Watch: There Are Some Ruthless People in 1st Trailer for Life of Crime

 Life of Crime, Elmore Leonard, Switch, movie, trailer, Jennifer Aniston, still

Life of Crime, a film based on a novel by Elmore Leonard, premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.  Now that a release date has been set, we have the first trailer.

I am a big fan of Leonard and while it would be nice if they’d kept the title of his novel, “Switch”, in this case, it was probably because of the title of another Jennifer Aniston flick, The Switch with Jason Bateman. Ironically, the title of that movie was changed from the infinitely more interesting The Baster.

Beyond the similarities of the titles of two completely unrelated films, this trailer reminds me so much of 1986’s Ruthless People that I had to wonder if that movie was also based on Leonard’s book.   It was not, although the plots are so similar I’m surprised that Leonard didn’t sue Dale Launer, the writer of Ruthless People.  (He didn’t, but apparently the estate of O. Henry did.  Although Launer claimed that he didn’t consciously lift anything from O. Henry, it was ruled that the movie resembles “The Ransom of Red Chief'” to such a degree that O. Henry now shares script credit.)

Sure, there are details that are different, for instance the kidnappers in the earlier movie are a couple who’ve been cheated by a the nasty Dan Hedaya and kidnap his wife (Bette Midler) ” in retaliation, without knowing that their enemy is delighted they did”.

No one would ever mistake Jennifer Aniston for Bette Midler, but the plot of Life of Crime, simply put is, “The wealthy husband of a kidnapped wife doesn’t want to pay her ransom.”

Seriously, is it just me? No it isn’t. Despite the fact that no one seems to be mentioning the similarities now, back in 1986, this film was in development at 20th Century Fox with Diane Keaton attached as Mickey Dawson, but the project was shelved for that very reason.

Oh well, there will be plenty of double crosses and plot twists that could only come from the mind of the late great Elmore Leonard, so I’m in. Take look at this:

“Switch” is actually a prequel to “Jackie Brown”.  In Life of Crime, Mos Def (using his given name Yasiin Bey) and the ever-brilliant John Hawkes play younger versions of the characters played in the Quentin Tarantino film by Samuel L. Jackson and Robert DeNiro.  Pretty good casting, JMHO.

Life of Crime, directed by Daniel Schechter with Jennifer Aniston, Tim Robbins, Isla Fisher, John Hawkes, Yasiin Bey, Will Forte, and Mark Boone Junior, opens in the US on August 29.

 

 

 

 

My Thoughts on the Beauty and Brutality of 12 Years a Slave

Chiwetel Ejiofor, Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave

poster via imdb

The first time I saw Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave was during a press screening that was also attended by students from local colleges, as well as hoi polloi like me who got passes through a screening service. At the end of the film was a Q & A with the director of the Boston Museum of African American History, Beverly Morgan-Welch, and the presenter of “City Line”, a local television show that focuses on urban issues, Karen Holmes Ward. Even as my popcorn was forgotten, as my heart was in my mouth, my hands trying to stifle the sobs, I was still very aware of the audience around me, wondering what they were thinking and feeling. That viewing was all about the historical context, despite the fact that I was an emotional wreck afterward.

The movie is, quite simply, a masterpiece. Unlike James Franco, however, who seems to want to set himself up as a learned and worldly carbuncle on the butt of 21st century popular culture, I was not, am not, “beguiled” by this movie. I certainly don’t understand how anyone could see it two nights in a row. I needed a large span of time between viewings in order to thoroughly and properly process what I’d seen.

The second time, I wasn’t watching the film in anticipation of seeing one of the most talked about movies of the year, one I had been waiting for since filming began. I went back again to find out if I’d have the same visceral reaction to the brutality or whether the fact that I knew when and how it would be meted out had in any way inured my senses to it.

No, it did not. In some ways, I was even more affected by it.

There are not words to adequately describe how utterly despicable the practice of human beings purchasing, possessing, owning other human beings as if they were ‘things’, truly is. We haven’t coined the words because our minds won’t let us consciously descend far enough into darkness to fully comprehend it. In much the same way that mere words cannot convey the true horror of the Holocaust, or the genocides still being perpetrated in various parts of the world as I type this, because man’s inhumanity to man is, ultimately, incomprehensible.

It is for this reason that watching 12 Years a Slave, only Steve McQueen’s third feature film,  is an  emotional experience akin to watching Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, made all the more authentic and terrible because it is told not from the perspective of the benevolent white savior, but from that of the enslaved.

It is fact that McQueen has never made a film that was easy to sit through. You’ll probably never see his name on the poster of a film with the tag line “The Feel Good Movie of the Year!”, but unlike Shame, or even Hunger (which was also based on a true story, but one with a very different outcome), 12 Years a Slave manages to rise above the unrelenting misery it depicts to become a testimonial to the ability of a single unyielding man, not only to “survive”, but to “live”.

12 Years a Slave is the second film in two years about that American abomination that was slavery, a subject that has been largely ignored by cinema. Like Quentin Tarantino’s nearly as brilliant Django Unchained, it is agonizing and heart­breaking; a gut-twisting experience to watch. But unlike Django, the brutality is realistic, not exaggerated to, at times, comic levels. There is no intentional humor in 12 Years…. If there is any laughter at all, it is the scattered, nervous, incredulous tittering of those who don’t yet know how to believe, let alone process, what they’re seeing in front of them.

The story certainly sounds like something that sprang from a writer’s fevered imagination. Despite what we know about American History, how can it be true that a free man was kidnapped, forced into slavery and kept in captivity for twelve years without anyone believing his tale or doing all that they could to help?  This is not the time, nor place, for a political discussion of the state of race relations in this country, but your experience of this film is no doubt tinted by your experience of the world as you know it now. (Isn’t what happened to Solomon Northup really only a few steps removed from what happened to Oscar Grant III in 2008, as depicted in  Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station?)

That these things described above did happen, is the singular experience at the heart of McQueen’s film. What makes the film particularly impressive is not that it provides historical parameters for a dimension of slavery that most of us were unaware of, but that it does so by the weaving together of the smallest of details that made up Northup’s life in captivity. Each scene feels frighteningly immediate, as though it weren’t filtered through time, but exists in the present moment. This film is not only one of the best of the year, certainly, in my humble opinion, the most important, but it is  probably one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. For all of the harshness, the brutality, and the violence, it is also beautifully made.

McQueen comes from the art world and has a painter’s eye for staging and the framing of images, without resorting to flashy visual tricks. Thinking about the opening scene, we are thrust into the lush cane fields of Louisiana. We can see the thick, humid air as a group of black men, slaves, labor in the stifling heat. We don’t know any of them but we get an immediate feel for time, place and circumstance. We next see Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) attempting to use crushed berries for ink. It’s out of context and yet gives context to things we’ve only read about in history books.  McQueen then moves back in time to Northup’s nearly idyllic life pre-ordeal. How can this be the same man?

What follows is two hours chronicling nearly unimaginable suffering. Along the way, Solomon Northup, now called by the slave name, Platt, encounters nearly every facet of the experience of slaves in the pre-Civil War South. We learned from our history classes that families were torn apart, sold separately with no regard for mothers and their children. McQueen shows us what that would have felt like. I learned that it was possible for a former slave to live as the wife of her former owner. Alfre Woodard is brilliant as one such woman, existing in her own delusional bubble, blissfully ignoring the plight of those still in bondage.

Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) represents the extreme in his sadistic cruelty, nearly matched by his equally cruel wife, played by a truly scary Sarah Paulson. But there are degrees of racism. Benedict Cumberbatch as Platt’s first owner, the benevolent William Ford, gives him a violin and allows him to keep the money he earns from playing it. Does his relative kindness alleviate complicity? Ford knows and Platt knows he knows, that Platt is not just any slave, yet he does nothing to help him, for fear of losing his financial investment.

The philosophical depiction of slavery aside, what really sets McQueen’s film apart is that he refuses to flinch when it comes to depicting the violence. We cannot be kept at arms length when he pulls us in so close, whether it’s the sight of flesh and blood literally flying off of a back during an excrutiating and protracted whipping scene or watching Platt struggle to stay on his toes for hours trying to relieve some of the tension of the noose around his neck as plantation life carries on all around him.

When Solomon finally does return to his family, every day of those twelve years is worn into his face. The pain haunts his eyes. All he can think to say to them is to apologize for his long absence.   (What is amazing to me is that he is somehow able to articulate not only to them but to the rest of the world, with his book, what happened during those years.)

I have not yet seen All is Lost or even The Wolf of Wall Street, but I am, of course aware that Robert Redford has given another singular performance and of course there is talk that Leonardo DiCaprio will inevitably be nominated for yet another role in a Martin Scorsese film. I have seen Captain Phillips and I have given my opinion on Tom Hanks’ performance. I have seen the magnificent Dallas Buyers Club and oh, how I wish it had been released in another year so that Matthew McConaughey could be recognized for his towering performance.  (My thoughts on McConaughey’s talents are known to readers of this blog, but that is for another discussion.)  I adore Idris Elba and his Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is mesmerizing, but the movie itself is not entirely worthy of his efforts (nor Madiba’s legacy). I have seen Fruitvale Station and as good as I think Michael B. Jordan is, as deserving I believe him to be of a nomination, no performance has or could possibly come close to the one given by Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave.

When was the last time an actor reduced you to near-wracking sobs by doing nothing? There is a scene with no sound but the wind rustling lightly through the trees and the tall grass. Ejiofor stands still, his eyes barely moving, the camera close on his face, as the last shreds of any hopefulness seep away, replaced by the despair he’d fought for so long to keep at bay. My heart breaks again thinking about it weeks later.

Lupita Nyong’o, who played Patsey, has described 12 Years A Slave as an “emotionally taxing” acting experience. If I can say that I imagine it would be, I would also say that hers is an understatement.

Nyong’o, who made her feature debut with this film (!) has been earning across the board accolades and making the chat show rounds. (At this point she’s considered one of the few virtual locks for an Academy Award nomination.)  She told “The View”, that going to “that emotional place was so hard it was really important for me to continually remind myself that I was not Patsey after all”.

Patsey suffers abuse of every possible kind at the hands of Michael Fassbender’s plantation owner Edwin Epps.  Fassbender’s character embodies such bred-in-the-bone evil, so institutional, so palatine, as to let Epps be sanguine about his monstrosity. He treats Patsey as he does not only because she is his property, but because he loves her. And yet his other slaves might as well be furniture. Witness the casual way he leans on their heads, as if they were not living, breathing human beings.

Fassbender does something that very few actors can— he makes us believe at all times while he is on screen that anything could happen (the first time and yes, even the second time I saw the film). Every scene in which Epps appears is fraught with so much tension that we do not trust that Patsey or Northup will live through it; this despite the fact that we know that this is a true story, with a known conclusion. Fassbender has said that Epps took a physical toll on him. He even reportedly passed out after a particularly brutal scene. We may assume that an actor leaves it all on screen, but I don’t see how any thinking, feeling individual could not be affected by what was required of them, at least in this case.

That it has taken me this long to get this post finished is the reason I will never be able to do this for a living, although if the ability to crank these things out was all that stood between me and sleeping on the sidewalk, I suppose I could learn. This post was started, with thoughts rambling around my head after the first viewing, continued after the second, and has been ruminated upon ever since.   It has taken me so long that while it was widely assumed that this movie would be a major player come awards season, now that that special time of year is actually upon us, we’re beginning to get confirmation.

The entire film is packed with so much talent in even the smallest of roles, it’s obvious that they just wanted to be a part of this movie. They certainly didn’t do it for the money. I’d go so far as to say anyone could have played Bass, the role played by Brad Pitt (looking like he escaped from Amish Country), but Pitt’s name helped to get the movie made, both as a producer and on the marquee. All of that aside, the three actors mentioned here, are by far the soul of the movie and deserving of the attention they are getting.

If no one involved made the movie for the money, they didn’t do it for awards either. That said, awards speculation has been so rampant, since the film’s first festival screenings, that if I were Steve McQueen or any actor, producer or even an executive in any way associated with this film, I’d have been waiting for the other shoe to drop and the inevitable backlash to begin.  It was recently announced that 12 Years a Slave led all films with seven nominations for the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards, including best feature, director and actors Ejiofor (lead), Nyong’o (supporting) and Fassbender (supporting). As I said, when I first starting working on this post I would have assumed that there could be no doubt that these nominations would be only the beginning. After the odd choices made by the crazy quilt of critics association awards that were announced this past weekend, some of which seemed to be going out of their way to praise anything other than this film, I’m no longer sure of anything.

While we have yet to hear from The Producers, Directors and Writers Guilds, the Screen Actor’s Guild (noms for Actor, Supporting Actor & Actress and Best Ensemble Cast – their equivalent of Best Picture) and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the same 3 actor nominations as well as director, adapted screenplay, score and Best Picture – Drama – basically everything it was eligible for) have restored a bit of my faith that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will do the right thing..

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

…well it is if  you’re as addicted to film and film culture as I am. It’s the SUPER BOWL of Cinema! It’s the Oscars!

As I stated a few days ago, I do believe that there are a few certainties for the 85th Annual Academy Awards set to take place this Sunday February 24. Chief among them, Daniel Day Lewis’ win for Best Actor and Anne Hathaway’s win for Best Supporting Actress.  But that means that there are a few of the major categories still up for grabs.  That’s kind of refreshing, considering how quickly the contenders are singled out and whittled down and put into groups with labels like “front runner” or “not a prayer” etc.

Consider how many movies are released throughout the year.  A movie is declared to be “awards worthy” or in “awards contention” by the studio when it is given a coveted year end release date.  The fact that Argo has emerged as the clear front runner for Best Picture, a film released in early October, is almost as much an anomaly as the 2010 winner, Hurt Locker, was when it was released in June of 2009.

Speaking of The Hurt Locker, when the nominations were announced for The Oscars – you’ll notice that AMPAS is not calling them The Academy Awards this year, as well as downplaying the fact that it is the 85th anniversary of the awards – way back on January 10, my jaw literally dropped when that film’s director as well as the first woman to win Best Director, Kathryn Bigelow‘s name was NOT read as a nominee. That pretty much slammed the lid, in my humble opinion, on Zero Dark Thirty‘s chances for Best Picture, despite the fact that it was nominated and had, up until that point, been dominating critics awards. I think either Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild) or Michael Hanneke (Amour), both ineligible for the Directors Guild, got Bigelow’s nomination.

They snaked Ben Affleck‘s, for Argo, as well.  Bigelow had been taking those same critics awards for director until Affleck took the big one, the Critics Choice. Since then, as we all know by now, it’s been all Affleck – all the time. What the hell were Academy members thinking? It will be interesting to see how Best Director plays out. The pundits are still scratching their heads. Some are going with Spielberg by default, others Ang Lee. I’m going with David O. Russell. Oddly enough, if Lee wins he’ll have his 2nd Oscar for directing without his film winning Best Picture, as he did in 2006 when he won for Brokeback Mountain but Paul Haggis’ Crash took Best Picture. (But that’s another story.)

The Best Picture list was capped at nine. I’m not at all surprised that the overrated Amour was nominated in nearly every category for which it was eligible. It reinforces the idea that the Academy is comprised of geriatrics with nothing else to do. (Which makes all of this courting of the youth market a tad ironic.) The only film I was surprised not to see on the list was Anna Karenina, but it was recognized in the artistic categories that I predicted it would be.  Lincoln is, of course, the film with the most nods, at twelve. I’m holding in another rant, but as I’ve said before, it doesn’t make any damn sense, having as many as ten Best Picture nominees, but only five directors. Argo will (and seriously, if a movie wins the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild, the Writers Guild and the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Best Picture is in the bag) become only the fourth film to win without its director having been nominated.

It is important to remember that this is a predictions post. I predict Argo will win although my personal first choice would be Zero Dark Thirty. Argo would still be my second choice and under the Academy voting rules, that would, if I had an actual say, give it a very good chance.

The way it works is known as “Instant Runoff Voting”. It starts by asking each voter, “Of these nine Best Picture nominees, which is your favorite?”

Voters are asked to rank each of the nine from 1st to last. All of the films voted as #1 are put in various piles. If a movie secures more than half of votes cast, that movie wins on the first pass. Otherwise, the movie with the fewest first place votes is eliminated. Ballots assigned to the eliminated film are recounted and assigned to one of the remaining films based on the next preference on each ballot. This process continues until one movie wins by obtaining more than half the votes.

Head spinning yet? Back to my predictions…

It’s important to remember in the Original Screenplay category that Quentin Tarantino was not eligible for the Writer’s Guild Award which went to Mark Boal for Zero Dark Thirty. As much as I would like to believe that he will prevail again, I think QT will take the Oscar for Django Unchained.

I’ll stick with Chris Terrio and Argo in the Adapted Screenplay category, although I’d be equally happy if David O. Russell took it for Silver Linings Playbook. (If he does, he won’t get director. If he doesn’t, he probably will.)

I’m sticking with Jessica Chastain for Best Actress despite Jennifer Lawrence’s BAFTA win. They are both amazing actresses, as is Naomi Watts and before I saw Zero Dark Thirty I was in her camp. But not only does she disappear for a huge part of the movie for which she’s touted as the lead, but Jessica Chastain blew me away. Regardless of who wins, all three of these women will almost undoubtedly be nominated again. Emmanuelle Riva, who gave a beautiful performance in Amour is now the oldest (85) Best Actress nominee and going up against the youngest, Quvenzhane Wallis, who was six when she appeared in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Neither of these facts is enough, in my humble opinion, to truly compete with the other three powerhouses.

Leonardo DiCaprio wasn’t nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Django Unchained, which was another surprise, (not at all surprised the film’s star Jamie Foxx was neglected. He has been from the jump) but Christoph Waltz was, and the film was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay (although if that award went to the relative new kids on the block, Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola for Moonrise Kingdom, I would not be upset) and Best Picture. Again, no nomination for Quentin Tarantino as director (so it wouldn’t be the 1st time they threw him a screenplay bone instead, as was the case of Pulp Fiction). Waltz won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA but I think SAG winner Tommy Lee Jones is going to take the Oscar for Lincoln.

In the Best Actor Category, either Denzel Washington or Joaquin Phoenix got John Hawkes‘ nomination, although I shouldn’t be surprised by either one. I think both Joaquin Phoenix, as well as his costar Philip Seymour Hoffman, gave exceptional, understated performances. There is not a single scene in the film in which one or the other, if not both, is on screen. Their final scene together is, as it should be, the most powerful.  It consists of closeups on the two men’s faces and it had me holding my breath, watching the oh-so-subtle changes taking place. Phoenix’s characterization is almost entirely physical. He conveys nearly everything we need to know about his character from the way he walks, carries himself, even the way he holds his mouth when he speaks.

Washington was nominated for Flight not just because he’s Denzel, but also because he gave a multi-layered performance in what was ultimately an incredibly flawed movie.

Bradley Cooper‘s award was his nomination, which will surely change his career.  Kudos to David O. Russell for allowing Cooper’s “inner thespian” to shine through. Who knows he may be back next year. Early buzz on A Place Beyond the Pines is very good.

It’s all academic anyway since there’s no way in hell anyone but Daniel Day Lewis goes home with the prize. He will become the first man to win Best Actor three times.

I really want Golden Globe and BAFTA winner Brave to win Best Animated Feature. Conventional wisdom says Wreck-it Ralph (which wasn’t nominated for the BAFTA) will take it but I’m sticking.

Okay so let’s all watch on Sunday night and see how delusional I am for all of the above.  Oh, and then we all have to watch Jimmy Kimmel’s celebrated post-Oscar show.  This year he’s doing a sequel to last year’s film, “Movie the Movie 2V”. One of the stars of the “film”, Gerard Butler, talked to Total Film about it last night at the Artists for Peace & Justice Pre-Oscar Hollywood Dominoes event:

“When we asked Butler if he’d been working on anything on the day of our interview, he told us, “I’m glad you asked that question because I actually have a relatively interesting answer.

“I was with Jimmy Kimmel earlier filming his Oscar spoof thing. Basically I’m doing a piss-take of Taken. I’m looking for my baby, and I’m shouting on the phone – then you cut to a wide shot and I have my baby right in front of me… Then they gave me a flamethrower – so I had this backpack and flamethrower with a baby in tow – fighting sexy aliens.

It’s hilarious. Matt Damon was doing it, and Bradley Cooper. It’s not every day you get to throw on a baby and a flamethrower at the same time.  If there’s ever a day you want a journalist to say ‘so what have you been up to today?!’”

Movie: The Movie 2V, which will also feature Jessica Chastain, Jude Law and Amanda Seyfried:

Here’s a preview.

Movie the Movie starring Jessica Chastain, Jimmy Kimmel

And now, here’s your complete list of Oscar nominees (my predictions are in red):

BEST PICTURE

Argo

Django Unchained

Life of Pi 

Lincoln 

Zero Dark Thirty

Les Miserables

Silver Linings Playbook

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Amour

BEST DIRECTOR

Ang Lee, Life of Pi

Steven Spielberg, Lincoln

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

Michael Haneke, Amour

Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

LEAD ACTOR

Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

Denzel Washington, Flight

Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook

Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables

LEAD ACTRESS

Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty

Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

Emmanuelle Riva, Amour

Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Alan Arkin, Argo

Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook

Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master

Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Amy Adams, The Master

Sally Field, Lincoln

Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

Helen Hunt, The Sessions

Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

BEST ANIMATED FILM

Brave, Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman

Frankenweenie, Tim Burton

ParaNorman,  Sam Fell and Chris Butler

The Pirates! Band of Misfits,  Peter Lord

Wreck-It Ralph,  Rich Moore

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Anna Karenina,  Seamus McGarvey

Django Unchained, Robert Richardson

Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda

Lincoln, Janusz Kaminski

Skyfall,  Roger Deakins (If I had a vote I’d go for Deakins who deserves a win)

COSTUME DESIGN

Anna Karenina, Jacqueline Durran

Les Misérables,  Paco Delgado

Lincoln, Joanna Johnston

Mirror Mirror, Eiko Ishioka

Snow White and the Huntsman, Colleen Atwood

BEST DOCUMENTERY FEATURE

5 Broken Cameras
Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi

The Gatekeepers
Dror Moreh, Philippa Kowarsky, Estelle Fialon

How to Survive a Plague
David France, Howard Gertler

The Invisible War
Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering

Searching for Sugar Man
Malik Bendjelloul, Simon Chinn

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

“Inocente”
Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine

“Kings Point”
Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider

“Mondays at Racine”
Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan

“Open Heart”
Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern

“Redemption”
Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill

FILM EDITING

Argo,  William Goldenberg

Life of Pi, Tim Squyres

Lincoln,  Michael Kahn

Silver Linings Playbook, Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers

Zero Dark Thirty, Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Amour  Austria

Kon-Tiki  Norway

No Chile

A Royal Affair Denmark

War Witch Canada

ACHIEVEMENT IN HAIR & MAKE-UP

Hitchcock, Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane

Les Misérables, Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell

ORIGINAL SCORE

Anna Karenina Dario Marianelli

Argo Alexandre Desplat

Life of Pi Mychael Danna

Lincoln John Williams

Skyfall Thomas Newman

ORIGINAL SONG

“Before My Time” from Chasing Ice
Music and Lyric by J. Ralph

“Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from Ted
Music by Walter Murphy; Lyric by Seth MacFarlane

“Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi
Music by Mychael Danna; Lyric by Bombay Jayashri

“Skyfall “from Skyfall
Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth

“Suddenly” from Les Misérables
Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Anna Karenina
Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Production Design: Dan Hennah; Set Decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Bright

Les Misérables
Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson

Life of Pi
Production Design: David Gropman; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock

Lincoln
Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

ANIMATED SHORT

“Adam and Dog” Minkyu Lee

“Fresh Guacamole” PES

“Head over Heels” Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly

“Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”” David Silverman

“Paperman” John Kahrs

LIVE ACTION SHORT

“Asad” Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura

“Buzkashi Boys” Sam French and Ariel Nasr

“Curfew” Shawn Christensen

“Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)” Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele

“Henry” Yan England

SOUND EDITING

Argo, Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn

Django Unchained, Wylie Stateman

Life of Pi, Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton

Skyfall, Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers

Zero Dark Thirty, Paul N.J. Ottosson

SOUND MIXING

Argo, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia

Les Misérables, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes

Life of Pi, Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin

Lincoln, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins

Skyfall, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson

VISUAL EFFECTS

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White

Life of Pi, Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott

Marvel’s The Avengers , Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick

Prometheus, Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and M

Martin Hill

Snow White and the Huntsman, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson

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

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Michael Haneke, Amour

Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

John Gatins, Flight

Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom

Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty

And the BAFTA Goes To…

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Tonight, Sunday February 10, the 2013 EE British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs).were announced during a glitzy ceremony held at London’s Royal Opera House and hosted by Stephen Fry.

Before we get to the meat, let’s be shallow and talk fashion. (I’ve included a few pics at the bottom.)  I’ll start with one of my girl-crushes, Jessica Chastain, who killed it in a Roland Mouret dress, the color of which matched her eyes and looked flawless with her red hair and porcelain skin.

Anne Hathaway played it safe in a studded and British black Burberry number. Also in black and white (but with feathers), Elizabeth Olsen in Chanel Couture. Andrea Riseborough and Marion Cotillard chose blinding lemon yellow, the former in Vivienne Westwood, the latter in Dior Couture, the style of which was very similar to Jennifer Lawrence’s Golden Globe dress with it’s weird hidden layers. Lawrence chose Dior Couture this time as well, but it was a simple gem-studded strapless gown. (Poised, savvy, funny, scary-talented with 2 Oscar nominations to her name -hard to believe she’s only 23).

Fashion bloggers praised Gemma Arterton’s one-shouldered column Celia Kritharioti, but I thought she looked like an anemic bee. Amy Adams looked far older than her years in black lace Elie Saab while Thandie Newton looked like she got her black lace Louis Vuitton from the Frederick’s catalog. Speaking of Elie Saab, Sarah Jessica Parker, WTF were thinking?

Ben Affleck’s better half, Jennifer Garner looked gorgeous in a black and white Rolan Mouret that perfectly complimented Ben, his beard and the satin lapels of his tux. Speaking of power couples, Helen McCrory in a pale robin’s egg blue vintage Givenchy from 1963 that matched the darker blue of hubby Damian Lewis’ velvet tux. (*girly sigh*) Eddie Redmayne probably spent the ceremony throwing up because Lewis as well as Luke Evans pulled off the velvet thing better than he has. (He actually had the flu – I'm not being gross) Then there was the Prince and Princess of Wacky, Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter. (I’m disappointed she hasn’t repeated the mismatched shoe thing!)

Last but not least, I must mention the incomparable Helen Mirren. I love and adore this woman, but even more than ever for her pink hair, the twinkle in her eye and the fact that she twirled…TWIRLED…on the red carpet. That’s how I want to do 67, too.

One more thing: Someone needs to explain Paloma Faith to me. I realize she’s the British flavor of the month but 1. Why was she singing INXS’s “Never Tear Us Apart” while a montage of the year’s films (not just nominees) played behind her  and 2. WTF was on her head? The red carpet wasn’t bad enough then she plunked some sort of shrubbery slash chandelier on the top of it. Apparently this sort of fuckery is a thing with her. She’s like Lady Gaga crossed with LaVay Smith by way of the Andrews Sisters. Or something.

On to the main event: I mentioned that Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, led with ten nominations, ahead of Les Miserables and Life of Pi, which both had nine. I also made the observation that in the weeks between the BAFTA nominations and the ceremony, Lincoln appeared “almost dead in the water”. I think the results bore that out. The only award it went home with was the only sure thing of the evening: Daniel Day-Lewis for Leading Actor.

Emmanuelle Riva’s win for Leading Actress, probably the biggest shock of the night, actually works in Jessica Chastain’s favor in terms of the Academy Awards. Riva had won a couple of critics groups but Chastain, despite her loss of the Screen Actors Guild Award to Jennifer Lawrence, had won many more. If BAFTA had gone for Lawrence, I think it would be clear the Academy would too, hence my thought that Chastain is still in it. Just my humble opinion, of course. Conventional wisdom says BAFTA equals Oscar for actresses who haven’t won much else. Eg: Marion Cotillard in 2008 and Meryl Streep in 2012. We’ll see.

I gave you my picks (which are marked with ** a few days ago in this post.  Let’s see how I did, shall we? The winner is highlighted in yellow.

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

Ben Affleck’s little film-that-could has now unquestionably become an unstoppable juggernaut on a trajectory for an Oscar win. (Hyperbole? Perhaps. We’ll see on February 24.)

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

As I said, “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.”

Director Sam Mendes, upon accepting the award from Ben Affleck and Bradley Cooper said, “On behalf of the 1500+ people who made this {film} we're accepting this. We had high expectations of this film and it surpassed them all. I also have to single out the man around whom we built this film, and that's Daniel Craig.”

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

As I said, Dexter Fletcher was purely a sentimental choice. LOL

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

It’s no secret that his skill as a director has rejuvenated Ben Affleck’s career. In his acceptance speech, an effusive Affleck said “This is the second act and you’ve given me that. This industry has given me that. So I’d like to dedicate this award to anyone else who’s looking for their second act.”  Ben Affleck – Class Act.

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

As worthy as all of these screenplays are, there was no question it would be QT’s.

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

I almost changed my prediction to Argo after it’s late win at the Scripter Awards Saturday night, just on hunch, but decided to let Lincoln stand. I would have been wrong either way. This is another category that’s too close to call for Oscar night at this point. Silver Linings Playbook, Argo and Lincoln all have some critics association wins. We’ll know more on Feb. 17 when the Writers Guild hands out their prizes.

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

SUPPORTING ACTOR:

ALAN ARKIN Argo

CHRISTOPH WALTZ Django Unchained

JAVIER BARDEM Skyfall

**PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN The Master

TOMMY LEE JONES Lincoln

As I said, I stepped out on this one. Oh well. I think this seals the deal on another Oscar for Waltz.

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 was presented by Mark Strong – better than being right.

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 …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.”  Juno Temple gave a fantastic performance in William Friedkin’s Killer Joe opposite Matthew McConaughey and was in The Dark Knight Rises for about a minute. Still wanted Riseborough to get it.

BAFTA gave their Fellowship Award (the equivalent of a Lifetime Achievement Award) to Sir Alan Parker, acclaimed director of such films as Midnight Express, Bugsy Malone, The Committments, Mississippi Burning and Evita. (He also wrote a song for the soundtrack of Halloween III)

All in all, I didn’t do too badly.  14 right out of 24 categories.  That’s 58%. Eh. I've done better.  I’ll meet you back here in a couple of weeks to talk about my Oscar predictions.

 Pics are *clickable*



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