Fall Preview 2014: No. 10 – No. 6

Fall Preview 2014 6-10 Photo

I hope everyone found the Honorable Mentions post yesterday enjoyable. It is always a fun post as it truly gets this vital film season rolling. Today’s post reveals films No. 10 through No. 6 on my list of Top 10 most anticipated movies coming out during the fall season.  This batch includes some potential heavy hitters, and if you are looking for a great movie to go see in theaters in the next few months, this post will give you some top-notch options among the films that look most poised for success.


No. 10 – Inherent Vice

Inherent Vice is a crime noir set in the psychedelic period of the 1970s, which follows Private Investigator Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) and, according to Entertainment Weekly, chronicles his search for answers in the “disappearance of his ex-girlfriend’s wealthy boyfriend.”

Inherent Vice 2At first glance, this film does not appear to have much to offer in terms of high-levels of anticipation—and that is because the plot currently known to the public is entirely vague, and a trailer still does not exist. Notwithstanding this mystery, the movie is regarded as one of the most likely films to receive critical success because of numerous factors, namely its director: Paul Thomas Anderson. PTA is one of my favorite filmmakers around, and furthermore, I believe he is one of the best at what he does (most film nerds share this sentiment). His filmography is impeccable, and the fact that he is back behind the camera is enough of a reason for me to salivate with eagerness.

In addition to P.T. Anderson, the cast is as accomplished as it gets. The film features the likes of Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, and Benicio del Toro. It is sure to be a genius film, and the film’s spot at No. 10 on this list is ONLY because very few details have been released. Inherent Vice is set for a theatrical release on December 12, 2014.

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, The Master)

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix (The Master, Her), Josh Brolin (Guardians of the Galaxy, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), and Katherine Waterson (Manhattan Romance, Night Moves).

Trailer: none currently available

No. 9 – The Judge

In The Judge, big-shot attorney Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) returns to his small hometown to attend his mother’s funeral. The trip is notably momentous for Palmer because for decades, he has been estranged from his father, a well-respected local judge. As if the awkward reuniting between father and son is not arduous enough, Palmer learns that his father is being accused of a fatal hit-and-run accident.

As a second-year law student and life-long aspiring attorney, it is not the least bit surprising that legal films like this have always tickled my fancy. However, I have always strayed away from the law movies that lack any heartfelt drama outside of the courtroom—The Judge does not appear to be one of those.

The Judge 2From the box-office success of the Iron Man franchise, I say this with full confidence that I am in the majority: I buy into Downey’s charisma on the screen. He has his own style and always impresses in his performances, and for this, I am definitely looking forward to this film. I am also excited to see him beside Robert Duvall, an elder statesman in Hollywood with a storied career. I am hopeful that these two silver-screen heavyweights will carry the film with esteem, and if the trailer is of any worth, it appears they have. The Judge is set for a theatrical release on October 10, 2014.

Director: David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers, The Change-Up)

Starring: Robert Downey Jr. (The Avengers, Iron Man 3), Robert Duvall, (Jack Reacher, A Night in Old Mexico), Vera Farmiga (Safe House, The Conjuring), and Vincent D’Onofrio (The Break-Up, Charlie Countryman).

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBvK6ni97W8

No. 8 – The Equalizer

The Equalizer (adapted from the 1980s TV show of the same name) follows Robert McCall (Denzel Washington), a man with a mysterious past and a wealth of combat skills who wishes now to lead a quiet life. However, when he befriends a young prostitute named Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz) who is nearly killed by a mob of Russian gangsters, his thirst for justice reemerges in hopes of rescuing her.

The Equalizer 2This movie looks good. Really good. And if the Taken-like trailer does not do enough for you, I am sure this will: Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington. The last time the two collaborated was in 2001, when Washington played the Oscar-winning role of Detective Alonzo Harris in Fuqua’s masterful directorial effort Training Day. That film was one of my favorites of all time, and even though Fuqua has not had similar commercial or critical success since, I am highly optimistic about the potential for The Equalizer to lift the 48-year-old director back into Hollywood relevance.

I am also eager to see Moretz playing the supporting character in this movie. Ever since I saw her completely own her scenes in (500) Days of Summer as a 12-year-old, I knew she had a special career ahead of her. So far she has not disappointed, and now she has the chance to take command of a complex role in what is sure to be a fall blockbuster. The Equalizer is set for a theatrical release on September 26, 2014.

Director: Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen)

Starring: Denzel Washington (Flight, 2 Guns) and Chloë Grace Moretz (Carrie, If I Stay).

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qt0GkVZK8zA

No. 7 – The Interview

In The Interview, two famous journalists are hired by the CIA to conduct an exclusive interview with Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s tyrannous leader. But the trip is not about the interview at all—the two are specifically tasked with carrying out an assassination on the crazed despot.

The Interview 2With the rioting success of every single one of Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen’s past collaborations, it goes without saying that this movie will most unquestionably live up to the hype in terms of comedic quality. It is also reunites Rogen and James Franco, an on-screen duo that has been making the world laugh for the past few years in blockbuster comedies like Pineapple Express and This Is the End. There it is—the scene is set for another hilarious installment in the young, but storied comedic careers of these three gentlemen. So what else is there to get excited about?

The answer is this specific plot and the controversy that has followed. With the exception of masterminds Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park, Team America: World Police), no one else would dare insult such a trigger-happy autocrat on a worldwide scale—but Goldberg, Rogen, and Franco have done just that. The Interview 3But in this film, the funnymen take their gag one step further by attempting to assassinate the real-life dictator. Naturally, the North Korean leader and his posse (those left that have not been executed already, that is) are not happy about the film’s release, even though Kim Jong-un will reportedly watch it. I find the entire ploy an act of a group of men with some serious cojones. Moreover, I cannot wait to watch it myself! The Interview is set for a theatrical release on December 25, 2014.

Director: Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen (This Is the End).

Starring: James Franco (Pineapple Express, This Is the End), Seth Rogen (Pineapple Express, This Is the End), Lizzy Caplan (Mean Girls, Masters of Sex), and Randall Park (The Five-Year Engagement, Sex Tape).

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mj3uHftd5FQ

No. 6 – The Drop

The Drop 3The Drop tells the story of a Brooklyn bartender named Bob (Tom Hardy). The bar Bob works at serves as a location for mob-related “money drops”—a means of illegally funneling cash. According to Fox Searchlight, “under the heavy hand of his employer and cousin Marv (James Gandolfini),” Bob soon finds himself at the heart of a robbery-gone-wrong, and a subsequent investigation threatens to dig up the past secrets of his community.

Like most films on these Fall Preview lists, The Drop appears to be one of the better movies slated for a release this fall for multiple reasons. First, the fact that Tom Hardy is in the leading role feverishly adds to my interest in this film. Hardy is quickly becoming my favorite actor in modern cinema, and it is because with every single movie, he takes on his characters with a distinctive fervor and unparalleled commitment. From his inimitable performances in Bronson and Locke and everything in between, his passion for his art is admirable, and I grow to appreciate his talent even more with every new role he explores.

The Drop 2Also, I am highly anticipating this film because it is the late Sopranos-legend James Gandolfini’s last appearance on the silver screen. He has had an immense career filled with memorable performances and deserved acclaim, and this particular role seems to fit his style perfectly.

Lastly, author Dennis Lehane wrote the screenplay. A couple of my favorite movies of all time, Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone, were films that were adapted from Lehane’s novels. It will be a pleasure to finally see a film that is written directly from the pen of the accomplished wordsmith. The Drop is set for a theatrical release on September 12, 2014.

Director: Michaël R. Roskam (Bullhead).

Starring: Tom Hardy (Lawless, Locke), James Gandolfini (Zero Dark Thirty, Enough Said), and Noomi Rapace (Prometheus, Dead Man Down).

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGkZq8ZOgO4

Best Production Design

The Great Gatsby

The Oscar for Best Production Design recognizes achievement in art direction.  Since 1947, the award has been shared with both a film’s production designer and set decorator.  Aside from the acting, directing, and musical compositions within a film, the production design and set decoration most help illuminate the visual image depicted on the screen.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Production Design:

WINNER: Catherine Martin & Beverley Dunn (The Great Gatsby)

2. Adam Stockhausen & Alice Baker (12 Years A Slave)

3. K.K. Barrett & Gene Serdena (Her)

4. Judy Becker & Heather Loeffler (American Hustle)

5. Andy Nicholson, Rosie Goodwin, & Joanne Woollard  (Gravity)

Top 15 Films of the Year – Honorable Mentions (16-20)

This Is The End

Now that the Oscars season is officially back into action, I have once again compiled a list of my favorite fifteen films from the previous year.  Over the next few weeks, I will be revealing each of the movies on my “Top 15 Films of 2013” list, but today I am announcing the five “Honorable Mention” films that were nearly worthy enough for inclusion of my year-end list.  Now, I present you with the five films that just missed cracking my Top 15 list:

No. 16 – This Is The End

This Is The End is a comedy film written and directed by Seth Rogen and long-time collaborator Evan Goldberg.  The film features a number of Rogen’s film buddies, includingThis Is The End 2 James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, and Craig Robinson, playing fictional versions of themselves as the disastrous apocalypse takes place.  The movie was based on a short film called Jay and Seth versus the Apocalypse (2007), and its feature-length adaptation was most definitely one of my favorites from 2013.  It was such a simple concept with a pretty distinctive plotline, and the performances by the actors were ridiculously humorous, keeping me entertained the entire time.  A vast amount of celebrities make hilarious cameos in the film, such as Rihanna and Channing Tatum, but my favorite was Emma Watson—but then again, I will support anything she is in!!  If you have not seen this movie yet, do society a favor and get to your nearest Redbox ASAP!!!  Okay, maybe that is extreme, but still, you will not want to miss this one.

No. 17 – August: Osage County

August: Osage County is a film directed by John Wells with a screenplay by Tracy Letts.  Letts adapted this film, a tale about an Oklahoma family reuniting after the passing of a August Osage Countyrelative, from his very own award-winning Broadway play by the same name.  My viewing of the film was a case of first impression because I had never seen the play, but I greatly enjoyed the dark, twisted storyline of the dysfunctional Weston family.  The film featured some scenes that will most definitely live in my memory for a long time, particularly the family dinner scene and the scene where Julia Roberts cusses out her sister and mother over a plate of fish.  Speaking of Roberts, she did an absolutely phenomenal job in her role as Barbara, and that performance was one of the highlights for me; furthermore, Meryl Streep, the greatest living silver screen actress, lit the film on fire with her wildly erratic behavior as Violet, the pill-popping matriarch of the Weston family.  The combination of a dark, but amusing script and some fantastic acting performances is the reason this was one of the better films of 2013.

No. 18 – Rush

Rush is a film directed by Ron Howard with a screenplay written by Peter Morgan about the infamous Formula 1 rivalry between racers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and NikiRush Lauda (Daniel Brühl) during the 1976 racing season.  As a sports fan, I am always on board to watch a sports-related film, but rarely do I come across one that is made with such an intricate filmmaking style as Howard’s Rush.  The sound was amazing, the cinematography was wildly intense, and the acting was top-notch.  I have rapidly become a big fan of Chris Hemsworth, and in this movie, he truly spreads his wings and establishes himself as a rising dramatic talent in Hollywood as the real-life James Hunt.  But my favorite performance from the film was Daniel Brühl’s role as Niki Lauda.  If you watch any interviews with the real-life Lauda on YouTube, you will see that Brühl absolutely nailed the accent.  His portrayal of the Formula 1 driver was spot-on and award-worthy, and I was relatively disappointed that he was snubbed for a Best Supporting Actor nomination.  I bought into everything on the screen when I watched Rush, and I would highly recommend this film.

No. 19 – Mud

Mud is a coming-of-age drama written and directed by established indie-filmmaker Jeff Nichols.  The movie is about Mud (Matthew McConaughey), a criminal on the run, and hisMUD-13103-PS.JPG friendship with a couple of 14-year-old boys (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland) who happen upon Mud’s hideout on a small island in the Mississippi River.  Matthew McConaughey had probably the best acting year of any performer in Hollywood, and although he is receiving widespread acclaim for his role in Dallas Buyers Club, his outstanding performance as the mysterious Mud is definitely not one to overlook.  Even with solid performances from McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, and Sam Shepard, Mud is highlighted by a breakout performance from Tye Sheridan.  Although he was just 14-years-old during production, Sheridan gave an exceptionally mature performance in his role as Ellis.  Even though Sheridan did not receive any major award nominations, his performance was the best part of Mud, and I expect great things from him in the future.

No. 20 – Prisoners

Prisoners is a thriller directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Aaron Guzikowski about the search to find two young girls that are abducted from their neighborhood in PrisonersPennsylvania.  Guzikowski’s script is dark and menacing, and each actor makes the most of the mystifying plot.  There are some first-rate supporting performances from Terrence Howard, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maria Bello, Melissa Leo, and Paul Dano, but Hugh Jackman steals the show with an extraordinary performance as a father willing to go to all lengths to find his daughter.  Last year, I voted for Jackman as Best Actor for his role in Les Misérables, and once again this year, he gave a performance that I truly felt was worthy of acclaim.  Even though he was ultimately not nominated for any major awards, he still gave a brilliant performance, and Prisoners is a frightening film you do not want to miss.

Best Supporting Actress

Lupita Nyong'oLast year, each of the five women in this category had been previously nominated for at least one Academy Award, combining for a total of eight previous nominations and three Academy Award wins.  This year, however, the Best Supporting Actress category is made up of mostly Oscar rookies: Sally Hawkins, Lupita Nyong’o, and June Squibb are each receiving their first Academy Award nomination.  The other two nominees, Jennifer Lawrence and Julia Roberts, have combined for five nominations and two Oscar wins.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Actress in a Supporting Role:

WINNER: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave) 

In her first feature-length role, Lupita Nyong’o plays Patsey, a young slave in the South.  Although she is her master’s most productive slave, she is also the object of his sexual desire and physical abuse.  Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave takes an incredibly realistic look at the pre-Civil War era when slavery was prominent throughout the South, and while there are some incredibly powerful acting performances that set the film’s tone, none is more commanding than the 30-year-old Lupita’s.  Lupita 2There are times when you smile as Patsey enjoys some simple parts of life, such as making dolls out of cornhusks, but there are also times when you want to break down because of the evils being bestowed upon her by her master (Michael Fassbender) and his wife (Sarah Poulson).  The vast array of emotions I felt while watching this film were truly illuminated by Lupita’s remarkable debut performance.  Even though Jennifer Lawrence had another amazing acting performance in American Hustle, it is hard for me to pick against Nyong’o this year, and in my opinion, the rookie actress is very much deserving of Hollywood’s highest honor.  Nyong’o has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

2. Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)

In American Hustle, Jennifer Lawrence plays Rosalyn Rosenfeld, the unpredictable wife of the lead character, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale).  Irving and his mistress (Amy Adams) are forced by the FBI to help set up a sting operation in order to take down corrupt politicians in New York City, but Irving’s often boozed-up, sun-burnt, stay-at-home wife may threaten the entire job.  I will buy into any role Jennifer Lawrence takes on, becauseJennifer Lawrence no matter what character she might play, she has proven that it will be played with an unparalleled level of wit, enthusiasm, and tenacity, and this performance is no exception.  Lawrence is quickly becoming one of the most successful actresses in the entertainment business today, and this nomination marks the third time in the last four years that her roles have landed her at the Oscars; if she wins, she will be only the sixth performer to ever win back-to-back acting Oscars.  While her role as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games has helped garner her the title of “America’s Sweetheart,” Oscar-nominated performances like this one are cementing her place among the greatest young actresses in Hollywood.  Lawrence was previously nominated for Best Actress on two occasions: nominated for Winter’s Bone (2010) and winning for Silver Linings Playbook (2012).

3. Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)

In August: Osage County, Julia Roberts plays Barbara, the eldest daughter of the Weston family.  When Barbara’s father commits suicide, she ventures back home to northeastern Oklahoma to reunite with her two sisters, her aunt and uncle, and her pill-popping mother (Meryl Streep).  I have never been a big fan of Julia Roberts, and it has been since her Oscar-winning role in Erin Brockovich that I have been even remotely impressed with her acting abilities.  That being said, I was pleasantly surprised with her on-screen display inJulia Roberts this film.  If it were not for a couple extraordinary performances this year by Nyong’o and Lawrence, Julia Roberts may have found herself taking home her second Academy Award.  She is great throughout the entire film, and the highlight for me was her foul-mouthed argument with her mother and sister over a plate of fish.  Julia is in rare form in this film, and this performance has definitely reinvigorated my interest in her career.  Roberts was previously nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Steel Magnolias (1989).  She was also previously nominated for Best Actress on two occasions: nominated for Pretty Woman (1990) and winning for Erin Brockovich (2000).

4. June Squibb (Nebraska)

In Nebraska, June Squibb plays Kate Grant, the blunt, opinionated wife of Woody (Bruce Dern).  When Woody decides to journey to Nebraska in hopes of collecting a $1 million prize, Kate unsuccessfully attempts to convince Woody and his son (Will Forte) that it is allNEBRASKA a hoax and a waste of time.  This is my first encounter with Squibb as an actress, but she previously worked with Nebraska-director Alexander Payne on About Schmidt (2002).  I greatly enjoyed the black-and-white film and its simple, yet compelling plot, and one of the movie’s most obvious high points is Squibb’s character.  She curses at people and never shies away from arguing with her husband, and the single funniest scene in the film features Kate flashing the tombstone of one of Woody’s dead relatives.  The woman is a straight shooter, and I found her character extremely heartwarming and hilarious.  Squibb is the third oldest Best Supporting Actress nominee ever, and if she were to win the award, she would be the oldest acting winner of any kind in Oscar history.  Squibb has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

5. Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)

In Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, Sally Hawkins plays Ginger, the sister of the ex-socialite Jasmine (Cate Blanchett).  When Jasmine is essentially kicked out of the high-class world,Cate Blanchette Sally Hawkins Andrew Dice Clay she moves in with Ginger.  Woody Allen is the king of creating neurotic characters, and he did so again with Blanchett’s disturbed character, but the best part of the film for me was Sally Hawkins as Ginger.  As a lower middle class mother of two, Ginger is struggling to deal with her sister’s erratic behavior and her own on-the-rocks relationship with her boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale), and Hawkins delineates the character on the silver screen with particular brilliance.  I was pleased to see Hawkins receive a nomination, but unfortunately, the field is far too packed this year for her to take home a win.  Hawkins has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

Actresses snubbed in this category: Scarlett Johansson (Her) and Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street)

Welcome Back: It’s OSCAR TIME!

Ellen

Hello, movie fans! And welcome back to my 2nd annual “Countdown to the Oscars” blog!  After a very successful campaign last year, I am more than excited to get back to work on commenting about the many wonderful films and performances from 2013.  This past year was a fantastic year for movies, and it is clearly evidenced in the fact that some of my favorite movies and acting performances were snubbed this year for the Oscars—this just means that we have a really, really competitive field this year in nearly every category, and each race is sure to be a showdown.

Starting today and continuing right up until the big day, I will once again be posting regularly about the Oscars.  These posts will include both my “Top 15 Films of the Year” list and my own personal Oscars ballot for this year’s major categories.  I will also be posting a review about the actual ceremony in March, and this year, I will follow that up with a preview of the films that are sure to make a big splash in 2014.  I am including a new feature on many of my posts this year—there will be a poll for all of my viewers to participate in, so make sure to take advantage of this to get involved this Oscars season.

Ellen DeGeneres will be hosting this year, and I could not be more excited.  Her daytime show is universally loved, and I look for her to translate that success to the Oscars from the moment she takes the stage.  This is Ellen’s second time hosting the Oscars, as she previously hosted the 79th Academy Awards in February 2007.  This year, the Oscars will be broadcasted live from the Dolby Theater in Hollywood on March 2nd, 2014—that is just 23 days away!!

Thank you to all of you that are back again this year, and I look forward to any new viewers—I really do appreciate the support.  So sit back, relax, and enjoy the show—it’s OSCAR TIME!

My Review of the 85th Academy Awards

Aaron Tveit, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks, Hugh Jackman, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Russell Crowe

Well, this year’s Oscars have officially come and gone, and at this point, I am already excited for next year’s show.  But before I start preparing for another amazing year in film, I wanted to share my reactions of last night’s broadcast with all of you.  Even though Seth MacFarlane provided some hilarious laughs, in the end I felt he was just another average host.  I hope next year the Academy employs someone that can keep me feeling pleasantly entertained for the entire show.

Speaking of the entire show, once again, this year’s broadcast was WAY too long.  This is one thing the Academy needs to continue working on fixing because by the end, most viewers were bored and tired.  One of my favorite things about this year’s show, though, was dedicating the ceremony’s theme to music in film.  As you probably saw in an earlier post of mine, I truly feel music is the most important part of a movie in regards to creating feeling and emotion within the viewer.  The various musical performances added an authentic flare to the Oscars.

This year’s Academy Awards had some awesome moments, some not-so-awesome moments, and some downright unforgettable moments, and I am using this post to share my reactions to some of these moments with you:

Best Moment: (Les Misérables performance)

In a night centered on the theme of music in movies, the cast of Les Misérables stole the show.  Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Samantha Barks, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, and Aaron Tveit all reunited on stage to perform a combination of three songs from the film: “Suddenly,” “I Dreamed a Dream,” and “One More Day.”  I enjoyed each of these songs in the actual movie, but I was quite glad to see these amazing songs performed once more by this astounding ensemble—definitely the highlight of the show for me.

Worst Moment: (Catherine Zeta-Jones’ performance)

Catherine Zeta-Jones returned to the Oscars stage a decade after her musical film Chicago took home six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.  Adding to the theme of music in movies, Zeta-Jones performed “All That Jazz” from Chicago.  Even though she did an amazing job in the original film and has put together a pretty successful Broadway career, her performance at the Oscars was beyond dreadful.  She was clearly lip-synching and her faux singing was even more horrendous than Ashlee Simpson on Saturday Night Live a few years ago.  It was most definitely a forgettable portion of the show last night.

Most Endearing Moment: (Acceptance Speech for Inocente)

When the filmmakers for the winner of Best Documentary Short gave their acceptance speech, they included a heartfelt sentiment: they brought the subject of their short film on stage.  The short film is about a teenage artist, Inocente Izucar, who is living homeless in San Diego, California.  Through the attention she has received from the short movie, she is no longer homeless and is making progress as a professional artist.  The filmmakers brought her on stage to recognize the way she has turned her life around in such a short time, and the moment was genuinely endearing.

Most Boring Moment (Barbara Streisand’s performance)

After an already long presentation of this year’s “In Memoriam,” songstress Barbara Streisand performed “The Way We Were” in a special tribute to Marvin Hamlisch.  Even though her rendition of this song originally won the Academy Award for Best Original Song nearly 40 years ago, I was bored out of my mind by her 2013 performance.  I understand it is a sentimental song and added to the “In Memoriam” moment, but this portion of the show dragged on way too long and the song virtually put me to sleep.

WTF Moment: (Tie for Best Sound Editing)

Even though I am a dedicated fan of the Oscars, I was just as shocked as everyone when the Best Sound Editing category ended in a tie.  Yes, a tie with two winners—the sound editors for both Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall received the award.  After doing some research, it turns out that this was actually the sixth occurrence of a tie at the Academy Awards.  The first tie was in 1932 when Frederic March from Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and Wallace Beery from The Champ each shared the Oscar for Best Actor.  The most recent tie was in 1995 when Frank Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life and Trevor tied for Best Live Action Short Film.

Best Monologue Joke: (Ben Affleck and Argo)

Seth MacFarlane began the show discussing some of the films up for major awards.  He commented on the snubbing of Ben Affleck for Best Director: “Argo tells the previously classified story about an American hostage rescue in post-revolutionary Iran.  The film was so top-secret that the film’s director is unknown to the Academy.”

Worst Monologue Joke (Tarantino and his usage of the “N” word)

Seth MacFarlaneWhile discussing the controversy Django Unchained has received for its usage of the “N” word, MacFarlane said, “I’m told it’s actually okay for Quentin Tarantino to use that word because he thinks he’s black.”  Hardly anyone laughed and Seth quickly jumped to the next joke after realizing this one was a dud.

Monologue joke I hated to laugh at, but did anyway: (Chris Brown and Rihanna)

While explaining the storyline of Django Unchained, MacFarlane said, “This is the story of a man fighting to get back his woman, who’s been subjected to unthinkable violence.  Or as Chris Brown and Rihanna call it, a date movie.”

Best Acceptance Speech: (Daniel Day-Lewis for Best Actor)

Becoming the first actor in the history of the Oscars to win the Academy Award for Best Actor three times, Daniel Day-Lewis had plenty to be happy about.  His acceptance speeches have always been more than eloquent, and this one was no different; however, he showed a lighter side of himself by joking with presenter Meryl Streep, stating that he was actually supposed to play Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady and she was supposed to play Honest Abe in Lincoln.  He has always been a stand-up professional, and even though I felt a couple other nominees should have won this award, he gave a humble speech celebrating his win.

Worst Acceptance Speech: (Claudio Miranda for Best Cinematography)

The cinematographer for Life of Pi received his first Academy Award last night.  And if he wins in the future, hopefully he learns to make a better speech.  He was breathing as if he had just run a marathon, and he was staring into space and making odd noises in between sentences.  He started getting way too much into detail about specific camera shots from the film and could hardly get his words out.  I know he was happy and overwhelmed, but it was odd to watch.

Biggest Surprise (Ang Lee for Best Director)

85th Annual Academy Awards - ShowWhile most people were angry that Ben Affleck was snubbed in this category, it was a common consensus that this award was Steven Spielberg’s to lose.  Lincoln has been one of the most recognized films of the year, and with Affleck out of the category, it seemed like a guarantee that Spielberg would go home with the gold.  However, Ang Lee, the director of Life of Pi, shocked everyone by winning over the heavyweight favorite.  Also, for the first time since the Oscars ceremony held in 2006, the winner of the Best Director award was not the winner of the Best Picture award—interestingly enough, the last time this happened, it was in fact Ang Lee who won Best Director for Brokeback Mountain but lost to Crash in the Best Picture category.

Best Quotes from my family’s Oscar Watch Party: (Leslie Froman and Marcia Towle)

While watching the Academy Awards with my family, some unforgettable quotes were uttered, and I feel the need to share these with you as an added bonus.  During William Shatner’s cameo appearance in the monologue, he mentioned the Academy Awards, to which my girlfriend Leslie remarked, “Hang on, rewind that.  He messed up.  He said ‘Academy Awards’ instead of ‘Oscars.’”  Yes, she learned last night for the first time that the Academy Awards and the Oscars were actually one in the same.  The next best quote was from my own mother.  As they announced the nominees for Best Supporting Actor, they showed a clip from Tommy Lee Jones’ role as Congressional leader Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln.  During the clip, my mom said, “He is an ugly Lincoln!”  No, Mom, that’s not Lincoln, that’s a congressman.

Review: My Ballot and Countdown

Nominees Luncheon

It is hard to believe that after a few weeks of working hard to blog continuously about my favorite non-sports event of the year, we are finally one day away from the Oscars. In preparation for tomorrow’s show, I am providing all of you with a review of my blog from these past couple of weeks. This review includes all of the winners of the 13 categories in which I have seen each nominated film/performance and have subsequently blogged about, and it also includes my list of the “Top 15 Films of the Year.”

Get caught up on my picks, and feel free to look back over any of my past posts featuring much more in-depth commentary on each of these films and performances. Make sure to tune into the 85th Academy Awards tomorrow night at 7:30pm (CST) on ABC, live from the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, CA. And don’t forget to check back here after the show to read all about my reaction to the winners, losers, and inevitably unforgettable moments from the broadcast. Enjoy, everyone!

My Oscar Winners:

Best Picture: Silver Linings Playbook

Actor in a Leading Role: Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables)

Actor in a Supporting Role: Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)

Actress in a Leading Role: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

Actress in a Supporting Role: Amy Adams (The Master)

Cinematography: Roger Deakins (Skyfall)

Directing: David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

Film Editing: Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg (Zero Dark Thirty)

Best Original Score: Thomas Newman (Skyfall)

Sound Editing: Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers (Skyfall)

Sound Mixing: Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell, and Stuart Wilson (Skyfall)

Best Adapted Screenplay: David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)

Top 15 Films of the Year:

1. Silver Linings Playbook

2. Moonrise Kingdom

3. Zero Dark Thirty

4. Skyfall

5. Django Unchained

6. Life of Pi

7. Amour

8. Les Misérables

9. Beasts of the Southern Wild

10. Looper

11. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

12. The Dark Knight Rises

13. Flight

14. The Master

15. Argo

Best Picture

SLP 1

This year, one of nine nominated films will be inducted into an exclusive society of movies that have received the Academy’s greatest honor, the Oscar for Best Picture.  Some of the films that this year’s winner will be joining include Gone With the Wind, The Sound of Music, The Godfather, Rain Man, Gladiator, The Artist, and many more; needless to say, this year’s Best Picture winner will be joining an elite collection of the world’s greatest films of all time.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Picture:

WINNER: Silver Linings Playbook

2. Zero Dark Thirty

3. Django Unchained

4. Life of Pi

5. Amour

6. Les Misérables

7. Beasts of the Southern Wild

8. Argo

9. Lincoln

Films snubbed in this category: Moonrise Kingdom

Top 15 Films of the Year, No. 2 – Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise

Moonrise Kingdom is a film directed by Wes Anderson, with a screenplay written by Anderson and Roman Coppola.  The movie is set on the fictional island of New Penzance off the coast of New England in 1965.  Two 12-year-olds, Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop, become pen pals and eventually fall in love.  They decide to run away together on the island to pursue their love for one another, but an epic storm is brewing up and is due to hit New Penzance very soon.  With the combination of the storm and the runaway, the quiet, serene nature of this small island quickly turns tumultuously chaotic.

Wes Anderson has made quite a name for himself in the Hollywood as the creator and originator of a very eccentric, nonconformist style of filmmaking.  Some of his most popular films include The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and The Darjeeling Limited.  For anyone who has seen any of his previous films, Anderson’s distinct method of filmmaking is unmistakable, and in Moonrise Kingdom, he again employs this same scheme.

Anderson collaborated on this uniquely peculiar screenplay with Roman Coppola, a writer he previously worked with on the script for The Darjeeling Limited.  The two have created a brilliantly refreshing tale of young love, and the entertainingly hilarious nature of the film is brought on strongly by the wonderful piece of writing these two men have created.  Their script has resulted in an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

After I rented this movie a while back to see it for the first time, I absolutely fell in love with it—I went and purchased it on Blu-ray mere days after watching it.  It quickly became one of my favorite movies of all time, and it made me a fan of Anderson’s unusual style of filmmaking.  One of my favorite aspects of the movie was the score—acclaimed composer Alexandre Desplat creates a specific tone for the movie through his music, and it truly makes the story even more gripping.

The film features some hilariously interesting characters, played by a combination of star-studded actors and Hollywood newbies.  In my opinion, the two younger actors provide the movie’s brightest performances.  Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward portray Sam and Suzy, respectively, and together they provide for some of the funniest and most endearing scenes in the entire film.  Some great supporting performances are also contributed by some of the film industry’s most enduring performers: Bill Murray plays Suzy’s father, Frances McDormand plays Suzy’s mother, Bruce Willis plays the island’s sheriff, Edward Norton plays the local Khaki scout troop leader, Tilda Swinton plays a character known only as Social Services, Jason Schwartzman portrays Cousin Ben, Harvey Keitel plays Commander Pierce, and Bob Balaban provides the role of the narrator.  This ensemble collectively shines on the screen and makes this film the illustrious piece of art it is.

Also, one of the most recognized hallmarks of any Wes Anderson film is the presence of a cast that features many previous Anderson collaborators.  Moonrise Kingdom marks the sixth Anderson film featuring Bill Murray and fourth film featuring Jason Schwartzman.  Moonrise Kingdom is rated PG-13 for sexual content and smoking.

Moonrise Kingdom trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7N8wkVA4_8s

Academy Award nominations for Moonrise Kingdom:

Best Original Screenplay (Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola)

Previous movies on the countdown of the Top 15 Films of the Year:

3. Zero Dark Thirty

4. Skyfall

5. Django Unchained

6. Life of Pi

7. Amour

8. Les Misérables

9. Beasts of the Southern Wild

10. Looper

11. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

12. The Dark Knight Rises

13. Flight

14. The Master

15. Argo

Best Director

David O Russell

This year’s group of Best Director nominees includes an interesting dynamic of filmmakers.  The category features three directors with no previous Best Director nominations at the Academy Awards (Michael Haneke, Benh Zeitlin, and David O. Russell), and two experienced veterans in this category (Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg).  Between Lee and Spielberg, they have been nominated eight times for Best Director, winning three of those awards.  This will be one of the most anticipated awards throughout the entire ceremony, and I am personally thrilled to see who emerges as the winner in a category characterized by variety.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Director:

WINNER: David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

David O. Russell’s most popular films of his career are I Heart Huckabees (2004) and The Fighter (2010), but he has truly created a masterpiece in Silver Linings Playbook—this will surely go down as his best film to date.  I was greatly impressed by the acting performances in the movie, but I was also equally fascinated by the amazing script, also written by Russell—the ways in which he recreates this story on the screen are absolutely dazzling.  To say the least, I was strongly moved by almost every scene in the film, and this is due to Russell’s outstanding directorial effort.  Russell’s motion picture also becomes the first film since 1993 to be nominated in each of the Big 5 categories at the Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay).  Russell has never previously been nominated for Best Director at the Oscars.

2. Michael Haneke (Amour)

Even though Michael Haneke is up for his very first Best Director award at the Oscars, he is no stranger to accolades in the film industry.  The Austrian filmmaker has written and directed some of the world’s most admired foreign-language films, and he is one of only seven filmmakers to twice win the coveted Palme d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival (The White Ribbon, 2009, and Amour, 2012).  Haneke’s Amour was one of the most invigorating tales of the year, and his film has received a significant amount of acclaim all around the world, including five nominations at the Academy Awards.  Haneke has never previously been nominated for Best Director at the Oscars.

3. Ang Lee (Life of Pi)

As I stated in a previous post, I was not overly thrilled to see Life of Pi because it looked like a cheesy movie for kids—that was until I finally saw it.  Ang Lee is considered one of the greatest modern filmmakers, and he has only added to his legacy with Life of Pi.  Lee employed a wonderful writer and an amazingly fresh, young cast, and the ways in which he uses his veteran filmmaking skills to tell this elaborate story is nothing short of stunning.  Lee was previously nominated for two Best Director Oscars, winning the Academy Award in this category for Brokeback Mountain (2005).

4. Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Benh Zeitlin has directed a momentous movie in his very first attempt at feature films.  I was quite surprised that this was his first feature film because after viewing the movie, it looked as if a world-renowned filmmaker created it.  If Zeitlin decides to make more films in the future, he is sure to become a staple at the Oscars after giving us one of 2012’s best motion pictures, Beasts of the Southern Wild.  Zeitlin has never previously been nominated for Best Director at the Oscars.

5. Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)

Steven Spielberg has garnered a substantial amount of critical acclaim for his newest film, Lincoln.  Even though it is touted as one of the year’s best and is predicted to win a slew of Oscars, I found the movie quite boring and bland, other than some great acting performances.  Personally, the movie did not seem much different, in entertainment level or filmmaking style, than Spielberg’s War Horse (2011), and I was bored to no avail by that movie.  Spielberg was previously nominated for six Best Director Oscars, winning the Academy Award in this category for two films: Schindler’s List (1993) and Saving Private Ryan (1998).

Directors snubbed in this category: Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)