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2015 Oscar Predictions

Over the years, I’ve gone as low as 9 for 24, up to a career best last year of picking 17 of 24 (71%). The Oscars are a cruel mistress. Just when you think, “Yeah! I got this,” Crash comes along and wins Best Picture over Brokeback Mountain, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich and Capote everyone else, Sandra Bullock beats out Carey Mulligan for Best Actress, or Million Dollar Baby dominates over all contenders. So here’s my attempt to tell the Academy I know who should or will win.

Best Picture: Birdman

Best Director: Richard Linklater for Boyhood

Best Actor: Michael Keaton for Birdman

Best Actress: Julianne Moore for Still Alice

Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons for Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette for Boyhood

Best Adapted Screenplay: Damien Chazelle for Whiplash

Best Original Screenplay: Richard Linklater for Boyhood

Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki for Birdman

Best Animated Feature: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Best Foreign Film: Ida

Best Documentary Feature: Citizenfour

Best Documentary Short Subject: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Best Short Film – Animated: Feast

Best Short Film – Live Action: The Phone Call

Best Production Design: Adam Stockhausen & Anna Pinnock for The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Costume Design: Milena Canonero for The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Make-up/Hair: Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou & David White for Guardians of the Galaxy

Best Film Editing: Sandra Adair for Boyhood

Best Visual Effects: Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett & Erik Winquist for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Best Sound Editing: Richard King for Interstellar

Best Sound Mixing: Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins & Thomas Curley for Whiplash
*this is the end scene, sooooo Spoiler Alert!*

Best Original Score: Jóhann Jóhannsson for The Theory of Everything

Best Original Song: “Glory” from Selma; Music & Lyrics by John Legend & Common


10 Films to See This Summer Besides The Dark Knight Rises & The Avengers

I don’t have any reviews for this weekend. I went to a Renaissance Faire, hung out with friends and family, and I didn’t particularly want to see The Lucky One (It’s Nicolas Sparks, so it’s probably stupid, and was dragged out 45 minutes longer than needed to be by a previously unmentioned terminal disease related subplot) or Think Like A Man (looked OK, like Tyler Perry without the pandering stereotypes, but… I wasn’t interested).

So with no reviews, time for the stock filler of a TOP TEN LIST! Top 10 Films To See This Summer Besides The Dark Knight Rises & The Avengers. Those are obviously the big ones, everyone already knows about them, everybody will probably go see them. I will. I hope you do, too. You don’t need to be told about them. Here are the films that aren’t those ones that you should see this summer. It’s all releases, May through August. May starts the summer movie season, if not the solar season.

Chernobyl Diaries – May 25th

I’ve made quite a bit of fun at the expense of Oren Peli. And in my defense… not all of it’s completely undue. From the ret-conning of the Paranormal Activity plots as the sequels progress, to the lather, rinse, repeat method those films utilize to churn a new one out every year… But I was quite taken with his TV show The River, and am disappointed we won’t be getting more (though Netflix has expressed interest in picking it up and releasing new episodes). It was less of a “found footage” and more of a “Well… it was a film crew, so they shot everything.” And there was more of a narrative arc than Paranormal Activity. Which is why I’m looking forward to Chernobyl Diaries. There’s an actual plot driving this horror offering,  his crew is opting for the handheld look over the found footage look. Handheld usually means shaky-cam, which I’m definitely not a fan of. But there’s just something about Peli and his brand of horror that I can’t get enough of. Maybe it’s that it brought us out of the torture-porn era. I don’t know. But I like his stuff, and I’m actually looking forward to this one.

Prometheus – June 8th

I know this is some how being branded as an Alien prequel, which is a move I’m on the fence about. I’m all for Ridley Scott’s return to sci-fi, he’s directed two of the most influential films in the genre (the other being, of course, Blade Runner). I was listening to an interview with Prometheus writer Damon Lindelof, and as he describes it, it’s more a film that exists in the same universe and crosses over with plot/characters, but as a narrative, has little to do with the other property, in the same vein as the works of Stephen King or Quentin Tarantino. That is an easier pill to swallow concerning this film. More so… Scott directing a script penned by Lindelof, featuring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and Guy Pearce… I’m having trouble finding any fault in there.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – June 22nd

Say what you will about Wanted, I liked it, as well as director Timur Bekmambetov’s Russian horror/fantasy epics Night Watch and Day Watch. But even that’s not what has me most excited about this adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel (which if you haven’t read, I suggest you do. You’ve got 2 months to read it. GO! NOW!). Nor is it the phenomenal cast that includes Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper, Alan Tudyk, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Anthony Mackie. No, it’s the fact that this film is a) being made, and b) getting a summer tent-pole release. This is a property that is way on the extreme of genre works, and doesn’t quite have that broad, mainstream appeal. Not that that’s a bad thing. It just sets a (good) precedent for genre films to get a wider audience, and if it’s any good, could lead to more exciting films in the pipe-line.

Brave – June 22nd

Pixar has a lot of making up to do. Cars 2 was a positively dreadful film. It was a quick grab at cash. They had built up this reputation for lovingly putting quality films into the world, and almost destroyed that notion with Cars 2. That said… they look to be well on their way back into all our good graces with Brave, their first film featuring a female lead. It’s the closest they’ve come to Disney’s classic princess film model, but since this is Pixar, we know it will be anything but. Maybe I’m biased because I’m for anything that involves Scotland. With Brenda Chapman at the helm, who directed the better-than-it-gets-credit-for Prince of Egypt and a good strong voice cast, I think Pixar will return to glory with Brave.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World – June 22nd

There’s something about a people centric, apocalypse themed comedy that just screams “WHY WASN’T THIS MADE SOONER?!” There’s something sweet and charming about the trailer that grabs me and makes me want to see it. Just to see Steve Carell and Keira Knightly play off one another would be worth the ticket price alone, but then add in the brilliant ensemble supporting cast of Nancy Walls, Patton Oswalt, T.J. Miller, Gillian Jacobs, Connie Britton, Rob Corddry and many more, and this a sure-fire crowd pleaser. To top it off, it’s non-franchise, non-sequel, non-book, non-unoriginal… everything the internet forums could possibly want in a film.

The Amazing Spider-Man – July 3rd

Swing the pendulum the other way from Seeking a Friend…, here comes a reboot of a franchise we last saw just 5 short years ago, Spider-Man. The first and second Raimi/Maguire Spider-Man films were what ushered in comic-book era of films. They’re still landmarks in the genre and stand as some of the best of the super-hero films. The third one was a ridiculous piece of crap that did it’s best to undo all that the first two had built up. I still don’t know how I feel about a reboot this soon after the previous franchise… but director Marc Webb helmed the fantastic (500) Days of Summer a few years back, and with Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans and Denis Leary (a particularly inspired bit of casting for Cpt. Stacy) in roles, and studying the trailer like the good little Spider-fan I am, it’s hard not to feel excited about it.

Savages – July 6th

Where 09 was the year of Sam Worthington, 2012 seems to be the year the studios are trying to push Taylor Kitsch. Two big budget action films (the bomb John Carter and May’s Battleship, which let’s say bombs, too, probably), and a stylized Oliver Stone drug drama. I’m not alone in not buying Taylor Kitsch as the next big thing, but it’ll be cool if he’s able to get a Emile Hirsch thing going. Flying under the radar, but doing consistently solid work. That’s why I’m looking forward to Savages. I like Oliver Stone, though he has been hit & mostly miss for the past decade or so. But when a good ensemble cast (including Kitsch and Hirsch, Aaron Johnson, Blake Lively, John Travolta, Salma Hayek, Uma Thurman and Benicio del Toro) and solid script come together, he can actually make quite the compelling film.

Ted – July 13th

Seth MacFarlane’s a love him or hate him kinda guy (as far as his career goes). There’s not much middle ground. I enjoy his work. Sure Family Guy isn’t the same show we fell in love with in 1999, and The Cleveland Show has been a gigantic piece of shit since day 1, but American Dad has actually gotten much better since its freshman season. And if you haven’t listened to his 2011 album “Music Is Better Than Words,” do so, right now, it’s amazing. Anyway, now we get to see how his comedic stylings translate to the big screen. I’m sure we won’t get cutaway gags, and rapid fire pop culture references, but that bawdiness, that crudeness, yet still something faintly intelligent, will all be there. And it’s Mark Funkybunchberg talking to a teddy bear! That’s hilarious. If you’re on the fence about Wahlberg doing comedy, see I Heart Huckabees (which would have been lost without him) and The Other Guys.

The Bourne Legacy – August 13th

I’m a huge fan of the Bourne franchise, as it completely revitalized the spy genre which limped through the post-Cold War 90s trying to find its relevance. What excites me is that this builds on the established story, bringing back established characters Noah Vosen and Pam Landy (David Straitharn and Joan Allen, respectively) while introducing us to Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), another agent in the Treadstone project who’s “gone rogue.” I’m most intrigued by the addition of both Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton, two phenomenal actors who we haven’t heard much from lately. Tony Gilroy steps up from writer to director, as he has written all of the Bourne films to-date. I’m approaching with caution, only because it lacks Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass, who built the franchise.

Lawless – August – 31st


Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy in Lawless

I still don’t know if it’s Lawless or The Wettest County in the World, but last I checked it was Lawless, so that’s what we’ll call it from here on out. But this is a new Prohibition Era film from John Hillcoat, longtime collaborator with Nick Cave, and director of The Proposition in 05 and The Road in 09, both fantastic and you should definitely check those out. Tom Hardy and Guy Pearce anchor a cast that also features Shia “I Hate the 80s” LaBeouf, Mia Wasikowska and recent Oscar nominees Gary Oldman and Jessica Chastain. It’s got a solid pedigree, with a script from Nick Cave (who wrote a script for a Gladiator sequel I would actually want to see, see item #1). This could be one of those quite summer releases that’ll gain some traction heading into the Oscar race, let’s just hope it doesn’t get tragically left in the dust like 2011’s Drive.

83rd Annual Academy Award Nominations

Like most film buffs, I awoke yesterday morning at the crack of  8am when my alarm went off, shuffled around, did my morning routine, got my coffee on, ate a yogurt (part of my New Years Resolution to be more like Michael Westen) caught the end of the Saved By The Bell episode when Zack accidentally knocks over Screech’s parents’ bust of Elvis, then gambles away Screech’s dog… not the best episode, but OK. And THEN, at 8:30, I turned to the Oscar nomination announcement ceremony.

My take is one of watching from the sidelines, having not seen all of the nominated films, nor even all of the Best Picture nominees (will be at 8 of 10 this weekend), but being a fan of not only film as an art, but the Oscars as a celebration of the art, I want to chime in, have my say.

I’m going to focus on the Big 5 (Picture, Director Writing, Actor, Actress, and technically 6, since there are 2 writing categories) & the supporting role categories, because I’d be lost trying to dissect “Best Documentary – Short Subject.”

As for locking in my predictions, that will happen a week before the ceremony on February 27th.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

127 Hours; The Social Network; Toy Story 3; True Grit; Winter’s Bone

It’s interesting that Toy Story 3 got the nod for adapted screenplay, as it, according to the rule, is based on the screenplay for the 95 original. I don’t see it, but hey, I don’t make the rules, or nominate films. But looking at the list, I’d say Toy Story 3 is the only serious contender to upset Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant script for The Social Network.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Another Year; The Fighter; Inception; The Kids Are All Right; The King’s Speech

This is a category that’s just wide open. All the scripts are just so different, with their own merits and nuances. But ultimately, it’s a three-way race between the heavy family drama of The Fighter, the sometimes comedic character study of The King’s Speech, or the intricacies of Inception.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams for The Fighter; Helena Bonham Carter for The King’s Speech; Melissa Leo for The Fighter; Hailee Steinfeld for True Grit; Jacki Weaver for Animal Kingdom

As with most of the major categories, there were snubs. And as with most of the major categories, the field just became too crowded to fit them all. Who would you swap, and why? Personally, the two biggest snubs for Supporting Actress are Mila Kunis in Black Swan, who keeps pace with Natalie Portman (who did get a nomination) and Chloe Moretz in Kick Ass who  exhibited a reckless bravado that blindsides you when you realize that she was (at the time of filming), in fact, a mere 11 years old. But who do you kick out? Steinfeld, who showcased a calm intensity against Bridges & Damon? Weaver? Bonham Carter?

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Christian Bale for The Fighter; John Hawkes for Winter’s Bone; Jeremy Renner for The Town; Mark Ruffalo for The Kids are All Right; Geoffrey Rush for The King’s Speech

This one was a much less crowded field, only if you discount just about everyone from The Social Network. It seems almost criminal to have left out Andrew Garfield or Armie Hammer and, to a lesser extent, even Justin Timberlake. But like the Supp. Actress category… who would take out? Renner? It seems more criminal that he’s the lone nomination for the superb The Town. Ruffalo?

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Annette Bening for The Kids Are All Right; Nicole Kidman for Rabbit Hole; Jennifer Lawrence for Winter’s Bone; Natalie Portman for Black Swan; Michelle Williams for Blue Valentine

This is another crowded category (which is surprisingly unusual) where you could bemoan the snubs, but who would you take out. The biggest snub I’m hearing is Julianne Moore instead of Annette Bening for The Kids Are All Right. I’ll reserve my judgement after I see it this weekend. I’m also disappointed in, again, no love for Chloe Moretz, this time for her raw, emotional and entirely beautiful performance in Let Me In, achieving emotional highs that elude actresses more than double her age and experience. Ultimately, this category belongs to Natalie Portman.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Javier Bardem for Biutiful; Jeff Bridges for True Grit; Jesse Eisenberg for The Social Network; Colin Firth for The King’s Speech; James Franco for 127 Hours

Lead Actor will essentially come right down to the wire. Firth is the heavy favourite, coming into this with two previous nominations and a multiple wins for this role, but I think newcomer Eisenberg will be the spoiler. The Social Network is a strong contender in all categories, and Eisenberg breathed life into not only the character (or, caricature? perhaps) of Mark Zuckerberg, and the story of Facebook. But Bridges and Bardem are previous winners, and Franco could also prove to be a viable dark horse. Perhaps the biggest acting snub belongs to this category with the absence of Mark Wahlberg, considering The Fighter picked up nominations everywhere else. But, yet again, the slogan for this year’s Oscars is “Who would you bump?”

Best Achievement in Directing

Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan; Ethan & Joel Coen for True Grit; David Fincher for The Social Network; Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech; David O. Russell for The Fighter

This boasts a stellar, and interestingly diverse cast of characters, who all have their own distinct style. Unfortunately, this also contains a major snub, and the “Who would you bump?” question is easier to answer. As much as it pains me to say this, as I’m a huge fan of their work, I’d drop the Coen Brothers in favour of the more finely orchestrated work of Christopher Nolan on Inception.

Best Motion Picture of the Year

127 Hours; Black Swan; The Fighter; Inception; The Kids Are All Right; The King’s Speech; The Social Network; Toy Story 3; True Grit; Winter’s Bone

Last year, the Academy started to experiment with expanding the Best Picture category to 10 nominees, in a bid to bridge the gap between audiences and voting members, and to a degree it worked. And I think we’re slowly seeing a trickle down that could, over time, open up the other categories to “non-traditional” Academy movies. The race is still wide open, with no clear front-runner. The Social Network is the heavy favourite for this category, but The King’s Speech is gaining momentum, with The Fighter and Black Swan also on track to be spoilers, and you can’t, of course, count out the great Toy Story 3.

Movies I’m Looking Forward to in 2011 part 4 of 4

What movies am I looking forward to as we close out 2011, here they are, the flicks of October through December!


Real Steel – It’s robots boxing. While it may be an expanded episode of “Futurama,” a decent enough cast could make this an enjoyable popcorn flick.

Rum Diary – Johnny Depp made a promise to Hunter S. Thompson that he’d make sure Rum Diary made it to the silver screen, and come October, we may finally see that promise fulfilled. I’m excited to see Bruce Robinson’s return to directing following a nigh 20 year absence.

Rum Diary


11-11-11 – Sure it seems gimmicky to title your movie after it’s proposed release date, and construct an entire plot around it. And sure it could be another 2012, but I’m giving this horror thriller the benefit of the doubt till more details emerge and a trailer is released.

The Muppets – Jason Segel got the job of writing the screenplay and some music for this new muppets movie after his work in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I love the muppets, and I’m hoping this could lead to a full length Dracula musical.

The Muppets

December –

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – I’ve liked the original Swedish trilogy so far, I’ll be seeing …Hornet’s Nest at the end of the month, but I’m less cautious about this remake. Let Me In and True Grit proved that you can do well by readapting the source material. I think we’re in good hands with David Fincher directing. What’s going to be key is Rooney Mara’s take on Lisbeth Salander.

Movies I’m Looking Forward to in 2011 part 3 of 4

Part 3 of the ongoing blog postings about the movies of 2011, we’re now in quarter 3, July to September


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 – To be fair, the franchise hasn’t been as good as it was with Prisoner of Azkaban, but part 1 of Deathly Hallows was up there, and it’s been a surprisingly consistent franchise (except for Half Blood Prince). I think this will be  a fitting end to the franchise.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Captain America: The First Avenger – Much like Zack Snyder, sometimes I feel like I’m in the minority with Chris Evans, but I like the guy. As with Thor, I applaud Marvel’s ambition, and I’m hoping this project pays off, big time, for them.

Captain America: The First Avenger

Cowboys & Aliens – I love alien invasion films. I like westerns. With a cast that includes Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig and Sam Rockwell, and Jon Favreau in the director’s chair, I’ve got high hopes for this niche blockbuster.


The Darkest Hour – Like I said, I love alien invasion movies, and this appears to be a bleaker take on the subgenre, with Emile Hirsch leading an impressive young cast. But truly, I’m looking forward to seeing Chris Gorak’s follow-up to 2006’s underrated Right At Your Door.

30 Minutes or Less – The most exciting aspect of this comedy crime film is the reuniting of Zombieland director Ruben Fliescher and his star Jesse Eisenberg.


Colombiana – The films that come out of Luc Besson’s crew of writers and directors are always a guilty pleasure (or regular pleasure) of mine, and with Zoe Saldana in the lead, this could be a fun late summer escapist film.

Drive – Ryan Gosling strays from his indie safe house to do a B-Action movie, but could elevate it to be the right amount of cheese as we head into the fall. I’m expecting big things from Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn’s major American debut.

Movies I’m Looking Forward to in 2011 part 2 of 4

Building on yesterday’s entry, the movies I’m looking forward to in the second quarter of 2011, April to June.


Super – I’m a fan of James Gunn, I like off book superhero stories (Kick Ass, Defendor) and a good strong cast including Rainn Wilson (who’s much better than what Dwight has become), Ellen Page and Nathan Fillion make this one of my most anticipated films of the year.

Scream 4 – Say what you will about Wes Craven’s last picture (the so-so at best My Soul To Take), the man’s a legend, and the Scream trilogy is one of the best and most consistent horror franchises. I’m looking forward to this with cautious optimism. Can it call back to true satirical spirit of the original, or will it cave in to the constructs of the genre like the third? We’ll find out in April.

Your Highness – I think the best way to describe this is… Why not? James Franco and Natalie Portman are terrific actors, Danny McBride has been a great second fiddle for the past few years, why not make a raunchy Medieval comedy. Could go either way, but chances are good.


Thor – I applaud Marvel’s ambition in rolling out their heavy weights as one big franchise. Iron Man 2 was troubled, but still good, same with The Incredible Hulk. With a strong cast, a great director, and a relative unknown in the lead, this teeters on the brink, but I think it’ll be well received.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – I think this is what the third movie should have been, instead of one film spread out over two movies. A singular, stand alone narrative. The only thing that truly worries me is Rob Marshall replacing Gore Verbinski in the director’s chair.

The Hangover II – When The Hangover came out, it was one of those films where everything came together to be a truly funny movie, that didn’t hold back, and certainly didn’t take the easy way out. Can the crew catch lightning in a bottle again? With everyone on board for a second venture, this time to Thailand, let’s hope so.

The Hangover II


X-Men: First Class – The third film and Origins: Wolverine were disappointments, but with fresh eyes and talent, here’s hoping they can revive the franchise. Especially with James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Professor X and Magneto, respectively.

Super 8 – The new J.J. Abrams film is shrouded in mystery, but should we expect anything less from Abrams? After Cloverfield, Star Trek and “Lost,” I’ll follow him anywhere.

Cars 2Cars is perhaps my least favourite Pixar film (not that it’s bad, just… not as good) and probably the least deserving of a sequel. Should we be worried that their production slate features only one (Brave) original film, of three (the other being Monsters, Inc. 2) to be released between now and the end of 2012? I hope not, but it doesn’t inspire optimism. But Pixar has a proven track record, and they won’t jump in without making sure the story is worth it, first.

Movies I’m Looking Forward to in 2011 part 1 of 4

I closed out 2010 with a look back on the films that made up the year, but here are the films I’m looking forward to in the first quarter of 2011, January through March. Unfortunately, the movie calendar doesn’t start to get exciting till March.


The Green Hornet – I’m approaching this with cautious optimism. Sure it could end up being mostly forgettable, but Seth Rogan in a genre shift, the great Christoph Waltz back in villain mode and visionary director Michel Gondry, the stars may align on this one.


Unknown – I get a distinct Frantic meets Taken vibe off of this one, but both were tight thrillers and I’m a Liam Neeson fan, so we’ll have to see where this one goes. The inclusion of Diane Krueger is also enticing.


Rango – Gore Verbinski re-teams with his Pirates of the Caribbean crew and star to bring us this interesting animated feature.

The Adjustment Bureau – It’s a sci-fi thriller with a great cast in Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. It could be a modest hit, but the trailer looks good.

Apollo 18 – A smallish sci-fi flick from Spanish director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego. It’s another “found footage” style film, but handled right, it could be the best of the sub-genre.

Poster for Apollo 18

Battle: Los Angeles – This looks like the film that 2010’s Skyline wanted to be, but didn’t because it was horrible every step of the way. Mature sci-fi has seen a resurgence over the past few years and I’m hoping this keeps the tradition alive.

Paul – The comedy giants from both sides of the pond join forces for this geek-tastic film. Simon Pegg & Nick Frost team up with Seth Rogan and director Greg Mottola (Superbad and Adventureland).

Sucker Punch – I get the feeling that I stand in the minority as far as Zack Snyder goes, but I’m a big fan of the guy. He’s one of the most visually exciting directors around, he  has tight plots, great characters. He’s just had the misfortune of adapting properties with built-in fan bases (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen) that didn’t like HIS vision. So I’m excited for his first original work.