breaking Bad’ no longer a contender, this category, like its film counterpart, is up in the air. Even though it was the surprise winner in a ‘Breaking Bad-less category two years ago, I see no reason why ‘Downton Abbey’ won’t pick back up an award again. TV awards have a long history of repeat winners and it take a lot for another show to break streaks.  ‘House of Cards’ wasn’t nominated for season 1, so it could win as a ‘technical newbie’ to this category. (Though you can look at it like ‘Cards’ is only filling a space that ‘Breaking Bad’ can no longer occupy.) Despite all of this, ‘Game of Thrones’ should win, but it won’t, even if it has one of the best ensemble on TV. What a shame.

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series

orange-new-black-season-2-casting-rumorsThe Big Bang Theory

Brooklyn Nine-nine

Modern Family

Orange is the New Black

Veep

Should Win – Orange is the New Black; Could Win – Modern Family; Will Win – Orange is the New Black

Now in the comedy category, ‘Orange is the New Black’ received its first ensemble nomination this year. It’s also going to win. It has a true ensemble, executing at a very high level. Unless ‘Modern Family’ wins again (which wouldn’t be a surprise anybody because you really shouldn’t bet against the house), ‘Orange’ will take it and all will rejoice. Honestly, if ‘Modern Family’ does win again, I will be upset, again.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

Matthew-McConaughy-Open-to-a-True-Detective-ReturnSteve Buscemi – Boardwalk Empire

Peter Dinklage – Game of Thrones

Woody Harrelson – True Detective

Matthew McConaughey – True Detective

Kevin Spacey – House of Cards

Should Win – Peter Dinklage; Could Win – Kevin Spacey; Will Win – Matthew McConaughey

Dinklage would be my pick to win this award, but we all know that he has no shot against Mr. McConaughey. Since he didn’t win the Emmy, the SAGs will reward him for his impressive turn in ‘True Detective’. However, he’s hasn’t won for this part in a while, so I could see the downswing in the “Mcconaissance” open the doors for the ever popular and scene-chewingly good Spacey to win. We all love a good Frank Underwood come from behind story.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series

viola-davis-getting-away-murder-articleClaire Danes – Homeland

Viola Davis – How To Get Away with Murder

Julianna Margulies – The Good Wife

Tatiana Maslany – Orphan Black

Maggie Smith – Downton Abbey

Robin Wright – House of Cards

Should Win – Tatiana Maslany; Could Win – Julianna Margulies; Will Win – Viola Davis

Last year Maggie Smith won, so there won’t be a repeat winner. The SAGs love Davis, as she previously won for ‘The Help’, beating out Meryl Streep, who would go on to win the Oscar. They also love Shonda Rhimes shows, as they fare very well at the SAGs. (Chandra Wilson and Sandra Oh both won this award.) Margulies has won for this show quite a bit (twice) and with no repeat winner, the actor could go right back to her. I still foresee a Davis win.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

TY BURRELLTy Burrell – Modern Family

Louis CK – Louis

William H Macy – Shameless

Jim Parsons – The Big Bang Theory

Eric Stonestreet – Modern Family

Should Win – Louis CK; Could Win – Jim Parsons; Will Win – Ty Burrell

Burrell won last year and we know how every awards show just has to love ‘Modern Family’ (Burrell ended Alec Baldwin’ 7 year ‘30 Rock’ streak). Parsons keep winning the Emmy, so maybe the SAGs follow suit? Probably not.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

Selina signs her bookUzo Aduba – Orange is the New Black

Julie Bowen – Modern Family

Edie Falco – Nurse Jackie

Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Veep

Amy Poehler – Parks and Recreation

Should Win – Amy Poehler; Could Win – Uzo Aduba; Will Win – Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Louis-Dreyfus won last year and almost every other award for this show. She is a TV goddess and won’t lose. If ‘Orange is the New Black’ finds heavy support, Uzo has a chance to win, but she isn’t the lead and realistically, Julia is going to be impossible to beat.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

fargo-306-1394549574Adrien Brody – Houdini

Benedict Cumberbatch – Sherlock: His Last Vow

Richard Jenkins – Olive Kitteridge

Mark Ruffalo – The Normal Heart

Billy Bob Thornton – Fargo

Should Win – Billy Bob Thornton; Could Win – Mark Ruffalo; Will Win – Billy Bob Thornton

With no McConaughey in this category, Billy Bob has this one in the bag. Ruffalo could pull out a surprise as a double nominee this evening, but as good and important as ‘The Normal Heart’ is, nobody was better as Thorton as the villainous Lorne Malvo.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

olivekitteridge12Ellen Burstyn – Flowers in the Attic

Maggie Gyllenhaal – The Honorable Woman

Frances McDormand – Olive Kitteridge

Julia Roberts – The Normal Heart

Cicely Tyson – The Trip to Bountiful

Should Win – Frances McDormand; Could Win – Cicely Tyson; Will Win – Frances McDormand

This McDormand’s award all the way. Tyson could take the statue because the SAGs do love to award a veteran in this category, but McDormand’s performance and standing as an elite artist in the eyes of voters will push her over the top.

Later this evening (or tomorrow morning), I’ll have a SAGs recap for you all. Enjoy the show.

Keep on Watchin’!

-Bryan

Dear… OSCARS

the-oscars-and-social-media-by-the-numbers-630dfbfb1c

Dear Oscars,

You have to stop nominating actors and actresses into the lead category when they are clearly supporting roles. Your understanding of what a protagonist or anti-hero and character arc is continues to be–

Wait a minute. I’m sorry. Before I begin criticizing you, I want to be as clear as day. I love you very much. As a child you were my gateway drug into film and the conversation that could be had about film. You were (and still are) bigger than any other holiday in my personal calendar. While I have grown to understand your trivial nature, my enchantment with you is unwavering. I used to be able to name every single best picture, actor, and actress winner. I knew all the facts and figures. My first “MUST WATCH” lists were based on what you deemed ‘the best’.  Then, through backwards ways, you taught me the true meaning of subjectivity and objectivity in art.

My summers are spent going to the movies, absorbing all of the fantasy, superhero, sci-fi movies my little brain, eyes, and ears can handle. My fall and winter are spent seeing everything that will potentially be nominated or just in your nomination conversation. Then I take your nominations list, run it against everything I know about you, pick your winners, and win some Oscar-pool prizes. I dedicate my free time to my love of film and my obsession with you.

Since I know so much about you, I also see your glaring flaws. (We all have them, so don’t stream_imgget defensive.) I could go on and on about how your broadcast doesn’t prioritize its viewers, or how your nominations system is flawed, or how I see more of the nominated movies than your voters, or how you don’t pay attention to certain genres, or how– okay, I’ll stop. You get it. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before and you’ll hear it from years to come. What really bothers me though, like really, really bothers me is when you compromise your understanding of Lead and Supporting Actor/Actress–a semi-straight forward concept when it comes to basic storytelling.

Let’s use this year’s nominations as an example. Steve Carell is nominated in the category of: BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE for ‘Foxcatcher’. I saw that movie. I have the ticket stub to prove it, so I’m pretty sure that Channing Tatum’s character, Mark Schultz, is the mainfoxcatcher1 character. He’s the protagonist that the audience connects and empathizes with throughout the bloated two hour and fourteen minute running time. Tatum’s Mark is the character that we follow as he is led to make bad choice after bad choice. The story that ‘Foxcatcher’ is presenting is the story of Mark Schultz. Once his story is complete, Schultz isn’t in the movie for about 20 minutes. The director, Bennett Miller, had told his full story, so despite the shocking penultimate scene, the last portion of the movie is dull and without a main character.

Oscars, I totally agree that Carell is excellent as John du Pont. I’m not criticizing his performance. He’s haunting as the manipulative, isolated rich man, but still only serves as steve_carell_foxcatcheran obstacle in Mark’s way of self-discovery. Regardless of screentime, du Pont is a supporting character in Mark’s story. John Du Pont has no real character arc–he’s just as troubled at the start of the film as he is at the end. His barometer needle doesn’t move enough to warrant a lead actor credit. Du Pont doesn’t go through any type of transformation that puts him in a different place–he just chooses to act on his already tainted thoughts.  Your cousin, the BAFTA’s, got it right,  Oscars. Carell should be nominated for Supporting Actor. His nomination bumps two actors, Jake Gyllenhaal (‘Nightcrawler’) and David Oyelowo (‘Selma’), out of the field that they actually fit and gives Robert Duvall’s unworthy performance in ‘The Judge’ a spot in the supporting line-up*.

*Note: Duvall does fit your historically documented love of giving supporting nominations to veteran actors in when they haven’t been around a lot lately.

You have a very clear history of allowing for this sort of category jump, Oscars. I can name dozens of examples. For instance, Meryl Streep’s monstrous Miranda Priestly in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ was nominated for Lead Actress. I saw that one too! I’m The-Devil-Wears-Prada-Theme-Song-1almost positive that Anne Hathaway’s Andrea Sachs is that movie’s lead character. It’s almost exactly like the ‘Foxcatcher’ example. Do you get what I’m saying, golden statue man? You know, I can’t tell because you haven’t moved a muscle, so I’ll try and figure out another one. Okay, here. Did you see ‘Training Day’? You probably did because Denzel Washington won Best Lead Actor for the role of Alonzo Harris. That’s so interesting to me because Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) is that film’s lead character and Hawke was nominated for Supporting Actor. Oscar, I could go on with examples like Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin Dada in ‘The Last King of Scotland’, Judi Dench as Barbara Covett in ‘Notes on a Scandal’, Kate Winslet as Hanna Schmitz in ‘The Reader’, and to lesser extents, a206a947-68dd-49ab-8fe7-e7272596cb64.grid-6x2Louise Fletcher in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’, Anthony Hopkins in ‘Silence of the Lambs’, Morgan Freeman in ‘Invictus’ and Michelle Williams in ‘My Week with Marilyn’.* In my opinion, in a weaker year for all male categories, JK Simmons would be up for Best Lead Actor for ‘Whiplash’. All of these performers are 100% worthy of accolades for their work in these roles, but in the correct category.

Is it because it’s a famous actor bringing a human side to a villainous character? (Most of these parts are charismatic villains that create obstacles for the leads.) Is it purely because of the studio’s campaign for the lead nomination? (These are your rules, so you can do what you want.) Maybe it’s because these parts seem to overshadow the other actors or actresses in the film? (Character roles are usually the most entertaining parts of a film, especially when executed at high level.)

Oscars, if you had a mouth, you’d probably say something like, “Bryan, I love you too, but a movie can have more than one lead! Why can’t Carell and Tatum both be considered leads?” First of all, thanks, I love you too. Second, sure they can. I’ve seenTrainingDay ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’, ‘The Theory of Everything’, ‘When Harry Met Sally’, ‘Thelma and Louise’, ‘9 to 5’, and of course, ‘Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion’. Films can absolutely have two lead characters, but both the characters need to have full arcs and do more than ‘hinder that other person’. We get caught up in the glitz and glamour in what these big time actor and actresses are doing  in this films that we don’t think that, well, maybe they aren’t the emotional focus. It’s not as crazy as it seems when you actually break it down.

So, Oscars, I doubt you’ll do anything to appease my request to shape this up, but I had to try, right? I mean, can you imagine how much more competitive both the Lead and Supporting categories would be if Simmons was up against Carell or Oyelowo/Gyllenhaal went mano y mano with Keaton and Redmayne?! Wowza! Again, I love you and know that you’ve been doing this since 1927. I hope there are no hard feelings, but seriously, know how narratives and story work before you start handing out awards.

One more quick thing while I have your attention. If ‘American Sniper’ wins Best Picture based on its current box office momentum over any of the other seven nominees, I’ll never watch you again. I seriously mean that statement. I don’t think I can handle that letdown. Thanks, man.

Keep on Watchin’!

-Bryan

2015 Oscar Nominations

The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.

HAPPY OSCAR NOMINIATIONS MORNING TO YOU ALL! The entire year of movies has boiled down to this penultimate step! (That’s a sweeping, untrue generalization, but it’s the Oscars—a time to be dramatic. Unfortunately, it’s not a time to be comedic because the academy doesn’t take well to “that genre,” unless you’re Woody Allen.) ANYWAY, before I have to go and do stuff for work*, below are the core category nominations and some of my initial reactions.

*Note: Yes, I came to my office early to make sure I could livestream the presser, quickly blog about them, and not be late for work. That’s just what I do.

Best Picture

American Sniper

Birdman

MV5BMTYzNDc2MDc0N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTcwMDQ5MTE@._V1_SX640_SY720_Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

Quick thoughts, clear “snubs,” and my early prediction:

  • Only 8 nominations. Thought there would be 9.
  • No Foxcatcher, but Bennett Miller was nominated for best director and the screenplay received a nod
  • Huzzah for Whiplash
  • No Nightcrawler (which has a writing nomination)
  • Early favorite: BOYHOOD

Best Director

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – Birdman

Richard Linklater – Boyhoodboyhood-richard-linklater2

Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher

Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel

Mortern Tyldum – The Imitation Game

Quick thoughts, clear “snubs,” and my early prediction:

  • No Selma (boo) or American Sniper (yay) which both have Best Picture nominations
  • I’m a big advocate of: there are no Best Director Snubs, because there are only 5 spots for a potential 10 movie Best Picture race.
  • Bennett Miller is the HUGE surprise here, as he hasn’t received many of these for Foxcatcher. Plus it’s not up for best picture.
  • Would have loved to see Damien Chazelle for Whiplash here. The last 10 minutes deserves an honorary Oscar!
  • Early Frontrunner: RICHARD LINKLATER

Best Actor

Steve Carell – Foxcatcher

Bradly Cooper – American Sniper

and-the-oscar-goes-to-could-birdman-be-the-first-superhero-movie-nominated-for-best-pictureBenedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton – Birdman

Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

Quick thoughts, clear “snubs,” and my early prediction:

  • Carrell was on the fence as him momentum started to swing down, but got a nomination regardless which meant one person was getting snubbed.
  • BUT THEN, Bradly Cooper was nominated and two people were snubbed: Sorry Jake Gyllenhaal and David Oyelowo (Nightcrawler and Selma). American Sniper’s Oscar campaign definitely helped it here.
  • Alas, no Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel). Not that I expected it, but still a boy can hope.
  • Early Frontrunner: MICHAEL KEATON

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night

Felicity Jones – The Theory of EverythingJulianne-Moore-in-Still-Alice

Julianne Moore – Still Alice

Rosemund Pike – Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon – Wild

Quick thoughts, clear “snubs,” and my early prediction:

  • Except for Cotillard taking a spot (Yay) from Jennifer Aniston from Cake, not surprised here.
  • Early Frontrunner: JULIANNE MOORE

Best Supporting Actor

635483774418719401-01-simmonsRobert Duvall – The Judge

Ethan Hawke – Boyhood

Edward Norton – Birdman

Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher

JK Simmons – Whiplash

Quick thoughts, clear “snubs,” and my early prediction:

  • Zero Surprises here at all.
  • Early Frontrunner: JK SIMMONS

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette – Boyhood53ec746af1a7bba0_pat2.xxxlarge

Laura Dern – Wild

Kiera Knightly – The Imitation Game

Emma Stone – Birdman

Meryl Streep – Into the Woods

Quick thoughts, clear “snubs,” and my early prediction:

  • Dern out of NOWHERE. I love it!
  • Altough it is sad that Jessica Chastain gets no A Most Violent Year.
  • Early Frontrunner: PATRICA ARQUETTE

Best Original Screenplay

hr_The_Grand_Budapest_Hotel_3Birdman

Boyhood

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Nightcrawler

Quick thoughts, clear “snubs,” and my early prediction:

  • For me, no surprises here, as Selma was the only film that had field breaking potential
  • Early Frontrunner: BIRDMAN

Best Adapted Screenplay

American SniperPoster-art-for-The-Imitation-Game-film-Alan-Turing-Enigma-codebreaking-movie

The Imitation Game

Inherent Vice

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

Quick thoughts, clear “snubs,” and my early prediction:

  • I still think it’s crazy for Whiplash to be an adapted screenplay
  • Inherent Vice is a nice surprise though.
  • Sorry Gone Girl (NBD)
  • Early Frontrunner: The IMITATION GAME

OTHER:

  • I also want to mention how shocked I am that ‘The LEGO Movie’ wasn’t nominated for Best Animated Feature!
  • And somebody should check the mics during the livestream dead time. I’m pretty sure the TV staff was practicing their cues and I heard all of the nominations.
  • Yes, congrats to Dick Poop!(PRACTICE BEFORE YOU SPEAK, PRESIDENT BOONE!)
  • This is the first year since 1995 where all of the acting nominees are white.
  • And where are all the women? No director (AVA) or screenplay (GILLIAN) reps!
  • Honestly, there are little surprises here or there in these categories (Cooper, Dern, Cotillard, Miller), but do surprises really matter when most of the winners are locks (Moore, Simmons, and Arquette)? This has been the pattern since the Academy moved the Oscars from March to February.

As we break these down and the media has a field day over all of this information, it’s really nice that most of these nominations are from independent films. If these awards get some people into the theatre to see a movie that will challenge, excite, or inform them, then the Oscars have done their job already.

The Oscars Awards ceremony will be hosted by NPH on Sunday, February 22nd.

 

Keep on Watchin’!

-Bryan

Moore, Cotillard–Please!: Reviews of ‘Still Alice’ and ‘Two Days, One Night’

Julianne Moore and Marion Cotillard are the best. They continually choose tough, challenging, thoughtful parts in interesting movies that seem to always fly under the radar. marioncotillard1(‘A Single Man’, ‘Don Jon’, ‘The Immigrant’, ‘Rust and Bone’) When they do appear in a larger scale films, they bring so much to their roles that it’s hard to pay attention to anybody else (‘Mockingjay’, ‘Inception’). They mesmerize. As Cate Blanchett proclaimed in her ‘Blue Jasmine’ Oscar acceptance speech, “…and perhaps those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the 405bdcd4d7d479c6b515bf49242cb7ec_largecenter are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people.” These two woman prove this powerful sentiment over and over. Sorry Meryl, along with Blancett and Chastain, they’ve been the best for a while now. Recently, I had the pleasure to sit through two excellent, nuanced performances from these actresses.

Still Alice

Based on Lisa Genova’s novel of the same name, ‘Still Alice’ chronicles an accomplished Columbia University linguistics professor, Alice Howland (Julianne Moore), as her mind slowly deteriorates due to a rare case of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. So, yeah, this is a rough one.

Nobody is better than Julianne Moore this year. I hate to chalk up an entire movie’s quality to one performance, as ‘Still Alice’ is beautifully filmed with a natural touch, and wonderfully acted by her co-stars, but it really is Moore’s show. They all supporting this movie’s, and Hollywood’s, true star. Her performance is so delicate, layered, and heartbreaking, that there is room to mistake this for a documentary of sorts.

Alice’s determination to fight the deterioration of her mind, body, and family is put on full display. Moore conveys such a sense of acceptance, denial, and pure fight throughout the MV5BMjIzNzAxNjY1Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDg4ODQxMzE@._V1_SX214_AL_entity of the film that when, eventually, hope starts to evaporate, it’s all the more gut-wrenching. Even in her attempts to stall the speed of the disease through different memory methods, Alice knows it’s only a momentary win; her disease is destined to worsen quickly. As Alice loses bits and pieces of herself, which is mapped out with incredbile detail by Moore and the directors, her husband and children reluctantly see the end and, sadly, begin to plan their new beginning in some matter of fact, hard to swallow scenes.

Alice’s fade is hardest on her youngest child, Lydia (Kristen Stewart) and husband John (Alec Baldwin), respectively. Stewart and Baldwin are featured heavily (as far as anybody can be featured in this one woman show) and are excellent. The use of these two characters’ different reactions to the circumstance add insightful and necessary padding around the central character’s journey.

I think that Lydia sees a more stripped down version of her mother—who she used to be or truly is at heart. John just doesn’t see his wife anymore after being her sole caretaker. He lives with, and is taking care of, a pod creature. To deal with his sorrow, he separates himself in an attempt to move on. Lydia gets closer, knowing that a crushing blow is coming. Haunted by the thought: “This wasn’t supposed to happen to us”– John and Lydia’s reactions are surprising to even themselves.

I won’t go into detail of some of my favorite moments, as I want you to see them for the Alec+Baldwin+Alec+Baldwin+Julianne+Moore+Film+NcKfQ3L5Qfolfirst time in context. However I will say that these mishaps and moments never plateau the film, they are strung together to create a natural evolution of the story and overwhelming loss of, and for, Alice.

Directors Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer deserve a lot of credit that they kept this film from crossing the threshold into melodramatic territory. There is a grounded reality to the work. Told within a simple framework of hazy old films (memories?) of Alice’s long deceased sister and mother, the film’s thematic elements of love, memory, and self-preservation are beautifully, but not abundantly, highlighted as we follow Alice through her devastating final act. Yes, you will cry for two hours–maybe even after. Julianne Moore’s performance will break your heart because Alice is always there, even in her eyes, but at the same time there’s a vacancy that can’t be filled. Once again, Mr. Oscar is Moore’s to lose — and she won’t.

Two Days, One Night

After taking time off due to depression, a wife and mother of two, Sandra (Marion Cotillard), loses her job at the local factory. Her co-workers have collectively chosen to let her go and each take a bonus. Hesitantly, Sandra takes the weekend to convince the majority to change their minds before a second vote on Monday morning. Once again, not light content.

‘Two Days, One Night’ is simple in its premise, but complex it in its ideas and morals. It’s a film not only about finding happiness and inner strength in a world that seemingly hands MV5BMjIyMzczMDI0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjI5Nzk3MTE@._V1_SY1200_CR126,0,630,1200_AL_out raw deals, but about decision making as an individual versus in a group setting and how these decisions genuinely affect the well-being of others. If Sandra can effectively convince the majority to vote for her, she will have discovered that she can have a more direct control over her circumstances–all of them. The opportunity to course correct your own life and potentially succeed is terrifying. For a movie that is about these very moral dilemmas,‘Two Days, One Night’ never gets preachy or over the top. It is all executed well by directors Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne–beautiful shots of isolation mixed with straight-forward static shots to not distract from Cotillard playing the nervous saleswoman trying to convert voters.

Cotillard’s subtle, big-when-it-needs-to-be, performance holds the narrative together so tightly that it never seems to unravel as she visits co-worker after co-worker. Her husband (Fabrizio Rongione), full of sadness, love and obligation, is the supportive fire that she needs to get going. He’s both looking out for his, her, and their well being and it’s abundantly clear that there are three sources of motivation. They are broken team on completely different pages, clawing to make it all work. There is a layer of their relationship that is only discussed once, three-fourths of the way through the film, but it weighs heavily on everything this family is fighting for throughout the film.

As Sandra struggles to allow herself to fight for her own (and family’s) survival, her co-workers’ justifications for their choices and their willingness to listen to her side vary. It’s Two Days, One Nightan interesting study into what a little extra money does to people. Is the ability to help my fellow man override the need to care for my own family? Is this my money or am I taking it? When given these two options, who does a person become? It’s a high stakes situation that determines the outcome for an entire slew of families in a tough economy. The decision is not as easy as one thinks and the movie doesn’t make look that way.

The third act is very straightforward with some predictable moments, but the outcome is justified and lovely in a way I didn’t expect. The feelings you’re left with kind of sneak up on you. There is a scene (you’ll know it when you see it) that despite the dire circumstances and seriousness of the actions, seems rushed and inconsequential. It incorporated character beats that needed to be included, but didn’t organically flow into the next portion of the story. However, what could have been an below average, run of the mill film, is elevated through Cotillard’s performance, a nicely paced script, and thoughtful direction. It’s not one of my favorite films of this past year, but it’s quite memorable, thanks to its leading lady.

If you go out of your way to enjoy both of these films (which you should), you’ll see how similar these women’s characters are, albeit in very different circumstances. They draw two-days-one-night-cannes-2014-5hope from the same places and they need to find or maintain their own personhood before it’s gone. These films should not only be categorized as “female films,” but explorations of any persons’ identity and strength.

Cotillard already has her Oscar statue for 2007’s ‘La Vie En Rose’ and Moore is sure to win this year. How does she not have a little golden man already?! Fun Fact That Doesn’t Really Matter: Interestingly, Cotillard beat out front runner Julie Christie for ‘Away From Her’ in ‘07, another well-made film about the effect of Alzheimer’s disease. This year, she only has an outside shot to break into the field, which is ashame. Hopefully we will see both of these women in this year’s ‘Best Actress’ article-0-1C4CD36E00000578-831_634x424category (a category that should be considered stronger year to year). Regardless of what “The Academy” thinks, we’ll get to absorb and ruminate about these two women’s strong work for years to come. As Cate Blanchett pointed out, I am ready to see and happy to spend my money on movies that feature these women. The best of the best.

Keep on Watchin’!

-Bryan

MOVIE DAY 2015

WARNING: This is a long one…

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Woooo Weeee! I am incredibly high right now.  The adrenaline of movie day is still pumping through my veins. It went as well as it possibly could, as it included my three favorite Fs: Films, Family, and Friends. Not only was it an operational success, but also the turn out was the best to date. Eleven people showed up for ‘American Sniper’ alone, a record for a single movie day movie. Even my mom, dad, and sister partook in some movie day festivities! Another first!

Before I get into the nitty gritty of it all, I want to thank the following people for coming out: My mom, dad and sister. Leigh, Josh, Gary, and Jay. Julie and her husband. Lee, Erica, Joe, Lucy, Brett, and Caitlin. I really appreciate you enjoying at least some of the day with me. I loved having you there.

Something I learned yesterday: I should check the movie day weather. Seats were a bit scarce, as most theatres were sold out due to the inclement weather. That made transitioning from theatre to theatre a little harder, but I was also lucky that all of the films were in the same building for the first year ever, my favorite theatre in the city: AMC Lincoln Square 13.

Two notes before I begin:

  • The majority of the films I saw are based on true stories. I am not a historian. My opinions of these films are based solely on the movies themselves, not how I think they accurately depicted the true events. (ie: I have no idea what LBJ and Martin Luther King Jr’s actually relationship was in the mid 60s)
  • The recaps and ranking below are based on these movies’ relation to each other, not everything I’ve seen this holiday season. This is by no means my favorite or best films list of 2014. It’s just movie day. The final list will be included in my epilogue next week. (Oh yeah, there’s an epilogue—sorry, epi-blogue.)

Now, with out further banter, my day:

I arrived at the partially empty theatre at 9am, picked up my paper towel roll of tickets from the kiosk, and got to work in a half full theatre.

MOVIE ONE, 9:15 am – A Most Violent Year

Director JC Chandor’s ‘All is Lost’ was one of my favorite (and most interesting) movies of last year and ‘A Most Violent Year’ adds to the filmmakers’ run of unique “man vs the url-1world” stories. Set in the winter of 1981, AMVY follows Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) and his wife Anna (Jessica Chastain), as they try to expand their oil business during the, statistically, most violent year in NYC history. It is a thesis-based story that revolves around how far a man can go while taking, or believing that he is taking, the right path to success in a time that seemingly calls for other, more amoral, methods of action.

AMVY’s tension and pacing matched the incredible slow burning performances by Chastain and Isaac. They are powerhouses and this movie doesn’t work without them. (Odd Tangent: in a fantasy film actress draft, I would take Chastain, Julianne Moore, or Marion Cotillard over Meryl Streep any day of the week.) There’s a true love and admiration between the two characters and it infuses itself into every conversation and fight that many films, especially in the recent ‘gangster’ genre, don’t ever capture. I would not call this a gangster movie. It’s a pre-gangster/mob movie. It depicts the moments in time where Morales is at the precipice of deciding if he morally can go to the place that he is seemingly destined to end up.

There’s something extremely raw and primal at the core of all of Chandor’s films, and this is no exception. The 1981 setting is not only executed well, but is a perfect background to the moral dilemmas that each character faces. Yes, it is slow at some points, and I don’t know if it every truly achieves certain guttural reactions from the audience that it is working for, but it’s a true thinking man’s semi-gangster movie and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Now, as the weather kicked up into high gear, the movie theatre was visibly more crowded then when I arrived at nine. I had about 20 minutes until the next start time. To my genuine surprise, the next movie, ‘American Sniper’, had a myriad of friends and family attending. Even though it was in the largest (and my favorite) of the AMC theatre spaces, it was pretty difficult to find a seat in the packed mezzanine. Most of us sat together, as the next movie began:

MOVIE TWO, 11:45am – American Sniper

Bradley Cooper is amazing. He is hitting the highest performance quality stride of his career, but it’s unfortunate that this subtle performance is in a heavy-handed Americana movie. ‘American Sniper’ follows the true story of Chris Kyle (Cooper), lauded as the greatest American sniper, as he navigates his four Iraq tours and familial responsibilities.

Most of the set pieces and action sequences are well staged, but there is something missing from the overall narrative. What Chris Kyle achieved is amazing and I am so in awe urlof how he mentally and physically handled it. Over 160 kills in combat is heavy thing to comprehend. He is a true hero, but the movie about him is a little overlong, redundant, and devoid of anything other than surface level emotion and thematic exploration. That is an unfortunate staple of Clint Eastwood directed films and because of that I have never been a fan of his work behind the camera.

Without Cooper, this film is more or less a flop with excellent production value. The thing is, he really is great enough to save this movie. Sienna Miller (who I really do enjoy as an actress, Re: Factory Girl) is fine as his wife, Taya—the character’s bar introduction being her strongest scene. Beyond those moments, Taya and Chris’ conversations during the war never feel organic. Families all over the country deal, on a daily basis, with the issues of emotional and physical distance, but we never are shown enough of how difficult their lives apart are—we are only told in conversation and sweeping generalizations. This element of contemporary war/soldier films has been presented so much more effectively in better movies. We see plenty of shoot ‘em up action, which adds very little to the narrative of Chris when it feels more like space filler than important information.

This is supposed to be a story about one of the greatest men who ever served this country, but it only feels like just another Iraqi War movie—especially in the depiction of the “evil” Mustafa sniper character. It crosses the border into cartoonish supervillian, effectively diminishing the reality of what Kyle was accomplished on his tours. In a weird way, by making his need to return to Iraqi hinge on this specific plot point, his dramatic struggle seem less genuine.

The movie loses itself at the end of the first act. In the opening sequence, just as Kyle is about to pull the trigger on his first kill, we flashback to how he got there. The journey behind his kills is a genuinely interesting way to tell this story. How did this great man get to this moment to make these decisions? Eastwood sets us up for a psychological film that we never truly get. When the movie catches up with itself about 45 minutes later, it becomes a straightforward, mediocre war film about a great man, played by a great actor.

Next up was my hardest transition of the day. ‘Sniper’ ended at 2:10pm and I stayed around to talk to all of the amazing people who showed up. I had a seat saved for me by friends who were already in the next theatre, so I sat down just as the opening credits rolled for movie three.

MOVIE THREE, 2:15pm – Top Five

Luckily, I planned my schedule with Chris Rock’s ‘Top Five’ to break up the day because that had been a pretty intense five-hour morning of movie watching. ‘Top Five’ follows comedy superstar Andre Allen (Chris Rock) during a NYC press tour for his new movie opening the week before his impending nuptials to reality show superstar Erica Long (Gabriella Union). Joined by Chelsea Brown (an absolutely charming Rosario Dawson), a journalist trying to get to the core of the real Andre Allen, the two relive and attempt to exercise their personal and career demons.

This movie is not for everybody, but I really enjoyed the a gem of a meta-statement from Rock, even if many of his top five lists went over my head. While this is by no means an auto-biopic, it is clearly crafted by a man who has lived and experienced these aspects of celebrity. From the commentary on reality tv, technology, the movie business, and o-TOP-FIVE-POSTER-570sobriety, this is a poignant (if not always funny) portrait of a seemingly successful comedian in our changing times. Rock is truly expressing himself in a way he hasn’t been able to since his highly successful stand-up days.

The first half of the movie tries a little too hard with insight and topical jokes, but never apologizes for its liberal point of view. As Allen relives some of his past mistakes and reconnects with his rambunctious family (it was refreshing to see Tracy Morgan again, even if it was pre-car accident), the actors in these scenes are having so much fun, it’s hard to not be intoxicated by it all. It’s always a true delight to belly laugh with a fully packed theatre. The second half of the movie, while hitting familiar ‘you’re not who I thought you were’ plot points, elevates this movie to something greater than your expected Chris Rock comedy. He presents so many unanswered questions dealing with expectation, happiness, and judgment in today’s ever-changing world that sear into your mind.

There is a scene close to the end of the film, where Allen experiences a high and euphoria that no drug could ever bring him. It’s such a life affirming moment for the character—one that I very much connected to on a deeper level. For me, this scene is, almost, weirdly comparable to the final 10 minutes of ‘Whiplash,’ but not nearly as intense.

Stuffed with incredibly effective cameos, an appearance in the very Lincoln Center AMC that we were sitting in (HAPPY MOVIE DAY), and a wonderful second act, ‘Top Five’ achieves exactly what it set out to do with some moments that go above and beyond.

I wouldn’t say that the second half of the day involved quick transitions like the morning, but because of busy theatre, seating was limited. I had eaten in ‘Top Five’ (thanks Jay for the McDonald’s McChicken!) and made quick water fountain/bathroom runs in between movies, so there was always enough time in general. For the next movie we sat a bit too close to the screen for my liking, but it wasn’t close enough to ruin the overall experience.

MOVIE FOUR, 4:30pm – Unbroken

‘Unbroken’ is the true story about an Olympic athlete who was lost at sea in WWII, only to be held in a Japanese POW camp. It is adapted by the Cohen brothers from a best selling novel and it should be way more effective than the film I saw. Unfortunately, the blame for has to fall on its director, Angelina Jolie.

Based on the cinematography, by the always fantastic Roger Deakins, Jolie has a good eye for composition, but that’s like going to a play and saying, “Well, the set was nice.” By no means do I want to downplay the amazing courage, strength, and pure will power that the real Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) had to call upon in order to endure this torturous portion of his life. I just don’t think that this movie did it justice. All of the acting was fineurl-2 enough, but each character had no true personality. All Louis’ fellow prisoners started to blend into one another, including Louis himself. His pain and suffering seemed no different than anybody else, even though we were shown all aspect of his suffering. I think that this can be attributed to the poor depiction of the passage of time once they entered the POW camp.

‘Unbroken’ feels like three different movies rolled up into one with the only connecting factor being Louis. There is no flow or build from one dire situation to the next. It was a movie of plot point after plot point, with no emotional depth. I saw Forest Gump/Chariots of Fire, Open Water/Cast Away/All Is Lost, and Fill-In-The-Blank POW camp movie at once. It hit all the notes that need to be hit to qualify as one of these types of films above without capturing any of the characterization. As an audience member, I was left to empathize and sympathize based on recognizing that what was happening on screen, to a character I have been watching with apathy, was “bad.” Honestly, there was so much violence in the camp sequences with no dramatic through line or cinematic subtly that it felt like torture for torture’s sake. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like I got to know Louie on anything more than surface level and therefore the real videos and pictures at the film’s end was unearned and wasted.

Similar to ‘American Sniper’, the film starts off with flashbacks to and from the main character’s hell of a present and informative past. Once the movie lost that structure, it lost its way. So much of the opening was dedicated to Louis relationship with God and mysteriously that threat is completely missing in the movie’s second half, only to come back at the very end. If this is the point of the film, why didn’t I see more of that, as it was clearly a character arc priority?

I didn’t like this film, but I recognize that Jolie has an incredible amount of potential as a filmmaker. There are well-executed moments of suspense, grandeur, and feeling and I hope she evolves into director that I’d like to see on a regular basis. For now, I’ll settle for others. However, I would love for somebody to explain to me how Louis shaved and kept is hair so short and perfectly quaffed in a prisoner of war camp for that long.

 ‘Big Eyes’ ended up being sold out (good thing I had my tickets), so as we entered the theatre, I found the only seats available, two rows back from the screen. Those were going to be some very big eyes, indeed.

MOVIE FIVE, 7:15pm – Big Eyes

While not for the reasons I originally thought (‘Unbroken ended up being broken), I’m glad that ‘Big Eyes’ was here for a little breathing room. Recounting the true story of artist Margret Keane (Amy Adams), ‘Big Eyes’ is Tim Burton’s take on Walter Keane’s (Christoph Waltz) fraudulent claims that he painted his wife’s big eyed waif artwork. Bottom line, it was really nice to see Tim Burton not directing an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ or ‘Dark Shadows’. The best parts of this enjoyable, but forgettable, film come from the “Burton-esqe” moments and strong performances.

Waltz is a kick to watch. His con-man antics, while despicable, are such a great contrast to Amy Adam’s timid, inspired, and tortured artist. What could have been the movie’s deal big_eyes.15ce0090408.originalbreaker, failing to justify why Margaret would allow Walter to carry on using her artwork as his goldmine, doesn’t derail the movie, but becomes its believable center.

As I mentioned, the film’s best moments are the clear Tim Burton choices. Margret’s trip to the grocery store (where she, of course, passes the Campbell’s soup display) is probably the deepest we get into the psyche of any of the characters. We are finally treated to how she views the world, as the food shoppers display their waif-like big eyes to her in her time of panic. If this is how she sees the world, people, and their souls, then of course this lie has been eating at her all of these years.

It’s no ‘Big Fish’, but has hints of ‘Edward Scissorhands’ and ‘Ed Wood’. (And that’s aside from color palettes and time period). As an Oscar attempt, ‘Big Eyes’ is weak and forgettable overall. Burton seems a little out of practice with this smaller scale type of movie, but it was a pleasure to sit through, especially the outrageous final scenes.

At this point the whole theatre emptied out a bit. We had the most transition time of the day, a half hour, so I took a well deserved breather in the lobby as we waiting to be let into the next showing. We sat in our best seats of the day and buckled up for the final film. (Note: These seat did not have buckles.)

MOVIE SIX, 9:50pm – Selma

I am so happy that I ended with ‘Selma’, as it was by far the best of the day. Depicting only a small portion of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s (David Oyelowo) life, ‘Selma’ focuses on the march from Selma, AL to the capital building in Montgomery, to ensure the right to vote for the black population in the state and country. Among other elements, it was incredibly refreshing to see a biopic set in the 1960’s, in which dramatic tension wasn’t building to an assassination.  ‘Selma’ shows the true courage, fear, bravery, and flaws of one of the most important American men of all time. Where other films on movie day lacked depth of character, ‘Selma’ made up for it.

David Oyelowo captures what we can understand to be the true essence of Dr. King Jr., as his confidence and passion oozed off of the screen. In every moment he carried the tangible weight of the lives of his entire race on his shoulders. His vulnerability and search for strength are the more powerful because of it. Everybody from Oprah to Common to Tim Roth to Tom Wilskinson brought their A game, regardless of screen time. Carmen Ejogo, asselma-movie-poster Coretta Scott King, is dynamite, especially in what may have been the best scene of the movie. As she and King Jr. discuss his infidelities and the fog of death that clouds their marriage, you could only hear a pin drop if your goosebumps weren’t loud enough. King Jr. wasn’t a perfect man, but he was a man who fought for much more than any person can realistically take on himself. The film is so bold in encompassing all of what made the man, elevating the stakes tenfold.

Ava DuVernay’s direction is so full of passion, love, and a well-executed CIA framework structure, that it may very well be one the best of the year—joining Wes, Alejandro, and Richard. I’m in awe of the power she infuses into every conversation, bridge march, and tender moment without every tipping over into melodramatic territory. These were real people—faults and all—dealing with real issues.

Obviously, it cannot be overlooked that, aside from being a great historical period piece, ‘Selma’ and its message directly correlates to our current state of American social affairs. This makes the film twice as powerful. It is a truly skilled director who can draw parallels to today without losing the narrative of a film. The end credits song choice clarifies her intentions, but it’s impossible to not draw comparisons while watching all two hours of film. I want to note that the violence in the film was purposeful, a nice change from the movies before this one. Hopefully ‘Selma’ will be seen by as many people as possible and used as some sort of a teaching tool. Please, see this movie.

What a day! The funny, as well as crazy, thing is, I easily could have sat through another movie. And, I kind of, sort of did…

During a writing break from this very recap you’re reading, I ventured out into the world to, yes, see another movie. Originally, I had saved ‘The Imitation Game’ to be include during this years’ movie day, but theaters and showtimes didn’t allow it to fit in to the plans. So, with out further ado, I bring you:

A Bonus Review!

 MOVIE SEVEN? 4:10pm – The Imitation Game

What ‘Unbroken’ and ‘American Sniper’ lacked in the cohesive flashback department, ‘The Imitation Game’ made up for in spades. To win World War II, mathematician Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) led a team of the greatest British minds to break the unbreakable Nazi code. The film not only depicts the frustrating process to crack the transmissions, but Turing’s childhood, and his post war life. These three interwoven portions of his story are told in a well-paced, dramatically effective narrative that never feels overlong.

Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly are fantastic. While Cumberbatch stands out, as he is the sole lead of the film, Knightly makes the most of her scenes. She really has become an Poster-art-for-The-Imitation-Game-film-Alan-Turing-Enigma-codebreaking-movieexcellent actress—making smart film choices along the way. The two bring a smart sense to these roles and the movie in general. Cumberbatch’s “on the spectrum” Turing is so understandably unlikable and charming in the same breath, while Knightly’s Joan Clarke interacts with him with such grace and genuine interest, that their screen presence, apart or together, is magnetic. Mark Strong, Charles Dance, Matthew Goode, Allen Leech, Matthew Beard, and Alex Lawther all leave memorable impressions, despite this being the Benedict Cumberbatch show.

The movie hits all of the usual plot and emotional points that a British historical drama should, but even with guessing certain inevitable outcomes, every moment feels organic, earned, and character driven. The three separate time frames were very easy to follow and never overwhelmed or complicated the character study.  I’m not familiar with the director, Morten Tyldon, and his work, but he certainly tells a concise, nicely structured story.

The well balanced film is infused with a wonderful sense of humor and perfectly placed twists that add layers to the excellent final act. The take away is informative and heartbreaking on so many levels—never seeming to come out of nowhere. This is one of the better “true story” films I’ve seen this year and would have ranked very high had it been included on movie day.

So yeah. Wow. A lot of true stories and violence. Hmmm. Interesting. Needless to say, I am well prepared for the awards season, among other things (insane asylum? corrective eye surgery? professional Netlflix watcher? I mean this is my version of a Netflix binge.)

Here’s my “Summary List” in order from worst to best:

6. Unbroken – Boo Urns.
5. Big Eyes – Fine, but forgettable.
4. American Sniper – Movie? Meh. Cooper? Great enough to be better than ‘Big Eyes’.
3. Top Five – Funny and Poignant.
2. A Most Violent Year – Excellent film.
2* (The Imitation Game) – It would be ranked 2nd had it been seen within the marathon.
1. Selma – Run to see it.

I love the movies. I love them so much. If you’ve made it this far down the blog page, I want to thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts and passion with you. Perhaps I’ll see you next year on movie day?

Anyway, I’m off to watch a movie… (not a joke)

Keep on Watchin’!

-Bryan

Movie Day 2015: Prologue Blog (Pro-blogue?) #bpmovieday

 

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Hello All,

Yes, you guessed it! It’s that time of year again. MOVIE DAY. A day when anything can happen! (Anything is a relative statement–the schedule is below.)

I love going to the movies. Nothing is better. Growing up in a household where the Oscars were (and still are) arguably bigger than any high holiday, I love being 100% prepared for the February event. ‘Movie Day’ grew from that need to see everything released during the holiday/awards season to be ready to get all of the jokes, pick all of the winners, and absorb as much content as possible.

Not much has changed. While I have grown to understand the trivial and subjective nature of the Oscars, I still can’t get enough. I eat, breath, and sleep movies (and tv). ‘Movie Day’ has since evolved into a full day, over-saturated with film enjoyment, friends, and burnt out retinas.  While I base my choices on what may or may not be up for Oscar contention, it really comes down to what will make for an fun, well balanced day of the films I haven’t seen yet. If I really had my way, I’d see every movie that comes out over the 365 days. Every last frame. (Maybe one day I’ll a ‘Movie Day’ once a month–wait, I really want to do that…)

So, I’ve learned my lesson from years passed. Some days have been too long (starting your 6th movie at 12:30 the next morning is a chore), extremely boring (two mediocre foreign imgres-1language films in a row after a forgettable movie about fracking is never fun), and others heartbreaking (sitting alone for three straight tear jerkers is something I would never suggest). I now try and save certain movies for my favorite day, as I navigate my end of year theatrical experiences. I started just going for me and now I love going with all of you.

For instance, I’ve already seen Birdman, Into the Woods, Inherent Vice, Still Alice, One Day, Two Nights, The Theory of Everything, The Hobbit, Whiplash, Wild, Foxcatcher, St Vincent, Nightcrawler, The Interview, and a few more. I do my best to make sure that with what is left, I can make the day interesting.

This year, while a little heavy in the morning, ‘Movie Day’ should prove to be  a balanced day. Additionally. All the showings are in the same theatre for the first year ever–a movie day miracle.

MOVIE DAY 2015 – Saturday, January 3rd

AMC Lincoln Square 13

9:15 am – A Most Violent Year

11:45am – American Sniper

2:15pm – Top Five

4:30pm – Unbroken

7:15pm – Big Eyes

9:50pm – Selma

imagesFilm and what it can bring to us as individuals and a society is very important to me. Yes, Hollywood isn’t the same and blah, blah, blah–I know all of that. I just love the movies with everything in my being. The marathon of ‘Movie Day’ is a simple extension of that and always becomes a highlight of my year.  I hope that I get to sit in the theater next to you today! If not, read my recap tomorrow and it’ll be just like you were there! (But really, it’s gonna be so specific and detailed.) Can’t wait to see you. I’ll be the one in the comfortable clothes with a fried brain and swollen eyes. #bpmovieday

Keep on Watchin’!

-Bryan