Total Pageviews

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Oscar Predictions 2014 (Round 2)

Best Picture:
1. Birdman (Previous Ranking: 11)
        I don't really love its chances to win the big one, but at this point, it's legitimately the only movie I can't imagine missing out on a Best Picture nomination. This showy show-biz tale is right up Oscar's alley.
2. Boyhood (Previous Ranking: 5)
        The only reason this ever seemed like it could miss was because of distributor IFC's limited track record with chasing Oscars. This one's brought too many grown men to tears to worry too much about that now. 
3. The Imitation Game (Previous Ranking: 9)
        I feel good about Birdman and Boyhood; from here on out, it's a crap shoot. This Alan Turing biopic is right up the Academy's alley, and boasts of strong early reviews, and a lauded lead performance.
4. The Theory of Everything (Previous Ranking: 29)
        Ditto literally everything listed above... only with Stephen Hawking instead of Turing.
5. Selma (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        Did a Martin Luther King biopic just drop into this race at the last second?!? It did, and the reviews are stunning, but will it pick up enough buzz in time?
6. Foxcatcher (Previous Ranking: 6)
        Some say it's too cold or weird for Oscar. I say Bennett Miller has never directed a movie that wasn't a Best Picture nominee. I'm not about to start betting against him.
7. Unbroken (Previous Ranking: 8)
         The true story of survival in captivity, directed by Angelina Jolie, written by the Coens, scored by Alexandre Desplat, shot by Roger Deakins, and starring buzzy up-and-comer Jack O'Connell? There's enough to like here to move Unbroken to the top spot. Too bad no one has even seen it yet.
8. Into the Woods (Previous Ranking: 4)
        Another Oscar season, another big Rob Marshall spectacle ridding in on the truly endless coat tails of his Chicago. The guy might not have another Best Picture nominee in him, but if Into the Woods is a hit, it's status as the year's lone musical should keep it in the conversation.
9. Gone Girl (Previous Ranking: 7)
         Oscar loves David Fincher, and this was the biggest box office hit of his career. It's not really their style, but with 10 potential slots, not every movie has to be.
10. A Most Violent Year (Previous Ranking: 15)
        J.C. Chandor's previous couple of films (Margin Call and All is Lost) were both Oscar players, and with the white-hot leading pair of Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain in front of his camera, I like his odds to be offered a seat at the 'big kids' table.
11. Wild (Previous Ranking: 22)
12. Interstellar (Previous Ranking: 13)
13. Still Alice (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
14. Whiplash (Previous Ranking: 12)
15. Inherent Vice (Previous Ranking: 1)
16. Fury (Previous Ranking: 18)
17. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Previous Ranking: 34)
18. Mr. Turner (Previous Ranking: 16)
19. American Sniper (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
20. Rosewater (Previous Ranking: 41)

Best Director:

1. Alejandro González Iñárritu---Birdman
        As with all things Birdman, AGI is all but assured to get in, so let's just put him at the top of the list, and reassess the rest when the nominations drop. He might not win the golden man, but he's making the final five for sure.
2. Richard Linklater---Boyhood
        I kind of like the narrative for the perpetually underrated Linklater to win an Oscar on his first at bat, but that's just it... in his 20+ year's of filmmaking, he hasn't even been nominated once. Hopefully things go according to plan, and we can finally stop saying that.
3. Morten Tyldum---The Imitation Game
        There's no real reason to have Tyldum ranked ahead of Marsh, just as there was no real reason to rank Imitation ahead of Everything in my Best Picture rankings. These movies are destined to duke it out through the end of February.
4. James Marsh---The Theory of Everything
         Didn't you read what I just said?!?
5. Ava DuVernay---Selma
        What a story it would be; only the second woman to win Best Director, and the first ever African American. This is worth keeping an eye on.
6. Bennett Miller---Foxcatcher
7. Angelina Jolie---Unbroken
8. Rob Marshall---Into the Woods
9. David Fincher---Gone Girl
10. J.C. Chandor---A Most Violent Year

Best Actor:

1. Michael Keaton---Birdman
        Again with Birdman? Keeton a carbonite lock for the nomination; who knows after that?
2. Eddie Redmayne---The Theory of Everything
        Finally, something Everything has over Imitation! A steadily deteriorating Stephen Hawking is capitol letters OSCAR BAIT, and early word on his performance is rapturous.
3. Benedict Cumberbatch---The Imitation Game
        Hasn't this guy been 'the next big thing' for about 5 years now? Oscar has been pleading for a chance to nominate him, and in Imitation Game, it finally has one.
4. David Oyelowo---Selma
        Listen: if you're playing Martin Luther King in a well-received movie coming out at the end of the year, you're in line for an Oscar nod. It's really only icing on the cake that Oyelowo's supposedly great in the picture.
5. Steve Carell---Foxcatcher
        The guy from The Office and The 40-Year-Old Virgin?!? Everyone's known that Carell is great in Foxcatcher for almost a full year now; the interesting part will be seeing is Oscar can take this guy seriously.
6. Jack O’Connell---Unbroken
7. Oscar Isaac---A Most Violent Year
8. Timothy Spall---Mr. Turner
9. Channing Tatum---Foxcatcher
10. Ralph Fiennes---The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Actress:

1. Julianne Moore---Still Alice
        Overdue, and in a very flashy role. Even at a not-really-old-in-any-sense-of-the-word 54, she'd be one of the oldest Best Actress winners of all time, but with Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep in Oscar's recent past, I don't really see that hurting her. The fact that hardly anyone has heard of Still Alice kinda does...
2. Felicity Jones---The Theory of Everything
        The supportive wife of a mentally decaying mathematical genius? If this role had Oscar written over it any more boldly, they'd have already given it away... wait... they already did!
3. Reese Witherspoon---Wild
        The actress race is particularly thin this year, and Witherspoon practically gets this whole movie to herself. Until Hollywood starts coming up with better roles for women, that'll almost always be enough to get in (Not trying to throw shade on Reese; she's supposed to be great in Wild).

4. Rosamund Pike---Gone Girl
        Her role in Gone Girl is Juicy with a capitol J. Some worry that overwhelming dislike for her character might be a hinderance; I'm more concerned with what the Academy thinks of the film as a whole.
5. Emily Blunt---In the Woods
        Look, it's kind of a shot in the dark, but if Blunt, well liked by just about everyone, can steer a gargantuan musical production into the big race, who's to say she can't win Best Actress?
6. Amy Adams---Big Eyes
7. Hilary Swank---The Homesman
8. Shailene Woodley---The Fault in Our Stars

Best Supporting Actor:

1. Edward Norton---Birdman
        I'm tired of this, aren't you? Norton's getting in for sure, but I have no earthy idea if he can win.
2. J.K. Simmons---Whiplash
        Everyone and their house cat wants to anoint Simmons as this year's Supporting actor winner, but I have a boat-load of pause for you. The movie is crawling it's way 3 million box office, and as any fans of Albert Brooks' Drive performance can tell you, being a veteran of the craft doesn't really mean a hell of a lot to Oscar unless you're reeeeally up there.
3. Mark Ruffalo---Foxcatcher
        Ruffalo garnering an Oscar nomination for playing a nice-ish guy in a Best Picture nominee wherein he's overshadowed for a pair of buzzier lead performances; if it worked for The Kids Are All Right, it should again work here.
4. Ethan Hawke---Boyhood
        I didn't really see this happening until recently, and I could still be talked out of it fairly easily. Problem is, this category is pretty thin, which means that whole 'I filmed this movie for 12 years' thing might be enough in and of itself.
5. Tom Wilkinson---Selma
        I wasn't really certain how to fill this last slot, but I sided with pedigree. Wilkinson is a former nominee who plays a U.S. President in a movie that might make some serious noise. Let's play it safe.
6. Josh Brolin---Inherent Vice
7. Garrett Hedlund---Unbroken
8. Domhnall Gleeson---Unbroken
9. Chris Pine---Into the Woods
10. Alec Baldwin---Still Alice

Best Supporting Actress:

1. Patricia Arquette---Boyhood
        A respected industry veteran who's been acting since the late 80's, and has yet to add an Oscar nomination to her resume. The fact that she's in a likely Best Picture frontrunner should help, and Oscar tends to looove his struggling, self-sacrificing mothers.
2. Jessica Chastain---A Most Violent Year
        Arquette's perfect opposite. This would represent Chastain's third nomination since she absolutely EXPLODED onto the scene in 2011. Patricia's got about ten years and a million movies on her, but Chastain's upward movie star trajectory might just be too powerful.
3. Emma Stone---Birdman
        The only potential Birdman nominee who I feel compelled to call a 'potential' nominee. She still feels safe, just not a safe as her cast mates. 
4. Carmen Ejogo---Selma
        There's a fairly bold line in between the top three here and the rest of the field. If I'm taking a flyer on somebody, give me the actress playing Coretta Scott King.
5. Keira Knightly---The Imitation Game
        This last slot is a total crapshoot. If Into the Woods is a hit, I like Streep or Kendrick, but as of now, I'm going with a sizable role in a potential Best Picture winner.
6. Meryl Streep---Into the Woods
7. Anna Kendrick---Into the Woods
8. Laura Dern---Wild
9. Carrie Coon---Gone Girl
10. Katherine Waterston---Inherent Vice

Best Original Screenplay:

1. Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, and Armando Bo---Birdman
2. Paul Webb---Selma
3. Richard Linklater---Boyhood
4. Dan Futterman and E. Max Frye---Foxcatcher
5. J.C. Chandor---A Most Violent Year
6. Damien Chazelle---Whiplash
7. Christopher and Jonathan Nolan---Interstellar
8. Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness---The Grand Budapest Hotel
9. Mike Leigh---Mr. Turner

Best Adapted Screenplay:

1. Graham Moore---The Imitation Game
2. Anthony McCarten---The Theory of Everything
3. Joel and Ethan Coen, William Nicholson, and Richard LaGravense---Unbroken
4. Gillian Flynn---Gone Girl
5. Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland---Still Alice
6. Nick Hornby---Wild
7. James Lapine---Into The Woods
8. Paul Thomas Anderson---Inherent Vice
9. Jon Stewart---Rosewater

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Interstellar (Release Date: 11-7-2014)

        To say that Christopher Nolan is in rarified air as a tent-pole filmmaker would be the ultimate understatement: no other director can currently turn a mere movie into a cultural event simply by attaching his name. Spielberg used to have it, Tarantino might get there yet, and Cameron would share the mantle if he made more than one film per decade. As is, Nolan alone is afforded movie-star treatment by both the studios that market his pictures, and the audiences that greedily lap them up. It should come as no surprise that all this adoration has emboldened him to take even further risks; with the release Interstellar, Nolan's first since dutifully wrapping up his Dark Knight saga, finds the auteur marching to the beat of his own drum, traveling to the farthest reaches of space all in the name of chasing his muse.

        Hollywood's own Lazarus (Matthew McConaughey) stars as Cooper, a former NASA test pilot and current farmer (they make those?) living in a vaguely post-apocalyptic American midwest. Rather than zombies or artificial intelligence, Earth's ruination is brought about by a newly untenable climate; rain hardly falls, dust sweeps through towns like a menacing brown fog, and our only viable crop left is corn (Take THAT, USDA!). Humanity's last hope manifests in the form of a wormhole that is discovered somewhere near Saturn, a portal behind which mankind hopes to find a new home. Cooper reluctantly accepts the mission, leaving behind a much beloved daughter (a terrific Mackenzie Foy) and an afterthought of a son (Timothée Chalamet) with only a puncher's chance of ever returning.

        It's easy to forget that Nolan's name hasn't always been synonymous with enormity. As recently as  2006's The Prestige, the guy hadn't even made a single epic. Then came The Dark Knight (and, I'd like to posit, the influence of composer Hans Zimmer), a film who's unnerving scale and runaway success properly put Nolan on the pop culture map, and laid the tracks for his career forever more. Interstellar might be his most daunting undertaking yet, a nearly three-hour-long space voyage that finds as much value in explaining the Theory of Relativity as is does in tugging on heart strings, all while consciously and constantly calling to mind 2001: A Space Odyssey with truly reckless abandon. There's no doubting the film's ambition, but the subject of its actual achievement is ripe for debate.

        Nolan has never bared his heart to this degree. It's commonplace to hear his work described as 'cold' or 'inhuman,' and in the same year that David Fincher laughed off those very same criticisms by crafting one of his iciest works to date, Nolan opted to confront them head-on. Problem is, this might not have been the right movie to finally shift his heart all the way down to his sleeve. The cross-cutting that transpires between Cooper's galactic adventures and his children's dust-bowl suffering diminishes the effect of both, while certain scenes that juxtapose the powers of love and science remain tremendously vague, and would likely be more at home in the diary of a 14-year-old girl. Nolan and writing partner/brother Jonathan also stir a little government conspiracy into the pot, often via clumsy expositions delivered by poorly cast villains who slowly reveal 'ah-hah's that play more like 'ho-hums.' There's even a big twist at the end!!! I'll say this about Interstellar: you're buying a whole lot of 'movie' with your $13, even if it's kind of a mess.

        The primary culprit, as it tends to be in Nolan's work, is the screenplay. Where his heavily plot-driven/plot-hole-ridden films of the past have always managed to distract viewers from their faulty mechanics with the allure and power of spectacle, Interstellar sees the details finally catch up to the Brother's Nolan. The film is littered with head-scratch-worthy internal logic, and dialogue that's so on the nose, you might never smell again. And while I anticipated a ready and fair comparison between this and last year's Gravity, Interstellar's closest relative is actually another Nolan offspring, Inception. Both movies are obsessed with the time delineation, parental guilt, love and its perception, anti-gravity, the intimidating power of water, twist revelations, and plots that function more as puzzles than narratives. Had we never seen (and marveled at) Inception, this might be a wholly different conversation; as is, Nolan's latest feels a touch warmed-over.

        Interstellar is all about reaching out beyond what we've previously accomplished, in terms of both the film itself, and the production behind it. Even Matthew McConaughey, now three years into the McConaissance, has something to prove, trotting out his newly-minted Oscar-winner status for a mainstream audience who hasn't seen him in anything since The Ghosts of Girlfriend's Past. He's fine in the picture, employing his steady southern drawl to endearing effect, and really hitting the high notes in his handful of 'oscar scenes,' but one still wonders if this film wouldn't benefit from a less famous face at its center. His 'movie-star-performance' dial is set firmly at 11.5, an odd choice for... you know, a crop farmer, and the thinly-written Cooper ensures that the thespian always comes first to mind before the character.

        Look, there are elements of Interstellar that work like gangbusters. Certain space travel sequences are near jaw-dropping, and the action, especially as presented in IMAX, shows Nolan again at the top of his game, all while the sound nearly deafens. And even if the director struggles to bring some of his thorny, emotionally driven ideas all the way home, the mere way that he presents them is often harrowing, with certain moments and concepts that rattle around in your head for days. Wether these positives properly outweigh the detriments is really all in the eye of the beholder, and somehow, nearly a week after heading to the stars with Nolan and McConaughey, I'm not sure where exactly I stand. Interstellar is undoubtably a mixed bag, one filled with ample amounts of both treasure and trash; your level of enjoyment will likely be determined by how willing and patient you are to sort through it.

Grade: B-