Tags: 2014 Oscars, 86th Academy Awards, predictions
Just for fun, I decided to throw together a small list of last-minute Oscar predictions for some of the most significant categories. In other words, the awards that people actually give a shit about. These predictions aren’t necessarily who I think deserves the award, but who I think will end up winning the award.
As I’ve said before, Her was both the best and my favorite movie while Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto were easily the best male performances of the year. Whether or not the voting reflects that is the question. These are very crude predictions slapped together at the last moment before tonight’s Oscars.
Best Original Screenplay
American Hustle – David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer
Blue Jasmine – Woody Allen
Her – Spike Jonze
Nebraska – Bob Nelson
Dallas Buyers Club – Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
And the winner is… Her – Spike Jonze
Best Adapted Screenplay
12 Years a Slave – John Ridley
Before Midnight – Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater
The Wolf of Wall Street – Terence Winter
Captain Phillips – Billy Ray
Philomena – Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
And the winner is…12 Years a Slave – John Ridley
Best Foreign Feature
The Hunt (Denmark)
The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)
The Great Beauty (Italy)
Omar (Palestinian territories)
The Missing Picture (Cambodia)
And the winner is… The Hunt (Denmark)
Gravity – Emmanuel Lubezki
Inside Llewyn Davis – Bruno Delbonnel
Nebraska – Phedon Papamichael
Prisoners – Roger Deakins
The Grandmaster – Phillippe Le Sourd
And the winner is… Nebraska – Phedon Papamichael
Best Film Editing
Gravity – Alfonso Cuaron, Mark Sanger
12 Years a Slave – Joe Walker
Captain Phillips – Christopher Rouse
American Hustle – Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten
Dallas Buyers Club – John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa
And the winner is… American Hustle – Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten
Bruce Dern – Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street
Christian Bale – American Hustle
And the winner is… Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club
Amy Adams – American Hustle
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Judi Dench – Philomena
Sandra Bullock – Gravity
Meryl Streep – August: Osage County
And the winner is… Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper – American Hustle
Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club
Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
And the winner is… Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
June Squibb – Nebraska
Julia Roberts – August: Osage County
Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine
And the winner is… Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave
David O. Russell – American Hustle
Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
Alexander Payne – Nebraska
Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street
And the winner is… Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
Her: 5-star review
Dallas Buyers Club: 4.5-star review
12 Years a Slave: 4.5-star review
American Hustle: 4-star review
The Wolf of Wall Street: 3.5-star review
Nebraska: 3.5-star review
Captain Phillips: 2.5-star review
Gravity: 2.5-star review
Philomena: 2-star prediction
And the winner is…12 Years a Slave
Tags: adventure, Alexander Payne, Bob Nelson, Bob Odenkirk, Bruce Dern, comedy, drama, dramedy, June Squibb, movies, Nebraska, review, road trip, Stacy Keach, Will Forte
Nebraska is an endearing slice-of-life look at an aging old drunkard losing his mental faculties and how his family is dealing with it—done in the most genuine manner imaginable. This definitely feels like a labor of love from director Alexander Payne and it’s not a film for everyone. Personally, I like it that way.
Should art be made with the audience in mind?
Or should the artist create what they want and just let an audience form around it?
Nebraska certainly falls under the latter classification. I wouldn’t think most people would enjoy this movie, but Nebraska’s earned a fairly successful run—probably some thanks in part to hipsters. If you’ve seen any preview, Nebraska presents itself as a bleak black and white movie with a methodical, plodding pace. For vast stretches of this film, there is nothing interesting going on, but the beautiful cinematography provides a nice frame for the story. Managing to get past the boredom is half the battle of enjoying this movie.
Bruce Dern is phenomenal as Woody Grant, the aforementioned aging old drunkard who’s convinced that he’s won a million-dollar mega sweepstakes magazine prize. Woody drank his life away and was absent as a father although he was physically present. Now, all he wants to do is claim that fucking prize.
The only problem is that he lives in Billings, Montana, and needs to go to Nebraska because he doesn’t trust the post office to deliver his million dollars. Although Woody is borderline crazy and losing his mind, he’s a lovable old coot that keeps trying to walk down the highway to Nebraska because no one in his family will drive him there. But his son, David (played by Will Forte), begrudgingly decides to take him.
Will Forte and Bob Odenkirk are spot-on casting choices as Woody’s sons, David and Ross, while June Squibb is a delight and the funniest character in the movie as Kate, Woody’s wife. June Squibb steals several scenes as the comic relief, and the cemetery visit made me legitimately laugh out loud.
Still, Nebraska is humorous more than funny.
Enter: Stacy Keach.
Despite the entertainment value provided by the family interactions, this movie needed a villain (of sorts) to focus negative attention on and make Woody more likable in the process. Without Stacy Keach’s sleazy creepitude as Ed Pegram, Nebraska would have made itself too boring to overcome. I fucking love Stacy Keach, and I would have watched his movie much sooner if I knew of his involvement. If anything, Nebraska would have benefitted from even more focus on the character of Ed Pegram.
The longer this film ruminates, I find myself liking it even more.
Nebraska reads like a 2-hour feature length film version of a Stephen Wright joke. After watching this movie, I’ve now seen every entry in the Best Picture category except Philomena—and that will remain the case. While Nebraska won’t win Best Picture at tonight’s Oscars, it’s definitely more worthy as a nominee than Captain Phillips or Gravity. Bask in the boredom of Middle America and revel in that you’re only visiting for a while. And if you don’t like this movie…
3.5 out of 5 stars
Tags: adventure, animated, Batman, Charlie Day, children, Chris Pratt, Christopher Miller, comedy, Dan Hageman, Elizabeth Banks, Emmet, in theaters, Jonah Hill, Kevin Hageman, Morgan Freeman, movies, Phil Lord, review, The Lego Movie, Will Arnett, Will Ferrell, Wyldstyle
Everyone needs to calm the fuck down about The Lego Movie.
Legos might be toys for all ages, but don’t let the Warner Bros. marketing campaign fool you into thinking this movie is for adults and children alike. Occupying an odd middle ground (or no man’s land), The Lego Movie is capable of capturing an adult’s imagination and it’s brightly colored enough to entertain a child, but there’s no compelling component to satisfy either mind. You’ll lose interest eventually.
Basically, The Lego Movie is to be enjoyed by a manchild or hipster and tolerated by everyone else.
But the commercial brilliance of The Lego Movie is that it appears to appeal to everyone. Parents can take their children and sit them in front of the gigantic screen for a bland experience meant not to offend anyone. I don’t hate The Lego Movie, but I hate everything it represents in the film industry. However, this movie could have easily turned out so much worse in the wrong (or just different) hands.
Children won’t remember anything from this movie other than to ask their parents for Legos.
Adults will only remember how much better The Lego Movie is than every other typical animated movie.
It is important to note my relative bias because I’ve never liked many children’s movies—even when I was a child. Nostalgia is commonplace and most people seem to love re-living childhood memories of books, movies, toys, and other objects of pop culture. I can barely remember anything before junior high school so I am certainly not the target audience that’s harboring any special memories of playing with Legos.
My main issue is that there’s simply nothing remarkable or noteworthy about The Lego Movie.
It’s only been about a week or so since I’ve watched The Lego Movie, but no single joke or any specific scene sticks in my memory. Without Will Arnett’s comic relief as Batman (Christian Bale’s raspy voice impersonation and all), I don’t think there would have even been a handful of laughs. Chris Pratt is suitable as Emmet, but Charlie Day as Spaceman Benny is definitely the second best thing about this movie.
The Lego Movie largely coasts on its cuteness. But thanks to a clever ending, people will fondly remember this movie because it wraps a nice bow around the story. Considering its immense success at the box office, a sequel is undoubtedly already in the making. My life will still be complete without subjecting myself to the inevitable sequel or any other subsequent attempt to cash in on this established good will.
Perhaps I’m partly reacting in response to the overwhelming love for The Lego Movie, but I genuinely believe only about half of this movie hits the mark. The social commentary and satire feel hollow since the source is a billion dollar business that’s directly benefitting from everyone laughing at their catchy “Everything is Awesome” tune. And Warner Bros. is now laughing all the way to the bank.
Due to increased expectations, The Lego Movie just fails to live up to the hype. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie, but it is undeserving of such commercial success. Move along people, nothing to see here.
The best lesson: when you make a movie for everyone, you make a movie for no one.
2.5 out of 5 stars
Tags: 12 Years a Slave, Benedict Cumberbatch, biography, Brad Pitt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, drama, history, Lupita Nyong'o, Michael Fassbender, Michael K. Williams, movies, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, review, Sarah Paulson, slavery, Solomon Northup, Steve McQueen
12 Years a Slave is hauntingly beautiful. It’s also a slog to get through, and I cannot imagine any scenario in which I would want to watch this again. Considering the gravitas of the subject matter and great all-around execution, 12 Years a Slave is in a prime position for the Best Picture at this year’s Oscars.
While this is a phenomenal movie, Her is my favorite film of 2013 and Dallas Buyers Club featured the best acting performances. In a crowded field, 12 Years a Slave probably benefits by feeling more important than it might actually be because of the focus on the darkest period in American history—slavery (no pun intended). White guilt is abound and you’re meant to feel uncomfortable at certain points, but Steve McQueen is not a paint-by-numbers type of director so don’t worry about distasteful pandering.
Based on a true story, 12 Years a Slave details the most despicable part of our history through the lens of Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) being kidnapped as a free man and sold into slavery in the South. His dignity and even his name are gone. After protesting his captors and suffering countless lashes, Platt becomes the only name he answers to as his past is completely washed away.
Throughout 12 Years a Slave, there is a very (for lack of a better term) black-and-white depiction of good and evil in this world—as seen through several slave owners and field overseers.
At the 30-minute mark, the first glimpse of good in this evil world is given with the character Master Ford (played by Benedict Cumberbactch). The only glimmer of hope possessed by Platt is the violin given to him by Ford. It’s a token that represents his true identity as well as a constant reminder of the family he may never see again. But he cannot give in to despair. Although he appreciates Platt’s tremendous talents, Ford refuses to hear his story and still treats him as property. But things could certainly be worse.
Things get worse when Tibeats (played by Paul Dano) appears on screen for the first time.
Paul Dano continues his reign as a top-notch character actor, and it’s hard to envision someone else pulling off such a comically evil racist. His horrible song is shamefully catchy. Tibeats’ bloodlust intensifies after Platt disobeys his orders and physically confronts Tibeats—forcing Master Ford to sell Platt to another slave owner, Edwin Epps (played by Michael Fassbender). While Ford is trying to save Platt’s life, this move only endangers his existence more. Fassbender plays a drunkard with a dark, sadistic pride in breaking slaves.
I don’t think Michael Fassbender will actually win Best Supporting Actor because of the abhorrent nature of his character, but Fassbender definitely deserved the nomination. Without the spectacular peformances from Fassbender and Lupita Nyong’o in supporting roles, the ending would have been substantially less interesting and captivating. These performances help breathe life and more depth into the story, which is a much-needed gush of fresh air to get through the last of the 134-minute runtime.
This is further proof that no movie needs to be more than 2 hours, but at least Steve McQueen makes the 2+ hours visually beautiful—albeit of slavery and the tyranny of evil men. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Oscar-worthy performance is the lifeblood of 12 Years a Slave. Even with such an impressive supporting cast, this is the story of Solomon Northup and the success of the movie hinges on that performance.
I would expect this movie to have a lengthy life as a learning tool to teach future students about slavery—joining Glory in that pantheon of great black history movies. You need to watch 12 Years a Slave and any other movie made by Steve McQueen. Let’s just hope his next project possesses a somewhat lighter side than the desperate, depressing pursuit of survival during unspeakable circumstances.
It’s easy to lose hope. But hope is the one thing you must hold onto against incredible odds.
4.5 out of 5 stars
Tags: Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders, comedy, Delivery Man, drama, dramedy, Ken Scott, movies, remake, review, Starbuck, Vince Vaughn
As the old adage goes: curiosity killed the cat.
Well, I wanted to kill myself for letting my curiosity lead to watching Delivery Man. Although it’s almost a shot-for-shot remake of Starbuck (by the same writer/director Ken Scott), Delivery Man is an abysmal train wreck of a film that continuously appears uninspired—failing to aspire to be anything worthwhile.
Why didn’t I listen to myself? As soon as Vince Vaughn was cast as David Wozniak, I declared a ban on this movie. But a boring weekend afternoon broke that decree. Unfortunately, all my fears about Delivery Man came true as the American version culminated in an embarrassing, hollow comedic misstep.
While the ill-fated casting decision of Vince Vaughn doomed the production, Vince Vaughn’s carefree (lazy) acting was far from the only bad thing about Delivery Man. Chris Pratt came through with a charisma-free performance in his supporting role as Brett—David’s best friend and lawyer. Cobie Smulders’ performance was similarly terrible as Emma—David’s pregnant girlfriend and love interest.
Starbuck benefitted from terrific performances in these roles, which helped give the movie a heart.
There is no such heartbeat in Delivery Man. Intentional or not, this remake insults the intelligence of the audience. There is no harmonious balance between the dramatic and comedic scenes. By playing up the schmaltz even in a serious context, Delivery Man squirms with obvious awkward discomfort during the real dramatic moments—seemingly wanting to gloss over those plot points altogether.
In particular, Delivery Man fucks up two key scenes: the initial reveal of the story and David’s interaction with his disabled son. Whereas Starbuck presents the severity of David’s debt problems before the reveal, Delivery Man jumps into the lawyer tracking down David and telling him the news—in a humorless fashion. My most significant issue is the scene in which David hesitantly visits his disabled son. Delivery Man cuts this scene in half and tries to move on too quickly. It’s a necessary plot point so it can’t be removed entirely, but you can tell that would have been the preferred option.
Without an emotional core, Delivery Man is a dull movie just going through the motions. It’s not that Vince Vaughn isn’t capable of actually acting; Vince Vaughn is no longer motivated or interested in that aspect of acting anymore. Delivery Man is another victim of Vince Vaughn. Don’t let Vince Vaughn hurt you again.
Please do not give in and watch Delivery Man. In retrospect, Starbuck now deserves a bump up (by a half-point) to a 5-star rating. If there’s any silver lining to Delivery Man, it’s an increased appreciation for Starbuck’s nearly perfect execution and delivery. The big question that I’ll always have is how Delivery Man went so wrong when Starbuck went so well with the same writer/director.
I’ll never know who truly deserves the burden of blame, but I have a feeling I know the culprit…
1 out of 5 stars
Tags: Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, drama, Her, in theaters, Joaquin Phoenix, love story, movies, Olivia Wilde, Oscars, review, romance, Rooney Mara, Scarlett Johansson, sci-fi, Spike Jonze
Her is my favorite and probably the best movie of 2013. Although I’ve yet to see 3 (Nebraska, Philomena, and 12 Years a Slave) of the 9 Best Picture nominees for the Oscars, Her is by far the most interesting, thought-provoking cinematic effort of the year. With the voting body skewed towards old dusty white men, Her will not win the Best Picture award, but Spike Jonze definitely deserves Best Original Screenplay.
While Spike Jonze’s best projects have been directing scripts written by Charlie Kauffman (notably Being John Malkovich and Adaptation), Her proves Jonze is more than capable of driving his own creative ideas.
Somewhere in the not-so-distant or perhaps completely far-off future, the world’s first operating system with artificial intelligence has been released. The interactive public advertisements for the new OS1 have an instant appeal to our affable sad sack, Theodore (played by Joaquin Phoenix)—suffering from a deep loneliness and reeling as a result of his wife’s desire to follow through with their divorce.
Within the first 15 minutes, Theodore purchases the OS1 and Skynet starts to take over the world.
Everything seems innocent at the outset as Theodore interacts with the OS1, which names itself Samantha—a nod to the actress Samantha Morton, who was originally cast as the voice before being replaced by Scarlett Johansson. Samantha immediately improves Theo’s life by re-organizing his hard drive and serving as a much-needed companion. Suddenly, this new spark gives Theodore a reason to live.
Less than halfway into Her, Theodore literally ‘turns on’ Samantha—setting off a sexual awakening for a technological being that has no physical form. And so the singularity begins…
Spike Jonze takes the story of Her to incredible lengths in this imaginative, futuristic love story between two beings that shouldn’t be able to share that type of bond. In the eclectic future environment established, Los Angeles resembles a salmon-colored Shanghai. Despite that disjointed visual, the setting still works because the city seems foreign yet familiar.
As far as the acting is concerned, Joaquin Phoenix is perfect as Theodore. I can’t imagine anyone else in this role. I would like to think Sam Rockwell could pull this role off, but he doesn’t have the same deflated, depressed characteristic possessed by Phoenix. Theodore is downright pathetic at times, but you still feel bad for him because of Phoenix’s performance. There’s just some sort indefinable, intangible quality that Joaquin Phoenix brings to the screen. Even in prolonged, stretched-out scenes of dialogue with Samantha, Joaquin Phoenix’s presence makes the dull lulls engaging and interesting. The kinda creepy pedophile-esque mustache somehow works as well, which is a significant accomplishment.
Scarlett Johansson provides a strong voiceover performance as Samantha. I’m happy Spike Jonze realized he needed to go in a different direction at the last minute during the editing process. Her probably wouldn’t have worked so well without the emotion conveyed just by Johansson’s voice—she’s a full-fledged character with depth than any character in a Tyler Perry movie.
Her is wonderfully beautiful and whimsical.
I don’t want to spoil any meaningful events, but the audience should be prepared for several thought-provoking twists and turns. Some philosophical ideas are even touched upon. Don’t be afraid to engage and activate your brain when watching Her.
What if this actually happens? Are we truly that far away from being capable of a rough draft of the OS1? Our attempts at perfecting artificial intelligence will only increase. We will continue to strive towards that as an ideal. Our society can only improve as a result, right? Maybe, maybe not.
If you haven’t already watched Her, please don’t wait any longer. Seek out this movie and enjoy the experience. I would recommend multiple viewings because Her is just that beautiful and unique.
5 out 5 stars
“Sometimes I think I have felt everything I’m ever gonna feel. And from here on out, I’m not gonna feel anything new. Just lesser versions of what I’ve already felt.” — Theodore