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Monday, February 29, 2016

The Sixth Annual Elwyn Awards!

        Hello, and welcome to the Sixth Annual Elwyns Awards, a ceremony (see: blog post) dedicated to celebrating the greatest accomplishments set to film during the past year. This is, of course, my personal chance to play god with the Oscars, righting what I perceive to be the Academy's wrongs, replacing them with my own glorious, irrefutable selections. Sounds cool, right? I knew you'd think so. Some of Oscar's favorite sections (Foreign Film, Documentary, all the Shorts) are missing here, but in their place are a few different categories dreamed up especially for this site's very own awards show. The winner of each category will receive a Collin, the highest honor that this website can offer, and a form of recognition that will be remembered for a lifetime. Let's get to it!

***Note: A special thanks to my sister, Brittany Elwyn, for creating all of the graphics featured in today's post***

Best Picture:
And the nominees are...
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
Mad Max: Fury Road
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Love & Mercy

And the Collin goes to...
Mad Max: Fury Road
        I'll be breaking down all six of these movies, as well as those who just missed the cut, tomorrow when I post Hype Starts Here's Top 15 Movies of 2015, but I'll just quickly say that Fury Road is the most perfect distillation of what makes movies special that one could possibly ask for. Everything that makes the medium unique and powerful is blown up to epic proportions in this 2 hour adrenaline-rush of a film.

Runner-Up: Spotlight
Next in Line: Wild Tales, Phoenix, and Inside Out

Best Director:
And the nominees are...
George Miller---Mad Max: Fury Road
Bill Pohlad---Love & Mercy
Denis Villeneuve---Sicario
Tom McCarthy---Spotlight
Damián Szifrón---Wild Tales

And the Collin goes to...
George Miller---Mad Max: Fury Road
        Frankly, this one seems more obvious to me than giving it Best Picture. The fact that Miller helmed this maniacal extravaganza without ever loosing his grip on the wheel is insane, never mind that a 73-year-old just directed one of the best action movies ever made.

Runner-Up: Tom McCarthy---Spotlight
Next in Line: Roy Andersson---A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon---Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and Christian Petzold---Phoenix

Best Actor:
And the nominees are...
Jason Segel---The End of the Tour
Samuel L. Jackson---The Hateful Eight
Adam Scott---The Overnight
Michael Fassbender---Steve Jobs
Ibrahim Ahmed---Timbuktu

And the Collin goes to...
Michael Fassbender---Steve Jobs
        Both my line-up and Oscar's selections in the Best Actor category are among the least impressive in recent memory, but when in doubt, just vote Fassbender. His performance is mesmerizingly lived-in, from his voice to the way he carries himself on down to his mastery of Aaron Sorkin's rippling dialogue.

Runner-Up: Samuel L. Jackson---The Hateful Eight
Next in Line: Michael Fassbender---MacBeth, Matt Damon---The Martian, and Thomas Mann---Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Best Actress:
And the nominees are...
Saoirse Ronan---Brooklyn
Cate Blanchett---Carol
Rooney Mara---Carol
Nina Hoss---Phoenix
Daisy Ridley---Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

And the Collin goes to...
Saoirse Ronan---Brooklyn
        In contrast to this year's Lead Actors, the Best Actress race was preposterously competitive last year. Ronan stole my heart with her subtle performance in Brooklyn, her face registering emotions and internal conflict with the artful specificity of a concert pianist. Really though, you couldn't go wrong with any of the thespians listed here, not to mention a handful of others I left off the list.

Runner-Up: Nina Hoss---Phoenix
Next in Line: Juliette Binoche---Clouds of Sils Maria, Brie Larson---Room, and Emily Blunt---Sicario

Best Supporting Actor:
And the nominees are...
Emory Cohen---Brooklyn
Joel Edgerton---The Gift
Paul Dano---Love & Mercy
Michael Keaton---Spotlight
Liev Schreiber---Spotlight

And the Collin goes to...
Paul Dano---Love & Mercy
        My favorite performance of any actor or actress in 2015 belongs to Paul Dano, who's odd energy has never been put to better use than in his portrayal of a young Brian Wilson. Soft, kind, and tragically troubled, Dano breaks our hearts by unraveling right before our eyes, and only just as his genius was starting to be recognized.

Runner-Up: Liev Schreiber---Spotlight
Next in Line: Christian Bale---The Big Short, Tom Hardy---The Revenant, and Josh Brolin---Sicario

Best Supporting Actress:
And the nominees are...
Kristen Stewart---Clouds of Sils Maria
Alicia Vikander---Ex Machina
Jennifer Jason Leigh---The Hateful Eight
Charlize Theron---Mad Max: Fury Road
Érica Rivas---Wild Tales

And the Collin goes to...
Jennifer Jason Leigh---The Hateful Eight
        Leigh is captivating for every second she's on screen in Quentin Tarantino's latest despite being saddled with a role that lesser actors undoubtably would have found unflattering. Bilious, clever, and wily in her every move, she plays an entrancing which of a woman who toys with our sympathies in nearly every scene.

Runner-Up: Kristen Stewart---Clouds of Sils Maria
Next in Line: Teyonah Parris---Chi-Raq, Olivia Cooke---Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and Rachel Weisz---Youth

Best Original Screenplay:
And the nominees are...
Roy Andersson---A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
Olivier Assayas---Clouds of Sils Maria
Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley---Inside Out
Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy---Spotlight
Damián Szifrón---Wild Tales

And the Collin goes to...
Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy---Spotlight
        Immaculately researched, dense in detail, and trimmed of even the slightest bit of fat, Spotlight represents precision screenwriting at its finest. Inside Out may be striving for something more ambitious, but Spotlight is perfect, and deserves this imaginary prize.

Runner-Up: Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley---Inside Out
Next in Line: Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig---Mistress America, Patrick Brice---The Overnight, and Denis Villeneuve---Sicario

Best Adapted Screenplay:
And the nominees are...
Andrew Haigh---45 Years
Charlie Kaufman---Anomalisa
Donald Margulies---The End of the Tour
Jesse Andrews---Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Christian Petzold and Harun Farocki---Phoenix

And the Collin goes to...
Christian Petzold and Harun Farocki---Phoenix
        2015 was a great year for foreign films that only reveal their true meaning near the end, the mind-bending Phoenix sorting through lofty and knotted subject matter through the lens of a small, personal story.

Runner-Up: Charlie Kaufman---Anomalisa
Next in Line: Charles Randolph and Adam McKay---The Big Short, Nick Hornby---Brooklyn, and Drew Goddard---The Martian

Best Ensemble:
And the nominees are...
The Big Short
Clouds of Sils Maria
Wild Tales

And the Collin goes to...
        Despite having no Oscars to show for their work, the cast of Spotlight is almost flawless from beginning to end. No one shows off, everyone stays in their lane, and every thespian on board works in perfect concert with one another.

Runner-Up: Sicario
Next in Line: The Hateful EightMe and Earl and the Dying Girl, Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

Best Cinematography:
And the nominees are...

Ping Bin Lee---The Assassin
Adam Arkapaw---MacBeth
John Seale---Mad Max: Fury Road
Emmanuel Lubezki---The Revenant
Roger Deakins---Sicario

And the Collin goes to...
John Seale---Mad Max: Fury Road
        I know, I know, Lubezki shot with all-natural light in freezing temperatures, and his film is truly one of the most beautiful a viewer could ever ask for, but I've got to stick with Mad Max. John Seale's camera constantly finds the least obvious, most engaging framing possible, and the way he retains physical logic within all the chaos taking place on screen is downright masterful.

Runner-Up: Emmanuel Lubezki---The Revenant
Next in Line: Cary Joji Fukunaga---Beasts of No Nation, Edward Lachman---Carol, and Maryse Alberti---Creed

Best Editing:
And the nominees are...

Dino Jonsäter---Love & Mercy
Margaret Sixel---Mad Max: Fury Road
Eddie Hamilton---Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
Tom McArdle---Spotlight
Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey---Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

And the Collin goes to...
Margaret Sixel---Mad Max: Fury Road
        Do I really need to explain this one? Mad Max might actually be the single most astoundingly edited movie I've ever seen in my life, ratcheting up the pace and intensity to almost merciless levels while maintaining spacial reasoning all the while. 

Runner-Up: Tom McArdle---Spotlight
Next in Line: Margaret Sixel---Mad Max: Fury RoadMargaret Sixel---Mad Max: Fury Road, and Margaret Sixel---Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Production Design:
And the nominees are...

Ulf Jonsson and Nicklas Nilsson---A Pigeon Sat on Branch Reflecting on Existence
Wen-Ying Huang---The Assassin
Adam Stockhausen---Bridge of Spies
Judy Becker---Carol
Keith P. Cunningham---Love & Mercy

And the Collin goes to...
Adam Stockhausen---Bridge of Spies
        Swapping out the technicolor artifice of War Horse and the sepia-toned postcard visuals of Lincoln, Steven Spielberg's production team experienced a massive return to form with Bridge of Spies, a period piece that accomplishes that rarest of feats; it actually looks like the time and place wherein it's set.

Runner-Up: Judy Becker---Carol
Next in Line: Mark Digby---Ex MachinaFiona Crombie---MacBethColin Gibson---Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Original Score:
And the nominees are...

Ennio Morricone---The Hateful Eight
Michael Giacchino---Inside Out
Disasterpeace---It Follows
Junkie XL---Mad Max: Fury Road
Jóhann Jóhannsson---Sicario

And the Collin goes to...
Junkie XL---Mad Max: Fury Road
        Similar to my acknowledging the massive accomplishment of Emmanuel Lubezki and his trusty camera, I feel bad about leaving Morricone's incredible score for The Hateful Eight on the curb, but no composer bolstered their film's every scene quite like Junkie XL, whose rock opera pound with just the level of ferocity that Mad Max needs.

Runner-Up: Ennio Morricone---The Hateful Eight
Next in Line: Britta Phillips  and Dean Wareham---Mistress America, Howard Shore---Spotlight, and Daniel Pemberton---Steve Jobs

Best Costume Design:
And the nominees are...

Julia Tegström---A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
Hwarng Wern-Ying---The Assassin
Odile Dicks-Mireaux---Brooklyn
Sandy Powell---Carol
Courtney Hoffman---The Hateful Eight

And the Collin goes to...
Hwarng Wern-Ying---The Assassin
        Everything in The Assassin is unspeakably beautiful, but the costumes reach a level all their own, each more lovingly crafted, immediately tactile, and head-spinningly gorgeous than the last.

Runner-Up: Sandy Powell---Carol
Next in Line: Jacqueline Durran---MacBethJenny Beavan---Mad Max: Fury Road, and Michael Kaplan---Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

Best Visual Effects:
And the nominees are...

Jurassic World
Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

And the Collin goes to...
Mad Max: Fury Road
        To my mind, the best special effects are the ones you stop thinking of as special effects. Sure, much of Mad Max with performed with practical materials and a real stunt team, but this surreal post-apocalyptic nightmare wouldn't stand a chance without digital aid.

Runner-Up: Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
Next in Line: Kingsman: The Secret ServiceMission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, and What We Do In The Shadows

Best Make-Up and Hairstyling:
And the nominees are...

Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

And the Collin goes to...
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
        Oscar gave this award to Fury Road, and didn't even nominate Star Wars. Look at that picture. Need I say more?

Runner-Up: Mad Max: Fury Road
Next in Line: Wild TalesThe Hateful Eight, and Goodnight Mommy

Best Sound Editing:
And the nominees are...

The Hateful Eight
Jurassic World
Love & Mercy
Mad Max: Fury Road
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

And the Collin goes to...
Love & Mercy
        Sound Editing represents the creation of the sounds that are then later featured in the movie. Atticus Ross managed to do the seemingly unthinkable, taking us inside the head of a musical genius, and showing us how his mind processes his creations.

Runner-Up: Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
Next in Line: CreedMission: Impossible-Rogue Nation, and The Revenant

Best Sound Mixing:
And the nominees are...

The Hateful Eight
Love & Mercy
Mad Max: Fury Road
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

And the Collin goes to...
Mad Max: Fury Road
        Sound Mixing is the way that the sounds that were created in Editing are synthesized into the movie. Fury Road is a claustrophobic cacophony of booming awesomeness, and deserved the award it snagged last night.
Runner-Up: The Hateful Eight
Next in Line: AnomalisaJurassic WorldStraight Outta Compton

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Final Oscar Predictions 2015

        *Each category's nominees are ranked from most to least likely to win, with the projected winner highlighted in red*

Best Picture:
1. The Revenant (Previous Ranking: 3)
2. The Big Short (Previous Ranking: 4)
3. Spotlight (Previous Ranking: 1)
4. Mad Max: Fury Road (Previous Ranking: 5)
5. Room (Previous Ranking: 11)
6. The Martian (Previous Ranking: 6)
7. Brooklyn (Previous Ranking: 7)
8. Bridge of Spies (Previous Ranking: 2)

        Get excited, people; this is the most interesting Oscar race since... 2014. OK, that number might not be all that impressive, but the 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, and American Hustle trifecta was a pretty wild one, representing the first race in years wherein there were three legitimate contenders. This year is no different, with The Revenant, The Big Short, and Spotlight separating themselves from the rest of the pack. The last movie listed in that threesome emerged early as the Best Picture frontrunner, but minimal box office returns and a middling performance through the guild has it all the way back in the third spot as of now. The fact that it won the SAG ensemble award, as handed out by the Academy's largest voting body, keeps it alive for now, but as of this writing, it could fairly accurately be described as a dark horse.

        Next up is The Big Short, the housing market collapse comedy that snagged the PGA award for best feature film, an honor that has been matched with a Best Picture win all but 7 times in its 26 year history... including the last 8. That's obviously a pretty heartening marker, but I still can't shake the feeling that tonight will belong to The Revenant. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu took home the DGA for Best Director, a prize that's corresponded with Oscar glory 51 out of 62 times. In related news, only 23 times in Oscar's 87 year existence has a Best Picture winner not also sported the Best Director winner, and if you're as sure that Leonardo DiCaprio will take home Best Actor as I am, wouldn't it be a bit odd to watch a film win Actor and Director back-to-back, and them lose to something that had only managed a screenplay win? On the flip side of the argument, The Revenant would mark the first film since Braveheart to win without a SAG Ensemble, and the first flick since Titanic to win without a screenplay nomination. Yes, it's a glorious mess this year, but I'll go with the impressively mounted epic with box office receipts to spare. This is an industry award after all; the money might not be make-or-break, but it certainly influences things.

Best Director:
1. Alejandro González Iñárritu---The Revenant (Previous Ranking: 2)
2. George Miller---Mad Max: Fury Road (Previous Ranking: 3)
3. Adam McKay---The Big Short (Previous Ranking: 5)
4. Tom McCarthy---Spotlight (Previous Ranking: 1)
5. Lenny Abrahamson---Room (Previous Ranking: 11)

        As previously stated, Iñárritu took home the DGA prize, which has thus far matched Oscar's selection 82% of the time. Logic dictates that The Big Short and Spotlight's chances to ultimately swipe the big prize should have their directors in the #2 and #3 slots, but I can't shake the feeling that the Academy might come to their senses, and recognize the career achievement of 73-year-old industry mainstay George Miller. It's probably just wishful thinking, but I'll take a flyer on my man Miller. Abrahamson's invitation is his award.

Best Actor:
1. Leonardo DiCaprio---The Revenant (Previous Ranking: 1)
2. Matt Damon---The Martian (Previous Ranking: 3)
3. Machial Fassbender---Steve Jobs (Previous Ranking: 2)
4. Bryan Cranston---Trumbo (Previous Ranking: 4)
5. Eddie Redmayne---The Danish Girl (Previous Ranking: 5)

        Literally the single most predictable category of the whole evening, the stars have aligned, and Leo is finally going to win his coveted first Oscar (never mind that 41 is still on the young side for a Best Actor winner... he's just waited so long!). I once liked Damon as a spoiler, but when The Martian director Ridley Scott missed out on a nomination in favor of a dude who shot half a movie in one room, it spoke volumes about how the Academy really feels about the film. Put all your chips on DiCaprio.

Best Actress:
1. Brie Larson---Room (Previous Ranking: 1)
2. Saoirse Ronan---Brooklyn (Previous Ranking: 2)
3. Cate Blanchett---Carol (Previous Ranking: 3)
4. Charlotte Rampling---45 Years (Previous Ranking: 4)
5. Jennifer Lawrence---Joy (Previous Ranking: 5)

        I was somehow once foolish enough to view this as a real race, but in truth, this has been Larson's Oscar all along. The fact that her film got into almost every major category at the very last minute only solidifies her front-runner status. Ronan sits in a distant second as the only other thespian in the category to steer a Best Picture nominee all by herself. Blanchett is an Oscar favorite, and Rampling might still have the veteran card to play, though that's most frequently a narrative reserved for actors, because the Academy is not only racist, but sexist as well. JLaw never stood a chance.

Best Supporting Actor:
1. Sylvester Stallone---Creed (Previous Ranking: 6)
2. Mark Rylance---Bridge of Spies (Previous Ranking: 1)
3. Christian Bale---The Big Short (Previous Ranking: 2)
4. Tom Hardy---The Revenant (Previous Ranking: 5)
5. Mark Ruffalo---Spotlight (Previous Ranking: 4)

          It's ironic that Best Actor is such a done deal, because Supporting Actor is probably the messiest category of the whole evening. All three of the Best Picture frontrunners are represented by a male in a side role, and yet they've somehow found themselves in the bottom three slots according to my math. Rylance is the only one of the bunch who's been present every step of the way, from the Globes to SAG to the various critics' groups. He also represents the kind of due diligence pick that the Academy often strays away from by the time of the ceremony, so I'll close my eyes, cross my fingers, and prioritize sentiment over logic. Stallone is a film legend by any measure, and allowing him to ride off into the sunset with the first acting Oscar of his storied career would undoubtably create many misty eyes throughout the room. I'll go with Sly, but I honestly think all five have a shot at this thing, and if one of the gentlemen from The Big Short, The Revenant, or Spotlight ends up taking it, consider it a sign that their respective film is about to run the table.

Best Supporting Actress:
1. Alicia Vikander---The Danish Girl (Previous Ranking: 3)
2. Rooney Mara---Carol (Previous Ranking: 2)
3. Kate Winslet---Steve Jobs (Previous Ranking: 1)
4. Jennifer Jason Leigh---The Hateful Eight (Previous Ranking: 6)
5. Rachel McAdams---Spotlight (Previous Ranking: 4)

        This one feels almost as up for grabs as Best Supporting Actor, but with one crucial difference; where Idris Elba took home the Supporting Actor SAG and threw the whole race out of sorts, Vikander is here to defend her prize from the actors' guild. Winslet is still in the race, as evidenced by her victories at the Globes and BAFTA, but I'll still slot Mara above her by simple virtue Oscar's more pronounced affection for Carol, as evidenced by its six nominations. Leigh would be a great story on top of a stellar career, but I just don't think the voters liked The Hateful Eight enough to give it one of the night's top prizes. McAdams is way to subtle to actually hold the golden man in her hands.

Best Original Screenplay:
1. Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer---Spotlight (Previous Ranking: 1)
2. Bob Petersen and Pete Docter---Inside Out (Previous Ranking: 3)
3. Andrea Berloff, Jonathan Herman, S. Leigh Savidge, and Alan Wenkus---Straight Outta Compton (Previous Ranking: 4)
4. Alex Garland---Ex Machina (Previous Ranking: 5)
5. Matt Charman, Joel Coen, and Ethan Coen---Bridge of Spies (Previous Ranking: 5)

        Being a Best Picture nominee obviously helps a film's chances in any below-the-line category wherein it's cited, but something tells me that Oscar isn't giving the Coen brothers another prize for a screenplay that is, by their lofty standards, average at best. That leaves Spotlight as the obvious favorite, but I wouldn't sleep on Inside Out's immaculately constructed script to become the first animated feature to ever snag this prize. Straight Outta Compton and Ex Machina are passion picks that should also stay on the radar, but the top two are awfully clear.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
1. Adam McKay and Charles Randolph---The Big Short (Previous Ranking: 1)
2. Emma Donahue---Room (Previous Ranking: 6)
3. Nick Hornby---Brooklyn (Previous Ranking: 2)
4. Phyllis Nagy---Carol (Previous Ranking: 4)
5. Drew Goddard---The Martian (Previous Ranking: 5)

        Unlike the Original Screenplay category, only one of these films was left off the Best Picture list, which essentially means that Carol is dead in the water. Same goes for The Martian, which leaves us Brooklyn (from three-time nominee and zero-time winner Nick Hornby), Room (whose late surge of passionate support I've already beaten into the ground by now), and The Big Short (the only one with a clear shot at the night's top award). I'll stick with the WGA winner The Big Short, but watch out for Room.

Best Foreign Language Film:
1. Son of Saul
2. Mustang
3. Embrace of the Serpent 
4. A War
5. Theeb

        Son of Saul has swept this award at nearly every precursor, and Mustang is the only other film of the bunch that's even opened stateside. This one's a no-brainer.

Best Documentary Feature:
1. Amy
2. The Look of Silence
3. Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom
4. What Happened, Miss Simone?
5. Cartel Land

        I probably shouldn't even be predicting this category as I haven't seen a single nominee, but my guess is that voters haven't exactly rushed out to see all five. Netflix has already developed a solid track record with this award, meaning that Winter on Fire and Miss Simone are still very much in play, but when in doubt, I'll pick by far the most widely seen entrant, and that's undoubtably Amy.

Best Animated Feature:
1. Inside Out
2. Anomalisa
3. Shaun the Sheep Movie
4. When Marnie Was There
5. Boy in the World

        There was a time when I thought Anomalisa had a shot to steal this one at the very last second, but missing out on a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination has all but snuffed that flame out. Pixar is always the odds-on favorite to take this Oscar anyway, so don't let me over-think it. The other three are just happy to be here.

Best Cinematography:
1. Emmanuel Lubezki---The Revenant
2. John Seale---Mas Max: Fury Road
3. Roger Deakins---Sicario
4. Edward Lachman---Carol
5. Robert Richardson---The Hateful Eight

        Lubezki appears to be headed for his third-straight Oscar victory, the ACE award already in his pocket, and only a potential backlash against his recent Oscar dominance standing in his way. If the Academy does decide they don't want to hear Lubezki's speech for a third year in a row, they'll hop on over to John Seale. Carol and The Hateful Eight simply aren't impressive enough to actually win, and if they've already made Deakins sit through 12 ceremonies without a citation, what makes you think Sicario is finally the one to do it?

Best Editing:
1. Hank Corwin---The Big Short
2. Margaret Sixel---Mad Max: Fury Road
3. Stephen Mirrione---The Revenant
4. Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey---Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
5. Tom McArdle---Spotlight

        It kills me to envision anyone other than Margaret Sixel winning this Oscar, but I'm here to make predictions, not wishes. The Big Short is defined by its schizophrenic editing, and if the film at large has any chance on god's green earth to win the big one, it will almost undoubtably scoop up this prize along the way. That said, Mad Max is right on its heals, and if The Revenant starts taking everything, this prize could follow suit. Star Wars' chances are on life support, and Spotlight is already dead.

Best Production Design:
1. Adam Stockhausen, Rena DeAngelo, and Bernhard Henrich---Bridge of Spies
2. Eve Stewart and Michael Standish---The Danish Girl
3. Colin Gibson and Lisa Thompson---Mad Max: Fury Road
4. Jack Fisk and Hamish Purdy---The Revenant
5. Arthur Max and Celia Bobak---The Martian

        The Art Director's Guild, in their infinite wisdom, assigned its Best Period Piece award to The Revenant, a movie that mostly just takes place in the snow. As much as I usually listen to the guilds, I simply cannot accept that as a reasonable answer, and will blindly go with the two films that it beat in that very category over Leo's epic quest for revenge. The Danish Girl is the exact kind of movie that tends to win this award, but Bridge of Spies is best in show, and I'll roll the dice with the Academy realizing that at the last minute. Mad Max's people have been campaigning hard, but too many voters might wonder what the desert tundra is doing in this category.

Best Costume Design:
1. Paco Delgado---The Danish Girl
2. Sandy Powell---Cinderella
3. Sandy Powell---Carol
4. Jenny Beavan---Mad Max: Fury Road
5. Jacqueline West---The Revenant

        This category almost never has anything to do with the effect of costuming on a film at large, and focuses exclusively on the prettiest dresses. That makes the top three incredibly obvious, with Carol bringing up the rear due to its relatively un-flashy excellence. The Danish Girl won the Costume Designers Guild, so let's just go with that and move on.

Best Make-up and Hairstyling:
1. Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega, and Damian Martin---Mad Max: Fury Road
2. Sian Grigg, Duncan Jarman, and Robert A. Pandini---The Revenant
3. Love Larson and Eva Von Bahr---The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

        This award almost uniformly goes to a creature-feature or accomplishments in aging rather than achievements in gore. By that standard, I don't really see The Revenant winning, and who the hell has heard of The 100-Year-Old Man? It's simple math that leads me to pick Mad Max.

Best Score:
1. Ennio Morricone---The Hateful Eight
2. John Williams---Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
3. Thomas Newman---Bridge of Spies
4. Carter Burwell---Carol
5. Jóhann Jóhannsson---Sicario

        I don't think Oscar even wants to find out what kind of bad karma he might create for himself by not just giving this one to Morricone, the 87-year-old legend for whom this almost undoubtably represents a final shot at winning an Academy Award. After Leo's win, this is probably our biggest standing ovation of the night.

Best Original Song:
1. Sam Smith and James Napier---Writing's on the Wall (from Spectre)
2. Diane Warren and Lady Gaga---Til it Happens to You (from The Hunting Ground)
3. The Weeknd, Belly, Jason 'DaHeala' Quenneville, and Stephan Moccio---Earned It (from 50 Shades of Grey)
4. J. Ralph and Antony Hegarty---Racing Extinction (from Manta Ray)
5. David Lang---Simple Song #3 (from Youth)

        Like Best Documentary, I'm picking this one on the simple grounds of it being the most widely heard entry. Don't sleep on Lady Gaga though; after her standout performance at last year's Oscars, they might want to invite her to the club.

Best Visual Effects:
1. Roger Guyett, Pat Tubach, Neal Scanlan, and Chris Corbould---Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
2. Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver, and Andy Williams---Mad Max: Fury Road
3. Richard McBride, Matt Shumway, Jason Smith, and Cameron Waldbauer---The Revenant
4. Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Williams Ardington, and Sara Bennett---Ex Machina
5. Richard Stammers, Anders Langlands, Chris Lawrence, and Steven Warner---The Martian

        Tonight will probably prove to be a long and arduous affair for lovers of The Force Awakens, but at least they won't go home empty-handed assuming this category is dictated by pure logic. Mad Max and The Revenant remain alive by virtue of their utter dominance of nearly every technical category, but the practical effects featured in Star Wars will most likely win the day.

Best Sound Editing:
1. Mark A. Mangini and David White---Mad Max: Fury Road
2. Matthew Wood and David Acord---Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
3. Martín Hernández and Lon Bender---The Revenant
4. Oliver Tarney---The Martian
5. Alan Robert Murray---Sicario

        If it's me, I've got Star Wars in this category, and Mad Max in the other, but I actually know the difference between the two. History tells us that the Academy clearly doesn't, so I'm looking for a flick that can scoop up both awards, which is why I'm looking at Mad Max. Once again, don't sleep on the chances of The Revenant just winning everything.

Best Sound Mixing:
1. Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff, and Ben Osmo---Mad Max: Fury Road
2. Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio, and Stuart Wilson---Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
3. Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Randy Thom, and Chris Duesterdiek---The Revenant
4. Paul Massey, Mark Taylor, and Mac Ruth---The Martian
5. Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, and Drew Kunin---Bridge of Spies

        Copy and paste everything written above.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Hype Starts Here's Top 40 Movies of 2015 (25-16)

25. Mistress America
        The Great Gatsby has experienced a filmic resurgence in the last several years, from the horrid Baz Luhrmann adaptation of 2013 on down to the generation defining classic The Social Network. Mistress America is yet another example, as told from the prospective of a college freshman (Lola Kirke) who finds inspiration in the form of her vivacious soon-to-be sister-in-law (Greta Gerwig). Hilarious and cutting in equal measure, Noah Baumbach's second feature of 2015 takes no prisoners, representing an incisive look at millennial culture, and the empti
ness that resides behind all of the bluster.

24. The Revenant
        Who needs subtlety or nuance when you've got this much pure talent? The latest from director Alejandro González Iñárritu might not stand up to much narrative scrutiny, but its head-spinning technical mastery works overtime to cover up any blemish. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Hugh Glass, an American frontiersman in the 1820's who is left for dead by his mates, and sets out on a grueling course with little more than revenge on the mind. Astonishingly beautiful from first frame to last, The Revenant marks yet another high point in the now-legendary career of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubeski.

23. The Big Short
        Who knew that being repeatedly insulted directly in your face could lead to such a good time? Director Adam McKay, who paid off his mortgage with the likes of Anchorman and Talladega Nights, unexpectedly joins the big kids' table with this story of the mid-2000's housing market collapse. Funny, zippy, and mad as hell, the film features terrific work from an ensemble cast lead by Christian Bale, Steve Carell, and Ryan Gosling, all helping to break down just exactly what happened to our economy, and pointing the blame in nearly every possible direction.

22. The Gift
        The Gift is the sort of movie that hardly ever gets made anymore; a thriller for adults that avoids being juvenile without ever fully giving in to schlock. A young couple moves to Los Angeles (seemingly the plot of every film from last year) where the husband (Jason Bateman) is reunited with a high school friend (Joel Edgerton) with whom his relationship remains hazy. Rebecca Haal fills out the cast as Bateman's wife, representing the moral compass and curious eye in a film the continuously evolves before the viewer's very eyes. The Gift marks Edgerton's debut as a feature director, and based on its ruthless tension and crispness of style, he's a talent that's here to stay.

21. Timbuktu
        A pocket-sized drama about repression, redemption, and the mercilessness of fate, Timbuktu's Middle East strife somehow comes off as Greek tragedy. It relays the story of a Jihadist group that comes to occupy the titular city, first in the macro of its many citizens, then in the micro of a modest family whose lives are irreparably changed by the occupation. Nothing about Timbuktu is surprising or shocking, but the lack of head-spinners is by design; this is a parable, and as such, it works best when all plot machinations are pushed to the back-burner.

20. 45 Years
        Two films under his belt and all of 42 years of life experience, writer/director Andrew Haigh has already cemented himself as an old soul with a thing or two to teach all our young minds. 45 Years tells the story of Kate Mercer (Charlotte Rampling), a septuagenarian living peacefully in the countryside when her husband of four-and-a-half decades receives a letter that throws the entire life they've made together out of balance. Sparse and unwaveringly honest, 45 Years is a slow-burning chamber piece, devoid of many twists and turns, but rich in authenticity of the human experience.

19. The Hateful Eight
          Violent and filled with death as they may be, Quentin Tarantino films are defined by their sense of mirth and ecstasy, but last december, he finally decided to take his ball and go home. In the frozen tundra of post-Civil War Wyoming, a bounty hunter (Kurt Russell) stows himself and a captive (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in a claustrophobic haberdashery while a storm dies down, but the cabin's other occupants might be just as dangerous as the cold. Gone is the speed and excess of Django Unchained, replaced here with an intentionally over-long, grueling tale of how modern America was formed, Tarantino's standard sense of fun only occasionally entering the proceedings. Brooding and intense, this might not be Quentin's best film, but it's certainly his most intellectually ambitious.

18. Clouds of Sils Maria
        An echoing chamber of rumination on the subjects of art, interpretation, and empathy, Clouds of Sils Maria delves deep into the actor's conundrum, and isn't necessarily fond of what it finds. Juliette Binoche stars as Maria Enders, an aging film actress preparing for a role that brings more than a few skeletons out of the closet. Writer/director Olivier Assayas' screenplay folds in on itself over an over again, drawing a multi-layered story out of something very basic on a surface level, its concepts and notions occupying your mind long after the end credits roll. It's always nice to be reminded that Binoche is one of our finest living actors, but it's Kristen Stewart's turn as her agent that truly breaks new ground.

16. *tie* Bridge of Spies and The Martian
        I can't imagine a universe wherein these two films aren't inextricably linked in my mind, and by that standard, I can't rightfully crown one over the other. Both are directed by legends of American cinema (Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott, respectively), and relay stories of an individual man stuck behind enemy lines (Mark Rylance as a Soviet spy captured behind enemy lines, and Matt Damon... you know... stuck on Mars). They each star a bonafide household name, Tom Hanks and the aforementioned Damon giving performances that are as Red, White, and Blue as Apple Pie and Hot Dogs.

        Finally, both feature an inspiringly positive take on geo-political interactions, each believing in the more rosy sentiments of North American culture. Both films are energetic from beginning to end, and feature production design that convincingly takes us into the future, or presents a comely interpretation of the past. Don't let their similarities dampen either of their individual wattage; these are the most convincing Frank Capra tributes I've seen in years, capable of coddling and teaching simultaneously, and for every step of the way.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Hype Starts Here's Top 40 Movies of 2015 (40-26)

40. Joy
        While far from the best film he's ever given us, it's still hard to pass up on an opportunity to hang out with David O. Russell and his merry band of thespians. Jennifer Lawrence, the main muse of Russell's late-career resurgence, occupies the title role, playing the woman responsible for the invention of the Miracle Mop, and several household innovations thereafter. An almost impossibly modest tale that doubles as a parable about the American Dream, Joy takes off a small bite and chews well, and it probably goes without saying that the likes of Robert DeNiro, Bradley Cooper, Virginia Madsen, and Isabella Rossellini are all fantastic.

39. Shaun the Sheep Movie
        The latest from Aardman Animations, the studio that graced us with Chicken Run and the Wallace and Gromit films, Shaun the Sheep Movie is a delightful little gem stuffed with more sight gags than you can count with a calculator. The story of a herd of sheep who learn to appreciate their owner is about as simple as it gets, and made even more so by its complete omission of dialogue, but warmth and kindness practically radiate off the screen, and the cleverness behind both the humor and animation are impossible to deny.

38. It Follows
        A tribute to the work of John Carpenter, especially Halloween, It Follows marks yet another entry into the growing canon of recent horror films with thesis statements. Maika Monroe stars as Jay, a small town heartthrob who, after enjoying a risque romantic evening, finds herself haunted by zombie-like figures who remain invisible to everyone else. Writer/director David Robert Mitchell, making good on the promise of his debut feature The Myth of the American Sleepover, is a remarkable craftsman, everything from the film's score to its camera work proving effective and accomplished.

37. Steve Jobs
        For better or worse, no one writes dialogue quite like Aaron Sorkin, and Steve Jobs is about as Sorkin-y as they come. Rapid-fire verbal exchanges power this tale of the late Apple founder, a three-act examination of what it was that made this surly fellow tick. The talk opera is elevated by director Danny Boyle's steady-handed craft and a full sling of strong performances, headlined by yet another riveting, remarkable performance from Michael Fassbender, the modern patron saint of acting.

36. Straight Outta Compton
        Nearly three-decades after their debut album changed the music scene forever, N.W.A. finally gets the Johnny Cash/Ray Charles treatment in this sprawling musical biopic. Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, and O'Shea Jackson Jr. star as Dr. Dre, Eazy E, and Ice Cube respectively, and you could give yourself a migraine trying to decide who fares best, as all three newcomers perform with a freshness and honesty rarely scene in mainstream flicks. Propulsive, informative, and even heartbreaking, Compton is a worthy tribute to the hip hop icons, and when it presses play on some of the group's greatest hits, it's nearly impossible to sit still.

35. Kingsman: The Secret Service
        Matthew Vaughn's follow-up to 2011's X:Men-First Class is essentially the same film all over again, only meaner, more violent, and extremely British. Breakout star Taron Egerton plays Gary 'Eggsy' Unwin, a troubled youth who is recruited into a top-secret espionage troop, enduring one life-threatening training session after another on his way to becoming a super spy. Wily, broad, and featuring a dynamite performance from Colin Firth, Kingsman represents escapist action entertainment at its finest.

34. Youth
        Imbued with a rich, ravishing sense of melancholy, Youth proves that writer/director Paolo Sorrentino's 2013 wonder The Great Beauty was more than a fluke. Michael Caine stars as Fred Ballinger, a retired classical composer on his annual vacation to a celebrity-stuffed resort in the Alps who is summoned by Queen Elizabeth II to perform for Prince Philip's birthday. Luca Bigazzi's cinematography is constantly gorgeous and occasionally jaw-dropping, descriptions that also befit Sorrentino's ever-ruminating script, and Ludovica Ferrario's magical production design.

33. The Night Before
        Seth Rogen movies are thought of primarily as excuses to make bawdy jokes about sex and drugs, but The Night Before proves, once again, that the true through-line between all his films is big heartedness. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Ethan, a dissatisfied 30-something enjoying one last night of Christmas Eve revelry with his best friends Isaac and Chris (Rogen and Anthony Mackie, respectively). It's basic One Crazy Night stuff, but the film possesses a welcome generosity of spirit, as well as one of the weirder and more brilliant performances of Michael Shannon's weird, brilliant career.

32. Ex Machina
        Prolific author and screenwriter Alex Garland, a frequent collaborator with Danny Boyle, finally decided to take the reigns and direct his first feature last year, and the new job fits him like a glove. A modern retelling of H.G. Wells' The Island of Doctor MoreauEx Machina stars Domhnall Gleeson as a programmer randomly selected to participate in an artificial intelligence experiment taking place on a remote island. Cleverly written and immaculately designed, the film also makes use of subtle, stellar special effects, and boasts terrific turns from both Alicia Vikander and Oscar Isaac.

31. The Assassin
        The Chinese spiritual sibling of Best Picture front-runner The Revenant, Hsiao-Hsien Hou's The Assassin might literally not have much to say, but that's only because it would so much rather show than tell. Qi Shu stars as the titular killer who is tasked with the murder of a political leader back in seventh-century China, but her mostly stoic performance is often pushed to the side by the film's dazzling technical aspects. A gorgeous, stirring accomplishment in the fields of cinematography, costume, production, and sound design, The Assassin plays like a two hour massage to your senses.

30. Creed
        The Rocky franchise is dead; long live the Rocky franchise. In a sequel that's equal parts spin-off and remake, Michael B. Jordan stars as Adonis Creed (son of the in-universe legendary boxer Apollo Creed), an aspiring fighter who enlists the help of his old man's sparing buddy Rocky Balboa to help take him to the big time. The two have an immediate, easy-going chemistry, but it's director Ryan Coogler who truly elevates the proceedings, capturing the grit and energy of the Philadelphia streets, and paring with cinematographer Maryse Alberti to create some of the most striking boxing sequences ever captured on film.

29. While We're Young
        A welcome entry into writer/director Noah Baumbach's seemingly endless film essay on the pains of growing up, While We're Young stars Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as middle-aged New York couple who are jolted out of their comfortable malaise when a younger couple, played by Amanda Seyfried and a pre-Kylo Ren Adam Driver, enters their lives. Witty, contemplative, and sneakily fun, Baumbach's Woody Allen impression has hardly ever been so canny, his film musing on the likes of art, authenticity, and generational divides without ever forgetting to make us laugh.

28. Jurassic World
        The premiere check-your-brain-at-the-door entertainment of 2015, Jurassic World might not come out aces on an I.Q. test, but when you're this entertaining, who needs intelligence? Slickly directed by Colin Trevorrow, the fourth entry in the Jurassic franchise both indulges and pokes fun at our collective nostalgia for the first film, and allows star Chris Pratt to fully embrace his inner Harrison Ford. Being chased down and viciously devoured by enormous monsters has hardly ever been so fun.

27. The Overnight
        Writer/director Patrick Brice's The Overnight is one odd duck, a spiritual sibling to While We're Young that goes to weirder, darker places without a hint of reservation. Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling star as a young married couple who've just moved to Los Angeles when they are invited to dinner at the home of an overly-friendly stranger (Jason Schwartzman), resulting in an evening they won't soon forget. The movie is best experienced knowing as little as possible going in, its crazed paradigm perfectly suited for a oblivious viewing, and coaxing a career-best performance out of Scott.

26. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
        Arriving in theaters nearly two whole decades after the original, Rogue Nation marks the fifth entry in the Mission: Impossible series, and proves yet again that this franchise still has gas. There's no point in relaying details of the plot because the narrative at hand hardly ever matters in these films; if you paid admission to see Tom Cruise almost kill himself in increasingly preposterous ways, then your dollars could hardly be better spent. Director Christopher McQuarrie imbues the film with a grittiness missing from most modern action flicks, slamming on the gas from first frame to last, getting your blood pumping, and your heart racing.