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Oscars 2016: Best Actress

Curse you, Charlotte Rampling (for a number of reasons). All of the women nominated in this category were nominated for films with one-word titles, but you couldn’t just star in “45” could you? I digress, although this may be the best category this year, full of outstanding actresses giving career-best performances. Three first-time nominees are going head-to-head with old Academy favorites, and the talent on display here is impeccable. Even though there may be a blatantly clear winner, like often happens with the Best Actress category, that doesn’t mean she’s out of the woods yet, as much can change in four weeks like we all know too well.

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Best Actress: The Nominees

Cate Blanchett, Carol

Brie Larson, Room – Will Win, Should Win

Jennifer Lawrence, Joy

Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years

Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Power Rankings: Larson-Ronan-Rampling-Blanchett-Lawrence

Brie Larson has this one in the bag, and she deserves it. One of my favorites from last year, Larson is tremendous in Room, exhibiting probably every emotional possible within a two-hour time span. I called this one a long time ago, as Brie Larson was announced to be playing Ma, a pitch-perfect choice for such a brilliant novel. Besides destroying everything in her path at festivals and the guild awards (I managed to catch a glimpse of her at the BFI London Film Festival), the AMPAS adorned the film, and it managed to squeeze into Picture, Director, and Screenplay nominations, earning the big four.

So where does that leave the remaining nominees? Well, one could certainly make a case for the exquisite Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn, another one of my favorites from 2015. While she may not have that scene like Larson, Rampling, and Lawrence, the young Irish actress has managed to snag a number of trophies, mostly from across the pond. Whatever her prospects, this definitely will not be the only nomination Ronan receives in her lifetime.

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Controversy aside, Charlotte Rampling is devastatingly compelling in Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years, which I finally managed to see over the weekend. She doesn’t have many lines, but when she does she delivers with such complexity. She is able to conjure up emotions from just the look on her face. Although it is a small film, Rampling definitely deserves her place. Unfortunately for Cate Blanchett, being a recent winner for Blue Jasmine in 2014 won’t do her any favors for her title role in Carol. I wasn’t as smitten by her performance as I was for her co-star Rooney Mara, but Blanchett does remarkable work (although when does she not?) Academy favorite Jennifer Lawrence takes the final spot for her role in Joy, the film’s only nomination. Her work with David O. Russell keeps paying dividends, and while she took home the Golden Globe in a traditionally weak category, she doesn’t hold a candle to the other ladies.

As for the snubs, there weren’t too many, as this is the strongest category this year. Many thought veterans Blythe Danner, Helen Mirren, or Maggie Smith would take a spot away from Lawrence, although history has shown the Academy loves to skew younger for this category. Wild card Amy Schumer would’ve been a breath of fresh air for her great work in Trainwreck, but the Academy doesn’t normally go for pure raunch. For my personal nomination, I give Bel Powley for The Diary of a Teenage Girl. The young newbie has years ahead of her, but like Rampling, is able to stir up emotions just by facial expression alone. The film may be too progressive for some voters (see the omission of Carol from the top prize), but Powley shines in the indie treasure, and I hope she takes home the Independent Spirit Award in a few weeks.

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Posted by on February 10, 2016 in 2016 Academy Awards

 

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Joey’s Best Movies of 2013

2013 was just overflowing with fantastic movies from beginning to end. From big blockbusters to small indie flicks, 2013 delivered some high quality entertainment. I tried to put together a Top 10 list but I just couldn’t do it. There were just so many good movies that I genuinely enjoyed very much this year. So let’s dive right in:

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

2013 was not short of blockbusters, and while many failed to deliver, others shined. One of those is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the second film in The Hunger Games Saga. It’s immensely enjoyable, thanks to some well-directed action scenes from new director Francis Lawrence. It’s thought-provoking and also bitterly funny. Good performances from Jennifer Lawrence and newcomers like Jenna Malone and Phillip Seymour Hoffman help pave the way for what will hopefully be an exciting finale.

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Frances Ha

Greta Gerwig gives the performance of her career in this indie dramedy, one that almost slipped past my radar, but I happened to stumble upon on Netflix. Frances Ha tells the story of a young girl trying to start her life right out of college. The film is one of the best portrayals of modern young adult post-college life, in the same accurate way found in HBO’s Girls. It’s worth checking out, for more than just Gerwig’s acting, but also for its biting accuracy and sharp wit.

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Star Trek Into Darkness

J.J. Abrams has made a name for himself with the Star Trek reboot films, and Into Darkness adds onto the world he established in the 2009 original. A sharp story and a fantastic villain come to mind when recalling this great thrill ride, as the crew of the Enterprise are faced with a completely new threat. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are now household names in the Trek universe, and as Abrams moves onto Star Wars in 2015, we’ll always remember the outstanding changes he brought to the Star Trek world.

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The Wolf of Wall Street

You may have heard of Martin Scorsese’s new film, but not in a very positive light. It’s crass, it’s outrageous, and it’s terrific entertainment. Leonardo DiCaprio gives one of his best performances as Jordan Belfort, telling the story of a real man who played the Wall Street game. Jonah Hill also surprises, and The Wolf of Wall Street features some of the most ridiculously memorable moments in movies in 2013.

Leonardo Dicaprio in The Wolf Of Wall Street

The Way Way Back

Growing up is hard, and in directing duo Jim Rash and Nat Faxon’s summer indie, no where is this more evident. A great coming of age story, it’s unconventional yet also familiar. Sam Rockwell delivers some of the funniest and most quotable lines all year, as he takes young Duncan under his wing at Water Whizz water park. It’s honest, and it’s endearing, in a “we’ve all been there” kind of way, and it’s definitely worth seeing.

THE WAY, WAY BACK

Rush

As a complete stranger to the world of Formula One, what drew me to Rush was not the high-octane intense racing sequences, but the intense rivalry between Nicki Lauda and James Hunt. Ron Howard’s directing is perfect here, with gorgeous cinematography to boot. But it’s all about the two stars here, and Daniel Bruhl is simply captivating. You don’t have to be a racing fan to enjoy Rush, just a movie fan.

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Enough Said

Romantic comedies are the punching bags of cinema, yet in Nicole Holofcener’s latest, she changes the game. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini (in his final role) play your not-so traditional couple. Both divorced, with children of their own, they fall in love despite some awkward circumstances. It’s both a sincere look at middle age, and a great and refreshing love story. Enough Said should not be passed over because of its genre.

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Prisoners

An under appreciated thriller, Prisoners is an intense and harrowing drama, elevated to new heights with great performances from Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhall. A thriller with an emotional center, Prisoners breaks the rules of the genre. It asks you to figure out the mystery, it guides you but never cheats you. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, and you won’t want to take your eyes away until the film’s finale.

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August: Osage County

Family is full of ups and downs, and John Wells’ adaptation of the stage play is a real and true family drama. Meryl Streep leads the cast of the outrageous and unlikable Weston family, as they reunite after a family crisis. There’s a lot of shouting, and a lot of crying. Osage County isn’t pretty, but neither is family. Wells isn’t afraid to give the film an unhappy ending, and I commend him and writer Tracy Letts for giving us a brutally honest film.

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American Hustle

David O. Russell joins the ranks of esteemed directors with an impressive record with his latest film American Hustle. With a sharp and smart plot, and a cast that I’m still impressed with, American Hustle is an outstanding crime drama. It’s a movie made for movie lovers, reminding us why some stories are better suited to the medium. O. Russell will be remembered for his sharp dialogue and captivating stories, and American Hustle is another brick in his growing wall of films.

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Inside Llewyn Davis

The Coen Brothers give us another outstanding and real film with Inside Llewyn Davis, telling us the story of a folk singer in 1960s New York. It’s a somber and surreal film, that uses music to not only entertain, but to complement the gloomy story. It’s not a particularly happy film, but with a great performance from Oscar Isaac, Llewyn Davis is another film that isn’t afraid of unconventional endings.

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Nebraska

No one does family better than Alexander Payne, and Nebraska is another impressive showcase for his films that are full of original and complex characters. In his latest black and white dramedy, we are reminded of life’s fragility. With excellent acting from Bruce Dern and June Squibb, Nebraska is chock full of both laugh out loud moments and quieter honest moments that truly show the bond between father and son.

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Frozen

Disney’s latest is their best film ever made. I don’t say that jokingly. Frozen is a modern animated tale. No princesses trapped in towers, no dashing heroes, Frozen changes the game with a story that breaks the rules of traditional fairy tales. Frozen is a miracle, and in a time when Disney has been overshadowed by Pixar, Frozen is a beautiful and perfect film. It’s the studio’s best film to date, and will be remembered for its new morals and new story for a more modern audience.

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Gravity

If you ask me which movie on this list I will remember in 20 years, that answer is Gravity. Alfonso Cuaron has given us a beautiful and wonderful film. Technology aside, Gravity is still a awe-inspiring experience, in the same way ‘2001’ and ‘Avatar’ changed cinema. Sandra Bullock gives a tour de force as a mother lost amid space. Gravity displays themes of isolation, moving on, and rebirth in a smart fashion, never throwing on the themes lightly. It’s only 90 minutes, yet Gravity displays more complexity than your typical 150 minute drama. Cuaron gave us the most impressive film you’ll see all year, one that will change cinema forever.

GRAVITY

Honorable Mentions:

Saving Mr. Banks

The Heat

Before Midnight

Captain Phillips

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2014 in Other

 

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Oscars 2014 – Best Original Screenplay Predictions

Shoe-Ins

  • Woody Allen – Blue Jasmine
  • Alfonso Cuaron and Jonas Cuaron – Gravity
  • Bob Nelson – Nebraska
  • Joel and Ethan Coen – Inside Llewyn Davis

Most Likelys

  • David O. Russell and Eric Singer – American Hustle
  • Ryan Coogler – Fruitvale Station
  • Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack – Dallas Buyers Club

Possiblys

  • Spike Jonze – Her
  • Nicole Holofcener –  Enough Said
  • Jeff Nichols – Mud

My Personal Wild Card

  • Nat Faxon and Jim Rash – The Way Way Back
 
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Posted by on December 9, 2013 in 2014 Academy Awards

 

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Oscars 2014 – Best Supporting Actress Predictions

Shoe-Ins

  • Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle: An Academy and fan favorite, Lawrence is all the talk right now with hit films coming right and left. Expect a nomination and possible win from her, but there are many contenders in this crowded category.
  • Oprah Winfrey – Lee Daniels’ The Butler: Her return to acting has been praised, and Winfrey gave a great performance in the summer biopic. With enough supporters, she could pull off a win.
  • June Squibb – Nebraska: Squibb has received universal praise alongside Dern, and her performance provided some great comic relief for the dramedy film. Could they both pull off a win?

Most Likelys

  • Julia Roberts – August: Osage County: While Streep has received all the praise, Roberts also seems locked for a nomination. We’ll see once the film is released to mainstream audiences this Christmas.
  • Lupita Nyong’o: 12 Years a Slave: Though a relatively unknown, Nyong’o gave a great emotional performance in the McQueen film, but the other actors might outshine her.
  • Octavia Spencer – Fruitvale Station: The early year festival hit received universal praise, especially Spencer as a grieving mother. Though the film’s buzz has worn off a bit since its release, the The Help fan favorite could pull off a nomination.
  • Margo Martindale – August: Osage County: Though the ensemble film has a crowded cast, Martindale might be the breakout star.
  • Naomie Harris – Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom: An Oscar nomination could be just what the Skyfall star needs to propel her to national Hollywood attention, but the film seems too focused on Mandela to get her any recognition.

Possiblys

  • Scarlett Johannson – Her: The Golden Globe favorite has had a hard time at the Oscars in the past, but she does not even appear on screen, as the voice of the operating system in Spike Jonze’s strange sci-fi.
  • Amy Adams – Her: Also from the Jonze sci-fi drama, Adams seems more likely open for a nomination than Johannson’s voice.
  • Carey Mulligan – Inside Llewyn Davis: The British sweetheart has received Academy attention in the past, but the race seems too crowded for her to breakout amongst Isaac’s great performance.
  • Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine: The Woody Allen indie seems poised for screenplay wins and a win for Blanchett, but Hawkins could turn that around with a nomination.

My Personal Wild Card

  • Kristen Wiig – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: I’m going out on a limb here and presenting Wiig as a candidate. The former SNL star has broken out of that bubble with Bridesmaids, but her latest film directed by Ben Stiller has not received good press.
 
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Posted by on November 29, 2013 in 2014 Academy Awards

 

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Oscars 2014 – Best Supporting Actor Predictions

Shoe-Ins

  • Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave: My favorite performance from the alright film (see my review), Fassbender gives the best performance of his career as the brutal plantation owner. While the film might not sweep, Fassbender seems like the one to beat here.
  • Bradley Cooper – American Hustle: While the film has yet to be released, Cooper could go 2 for 2 in nominations from last year’s Silver Linings Playbook. If his performance is well-received, expect a nomination at least.
  • Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club: While many regarded Leto as the best performance of the film, the film might have a hard time breaking into mainstream audience’s eyes.
  • Daniel Bruhl – Rush: While Hemsworth left more to be desired, Bruhl was the best part of Rush, one of my favorite movies from this year so far. While his other film, The Fifth Estate, bombed, he seems like a likely candidate for his performance in the Formula One biopic.

Most Likelys

  • Josh Brolin – Labor Day: One of my most anticipated films, Labor Day has received mixed reviews, but praise for its two leads. Winslet seems more of a likely candidate for a nomination, but Brolin also has a chance.
  • Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street: Since Moneyball, Jonah Hill has been receiving more and more serious roles. With Scorsese directing, The Wolf of Wall Street could be the film to catapult Hill into more dramatic enterprises.
  • Tom Hanks – Saving Mr. Banks: With a nomination almost on lock for Captain Phillips, Hanks has had a hell of a year.

Possiblys

  • James Gandolfini – Enough Said: Gandolfini’s post-humous performance has received great praise, but once again, Holofcener might have a hard time bringing Enough Said into the Academy’s eyes.
  • Steve Coogan – Philomena: While Dench almost has the win here, Coogan has also received praise. A nomination seems possible, but it’s a crowded race this year.
  • Jeremy Renner – American Hustle: Can two men earn the nomination from American Hustle? While Cooper has been a favorite, Renner could very well take that away once the film is released.

My Personal Wild Card

  • Will Forte – Nebraska: Forte’s first serious dramatic role, Nebraska might be just the film he needs to break out of post-SNL syndrome. But the real focus has been Dern and Squibb, so he might get left behind.
 
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Posted by on November 24, 2013 in 2014 Academy Awards

 

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Oscars 2014 – Best Picture Predictions

With Oscar season rapidly approaching, I thought I’d give my two cents on what I think the frontrunners are for Best Picture. With the film festivals mostly over, the majority of films that have a shot have all been finished and screened. My picks represent my opinions as well as what other critics have said about the upcoming films this winter that I have not seen yet. That said, here are my choices:

Shoe-Ins

  • Gravity: This year’s “Life of Pi,” Gravity is a visual spectacle that should definitely sweep the visual effects categories. Expect a nomination for Sandra Bullock as well. The question is, will the Academy break out of their anti-science fiction film bubble and recognize Gravity as the game changer that it is?
  • Captain Phillips: Tom Hanks almost has the Best Actor win on lock here, but Greengrass’s previous films have stumbled at the Oscars in the past. Possibly an Adapted Screenplay and Director nomination could push Phillips to the front of the pack.
  • Inside Llewyn Davis: The Coen brothers indie film has made a splash at festivals this fall, garnering universal praise. They’re an Academy favorite, and with a few acting nominations possible, Llewyn Davis could have a shot at the title.
  • American Hustle: David O. Russell’s films have been past Academy hits, and hot off of Silver Linings Playbook, the director should make some noise once Hustle finally hits theaters.
  • August: Osage County: With an enormous ensemble cast and many Academy favorites, this adaptation of Tracy Letts’ award-winning play could become a sleeper hit this Christmas. With favorites like Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, expect Osage County to pick up a couple of acting nominations as well.
  • Nebraska: Alexander Payne’s black and white dramedy should play well with the older crowd. Bruce Dern made a splash Cannes, pushing him to the spotlight for Best Actor. Nebraska looks like it has a shot at the title, but we’ll have to see how it plays upon its release.

Most Likelys

  • 12 Years a Slave: Steve McQueen’s first mainstream hit, 12 Years a Slave will be this year’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild:” Does very well critically, gains a few acting nominations, but ultimately falls behind amidst the fan favorites.
  • Blue Jasmine: Cate Blanchette seems poised to win Best Actress, but Woody Allen films have been difficult to break into the mainstream in the past.
  • Blue is the Warmest Color: The Palme d’Or winner has been causing quite a bit of controversy, but it looks to be this year’s “Amour,” and might have a chance at a Best Picture nom.
  • Dallas Buyers Club: Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto seem locked for acting noms, but its unknown director and limited release might hinder its big breakout.
  • Saving Mr. Banks: The Walt Disney tale of the Mary Poppins writer looks to be a crowd-pleaser, but that might keep it from breaking in the top categories. A nomination for Hanks or Thompson seems likely, though.
  • Rush: The Ron Howard Formula One drama was a critical success, and could net a few acting nominations, but Howard’s films have received mixed Academy attention in the past.

Possiblys

  • The Wolf of Wall Street: Scorsese’s crime drama had some release date issues, and its long run time could lure audiences away. But with a cast featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill, we’ll have to wait and see once the film hits theaters on Christmas Day.
  • Her: The Spike Jones drom-com has received critical acclaim thus far, but its interesting premise could turn some voters off. But the star-studded cast seems ready to make some noise in the acting nominations.
  • Fruitvale Station: The early summer sleeper, Fruitvale Station should make a splash with its leading man, but hasn’t received much of a push to the front of the pack.
  • All is Lost: The Robert Redford-helmed hit could break out thanks to what’s been called a phenomenal performance by Redford, but its unknown director and lack of any other actors might hurt its performance this spring.
  • Lee Daniels’ The Butler: The crowd pleaser of the summer has received some negative controversy for its portrayal of certain presidents, but both Whitaker and Winfrey are likely front-runners in the acting race.
  • Enough Said: Gandolfini’s last film could net him a nomination, but the Nicole Holofcener comedy might be pushed aside due to its comedy premise.
  • Labor Day: The Jason Reitman drama might be a last-minute hit with its direction and acting, but with its late release date and lack of marketing, it might fall aside for the bigger guns.
  • Philomena: The British comedy made some noise when it premiered last month, and Dench’s performance might net her a nomination, but once again the lack of attention and support surrounding the film could hurt it.

Long-Shots

  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: The Ben Stiller-directed vehicle has audience’s attention, but critics received it negatively when it premiered at the New York Film Festival last month.
  • Frances Ha: The Netherlands dramedy played well with critics in its limited release, but the foreign film most likely won’t break into American viewer’s list of favorites.
  • The Book Thief: The adaptation of the popular novel hasn’t been making much noise since its release, and it doesn’t seem to be playing for the big awards.
  • Before Midnight: The Linklater finale to the acclaimed trilogy might capture a screenplay nomination, but his films have received mixed Academy support in the past.
 
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Posted by on November 9, 2013 in 2014 Academy Awards

 

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