Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Oscar Nomination Predictions

I haven't seen anything new since the last time I posted, which means I really far behind on watching stuff. I hope to make up for that and more once I return to school and faster internet speeds.

That aside, Oscar nominations come out bright and early tomorrow morning, so here are my Oscar predictions (I've listed them in order of the likelihood I perceive them getting in):
Best Picture:
  1. Boyhood
  2. Birdman
  3. Selma
  4. The Imitation Game
  5. The Theory of Everything
  6. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  7. Gone Girl
  8. Nightcrawler
  9. American Sniper
  10. Whiplash
Spoilers: Unbroken; American Sniper
Long Shots: Interstellar; A Most Violent Year; The Lego Movie; Inherent Vice; Big Eyes

Thoughts: I'm pretty secure on my top 8. I went with American Sniper and Whiplash over Foxcatcher and Unbroken because I figure Whiplash will have it ranked in their top 5 or not at all, while the other 2 will be consistently around 9 or 10. Therefore, with there being, in all likelihood, 9 slots (as has proved to be the case in the past), I like Whiplash's chances.

Best Director:
  1. Richard Linklater for Boyhood
  2. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for Birdman
  3. Ava DuVernay for Selma
  4. David Fincher for Gone Girl
  5. Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel
Spoilers: Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game; Clint Eastwood for American Sniper; Damien Chazelle for Whiplash
Thoughts: I'd much prefer Tyldum or Eastwood (but especially Tyldum) to Fincher, but if anybody misses out, I expect it'll be Anderson. He was a favorite a few years ago for Moonrise Kingdom and was snubbed and has never received the Academy recognition he so thoroughly deserves. That may or may not change this year.

Best Actor:
  1. Michael Keaton in Birdman
  2. Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything
  3. Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game
  4. Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler
  5. David Oyelowo in Selma
Spoilers: Steve Carell in Foxcatcher; Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel
Thoughts: If he's nominated, I think there's very little chance Oyelowo loses come the night of. Being the first to portray MLK as a film's lead character will get him plenty of votes, even before performance quality is taken into account. So this is his major test. Fiennes is more sort of wishful thinking on my part. If Oyelowo's on, the Cumberbatch might miss out if he gets the Hanks treatment where everybody thinks everybody else is going to vote for you so nobody ends up doing it.

Best Actress:
  1. Julianne Moore in Still Alice
  2. Reese Witherspoon in Wild
  3. Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl
  4. Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything
  5. Jennifer Aniston in Cake
Spoilers: Amy Adams in Big Eyes
Thoughts: I struggled mightily here. The top 4 are a piece of cake (no pun intended), but that 5th spot is a doozy. Go with the hot performance or with the far better actress? It's really a boring category because there's a negligible chance of anybody outside of these 6 getting on. Also, this is Julianne Moore's to lose, and her almost assured win will be one of the most overdue in history in my humble opinion.

Best Supporting Actor:
  1. J.K. Simmons in Whiplash
  2. Ethan Hawke in Boyhood
  3. Edward Norton in Birdman
  4. Robert Duvall in The Judge
  5. Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher
Spoilers: lol
Long Shots: Josh Brolin in Inherent Vice; Miyavi in Unbroken
Thoughts: Talk about a boring category! I will do something extraordinarily unusual in self-flagellation (or similar) if this exact lineup is not announced.

Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Patricia Arquette in Boyhood
  2. Emma Stone in Birdman
  3. Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game
  4. Meryl Streep in Into the Woods
  5. Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year
Spoilers: Rene Russo in Nightcrawler; Naomi Watts in St. Vincent
Thoughts: This is always the weakest acting category, but some of the weakest years in history ain't got nothing on this one. Russo is the best of the bunch, but Watts probably has a better chance of knocking off Chastain.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn, from her novel)
  2. The Imitation Game (Graham Moore, from the book Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges)
  3. The Theory of Everything (Anthony McCarten, from the book Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Wilde Hawking)
  4. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle, from his short film)
  5. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson, from the novel by Thomas Pynchon)
Spoilers: Wild
Long Shots: American Sniper; Unbroken
Thoughts: Inherent Vice is a HUGE stab in the dark, but, in the past, even when his films have fared somewhat poorly otherwise (see Boogie Nights and Magnolia), PTA has managed screenplay nominations.

Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
  2. Birdman (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., and Armando Bo)
  3. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness)
  4. Selma (Paul Webb)
  5. Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)
Spoilers: The Lego Movie; Foxcatcher
Long Shots: Interstellar
Thoughts: Why Boyhood's mediocre script is even in the mix is beyond me, but there you have it.

Best Animated Feature:
  1. The Lego Movie
  2. How to Train Your Dragon 2
  3. Big Hero 6
  4. The Boxtrolls
  5. The Book of Life
Spoilers: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Thoughts: My mind won out over my heart on this one. The Academy hasn't pulled a Studio Ghibli out of the hat in like 6 or 8 years of something, so seeing one now (that lacks Miyazaki at the helm, no less) would be a real shocker.

Best Foreign Language Film:
  1. Ida (Poland, in Polish)
  2. Force Majeure (Sweden, in Swedish)
  3. Leviathan (Russia, in Russian)
  4. Tangerines (Estonia, in Georgian, Estonian, and Russian)
  5. Timbuktu (Mauritania, in Arabic, French, and Tamashek)
Spoilers: Wild Tales (Argentina, in Spanish); Corn Island (Georgia, in Georgian); Accused (Netherlands, in Dutch); The Liberator (Venezuela, in Spanish, English, and French)
Thoughts: This category is a crap-shoot (along with Documentary Feature and all of the shorts), so I have no blooming idea. My prediction is based on other groups' nominations, which almost never means anything here, and the spoilers are literally every other shortlisted films. The submission rules are also super-dumb; for instance, Ida (which is quite good, in fact, and should probably win) was released in Poland like 16 months ago or something!

Best Documentary Feature:
  1. Life Itself
  2. Citizenfour
  3. Last Days in Vietnam
  4. Virunga
  5. Finding Vivian Maier
Spoilers: Jodorowsky's Dune; The Case Against 8
Thoughts: See Foreign Language Film Thoughts. Also, I'll be very surprised if Life Itself does not win, despite Citizenfour's thematic material.

Best Cinematography:
  1. Birdman (Emmanuel Lubezki)
  2. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Robert Yeoman)
  3. Interstellar (Hoyte van Hoytema)
  4. Unbroken (Roger Deakins)
  5. Mr. Turner (Dick Pope)
Spoilers: Gone Girl; The Imitation Game
Thoughts: Normally I'd put Unbroken 5th, but Roger Deakins is so widely respected he gets bumped up. It's a shame he'll probably never win. He was the odds-on favorite at the start of the year, but that was before anybody knew Birdman and it's one-shot deal was even a thing.

Best Editing:
  1. Birdman (Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione)
  2. Boyhood (Sandra Adair)
  3. Whiplash (Tom Cross)
  4. Gone Girl (Kirk Baxter)
  5. The Imitation Game (William Goldenberg)
Spoilers: Interstellar
Thoughts: I'd normally have put Interstellar on, but Imitation Game has a much better shot at winning (though it's really 0% either way), so I did it this way.

Best Costume Design:
  1. Into the Woods (Colleen Atwood)
  2. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Milena Canonero)
  3. Mr. Turner (Jacqueline Durran)
  4. Maleficent (Anna B. Sheppard)
  5. Belle (Anushia Nieradzik)
Spoilers: Guardians of the Galaxy; The Imitation Game; Inherent Vice; The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies; The Theory of Everything
Thoughts: Costumes are pretty and stuff. Grand Budapest deserves it, but Into the Woods will win because fantasy stuff always does.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:
  1. Foxcatcher
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy
  3. Maleficent
Spoilers: The Theory of Everything; The Grand Budapest Hotel
Thoughts: This is such a finicky category. Foxcatcher will probably win, even though all they did was put a fake nose and false teeth on Steve Carell, while Guardians painted 2+ people blue, made a purple rock-man (who destroys stars or something), did cool red and grey stuff on that revenge dude.

Best Production Design:
  1. Into the Woods (Dennis Gassner (art) and Anna Pinnock (set))
  2. Interstellar (Nathan Crowley (art) and Gary Fettis and Paul Healy (set))
  3. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Adam Stockhausen (art) and Anna Pinnock (set))
  4. Mr. Turner (Suzie Davies (art) and Charlotte Watts (set))
  5. The Imitation Game (Maria Djurkovic (art and set))
Spoilers: Birdman; Maleficent
Thoughts: I'm going out on a huge limb here not picking Birdman, but Mr. Turner and Imitation just seem like much more Oscar-ey design (especially Mr. Turner).

Best Score: 
  1. The Theory of Everything (Johan Johannsson)
  2. Gone Girl (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross)
  3. Interstellar (Hans Zimmer)
  4. The Imitation Game (Alexandre Desplat)
  5. Unbroken (Alexandre Desplat)
Spoilers: The Grand Budapest Hotel (Alexandre Desplat)
Thoughts: I'm afraid that Desplat's score(s) (especially Imitation Game) will go unrecognized because he's in the running with 2 scores (Unbroken and Grand Budapest Hotel being the others), but I hold out hope. If gets a nod for any one of them, I'll be pulling for him to win, if only because he's had far and away the best years anybody's had in a long time (his only real competition is with himself). I also hope he gets just 1 nomination, because more than that would completely destroy his chances for a win. I fear just the opposite might happen, given the year's lack of competition.

Best Original Song:
  1. Glory from Selma (written and performed by John Legend and Common)
  2. Everything Is Awesome from The Lego Movie (written by Shawn Patterson, Joshua Bartholomew, Lisa Harriton, and The Lonely Island and performed by Tegan and Sara and The Lonely Island)
  3. Lost Stars from Begin Again (written by Gregg Alexander, Danielle Brisebois, Nick Lashley, and Nick Southwood and performed by Adam Levine)
  4. Big Eyes from Big Eyes (written by Lana Del Rey and Dan Heath and performed by Lana Del Rey)
  5. Split the Difference from Boyhood (written by Ethan Hawke and performed by Ethan Hawke and Charlie Sexton)
Spoilers: Yellow Flicker Beat from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 (written by Lorde and Joel Little and performed by Lorde)
Thoughts: Though it has no chance, The Last Goodbye from The Hobbit would be a fitting final recognition for the franchise.

Best Sound Editing:
  1. Interstellar
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy
  3. Unbroken
  4. Fury
  5. American Sniper
Spoilers: Whiplash; Birdman; The Hobbit; Into the Woods
Thoughts: Think explosions, gunshots, etc. not how well you can hear the dialogue or how the music mixes with it.

Best Sound:
  1. Whiplash
  2. Into the Woods
  3. Interstellar
  4. Unbroken
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy
Spoilers: American Sniper; Fury
Thoughts: Think about the things I just said not to think about. how well you can hear everything over explosions, etc. is also important though.

Best Visual Effects:
  1. Interstellar
  2. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  3. Guardians of the Galaxy
  4. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  5. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Spoilers: Who cares?
Thoughts: See Spoilers

Best Animated Short:
  1. Feast
  2. Duet
  3. Coda
  4. The Bigger Picture
  5. The Dam Keeper
Spoilers: Symphony No. 42; Footprints; A Single Life; Me and My Moulton; The Numberlys
Thoughts: Literally no idea

Best Documentary Short:
  1. Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
  2. The Lion's Mouth Opens
  3. One Child
  4. Joanna
  5. Our Curse
Spoilers: White Earth; The Reaper: Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace
Thoughts: Death usually fares well here, hence all 5 deal with death or depression.

Best Live Action Short:
  1. Carry On
  2. The Phone Call
  3. Aya
  4. Boogaloo and Graham
  5. My Father's Truck
Spoilers: Baghdad Messi; Summer Vacation; Butter Lamp; Parvaneh; SLR
Thoughts: Anyone?! Bueller?!

Monday, January 5, 2015

American Sniper

This is going to be a very short review.

American Sniper is a rather promising movie, but I can't help but feel its entirety is a mixed bag, almost always ending up on the negative side of that statement.

It details the life of America's most deadly sniper, Chris Kyle, and while director Clint Eastwood does a bang-up job in the early going pacing Kyle's pre-sniper days very well, he seems to struggle with how to pace the ending, which is quite understandable as Kyle was murdered after the source autobiography as well as actual filming had actually begun. But despite this late stumble, Eastwood's direction is, on the whole, very good. I would argue he's the greatest actor-director in history (at least that I can think of while writing this sentence), and he has some truly stand-out moments, not least of which is the sandstorm scene.

Nevertheless, the film is a true and honest testament to a modern day American hero and his struggles within himself to overcome the guilt of killing some of the (albeit deserving) people he killed and to overcome the PTSD he suffered back home.

Bradley Cooper delivers a very strong performance, the best of his career (yes, even better than his outstanding Silver Linings Playbook work), and Sienna Miller is solid enough as well.

The writing is what really destroys any chances the movie has at greatness of any sort. It is essentially an American propaganda piece without an ounce of understanding of cultural differences (not that I'm trying to give any excuse for Islamic militants). Strangely I found some of Cooper's strongest moments to be when he's making up for the script's massive shortcoming's, somehow reconciling Kyle's hearty agreement with a fellow soldier's noisy and ignorant (and often vulgar) blanket denunciation of Arabs, their culture, and the entirety of the Islamic religion and its followers in one scene, and showing incredible empathy for the plights of those whose denunciation he endorsed just a minute or two earlier. He also does a wondrous job making his PTSD believable and not over the top, especially since the script has absolutely no build-up to it. Considering the script's horrendousness, Clint Eastwood's ability to at least occasionally add some sort of unifying tone is quite a feat, even if it's only, as I implied, about one-quarter of the time.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game is a British movie in the absolute best sense of the word. Understated yet assertive, it rather conforms to its main thesis: Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.

Superbly written by Graham Moore from Andrew Hodges biography of one of the men most misunderstood during his generation, The Imitation Game works equally well as a biopic, an acting showcase, and a heartbreaking look at life’s injustices, and only slightly less well as a thriller, though it never really tries to be one.

The film never soapboxes, yet by the end, there is the definite sense that something special has just been witnessed. Director Morten Tyldum deserves much credit for this. He walks a fine line straddling emotional potency and emotional overbearance and he does so with poise remarkable for a man directing his first English-language work. Alexandre Desplat’s excellent score certainly does not hurt either.

Neither do the performances. As Alan Turing, Benedict Cumberbatch delivers a masterful portrayal of a troubled genius nuanced so as to not resemble his Sherlock Holmes even in the minutest sense. It is most surely a mannered performance, but every mannerism feels incredibly natural and his emotional reveals are handled expertly. His genius is not precocious, instead being comfortable in his own skin because of a couple of loving persons. He makes Turing both a wretched human being and one the audience cannot help but sympathize with.

Keira Knightley gives arguably her best ever performance. Perhaps even more impressive, she’s actually convincing at playing the brilliant Joan Clarke. The rest of the cast is also up to the task and whether it be Mark Strong or Allen Leech, Charles Dance or Matthew Goode, each is up to the task.

But the movie is more than just about Turing’s tremendous accomplishments and contributions to the Allied war effort. It is also his homosexuality, and, perhaps more importantly, about the injustice of life, in which a national hero, admittedly unknown, can be convicted of a crime no matter how harmless.

The Imitation game is an excellent film and a deserving tribute to a man whose singular genius altered history.

The Imitation Game is one of my favorite movies of the year, not just for Cumberbatch’s performance or just for the complete Britishness of the proceedings, but for the honestness of its portrayal of a man struggling with himself in a society that cannot accept him.