The Oscar for Best Sound Mixing is awarded to a particular film featuring the finest and most melodious sound mixing and recording. The award is usually presented to the film’s production sound mixers and re-recording mixers. The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Sound Mixing:
WINNER: Whiplash (Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins, and Thomas Curley)
Interstellar (Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker, and Mark Weingarten)
American Sniper (John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, and Walt Martin)
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, and Thomas Varga)
Unbroken (Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, and Ronald Judkins)
Interstellar is a film directed by Christopher Nolan with a screenplay by Nolan and his brother Jonathan Nolan. The film is set sometime in the future when Earth’s agricultural society is rapidly descending towards its ultimate demise due to crop blight. In order to save mankind from the destructive fate it faces, a group of astronaut explorers seek to travel through a wormhole to find new planets with the capabilities of sustaining human life.
There is no way around it—Interstellar is a complex film. If you are not into movies that make you think throughout their entire duration, then this one is not for you. But, if you are well accustomed to Christopher Nolan’s movies, then the intricacy of Interstellar should come as no surprise. I was anxiously awaiting the release of Nolan’s newest feature for quite some time, as I am a longtime admirer of his work. Not only does Nolan’s filmography boast the single greatest series of comic-book films of all time (The Dark Knight Trilogy), but he also has a range of movies, like Interstellar, that qualify as epic “thinkers” (Memento, The Prestige, and Inception). Although I personally think that his newest effort ranks near the bottom of Nolan’s résumé, it is still an amazing cinematic achievement (this is simply a testament to Christopher Nolan’s incredible career as a filmmaker). Despite the density of the film’s plot, Nolan still carefully crafts the story in a way that never bores and never holds back. He directs his cast superbly (as if we would expect anything less), and this lends to the success of a film that could have easily resulted in a failed endeavor in the vein of “biting off more than one can chew.” Nolan’s cinematic fingerprints are all over this movie, and in his quest to construct a sweeping science-fiction epic, he has succeeded.
Even if you watch this movie and decide that you do not like the story, it will be an impossible task to simultaneously contend that the film is not a visual work of genius. The worlds in which Nolan constructs on Earth and in the galaxies beyond are so vividly detailed and realistic. Even though the new planets the astronauts journey to are never-before-seen landscapes to the viewers, I still use the word “realistic” to describe their visual depiction because the level of detail used in their construction is still something fathomable. By far the greatest visual and technical achievement is the delineation of the wormhole, black hole, and the “tesseract” towards the end. For those who are not well versed in the cerebral scientific know-how of convoluted space features (like myself), the illustration of these incommunicable concepts is still, pardon the pun, out of this world. For a movie that immerses itself in complicated space jargon, it definitely backs it up by packing a severe punch of, wait for it, interstellar special effects (thank you…I will be here all month). It is no wonder that four of the five Oscars that Interstellar is up for are technical awards of merit. I had the pleasure of watching this film in IMAX (a theater experience that Nolan has been pioneering for quite some time), and I have never had such a mind-blowing experience in a theater in my life.
Along with the stunning visuals, the film still features an important maxim of good filmmaking: marvelous acting. Matthew McConaughey does a spectacular job of bringing the film to life in his role as Cooper, a former NASA pilot turned rural farmer, and if you have seen McConaughey’s ad for Lincoln, it will be blatantly obvious that this cinematic Rubik’s Cube provided the perfect platform for his out-there way of thinking. Although I joke about his philosophical views, it is still undeniable that McConaughey delivers an emotionally riveting performance. Jessica Chastain, as Cooper’s daughter Murph, also conveys a star performance, and it is of no surprise considering she is by far the most talented actress in Hollywood. Additionally, Anne Hathaway also gives a solid performance in her role as one of Cooper’s co-astronauts Amelia. My favorite performances, were those of TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin) and CASE (voiced by Josh Stewart). These characters are the coolest depiction of futuristic robots that I have ever seen, and they added an extra “umph” to the science-fiction nature of the film. Interstellar is rated PG-13 for some intense perilous action and brief strong language.
The Oscar for Best Original Score is awarded to a musical composer for the best body of musical work in the form of underscoring for a particular film. This is perennially one of my favorite Academy Award categories because in my opinion, music is essentially what makes or breaks a film. A movie is just a bunch of images and words, but with the addition of a musical score, the film develops feeling and emotion in a way that better connects with the viewers. This year’s nominees include two composers with deep roots at the Oscars (Hans Zimmer & Alexandre Desplat, the latter of which earned two nominations this year) and two other nominees earning their first nomination (Gary Yershon & Jóhann Jóhannsson). Between the two previously nominated composers in this year’s group, they have received a combined 15 nominations in the Best Original Score category, winning one of those (Hans Zimmer for The Lion King). The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Original Score:
WINNER: Jóhann Jóhannsson (The Theory of Everything)
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: Nathan Crowley & Gary Fettis (Interstellar)
Adam Stockhausen & Anna Pinnock (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Dennis Gassner & Anna Pinnock (Into the Woods)
Suzie Davies & Charlotte Watts (Mr. Turner)
Maria Djurkovic & Tatiana Macdonald (The Imitation Game)
The Oscar for Best Makeup and Hairstyling is given to a particular film with—you guessed it—the best makeup and hairstyling. The category was created in 1981 after the Academy received numerous complaints from those enraged with the fact that 1980’s The Elephant Man was to go un-honored for its exemplary makeup work. Each year since, only three films receive nominations in this category, with exceptions only being made in the early 1980s, when the award was first created, 1999, and 2002. The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Production Design:
WINNER: Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou & David White (Guardians of the Galaxy)
Bill Corso & Dennis Liddiard (Foxcatcher)
Frances Hannon & Mark Coulier (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Happy Friday, film fans! The conclusion to my “Fall Preview 2014” is finally here. Over the past couple of days, I have shared with you my five Honorable Mentions and No. 10 – No. 6 on the list of my most anticipated fall film releases. But now it is on to the big reveal. So, without further ado, I give you films No. 5 – No. 1 on my Fall Preview 2014 list.
No. 5 – A Walk Among the Tombstones
A Walk Among the Tombstones (based on the 1992 novel of the same name) follows Matthew Scudder, an ex-cop turned private investigator that is hired to find the people that abducted and murdered a high-end drug dealer’s wife.
Although the plot and the beginning of the trailer initially make it seem like the film is vastly similar to Neeson’s acclaimed Taken, director Scott Frank wants fans to know that it will not be the same movie. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Frank stated, “It’s not Taken. It’s not an action movie—it’s a very different sort of thing.” And when you watch the trailer in its entirety, it is more than evident that Frank is absolutely on point—this movie is way more of a thriller noir than Neeson’s modern action flicks.
Speaking of the trailer, it is incredible. My future sister-in-law turned me onto this film a few months ago by pointing me to its trailer, and ever since, I have considered this to be one of the movies that I absolutely cannot miss out on. The trailer is dark, chilling, thrilling, vengeful, and violent—and with Neeson on the screen, this superfluity of cinematic emotions will surely be presented with veteran fluidity and seasoned passion. Although average film fans may only accredit Neeson’s modern relevancy in film to action movies like Taken, Taken 2, and Non-Stop, I truly believe that he is an actor with noteworthy range (given his major award-nominated performances in Schindler’s List, Michael Collins, and Kinsey); this performance appears likely to cement Neeson as an acclaimed dramatic actor in this modern era, as opposed to a mere action star. A Walk Among the Tombstones is set for a theatrical release on September 19, 2014.
Director: Scott Frank (The Lookout).
Starring: Liam Neeson (Taken, Non-Stop), Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey, The Fifth Estate), and Boyd Holbrook (The Host, Out of the Furnace).
No. 4 – Interstellar
Interstellar is set in the not-so-distant future on an Earth that has ceased to produce enough food for the population to survive. On a mission to save humanity, widowed engineer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) leaves his family and joins a group of scientists to travel to planets past our own solar system in hopes of finding a solution or even a new place for humans to call home.
This film is this high on the list for one reason: Christopher Nolan. The 44-year-old genius director has a limited but illustrious history as a filmmaker, and every movie fan has been waiting on pins and needles for his newest project. Nolan has incredible range as a director, creating a neo-noir psychological thriller (Memento), a superhero trilogy of innovative proportions (The Dark Knight trilogy), and a heist taking place in a sequence of interconnected dreams (Inception); but in Interstellar, he dives into his first full-blown science-fiction space narrative. His films are interesting, captivating, thrilling, and cinematically brilliant, and I am more than looking forward to this renowned director’s bright new adventure.
Matthew McConaughey (aka “I’m in everything lately, and I’m absolutely killing it”) leads this ensemble in what looks like an emotionally dedicated role, and once again, he will probably be the substance of many Oscar conversations this fall. He is joined by a posse of critically acclaimed performers, namely Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, John Lithgow, Casey Affleck, Michael Caine (he’s now been in each of Nolan’s last six films), and Ellen Burstyn. The director is inimitable. The trailer is entrancing. And the cast is extraordinary—Oscar buzz will most assuredly be following the Interstellar ship no matter how many light-years away it is, and I sure hope it lives up to the expectations that have been set for it. Interstellar is set for a theatrical release on November 7, 2014.
Director: Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception).
Starring: Matthew McConaughey (Mud, Dallas Buyers Club), Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, Mama), and Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises, Les Misérables).
No. 3 – Fury
Fury is a war film set during the final month of World War II. The film follows a five-man crew of American soldiers that command a M4A3E8 Sherman tank named “Fury.” The leader of the crew is an Army sergeant called “Wardaddy” (Brad Pitt), and in the face of the Nazis, he and his outnumbered crew are forced to overcome improbable odds in order to survive.
If Brad Pitt is in a movie, I am already sold. Yes, Brad and Angelina (newly married now—Mazeltov) are an odd pair of humans, wearing an unparalleled pop-culture crown, but at the heart of one of the most popular men in the world is an actor with an unbridled commitment to continually perfecting his art—for this, I am grateful. I was hooked on this film from the very moment I first watched its trailer. It looks dark and dreary. It looks cold and exhausted. But a narrative such as this about a group of men at the point of no return is just the kind of story that reeks of power and persistence. The tank itself appears to play a major role in the film, and with Pitt leading his men into the depths of hell in this monstrous machine of mayhem, filmgoers everywhere will most likely be well-rewarded for the experience.
I am also looking forward to seeing Pitt’s supporting cast alongside him in the battlefield. Logan Lerman is a budding young star with immense potential. Shia LaBeouf, although weird as $&*#, is still determined and focused on growing as an actor. Jon Bernthal impressed in The Wolf of Wall Street, and it will be great to see him branch out into this role. And lastly, Michael Peña is continually one of the better supporting actors on the Hollywood circuit, and the film will greatly benefit from his veteran presence. Fury is set for a theatrical release on November 14, 2014.
Director: David Ayer (End of Watch, Sabotage).
Starring: Brad Pitt (World War Z, 12 Years a Slave), Logan Lerman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Noah), Shia LaBeouf (Lawless, Nymphomaniac), Jon Bernthal (Snitch, The Wolf of Wall Street), and Michael Peña (End of Watch, American Hustle).
No. 2 – Foxcatcher
Foxcatcher takes a look into the real-life events surrounding the 1996 shooting of Olympic gold-medal wrestler David Schultz (Mark Ruffalo). The film follows the relationship of eccentric millionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell) with Olympic brothers David and Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) in anticipation for the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul. John’s desire to attain the respect of his disapproving mother leads him into a dark spiral of obsession and compulsion, and his rage casts a wide net of derivative effects on Mark and his career. Furthermore, John’s disturbing pathology seems to steer the film in one direction, and that direction is tragedy.
This movie looks menacing. Absolutely, unequivocally, frightening. And obviously I do not mean it the sense of a horror film; rather, I refer to it in the mold of a film that you already know the ending to but refuse to look away, hypnotized by the mystery and thrill. I am drawn to this film because both Steve Carell and Channing Tatum almost unrecognizable in their respective roles—that is what makes this work. Carell is always the 40-Year-Old-Virgin funny guy, while Tatum is the ripped ladies’ man. Director Bennett Miller (of Capote and Moneyball fame) has shredded those stereotypes and created a haunting level of eccentricity and enigma—one that earned him the Best Director award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.
I love sports, I love drama, and I love film. Mix these three ingredients, and all of a sudden I have a pleasant cocktail to consume. But this is no ordinary drink. This is top-shelf. This is the kind of film that surpasses all others of its kind to reach a pinnacle of critical success. I have high Oscar hopes for this film, its director, and the cast he assembled, and I cannot wait to see it for myself very soon. Foxcatcher is set for a theatrical release on November 14, 2014.
Director: Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball).
Starring: Steve Carell (Despicable Me 2, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues), Channing Tatum (White House Down, 22 Jump Street), and Mark Ruffalo (Now You See Me, Begin Again).
No. 1 – Gone Girl
In Gone Girl (based on the best-selling novel of the same name), Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) reports his wife missing on their fifth wedding anniversary. An intense police investigation and a modern day media frenzy ensues, and quickly, the marriage of Nick and his missing wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) begins to crumble under the nose of the nation. As more and more of Nick’s lies and deceit become readily apparent, the world begins to wonder if Nick himself is at fault for Amy’s disappearance.
If you have been following the writing in my Fall Preview closely, you probably think that I believe every movie in my Top 10 could be No. 1; if so, you are almost correct. I definitely do think my Top 10 consists of commendable films with untapped potential, but I saved Gone Girl for my No. 1 spot for a reason—it is clearly the film to watch out for this fall season!
Like Inherent Vice and Interstellar before it, Gone Girl has received an immense amount of hype due to its director; here, that visionary filmmaker is the legendary David Fincher. Fincher has such a unique style of filmmaking, and his innate capability to create mystery and thrill is evident by renowned films like Se7en, Fight Club, Panic Room, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (all of which I own personally). And in recent years, he has mastered the art of drama, too, with successful ventures in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network (both of which I also own). I list Fincher’s eminent résumé to make the point that he is clearly one of the most talented and thriving filmmakers around today. Everyone who loves film is always anxiously awaiting the next picture from Fincher, and even though that wait is always carried out with a particular degree of impatience, it is always well worth it.
David Fincher’s film can only succeed with a carefully crafted cast, and in Gone Girl, he has assembled a diverse group of heavy hitters, bubbling stars, and relatively unknowns. From the early reports, it appears this interesting dynamic works exceptionally well, and I cannot wait to see those interactions play out on the big screen. Ben Affleck leads the film as the mysterious Nick Dunne, and his missing bride is played by Rosamund Pike, an experienced actress that finally gets the chance to make a huge impact on the screen. Affleck and Pike are joined by the traditionally comedic Neil Patrick Harris, the usually-in-a-female-outfit Tyler Perry, the former SNL cast member Casey Wilson, and the oft-topless “Blurred Lines” music-video star Emily Ratajkowski. It is a fascinating choice for an assemblage of characters in such a serious, dramatic film, but I believe it will pay off tenfold in the end. Gone Girl is set for a theatrical release on October 3, 2014.
Director: David Fincher (The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).
Starring: Ben Affleck (The Town, Argo), Rosamund Pike (Jack Reacher, The World’s End), and Neil Patrick Harris (The Smurfs 2, A Million Ways to Die in the West).