Review: My Ballot and Countdown

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Well, with another successful few weeks of blogging, we have finally reached the big day: the Academy Awards.  In preparation for tonight’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 10 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.  And make sure to tune into the 86th Academy Awards tonight at 7:30pm (CST) on ABC, live from the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, CA.  Enjoy, everyone!

My Oscar Winners:

Best Picture: 12 Years A Slave

Actor in a Leading Role: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Actor in a Supporting Role: Michael Fassbender (12 Years A Slave)

Actress in a Leading Role: Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

Actress in a Supporting Role: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave)

Best Director: Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave)

Best Film Editing: Joe Walker (12 Years A Slave)

Best Production Design: Catherine Martin and Beverley Dunn (The Great Gatsby)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Terence Winter (The Wolf of Wall Street)

Best Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze (Her)

Top 15 Films of the Year:

1. 12 Years A Slave

2. Short Term 12

3. The Hunt

4. Frances Ha

5. The Wolf of Wall Street

6. The World’s End

7. American Hustle

8. The Spectacular Now

9. Nebraska

10. Captain Phillips

11. Her

12. Philomena

13. Fruitvale Station

14. The Place Beyond the Pines

15. Dallas Buyers Club

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Top 15 Films of the Year, No. 5 – The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street - BP

The Wolf of Wall Street is a film directed by Martin Scorsese, with a screenplay written by Terence Winter.  The film tells the true-life story of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), a New York stockbroker in the late 1980s who makes a rapid rise to Wall Street royalty with the founding of his brokerage firm, Stratton Oakmont.  However, Belfort reaches this skyscraper affluence through greed, corruption, and downright illegalities.  Before long, the entire world comes crashing down on Belfort and his securities fraud posse.

Martin Scorsese is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, and over the years, he has particularly become the king of mob movies.  Between Goodfellas and The Departed, two of my all-time favorite films, Scorsese has developed a top-flight reputation in this genre.  In The Wolf of Wall Street, he adds to his decorous list of accomplishments a film with more sex, drugs, and crime (the white-collar variety, mostly) than any of his before.  Scorsese WolfThe film itself has been on the receiving end of a wide assortment of controversies, ranging from complaints about his glorification of such a dreadful subject matter to uproars about the excessive nudity and foul language.  For me personally, none of those things bothered me one bit when I watched this movie in theaters—in fact, I went back and saw it a second time!  In many films, the overload of sex, drugs, and F-bombs might be too overzealous, but Scorsese makes it work.  He does not include sex and nudity just to include sex and nudity; Scorsese meticulously weaves these elements into the story to advance the plot and make the film more realistic.  For that, I will never bat an eye.

Every single actor throughout the entire movie gives a well-crafted performance, and this greatly benefits the fluidity of the film.  Leonardo DiCaprio gives one of the grandest performances of his entire career as Jordan Belfort, and I was utterly pleased to see him receive some Oscar recognition.  Leo and JonahThis is Leo’s fifth collaboration with Scorsese, beginning with Gangs of New York in 2002, and their partnership is one of the best in the business.  DiCaprio is an insanely talented actor, but his best work always seems to come out of Scorsese flicks, and his portrayal of the drug/money-addicted Belfort is absolutely astounding, in all the best ways.  My favorite scene from the entire film features Leo high on Quaaludes attempting to reach his car from the country club doors—if you have not seen this film, this scene alone makes it worth the watch.  Jonah Hill also gives a wonderful performance, and even though he broke out in the Oscar world with 2011’s Moneyball, this is by far the best job Hill has ever done in a film.  In many interviews, Hill credits this as his dream role because his favorite actor is Leo and his favorite director is Scorsese; however, he never seems star struck on the screen, and his portrayal of Donnie Azoff is absolutely hilarious and riveting.

Margot RObbieThe hidden gem in this movie is the breakout supporting performance by newcomer Margot Robbie as Belfort’s wife Naomi.  Robbie, an Australian native, absolutely nails the Brooklyn accent, and if you had no clue of her Aussie roots, you would NEVER believe she was not from New York—her accent is THAT good.  Aside from the accent, Robbie gives a stellar performance, and I hope to see a lot more from her in the near future.

Terence Winter took the wild and outlandish true story of Jordan Belfort’s rise to the pinnacle of Wall Street and turned it into one of the finest screenplays of 2013.  Winter’s incredible script, along with Scorsese’s genius filmmaking and the ensemble cast’s award-worthy performances, has made The Wolf of Wall Street one of 2013’s finest exports.  The Wolf of Wall Street is rated R for sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and for some violence.

The Wolf of Wall Street trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iszwuX1AK6A

Academy Award nominations for The Wolf of Wall Street:

Best Picture (Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joey McFarland, and Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Producers)

Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio)

Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill)

Best Director (Martin Scorsese)

Best Adapted Screenplay (Terence Winter)

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

6. The World’s End

7. American Hustle

8. The Spectacular Now

9. Nebraska

10. Captain Phillips

11. Her

12. Philomena

13. Fruitvale Station

14. The Place Beyond the Pines

15. Dallas Buyers Club

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Wolf of Wall Street

This year, nearly every single writer nominated in this category will be attending the Academy Awards for the very first time.  In fact, the only writers in this year’s group that have ever been nominated before are Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke, collectively nominated this year for Before Midnight.  Another noteworthy fact about this year’s group: four of the five scripts were adapted from real-life events.  Even though this category is filled with mostly newcomers to the Oscars, each writer has experienced a distinguished career.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Adapted Screenplay:

WINNER: Terence Winter (The Wolf of Wall Street)

Giorgio Armani and Paramount Pictures Present The US Premiere of "THE WOLF OF WALL STREET"Terence Winter adapted this screenplay from Jordan Belfort’s memoir of the same name.  Even though this is only Winter’s third feature-film screenplay, he is a well-established name in the entertainment business—he was a writer and executive producer for HBO’s The Sopranos and is a writer, executive producer, and creator of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.  Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street is similar to his very own Oscar-nominated film Goodfellas, and a lot of this has to do with Terence Winter’s mind-blowing script.  In fact, Winter, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, admitted that his inspiration for this script was Goodfellas.  Compared to Goodfellas, this script is filled with even more drugs, sex, crime, and F-bombs, and the film works so well because of Winter’s outrageous screenplay.  Terence Winter has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

2. John Ridley (12 Years A Slave)Ridley 12 Years

John Ridley adapted this screenplay from Solomon Northup’s 1853 memoir of the same name.  12 Years A Slave is clearly one of the most amazing films from 2013, and Ridley’s treatment of this classic story is truly inspiring.  The story spans a twelve-year period, but Ridley makes sure to highlight some of the most striking events from this time, including a combination of heart-warming moments and moments that make your heart break for Solomon Northup.  This script, coupled with some amazing acting, gives the story of Northup a deserved sense of justice.  John Ridley has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

3. Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope (Philomena)Coogan and Pope

Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope adapted this screenplay from journalist Martin Sixsmith’s 2009 book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, telling the true story of a woman searching for fifty years to find her son.  Jeff Pope, an award-winning writer and producer, and Steve Coogan, an award-winning writer, actor, impressionist, and producer, are both well known in their field in the United Kingdom, and it is refreshing to see their success receiving American praise, as well.  The story is inspirational, and the script has already won the BAFTA for this very same category.  Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope have never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

4. Billy Ray (Captain Phillips)

Billy Ray Captain PhillipsBilly Ray adapted this screenplay from the 2010 book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Captain Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty.  The film tells the real-life story of the 2009 hijacking of Captain Phillips’s Maersk Alabama container ship by Somali pirates.  The film is incredibly tense, and the screenplay makes the most of such a terrifying storyline.  Some of the dialogue between Phillips (Tom Hanks) and the Somali actors is entrenched in my memory, and the film benefits significantly from Ray’s Oscar-nominated script.  Billy Ray has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

5. Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight)

Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Richard LinklaterBefore Midnight is the third film in a trilogy of films, beginning with Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004), and Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke adapted it from the previous works in the trilogy.  I have never seen either of the first two films, but the movie is set up in a way that you do not necessarily have to have any prior knowledge of the series; however, I do admit, I now want to see the other two to better understand the impact of the story.  I found the film entertaining, and it is mostly due to the chemistry between Delpy and Hawke as actors and the chemistry between both of them and Linklater as collaborative writers.  Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke, were previously nominated for previously nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Before Sunset (2004).