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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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. 

Oscar Nominations 2015: The Fallout

Oscars, nominations, Academy Awards, AMPAS, poster, Neil Patrick Harris

This morning, Thursday January 15, 2015, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs (along with a somnambulant Chris Pine, J.J. Abrams, and Alfonso Cuarón) stood on a mountain top (okay a stage) to hand down that august body’s nominations for the 87th annual Academy Awards. Given the complete hodge-podge and mishmash of this year’s list of nominees, seemingly culled together by blind monkeys banging away at keyboards, I can understand why they do it at the arse-crack of dawn (at least for those on the West Coast). They’re hiding under the cover of darkness.

I have to say I’m not really all that shocked by who was nominated, but rather surprised, puzzled and, yes, a little pissed-off, by who wasn’t.

One step forward and two steps back: last year I fantasized about more than one person of color being nominated for Best Actor. This pipe-dream was unfullfilled, but at least one black actor not named Denzel managed to slip past the color barrier (Chiwetel Ejiorfor), even if they did ultimately hand the prize to the middle-aged white guy. I was left with the thought that perhaps a corner had been turned and that in subsequent years we would begin to see nominees more reflective of the culture. This year is not one of those years.

Despite a mesmorizing performance by David Oyelowo as the man known as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (rather than a two-dimensional bold-faced type legend) in Selma, for which he received nothing but glowing reviews, the actor did not receive an Academy Award nomination. Neither did the film’s director Ava DuVernay, who until a week ago when the Director’s Guild also snubbed her, had been favorited to become the first African-American female director nominated.

Back when I began ruminating on the subject, I had thought that Oyelowo might just snatch the Oscar most were then already giving to Benedict Cumberbatch, the way I so desperately wanted Ejiofor to get the Oscar he so richly deserved, instead of the anointed Matthew McConaughey. (Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of both Ben and Matty, as you well know, but the award is for Best Performance, not body of work or for being an all-around brilliant actor/charming human.) Now of course, Oyelowo was ignored and Cumberbatch will almost certainly lose to either Eddie Redmayne or (more likely in this arena) Michael Keaton.

If Oyelowo was too dark for them or they couldn’t pronounce his name (O-yellow-o, and he’s been around long enough for people to get it right), the Academy could have opted for the equally deserving Guatemalan/Cuban actor, Oscar Isaac. When are they going to recognize this man? Bradley Cooper has been nominated three years in a row! After the egregious omission of Isaac’s name on last year’s list for Inside Llewyn Davis, I should have been prepared. A Most Violent Year (which incidentally included David Oyelowo in a fantastic supporting performance) probably wasn’t seen by enough voting members. I know the National Board of Review doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but the film’s win should at least have put it on the radar. Maybe Isaac is just too good…like his costar Jessica Chastain (also denied after a year that also included The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Miss Julie and Interstellar). When we expect greatness, perhaps it’s not as likely to be rewarded? No, that can’t be right. Otherwise how the hell does one explain Meryl Streep? She made a movie? BAM! here’s a nomination!

Even if the Academy can only see white, I’m puzzled by the representatives it chose. As I mentioned on Facebook, I am a fan of both Steve Carrell and Bradley Cooper, but fake noses and weight gain/loss need to stop being reasons for nominations, let alone wins (Nicole Kidman and Matty again, respectively). I love you both, I do, but neither of you were better than Oyelowo or Isaac or Ralph Fiennes or Tom Hardy or Timothy Spall or Jake Gyllenhaal, all of whom are more deserving. JMHO.

So, moving on to Best Actress, the race boils down to Julianne Moore and four other white women. Doesn’t matter which ones. Moore, an exceptionally talented actress who has never won, has already been chosen for her role in Still Alice, a film 99.9% of the country has not had a chance to see yet. Another weird and mystical Oscar phenomenon, this one has plucked Moore’s name from the magic hat, while leaving two other actresses, Jennifer Aniston and Jessica Chastain, both in similar situations, in the lurch.  (Cake, like Still Alice has not opened yet here in Boston, a city which is usually on the 2nd rollout tier right behind NY & LA. A Most Violent Year, which I was lucky enough to see last summer, opens this weekend) Then there’s Golden Globe winner Amy Adams. Adams was, up until this morning, thought to be in a horserace with Moore. Like Moore she’s been nominated many times before, but has never won. Not even nominated. Some pundits are putting it down to the fact that reviews for Tim Burton‘s Big Eyes were decidedly mixed, even while Adams was praised, and that “it wouldn’t be worth nominating her again if she wasn’t going to take the prize”*.  Adams might disagree.

It is nice that Rosamund Pike got a nod for Gone Girl, though she’s apparently meant to carry the banner for the entire film which failed to get recognition for director David Fincher, screenwriter Gillian Flynn, or costar Ben Affleck. (Hell, I thought they’d at least nominate the Oscars’ telecast host, Neil Patrick Harris for Best Supporting Actor. He was worthy and that would have made good tv.) I adore Marion Cotillard, but her nomination was a surprise, especially for a French film that while it’s received a lot of critical praise, no one not on a list for Academy screeners has seen. However, she could have been nominated for The Immigrant and I’d have been happy, so I won’t quibble here. The category is rounded out by Reese Witherspoon and Felicity Jones, to absolutely no one’s surprise.

Best Supporting Actor does happen to include some truly great performances, including Edward Norton in Birdman and J.K. Simmons in Whiplash, but as much as I love Mark Ruffalo, I think Channing Tatum gave the better supporting performance in Foxcatcher. And anyone who knows me, knows that it is no small thing for me to praise Tatum-tot.  And don’t get me started on Robert Duvall. Another nomination for longevity.

On the distaff side, Laura Dern came out of left field to pick up her first nomination since 1992 (for Rambling Rose), after being forgotten by the Golden Globes and SAG. Keira Knightley, Emma Stone and Meryl Streep were all Globe nominated, as was Patricia Arquette, the Globe winner receiving her first Academy nomination for a film in which she gets to age twelve years on camera. Nice choices, but what a nice surprise it would have been if Tilda Swinton‘s name had been called this morning for Snowpiercer. (Although why her performance in Only Lovers Left Alive has not been part of the conversation is beyond me. Same reason Tom Hardy hasn’t been, I guess.)

There is so much head-scratching to be done over today’s announcement that I’m making myself dizzy.  Where’s JC Chandor for Best Screenplay, let alone director or Best Picture? And where’s Christopher Nolan? Remember when the interwebz declared the race over before it had even begun and Interstellar would be the winner? I don’t care what the science means and whether or not it’s realistic, it wasn’t nearly as confusing as Inception and it had the heart missing from most cold and earnest sci-fi extravaganzas.

For some odd reason, there are only eight Best Picture nods this year, when there can be as many as ten. As you can probably guess, I’m very pleasantly surprised that The Grand Budapest Hotel is among them, but the question is begged, how then, did Selma wind up as one of them?“ It’s only the fourth movie to be so nominated without first having been nominated by any of the major guilds:  the Producers Guild, the Writers Guild (for which it was ineligible), the Directors Guild and the Screen Actors Guild. The only other bone the film received was Best Original Song, a surprise to no one. This is a film that not only directed itself (like fellow Best Pic nominee American Sniper), but it also wrote itself and was acted by holograms. And then there’s Bennett Miller, who got a Director nomination, but what does that mean if his film, Foxcatcher, did not? What, exactly, is his achievement other than directing Carrell and Ruffalo to nominations of their own?

Ironically, I’m watching as I type this, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the writer/directors of The Lego Movie, accept the Critics Choice Award for Best Animated Feature. It’s ironic because while this movie has been hailed audiences and critics alike and was widely expected to take the Oscar, was not even nominated for one! (Admittedly, I will root for How to Train Your Dragon 2 for sentimental reasons as well as the fact that it’s a damn fine film.)

Another bit of irony, the above mentioned group just handed the aforementioned un-nominated Jessica Chastain its first ever “MVP Award” because of the four extraordinary performances she gave this year.  She is the epitome of class and grace, something the Academy could use some more of.

Of course, none of the above grousing means I won’t be eagerly awaiting my high holy day and preparing by watching with bated breath the SAG and BAFTA awards shows.  I’ll be back before February 22 with my predictions. (I went 23 for 24 last year, so I have a lot to live up to, even if only in my own mind LOL) We all need time to see all of those live action and animated shorts.

Here’s the complete list of nominees:

BEST PICTURE

American Sniper

Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

BEST DIRECTOR

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

BEST ACTOR

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper, American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton, Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

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 ACTOR

Robert Duvall, The Judge

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Edward Norton, Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Laura Dern, Wild

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

Emma Stone, Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

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

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo

Boyhood, Richard Linklater

Foxcatcher, E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guiness

Nightcrawler, Dan Gilroy

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Birdman (The Unexpected Virute of Ignorance), Emmanuel Lubezki

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Robert D. Yeoman

Ida, (Ryszard Lenczweski and Lukasz Zal

Mr. Turner, Dick Pope

Unbroken, Roger Deakins

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

BEST FILM 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

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Guardians of the Galaxy

BEST MUSIC (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)

BEST MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

“Lost Stars” from Begin Again

“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me

“Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie

“Glory” from Selma

“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Adam Stockhausen; Anna Pinnock)

The Imitation Game (Maria Djurkovic; Tatiana Macdonald)

Interstellar (Nathan Crowley; Gary Fettis, Paul Healy)

Into the Woods (Dennis Gassner; Anna Pinnock)

Mr. Turner (Suzie Davies; Charlotte Watts)

BEST SOUND EDITING

American Sniper

Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Interstellar

Unbroken

BEST SOUND MIXING

American Sniper

Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Interstellar

Unbroken

Whiplash

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Guardians of the Galaxy

Interstellar

X-Men: Days of Future Past

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Big Hero 6

The Boxtrolls

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Song of the Sea

The Tale of Princess Kaguya

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Wild Tales (Damián Szifrón; Argentina)

Tangerines (Zaza Urushadze; Estonia)

Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako; Mauritania)

Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski; Poland)

Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev; Russia)

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE FILM

CITIZENFOUR

Finding Vivian Maier

Last Days in Vietnam

The Salt of the Earth

Virunga

BEST DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Joanna

Our Curse

The Reaper

White Earth

BEST SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

The Bigger Picture

The Dam Keeper

Feast

Me and My Moulton

A Single Life

BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)

Aya

Boogaloo and Graham

Butter Lamp

Parvaneh

The Phone Call

* Variety’s Ramin Setoodeh

For Your Consideration: Seth MacFarlane as Oscar Host + Some Terrific Posters

There are a few things that I believe are so sure to happen on Oscar night, Sunday February 24, that if I had the proverbial farm, I would wager it down to the last little piggy:

  1. Ted the bear will make an appearance (A song, sung by Norah Jones, from the host’s film of the same name is nominated. Jones will probably have him on her lap as she sings it.)
  2. Daniel Day-Lewis will win Best Actor for Lincoln
  3. Anne Hathaway will win Best Supporting Actress for Les Miserables. (And deservedly so, even if she’ll give a better performance acting surprised when she accepts.)
  4. Ben Affleck will present an award and receive thunderous applause and a standing ovation – as if that could make up for the egregious snubbing. (Unfortunately, he probably won’t utter one of the best lines in his movie, “Argo fuck yourselves”, even though I’ll bet he’d love to. I know I’d love it.)

The producers of the telecast for the 85th Annual Academy Awards are trying very hard to capture (wrangle, reel-in – there are many metaphors to choose from and you will undoubtedly read or have read them all by the time the night rolls around) a younger audience, one that they can cultivate for years to come. This search led to the misguided pairing of Anne Hathaway and James Franco for the 2010 show, as well as the creation of the very cool poster that you can see below, by hot Mondo artist Olly Moss, and the appointment of “Family Guy” and Ted creator Seth MacFarlane to be this year’s host. (Don’t believe me? Then why have the members of the cast of The Avengers been asked to reassemble on Oscar’s stage? As a plug for the sequel that hasn’t even gone into production yet? No.)  This goal could also be met by nominating some of the films that the coveted 18-25 year old male demographic typically goes to see, like The Dark Knight Rises or Skyfall, for Best Picture, both of which had been on a lot of people’s long lists and a cry of disappointment went up when neither made the short list, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Without comparing the merits of those two named films to the nine movies that are nominated, I’ll just offer my humble opinion.  I don’t believe that dangling a carrot in the shape of an Oscar statuette with a superhero’s name etched on it would ever turn 18 year old boys into life-long watchers of the Academy Awards ceremony. They may sit around with their frat brothers to watch the guy who voices Stewie Griffin play host this year, but I guarantee that they’ve already thought of ways to turn it into a drinking game. Even if the experiment works and the Academy pulls in their greatest numbers ever, do they invite him back next year and every year until he and the audience age out?  Do they try to top MacFarlane with someone hipper, edgier, more appealing to that market segment? Like who, Daniel Tosh?

Hosting the Academy Awards is obviously no easy thing and I imagine that every year several are called before someone says “yes”.  What works in other arenas, does not work when hosting a globally televised awards show, just ask David Letterman or the aforementioned Franco and Hathaway. Irreverent humor often works as it did for the longest running hosts, Hollywood insiders Bob Hope, Johnny Carson and Billy Crystal, but it's a fine line. It did not work for Jon Stewart (although he was asked back a second time). The cardinal rule is "know thy audience". The almost universally liked Ellen DeGeneres was too “soft”, Chris Rock too “hard”. Hugh Jackman in 2008 appeared to be "just right" and the natural successor to Crystal. Jackman is a born showman, a song-and-dance man as well as an actor, and seemingly without ego. The Academy and the producers of the show would have him back again and again, it’s Jackman who’s turned them down. Schtick never works, as in the case of Letterman (that “Uma/Oprah” thing was bad the first time he said it, let alone after it was repeated ad nauseum throughout the night) as well as the final time Whoopi Goldberg hosted. (Remember her endless costume changes including "white face"?)

Then there was last year’s debacle involving director Brett Ratner’s ignominious ouster and host Eddie Murphy’s subsequent departure. Ratner, best known as the director of those Rush Hour flicks as well as Tower Heist (of which Murphy was the star). Recently he’s turned his hand mostly to producing, but in any case, I think his selection was an attempt at “edgy”. (And yet the Academy was shocked that an ill-chosen remark went viral.) Old-school Billy Crystal was subbed-in almost at the last minute, did his usual bang up job and saved the Academy’s face.

Eighty five years of history would hang over the head of whomever had decided to take the hosting gig. Seth MacFarlane is very talented. He’s an accomplished singer of big-band era standards and I do hope we get to hear him during the telecast. In addition to his voiceover work, he’s obviously a comedically-gifted writer and even earned praise for his live-action directorial debut, Ted.  Translating his brand of off-beat humor is still a dodgy proposition as evidenced by these soundbites:

I’m afraid the rest of the world won’t find him nearly as funny as he finds himself. At least he has the right attitude going in to the proceedings:

Now to those cool posters. In addition to the official poster showing a new rendition of the Oscar statuette, and including for the first time the names of the nominees, we have that Olly Moss poster, which depicts the Oscar modified to represent the Best Picture winner for each year. The AMPAS/oscar.org website features “Art Inspired by the Nominated Best Pictures” with a poster by hip and happening illustrators and graphic artists. (Be sure to *click* to see them better.) I’ll be back soon with my predictions.

AMOUR by artist Matt Owen.

ARGO by artist Anthony Petrie

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD by artist Rich Kelly

DJANGO UNCHAINED by artist Mark Englert

LES MISÉRABLES by Phantom City Creative

LINCOLN by artist Jeff Boyes

LIFE OF PI by artist Tom Whalen

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK by artist Joshua Budich

ZERO DARK THIRTY by Godmachine

…Annnnd we’re back! (Just in time for the BAFTAs!)

It’s been nearly a year since I posted here, so if I’m yelling into a well at this point, I’ll understand. I’ve neglected this blog for so long because I was engaged elsewhere, but now that I have a little bit more time, it’s an opportunity to dust this off as a place where I can discuss movies and all things film related.

We're in the thick of awards season, which loyal readers of this blog know is my favorite spectator sport, so what better way to jump back into the fray than with my prognostications for this Sunday’s BAFTA Awards!

On January 9th, before the Golden Globes or any of the Guild and (most) critics association awards were handed out, Jeremy Irvine (Great Expectations) and Alice Eve (Star Trek Into Darkness) announced the nominations for the 2013 British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs).

Way back when, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, which leads the pack with ten nominations, ahead of Les Miserables and Life of Pi, which both scored nine, was the awards season front-runner and the film to beat. Going into Sunday’s BAFTA ceremony, it now appears almost dead in the water. The above named movies will all compete for Best Film, along with Ben Affleck‘s Argo and Kathryn Bigelow‘s Zero Dark Thirty.  

Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln), along with Affleck, Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables), Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook) and Joaquin Phoenix (The Master) will vie for Leading Actor. No one is going to best DDL.  In the Leading Actress category, Zero Dark Thirty‘s star Jessica Chastain will go up against Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone) and Dame Helen Mirren (Hitchcock).

The best director award was a bit of a surprise with the British Tom Hooper (Les Miserables) left off the list. Lincoln apparently directed itself as well – no Spielberg.  Those that did get a nod: Affleck, Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained), Michael Haneke (Amour), Ang Lee (Life Of Pi) and Bigelow. How do you nominate a movie for Best Picture without the director and vice versa? I’ve never understood that, but these Awards governing bodies (I’m looking at you  AMPAS) apparently do. (Hooper and Spielberg got Oscar nods while Affleck and Bigelow did not. But you knew that.)

James Bond’s 23rd outing, the global blockbuster Skyfall, secured nods for Dame Judi Dench (Supporting Actress) and Javier Bardem (Supporting Actor), as well as for Original Music, Cinematography, Editing, Production Design, Sound and Outstanding British Film.

The full list of nominations for the EE British Academy Film Awards*:

My picks are marked with **

BEST FILM:

**ARGO Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, George Clooney

LES MISÉRABLES Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh

LIFE OF PI Gil Netter, Ang Lee, David Womark

LINCOLN Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy

ZERO DARK THIRTY Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, Megan Ellison

Will the Brits care about a piece of America’s recent historical past enough to go with Argo? Then again, an Argo win means George Clooney on stage. Lincoln has Spielberg not to mention Daniel Day-Lewis going for it. Les Miserables is a British film based on a play originally staged in London by Brits. Zero Dark Thirty is an amazing film about an American mission to hunt down a global criminal. (I have no doubt that the London and Glasgow bombings are still fresh in BAFTA minds.)  Playing “pin-the-tale-on-the-movie”, I’m going with Argo.

OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM:

ANNA KARENINA Joe Wright, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Paul Webster, Tom Stoppard

THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL John Madden, Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin, Ol Parker

LES MISÉRABLES Tom Hooper, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh,

William Nicholson, Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS Martin McDonagh, Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin

**SKYFALL Sam Mendes, Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan

All of these are worthy. I’d love to see Seven Psychopaths take it but I have to go with Skyfall. It’s a massive global hit, but it’s also intrinsically British and they are very proud of the Bond franchise. It’s also damn good.

OUTSTANDING DEBUT BY A BRITISH WRITER, DIRECTOR OR PRODUCER:

BART LAYTON (Director), DIMITRI DOGANIS (Producer) The Imposter

DAVID MORRIS (Director), JACQUI MORRIS (Director/Producer) McCullin

**DEXTER FLETCHER (Director/Writer), DANNY KING (Writer) Wild Bill

JAMES BOBIN (Director) The Muppets

TINA GHARAVI (Director/Writer) I Am Nasrine

Purely a sentimental choice because I like Dexter Fletcher as an actor. The only film I’ve seen on the list is The Muppets, so if the award is given based on box office…

FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE:

**AMOUR Michael Haneke, Margaret Ménégoz

HEADHUNTERS Morten Tyldum, Marianne Gray, Asle Vatn

THE HUNT Thomas Vinterberg, Sisse Graum Jørgensen, Morten Kaufmann

RUST AND BONE Jacques Audiard, Pascal Caucheteux

UNTOUCHABLE Eric Toledano, Olivier Nakache, Nicolas Duval Adassovsky, Yann Zenou, Laurent

Zeitoun

DOCUMENTARY:

THE IMPOSTER Bart Layton, Dimitri Doganis

MARLEY Kevin Macdonald, Steve Bing, Charles Steel

McCULLIN David Morris, Jacqui Morris

**SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN Malik Bendjelloul, Simon Chinn

WEST OF MEMPHIS Amy Berg

ANIMATED FILM:

**BRAVE Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman

FRANKENWEENIE Tim Burton

PARANORMAN Sam Fell, Chris Butler

Awards season favorite Wreck-it Ralph isn’t even nominated so I think this goes to Brave.

DIRECTOR:

Michael Haneke AMOUR

**Ben Affleck ARGO

Quentin Tarantino DJANGO UNCHAINED

Ang Lee LIFE OF PI

Kathryn Bigelow ZERO DARK THIRTY

You’ll notice both Affleck and Bigelow are nominated here, despite those now infamous Oscar snubs. I have to go with Ben Affleck because he’s got the momentum and while I’m happy Argo has filled the spot I thought surely Zero Dark Thirty would be in at this juncture, I would love it if Bigelow won for the latter film.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

Michael Haneke AMOUR

**Quentin Tarantino DJANGO UNCHAINED

Paul Thomas Anderson THE MASTER

Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola MOONRISE KINGDOM

Mark Boal ZERO DARK THIRTY

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

Chris Terrio ARGO

Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD

David Magee LIFE OF PI

**Tony Kushner LINCOLN

David O. Russell SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

LEADING ACTOR:

BEN AFFLECK Argo

BRADLEY COOPER Silver Linings Playbook

**DANIEL DAY-LEWIS Lincoln

HUGH JACKMAN Les Misérables

JOAQUIN PHOENIX The Master

LEADING ACTRESS:

EMMANUELLE RIVA Amour

HELEN MIRREN Hitchcock

JENNIFER LAWRENCE Silver Linings Playbook

**JESSICA CHASTAIN Zero Dark Thirty

MARION COTILLARD Rust and Bone

Keeping my faith in Chastain’s win, although after the Screen Actors Guild Award upset by Jennifer Lawrence, nothing is guaranteed and both actresses delivered awards-worthy performances.

SUPPORTING ACTOR:

ALAN ARKIN Argo

CHRISTOPH WALTZ Django Unchained

JAVIER BARDEM Skyfall

**PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN The Master

TOMMY LEE JONES Lincoln

I’m stepping out on this one. Europe, Great Britain in particular, liked The Master a lot more than the US did. I still find the lack of love from both the BAFTAs and the Oscars for Leonardo DiCaprio beyond baffling. Oh well.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

AMY ADAMS The Master

**ANNE HATHAWAY Les Misérables

HELEN HUNT The Sessions

JUDI DENCH Skyfall

SALLY FIELD Lincoln

ORIGINAL MUSIC:

Dario Marianelli ANNA KARENINA

Alexandre Desplat ARGO

**Mychael Danna LIFE OF PI

John Williams LINCOLN

Thomas Newman SKYFALL

Mychael Danna is the relative newcomer on this list. His score for Life of Pi was beautiful and he did win the Golden Globe, John Williams could scoop it though. Alexandre Desplat was nominated for the wrong film, he should have been nominated for Moonrise Kingdom).

CINEMATOGRAPHY:

Seamus McGarvey ANNA KARENINA

Danny Cohen LES MISÉRABLES

**Claudio Miranda LIFE OF PI

Janusz Kaminski LINCOLN

Roger Deakins SKYFALL

This is a tough one. All of these films were beautifully photographed. I would argue that Cloud Atlas should be on this list as well, but no one asked me.

EDITING:

ARGO William Goldenberg

DJANGO UNCHAINED Fred Raskin

LIFE OF PI Tim Squyres

SKYFALL Stuart Baird

**ZERO DARK THIRTY Dylan Tichenor, William Goldenberg

PRODUCTION DESIGN:

**ANNA KARENINA Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer

LES MISÉRABLES Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson

LIFE OF PI David Gropman, Anna Pinnock

LINCOLN Rick Carter, Jim Erickson

SKYFALL Dennis Gassner, Anna Pinnock

COSTUME DESIGN:

**ANNA KARENINA Jacqueline Durran

GREAT EXPECTATIONS Beatrix Aruna Pasztor

LES MISÉRABLES Paco Delgado

LINCOLN Joanna Johnston

SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN Colleen Atwood

MAKE UP & HAIR:

**ANNA KARENINA Ivana Primorac

HITCHCOCK Julie Hewett, Martin Samuel, Howard Berger

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY Peter Swords King, Richard Taylor, Rick Findlater

LES MISÉRABLES Lisa Westcott

LINCOLN Lois Burwell, Kay Georgiou

SOUND:

DJANGO UNCHAINED Mark Ulano, Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti, Wylie Stateman

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY Tony Johnson, Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges,

Michael Semanick, Brent Burge, Chris Ward

**LES MISÉRABLES Simon Hayes, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, Jonathan Allen, Lee Walpole, John

Warhurst

LIFE OF PI Drew Kunin, Eugene Gearty, Philip Stockton, Ron Bartlett, D. M. Hemphill

SKYFALL Stuart Wilson, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell, Per Hallberg, Karen Baker Landers

SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS:

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Peter Bebb, Andrew Lockley

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, R. Christopher

White

**LIFE OF PI Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer

MARVEL AVENGERS ASSEMBLE Nominees TBC

PROMETHEUS Richard Stammers, Charley Henley, Trevor Wood, Paul Butterworth

SHORT ANIMATION:

HERE TO FALL Kris Kelly, Evelyn McGrath

I’M FINE THANKS Eamonn O’Neill

THE MAKING OF LONGBIRD Will Anderson, Ainslie Henderson

SHORT FILM:

THE CURSE Fyzal Boulifa, Gavin Humphries

GOOD NIGHT Muriel d’Ansembourg, Eva Sigurdardottir

**SWIMMER Lynne Ramsay, Peter Carlton, Diarmid Scrimshaw

TUMULT Johnny Barrington, Rhianna Andrews

THE VOORMAN PROBLEM Mark Gill, Baldwin Li

I picked Swimmer because it’s directed by the same Lynne Ramsay that gave us We Need to Talk About Kevin, as well as the upcoming western Jane Got a Gun with Natalie Portman, Michael Fassbender, Joel Edgerton and Rodrigo Santoro, making it the only short film I’ve heard of. Subjectivity at its finest LOL  Ramsay, like a lot of feature film directors, got her start in shorts, too.

THE EE RISING STAR AWARD (voted for by the public):

ELIZABETH OLSEN

**ANDREA RISEBOROUGH

SURAJ SHARMA

JUNO TEMPLE

ALICIA VIKANDER

A case could be made for any of the four actresses (but not so much Suraj Sharma. He was unknown before Ang Lee discovered him for Life of Pi. I’m not sure that makes him a “rising star”). Both Riseborough and Temple are British. I’m going with Riseborough because I’ve been a fan since “The Devil’s Whore” with Michael Fassbender. (Look at that, I managed to get in two Fassy references.) She’s incredibly talented and has been “on the verge” for a long time. She deserves the push.

The awards will be handed out on Sunday 10 February at London’s Royal Opera House. In the US, we’ll be able to watch it at 8pm ET on BBC America. Stephen Fry will host.

Thanks for reading! Don’t be a stranger, y’hear?

*They used to be called the “Orange British Academy Film Awards” but Orange was swallowed by telecommunications company EE. They’re kind of the T-Mobile of Great Britain.

“It’s Good to Be George Clooney”

If they gave out Oscars for being a bon vivant, the best raconteur or guy-you'd-most-like-to-have-at-your-next-dinner party, then George Clooney would be a shoo-in. I could listen to him talk for hours. He's intelligent, charming, self-effacing and very, very funny. He's also not hard on the eyes. I enjoy his films immensely. He makes smart choices and if he can't find a movie from someone else that he wants to do, he and his producing partner, Grant Heslov, will write their own. Then he gets his friends to help out.I've never heard or read a single negative anecdote told by actors who've worked with him and his private life and behavior don't make the tabloids for anything other than the fact that he's a serial monogamist.
 
He also puts his celebrity to good use, which is a better reason to admire the man  than the way he looks in a tux. There is no question his interest in the crisis in Darfur has shone a light on a region of the world that no one was paying attention to, despite the fact that another holocaust was happening under our noses. He's by no means the only activist to highlight what's happening in the Sudan (Sam Childers aka "The Machine Gun Preacher" may have been there longer and is more hands on, but until recently not many had ever heard of Sam or his work) nor is he the only celebrity attempting to put their fame to good use (ie Angelina Jolie or Madonna) but, I think the fact that he's so well regarded in general means attention will be paid.   

He's a great guy and everyone loves him.

The problem I have is with George Clooney, Academy Award nominee for Best Actor. I enjoyed The Descendants both times I saw it, but when I walked out the second time, my opinion hadn't changed from the first. It's a good movie. It's well written and it's well acted, which is what we should expect when we buy a ticket. We should not be so surprised when we come upon quality that it's immediately given front runner status for Awards Season. There is a lot to like in that film, most notably, in my opinion is the discovery of Shailene Woodley. She's just twenty years old and has a great career ahead of her if she continues to make smart choices. (For the record I don't consider her performance awards worthy either, even though she was touted for Best Supporting Actress early on.) Nor do I think this was Clooney's best work, a phrase being bandied about more and more as we get into the final stretch before Oscar night.

I would suggest that he was better in Michael Clayton (for which he was nominated but lost out to Daniel Day Lewis for There Will Be Blood). I suggest that he was better as Archie Gates in Three Kings, Jack Foley in Out of Sight or even as Everett in O Brother, Where Art Thou? all of which were made when it was still possible for him to disappear into a character. Now, whenever I see him on screen, I rarely see anything other than George Clooney. He's too famous to completely disappear into a role. (Something I dread happening to all of my favorite actors, the ones the world has suddenly caught on to like Michael Fassbender and Tom Hardy. It's already happened to a large extent to Gerard Butler.) In the clip below, Clooney mentions how, in his later years, Spencer Tracy always played some version of Spencer Tracy, but "you couldn't take your eyes off of him." That's how I feel about Clooney. 

I am very happy his script for Ides of March was nominated. More than the performances (and Clooney was very good, make no mistake. So were Gosling, Wood, Tomei, Hoffman and Giamatti for that matter), the words were the star, just as they were when it was a play. I love the story he told "The Hollywood Reporter about how restless he is and how he wakes up five times a night and it was during one of these sleepless nights that he wrote a particularly memorable line of dialogue from Ides of March. (Arguably the most memorable) "I woke up and sat down and wrote the whole scene in the kitchen between Ryan and myself: 'You want to be president…You can start a war, you can lie, you can cheat, you can bankrupt the country, but you can't fuck the interns.'" 
Speaking of that venerable publication, Gorgeous George is on the cover of The Hollywood Reporter next week and he invited the photographer and journalist into his home for the interview.  Below is a video clip of the photo shoot. (This is by the way, the 2nd time this awards season that Clooney has allowed cameras to film him in his private domain. The first was for CBS News' "Person to Person" with Charlie Rose and Lara Logan. The seventeen minute video can be found at the link. If he were anyone other than George Clooney, one might say he was lobbying hard for that Oscar. But because he IS George Clooney, it's easier to give him the benefit of the doubt. He just wanted to invite us all in for a chat.

With Thanks and Appreciation: Sidney Lumet 1924-2011

 I feel the need to say a few words about the great Sidney Lumet.

There will be scores of other tributes for you to read and most of them will be more in depth, but like a casual acquaintance compelled to say a few words at a funeral, I want to add my humble voice to those reverberating around the internet and the blogisphere. Anyone who cares about movies has experienced a loss today.

Director Sidney Lumet, ex-husband of Gloria Vanderbilt, former son-in-law of Lena Horne, left behind a huge body of work; a list of films that contains some of the greatest of the 20th century. His very first film, 12 Angry Men, is arguably the definitive court room drama against which all others are measured.

For me, ever since I saw Murder on the Orient Express, with its flawless all-star cast, when I was a kid, a Lumet film was an event. If he directed it, I went to the theater to see it, and with few exceptions, could just about be guaranteed that I’d like it.

With a distinctly American voice, Lumet helped define a decade with two of the most realistic and gritty urban films of the ‘70’s, both set in his beloved New York City: Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon. (They both almost certainly inspired another son of NYC, Martin Scorsese.) He’d go on to use the city as a backdrop many more times, with varying degrees of success in Prince of the City, Night Falls on Manhattan, Q & A and  Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.  While I can recommend all of them, the last four don’t have the resonance of Serpico or Dog Day Afternoon. (They didn’t have Pacino either.)

Network, another classic of the 1970’s that appears on many critics all-time Top 10 lists, was made in the same period. In fact, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Murder on the Orient Express and Network were all made in a single three year span.

Known as an ‘actor’s director’, he wrested some of the best performances of their careers from a long list of venerable artists, many of whom were nominated for a great many awards, starting with Henry Fonda for 12 Angry Men and Fail Safe, Katherine Hepburn for Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Peter Finch in Network (for which he was awarded a posthumous Oscar) up to and including his final film Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, which won numerous critics awards for ‘best ensemble cast.’

He made stars of River Phoenix in Running on Empty and Andy Garcia in Night Falls on Manhattan, kept Timothy Hutton employed and resurrected the careers of Jane Fonda (The Morning After), Nick Nolte ( Q & A) and Sean Connery (Family Business – although he’d also worked with him nearly 20 years before in The Anderson Tapes.)

Not every film was a classic, by any stretch. Guilty As Sin with a then-hot Don Johnson and Rebecca DeMornay is pure camp (and can still be enjoyed as such.) A Stranger Among Us with Melanie Griffith as a NYPD detective infiltrating a community of Hasidic Jews defies further description. There was something oddly charming, yet tinged with melancholy about Michael Jackson’s Scarecrow, but for the most part, the rest of The Wiz was a mess. Probably because the musical itself was a mess. Diana Ross was never going to make anyone forget Judy Garland, any more than Sharon Stone could replace the great Gena Rowlands in the completely unnecessary remake of John Cassavetes’ Gloria.

By far, my favorite Lumet film is The Verdict, which also contains my favorite performance by Paul Newman, as a down-at-the-heels, alcoholic lawyer seeking personal redemption with a medical malpractice case he can actually believe in.  Beautifully photographed by long-time Lumet collaborator, Andrzej Bartkowiak, with an adapted screenplay by David Mamet, this film was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor (James Mason) and Best Director. (It didn’t win any of them. Unfortunately, Gandhi was also released in 1982.)
 
 

This film is on my personal “once a year” list. If you haven’t seen it, you owe to yourself to do so.
 
(Bit of trivia: The Verdict’s writer, playwright David Mamet was married to Newman’s co-star Lindsey Crouse, who also appeared with him in Slap Shot. It was after seeing that film, that Mamet sought her out and they were married in ’77.) 
  
In any case, despite other accolades and even though three of his films are on AFI’s list of the 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time #42 12 Angry Men (also #2 AFI’s Top 10 Best Courtroom Dramas), #75 The Verdict ( #4 Best Courtroom Dramas), and #84 Serpico, Sidney Lumet never won an Academy Award. He was given an honorary Oscar in 2005. This is another travesty that the Academy has run out of time to rectify. They’ll probably try with a posthumous tribute at next year’s ceremony. Too little, too late. JMHO.

*AFI – The American Film Institute