Last-Minute Oscar Predictions Post 2017!

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Well, it’s finally here – the Superbowl of Cinema, the Indianapolis 500 of Film – it’s OSCAR Day!  As you can probably tell, I’m very excited! So, before I put the finishing touches on the hors d’oeuvres and my party shoes on my feet, I have time for a quick predictions post.

Here is your list of nominees in the twenty-four categories that will be televised tonight. (If you’re a novice watcher, you might want to take a nap now. We can expect the show to last until midnight.) The show should be a good one. Jimmy Kimmel is hosting for the first time. For years, his post-Oscars edition of his own show has been a highlight.

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My prognostications for what I think will win are in yellow.  If the film or performance that I think should win is different from what I believe will win, I’ve marked it in red.  I’ll update with an * for the actual winner. My average over the last few years is roughly 75%.  There appear to be quite a few “sure things” this year, so we’ll see whether or not I improve my numbers.

Best Picture

Arrival

Fences

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

La La Land

Lion

Manchester By the Sea

Moonlight *

Hedging a bit, right off -the-bat? Let me explain. Hell or High Water was my favorite film of the year, followed by Manchester… and Moonlight.  Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed La La Land, but in terms of “Best Picture”? I believe there are other films more deserving. On the other hand, can’t we all use a little bit of simple, lovely, well-made movie magic? So, I won’t really be all that upset when La La Land wins.

Best Actor

Casey Affleck *

Andrew Garfield

Ryan Gosling

Viggo Mortensen

Denzel Washington

I’m sticking with Casey Affleck, though Denzel Washington is surging in most polls.

 

Best Actress

Isabelle Huppert

Ruth Negga

Natalie Portman

Emma Stone *

Meryl Streep

I’m happy that Ruth Negga was recognized for the beautiful Loving, just as I’m mystified that her costar Joel Edgerton, as well as director Jeff Nichols and the film itself, were not.

 

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali *

Jeff Bridges

Lucas Hedges

Dev Patel

Michael Shannon

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis *

Naomie Harris

Nicole Kidman

Octavia Spencer

Michelle Williams

What more can be said about Viola Davis’ fierce performance in Fences? She should have been in the leading actress category and she’d still win.

Best Director

Arrival, Denis Villaneuve

Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson

La La Land, Damien Chazelle *

Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins

Adapted Screenplay

Arrival, Eric Heisserer

Fences, August Wilson

Hidden Figures, Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi

Lion, Luke Davies

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney *

Original Screenplay

Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan

La La Land, Damien Chazelle

The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou

Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan *

20th Century Women, Mike Mills

I’ll be very happy for Kenneth Longergan, who wrote a gorgeous movie. Would I be even happier if Taylor Sheridan’s name were to be called? Yes. Yes, I would.

Cinematography

Arrival, Bradford Young

La La Land, Linus Sandgren *

Lion, Greig Fraser

Moonlight, James Laxton

Silence, Rodrigo Prieto

Animated Feature Film

Kubo and the Two Strings

Moana

My Life as a Zucchini

The Red Turtle

Zootopia *

Foreign Language Film

Land of Mine (Denmark)

A Man Called Ove (Sweden)

The Salesman (Iran) *

Tanna (Australia)

Toni Erdmann (Germany)

Documentary Feature

Fire at Sea

I Am Not Your Negro

Life, Animated

O.J.: Made in America *

Lion, Greig Fraser

Moonlight, James Laxton

Silence, Rodrigo Prieto

Film Editing

Arrival, Joe Walker

Hacksaw Ridge, John Gilbert *

Hell or High Water, Jake Roberts

La La Land, Tom Cross 

Moonlight, Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon

Production Design

Arrival, Patrice Vermette and Paul Hotte

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Stuart Craig and Anna Pinnock

Hail, Caesar! , Jess Gonchor and Nancy Haigh

La La Land, Davis Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco *

Passengers, Guy Hendrix Dyas and Gene Serdena

Costume Design

Allied, Joanna Johnston

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Colleen Atwood *

Florence Foster Jenkins, Consolata Boyle

Jackie, Madeline Fontaine

La La Land, Mary Zophres

Makeup and Hairstyling

A Man Called Ove, Eva von Bahr and Love Larson

Star Trek Beyond, Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo

Suicide Squad, Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini, and Christopher Nelson *

Original Score

Jackie, Mica Levi

La La Land, Justin Hurwitz *

Lion, Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka

Moonlight, Nicholas Britell

Passengers, Thomas Newman

Original Song

“Audition (The Fools who Dream),” La La Land, music by Justin Hurwitz, lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls, music and lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin, and Karl Johan Schuster

“City of Stars,” La La Land, music by Justin Hurwitz, lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul *

“The Empty Chair,” Jim: The James Foley Story, music and lyric by J. Ralph and Sting

“How Far I’ll Go,” Moana, music and lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Sound Editing

Arrival, Sylvain Bellemare *

Deepwater Horizon, Wylie Stateman and Renée Tondelli

Hacksaw Ridge, Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright

La La Land, Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan

Sully, Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

Sound Mixing

Arrival, Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye

Hacksaw Ridge, Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie, and Peter Grace *

La La Land, Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee, and Steve A. Morrow

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio, and Stuart Wilson

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush, and Mac Ruth

Visual Effects

Deepwater Horizon, Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Justin Billington, and Burt Dalton

Doctor Strange, Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli, and Paul Corbould

The Jungle Book, Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones, and Dan Lemmon *

Kubo and the Two Strings, Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean, and Brad Schiff

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel, and Neil Corbould

Animated Short Film

Blind Vaysha

Borrowed Time

Pear Cider and Cigarettes

Pearl

Piper *

Live Action Short Film

Ennemis Intérieurs

La Femme et le TGV

Silent Nights

Sing *

Timecode

Documentary Short Subject

Extremis

4.1 Miles

Joe’s Violin

Watani: My Homeland

The White Helmets *

Impressive #CrimsonPeak is Vintage Guillermo del Toro

Crimson Peak, Guillermo del Toro, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, movie, poster

Contrary to those ads you’ve been seeing and the trailers with Nick Cave‘s “Red Right Hand” playing beneath it, make no mistake, Guillermo del Toro‘s Crimson Peak is a true Gothic romance that just happens to have ghosts in it (as well as copious amounts of blood and blood-like substances).What it is not, is a horror movie. The director himself has not called it that. He’s actually compared it to Hitchcock, particularly Rebecca or George Cukor’s Gaslight (both of which are apt comparisons), but it is as a horror film, that it is being marketed. It was shot February through May and completed in December 2014, but Universal wanted to release it at Halloween, so here we are in October 2015. Make no mistake, there are thrills and chills, and it’s full of murderous intent and malice-aforethought, but no real “scares”, at least in terms of what movie-goers born post-Freddie Kruger and weaned on the Paranormal and Insidious series’ as well as remakes of Halloween, The Fog and Poltergeist, would consider truly scary.

Mia Wasikowska is Edyth Cushing, an aspiring novelist, whose biggest champion is her wealthy industrialist father (Jim Beaver). Her aspirations make her something of an outsider to her social climbing contemporaries who prove that the male publishing world isn’t alone in thinking she should be concentrating on getting a husband.  So of course, it is is Edyth that the mysterious Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), a rakish English demi-noble (his title, “Baronet”, is thrown around a lot) plucks from the bouquet of dewy young things presented to him upon his arrival in turn-of-the-century Buffalo. He quickly marries her, after the shocking (and incredibly brutal) death of her father, who had objected to the match on grounds we are not immediately privy to (made known to him by his hired detective Holly, played by Burn Gorman), then whisks her away to a molding, crumbling estate back in (extremely) rural England, full of ghastly secrets and even ghastlier ghosts.

When her heart is stolen by a seductive stranger, a young woman is swept away to a house atop a mountain of blood-red clay: a place filled with secrets that will haunt her forever. Between desire and darkness, between mystery and madness, lies the truth behind Crimson Peak.

The film, written by the director and Matthew Robbins (Mimic) who started it in 2006 and finally finished during filming, is visually stunning in typical del Toro style. All of the colors are rich and over-saturated. Both Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain often look like they belong in a Pre-Raphaelite painting. A lot of the sumptuous fabrics used in designer Kate Hawley‘s costumes are vintage, from the period depicted. The set design (all of which was built from the ground up specifically for the film by art director Thomas E. Sanders) is, in a word, incredible. Every scene, particulary once the film moves to spooky Allerdale Hall, could have been captured by an artist’s brush as well as the lens of Danish cinematographer Dean Laustsen.  del Toro has said that he wanted his movie to look like a Technicolor Mario Bava film (Bava was a painter before he was a director/cinematographer) and, JMHO, he’s succeeded. (You will hear about Crimson Peak come awards season. It will be up for all of the technical awards – as it should be.)

But this film owes as much to Bava as it does Hammer Studios in its hay-day. Charlie Hunnam‘s Dr. McMichael is a “good guy” straight out of their repertory company. The grand score, by Fernando Velasquez, and the dialogue, particularly in the early scenes, is straight out of a period-perfect Penny Dreadful (speaking of which, there are shades of the Showtime series as well – again, not a bad thing at all), with a lot of stilted delivery of the phrase “my child”.

Watching Wasikowska and Hiddleston, it’s hard to imagine Emma Stone and Benedict Cumberbatch in their roles. Hiddleston, in particular, was made for this type of film (if you haven’t seen his tortured, soulful vampire in Only Lovers Left Alive, remedy that. Immediately) and the site of him in white tie and tails is indeed impressive and utterly swoon-worthy. Wasikowska gets to be the heroine of her own story, in a departure from the Gothic formula. del Toro has imbued her with the intelligence and resiliance to not only recognize the dastardly shenanigans of her new husband and his creepy sister, but to defend herself against them.

The Sharpes are a tragic pair, certainly not your typical villains, created by equal parts nurture and nature, and it is Jessica Chastain’s Lucille that is the beating pulse of this movie. Lucille is fierce and determined, with a stare that is both ice cold and blazing with intensity. She doesn’t go full-tilt bozo until the final reel, but it is a payoff the film has been ratcheting toward from the start and what we’ve been waiting for. (Even then we feel some small measure of sympathy for her.) I don’t want to spoil anything, particularly since most of the plot twists are easily untangled while you watch, but trust me – there are monsters and there are monsters.

See Crimson Peak and see it at a theater in all its glory. I’m not usually one to endorse what I consider marketing gimicks, but I highly recommend IMAX for this one.  It deserves the biggest screen  you can find. Come back and let me know what you think.

JMHO Trailer Park: Blue-Eyed #JasonMomoa, #MichaelShannon Becomes Nucky,#JakeGyllenhaal Goes Up a Mountain & #CareyMulligan Takes a Stand

Debug, poster, movie, Jason Momoa, David Hewlett

I’m already skeptical whenever I find out about a film just prior to its release, after filming has taken place, posters put out, clips slipped to media outlets, etc.  I’m especially suspicious when the star of the flick is someone to whom I usually pay rather close attention. In this case, the movie is Debug and its “star” is Jason Momoa.

So, what exactly is going on here?

“Deep space. Six young hackers on a grueling work release program attempt to clear out – debug – the computer systems of a massive derelict space freighter. They quickly fall prey to the ship’s vengeful artificial intelligence, a program that would kill to be human. As the fractious team is forced to match wits with this rogue program, they discover that the ship holds a deadly secret, and a fate far worse than death.” 

Uh huh.

JoBlo has gotten their hands on an exclusive clip, in which Jason Momoa as Iam is doing battle with someone called Kaida (Jeaneann Goossen) which you can take a look at below:

Momoa’s the only “name” in the cast and his face is front and center on the poster, but he’s listed with “and”, which leads me to believe that it’s a cameo and there isn’t much more of him than in the clip.

The writer/director of this magnum opus is one David Hewlett. Yes, “Stargate: Atlantis” fans, THAT David Hewlett. I can only surmise that Mr. Momoa signed on as a favor to an old friend. The rest of the cast includes Tenika Davis, Adrian Holmes, Adam Butcher and Kerr Hewitt. JMHO, but I can’t see anything to recommend Debug, other than as a curiosity.

Jason Momoa, movie, photo, Debug, David Hewlett

Except that it’s hard to find fault with a blue-eyed Jason Momoa. Yes, I’m that shallow.

Debug gets a simultaneous (limited) theatrical, dvd & blu-ray bow on June 12.

99 Homes, Michael Shannon, Andrew Garfield, Laura Dern, movie, poster

At the other end of the spectrum, 99 Homes has been making a splash on the festival circuit for nearly a year, screening to critical acclaim at 2014’s Venice, Telluride and Toronto Fests, as well as Sundance 2015, among others. I’ve been wondering when or even if, it was going to get a domestic release. The answer is yes, on September 25.

The always excellent, always watchable Michael Shannon stars with Andrew Garfield, Laura Dern, Tim Guinee and (our social-media friend) Noah Lomax, in writer/director Ramin Bahrani‘s look at the fall-out from the economic collapse that forced millions of Americans from their homes. Frankly, I can’t wait to see how he fashioned a thriller out of the very real pain from which a lot of those people are still reeling.

A father struggles to get back the home that his family was evicted from by working for the greedy real estate broker who’s the source of his frustration.

Bahrani’s previous films have all been interested in social justice, from 2005’s award-winning Man Push Cart to 2012’s undervalued and underseen At Any Price (with Dennis Quaid).

Here, Garfield plays single dad Dennis Nash and Shannon, Rick Carver, the real estate agent who took his home. I’m still coming to terms with the fact that Laura Dern is old enough to play Andrew Garfield’s mother, but all glibness aside, the trailer alone will gut-punch you. Likening the housing crisis of the early 21st century to the Great Depression of the 20th, let me say that this isn’t Henry Gondorff and Johnny Hooker trying to take down fat-cat Doyle Lonnegan. This is The Grapes of Wrath with oranges.

The trailer:

99 HOMES hits theaters September 25, 2015.

Everest, Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, movie, photo

Based on a true story, Baltasar Kormakur‘s Everest, tells the tale of two climbing expeditions trapped on the titular mountain by a severe storm. Personally I don’t know why anyone would want to climb the world’s highest peak, but then again, I can’t climb to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument without getting severe  .

I would, however, pay for a ticket to watch Jake Gyllenhaal, Keira Knightley and Jason Clarke battle the elements as they attempt to reach the summit of said mountain. Especially when the screenplay comes from Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) and Lem Dobbs (The Limey) among others.

As revealed in the trailer sets up an understandably intense battle of man versus nature when one of the biggest snowstorms in recorded history bears down on the two groups  of climbers.

The cast also includes Robin Wright, Josh Brolin, Emily Watson, Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Kelly, John Hawkes, Martin Henderson and Vanessa Kirby, to name but a few.

Take a look:

Everest opens in the US on September 18 and in the UK on 25th September.

Anne-Marie Duff, Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Romola Garai, photo, movie, Suffragette

It’s 2015 and we’re (hopefully) about to elect the first female President of these United States. How is it possible that Suffragette is the first feature film to tell the story of the movement that that led to the right of women to vote, first in Great Britain and then in America. Call them suffragettes or call them early feminists, these women risked everything for what should be a basic human right in a civilized society, something as simple as having a voice that counted.

The foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal State.

Maybe it’s because, while there have been victories, the war continues, maybe it’s the raw humanity that star Carey Mulligan so effortlessly projects, or maybe it was just the ethereal version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” sung by Robyn Sherwell, but this trailer gave me chills.

It was smart to limit La Streep’s appearance in this first trailer. As the head of the movement Emmeline Pankhurst, I expect Meryl Streep to have little more than a cameo and the film shouldn’t be sold on her name alone.  Helena Bonham Carter, Anne-Marie Duff and most especially, Mulligan, are obviously the heart and soul.

Written by Abi Morgan (Shame, The Iron Lady), Suffragette also stars two of the cast of her BBC drama “The Hour”, Romola Garai and Ben Whishaw.  The patriarchal oppressors are represented by Brendan Gleason, Geoff Bell, and Samuel West. The rest of the cast includes Morgan Watkins, Natalie Press and Adrian Schiller. Directed by Sarah Gavron, Suffragette will open the BFI London Film Festival on 7th October before opening in the US (23rd) and the UK (30th) later in the month.  Expect this to be  major player come awards season.

 

Watch #JasonSegel and #JesseEisenberg Have a Great Conversation in #TheEndoftheTour

poster, movie, The End of the Tour, David Foster Wallace, Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, James Ponsoldt

The first trailer for Sundance favorite, The End of the Tour, directed by James Ponsoldt and starring Jason Segel as the late David Foster Wallace and Jesse Eisenberg as his erstwhile biographer (actually he’s a writer for Rolling Stone), has just been dropped by A24.
Let me start by reiterating that I am not a huge fan of Jesse Eisenberg. Anything past Zombieland, when I wasn’t all that familiar with him, including The Social Network and Now You See Me, all I ever see is Jesse Eisenberg. While it might be difficult for the actor to portray himself onscreen, and that might account for the kudos usually showered upon his performances, I never see a “character”. I never forget who I’m watching.
That out of the way, let me just say that I’ve been a Jason Segel fan since “Freaks and Geeks”. While I still mourn that show’s untimely demise (yes, fifteen years later), I take comfort in the fact that nearly every member of the cast has gone on to bigger and better things. Many of whom are even household names. (Poor Samm Levine. Quentin Tarantino put him in Inglourious Basterds, but I don’t think I’ve seen him since. Apparently, he’s done a lot of television *shrug*.)
These days Segel is probably best known for seven seasons of “How I Met Your Mother”, as well as comedic turns in Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I Love You Man (all having at least a little something to do with Judd Apatow) and The Muppets.
Stretching toward “dramedy” in 2011, Segel did Jeff Who Lives at Home for the Duplass brothers. (It costars Ed Helms, Judy Greer and Susan Sarandon. It’s on Netflix. See it, if you haven’t) He co-wrote, co-produced (along with Apatow, among others) and starred in 2012’s The Five Year Engagement, with Emily Blunt. The cast also included Chris Pratt, Alison Brie and Jacki Weaver, and by all rights should have done better at the box office. The film’s release was delayed a number of times for various reasons, but I have to believe that not knowing which box it fit into and therefore the ability to sell it, is chief among them.
My point is that it’s not really a surprise that Segel is venturing into more serious territory. His contemporaries, most of which are also in the “Apatow Reperatory Company”, have certainly paved the way. (Sitting in the dark watching Superbad, who in their right mind would ever have predicted that Jonah Hill would now be known as a “two-time Academy Award nominee”? Insanity!)
Those who have already seen The End of the Tour, primarily at Sundance, have already put his name together with the phrase, “Best Actor contender”. Take a look:

While the movie is not about his death, knowing that Wallace committed suicide in 2008 makes all of this all the more poignant.

THE END OF THE TOUR tells the story of the five-day interview between Rolling Stone reporter (and novelist) David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and acclaimed novelist David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel), which took place right after the 1996 publication of Wallace’s groundbreaking epic novel, Infinite Jest. As the days go on, a tenuous yet intense relationship seems to develop between journalist and subject. The two men bob and weave around each other, sharing laughs and also possibly revealing hidden frailties – but it’s never clear how truthful they are being with each other. Ironically, the interview was never published, and five days of audio tapes were packed away in Lipsky’s closet. The two men did not meet again. The film is based on Lipsky’s critically acclaimed memoir about this unforgettable encounter, written following Wallace’s 2008 suicide. Both Segel and Eisenberg reveal great depths of emotion in their performances and the film is directed with humor and tenderness by Sundance vet James Ponsoldt from Pulitzer- Prize winner Donald Margulies’ insightful and heartbreaking screenplay.

The End of the Tour is director James Ponsoldt’s fourth feature film and is being hailed as his best to date.(I admit that while I loved Smashed from 2012, which showed Aaron Paul was much more than Jesse Pinkman, I have yet to see 2013’s, The Spectacular Now [which launched Miles Teller], or his first film, Off the Black, from 2006.) It’s been playing film festivals non-stop since January. (Including the Boston Independent Film Festival in April. Sadly, I missed it.)
The cast also includes Anna Chlumsky, Mamie Gummer, Ron Livingston, Mickey Sumner and Joan Cusack. The film will get a (limited) release in the US on July 31. We can hope that also means a VoD release of some sort as well.

Watch the Brilliant First Clips from #Macbeth with #MichaelFassbender!

Macbeth, Michael Fassbender, movie, poster, Marion Cotillard, Justin Kurzel, Shakespeare, Scottish play

Justin Kurzel‘s Macbeth will have its (eagerly awaited) world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival tomorrow (May 23), as the final film in the main competition. (Bit of trivia. While it’s the third* film version of Shakespeare’s play to appear in Cannes, it is  the first to screen in competition.)

To celebrate, StudioCanal has just released two clips. At the risk of appearing to be a Fassbender fan site (since my last post was also about a Fassy film. What can I say, he’s about to have a HUGE year), I have to share them. Sweet baby jeebus, please let the rest of this film look as good as these tiny snippets!

The first clip, the appropriately titled “Battle” shows Michael Fassbender as Macbeth, with his friend and ally, Banquo (Paddy Considine) on one side and Jack Reynor as Malcolm on the other, as they prepare to fight in service of their king, Duncan (played by David Thewlis).

The mist shrouded Scottish Highlands are certainly used to good effect. The clip also reminds us that in those days, if you were tall enough to hold a sword, you were old enough to fight, as there seem to be a lot of teenage boys in the mix. As for the style, personally I can’t wait to see more. I like Kurzel’s choice to intercut the adreneline fueled, angry rush of one fighting force toward the other, with a silent, slow-motion, almost balletic clash. A battle scene shot like that (which, granted has been used poorly in less subtle ways since Zack Snyder made it popular with 300. I don’t anticipate cartoonish splatters of blood to fill the screen) makes the fight more personal, the combatants rendered individually rather than an angry, noisy clash of swords and bodies, where it’s impossible to tell who’s doing what to whom.

Speaking of 300, is it just me or is Fassbender’s leap an Easter Egg for fans who remember Stelios’ athleticism?

Stelios, 300, Michael Fassbender, Macbeth, photo, athleticism

The second clip, “Coronation” gives us a brief glimpse of the gorgeous (even under a veil) Marion Cotillard as Lady M, Sean Harris as Macduff and Elizabeth Debicki as his lady:

Even in that brief look, it’s clearly evident that the Macduffs are not happy with the precedings. But the biggest take-away for me is that stunning opening shot to this clip. I have rewatched it several times now and I’m just in awe of the way Kurzel and his director of photography, Adam Arkapaw (who worked with the director on The Snowtown Murders**), used the rays of the sun streaming through the cathedral windows to such great effect. They create a cross-hatch pattern that naturally blurs the background which makes the figures surrounding the throne stand-out in bas relief, despite the fact that they are in shadow.

Both of these snippets are short, but full of foreboding, the tension high, especially in the latter.

Macbeth, a duke of Scotland, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself.

Macbeth will get a UK release on October 2 (which curiously predates the opening of the BFI London Film Festival by five days. This seems like a natural choice. Oh well. No one asked me.). No US dates announced yet, but Harvey Weinstein won a bidding war for the rights and he’s already said he’s positioning it for an awards season push. Expect it in November or December.

*after 1971’s version directed by Roman Polanski and director Claude d’Anna‘s French version in 1987.

**The Snowtown Murders is on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, you need to.

It’s Here, It’s Here! It’s Finally #Oscars Day (And My Predictions Are Finally Finished!)

Osczars, Academy Awards, predictions, movies

Okay, I’m attempting to get my predictions in, just at the wire, which is par for my course, so here are my thoughts on the subject:

First, I think that this year, there will be no one film that runs away with all of the awards for which it has been nominated and the love will be spread around quite a bit. I like this idea. Considering all of the many movies made and how few are recognized at the big dance, a nomination should be its own reward. As someone (J.K. Simmons perhaps) said at an awards show earlier this year, if you’re in the room, you’re already a winner.

Of my favorite films this year (which are many, I can’t limit myself to just 10, and in no particular order):
Frank
The Drop
Locke
The Grand Budapest Hotel
A Most Violent Year
Boyhood
Birdman
Guardians of the Galaxy
Only Lovers Left Alive
Snowpiercer
Gone Girl
Nightcrawler
Mr. Turner
HTTYD2
Inherent Vice
The Trip to Italy

I’m amazed that so many of them are still in the Oscar mix and of course, just as surprised that so many of them are not.

Remember when Gone Girl was released and it automatically became the front-runner for Best Picture? That didn’t last long. It doesn’t take away my enjoyment of the movie though. And it will probably be remembered a lot longer than some of those films that were recognized. (Does anyone believe that The Theory of Everything bears repeat viewings?) Guardians of the Galaxy was just too popular and made too much money for anyone to “take seriously”.  It has been in the mix for a handful of technical awards, but let’s be honest. All of the technology, makeup and CGI would not have made that film what it was without the performances of Chris Pratt and company.

Snowpiercer was another film that was declared an instant classic with film scribes all over the interwebz begging for some awards recognition for the “best film of the year”.  Sorry, too “niche-y”, too sci-fi, too dystopian, too grimy, too…foreign.

Tilda Swinton, however, should have been recognized. Her part was originally written for a man. Even though it was adapted slightly for her, she spent two hours every day in the makeup chair.  How is it possible that this extraordinary talent has only been nominated for one Oscar (that she won – for Michael Clayton)?  If no one could get past her gargantuan teeth in Snowpiercer, what about for her haunting, languidly sexy vampire in Only Lovers Left Alive? How was that movie missed by so many? It is perfection.  (Full disclosure, I adore this woman. I can’t wait to see her in Judd Apatow‘s Train Wreck.)

Coulda, shoulda, woulda. In the Best Actor category, neither of the two actors who should win were even nominated. My first choice would have been Tom Hardy for Locke, a virtuoso performance in a singular film, but I’d have been happy with Jake Gyllenhaal for Nightcrawler. That said, of those actors who did manage to snag a nomination, Eddie Redmayne has the momentum after his SAG and BAFTA wins, although admittedly the latter award was given in his own backyard and it would have been a surprise if he hadn’t won. I’d much prefer, however, that Michael Keaton get the prize for what is a career defining (not to mention rejuvenating) role in Birdman. I’m against giving Oscars as career achievement awards (unless they are actually called that), but. unlike Redmayne and even Benedict Cumberbatch, journeyman Keaton created a character from scratch and made us care about him, and that’s what it’s all about.

What’s really exciting is that it’s now Oscar Day and we’re still debating these things. This is an exciting year, in my humble opinion, precisely because there are still a few question marks regarding the evening’s festivities, which means that there may yet be some surprises to be found and

Aside from the speeches, (and I won’t go into some of the wacky and unexpected examples of those, because once a name has been read, all bets are off. Whatever anyone says or does, they can’t take the statue away from you, so have it with your one-armed pushups like Jack Palance or just whoop for ten minutes like Cuba Gooding, Jr.) it seems like it’s been quite a while since any of us who pay attention to these things, was actually surprised.

But surprises can happen. There have been quite a few unexpected wins in (what seems like) the recent past. For example, Adrien Brody for The Pianist in 2002 over the likes of Jack Nicholson, Michael Caine, Nicholas Cage, and Daniel Day Lewis. Deserving or not, and I happen to think he was, no one saw that coming. Then Brody’s director Roman Polanski, upset DGA winner Rob Marshall (Chicago). this is an aberration on the order of 1999’s Shakespeare in Love win over Saving Private Ryan (what?!), not to mention perhaps the most infamous examples, Marisa Tomei in 1992 over Judy Davis, Joan Plowright, Miranda Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave (!!) and then 2004’s Crash over Brokeback Mountain. So anything is possible.

While most of us on the outside looking in this year have Best Actor down to a battle between Redmayne and Keaton, it is definitely within the realm of possibility for Bradley Cooper to sneak in and snatch it out from under them. This is Cooper’s third nomination in three years and he did the whole body transformation thing – packing on 50 pounds of muscle to play Navy Seal Chris Kyle – which the Academy loves. The one actor who appears to be out of the running completely is Cumberbatch. This after months of assumptions that he was the front-runner for The Imitation Game, which has also all but dropped out of the race. Cumberbatch has been covered in the dust of Redmayne and Keaton. I have no doubt, though, that he’ll be back for future races. Sorry Steve Carell. You are the proverbial luckless snowball.

Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor are all pretty much done deals. Despite the four other names announced in each of those categories, only one has been cleaning up at all of the under-card races. Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) and J.K. Simmons (Whiplash), respectively, are virtual locks to win the big one. All that’s left are those speeches. I don’t expect any of them to pull a Roberto Benigni. Too bad.

I believe it’s entirely possible that the Best Director and Best Picture races will be split, just like at BAFTA where Director was given to Alejandro Iñárritu and Pic to Boyhood, and yesterday at the Independent Spirit Awards where the opposite was true and Richard Linklater walked away with Director and Birdman, Best Picture. I’ve often said it’s illogical to nominate a film without its director, but it’s almost the norm this year: Selma without Ava Duvernay, The Theory of Everything but no James Marsh, American Sniper without Clint Eastwood– this is what happens when you expand Best Picture to as many as 12 but don’t expand the other categories! Insanity! (How then to explain Bennett Miller but no Foxcatcher?) Anyway, in the case of Boyhood’s Linklater and Birdman’s Iñárritu, if the Academy splits, it may just be a case of wanting to recognize two of the best films of the year without playing Solomon exactly, but without actually choosing.

That said, I make the call for Birdman a. because it’s a movie about actors (and they comprise the largest Academy voting bloc) and b. it has a slight edge in the guild awards. But, no matter who takes home the hardware, when it comes to these two films, fans of well-written, well-acted, well-directed, just plain well-made (and yes okay, independent) movies are the winners. Here’s hoping their success heralds a new wave of quirky, inventive, intelligent, cinematic square pegs.

On with the show:

BEST PICTURE
American Sniper
*Birdman
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

BEST DIRECTOR
*Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Morton Tyldum, The Imitation Game
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher

I have to go with Iñárritu, because of his DGA win. It is extremely rare that the winner of the Director’s Guild Award does not win the Academy Award. BUT – see above. Linklater could pull it out.

Best Actor
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
**Michael Keaton, Birdman
*Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

BAFTA was icing, but Redmayne won the Screen Actors Guild award. See above re: voting bloc. Academy voting actors are SAG voting actors.

Best Actress
Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
*Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Best Supporting Actress
*Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Laura Dern, Wild
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Best Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
*J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Best Original Screenplay
Birdman, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo
Boyhood, Richard Linklater
Foxcatcher, E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
*The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson and Hugo Guiness
Nightcrawler, Dan Gilroy

Grand Budapest will get this award not only as a consolation prize for best picture (it did after all score a great many other nominations as well), but because it’s a truly wonderful story. Wes Anderson is a very literary filmmaker. The WGA win is a harbinger unless it won only because the guild’s first choice, Boyhood, was ineligible. But I don’t think so. Nightcrawler won the Independent Spirit Award and I would not be unhappy if the Academy recognized Dan Gilroy (in place of Jake Gyllenhaal).

Best Adapted Screenplay
American Sniper, Jason Hall
*The Imitation Game, Graham Moore
Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson
The Theory of Everything, Anthony McCarten
Whiplash, Damien Chazelle

Another consolation prize since The Imitation Game scored eight noms but won’t win any other major category. And again, Graham Moore took home the WGA.award, but his closest Academy competition (The Theory of Everything) wasn’t eligible, so Anthony McCarten could steal.

Best Documentary Feature
*CITIZENFOUR
Finding Vivian Maier
Last Days in Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth
Virunga

Thanks to HBO and Netflix, I’ve seen four of the five and on the merits, this is a hard choice to make. I’m going with CITIZENFOUR because it’s a juggernaut.

Best Costume Design
*The Grand Budapest Hotel, Milena Canonero
Inherent Vice, Mark Bridges
Into the Woods, Colleen Atwood
Mr. Turner, Jacqueline Durran
Maleficent, Anna B. Sheppard

Grand Budapest, Birdman and Into the Woods all won Costume Guild awards, because they have several categories. The Academy lumps them all together. Canonero is an Academy favorite (with 3 previous wins), although so is Atwood, who also has three. I think Grand Budapest will win. Canonero’s costumes for this film re-imagined a real period in history, one that has been put on screen many times, and made them seem fresh and new.

Best Cinematography
*Birdman, Emmanuel Lubezki
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Robert D. Yeoman
Ida, Ryszard Lenczweski and Lukasz Zal
Mr. Turner, Dick Pope
Unbroken, Roger Deakins

If I were voting, I’d have to go with Dick Pope‘s gorgeous Turner-like landscapes in Mr. Turner or sentimental favorite Roger Deakins, who is nominated for his 12th Oscar. Last year’s winner, Emmaneul Lubezki, for whom this is his seventh nomination, will win again because the camera work in Birdman is still a major talking point, even among lay-people.

Best Hair & Makeup
Foxcatcher, Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard
*The Grand Budapest Hotel, Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier
Guardians of the Galaxy, Eliazabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White

Guardians could pull out an upset, but for me, this category was decided the minute I saw Tilda Swinton in The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Best Editing
American Sniper, Joel Cox and Gary Roach
*Boyhood, Sandra Adair
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Barney Pilling
The Imitation Game, William Goldenberg
Whiplash, Tom Cross

Why Boyhood? Twelve YEARS of footage. Now, I have to hand it to the editor of Whiplash as well. Miles Teller may have taught himself to play the drums for the role, but the tight editing made it fascinating, especially the finale, but still….twelve YEARS of footage. And it wasn’t just a cobbled together Frankenfilm. The result was lyrical and beautiful.

BEST SOUND EDITING
*American Sniper, Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
Birdman, Martin Hernandez and Aaron Glascock
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Brent Burge and Jason Canovas
Interstellar, Richard King

Unbroken, Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro

This category is about creating an aural picture, that coincides with and reinforces the visual one. All of the nominees in this category are worthy. And for this reason Richard King, who created sound in the vacuum of space in Interstellar could upset, but think about what you heard when you saw American Sniper. Think about the juxtaposition of the horrors of war with what was happening at home. That is sound editing.

BEST SOUND MIXING
American Sniper, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin
Birdman, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga
Interstellar, Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten
Unbroken, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee
*Whiplash, Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

Sound MIXING is creating a balanced blend,of the sounds that the sound editor has created. So doesn’t that mean that the film which wins that category should automatically win for mixing? Not necessarily. While Sniper could win, in this particular instance, it’s important that Whiplash be recognized, particularly for a sound category, especially when that aforementioned final sequence won’t have been. The sound mix is everything to this movie. That said, I could see Birdman’s jazz percussion soundscape sneaking in a win, But we’ll go with Whiplash.

Best Visual Effects
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist
Guardians of the Galaxy, Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould
*Interstellar, Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher
X-Men: Days of Future Past, Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

Some pundits are going with the team from Apes, both for its incredible effects (and their ability to make us care about the motion capture apes as well as all of their CGI tricks), and for the fact that this same team was nominated for Rise of the Planet of the Apes and didn’t win. That could also be a mark in Interstellar‘s favor. Interstellar should win on its own merits though. Whatever else you liked or didn’t like about Christopher Nolan‘s megafilm, it was visually stunning.

Best Foreign Film
Wild Tales, Damián Szifrón; Argentina
Tangerines, Zaza Urushadze; Estonia
Timbuktu, Abderrahmane Sissako; Mauritania
*Ida, Pawel Pawlikowski; Poland
Leviathan, Andrey Zvyagintsev; Russia

Ida is probably the film in this category that most people have seen. It’s been available on Netflix since December and has already won quite a few awards, including yesterday’s Independent Spirit Award. It’s also good enough to have been nominated for its stunning black and white cinematography and was in the conversation, at one time, for Best Picture.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
*The Grand Budapest Hotel, Alexandre Desplat
The Imitation Game, Alexandre Desplat
Interstellar, Hans Zimmer
Mr. Turner, Gary Yershon
The Theory of Everything, Jóhann Jóhannsson

Alexandre Desplat has been another Academy bridesmaid in recent years. Eight nominations since 2007, but without a win. He works on prestige films that get Academy recognition, but he’s also just that good. That he is nominated twice this year alone is testament to both of those facts. I do think he’ll finally win, but it gets trickier when one has to choose for which film. My personal choice is The Grand Budapest Hotel. As I’ve already said, I loved the score (as I did Desplat’s work on Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. Both quirky, toe-tapping and memorable). I can’t remember the score for any of the other films, although I remember enjoying them at the time. It is possible that because Desplat is competing against himself, that he might split the vote, leaving the door open for someone else. If that’s the case, it will probably be Jóhann Jóhannsson, who won the BAFTA.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Lost Stars” from Begin Again, Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond
“Everything is Awesome” from The LEGO Movie, Shawn Patterson
*“Glory” from Selma, John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn
“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights, Diane Warren

This is another virtual lock. It not only evokes the film, but it’s a good song in its own right.

Best Animated Film
Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
*How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of Princess Kaguya

I don’t know why The Lego Movie was not nominated. Even if it had been, I’d have been rooting for HTTYD2, for sentimental reasons and because it’s a great movie. It won the Annie, as did its predecessor, but this year it will also win Best Animated Feature since it doesn’t have a Pixar entry to beat. So yay! (Although I’m still bummed about John Powell‘s score snub that year and this.)

Best Short Film – Animated
**The Bigger Picture
The Dam Keeper
*Feast
Me and My Moulton
A Single Life

I loved them all and while my personal favorite might be The Bigger Picture, which was just so damn clever, I think Feast will win because, much like last year’s Paperman, it was the most seen. It’s also very sweet and deceptively simple.

Best Short Film -Live Action
Aya
Boogaloo and Graham
Butter Lamp
Parvaneh
*The Phone Call

Boogaloo and Graham pulled out a BAFTA win, and if that seemed like a hometown favorite (about two boys and their baby chicks), I’m equally as surprised that The Phone Call didn’t win there. It stars Sally Hawkins as a mental health worker at a suicide hotline and Jim Broadbent as her caller, both actors familiar to Academy voters, plus it’s the fictional companion to Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1. (See below) For those reasons I’m going with The Phone Call, even though some are touting the virtues of Parvaneh, from Switzerland, about an Afghan immigrant who travels to Zurich.
Best Short Film – Documentary
*Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Our Curse
The Reaper
White Earth

I’ve seen the shorts programs. (Hey, if you want to prognosticate with any accuracy, you have to) and Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 is both gut-wrenching and topical. We all say we hate the war but love the warrior. We need to do a better job of proving it.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
*The Grand Budapest Hotel, Adam Stockhausen and Anna Pinnock
The Imitation Game, Maria Djurkovic and Tatiana Macdonald
Interstellar, Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis and Paul Healy
Into the Woods, Dennis Gassner and Anna Pinnock
Mr. Turner, Suzie Davies and Charlotte Watts

Anna Pinnock is another dual nominee, but her collaboration with Adam Stockhausen on Grand Budapest should win her the award. Despite the Academy’s proclivity to give this award to a musical if one is available, the highly stylized look of Wes Anderson‘s film is its core.

There you have it, my predictions for the 2015 Academy Awards. Got ’em in, with a nanosecond to spare, but I got ’em in. So what else is new? Want to start making predictions for next year?

UPDATE: I went 21 for 24 – same as last year. I’m always surprised, not by the fact that I missed a few, but the ones that I miss. 

Watch Bradley Cooper Grapple with a Tough Choice in 1st Trailer for Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper

Clint Eastwood, American Sniper, Bradley Cooper, movie, photo, trailer

Just yesterday I posted the first two pics of a beefed-up Bradley Cooper in Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper. (Over on Facebook) Warner Bros. has now released the first trailer for Eastwood‘s much-anticipated war drama. Based on a true story, Cooper plays decorated Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who is credited with the most sniper kills in U.S. military history.

Sienna Miller plays as Kyle’s wife Taya Renae, while Cory Hardrict, Jake McDorman, Luke Grimes and Kyle Gallner play his comrades along with several real-life Navy SEALs, including Kyle’s actual friend Kevin “Dauber” Lacz.

Eastwood directs from a script by Jason Hall (Paranoia), based on Kyle’s book. Eastwood produced along with Cooper, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar and Peter Morgan. (If Morgan had written it, I’d be even more excited.)

Take a look. The tension in just this 1:45 bit of film is palpable.

This is actually the UK version of the trailer. I wonder what the US version will be like.

American Sniper, which also stars Eric Close, and Owain Yeoman, is the second Eastwood film we’re getting in the same year (after Jersey Boys. Yeah, I nearly forgot, too). There are, of course, rumblings that this will be a major player come awards season. Cooper could end up with his third nomination. The movie will get a limited, awards-qualifying release on December 25 before going wide on January 16, 2015.

Eastwood has proven that knows his way around a battlefield. The subject matter of American Sniper might not be to everyone’s liking and might still be too raw, but I’ve no doubt the execution, based on this trailer alone will be masterful. What do you think? Are you in or are you out?