Screen Actors Guild 2017 Predictions!

Credit: Photo by Buckner/Variety/REX

Credit: Photo by Buckner/Variety/REX

I’m still working the kinks out, flexing my muscles, easing myself back into this blog. As you are probably aware, tomorrow will see the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards telecast. Since giving my opinion on weighty matters such as who will win which of the many awards the film industry likes to hand out to themselves is one of my specialties, I’m back with my predictions.

The SAG Awards and their show are all about the actors. We don’t have to waste time on the “crafts” or below-the-line names that no one recognizes and who run the show well past midnight, no matter how many times the orchestra tries to “play off” a winner who may never have this moment in the spotlight again and their over-long speech. (That was sarcasm, by the way. I’m one of those people who always stays for the credits at the end of a film. It’s the least we can do for those “below-the-line” names, without whom the film we’ve just watched could not be made.)  In any case, I like the SAG Awards show. Unlike the Oscars, where everyone sits in a theater counting the minutes before they can hit the bar or the snack table, but like The Golden Globes, everyone sits at tables with their respective casts, many of whom have not seen each other since their project wrapped – unless, like the casts of La La Land or Moonlight, for example, they’ve been hitting the “circuit” together for the past few months. Food is served, if you get there on time, and the champagne flows freely.  So tipsy actors get to accept awards given to them by their fellow actors. The speeches are generally the best of the major televised shows.  And the show ends on time.

FILM:

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea 

Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

Ryan Gosling, La La Land

Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic

Denzel Washington, Fences

I have to go with Casey Affleck. He’s been dominating awards season in this category. If he loses to anyone, it will be to Denzel Washington, who has never won a SAG Award. No, really.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

Amy Adams, Arrival

Emily Blunt, The Girl on the Train

Natalie Portman, Jackie

Emma Stone, La La Land

Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

If SAG voting hadn’t already been concluded by the time Oscar nominations were announced, I might have gone with Amy Adams here, just to right the incredible wrong done to her by the Academy. But as it is, this comes down to early favorites Natalie Portman and Emma Stone.  Jackie’s star has faded and I think the buzz has gone off of Portman’s portrayal. Emma Stone won the Golden Globe for Musical/Comedy and here, awarding her is a way to award the movie, since it was not nominated in the Ensemble category (because really, La La Land is a two-person film. There is no real ensemble).

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight *

Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins

Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

Dev Patel, Lion

Another actor dominating most of the guild and critics awards is Mahershala Ali. I can’t really even make a case for anyone else in this category. Ali’s not a newcomer, he’s an actor who’s paid his dues and earned this time in the spotlight. He’s been part of nominated ensembles before, namely “House of Cards” and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and is part of two nominated ensembles this year, one of which will undoubtedly win, Hidden Figures and Moonlight

 

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Viola Davis, Fences *

Naomie Harris, Moonlight

Nicole Kidman, Lion

Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Again, I can’t even begin to make a case for anyone else in this category. If Viola Davis doesn’t win this, all bets are off and Chaos is driving the bus (to really mix my metaphors).

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

Captain Fantastic

Fences

Hidden Figures 

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight 

This is the toughie. All of these ensembles are strong, but this award is the equivalent of a “Best Picture”.  That said, the only one of these films that has not been nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award is Captain Fantastic. So on that basis, I’m eliminating it from contention here. Which still leaves four incredible films.  I think the next to go has to be Manchester By the Sea (despite the fact that it is still my favorite from this group) because that movie rests on Casey Affleck’s shoulders (albeit with able assists from Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges) and he will be recognized.

So, now it comes down to Fences, Hidden Figures and Moonlight.  Any one of these could easily be rewarded for a number of reasons. I feel like I’m blindly throwing at a dartboard here, but I’m going with Moonlight. *fingers crossed*

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

Captain America: Civil War

Doctor Strange

Hacksaw Ridge *

Jason Bourne

Nocturnal Animals

Throwing another dart at the board, I’m going with Hacksaw Ridge, another film up for a Best Picture Oscar (the only movie in this category that is) and it’s a war movie. Hollywood loves a good war picture almost as much as they do movies about the movie business. Eh, but what do I know? Doctor Strange has a pretty good pedigree as well. (Who doesn’t love Benedict Cumberbatch?)

TELEVISION:

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

Riz Ahmed, “The Night Of”

Sterling K. Brown, “The People v. O.J. Simpson”

Bryan Cranston, “All the Way”

John Turturro, “The Night Of”

Courtney B. Vance, “The People v. O.J. Simpson” 

This is a category packed with worthy performances. I would be thrilled if either Riz Ahmed or John Turturro walked off with this for the incredible “The Night Of”, but I picked Courtney B. Vance for the Golden Globe and while he may have lost, I’m sticking with him for the SAG. He’s already won an Emmy, so it makes sense (and usually, so does the Screen Actors Guild, even if the HFPA does not).

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

Bryce Dallas Howard, “Black Mirror”

Felicity Huffman, “American Crime”

Audra McDonald, “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill”

Sarah Paulson, “The People v. O.J. Simpson” *

Kerry Washington, “Confirmation”

Well, Sarah Paulson has an Emmy and the Golden Globe so there’s no reason to think that she won’t prevail here as well. (If anyone spoils, I hope it’s Kerry Washington.)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”

Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones”

John Lithgow, “The Crown” *

Rami Malek, “Mr. Robot”

Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”

I adore Peter Dinklage and Tyrion Lannister just like everyone else, but I’m team #JohnLithgow all the way.  Dinklage will be back. Lithgow’s character won’t. I’m also a huge Kevin Spacey fan, but I’ve thrown in the towel on “House of Cards” (don’t hate). “The Crown” was just that good. Lithgow’s incredible transformation into Winston Churchill deserves to be rewarded.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series

Millie Bobby Brown, “Stranger Things”

Claire Foy, “The Crown” *

Thandie Newton, “Westworld”

Winona Ryder, “Stranger Things”

Robin Wright, “House of Cards”

I went with Thandie Newton for the Golden Globe and Claire Foy bested her. Others are opting for Millie Bobby Brown, a new name on this list. I think the cast of “Stranger Things” has a good shot at the Ensemble Award, but I’m going with Claire Foy here. (And for the record, my real pick – the actress who truly gave the best performance of the year, JMHO – wasn’t even nominated. Let’s hope SAG – and the Emmys – catches up with the Golden Globes and eventually nominates Caitriona Balfe. C’mon!)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish”

Tituss Burgess, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”

Ty Burrell, “Modern Family”

William H. Macy, “Shameless”

Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”

I am not an avid comedy watcher. I used to watch “Modern Family”, but got bored a long time ago. I think William H. Macy is an extremely talented actor, but I can’t speak to his work in “Shameless” this season.  I’m going with Jeffrey Tambor, because – well – Jeffrey Tambor. Doesn’t he own this category?

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

Uzo Aduba, “Orange is the New Black”

Jane Fonda, “Grace and Frankie”

Ellie Kemper, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”*

Lily Tomlin, “Grace and Frankie”

If SAG does love its repeat winners, then Uzo Aduba should be a lock, but Emmy keeps awarding Julia Louis-Dreyfus and SAG overlooks her. How long will this stand?  I’m going with JLD. She gives great speeches.

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

“The Crown”

“Downton Abbey”

“Game of Thrones” 

“Stranger Things”

“Westworld”

Oy! This is another tough one. A strong case could be made for every one of these series. “Downton Abbey” is done. They’ve won this award the last two years, will it win for its swan song? But again, “The Crown” is just that good. Will it split the “prestigious British show” vote? “Westworld” was fantastic and one of two water-cooler shows of the year. The other? “Stranger Things”, which could easily swoop in here and scoop this award.  Throwing yet another dart, I’m going with “Game of Thrones”, which, in its sixth season, had arguably its best.

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series

“The Big Bang Theory”

“Black-ish”

“Modern Family”

“Orange is the New Black”

“Veep”

I’m running out of darts.  I’m going with “Veep” because it has been around for six years, consistently well-written and well-acted and hilarious. It could be overlooked because it hits a little too close to the bone right now, in which case repeat winner “Orange Is the New Black” could prevail again or a brand new winner, in “Black-ish”, one just as relevant, could be crowned.

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Comedy or Drama Series

“Game of Thrones” *

“Marvel’s Daredevil”

“Marvel’s Luke Cage”

“The Walking Dead”

“Westworld”

The shows on this list (and if you’ll notice none are comedies – are there ever comedies on this list?) owe a great deal to their stunt teams, but in my opinion, none more so than “Game of Thrones”. You did see “Battle of the Bastards”, right?

So there you have it, my picks for the 2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards. I’ll post an update on the JMHO Facebook page with my percentage.  See you next month for the Academy Awards!

Edited to include actual winners. My picks in yellow. Winners in red. (If by some miracle they’re the same, I’ve indicated with a red *)

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Golden Globe Predictions 2017

golden globes, awards, awards shows, predictions, S. A. Young

I’m blowing the dust off of this blog with a quickie Golden Globes prediction post.

Here are my (semi-eductated) guesses, which will probably change by the time the Academy Awards roll around, especially since nominations haven’t even been announced yet, and the Golden Globes are not necessarily Oscar harbingers. The one thing that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association does oh so right, is divide the Best Picture and Best Actor/Actress categories into Drama and Musical/Comedy. This just makes sense to me. Why wouldn’t you compare apples to apples, oranges to oranges, etc?

But then, quizzically, they lump all of the directors, writers and supporting actors/actresses in their respective fields together. So essentially that’s just as head scratching as the Oscars. There are ten “Best Picture” nominees with only five nominated directors and five nominated writers. If there is logic to this, I have not been able to find any evidence of it. The internet, so chock full of experts and theorists, has let me down on the subject. If I live to be a thousand, I may, someday, be able to puzzle it out.

Oh well, as usual, I digress. I did say this was to be a “quickie” post, after all. Here are my picks, with categories in no particular order:

manchester by the sea, casey affleck, michelle williams, golden globes, S. A. Young

Best Picture-Drama

Manchester By the Sea

La La Land, Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Golden Globes, predictions, S. A. Young

Best Picture – Comedy or Musical

La La Land

Best Actor – Drama

Casey Affleck – Manchester By the Sea

Best Actor – Miusical or Comedy

Ryan Reynolds – Deadpool ( It’s the battle of the Ryans. I’m going with Reynolds by hair. call me crazy but Deadpool did HUGE money overseas)

Best Actress – Drama

Natalie Portman – Jackie (because Natalie Portman)

Best Actress – Musical or Comedy

Emma Stone – La La Land

Moonlight, golden globes, mahershala ali, predictions, S. A. Young

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali – Moonlight

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis – Fences

Best Director

Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester By the Sea (this is a race between Lonergan and Damian Chazelle and I think HFPA will want to reward an older, first time {directing} nominee. It’s a tough category and any one of the nominees – Lonergan, Chazelle, Gibson, Jenkins, or Ford could pull off a win)

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture

Barry Jenkins – Moonlight (This will be the category where the amazing Moonlight is rewarded)

Zootopia, golden globes, predictions, S. A. Young

Best Animated Feature

Zootopia (though I adored Sing)

Best Foreign Language Film

Elle (Isabelle Huppert won’t win for her performance so I think the HFPA will reward her film)

Best Original Score – Motion Picture

La La Land

Best Original Song – Motion Picture

“City of Stars” from La La Land (Everyone I saw this movie with left the theater either humming or singing this catchy tune – although this is tricky. Justin Timberlake could steal for “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from Trolls. It was a radio hit worldwide.)

The Crown, golden globes, predictions, S. A. Young

Best Television Series – Drama

“The Crown”

atlanta, donald glover, predictions, S. A. Young

Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy

“Atlanta”

Best Actor – Television – Drama

Billy Bob Thornton – “Goliath”

Best Actress – Television – Drama

Caitriona Balfe – “Outlander” (if anyone beats her it will be Claire Foy for “The Crown”, but I live in hope)

the people vs oj simpson, american crime story, golden globes, predictions, S. A. Young

Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television

Sarah Paulson – “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television

Courtney B. Vance – “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” (another tough category but I think the OJ:Crime Juggernaut will win out)

insecure, issa rae, golden globes, predictions, S. A. young

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy

Issa Rae – “Insecure”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy

Donald Glover – “Atlanta”

Westworld, Thandie newton, golden globes, awards, awards shows, predictions, S. A. Young

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Thandie Newton – “Westworld”

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture MBest ade for Television

John Lithgow – “The Crown”

Netflix Is Giving Us #CillianMurphy and #TomHardy in the BBC’s “Peaky Blinders”!

Peaky Blinders, television, Netflix,  Cillian Murphy, poster

Netflix has gotten into the original series business in a big way the past couple of years, with game changers “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black“. Now, thanks to our friends (sorry, I feel like I have a relationship with these people) Harvey and The Weinstein Company, along with Endemol (which also brings us “Hell on Wheels” among others) the company has picked up both seasons of the BBC series “Peaky Blinders”, which some are calling the UK’s answer to “Boardwalk Empire”.  As I’ve said before, I don’t often feel the need to bring television to this blog, so when I do, you know it’s something I consider special. Like Boardwalk, now airing its Swan Song season on HBO, “Peaky Blinders” is a huge hit. Both shows are about “gangsters” of a sort, but at least one other thing they have in common is that both series have managed to lure a great many actors known primarily for their film work, to series television, including series star Cillian Murphy, Sam Neill, Helen McCrory, Charlie Creed Miles, Annabelle Wallis and Paul Anderson. In season two, Tom Hardy joins the cast. (Yes, that Tom Hardy). Who might have induced an actor with a schedule as full as Hardy’s to take on a role in a television show, you ask? Why, Steven Knight, the writer/director of Locke, who happens to be the creator and writer of “Peaky Blinders”, that’s who. *demented poodle dance*

‘Peaky Blinders’ takes place in 1919 Birmingham, England, and follows the Shelby family, who lead the title group — a feared gang named for their practice of sewing razor blades into the peaks of their caps. Until now they have made money from illegal bookmaking, protection and the black market, but when a crate of guns from the local arms factory falls into his possession, Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy) recognizes an opportunity to move up in the world. As rival gangs, communist revolutionaries and IRA Fenians descend on the city in pursuit of the weapons, Winston Churchill dispatches a ruthless police chief (Sam Neill) from Belfast to impose order on an increasingly lawless city and recover the guns.

The first six episodes of the first season will be available starting after 12:01am PT on Tuesday September 30 and the second season (in which Hardy will appear along with his new wife, Charlotte Riley, and Noah Taylor) will be available sometime in November.
The BBC Two, season two promo:

Netflix teaser:

#TomHardy “Keeping It Real” For #DennisLehane, #MichaëlRoskam in #TheDrop BTS Featurette

 

The Drop, Tom Hardy, movie, photo, puppy, Dennis Lehane, Michael Roskam

Is there anything cuter than Tom Hardy and a puppy? The answer is no…no, there is not.

Belgian director Michaël Roskam‘s first English-language feature, The Drop, with Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and featuring the late James Gandolfini‘s final screen performance, “drops” in less than two weeks.

The film, in which a man called Bob Saginowski (Hardy) finds himself at the center of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighborhood’s past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living – no matter the cost, and one I’ve been talking about for some time (if you’re not a fan of any of the above, sorry, but there’s more to come) was made from the first ever screenplay by writer Dennis Lehane, who adapted is own short story.  He has subsequently turned the screenplay into a novel, out next Tuesday, September 2.

The screenplay itself was based on an earlier Lehane short story called “Animal Rescue,” (the original title for the film- “what was wrong with that?”, I have to ask), which originally appeared in a short story collection called “Boston Noir”, about a killing that results from a lost pit bull.

The Drop, Tom Hardy, movie, photo, puppy, Dennis Lehane, Michael Roskam

See? Told ya.

As the writer explains in the featurette below, that story was based on a book he started more than a decade ago, but shelved.   After the movie was made, he was asked to do a “novelization” of the script, an idea he hated, but found that there were things from from the original novel that didn’t make it to the story or the script plus things original to the script that were cut either from that screenplay or from the finished film, that he still wanted to explore. Add all of that together and the result was a new book, now also called, “The Drop”.

In the interest of full disclosure, I an ardent Lehane fan. He’s one of the few contemporary writers that I feel will always merit the purchase of an actual book, as opposed to the digital version.

Lehane’s work, whatever form it takes, seems to lend itself particularly well to the screen. There have already been memorable adaptations of the novels Mystic River (dir. by Clint Eastwood), Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese) and Gone Baby Gone (which put Ben Affleck on the directorial map). Once Batfleck finally finishes work for Zack Snyder‘s Superman sequel, he’ll be back behind the camera for Live By Night, another Lehane adaptation.

For his part, Lehane is also writing episodes of the final season of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” (JMHO, but that’s reason enough to keep watching)  as well as developing “Ness”, a prospective television project about famed bootleg-buster Eliot Ness.

(Belgian Matthias Schoenaerts, here in his third film for Roskam   is apparently a method actor. Did you catch the Brooklyn accent used throughout?)

The Drop, directed by Michaël Roskam, with Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Elizabeth Rodriguez (“Orange is the New Black”), James Frecheville (Animal Kingdom) and Matthias Schoenaerts will screen at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival on Septemer 5. It has also just been announced that the film will screen in competition at the 62nd San Sebastián Film Festival on September 26. It opens in the US on September 12 and in the UK on 14th November.

Latest tv spot:

(Slightly Belated) Happy Birthday to Accidental Icon, Nick Frost!

cuban-fury-poster04

Yesterday, March 28, was the 42nd birthday of English comedic actor Nick Frost. Frost “rose to fame” thanks to collaborations with director Edgar Wright and long-time friend Simon Pegg. In fact, it’s Pegg’s fault that Frost became an actor at all.

In 1999, Pegg was cast in a comic sci-fi show for British television called, “Spaced”…directed by Edgar Wright. Pegg suggested his flatmate Frost for the role of Mike, because he made him laugh, even though Frost was working as a waiter and had no prior acting experience. Wright was skeptical, but eventually decided that Frost was brilliant in the part. The rest is showbiz history.

The three went on, of course, to make “The Cornetto Trilogy”*, that consists of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End. Without Wright, Pegg and Frost made the insanely funny Paul. Both voiced characters (Thompson and Thomson) in Steven Spielberg’s motion capture epic, The Adventures of Tintin (although Wright cowrote the screenplay).

It’s not exactly rare to find Frost’s name in the credits of a film without also finding Pegg’s, but the two names are so inextricably linked in most people’s minds, that it’s worth mentioning.

In 2005, Frost played the homophobic Don in the wonderful Kinky Boots opposite Chiwetel Ejiofor and Joel Edgerton. Even more memorably (in my humble opinion), Frost played Dave in 2009’s critically lauded The Boat That Rocked, about a group of maverick music lovers and rogue DJs that refused to let some puritanical members of the British government stop the 60’s from swinging. (Though it boasted a cast that included Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris O’Dowd, Bill Nighy, Tom Sturridge, Tom Wisdom, Rhys Ifans, Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson and January Jones and was written and directed by Richard “Love, Actually” Curtis, it became the little-seen Pirate Radio in the US). And in 2012, he played one of the dwarves in Rupert Sanders’ Snow White and the Huntsman.

Next month, Frost gets the chance to go it alone once more, this time with his name above the title, in Cuban Fury, which opened in the UK back in February but finally comes to the US on April 11.

“Former teen salsa champion Bruce Garrett (Frost) is now a sad-sack engineer. But his passion for dancing is re-ignited by his crush on his gorgeous new boss Julia (Rashida Jones) and the only way he can win her over is by mastering the art of dance. Now all Bruce needs to do is rediscover his inner passion.”

Take a look at this:

That the producers felt the need to call Frost as Bruce a “sad-sack” is almost redundant, since most of his characters are to some extent just that. They are also, as Bruce tells Chris O’Dowd‘s Drew, full of heart. In less capable hands Cuban Fury, which sounds like a new take on Cinderfella meets Dirty Dancing by way of Strictly Ballroom, might be cringe-worthy. In Frost’s though, I’m willing to not only give it the benefit of the doubt, but the benefit of my dollars at the box office.

Here’s the official trailer:

The cast includes Ian McShane (always a plus), Rashida Jones, Olivia Coleman, Wendi McClendon-Covey and O’Dowd. Director James Griffiths may primarily be known for his work in television sitcoms, but at least they’re good ones like “Up All Night” and “Episodes”. The screenplay is based on Frost’s idea and written with yet another friend, Jon Brown. It opens in US theaters on April 11.

Oh, and look for a Simon Pegg in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo.

If all goes according to plan, we can look forward to even more Frost on US tv screens as he’s signed on to star in comedy pilot “Sober Companion” in which he will play an inebriated attorney court-ordered to spend 90 days with Justin Long‘s unorthodox sober coach. Let’s hope Frost and Long have at least a fraction of the chemistry that Frost and Pegg share and that Fox picks it up to series.

Once more, a belated wish for a Happy Birthday, Mr. Frost. Let’s all go have a Cornetto to celebrate!

*a Cornetto is a brand of ice cream cone in the UK, kind of like “Nutty Buddy” here in the US. Edgar Wright’s “Cornetto Trilogy” is also known as the “Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy”, each film a reference to a different flavored Cornetto (strawberry, original, and mint, respectively).

Get to Know the Frontrunner: More Very Early Oscar Talk‏‏

Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave, movie

image via The Wrap

Back in July I made a prediction that, on the face of it, should be no big deal, but in our skewed reality, is: that there would be at least two black actors nominated for Best Actor Academy Awards this year (and neither of them named Denzel).

There could be a third if Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is any good. I have no doubt Idris Elba will be, but the movie will have to kill for him to get any buzz. Then there’s Isaiah Washington in Blue Caprice. It’s possible his name could be in the mix as well. Given that there are only five slots to fill, that may be pushing it. “When, oh when, are they going to match the number of acting and directing categories to the number of Best Picture nominees?! It makes no sense! If we have 10 BP’s then we should have 10 Best Director nominees, if we have 8 BP’s, we should have 8 BD’s etc, etc.” *shakes fist in general direction of AMPAS*  Okay, rant over.

All of this preamble aside, let us get to the point. Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station, despite the fact that his performance as Oscar Grant III is undoubtedly worthy,  cannot be considered a a sure bet for a nomination, by any stretch. Unless Focus Features mounts a campaign for him, possibly including a WIDE rerelease of the film, Jordan might not have enough momentum. It is only September after all, and his movie, while technically “still playing” in a handful of places, has come and gone from cinemas some time ago. (It wasn’t in that many to start with.)

The other actor that I mentioned, Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave, after just two triumphant festival appearances, is now being considered a lock for a nomination. Some are going so far as to already call him the “frontrunner”.

So the name Chiwetel Ejiorfor is about to become ubiquitous and before the end of the year we’re all going to learn to pronounce it. (It’s not that hard: Chew-eh-tell Edge-ee-oh-for. In my head I call him “Chewy”. That’s awfully familiar, and he might not like it, I realize.)

And now that you have a face to the name, you can stop saying “Who?” You already know who he is. He’s been making movies, really good movies, for the last fifteen years, beginning with Amistad directed by Steven Spielberg in 1997. in addition to a thriving career in British theater, for which he’s already been awarded an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire), he’s been nominated thrice for a Golden Globe (“Tsunami: The Aftermath”, Kinky Boots and “Endgame”) twice for a British Independent Film Award (Dirty Pretty Things, Kinky Boots), and once for an Independent Spirit Award (Talk to Me), as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award. This last as part of the ensemble cast of Sir Ridley Scott’s American Gangster with that guy called Denzel and Russell Crowe.

Aside from the roles that have garnered awards attention, there has been just general acclaim for his roles in Four Brothers, Serenity, Inside Man, Children of Men, Red Belt, Salt, and lest we forget, Love, Actually. (Yes, that was him.)  So, an Oscar nomination should really be next, in the grand scheme of things.

If you need more, there’s another film that debuted last week in Toronto and also coming out this year, Half of a Yellow Sun, a drama set during the Nigerian Civil War in the late 1960s- early 1970’s “that brings together the lives of four people during the struggle to establish an independent republic” in which Ejiofor plays Odenigbo, a radical academic and Thandie Newton plays Olanna, his independent-minded sophisticate girlfriend. Half of a Yellow Sun will also be part of the lineup for the BFI London Film Festival next month.

Speaking of London, Playing on your televisions around the same time that 12 Years a Slave is released to theaters will be the BBC miniseries picked up for American audiences by Starz, “Dancing on the Edge”. Ejiofor stars as Louis Lester, the leader of a “black jazz band {that} becomes entangled in the aristocratic world of 1930s London as they seek fame and fortune.” It sports a cast that includes Matthew Goode, John Goodman, Anthony Head, Jenna Louise Coleman and the late great British comedian Mel Smith. It looks all kinds of terrific, in my humble opinion. Take a look at the trailer:

Probably the only other guaranteed nomination in this category is Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyer’s Club. Hell, that was practically inscribed in granite the first time anyone saw a picture of Matty whittled away to nothing. Now reports are coming out of Telluride and TIFF that, yes, he is just that good (though the movie itself is uneven.)

Again, I haven’t seen either of these movies yet. I’m basing my assumptions solely on the trailers, word of mouth from people who have seen the films and some understanding of how these things usually work.

If McConaughey has, in fact, delivered a bravura performance, he has too many other factors going for him not to earn at least a nomination. The accounts I’m reading say he is brilliant in the film (even if he is supposedly overshadowed at times by his supporting costar Jared Leto.). I’ve already talked a lot about the fact that he’s in the middle of an amazing career transformation and resurgence, which Academy voters will want to acknowledge. In fact, there has already been awards buzz for another McConaughey performance this year, the title role in Jeff Nichols‘ Mud. (It is quite possible that McConaughey will be up against another member of the 12 Years a Slave cast for Supporting Actor nods: Michael Fassbender.)

In Dallas Buyer’s Club, McConaughey plays a real life hero, another nugget of pure Academy gold, and then the icing on the cake, to mix my metaphors, he went through that drastic physical transformation, dropping an unhealthy amount of weight to look the part of an AIDS patient wasting away. The Academy is a sucker anytime a gorgeous actor or actor is willing to “ugly themselves up” for a role (eg: Russell Crowe in The Insider, Nicole Kidman in The Hours, Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables, Kate Winslet in The Reader). They get an almost automatic nod. Then again, maybe it’s so liberating that they give fantastic performances. Certainly those I’ve mentioned are worthy.

So that’s Jordan, Ejiofor, and McConaughey. Benedict Cumberbatch could get a slot for The Fifth Estate, and one will surely go to Tom Hanks for Captain Philips, just because…Tom Hanks. (What’s odd is that at this juncture, no one is talking about Forest Whitaker for The Butler, or rather, they’ve stopped talking about him, but that could change, too.)

This is really reading the tea leaves here, but I can feel in my bones that it’s going to come down to Ejiofor and McConaughey. This almost me somewhat sad for Matty. Doesn’t it usually happen that there’s one actor, who gives a fantastic performance to be sure, but of whom everyone says “It’s their year”, and are rewarded almost as much for toughing it out and beating the odds, being a “nice guy”, as much as for a single film? While all of that can surely be said of McConaughey, I’m looking at you Sandra Bullock – as well as you Jeff Bridges. Remember Colin Firth, who was so good and so deserving for A Single Man in 2010? Bridges swooped in and scooped his award because he made himself relevant again by single-handedly saving a slight little movie (Crazy Heart) from going straight to dvd and reminding Academy voters of his body of work and the fact that he’d never won. I’m not suggesting that Dallas Buyers Club is in the same category as Crazy Heart, but will the award go to Matty for similar reasons? (Or will it go to Bruce Dern? He’s winning raves for Alexander Payne’s Nebraska – including Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival – and he hasn’t been nominated since 1978 for Coming Home.)

Ah, but here comes the spoiler; someone who needs to be, should be, recognized for the performance of a lifetime in a once-in-a-lifetime film. How could the role of Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave be anything but? Chiwetel Ejiofor knew it the moment he read the script and wasn’t sure he was prepared to take on such a life-changer (in terms of the character he’d have to inhabit as well as the notoriety it would bring). If the actor wasn’t up to the task, the movie would collapse around him and by all of the accounts coming out of just two film festivals, that is certainly not the case. The mere five minutes in this featurette would seem to bear that out as well:

Okay enough of the blind prognostications. I’ve put my crystal ball away until I’ve actually had a chance to see these films and the performances in question, at least for today and as far as the Best Actor category is concerned.. Given that most of us plebes still have months yet to wait, there’s a lot more speculation to be done.

*At least no one will have to contend with Colin Firth again this year (playing another real person, this one with crippling PTSD). The Weinstein Company has just picked up Railway Man, but contrary to earlier rumblings, won’t release it until 2014.  Harvey’s on fire up there in the Great White North. He’s successfully pocketed this one along with two more for next year: Can a Song Save Your Life from Once director John Carney starring Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo as well as The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, the three hour/two part romantic drama with Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy, both of whom will probably figure into next year’s speculations.

TGIF! Thank GRIMM It’s Friday!

Sasha Roiz, David Giuntoli in Grimm

As I’ve said before, I don’t write a lot about television. But sometimes I just have to! A show you should be watching, but probably aren’t is NBC’s ‘fairy tales for the new millennium,’ “Grimm” which returns with episode, 2×13,  ‘Face-Off,’ tonight, Friday, March 8 at 9pm. It’s an episode that’s been a season and a half in the making! (“I’m so excited…” Sorry, I have that song in my head for some reason.) Here’s a preview of the hoped for showdown between Nick (David Giuntoli) and  his boss, Capt. Renard (Sasha Roiz). Who is some sort of Wesen royalty, it’s still not exactly clear. He’s also hitting on Nick’s girl because they’ve both been cursed.

Oh how I’ve missed this show! I need me some Monroemance (Monroe and Rosalee) and some Monroe-Bromance (Monroe and Nick). Silas Weir Mitchell rocks!

NBC’s “Grimm” revolves around Portland Homicide Detective Nick Burkhardt who, in the first episode got quite a surprise when his cancer stricken aunt Marie (Kate Burton) arrived at his home unexpectedly.  Though she only had weeks to live, she made the cross-country journey with her camper to tell Nick something important:  He’s a Grimm.  One of the few descendants of the Brothers Grimm, he has the ability (which only manifested itself once his aunt started to die) to see creatures and monsters that look human to everyone else.  It turns out that all the fairy tales that are told to children are true.  The original Grimms were just keeping a record of events that really happened.

As Aunt Marie informed Nick, it is now his inherited task to hunt down and kill these evil creatures.  The creatures are collectively known as Wesen. One thing the show’s writers do well and that’s make up fantastical names for the monsters and creatures Nick encounters as well as a backstory for each one.

Nick is lives with his veterinarian girlfriend Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch – Lakeview Terrace, The Artist), but he confided neither in her nor his partner Hank (Russell Hornsby -“Lincoln Heights”, “In Treatment”) – at first.  The only one who really knew that he’s a Grimm was Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell – “Prison Break”, “My Name is Earl”), a reformed Wider Blutbad (roughly translated as ‘Big Bad Wolf’).

Monroe, thanks to his vast knowledge of the Wesen became Nick’s somewhat relunctant partner in crime. The only other help he gets is from the chronicles of previous Grimms down through the centuries that are stored in Marie’s fantastical magical mystery emporium of a trailer.  Each week Nick is presented with another crime/mystery that’s somehow related to a fairy tale. (It ends up being a Monster-of-the-week kind of thing.) It’s not the smartest thing on tv, but it is good escapist fun and the show does have good production values.

Personally, I watch it for Silas Weir Mitchell, who steals every scene he’s in and he rocks.

As always there is lots of other great content on their official site, including those backstories I mentioned, as well as the last full episode, “Season of the Hexenbeast” in case you want to catch up.  For added fun, Bitsie Tulloch ( ) will be live-Tweeting the episode tonight @BitsieTulloch “Grimm” airs Fridays 9pm ET on NBC