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Oscars 2016: Best Picture

What a crazy Oscars season wasn’t it? Some categories have been locked up since last fall, others have come down to today, and others are legitimately too close to call. The best part of the Oscars is the unpredictability, and when they do throw a curveball into the mix, things get much more interesting. So let’s over-analyze things and see if we can score big on our ballots come Sunday.

Best Picturespotlight-xlarge

The Big Short

Bridge of Spies

Brooklyn

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenantrevenant-gallery-20-gallery-image

Room

Spotlight Will Win, Should Win

Power Rankings: Spotlight-The Big Short-The Revenant-Mad Max: Fury Road-The Martian-Room-Bridge of Spies-Brooklyn

This has been a close race all season, as no one film is dominating the conversation. The Big Three, that is; screenplay-director-picture is typically vital for a clean sweep, but this year it’s all hazy. In the end though, I think Spotlight will triumph. First, it’s the right kind of film that wins Best Picture, it’s a success story for director Tom McCarthy, and it has scored acclaim across the board for its three main performers. While the same can be said for The Revenant and The Big Short, they came into the game too late and don’t have the edge that Spotlight does.

Historically, Golden Globe success doesn’t always translate into Oscar gold, and while The Revenant scored a whopping twelve Oscar nominations, it might have to settle with a win for DiCaprio and Iñárritu while Spotlight takes top prize. The film has many fans but just as many polarized haters, so it will be interesting to see if The Revenant has the mileage to sneak ahead. This is the kind of win that can only be called during the broadcast itself, as we’ll have to see how each film is doing throughout the evening. This happened last year when Birdman snuck ahead and took it from Boyhood. Switch those films with The Revenant and Spotlight respectively and it might just happen.

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I also wouldn’t count out The Big Short, which has had the strangest underdog story. It’s a film that is almost universally loved, and despite the subject matter and comedic tone, like Spotlight it’s the kind of film that historically wins. Timely, relevant, and well-made, it’s this year’s The Wolf of Wall Street (minus hookers and cocaine).

Also interesting to look at are the remaining nominees. Of course Mad Max and The Martian made it in, but the last three are well-deserved nominations. Bridge of Spies may end the night with zero wins, but Spielberg’s craftsmanship rarely goes under appreciated. Additionally Room and Brooklyn are the little indies that could this year. Any other year they would be left out, but since the rule change in 2009 it’s allowed room (get it?) for smaller films to earn recognition. The controversial rule change allows films like Beasts of the Southern Wild, Winter’s Bone, and Nebraska to call themselves nominees despite their smaller voices.

So who missed the cut? Just on the edge was Straight Outta Compton, which many thought would take a ninth slot after earning a SAG award for ensemble, which typically translates to Oscars success. Instead, it had to settle for a screenplay nomination. Also left out was Todd Haynes’s Carol, which may have lost out to Brooklyn as the small period indie piece. It’s unfortunate, as the preferential ballot may have screwed it over, but the subject matter may be too progressive for voters. Also for a while, we were all taking about Steve Jobs, The Danish Girl, and The Hateful Eight as well, but these are examples of films that didn’t live up to their hype, whose reviews may have caused them to miss out on the final list.

 

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2016 in 2016 Academy Awards

 

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Oscars 2016: Best Actor

Boy, this is a weak category isn’t it? I could re-do this category with five completely different performers, something I couldn’t do for the previous categories. I’m not really sure what happened here, and the conversation for this category seems surrounded over DiCaprio finally receiving his Oscar. Thankfully I hope it happens so that Twitter pundits will finally have somewhere else to put their repressed anger. I could rant about how awful his performance is, but I don’t want to take away from the other four talented performers, so let’s just dive into this mess.

Best Actorartisans-thumbnail-the-revenant_clean

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo

Matt Damon, The Martian

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant  Will Win

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs – Should Win

Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Power Rankings: DiCaprio-Fassbender-Cranston-Redmayne-Damon

Let’s get the other guys out of the way. A back-to-back win is often unprecedented, and as good as Eddie Redmayne is, overexposure is never a good thing. While his performance is hailed, the same can’t be said for the film, so let’s leave The Danish Girl to the craft categories. Ditto to The Martian for tech awards. The love for The Martian can be explained by the box office numbers but also the love for Ridley Scott and straight-up crowd pleasers. There’s always a film like this in the mix, one universally loved and nitpicked. While it just missed my top ten, and swept in the “Comedy” categories at the Golden Globes, I don’t see Damon walking away with the prize in any universe. Additionally, Cranston falls in the “it’s an honor just to be nominated” echelon, and the rising adoration for Trumbo may have been too little, too late.

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If I had my pick, Fassbender would have this one in a heartbeat. Danny Boyle’s film is a masterpiece, and it’s a tragedy alone for the film to be left out of top categories, but that one I can forgive. Unforgivable however, would be missing out on Michael Fassbender’s remarkable performance. He’s an actor that is revered in some corners, yet completely obscure in others, and an Oscar might be just what he needs to break out. Still though, if a loss means we’ll be treated to more performances like MacBeth, then it’s fine by me.

And now we come to Leo, poor Leo, who will most likely win for one of his worst and least memorable turns in The Revenant. Asking where his Oscar is at this point is unproductive, since he probably has his acceptance speech for this one ready. I wish he had received an Oscar for a role more daring however, one like he gave in Catch Me If You Can or even 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street. His performance in The Revenant is uninspired, and a plain bore to sit through.

big-short

In a perfect world, Steve Carell would be back in the mix again for his role in The Big Short. His transformation throughout the film is heartbreaking to watch, and always entertaining. He’s better than Bale in my opinion, and his omission is an unfortunate one. For a while, many thought Johnny Depp was number one for this category, but the mixed response to Black Mass and simple lack of conversation about his performance may have hurt him. I haven’t seen the film, but like DiCaprio, Depp is the owner of zero statuettes.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2016 in 2016 Academy Awards

 

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Brooklyn

Brooklyn_FilmPoster

Brooklyn is a beauty. It’s as classical as they come, telling the story of a young Irish immigrant torn between two worlds, but it gets remarkably complex despite seeming like yet another romantic drama. Bolstered by beautiful production design and a perfect cast, Brooklyn is one of the year’s best.

The film is all about our cultural identity, and for Ellis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), hers has been shaped primarily by Ireland. When a chance at a job in an upscale department store in New York arises, Ellis jumps at the opportunity, leaving behind her family and friends in search of something new in 1950s Brooklyn. She shacks up in a boarding house for girls headed by the ostentatious yet hospitable Miss Kehoe (Julie Walters, a standout), and must adjust to life in the United States. Meeting Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen) sets the sparks flying for a romance, as she quickly falls for him, but Ellis soon finds herself immediately drawn back to Ireland after a series of events.

Ellis is a dreamer, and it shows. Actress Saoirse Ronan is no stranger to complex roles like these, and she brings the practicality yet wide-eyed enthusiasm to Ellis. Initially reserved, she quickly grows to love the city of New York, but Ireland always remains a part of her. She’s ambitious, with dreams of becoming a bookkeeper, yet not closed off to new experiences. Ronan (who holds dual citizenship in Ireland and the U.S.) has found her muse in Ellis, and this is a performance we’ll be hearing much about this winter, I’m sure of it.

This dichotomy of cultures gives Brooklyn its central conflict, and screenwriter Nick Hornby manifests this in Ellis’s two admirers, Tony, whom she marries before returning to Ireland, and Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson), who pines for her affection back in her homeland. She doesn’t dislike Jim, but her admiration for the big city and her hatred for small town gossip piles on the pressure, and she finds herself at a crossroads. Her mother (Jane Brennan) isn’t helping either, as Ellis must hide her marriage to Tony from her old friends and family out of fear that they might think she has departed from her Irish identity.

Brooklyn is brilliant at getting at how where we come from shapes who we are, but it doesn’t trap us forever. The themes of immigration are explored in two excellent scenes with Ellis aboard the ferry to New York – just look at how much she’s changed from her first trip out of her country. Upon returning, she helps another young girl who reminds her of herself. The development here is outstanding, and the writers made great use of the run time. The film also surprisingly possesses a Woody Allen sense of playfulness, with the humorous beats and momentary lapses stemming primarily from cultural divisions. What seems like a straightforward romantic drama has quite a few jokes up its sleeve, and this is a refreshing pleasure.

Brooklyn goes the extra mile in making not only a well-written piece of escapism, as it’s easy on the eyes as well. Meticulous attention to detail is present in the costume and production design, and they all reflect how Ellis has changed in this impressionable period of young adulthood. The film makes great use of colour, especially in Ellis’s various outfits. Normally these aren’t things I notice in films because little thought has been given or they fail to stand out, but Brooklyn pulls out all stops to make you feel invested in the story with this added emphasis on production. Cinematography from Yves Belanger makes it clear that this is Ellis’s tale and Ellis’s alone, and the camera lingers on her for extended periods, highlight the most significant moments in Ellis’s life. The production is beautiful, drawing you in with the dreary claustrophobic streets of Ireland and contrasting with the open air of Brooklyn, and the score from Michael Brook hits all the right notes.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2015 in Movie Reviews

 

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12 Years a Slave Review

Adobe Photoshop PDF12 Years a Slave is a beautiful portrait of slavery that should not be missed. Directed by Steve McQueen (Shame), 12 Years a Slave is a brutal yet honest look at one influential man’s life, and it’s one of the best films you’ll see this fall.

The movie is about a free black man named Solomon Northup, who lives with his family in New York. One day he is kidnapped and sold into slavery, jumping from plantation to plantation and working for 12 years until his release. Like any good biopic, 12 Years a Slave focuses the attention on Solomon, and really makes you feel for him. The film is based on a true story, and, given the context of his capture, it’s a harrowing look at a dark time in our nation’s history.

The film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon, in what should be his breakout role. Ejiofor is fantastic as Northup. He really commands the film with a certain boldness required to play such a character. He should be one to watch out for come award season. The film is full of other outstanding performances, most notably Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps, a cruel plantation owner. He is chilling and brutal, like any villain should be, yet he holds a particular relationship with Solomon that is unlike anything you’ll see this year. McQueen really nails the relationship between master and slave. This is also evident through the performance of Benedict Cumberbatch as Solomon’s first owner. He really shines as he harbors a certain sympathy for Solomon. Other fantastic performances come from Lupita Nyong’o, as Patsy, a slave who sparks up a connection with Solomon. And great supporting roles come from Brad Pitt as a Canadian worker for hire, and Paul Dano as a plantation overseer.

The film is perfect in its depiction of an important man at an important time. The film carries a real passion to it, a humanity of sorts, that allows you to relate to almost any character on screen, thanks to the brilliant performances. This also plays into McQueen’s excellent cinematography, granting some beautiful shots. The shots are powerful, capturing the raw emotion behind the film’s personality. It’s from here that the main emotion is felt, leading into what my main criticism of the film is.

All of this outstanding acting leads up to what would be a perfect film, but 12 Years a Slave left me feeling different than I thought it would. McQueen’s direction keeps the film from ever straying into over-emotional territory, something that a film like this should. He keeps you just far away from the action to make you feel nothing less than a passive observer, rather than a participator in the film. There’s a certain disconnect he creates that keeps you from every feeling anything. Even in the more brutal scenes where he shows the darker side of slavery, he still keeps a distance from any raw emotion that the scene might conjure. Others have called the movie “powerful” and “breathtaking,” yet I never felt emotionally drained.

12 Years a Slave is a beautiful and compelling look into one man’s life, and how it was all taken away from him. Excellent performances and beautiful cinematography are what will be remembered from this outstanding film. Besides a few scenes that lack emotion, 12 Years a Slave is an impressive and harrowing tale, one that will definitely be remembered in the years to come.

Overall: 3 stars out of 4

Buy 12 Years a Slave Today!

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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