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. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch This Very Cool New Extended Trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy!

 Marvel, movie,  poster, Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista,  Guardians of the Galaxy

One sheet for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

Last night, July 7, Marvel and Disney gave people in select markets the opportunity to see 17 min. of footage from Guardians of the Galaxy, in IMAX 3D no less, but I passed. When I received the ticket for the sneak peek, I, along with most of the other people who got one, believed it was an advance screening of the movie and not just a clip. Even those that understood the difference were convinced the studio would surprise audiences with the entire film. This misconception was cleared up yesterday by director James Gunn, who insisted in no uncertain terms, that Marvel will not be screening the movie ahead of time. (This has already been disputed by several sources who claim they have already received word of such advance screenings). To make a long story short(ish), standing in line for two hours to see 17 minutes of footage for a movie that will be released in less than a month was just not my idea of a good time.

As a consolation prize, for all interested parties who couldn’t or wouldn’t go out to the theater last night, Fandango has issued a new extended trailer, one that really does have new footage in it. Peter Quill aka Star Lord (Chris Pratt) gathers together the “Guardians of the Galaxy” and attempts to motivate them to save the universe. Rocket just laughs.
Here you go (with thanks to Movieclips):

I have two takeaways from this clip:
1. I hope that the movie itself makes use of the classic rock that has been so effective under the many versions of the trailers. (eg: Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling”, The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb”)
2. MILD SPOILER: I wish I did not know that Rocket Raccoon’s movements belong to the director’s brother, actor Sean Gunn, who performed a la Andy Serkis, in the motion capture suit, and not to Bradley Cooper who provides Rocket’s voice. Hopefully this knowledge won’t take me out of the movie the way it did this trailer. (If I’ve ruined anything for you, I apologize)

In the far reaches of space, an American pilot named Peter Quill finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by the villainous Ronan.

Here’s some trivia: Joel Edgerton, Eddie Redmayne, Jensen Ackles, Lee Pace, Wes Bentley, Jack Huston, Cam Gigandet, Sullivan Stapleton, Logan Marshall-Green, Garrett Hedlund, Chris Lowell, James Marsden, Jim Sturgess, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Aaron Paul, Michael Rosenbaum, Glenn Howerton and John Krasinski all auditioned and screen tested for the role of Peter Quill/Star Lord. Director James Gunn, however, has revealed that Chris Pratt’s audition was so good, he was prepared to offer him the role even if Pratt could not get in shape in time, joking that he was willing to CGI a six pack on Pratt’s body. This wasn’t necessary, as we know, since Pratt ended up losing 60 pounds and becoming completely shredded.
Guardians of the Galaxy, which also stars Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Djimon Hounsou, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Benicio Del Torro, Glenn Close, Laura Haddock, John C. Reilly, Karen Gillan and Josh Brolin, opens over most of planet Earth on either July 31 or August 1, depending on where you are with reference to the international dateline, I guess.

Part Deux: Dance of the Demented Poodle

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…or “Popcorn for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner”

When I started the post about four films worth seeing that were all opening on the same weekend, I really hadn’t intended to see them all on that same weekend.  The project sort of took shape of its own volition and I felt compelled to see it through.

One of my very good friends and I used to do movie marathons on occasion and I think our record was six. In one day. We’d study the logistics and map out the theaters and show times as well as timing our travels around the city with the precision of a general leading an invading army into battle.  I also know that there are bigger, more well-traveled, more extensively-read bloggers than I who regularly attend something called the annual “Butt-Numb-a-Thon”, where they watch movies for 24 hours straight. My point is, it was certainly no hardship to see four films in a weekend. I don’t regret spending my weekend at the movies.  I just didn’t get much else accomplished that’s all. Oh well.

First up, on Friday night, was Limitless.

It is an entertaining film as long as the viewer is able to check the 20% of their own brain currently in use at the door. There are some serious plot holes and some threads that are just left flapping in the breeze, however, it’s also a lot of fun if you can just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Bradley Cooper must have been sleeping with Director of Photography, Jo Willems.  He looks fantastic in this movie. The camera certainly makes good use of the actor’s amazing eyes.  There are lots of closeups. It’s also worth noting how much better looking he gets, the smarter he gets. As if it’s not enough that with the drug there are no limits (Limitless, get it?) to what he can do and achieve with his brain, we have to add sex into the mix or else it’s all for naught. (Apparently the filmmakers are unclear on the concept that smart and talented is sexy.)

Willems certainly wasn’t sleeping with Anna Friel. In her first scenes (which are flashbacks) I thought I was looking at Evangeline Lilly before I remembered Friel was in the movie. By the time she shows up again, she is truly unrecognizable. I know it was makeup, but sheesh. (Either that or the dissolution of her long-time relationship with David Thewlis has REALLY taken its toll!)

I don’t think I’m spoiling anything to say that Johnny Whitworth gets the Mark Strong Award for “Good Actors Cast in Tiny Parts in Big Movies”. And in this film, Friel shares it with him. I’ve been waiting for Whitworth to break out since The Rainmaker. Still waiting.  I’m hoping this will also lead to bigger things for Friel. “Pushing Daisies” was terrific, but it ended over two years ago. She’s also in the much anticipated (by me) London Boulevard. Hopefully that will see the light of day soon.

I loved Andrew Howard’s Russian gangster. A lot of the reviews I’ve read seem to be saying that an old school villain like Gennedy has no place in a movie like this, with such a modern premise.  I disagree.  Considering how he became involved with Morra, I think what came next is entirely plausible (within the unplausible context of this story.) Granted, I do have to agree that more could have been done with the character and his relationship to Cooper’s, but this wasn’t his story. And if you’re going on the ride at all, you have to be prepared to endure the bumps.

I have to say DeNiro is more DeNiro than we’ve seen in a long time, but he’s still not as DeNiro as he could have been. This was the DeNiro of Righteous Kill not Heat (to contrast two films with both DeNiro and Pacino).  Regardless, he’s always a joy to watch.

Abbie Cornish was underutilized. JMHO, but anyone could have played Lindy. Maybe you disagree.

I really enjoyed the trippy techno soundtrack music. I think I’ll have to see the movie again before I decide whether or not to add it to my collection.

I have to say, Roger Ebert summed up Limitless perfectly: “{It} only uses 15, maybe 20 percent of its brain. Still, that’s more than a lot of movies do.” I recommend it, although it will lose nothing in the translation from big screen to home viewing.

On Saturday morning, me and a handful of geeks bounced into the theater to see Paul. I’m quite sure some of them had already seen it at least once. The excitement in the air was tangible. The movie did not disappoint. It was, in a word, hilarious. The script, co-written by its two stars, must have contained a reference to every sci-fi movie made in the last 30+ years. (I’m sure I missed some of the references and will have to see it again if I hope to catch them all.) Filming part of the movie at Comic Con (and indeed using it as the jumping off point for the plot) was inspired. It was obviously a labor of love and a valentine of sorts to comic book geeks and sci-fi nerds.

Seth Rogan as the voice of Paul, is pitch perfect. I honestly can’t remember when, since "Freaks and Geeks", that I’ve enjoyed a performance of his more.  It’s also evident in his voice that he was enjoying himself as well. Indeed, it looked to me like everyone involved was having a great time. Perhaps that’s because I was following Simon Pegg’s Tweets while they were making the film, but I don’t think so.  I suspect there will be one hell of a blooper reel on the dvd (or at least I hope so.)

I’m trying to remember a comedy team with which to compare Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Their timing can be compared to Abbot and Costello or Martin and Lewis, and Nick Frost certainly has the sweet charm of a Lou Costello or 50’s era Jerry Lewis, but Simon Pegg is nowhere near as arch as Bud Abbott or as suave as Dean Martin. Over the course of three films and a television series, their chemistry has not been diluted at all, probably owing to the fact that they are close friends. Some of the best laughs in Paul come from just a look or a tilt of the head between them. Indeed, the bromance is at the heart of the film. Not only is it laugh out loud funny, it is also very sweet, in an ET kind of way, as well as a ‘we all have to grow up sometime and realize our true potential’ kind of way.

While I don’t remember most of the soundtrack, I will say it was nice to hear some ELO again.

I recommend this one as well and again, I don’t think it will lose much in the translation to home viewing.

After the credits rolled on Paul, I went immediately in to see The Lincoln Lawyer.

The opening credits of a film should be used to set the tone for the movie, but rarely are they to such good effect as for this film.  We get our first taste of the incredible 70’s flavored R & B soundtrack that is to come and the bold graphics reminded me of countless movies from the 70’s from Shaft to Death Wish to Prime Cut. I even got a bit of an Across 110th Street vibe, although that one is set in New York and this is totally an LA movie.

I’ve read a couple of references in reviews of this movie to both The Long Goodbye with Elliot Gould and Twilight (Not the one with the vampire angst, the one with Paul Newman, Gene Hackman and James Garner.)

The former is an updated (at the time) take on Raymond Chandler from the 70’s in which Gould played Philip Marlowe and the latter is about an aging ex-cop turned PI. It was made in the late 90’s, but they share a "feel" with this movie. It was definitely this particular flavor of LA that the director was going for.

I knew nothing of Brad Furman before this film and judging from his CV on imdb, there’s not much to know. I’m not sure what anyone saw in him to make them think he was capable of making a multi-million dollar movie, let alone one with any nuance, but, JMHO, I think their faith was justified. I really like what he did with this. 

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The story itself was one you’d think would be more at home on the mean streets of New York, but instead they used LA (because the writer of the books did, I realize) and made it almost another character.

The color palette was very muted, almost washed out. This was the LA where ordinary people live and work. As McConaughey’s character Mick Haller rolled down the streets in his late model Lincoln, he did so past railroad tracks and cement gulleys (like in To Live and Die in LA) or small houses.  It was all very sun bleached, not quite seedy, but by no means glamorous. (I actually think the house in the hills in which Haller lived was used in Twilight, although I won’t swear that was the film.) They seemed to be using natural lighting.  Everyone, with the exception of the preternaturally cool Ryan Phillippe’s character, had a sheen of sweat that would come from existing in the heat of Southern California.

I can never get enough of William H. Macy. He’s one of the most talented actors alive and when he shows up looking like he could be Easy Rider-era Dennis Hopper’s younger brother, you know you’re in for a treat. He’s not on screen for nearly long enough. The same can be said of Michael Pena and John Leguizamo, who tones down the crazy in this one. Speaking of toning down the crazy, Frances Fisher finally dimmed her hair color so she looks less frightening. Ironic.

Uber-Douche played an Uber-Douche (although to be fair he was also a sociopath. Not sure if he is in real life or not.) I suppose I ought not to continue to refer to Ryan Phillippe in this manner, but I thought I should carry it through from my last post. I just don’t get his appeal. What was “pretty” in his 20s is now just “soft” in his 30s, and it’s just too much and yet not enough for me to take seriously.

I do have to say, that Marisa Tomei looks incredible. Better than she did at 25. As an actress, she’s light years from where she was at 25 or even 29 (when she won an Oscar.)

That funky soundtrack is worth coming back to. There are some original classics, some remixes and some that were complete modern remakes and they all completely jibe with the film; a soundtrack in the truest sense. In any case, I will be adding it to my collection.

Finally, Matthew McConaughey went a long way toward redemption in my eyes with this one. Speaking of eyes, one of the things he’s always done really well is to let his emotions play through his and he uses that talent to good effect here. Even before this movie was finished, I was thinking about how I wanted more of this character.  This felt like it was somewhere in the middle of the series and I know that there are many more books featuring Mickey Haller. I want to know how he got where he was and where he’s going next. I wouldn’t mind seeing this become a franchise, as long as they continue to do them right.

The Lincoln Lawyer was not a perfect movie, but I really enjoyed it.

Finally, on Sunday morning, came the film that I was undoubtedly looking forward to the most: Jane Eyre.

Oh, Focus Features, I forgive you for so shamelessly toying with me. Your film was well worth the enhanced anticipation you created by making me wait an additional week and in fact, you had me at the title card.

Cary Fukunaga, with all of two major films on his resume has positioned himself to be a cinematic force to be reckoned with. It’s staggering, considering how young he is, to think of the career that is ahead of him. Back-handing away any notion of a sophomore slump, he followed up the beautiful Sin Nombre with the equally beautiful and haunting Jane Eyre. On the surface, these two films could not be more different, but at their core they are both about the fragility and resilience of the human spirit. Fukunaga has created a film as beautifully and deftly as any old world master would put paint to canvas.

I’ve seen many versions of this story and they all have something to recommend them. This one is my new favorite.  Screenwriter Moira Buffini’s choice to land us in the middle of the story and use flashback to fill in the gaps helped to make it seem fresh. It was the most atmospheric and gothic production, although two recent BBC versions came close, that I can recall. It was again augmented by the use of natural light, which in those days meant a few candles and a hearth.  When Jane creeps through the dark hallways of Thornefield Hall holding a single candle, we only see as much as she sees, all of us waiting for something to jump out of the darkness. There is an instance where the entire audience did jump and it happens in broad daylight (well, as broad as it gets in the north of England,) but I won’t spoil it here.

The chemistry between the two leads was palpable from their first exchange. When they are onscreen together, everything and everyone else falls away. This scene that I showed you a few weeks ago, encapsulates all of that (and would have shown again if my post weren’t "too big".)

What I said at the time,This is the hottest piece of celluloid that I have seen in a LOOOOOONG time. I can’t stop watching it. And every time I do, I sit here with my mouth agape and my chest heaving with the effort to resume the breath caught in my throat, a hot tickle in my stomach…

TMI? Or the ultimate compliment to the palpable sexual allure of Michael Fassbender, an allure that has heretofore not so much remained hidden, but severely underutilized.”

I thought I was prepared. I thought I’d seen it so often that the magic had worn off, that I couldn’t possibly “feel it” the way I did the first time I saw it. I was wrong. Think about the frame of that scene a thousand times larger, with that voice booming out in Dolby THX (or whatever the hell the sound system at your local theater is)…imagine that and you’ll begin to get an inkling. It not only still took my breath away, but it rocked me to my toes. It was quite simply…erotic. Considering that the participants were both fully clothed and only their hands touched, that’s saying something.

Beyond all of that, (and frankly because of all that, Fassbender and Wasikowska could have been acting on a bare stage,) the English country side was used to spectacular effect. Just as LA became another character in The Lincoln Lawyer, so did the moors of northern England in Jane Eyre. It is easy to forget that England is geographically such a small country when there seem to be so many vast areas that appear to remain untouched, natural and wild and mostly uninhabited. In the film, as in the novel, the harsh landscape is a reflection of Jane’s life. We see it flower and bloom very briefly when Jane does, but for the most part it is harsh and unyielding.

The supporting cast, led by Dame Judi Dench as the housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax and Jamie Bell as St.John Rivers, is all marvelous, as is befitting a movie made in a country where it appears every one of its citizens lives to act.

I must also mention the score by Oscar winner Dario Marianelli. (He won in ’07 for Atonement and was nominated for 2005’s Pride and Prejudice.) Gorgeous, just gorgeous. Actually, lush is a better word.  It’s not too early for me to predict another nomination.

JMHO, but the entire thing was utterly swoon-worthy and I can’t wait to see it again. It goes without saying that I highly recommend this one and I’d go so far as to say, see it, if at all possible, on the big screen. It will no doubt play well at home, but the sight and sound of 10 ft. tall Fassbender is worth the price of the ticket.

May I also just reiterate what a joy it is to see a movie at an art-house where only adults go to see movies? Not only were there people waiting for the doors to open for the first showing of the day (and not just for Jane Eyre, but obscure films like Poetry,) but inside the theater you could have heard a pin drop throughout the entire movie. (Unlike Limitless where I had to endure the five kids from the nearby technical high school that acted like they were on a field trip and came in 15 min. in, parked themselves next to me in the front row and proceeded to talk to the screen and to each other the entire time. Between them and the transient loudly SNORING at the end of the row, you people are lucky you didn’t see me on the news.)

Thus endeth my weekend at the movies.

As always, thanks for reading. Next up, Win Win on Wednesday night!

Dance of the Demented Poodle

Seriously, I can’t remember the last time that there were four films opening on the same weekend that I actually want to see!

The first, of course, is Jane Eyre. I would like to be able to punish Focus Features for yanking my chain and only opening it in two markets last weekend, you know the date on all of the promotional material that’s been peppering the web for months. I can’t, however, do it to Michael Fassbender. He had nothing to do with the shenanigans of the distributor and he deserves my support. (Yes, I do realize that I would only be punishing myself. I’m not totally delusional. And frankly, I’ve been too good to be punished… well maybe…nevermind…)  Anyway, I’m going. 
Much to my surprise given the numbers it posted in two cities last week, it is only playing in two theaters in this artsy, academic, cultural mecca.  I saw the last Fassbender opus at the cool, eco-friendly art house so I think this time I’ll venture out to the old-fashioned, bohemian independent theater with the gigantic screen and red velvet drapes that dramatically part as the auditorium darkens. Seems fitting.

Next is The Lincoln Lawyer. I have not read any of Michael Connolly’s novels, although they have been recommended to me by friends. I keep meaning to. (I’d probably have gotten to them already if Ken Bruen weren’t so prolific…but I digress.) In any case, I have a soft spot for legal thrillers and an unashamed weakness for Matthew McConaughey. The finely chiseled actor Matthew McConaughey, with the piercing and intelligent blue eyes, at the height of his powers in Lone Star and another legal thriller, A Time to Kill, both from ’96. He was still there in ’97’s Contact with Jodie Foster and even up to  Frailty (a superb and too-little seen creep fest from 2001.) There were even glimpses of him in 2002’s Reign of Fire, but then came the rom coms and the pointless action adventure movies wherein Actor McConaughey was subsumed by Shirtless Himbo McConaughey, the hunk whose roles often seemed a parody of his off-screen personality.  Well, it’s 2011 and the Himbo has, if not a wife, at least a long term partner (with whom he did NOT co-star) and two small children. It’s time for an image make-over. It’s time for Actor McConaughey to take back his career. Enter The Lincoln Lawyer.  We’ll see.

I want to see Paul because I think hearing Seth Rogan’s voice coming out of that little alien is enough to warrant the price of a ticket on its own, but I absolutely adored Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Both of those films starred Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and although Paul does not have Edgar Wright at the helm, it does reteam this impeccable comic duo. While they’ve achieved some success separately, most notably Pegg played Scottie in the recent Star Trek reboot and Frost was hilarious as Dr. Dave in Pirate Radio, they are brilliant together. After Paul, they’ll next appear onscreen in Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin…  (Written by Edgar Wright and "Dr. Who" showrunner, Steven Moffat.) It also must be said that Paul director Greg Mottola comes with his own pedigree, having directed Adventureland and the waaaaay better than it had any right to be, Superbad. (His first film was The Daytrippers from ’96 with Stanley Tucci, Liev Schreiber, Campbell Scott and Hope Davis. It’s got to be on Netflix Instant by now. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend this well-written, well acted and very funny little gem.) Along with Pegg and Frost, Mottola has filled Paul with a dream cast of familiar comic actors, like Jeffrey Tambor and Jason Bateman (that he worked with on "Arrested Development".) Oh and Sigourney Weaver, too. I certainly hope her comedic skills are put to better use than in last year’s You Again. (The trailer was enough to make my eyes bleed.)

Last, but not least, is Limitless. One of its stars is in danger of forever toiling in McConahunk territory, where all that’s required of him is appearing tanned and shirtless, and occasionally strutting while being filmed in slo-mo. His co-star is hopefully using this film as a ladder with which to crawl out of the Pit of Dismal Comedies with Bad Puns for Titles. The female lead is a wonderful actress who needs to make people forget that she broke up America’s Sweetheart’s marriage to an Uber-Douche who apparently knocked up some "model" either just before or just after THEY broke up. So I have high hopes for this one. It has a great premise. What would happen if there was a pill that let us use all of our brain instead of the small fraction we actually do? Kind of like a "Flowers for Algernon" for the new millennium. I don’t yet know if they end in the same or rather, a similar way, but I’m guessing there will be consequences.

And just to prove that all roads lead to

this film contains FOUR former co-stars. There are no prizes if you can tell me who they are, (other than cyber-noogies) but you’ll have my complete admiration.