Only 0 days until the next Oscars are awarded on February 22, 2015.



My Official Oscar Predictions

photo Ok, here goes nothing…. My official picks for one of the craziest (and hardest to predict) Oscar races I’ve ever seen. Sunday night should be really fun.

My predicted winner is in bold caps:

American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

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Instant Oscar Nominations Reactions


-Marion Cotillard’s nomination
Yes, the Academy loves her, but they should. Even though I didn’t see Two Days, One Night, the Dardenne brothers’ movie that she is nominated for, it was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes and her performance has been given the Best Actress award from several critics’ panels, including Boston and New York, so this didn’t come out of the blue. Most were expecting this slot to to go Jennifer Aniston, but, to be honest, Academy voters aren’t as swayed by publicists as everyone thinks they are, and here’s your proof.

-Laura Dern’s nomination
Ok, while I am bummed that Jessica Chastain didn’t get the fifth slot in the supporting actress category, I couldn’t be more thrilled that it went to Laura Dern for Wild. This is only her second Oscar nomination (her last nomination was in 1992 for Rambling Rose) and I’ve loved her in almost everything she’s done. And, considering how much I loved Wild and wish it had gotten MUCH more love from the Academy, I’m doubly-thrilled for her recognition here.

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Into the Woods

photo So, yes, I did see Into the Woods. And I did actually want to see it, despite what some of you might think. I love Sondheim, I love musicals, and I wanted to give this one every chance. Sadly, though, no matter how I tried, I still couldn’t find a way to love it. (And not just for the reason you think.)

Let’s just take care of this up front: I don’t like Meryl Streep. For those of you who don’t know, I think she’s overrated and certainly not worthy of the hype and pedestal she’s been placed on for the past thirty years. That said, I knew that this movie would be built around her casting as the witch, since this is a movie mash-up of classic Grimm fairy tales and her part is the central figure in the plot as well as the one that gets the most dramatic screen time. I steeled myself for it, as I’ve been able to endure Streep movies in the past—I loved Devil Wears Prada, Silkwood and Defending Your Life, for example—but I also put my faith in the fact that Stephen Sondheim’s music would be the real star here and director Rob Marshall wouldn’t let one performer pull too much focus from a brilliant ensemble in a classic ensemble piece.

I’ve always been such an optimist.
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My Top 10 of 2014

1. Birdman
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
4. Wild
5. Locke
6. Nightcrawler
7. Boyhood
8. The Skeleton Twins
9. Selma
10. Foxcatcher

A Most Violent Year

photo What I usually respond to the most viscerally in a movie is imagination—show me something different, something new, refreshing, something I’ve never seen before. Of course, after over a hundred years of motion pictures, absolute originality in movies is a rarity these days, at least in concept and story. However, as writer/director J.C. Chandor (All Is Lost) has proven with his latest release A Most Violent Year, it is possible to tread over familiar ground even in familiar ways and still find ways to make it interesting, compelling and richly textured.
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photo Historical dramas are tricky. They have to walk that fine line between fact and fiction, finding a way to communicate truths to the audience while hitting emotional and plot touchpoints true to their narrative story—not always an easy nor believable a task. The audience’s part to play in this is agreeing to the conceit that there is a difference between a historical drama and a documentary and when they buy a ticket to see a fictionalized story based on true events, they are agreeing that it is, in fact, only based on true events, not the real events as they actually happened. Film is a creative endeavor, an interpretive art form, and interpretations of history are not uncommon in cinema. It is how we react, embrace and interpret these interpretations for ourselves that matter—and how we allow them to reflect upon ourselves and our own history that tell the true story.

The producers of Selma had no way of knowing the prophetic timing the release of their movie would have. To come out and be getting significant critical acclaim and awards buzz (even though it won’t be released to a wide audience until January 9) right after the racially-charged incidents in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City only makes the subject matter and the impact of the film all the more powerful, effective, timely and haunting. And, to be honest, that is exactly what a well-made historical drama should do: it should remind ourselves of history and, no matter when the real events may have taken place, how that history has colored, shaped and crafted our world—and, always, how doomed we are to repeat it if we don’t pay attention.
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Big Eyes

photo Has Tim Burton finally grown up? The director we’ve come to know and love for delivering our ghoulishly delightful, playfully nightmarish and stylistically dark storytelling for 29 years, from Beetlejuice to Edward Scissorhands to Sweeney Todd to Mars Attacks! to Corpse Bride to Sleepy Hollow, has now dared to make a—gasp!—regular movie? I don’t know what’s more unnerving—the thought of Beetlejuice winning an Oscar or Tim Burton being normal (careful, they both might happen this year).

Well, as scary as it is to say, it looks like Mr. Nightmare Before Christmas himself does actually know how to make a straight movie. And, guess what? It’s pretty good. Big Eyes, directed by Tim Burton and written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt) and starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz is a fascinating movie based on the true story of painter Margaret Keane and her husband Walter, who took credit for Margaret’s wildly popular paintings in the ‘50s. These paintings of children with the “big eyes” were apparently all the rage back then and became a pop art sensation, but the story of this movie is the relationship—and the internal divide—between husband and wife when Walter, played by the magnificent Waltz, steals creative ownership of the paintings publicly in order to sell them. When the lie becomes bigger than the both of them, Margaret, played with usual brilliance by Adams, is trapped, and the deceit envelops her world.
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photo Finally, the one we’ve all been waiting for. It’s the middle of Oscar season and I’ve been wondering where that big, epic, glossy, expensive, emotional, inspirational, with-a-cast-of-thousands Oscar bait movie was going to come along and knock us off our feet. So far, all the movies that have created awards buzz (Boyhood, Birdman, Grand Budapest Hotel) have been little movies with little oomph behind them and have relied on little things like quality, word-of-mouth and reviews to sustain them. What Hollywood really needs to get this Oscar season going is a classic, old-fashioned big-budget epic with star power behind it, major studio support, a massive marketing budget—a movie based on a true story that will inspire the masses and make our hearts sing.

Plan A: Exodus: Gods and Kings. Plan B: Unbroken.

Hollywood might need a Plan C.
click here to keep reading Unbroken »

American Sniper

photo I’m trying to remember the last time Clint Eastwood made a good movie. I think it was back in 2006, with Letters from Iwo Jima, which even then was almost nullified by its companion film, Flags of Our Fathers, which was awful. How could the man who made Unforgiven in 1992, Mystic River in 2003, and Million Dollar Baby in 2004—not to mention Letter from Iwo Jima, perhaps his best of all—fall so quickly with Changeling (2008), Invictus (2009), Hereafter (2010), J. Edgar (2011), Jersey Boys (2014) and now American Sniper, a painful, one-dimensional, hackneyed and stiff reminder that Eastwood’s best days are most certainly behind him.

American Sniper is bad. Really bad. Much of the blame does fall to Eastwood, who, no doubt, gets caught up in the temptations of the rah-rah patriotism/machismo of the story, which is based on the true life of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, who became a military legend through four tours of duty in Iraq. There is no single second of subtext in this movie. It feels more like a recruiting film than a narrative story, with equal subtlety. The absolutely ludicrous script from Jason Hall doesn’t help. Neither does the trying-too-hard performance from Bradley Cooper. Elephant Man on Broadway, character roles where he gains weight and creates tics or chews scenery—-stop “acting” so hard, Bradley, it’s showing. And it’s not working. Maybe you’re just best as the pretty boy from The Hangover and it’s time to accept it. I know you want the career re-invention (and the Oscar) that McConaughey has, but, guess what? You just don’t have his talent. Or, apparently, his agent.

American Sniper misses the target. (Now THAT was too easy.)

Inherent Vice

photo Since I was not familiar with author Thomas Pynchon’s works, I went online to see how some have described his writing. Here’s a sampling:

“To plunge down the rabbit hole of Pynchon’s fiction is to commence a journey into an alternate world”

“Onto Pynchon’s richly detailed and often ambiguous landscape the reader projects his/her own interpretation in order to bring the work ‘into pulsing stelliferous Meaning’”

“And, of course, there is simply the sheer beauty and breathtaking power of the writing, the subtly interwoven plots and themes”

“With novels that some critics have called ‘unreadable’, paranoiacs and conspiracy theorists lauding his techniques, a reclusive nature and a lack of public interface, Thomas Pynchon has a mythic but daunting cult status.”

Sounds like the perfect source for Christmas-movie fun to me!
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Top 5 List:

My Five Favorite Bio-Pics:

1. Amadeus (1984)
2. Goodfellas (1990)
3. Sweet Dreams (1985)
4. In the Name of the Father (1993)
5. Schindler's List (1993)

Rental Pick:

The Elephant Man (1980)

Favorite Trailer of the Moment:

Awesome Movie Montages and Lists: