Best Picture

86th Academy Awards, Nominations Announcements

This year, one of nine nominated films will be inducted into an exclusive society of movies when it receives the Academy’s greatest honor, the Oscar for Best Picture.  Some of the films that this year’s winner will be joining include Casablanca, On the Waterfront, Rocky, Schindler’s List, The Departed, Argo, 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: 12 Years A Slave

2. The Wolf of Wall Street

3. American Hustle

4. Nebraska

5. Captain Phillips

6. Her

7. Philomena

8. Dallas Buyers Club

9. Gravity

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Best Director

Chiwetel Ejiofor

This year, there is a broad range of Oscars experience within the group of directors nominated in this category.  Two directors have been previously nominated twice each for Best Director, while two others are receiving their first nomination in this category.  The last one is Martin Scorsese—the veteran filmmaker has been previously nominated seven times!  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Director:

WINNER: Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave)

Steve McQueen 2In 12 Years A Slave, Steve McQueen has created one of the greatest films of all time.  He is an absolute master of his craft, and after critically acclaimed directorial efforts in Hunger (2008) and Shame (2011), he has returned with a true tour de force.  The 44-year-old British director has taken a brutally pragmatic perspective on a true story set in one of the harshest periods of American history, but his effort is commendable and exceptional.  Even though at times this movie is difficult to watch, given the ruthless behavior by many of the slave-owners, it is honest and emotionally impacting, and McQueen has created one of the more important films of our generation.  Steve McQueen has never previously been nominated for Best Director.

2. Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)

To put in straightforwardly, I will watch anything Martin Scorsese makes.  I have been a fan of his work for as many years as I have been passionately watching movies, and The Wolf of Wall Street ranks right up with the greatest titles on his distinguished filmography.  Marty ScorseseOne of my favorite Scorsese flicks is Goodfellas (1990), and The Wolf of Wall Street shares so many brilliant characteristics with that classic film.  Here, the 71-year-old director packs in more sex, drugs, and crime than any 3-hour film could possibly hold, but somehow, it works.  I credit this to the wealth of veteran experience Scorsese has in this business.  Although I am not quite prepared to put The Wolf of Wall Street above the likes of Goodfellas or The Departed (2006), Scorsese has nonetheless created another cinematic masterpiece.  Martin Scorsese has been previously nominated for Best Director seven times, winning his only Oscar in this category for 2006’s The Departed.

3. David O. Russell (American Hustle)

Just one year after directing Silver Linings Playbook, my favorite film of 2012, David O. Russell is back with another fantastic movie in American HustleDavid O. RussellThis is Russell’s third trip to the Oscars in the past four years, and this says a lot about where he is as a filmmaker.  He is one of the most renowned directors in the business, and he is rapidly becoming one of my favorite filmmakers.  Even though American Hustle is a magnificent film, I still think The Fighter (2010) and Silver Linings Playbook (2012) were better movies overall; however, this is not a negative reflection on David O. Russell because it shows how dominant his work has been in recent memory.  David O. Russell was previously nominated for Best Director for both The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook.

4. Alexander Payne (Nebraska)

Similarly to David O. Russell, Alexander Payne is becoming a director that I very much enjoy.  Alexander PayneI have only seen two of his films, Election (1999) and The Descendants (2011), but they are each two of my favorites.  I was beyond pleased with Nebraska when I saw it in theaters, and even though it seems quite different than his other films, it is stimulating in many distinctive ways.  Although it does not appear Payne will come close to winning the Oscar this year, he has still made a movie that I will enjoy watching over and over again in the future.  Alexander Payne was previously nominated for Best Director for his work on Sideways (2004) and The Descendants (2011).

5. Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)

Alfonso CuaronI will try not to waste much precious space discussing Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity.  How on earth it has received so many Oscar nominations and award wins this season will continue to baffle me until the day I die.  Maybe the voters are smitten with the film in the way they were with Avatar (2009), but I do not believe a film should garner this much critical respect just because it “looks good.”  Both the acting and the plot are non-existent, and even though Cuarón has made a beautiful-looking movie, it is nothing more than a façade for a TERRIBLE work of cinema.  Cuarón has never previously been nominated for an Oscar.

Best Actress

Film-Toronto Preview

This year, the Best Actress category is absolutely packed with Oscar royalty.  These five women have combined for a previous 33 Academy Award nominations in both the Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress categories.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Actress:

WINNER: Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

In August: Osage County, Meryl Streep plays Violet Weston, the matriarch of a dysfunctional family in northeastern Oklahoma.  I have long believed that Meryl Streep is the greatest actress in the history of cinema, and even though Cate Blanchett is receiving all of the hype this awards season, Meryl Streep turned in a performance for the ages.  Meryl StreepShe plays a very complex, narcotics-addicted, cancer-ridden woman on the brink of all-out emotional breakdown, and only Streep could dominate a role like this.  From the scenes in which she is filled with pill-induced rage to the scenes of bitter heartbreak as she loses her husband, Violet permeates the screen in a way that makes you feel so deeply empathetic, and this is all due to an utterly amazing performance by Hollywood’s leading lady.  Meryl Streep has been previously nominated a record seventeen times in acting categories at the Oscars, winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Kramer v. Kramer (1979) and for Best Actress in Sophie’s Choice (1982) and The Iron Lady (2011).

2. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

In Blue Jasmine, Cate Blanchett plays the title role of Jasmine Francis, a former socialite that is now forced to live with her middle-class sister in San Francisco after her husband is indicted in a pyramid scheme.  Cate BlanchettAs I mentioned in an earlier post, Woody Allen is the king of obsession in cinema, and in Jasmine, he has created his most neurotic character to date.  Blanchett is an amazingly talented actress with a distinguished filmography, but I simply could not see her owning a role like this; therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to see that she absolutely, unequivocally dominated this performance inside and out.  Blanchett has already swept this category at nearly every award show, including the BAFTAs and Golden Globes, and rightfully so—her performance was probably the best of her career, and she is more than deserving of this critical acclaim.  Cate Blanchett was previously nominated for five Oscars, winning for Best Supporting Actress for The Aviator (2004).

3. Amy Adams (American Hustle)

In American Hustle, Amy Adams plays the confounding Sydney Prosser/Lady Edith Greensly, the mistress and business partner of con man Irving Rosenfeld.  I have been an avid fan of Adams’s work over the course of her quietly dignified career, and this performance is probably my second favorite, right behind her portrayal of Sister James in Doubt (2008).  Amy AdamsAdams’s character in this film is miserable, but beautiful; she’s uncanny, but vibrant.  Needless to say, this is one of Amy Adams’s most complex roles of her career, but she uses the intricacies of her polished artsmanship to create a memorable character that dazzles in the wild world of the 1970s.  Amy Adams has previously been nominated for four Oscars, most recently for Best Supporting Actress in The Master (2012).

4. Judi Dench (Philomena)

In Philomena, Dame Judi Dench plays the real-life title character, Philomena Lee, a woman searching for her long lost son who was taken from her fifty years ago.  Not too many actresses still working today can attest to a more illustrious filmography than Judi Dench, and just when you thought she could not turn up the volume for another Oscar-worthy performance, she does it.  Judi Dench in PhilomenaThe story surrounding this film is incredibly heart wrenching, but Dench took on the role with a remarkable amount of poise.  When she needs to be funny, she can be downright hilarious, and when she needs to show dramatic emotion, she collapses with tears—Dench is a master of her craft, and she expounds upon this skill in the most beautifully administered way in Philomena.  Dench has previously been nominated for six Oscars, winning Best Supporting Actress for Shakespeare in Love (1998).

5. Sandra Bullock (Gravity)

In Gravity, Sandra Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a Mission Specialist on her first mission in outer space. Sandra Bullock I apologize to anyone who enjoyed this film and/or Bullock’s performance, but it is about to get extremely brutal in this post.  Gravity was one of the most over-hyped films of the year, and sadly, Alfonso Cuarón will probably win tons and tons of Oscars for this movie.  Yes, it was incredibly beautiful, but there was absolutely no storyline of any substance.  Also, I am appalled that Bullock is nominated this year.  Yes, she has become a great actress over the past few years, but this nomination is an utter joke in my opinion.  She floats around in space for an hour and a half—how that is worthy of an Oscar nod is clearly beyond my own understanding.  For the first time in a long time, I am overtly disappointed in one of the Academy’s nominations.  Sandra Bullock was previously nominated and won the Academy Award for Best Actress for The Blind Side (2009).

Actresses snubbed in this category: Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha), Brie Larson (Short Term 12), and Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)

Best Film Editing

TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE

The Oscar for Best Film Editing is awarded to a particular film for the finest post-production digital editing.  The award is presented to the film’s principal editor(s).  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Film Editing:

WINNER12 Years A Slave (Joe Walker)

2. American Hustle (Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers, and Alan Baumgarten)

3. Captain Phillips (Christopher Rouse)

4. Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger)

5. Dallas Buyers Club (John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa)

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)

Fall Preview 2013: Honorable Mentions

Hon Mentions - Fall Preview

Welcome back, movie fans!  Even though we are still 188 days away from the 86th Academy Awards ceremony, it is not too early to start getting prepared.  So far in 2013, a great batch of films have been released, but we all know that the bulk of the films that are nominated each year usually come out during the Fall Movie Season—September 1 through the end of the year.  To get everyone excited for the slew of award-quality films scheduled to hit your local theater very soon, I have compiled a list of my most anticipated movies of the season, and this list has manifested itself as my Fall Preview 2013.  Over the next couple of days, I will be releasing my Top 10 list, starting with films 10-6 and concluding with 5-1.  But for an introduction to my Fall Preview 2013, I am beginning with five films that just missed out on cracking my Top 10, so make sure to be on the lookout for these movies in the coming months.

About Time

In About Time, a young man, Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson), receives a life-changing revelation from his father (Bill Nighy): the men in their family can travel through time.  About TimeThroughout the film, Tim must use this newfound ability to figure out what really matters in his life, especially love.  Before you start thinking this movie will be just another time-travel film, the director, Richard Curtis, actually states the opposite: “It’s actually an anti-time-travel time-travel movie.”  The movie appears to have chick-flick elements, but after watching the trailer, it looks like it has a lot more to offer than your everyday, run-of-the-mill romantic dramedy, and with Rachel McAdams starring alongside Gleeson and Nighy, it is sure to be a great movie.  About Time is set for a US theatrical release on November 1, 2013.

Director: Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Notting Hill)

Starring: Domhnall Gleeson (Anna Karenina), Rachel McAdams (The Notebook), and Bill Nighy (Love Actually)

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7A810duHvw

Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips is the true story of the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama cargo ship by Somali pirates in April 2009.  The crew of the ship is held for ransom, and an unlikely heroTom Hanks emerges in Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks).  In preparation for the role, Tom Hanks consulted the actual Captain Phillips, and according to Phillips, he hopes the release of this movie will show everyone that “[people] are truly stronger than we know.  We can do more than what we think we can do.”  Another interesting point to draw about the film is in regards to the director, Paul Greengrass.  Greengrass is no stranger to films about real-life hijackings, as he directed the 2006 movie United 93, a film about the 9/11 attacks.  This story is sure to an intense experience on the screen, and given that Tom Hanks is the lead, it will definitely be a movie with award-winning implications.  Captain Phillips is set for a theatrical release on October 11, 2013.

Director: Paul Greengrass (United 93, The Bourne Supremacy)

Starring: Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan)

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Wc1l1DW6IE

Don Jon

Don Jon follows Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a Jersey Shore-like, guido-esque bodybuilder from New Jersey.  According to the trailer, all he cares about in life are his JoGo ScarJo Don Jonbody, his pad, his ride, his family, his church, his boys, his girls, and his porn!  His love for that last item, however, is called into question when he meets the girl of his dreams, Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), who is obsessed with the love stories in modern rom-coms.  The film features a stellar cast that is bound to put on an incredible show, and the film is written and directed by its lead, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is rapidly becoming one of today’s biggest stars in Hollywood.  The trailer is fantastic, and anytime Marky Mark Wahlberg’s “Good Vibrations” can be included somehow, I know the movie is about to be a lot of fun.  Don Jon is set for a theatrical release on September 27, 2013.

Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Don Jon is his full-length feature film directorial debut)

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer, Looper), Scarlett Johansson (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Avengers), Tony Danza (Angels in the Outfield), and Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right, Crazy, Stupid, Love)

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6615kYTpOSU

The Fifth Estate 

The Fifth Estate is a biopic about WikiLeaks, a controversial online site that publishes classified information and secret documents by anonymous sources.  The film follows the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and his partner and The Fifth Estatefriend, Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl).  Although the production of the film has received significant criticism from Julian Assange himself, director Bill Condon disagrees with Assange on his outrage, stating, “this is not remotely an attack on him.  In its own strange, dark, journalistic-thriller kind of way, this is a buddy movie.”  Like most people in this generation, I remember everything surrounding the WikiLeaks controversy and how the government reacted to the scandal; recently, the site found itself back in the news after former US soldier Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for his disclosure of nearly 700,000 classified government documents to WikiLeaks.  With the real-life story so relevant today, this film should captivate audiences all across the world, and I look forward to seeing everything play out on the silver screen.  The Fifth Estate is set for a theatrical release on October 18, 2013.

Director: Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Parts 1&2)

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Daniel Brühl (Inglourious Basterds, Rush)

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZT1wb8_tcYU

Gravity

Gravity is a techno-thriller film set in outer space.  The film follows two astronauts: Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), taking part in her very first Space Shuttle mission, and Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney), a seasoned veteran conducting his final mission.  When Bullock Gravitydebris from a satellite destructively collides into their space shuttle, the two astronauts become stranded in space with no communications with Earth.  From the very first time I saw this trailer in theaters, my interest was instantaneously piqued.  The movie looks like a wild and crazy adventure that will undoubtedly leave every viewer on the edge of his or her seat for the duration of the film.  The sophisticated special effects and astonishing cinematography are already creating a massive wave of Oscar buzz, but with big players like Alfonso Cuarón, George Clooney, and Sandra Bullock involved in the project, there is bound to be significant attention paid to the intricate skills of the movie’s directing and acting efforts.  Gravity is set for a theatrical release on October 4, 2013.

Director: Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men, Pan’s Labyrinth)

Starring: Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side, The Heat), George Clooney (The Descendants, The Ides of March)

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4pcg7bXgmU