Sunday, May 31, 2015

Oscars: Tribute To The Fallen: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Tribute To The Fallen where I discuss films that weren't nominated at the Oscars and discuss why I think they should've gotten recognition. Since this is my 450th post, I figured since I enjoy discussing the Oscars, I'd create another post. regarding them. Today's film that I will discuss is the 2014 sci-fi pic Edge of Tomorrow. 

While sci-fi films often do get nominated, it is often in the typical tech categories and not in many of the major categories. This film was certainly worthy of recognition in the Visual Effects category. But there are a few major categories I think it deserved a stronger push in. One is Best Film Editing because of how the constant going back to the same place after Tom Cruise's character keeps dying structures the film like it is a video game bringing the main hero back to the same checkpoint. Much more inventive than the editing of films like American Sniper which was nominated.

There is also Best Adapted Screenplay. For those of you who don't know, Edge of Tomorrow was based on a graphic novel called "All You Need Is Kill" and while I haven't read the novel, books and films are still two different mediums and the writers of this film seem to have translated the pages to the script well as the writers develop a complex arc for the main hero who tries to become a better fighter. Plus, the film combines elements of sci-fi, drama, and even humor.

Lastly, there is Best Actress or Supporting Actress for Emily Blunt. First off, I just want to say that I am sick of people saying that the female categories are always weak and difficult to fill. I mean, look at last year with Blunt's performance for example. She creates a complex character with Rita Vratarski by offering a blend of heroic badassery and dramatic depth. Yet they still nominated Meryl Streep for being Meryl Streep and Felicity Jones for playing the clich├ęd straight laced wife. Thankfully, she still won the Critics Choice Award for Best Actress in an Action Movie for her troubles. So, there are some fascinating and complex female performances out there. People just need to use their thinking caps and look harder.

So those are my thoughts on why I think Edge of Tomorrow deserved some Oscar love. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Double Decker: Alien (1979) and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956)

Hello, Bloggers, after having seen two classic alien features, I figured I'd provide reviews of them for you folks. Before I did a Triple Crown of reviews, but for this one, I will do a double feature or Double Decker if you will. These two films are the 1979 film Alien and the original Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.

                                             Alien (1979):
         Alien is a rather claustrophobic horror film that manages to weave in various horror elements as it is a creature feature involving a body count with body horror added in while it solves the problem of the haunted house as it has the main characters trapped in a spaceship. The genius of its scares is not just the creature itself, but how director Ridley Scott incorporates simple techniques like dark corners, the sound of a heart beating when danger approaches, and the horror of suggestion as a lot of the victims are killed off-screen. I also liked the creature designs of the different aliens and how they are all practically designed as I have made it known that I prefer practical over CGI effects.

    There is also quite a sense of humanity present, meaning you care about the characters that are given distinct personalities. The performances by the cast are also astounding especially Sigourney Weaver as the main and now iconic heroine Ripley. So overall, Alien is an essential classic that features terrific performances, precise direction, and is bound to frighten, whether you are a fan of creature features or haunted house films as this offers the best of both worlds.

Grade: A+
                     Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956):
        Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a timeless classic that still captures the era it was filmed in as the antagonistic "pod people" taking over the inhabitants of a small town turning them into mindless drones was served as an allegory for communism and McCarthyism due to the film's main protagonists trying to fight the pod people or "take a stance against the communists" so to speak. But its horror elements lie in its subtlety. When you notice the change in the behavior of some of the citizens in the small town, that creates an uneasy feeling. I also loved the design of the "pod people". One of my favorite scenes in the film is the one in the greenhouse where the main characters see the pod people coming out of their shells and forming into human duplicates. The effects looked very real and if I were to remake this film, I would do something similar to what they did here. So, Invasion of the Body Snatchers proves just how less is more. Its thematic material captures the horrors of its era that might still be relevant today and what the effects lack in grand scope, they make up for in authenticity.

Grade: A

Friday, May 29, 2015

Oscars: Tribute To The Fallen: Shame (2011)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Tribute To The Fallen where I discuss films that weren't nominated at the Oscars, yet in my opinion should have. My next film I will be discussing is the 2011 addiction drama Shame. 

Before I start, I just want to say that hopefully whoever was running the Oscar campaign for this movie was fired because this movie was horrifically snubbed across the board and not just Best Actor, which I will get into shortly. The fact that Michael Fassbender was snubbed for Best Actor will go down in history as one of the worst snubs in the past 20 years and possibly one of the worst ever. Fassbender gave an absolute master class performance that is literally and figuratively full-bodied. But I guess in hindsight, it isn't too surprising he, and the film, got shut out.

The Academy is mostly made up of old white males that were likely uncomfortable with the constant sight of Michael's, ahem..Fassbender. Not only that, but the film itself is pretty grim and raw as it gives us a glimpse into the horrors of sex addiction as well as the battered bond between the main character and his sister, Sissy. So, they can occasionally nominate films like Gone Girl or Requiem For A Dream that are also pretty pessimistic, but they can't nominate Shame because it's grim, has male nudity, and is even NC-17. I find it difficult to believe since this is the same Academy that nominated A Clockwork Orange and Midnight Cowboy for Best Picture.

But not only do I think Fassbender should've got nominated for Best Actor (heck, he should've WON), but it also deserved nods for Best Picture, Best Director for Steve McQueen, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Supporting Actress for Carey Mulligan, Best Original Score, Best Editing, and even Best Sound Mixing.

So those are my thoughts on why I think Shame deserved better than the treatment it received. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Oscars: Tribute To The Fallen: Rust and Bone (2012)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Tribute To The Fallen where I discuss films that weren't nominated at the Oscars and go into why I think they should've gotten in. Today's film is the 2012 French love story Rust and Bone. 

Now, this one came very close to getting in for Best Actress for Marion Cotillard, who got notices everywhere else (BFCA, Globes, SAG, BAFTA). But her name was missing from the final lineup. How could she have missed out, though? Her performance ticked a few important boxes as she is a previous Oscar winner playing a person with a disability. But it just so happened that there was another French actress playing a person with a disability in a film that was beloved more by the Academy, Emmanuelle Riva in Amour. So, I'm guessing they thought there was only room for one French actress. Plus, these days, playing a disabled person isn't always a sure bet. Just ask Jennifer Aniston and John Hawkes.

Another strike that was hit against Rust and Bone, in my opinion, was that there was another "hot messes find love" film in the mix: Silver Linings Playbook. Not only that, but that film was much more starry, had Harvey Weinstein behind it, and its filming style was much more sporadic with its acting and even its editing. But Rust and Bone has a more restrained filming style with the main actors giving subtle performances and the film not having any flashy, quick cuts or anything like that. Director Jacques Audiard just has the camera keep rolling.

Not only that, but the two main characters in Rust and Bone, Ali and Stephanie, aren't necessarily as redeemable as Silver Linings Playbook's Pat and Tiffany and the acting styles of both Cotillard and Matthias Schonaerts are much more reserved and less in your face. Usually, Academy voters like performances that are literally loud and sporadic which is part of the reason Jennifer Lawrence won Best Actress for her Tiffany. But despite the fact that Ali and Stephanie aren't as redeemable, they are still very complex and multi-faceted characters and it would've been interesting to see them recognize a rather unconventional couple or anti-couple if you will since even though it may be categorized as a love story, it isn't entirely about love.

Another difference between these two films is their respective endings. Ali and Stephanie do (*spoiler alert*) end up holding hands by the time the film ends, making it a somewhat happy ending, but the end of Silver Linings Playbook has Pat and Tiffany finally kissing while Pat and his family win the big parlay. Its ending is much more Hollywood.

Not only do I think Rust and Bone was deserving of a Best Actress nom, but possibly even Best Actor for Matthias Schonaerts which would make sense considering how the two actors play off one another. There is also Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Director, and maybe even Best Film Editing for its smooth pacing. They may have recognized Amour, another French film, across the board. But in my opinion, Rust and Bone is much better.

So those are my thoughts on why I think Rust and Bone deserved some Oscar love. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Top 10 Best Actors Working Today

Hello, Bloggers, since I just did my list of who I feel are the best actresses working today, here is my list of who I think are the top 10 best actors currently working. Just as a heads up, names like Daniel Day-Lewis and Tom Hanks will not make this list. Just like how I omitted Meryl Streep from my actresses list, it seems like a cliche to include names like DDL, Hanks, or even De Niro since we already know how great those acting legends are. So, I figured I'd think outside the box and include those that don't get an equal amount of praise. Here we go:

10. Matthew McConaughey: Who knew that after 2011, McConaughey would go from a Hollywood punchline after all those rom-coms he did to one of the most interesting actors in the biz? During his McConaissance, he stole his one scene in Wolf of Wall Street, took on a complex yet self-effacing turn as male stripper Dallas in Magic Mike, took us to outer space in Interstellar, and of course delivered a career-best performance as AIDS victim Ron Woodruff in Dallas Buyers Club. He may have had an apparent hiccup with Sea of Trees, but judging by his upcoming slate of projects, I'm sure the McConaissance will live on.

9. Ralph Fiennes: Fiennes has become one of Hollywood's go-to guys for villainous roles like Lord Voldemort, Francis Dolarhyde, and of course, his breakthrough role as Amon Goeth in Schindler's List. But whether he makes us laugh as Gustave H. in The Grand Budapest Hotel, (possible spoiler alert) acts as the new M in the Bond franchise, or even swoons as a romantic lead like in The English Patient while still being the best thing about that awful movie, he will remind audiences that he doesn't always have to get down with his bad self.

8. Jake Gyllenhaal: While I have always been fond of his work, what made him jump into my list of the ten best working today was his performance in Nightcrawler. A completely game-changing and transfomative performance in any sense of the word that is bound to have people hooked and, like myself, take note of his next move.

7. Mark Ruffalo: One thing that I really enjoy about Mark Ruffalo's acting is how he always manages to impress without ever trying to impress. He is usually a very low-key actor who never goes for the big and loud Oscar bait clip or anything like that. Plus, he can not only master blockbusters like The Avengers as the Hulk, but he also remains true to his indie roots in films like Foxcatcher, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and The Kids Are All Right. So, he's got admirable qualities both on screen and seemingly off screen as well.

6. Bradley Cooper: I have a feeling I'm going to get a lot of flack for this one. Some may scoff at the fact he has 3 consecutive acting Oscar nominations or just find him overrated. But in my opinion, he's one of our more versatile actors working today and he is one of my personal favorites. Whether he is getting hangovers in Las Vegas, kicking ass as a talking raccoon, doing a complete transformation into a war soldier, or playing a bipolar man yearning to get his life back on track, I am always looking forward to his next move.

5. Edward Norton: While these days, he doesn't work as consecutively as Bradley Cooper or even his fellow Hulk, Mark Ruffalo, when he lands a role worthy of his talents, Edward Norton really brings his A-game. He can go from starting a fight club to fighting as the Hulk. He can switch from a demure alter boy to a sociopathic alter ego in a millisecond. After his reputation for being a difficult actor to work with, he was even able to poke fun at it in his most comedic turn to date in Birdman. Here is hoping he has more work on the horizon.

4. Leonardo DiCaprio: DiCaprio is perhaps one of the few child actors to successfully transition to an adult star. That might be because even in his teen hearthrob days, he was still taking edgy, mature roles. But his commitment to his crafts and willingness to tackle different roles still wins him the respect of audiences as well as critics whether those roles be his vicious Calvin Candie, darkly charismatic Jordan Belfort, romantic Jack Dawson, hard-nosed Billy Costigan, or his elusive Frank Abagnale. Keep up the astounding work, Leo, and that Oscar we want to see you win will be rightfully yours.

3. Tom Hardy: Ever since his breakout, scene-stealing work as Eames in Inception, he caught the eye of a lot of audiences, myself included. Cut to today, he is one of my favorite actors in the business. He can go from playing Bane or Mad Max to acting alone in a car or playing a shy yet mysterious owner of a drop bar with absolute ease. Plus, he'll be playing two real-life twins and be starring in Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu's latest film The Revenant as the presumed antagonist. Can this be the year he finally enters the Oscar club?

2. Ben Mendelsohn: I remember when I first saw him as the corrupt businessman Daggett in The Dark Knight Rises, thinking "Who is this guy? He's good." Then there was his complete 180 in The Place Beyond The Pines as a former robber with a heart of gold that really caught my attention before I finally caught his work in Animal Kingdom as Andrew "Pope" Cody,  who is one of the most memorable villains in recent memory in my opinion. After his performance in Starred Up as the main character's conflicted father, however, he quickly became one of my top 3 favorite actors currently working. After that brilliant performance that plays the tough card while tugging your heartstrings, as well as his other performances, I now check to see what upcoming films are listed in his IMDB page, looking forward to his next move.

1. Michael Fassbender: With all due respect to the other actors on this list, this was an easy number one. Despite his strikingly handsome looks, he is never afraid to play characters with less handsome qualities, whether it'd be his sadistic Edwin Epps in 12 Years A Slave, his perverse Connor in Fish Tank, or even his charismatic sex addict Brandon Sullivan in Shame who is still like a prisoner trapped in his own skin. Plus, he's proven he can lose a ton of weight for a role, lead a music band wearing a paper mache head, pull off playing an android, and tackle comic book fare by playing Magneto. The guy has simply got it and is currently the best actor working today, in my opinion.

So that was my list of the best actors currently working. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section and share your own top 10. Thanks for reading!

Oscars: Tribute To The Fallen: Fruitvale Station (2013)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Tribute To The Fallen where I discuss films that weren't nominated at the Oscars and go into why I think they should've gotten in. Today's film is the 2013 Sundance hit Fruitvale Station. 

Now, this one was originally primed to be an awards player, but unfortunately, because it was released in the summer to get some early traction, it sadly peaked too early for voters to remember it. But it did get notices from the National Board of Review, the Independent Spirit Awards, and different critics circles that awarded director Ryan Coogler and even star Michael B. Jordan breakthrough awards.

But even though another racial movie, 12 Years A Slave, won Best Picture that year, why else couldn't this film enter the conversation other than its early release date? This answer might be pretty simple. Unlike 12 Years A Slave, Fruitvale Station doesn't have a "white voice" narrative with the main character being aided by a good-natured white protagonist and of course, those that have seen Fruitvale know it doesn't end well. Usually, voters like their happy endings. Plus, it didn't have any huge stars and 12 Years had Brad Pitt behind it. That might've been another factor. So, 12 Years A Slave just fit the mold more than Fruitvale Station did. Not to say that 12 Years A Slave is a bad film by any means. I am just saying that, despite its graphic violent scenes, it was still more accessible to voters since it has the titular slave eventually freed by a kind white man played by a famed movie star while Fruitvale Station was a reminder that racism is still alive today and without a happy ending. Since they usually recognize racial films released around awards season, by recognizing a film that is not only truthful and relevant to today, but less sugar coated, it would've allowed them to break the mold in a way.

If it had gotten a stronger push or was released later in the year, I would've imagined it to be in the running for not just Best Picture, but maybe Best Actor for Michael B. Jordan if the field wasn't as crowded or Best Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer, who was much better in this than she was in The Help in my opinion.

So those are my thoughts on why I think Fruitvale Station deserved some Oscar love. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Oscars 2016: Cannes Winners

Hello, Bloggers, the Cannes Film Festival just came to a close which means they announced their winners for the main prize and since it is usually a place for films to gain early traction in the awards circuit, I figured I'd discuss the winners and whether they will be major players. Here we go:

Palme D'Or: Dheepan by Jacques Audiard

This one was surprising to a lot of people considering how it didn't get as much buzz as some other films competing for the big prize. But, I have become a fan of Jacques Audiard's work, so I'm sure it's a good film. Whether or not this will be an awards player is up in the air. Maybe in the foreign language category.

Grand Prix (2nd place): Son of Saul by Laszlo Nemes

This is one of the few films expected to win the Palme D'Or considering the amount of buzz it received. But it at least came close. This one I could also see making a play in the Foreign Language category at the Oscars given its buzz and the fact it's a Holocaust film and those films usually do very well.

Jury Prize (3rd place): The Lobster by Yorgos Lanthimos

This one, which is Yorgos Lanthimos' English language debut, looks very interesting. It is about a man who is forced to find a mate within 45 days or he will be turned into an animal. Another intriguing idea from the mind that gave us Dogtooth. 

Best Director: Hou Hsiao-Hsien for The Assassin

This one was a surprise. I figured that given the reception Carol received, this award would maybe go to Todd Haynes. But because The Assassin is a genre or martial arts film, this win was still a nice change of pace. At least Carol didn't go home empty handed as you'll see.

Best Actor: Vincent Landin for The Measure of a Man

I had a small hunch this would go to Michael Caine for Youth given the film's reception and that it would be like when they gave the same award to fellow veteran Bruce Dern for Nebraska. But of course, I was wrong. I haven't really heard of this film until now, but I'll have to watch it somehow.

Best Actress (tie): Rooney Mara for Carol and Emmanuelle Bercot for Mon Roi

Interestingly, while Rooney Mara won, she didn't share the prize with her co-star Cate Blanchett, who has already become a strong frontrunner in the Best Actress race. But Mara winning this might hint as who the true lead is in Carol or who might have more screentime between her and Blanchett. Because of only Mara winning for her film, Bercot sharing the prize was a shocker, in my opinion.

Best Screenplay: Chronic by Michel Franco

This is the award that I figured Yorgos Lanthimos was going to win for The Lobster. Mainly because other pundits predicted him to win in this category. But given the buzz Chronic received, I figured it wouldn't go home empty handed.

So, I think Carol is still a major player in the Oscar race. The only question, at this point, is which category will Mara and Blanchett be placed in. But Son of Saul could also be a player in the awards race and likely for Best Foreign Language Film since it is in Hungarian and is from Hungary. I suppose Dheepan could compete in the same category and The Lobster could make an appearance somewhere given the fact, like Dheepan, it has a director who has gotten one of his films to the ceremony. Plus, The Lobster has a pretty starry cast (Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly).

Those are my thoughts on the winners at Cannes and whether they will gain any traction in the awards race. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Top 10 Best Actresses Working Today

Hello, Bloggers, here is a list that I have been meaning to do for quite a while that I finally put together. This is my own personal list of who I feel are the top 10 best actresses working today. Just as a heads up, Meryl Streep will not make this list. We all know she is one of the best and it seems cliche at this point to list her. Also, this isn't a list of the best of all time. But a list of those who are working consistently and the criteria is based on the range of the roles and films they have taken as well as their acting chops. Anyhow, here is my list:

10. Emily Blunt: I may have asked this in my review for Into The Woods but I'll ask it again: Why isn't this girl a bigger star? Seriously, last year, she proved in Edge of Tomorrow she can be badass while also being able to showcase her musical and comedic timing in Into The Woods. She's also done horror, indies, and even prestigious period pieces. You give her a genre, she'll nail it. Let's cross our fingers Marvel is breathing down her agent's neck so she can get that superhero movie she rightfully deserves.

9. Nicole Kidman: While at the height of her fame, she was known for being Tom Cruise's wife, her filmography has certainly proved she is more than just that. Not only has she tackled different types of mainstream fare, but she is always willing to take risks in edgy indie fare no matter how controversial the role or film may be.

8. Naomi Watts: Much like her good friend and fellow Aussie Nicole Kidman, there is no role or genre Naomi Watts hasn't or won't tackle. Whether she plays dual Hollywood personalities, tries to survive a horrific tsunami, fights off the evil of a haunted videotape, delivers laughs as a Russian stripper, or forms a bond with a giant gorilla, she never fails to impress.

7. Jessica Chastain: Thank goodness for the year 2011. If she didn't have that amazing breakthrough, we probably wouldn't have been introduced to her unique talent. Already, she has proven she can go from sweet and sensitive, like in The Help to playing tough and guarded like in Zero Dark Thirty. Both of those aforementioned performances earned her back-to-back Oscar nominations and judging by the amount of vastly different films she has lined up, she certainly isn't resting on her laurels anytime soon which means we get to see more of her talent.

6. Charlize Theron: An actress with looks like hers could easily take roles that resort to her coasting on her looks and constantly voguing for the camera. Thankfully, Charlize Theron never goes that route as a lot of the roles she has tackled have proven she is more than just a pretty face. Not only that, but she even manages to find humanity in the more villainous or unsympathetic roles she plays, whether it'd be her Ravenna from Snow White and the Huntsman or her Mavis Gary from Young Adult. Plus, in her more recent heroic turn as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max, she showcases the vulnerabilty behind her character's tough exterior. Even in her Oscar-winning turn in Monster, she doesn't simply coast on the physical transformation. Theron is living proof that you can be a gorgeous face in Hollywood and still manage to hopefully achieve longevity in your career.

5. Amy Adams: When I think about her chameleonic acting talent, I always ask myself "How does she do it?". She can go from playing a demure Bronx nun to a hard-nosed Boston bartender. From playing a sensual con artist in American Hustle to playing sensitive and sardonic in Her. Plus, she can go from playing a Disney Princess to throwing a punch as Lois Lane.

4. Cate Blanchett: The "Bossy Aussie" herself, Cate Blanchett is a titan in the acting community that, like all the other actresses on this list, is willing to tackle any genre and play roles that are good, bad, and somewhere in between. While the film community has frowned over her Oscar loss for Elizabeth, she still left the ceremony with guns blazing as she would go on to play roles like an elf queen, Katharine Hepburn, a modern-day Blanche DuBois, Lady Tremaine, an Irish reporter, and even Bob Dylan. Like the rest of us, I can't wait to see what she has in store next.

3. Marion Cotillard: The genius of Marion Cotillard's acting ability is how she proves just how less is more. What I mean is she can do more acting with her eyes than what most actors can do with pages of dialogue. Plus, she can transform into her characters without having to go through an actual transformation and pull off 180 after 180 with her calculating Stephanie from Rust and Bone being different from her Sandra in Two Days, One Night who is a stretch from her femme fatale Mal in Inception who wouldn't be pals with her Miranda in The Dark Knight Rises who I'm sure is a far cry from her upcoming Lady Macbeth. To France, the country that helped introduce us to her unique talent, I say merci beaucoup!

2. Julianne Moore: Who says that Meryl Streep is the only actress over 50 to still tackle interesting female roles? Even in her earlier acting years, Julianne Moore was still bouncing from genre to genre and switching from blockbusters to indies with ease. Now, she managed to breathe new life into Margaret White in the Carrie remake without replicating Piper Laurie's portrayal, play a woman with Alzheimer's in her Oscar-winning turn in Still Alice without ever coasting on the nature of the role for the sake of winning laurels, embody Sarah Palin, and tap into her darkly comedic self as Havana Segrand in Maps To The Stars. Even if her film is "meh", she never is and not only always brings in her A game, but will hopefully be still in the game for years to come.

1. Tilda Swinton: To demonstrate her range, I'll start off by mentioning the banner year she had in 2014. She had a small but pivotal role as the elderly and weary Madame D. in The Grand Budapest Hotel, a lead role as a centuries-old vampire in Only Lovers Left Alive, and a juicy supporting turn as the villainous Thatcher-esque corporal Mason in Snowpiercer. Like I said, that's just 2014. She also has her career-best turn as a self-loathing and bitter mother turned anxious demure outsider in We Need To Talk About Kevin, her turn as a misanthropist who seems unaware of her calculating nature in Julia, her White Witch in the Chronicles of Narnia films, the androgynous archangel Gabriel in Constantine, and even her Social Services in Moonrise Kingdom. No matter the size of the role, genre, or scale of the film, always expect her to deliver.

So that was my list of what I feel are the best actresses currently working today. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section and share who you think are the best currently working. My list of the Top 10 Best Actors Working Today will come soon. Thanks for reading!

Oscars: Tribute To The Fallen: Scream (1996)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Tribute To The Fallen where I discuss films that weren't nominated by the Oscars yet, in my opinion, should have. Today, I will discuss the 1996 satirical horror film Scream. Here we go:

Now on paper, a film like Scream doesn't scream "Oscar bait". But like how films like  Bonnie and Clyde and Pulp Fiction changed the landscape for cinema in general, Scream changed the landscape for horror cinema. Much like how Pulp Fiction inspired many films to duplicate its success with its formula, there have been many teen slasher films made in the vein of Scream after its initial release.

One category that I might've imagined it being in the running for is Best Original Screenplay. Not only does it play with the conventions of the horror genre, but it finds a neat balance between laughs and scares while giving its characters plenty of depth while incorporating elements of romance and mystery as well. Another category I would've considered nominating it for is Best Actress for Neve Campbell. The genius of her portrayal is how she takes her Final Girl character and gives her such complexity. While her Sidney is strong-willed and compassionate, she is still quite vulnerable and unsure of herself. Thankfully, she still won the Saturn Award for Best Actress, so she didn't go unnoticed. There is also Best Original Score for composer Marco Beltrami's luminous yet haunting score and of course, Best Picture. If you put it alongside Fargo and Jerry Maguire, you have quite a memorable lineup. In my opinion, Scream's reputation has certainly aged better than the film that actually won that shall not be named.

So those are my thoughts on why Scream should've gotten some Oscar love. If you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Oscars: Tribute To The Fallen: Attack The Block (2011)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Tribute To The Fallen, where I discuss films that have been largely ignored by the Academy and go into why I think they should've gotten in or even the categories they might've had a chance in. For this episode, I will go into the 2011 sci-fi cult hit Attack The Block. 

Even though Attack The Block had A showing during the awards circuit, it was mostly for a lot of breakthrough and Best First Film awards for director Joe Cornish from the different critics circles, like New York Film Critics Online. It even got a BAFTA nomination for Best Debut Film, but lost.

It is easy to see why it got overlooked or didn't have a stronger campaign, though. It is a sci-fi film mixed with comedy and horror, which is like a triple whammy in terms of what they recognize. But it is also a commentary on the divide between the low-income inner city populace and the authorities or the higher class. With all those elements weaved in, it makes the film what would've been a worthy candidate for Best Original Screenplay. Of course there are also the technical categories worthy of praise like Best Makeup for the creature designs and Best Score from Steven Price and electronic dance duo Basement Jaxx. I would even throw in Best Supporting Actor for John Boyega as gang leader Moses, who undergoes quite a subtle arc as the film progresses from intimidating gang leader to savior of his apartment complex, or "block."

When looking at what films get nominated, I always like to look at not only what films will age well, but what is the most inventive either technically or in terms of the genres it plays with. Attack The Block certainly falls under the latter as it is one pf the most inventive sci-fi films to come out in quite some time. But I'm sure it would have only had a chance if James Cameron or Steven Spielberg were behind it. They're great directors, don't get me wrong. I'm just making a point.

So those are my thoughts on why I thought Attack The Block deserved some Oscar love. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Oscars: Tribute To The Fallen: Mean Girls (2004)

Hello, Bloggers, on Entertainment Weekly's website, they have a special segment devoted to films that got completely shut out by the Oscars called "Nominated For Nothing." So, I got inspired to create my own similar segment where I as well go into films, both past and present, that I feel should've gotten recognition. This Oscar segment is known as "Tribute To The Fallen." The first film I will go into is the 2004 teen classic Mean Girls.

Now, some of you who read this may think "Really? Mean Girls?", but hear me out. Believe it or not, this film was actually pretty close to being an Oscar nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay as Tina Fey, who wrote the film, was nominated by the Writers Guild of America. I can definitely see why as not only does she go deep into the politics of high school cliques, but she also wrote a female-centered comedy that still had wide appeal beyond just women and she creates such rich and complex female characters. That actually brings me to my next point. I am curious as to how they didn't run a Best Supporting Actress campaign for names like Lizzy Caplan, Tina Fey, and especially Rachel McAdams whose villainous Regina George has perhaps become more iconic than some of the performances that won Best Supporting Actress recently. She might've even been my personal choice that year.

Not only has her performance aged well, but so has the film itself. It's been 11 years since it came out and people still quote it, revisit it, and now create memes from it. Can people say the same for Finding Neverland or Ray which were nominated? Usually, one thing I look for in a Best Picture nominee is not just the quality of the film but whether or not it'll age well or if people will remember it for years to come. But, I guess voters didn't want to make "fetch" happen.

So those are my thoughts on why I think Mean Girls deserved Oscar recognition and if you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. You can also share your thoughts on my new "Tribute To The Fallen" segment. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Oscars 2016: Top 10 Oscar Films That'll Either Score or Miss The Mark

As we take an early approach to the awards season, with Cannes taking place and Oscar contenders screening there, here are ten films that have yet to been by critics or the masses that could end up as either an Oscar winner or Oscar bait. Let's take a look:

10. The Martian: This one has a starry cast that includes Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Kristen Wiig. Plus, it is a sci-fi film and as evidenced by Gravity's success, that genre has done particularly well. However, it has Ridley Scott behind it and his track record has been rather spotty recently.

9. Black Mass: Real-life person? Check. Famous movie star undergoing a physical transformation? Check. Pedigree cast and director who directed a recent Oscar-winning performance (Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart)? Added bonus. But can this film tick a giant mystery box full of prizes? We'll see.

8. Freeheld: This one stars the recently-anointed Oscar winner Julianne Moore and co-stars fellow Oscar club members Ellen Page, Steve Carell, and Michael Shannon. Plus, it is based on an Oscar-winning documentary short and is about a real-life lesbian couple fighting for pension rights while one half of the couple battles cancer. This seems like a dodgy one because critics and audiences could easily be moved by it or find it to be emotionally pandering.

7. By The Sea: This one is a relationship drama starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie with Jolie at the helm. While on paper, it seems like it could be a surefire contender given the pedigree involved, the fact that it has the famous couple involved could make it seem like a vanity project if it fails.

6. In The Heart Of The Sea: Originally, it was primed for a release early in the year. But I'm guessing they delayed it so it will be considered for awards consideration. It's certainly not hard to see why as Ron Howard is at the helm and it is based on a true story about a ship being ambushed by a sperm whale. But as we all know, Ron Howard and Oscar bait don't always fare too well (i.e., Cinderella Man) so, we'll see.

5. Bridge of Spies: Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks at it again? Check. WWII story? Check. The dynamic duo have achieved success with WWII fare when Saving Private Ryan won big. But that film didn't win Best Picture. Can that change here or will it be strike two?

4. Joy: This one has David O. Russell re-teaming with Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro. Plus, it is based on a true story about the founder of the Miracle Mop. O. Russell may have created magic with the aforementioned actors, but is he just resting on his laurels on this point?

3. Steve Jobs: I didn't want to include this one at first because this is a biopic I am actually pulling for due to those involved. It has Michael Fassbender in the title role and co-stars Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen (comedian going serious? Check), and Jeff Daniels. Plus, Aaron Sorkin is writing the script and Danny Boyle directs. But a biopic that has the real-life person's name as the title can be sketchy as for every Lincoln or Milk, there is a J. Edgar or Amelia. I'm crossing my fingers for this one to do well, though.

2. Suffragette: It seems like perfect timing to release this one around awards season as in Patricia Arquette's acceptance speech at the Oscars, she talked about equal rights for women and this film deals with the woman's suffrage movement in England. However, it took a short while for this one to pick up distribution and despite the pedigree involved (Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, and especially Meryl Streep), sometimes pedigree is included to make a film seem better than it actually is.

1. The Danish Girl: There may have been buzz surrounding this film before and even while it was being filmed. But of course, that was as the cameras started rolling before the final edit and before it could be screened. Sure, some of Eddie Redmayne's peers have heeped praise saying he will score another win after his latest win helped give this film some heat. But we're not sure if it is just them being courteous or if it's them being legitimate because even though they've worked with him, a lot of us haven't seen the film yet. So, I think the apex will be when it is screened for critics and the Academy, proving whether or not that buzz is manufactured. Plus, the film was in development hell before it finally got made. So, like with the other films on this list, we shall see.

So, that is my list pf the top 10 films that could either end up as an Oscar winner or be labeled as Oscar bait. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Trailer Talk #27: Inside Out, Jem and the Holograms, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Ricki and the Flash, Pixels

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Trailer Talk. After having seen Pitch Perfect 2, I have also seen plenty of new previews that I will review for you folks. Here we go:

Inside Out: First up is the trailer for the Pixar film Inside Out. After taking a year long break, it looks like they might return with another hit on their hands. I think this looks very inventive and pretty funny. Even the voice cast (Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, etc.) is an added bonus. I might see this one in theaters and I usually don't see animated films in theaters.

Jem and the Holograms: Next is the film adaptation of Jen and the Holograms. Now, I am not overly familiar with the animated series and toy line the film is based on. But after seeing the trailer, I'll put it this way: It doesn't make me want to watch reruns of the series. It looks incredibly cliched and...yeah, just no.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: Next is the trailer for the Sundance hit Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Now, when I first heard about this film and when it won Best Film at Sundance, I wasn't sure if it would really reach out at me so to speak. That is until I finally saw the trailer. This one looks very good and I even love how it deals with a teen who likes to recreate classic movies. I think that's pretty nice. If it plays anywhere near me, I'll likely check it out.

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation: Next is the latest sequel Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. Now, I have only seen the fourth Mission Impossible, so I am not overly familiar with the franchise. But judging by the fourth film and by the trailer for this, the franchise seems like one of those where you don't have to catch with the others to see the latest. Anyways, this one looks like it'll deliver the typical goods of car crashes, the famous theme song, and Tom Cruise and crew kicking butt. I may check it out, but we'll see.

Ricki and the Flash: Next is the trailer for Ricki and the Flash starring Meryl Streep. Before the trailer came out, there was already talk of her getting a 20th Oscar nod because a. She's Meryl and b. the colorful nature of the role with her playing and looking like a rock star. But after seeing the trailer, however, I don't think that 20th nomination is coming anytime soon. It looks sort of Lifetime-y and when watching the preview, I feel like I've seen the movie which is hardly a good sign. Even if I were to see it, I certainly wouldn't pay to see it.

Pixels: No. Just.......NO. When I watched the trailer for this online, I literally fainted. No way, no how am I seeing this.

Final ratings on these trailers:

5- Gotta See It!
4- More Than Likely
3- Eh, You've Peaked My Interest
2- Rental
1- NO!

Inside Out- More Than Likely
Jem and the Holograms- NO!
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl- More Than Likely
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation- Eh, You've Peaked My Interest
Ricki and the Flash- Rental
Pixels- Big Fat NO!

So, those are my thoughts on the following trailers. If you have seen them, please feel free to write whether you will see these films in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Review: Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)

                                      A Near-'Perfect' Sequel
        So, after having seen this film and observed the box office numbers so far, now I can see this why this amazing film was at such a neck-in-neck race with Mad Max. Even if I miss watching the first one, I still found this sequel to be a blast.

      Pitch Perfect 2 continues the story of the Barden University Bellas led by Beca (Anna Kendrick). After they are suspended from competing in the national competition after an incident that occurred during a performance for the President, they are forced to rebuild their reputation by entering an international competition which proves to be difficult as no American team has ever won.

     One thing that I really liked, much like the first one, was the chemostry between the main actresses. Not only do they work so well off of each other, but this time around, it isn't just Beca who is the focal point as we see the point of view of some of the other Bellas like Chloe, played by Brittany Snow, who is struggling to let go of the Bellas and move onto the real world. There is also the newest initiate, Emily, played by Hailee Steinfeld, who is excitedly anxious to join the group, yet still tries to fit in. We also get a glimpse into Fat Amy's narrative and the sexual tension between her and Bumper. All of the actors, both from the first and the new editions, all bring in their A-game and I especially loved how the original actors looked like they were still having fun in their respective parts.

     Since this is about a group of character, director Elizabeth Banks makes sure the film isn't a showcase for the main actor or actors. Speaking of which, Banks directs the film with such flare with such techniques as slo-mo sequences and a big solo number towards the end. Even though, like with the first, the sequel is pretty grounded in reality, Banks still gives it a bit of spice to make it more distinctive.

    I also loved how even though there are some plot devices used in the original, they are given a new spin and told differently. For example, both films deal with finding an original and creative voice. This is something Beca struggles to do as she tries to share her musical mash-ups with her record producer boss, who tells her to create original material. That, to me, exhibits some possible facts about the music industry so we get to see a different angle other than the world of a capella. Plus, as the Bellas try to rebuild their status, they try to measure up to a German a capella group that stole their world tour they got pulled out of after their suspension by replicating their routine.

    It is interesting because, and this isn't exactly a down, but I thought the climax was enlightening yet shortly after I saw it, I felt it still had a minor copout. Despite that, I did enjoy the ending and it didn't ruin the experience of watching the film as a whole.

   Overall, Pitch Perfect 2 is a worthy follow-up to its predecessor with wonderful and enriching performances from the cast and well-crafted direction from first-time director Elizabeth Banks. Simply, it is aca-awesome!

    Would I Recommend It?:
    Absolutely. Even if you hate musical films, I would give this one a watch. You might be surprised. Although I would suggest seeing the first one beforehand in case you get lost.

Grade: A-

Friday, May 15, 2015

Review: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

          A 'Furious' Action Pic That Is A Feast For The Eyes Of The Visual and Cinephilic Imagination
        Welp, I guess Christopher Nolan isn't the only filmmaker that proves genre films can be masterful works of art as George Miller creates a visual masterpiece while still showcasing a fun, balls-to-the-wall action film crankes up to 11.

        Mad Max: Fury Road follows the story of the titular hero Max (Tom Hardy) who finds himself caught in the middle of a war between a dictator of a society called the Citadel named Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who is looking to come back to her home land while transporting five beautiful women used for breeding.

      Where do I begin? I'll start off with the performances. Tom Hardy is a quietly commanding presence as Max as while he doesn't speak in a lot of dialogue, he still does a lot of facial acting to let the viewers know what is going through his head. But while Hardy is excellent as always, the real star of the film is Charlize Theron as Furiosa. The beauty of her performance is how she showcases a physical and stoic badassery mixed with emotional gravitas. Another actor I'd love to discuss is Nicholas Hoult as Nux, a sickly War Boy. Hoult's transition from blood-thirsty psychopath to redemptive hero that aids Max and Furiosa was very swift and helped create a sympathetic and dynamic character. Even if the film was meh, I would still rewatch it just to see Hoult's great performance. Even though he won't, he should be getting some Oscar consideration for his performance. Next, I'll go into the five women that accompany Furiosa. What surprised and pleased me was these five women could've easily been used as stock eye candy. But they actually aid in the battle that takes place over the course of the film and the actresses that play them (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoe Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton) leave quite an impression.

       I also loved the outstanding production design. I loved the look given to this whole post-apocalyptic setting. Even the various cars that the villains drive have distinctive looks and even the different villains don't all look the same. That whole distinctiveness adds to the world building that the filmmakers create. That brings me to my next point. One thing that I loved about the way co-writer/director George Miller shot it is how he does a lot of visual storytelling. For example, Immortan Joe walks into a special area in the bottom of his palace full of well-grown plants, indicating how he keeps not just most of the water in the Citadel to himself from his people, but a lot of the plant life. Plus, when we are first introduced to the five beautiful women and see that *SPOILER ALERT* one of them is pregnant, we are given the hint that these women are used for breeding without the characters having to spoon feed it for us.

       Lastly, I'll get into what is perhaps the heart and soul of the film. That is the film's action and chase sequences. One thing I liked about them was how each one is different from the other. Also, even though the action sequences have plenty of fast-paced editing, there is still a lot of attention given to the characters and there aren't many jump cuts to confuse the viewers. Plus, once the action starts from the beginning, it never really stops.


        Overall, Mad Max: Fury Road is a high-octane thrill ride from start to finish that features pulse-pounding acting sequences as well as complex yet badass characters mixed with visual and artful storytelling. What a blast this movie is!

Grade: A+

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Oscars 2016: May Predictions

Hello, Bloggers, even though it is May, I figured that I'd try to make some early predictions for who will be nominated in the major categories at the Oscars. Here we go:

Best Picture:

Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
The Hateful Eight
The Revenant
Steve Jobs

So, here are some of the more traditional choices as we have plenty of biopics and real-life stories in this lineup. We could see something more out of the box (hopefully),  but we shall see.

Best Director:

Sarah Gavron, Suffragette
Todd Haynes, Carol
Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, The Revenant
David O. Russell, Joy
Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies

If Suffragette fares well, then they could easily nominate its female director to silence the cries of sexism after the snubbing of female directors and writers this year. Spielberg is Spielberg. At this point, David O. Russell is David O. Russell. Innaritu could score an afterglow nomination after his recent win and if Carol is Harvey Weinstein's big Oscar player, then Todd Haynes could finally sneak into the category after getting snubbed for Far From Heaven. 

Best Actor:
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Jake Gyllenhaal, Demolition
Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

There might not be a way that Gyllenhaal gets snubbed twice in a row and they certainly could says "woops, sorry" after their beloved Tom Hanks got snubbed for Captain Phillips. There is also Michael Fassbender that could make a play in this category as he looks to have a banner year with more than one film set for release. I didn't want to include him, but if his film fares well, then Eddie Redmayne could score an afterglow nom. I said I didn't want to include him because I worry if he gets any buzz, he'll do the same amount of shameless campaigning he did before. But onto an actor who hasn't been rewarded. Could this FINALLY be DiCaprio's year?

Best Actress:
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Marion Cotillard, Macbeth
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Carey Mulligan, Suffragette
Lily Tomlin, Grandma

We have three previous winners in this category (Blanchett, Cotillard, Lawrence) as well as two previous mominees. Tomlin's only nomination came about 40 years ago for Best Supporting Actress for Nashville, so they might not resist the opportunity to reward her for her longevity and invite her back to the ceremony. Mulligan's last nomination was for An Education back in 2010 and even if she is nominated and doesn't win, we'll see her back at the ceremony for sure.

Best Supporting Actor:

Alan Alda, Bridge of Spies
Robert De Niro, Joy
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Samuel L. Jackson, The Hateful Eight
Ken Watanabe, Sea of Trees

The supporting categories are most kind to veterans. So, if Alan Alda has some juicy moments in the film by Oscar darling Steven Spielberg, I could easily see him making a play for a 2nd nomination in the same category. There is also Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, and Ken Watanabe possibly filling a veteran void as well. But how about an actor on the verge of a breakthrough? Tom Hardy is one of the best actors of his generation without an Oscar nomination and that could finally change if The Revenant fares really well.

Best Supporting Actress:

Diane Ladd, Joy
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Parker Posey, Irrational Man
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Regardless of how big of a part she is, I wouldn't underestimate Diane Ladd's ability to make it into this category. One reason is she is in the well-connected Dern family and both father Bruce and daughter Laura were nominated consecutively. Plus, she is in a David O. Russell film and they love his actors. Now, onto veterans overdue for a nomination that star in films by well-regarded directors: Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight by Quentin Tarantino and Parker Posey in Irrational Man by Woody Allen. From what I hear, Rooney Mara is a co-lead in Carol, but the supporting categories are the most frequent offenders of category fraud so it wouldn't be surprising to see her here. Of course, Alicia Vikander looks to be the Jessica Chastain of this year as she has a slew of films being released, including the Oscar-bait film The Danish Girl, which might be her best bet.

So those are my thoughts as to who will get in the major categories at the Oscars as of right now. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Topic Of The Day: Behind The Outrage Of A Snub (Part II)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. For today's segment, I will once again discuss the Oscars. But I will give another look into why there is an outrage behind not just a snub, but when a film gets robbed for Best Picture. This is Behind The Outrage Of A Snub: Part II. You can check out Part I right here. Here we go:

First I'll go into what makes audiences tick when a certain film gets denied Best Picture. A few examples of that kind of outrage include when Brokeback Mountain, Pulp Fiction, The Social Network, Black Swan, and of course, Goodfellas lost. When Brokeback Mountain missed out, that led to cries of homophobia. But I think the real problem with it losing is not just that, but it winning Best Picture would've allowed change. It would've been them saying "Hey, we're ready to be more accepting of queer cinema and the LGBT community. We're ready to move forward." But they said "no" and after that loss, I feel that LGBT cinema in general never recovered from that snub.

Also, the reason people are still scratching their heads over the losses of films like Social Network, Goodfellas, and Pulp Fiction and putting the films they lost to on Worst Best Picture lists is because the aforementioned three films are not only modern but invented the filmmaking wheel. When they were up for the big prize, it allowed the Academy to take a chance by picking these films over the more safer, sentimental baity films that constantly get rewarded (The King's Speech, The English Patient, Dances With Wolves, etc.). Those types of sentimental films never reinvent the wheel and always force the older voters to get stuck in the past.

This kind of outrage can even be sparked when films don't even get nominated for Best Picture or any other major category. Take for example, when The Dark Knight got snubbed for Best Picture. If it did sneak in, then it would've been the Academy saying "You know what, comic book movies can be cinematic and artistic" and it would've allowed them to possibly break the mold continuously. There is also the year 2011 which saw a slew of modern and cutting-edge pieces of cinema, like Drive as well as decent genre fare like the final Harry Potter and Bridesmaids. Yet, they included the likes of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close mainly because it has two well-liked movie stars and it's about 9/11. But its nomination for Best Picture still caused an immense backlash due to its mixed to negative reception. They also had an opportunity to include Michael Fassbender for Best Actor for the graphic and edgy Shame, but the film's content probably left voters nervously sucking their thumbs, sadly costing Fassbender a spot in the Final Five. So, in that year, as a whole, they ended up nominating safe films by their buddies or people they really like.

Now, while I enjoy watching and following the Oscars, one of my biggest pet peeves with them is how they always include safer films starring or filmed by their buddies, so to speak, or at least people within their circle.

So, and this may sound harsh, but this kind of thumb-sucking political correctness is what is preventing voters from taking chances and rewarding films that are inventive and at times edgy and modern. I understand that the older voters like to be nostalgic, but this is 2015. It might be time to look past Meryl Streep in another transformative role or look beyond what kind of films Tom Hanks or Clint Eastwood are doing. Of course, I am not trying to make a dig at these filmmakers. I am just saying that there are other great filmmakers out there who don't get the recognition they do that should be included within their "club".

Overall, these are more of my thoughts on why certain snubs make people tick. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Topic of The Day: Seeded BP Nominations at the Oscars

Hello, Bloggers, I just read an online article on by Adam Sternbergh about how to fix the Oscars. He suggested they fix the Best Picture category by using seeded nominations. In other words, make it like the sports playoffs. I thought that was a great idea and here is why:

According to Sternbergh, they should reduce the Best Picture nominees back to five. Then, divide the film calendar into four three-month segments and have voters pick the best film from each segment while picking a fifth wild card from any segment.

What makes that idea is so great is that allows a film that came out pretty early, and is popular and/or receives unanimous praise, to become a potential player and the film doesn't feel like a distant memory even if it screened at the Academy. Sure, The Grand Budapest Hotel came out pretty early and still did very well at the Oscars. But it still was re-released in theaters towards the end of the year.

Also, this proposed process prevents the constant clutter that occurs at the end of each year. What I mean is a lot of the awards contenders are released at the end of the year and a lot of them start off in a few theaters to generate some buzz which flusters those that want to catch them as soon as possible so they can get their homework done before the ceremony. Plus, it would benefit the studios who would be able to focus on a select few contenders without ignoring their other contenders that fall through the cracks. Take, for example, how in 2013, producer Harvey Weinstein had Philomena, August: Osage County, The Butler, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, and Fruitvale Station under his belt. But he ended up gearing his focus towards Philomena as his other contenders either peaked too early (The Butler, Fruitvale Station) or too late (August, Mandela). But if they used the seeding method, Fruitvale Station could have had a fighting chance as it opened to almost universal acclaim and did nicely at the box office.

I'll use one year as an example of how the BP lineup would've looked like if they had used the seeding method. Take last year. In the first three-month segment in the Winter, The Grand Budapest Hotel would've taken the slot for that period for sure. So, that's one. In the spring season, from April to June, there were some well-received blockbusters like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Fault In Our Stars and X-Men: Days of Future Past that might've gotten a stronger push. Then, there is the summer season when Boyhood came out. So, I'm sure that would've taken the slot for that segment. Of course, since the summer season is blockbuster season, they could go crazy and pick Guardians of the Galaxy.  Next, there is the fall, from October to December. Birdman would probably take that slot. I would say Gone Girl, but judging by its showing at the actual Oscars, they clearly wanted Gone Girl to stay gone. That leaves the wild card. Do they go with a prestige film that comes out at the end of the year or do they a remember a great film that came out early in the year that stayed fresh in their minds, whether it'd be a fun blockbuster or an artistic smaller film that received solid acclaim?

Let's say they picked a film like Whiplash for the wild card and still picked a blockbuster from the spring season. Here is how the category would probably look:

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The Grand Budapest Hotel

If the lineup looked something like this, you would not only have the smaller films they usually include, but this would also solve the ratings problem by including Captain America. 

So, I am completely on board with Sternbergh's proposal for a seeded nominations process. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Triple Crown Reviews: Beginners, Attack the Block, and Tyrannosaur (2011)

Hello, Bloggers, I just saw three films recently and I figured I'd try something new by creating a special segment where I do mini-reviews of three different movies that I watch either on a weekend or within a few days. Since I am off from school, I will likely do this segment more often. This is Triple Crown Reviews. Here we go:
                                     Beginners (2011):
        Beginners is a dramedy that may be pretty melancholic, yet ironically, it felt me smiling at the very end. Ewan McGregor really shines as Oliver, an artist who, as he falls for an actress named Anna (played with blooming charisma by Melanie Laurent), reflects on the final days of his deceased father. Christopher Plummer deserved his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Oliver's gay father Hal, who showcases warm humility for both comedic effect and to mask his inner pain. The screenplay by Mike Mills is also enriching as it is quirky and offbeat yet directed with grounded realism. I did have minor problems with the pacing, but other than that, Beginners is a unique experience that may have you reflecting on your life the way Oliver does.

Grade: B

                                    Attack The Block (2011):
                      While comedy, sci-fi, and horror are genres that have varying degrees of success when put together, Attack The Block somehow manages to work regardless. Not only does it successfully weave in these various genres together, but it also manages to demonstrate social commentary about the divide between the poor populace in the inner city and the upper class or the government as the aliens that the main characters try to fight off serve as a possible metaphor for the higher class or the authorities devouring the bottom of the economic chain. So, the film is a rather poignant mix of B-movie entertainment and humanistic social commentary thanks to the efforts of visionary writer/director Joe Cornish. Bonus points for the amazing ensemble of young actors, especially John Boyega as the gang leader Moses, who is sure to be on people's radar once the new Star Wars comes out.

Grade: A+

                                      Tyrannosaur (2011):
              Now onto something much darker. Tyrannosaur is a rather haunting character study that features exuberant performances from the two lead actors. Olivia Colman is a revelation as Hannah, a Christian store owner who seems sweet and demure on the outside, but that surface begins to figuratively break as her face becomes physically bruised by her abusive husband. Peter Mullan is also a force of nature as Joseph, a drunken widow with violent tendencies that becomes more refined and almost like a bull in a cage as he gets closer with Hannah. The bond between these two characters reveals hidden shades about one another while demonstrating interesting themes about faith, violence, and even alcoholism. I had some minor pacing issues, but this is an extraordinary directorial debut from actor Paddy Considine.

Grade: B+

So those were my mini-reviews as part of my potential Triple Crown series. If you have seen any of these films, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section about what you thought. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Indie Review: Ex Machina (2015)

          'Ex Machina': A Masterful Sci-Fi Film Behind The Mind That Creates A Machine

           Welp, after being slightly underwhelmed by Avengers: Age of Ultron, I get to give major props to the writer of 28 Days Later.. for creating a more thought-provoking film about artificial intelligence that got the bitter taste of Avengers out of my mouth.
      Ex Machina follows the story of a young computer programmer named Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) who is invited to the house of genius billionaire Nathan (Oscar Isaac), who is the CEO of the company Caleb works for. While staying at Nathan's place, Caleb is giving the task of performing a Turing test on Nathan's latest technological creation, an android named Ava (Alicia Vikander), and try and figure out whether she can exhibit human responses.

     I'll start off with the three main performances. Domnhall Gleeson really shines as the rather opportunistic Caleb who starts off as a willing participant that at first defends and befriends Ava out of loyalty, but then slowly becomes infatuated with her. Oscar Isaac may be playing another sleaze like he did in Sucker Punch, but here, he gives his character quite a gray area as he plays a Dr. Frankenstein with a sarcastic sense of humor as well as vibes of sensual obsession and voyeurism matched with genius intellect. But the real shining star is without a doubt Alicia Vikander as Ava. The genius of her performance is how she portrays such masterful layers of starry-eyed optimism, strong-willed determination and aunting ambiguity through sudden shifts of her eyes and facial movements. In my opinion, she should be up for an Oscar for her amazing work. She is that impressive. Since she has quite a slate of films on the horizon, she is surely bound to be a star.

     Another thing I liked was how, even though this was a film dealing with artificial intelligence, this was done much more differently. What separates this from other films dealing with the same subject matter is how it is sort of a battle of the sexes as it showcases the main characters exuding dominance over one another, with Ava using her sensual charm and Nathan using more physical and mental dominance. But, Caleb is sort of in the middle as he falls for Ava's charms yet fights for her affections with Nathan. There were some reviews that questioned why the film was mostly from the male gaze. But I think that is because it is difficult to focus on the gaze of Ava because it would take away from the ambiguity surrounding her. Not only that, but because of how (*SPOILER ALERT*) Nathan created other female robots before Ava, the film uses the creation of these robots as a metaphor for women being objectified by men.

    Also, because Caleb conducts a Turing Test on Ava, the film delves into the philosophy of whether a machine can feel and if the machine or technology is at least ambiguous, what would happen once we become unable to distinguish whether or not the machine's emotions are real or artificial? So, the film asks us a very interesting set of questions. I also want to give some pointers to the composers Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury who created a score that is both haunting yet upbeat. Plus, the cinematographer Rob Hardy shot the film beautifully yet also helped fit the film's ambiguity in the scenes where the lights in Ava's room would turn red.


      Overall, Ex Machina is a thought-provoking sci-fi spectacle that serves as a metaphor for the battle of the sexes while digging deep into the psychology and philosophy behind creating artificial intelligence. The film features terrific performances by the three main actors, especially an Oscar-worthy Alicia Vikander, has brilliant cinematography, a haunting score, and smart screenwriting by writer/director Alex Garland.

      Would I Recommend It?:
      Absolutely. If you want a good thought-provoking film about A.I., skip Avengers and go see this. This movie could use a bit more money. The other film is already surpassing its budget.

Grade: A+

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Trailer Talk #26: Black Mass, Irrational Man, Southpaw, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Spy, Batman v. Superman- Dawn of Justice

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Trailer Talk, where I discuss the trailers for six upcoming films and decide whether I will check them out or not. Here we go:

Black Mass: First up is the trailer for Black Mass starring Johnny Depp. Now, judging by the trailer and Depp's performance, I get a small sense this could give Depp's career a bit of a resurgence after a string of flops. While he is traditionally laced in makeup, he still doesn't seem to be giving the eccentric Jack Sparrow or Tim Burton performance, which might be a good sign. The film also stars Kevin Bacon, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Joel Edgerton. So, that's a plus. I might check it out in theaters.

Irrational Man: Next is the trailer for Woody Allen's latest Irrational Man starring Emma Stone, Joaquin Phoenix, and Parker Posey. I have become quite fond of Allen's work, so this might hold my attention. Plus, I love the cast. Even if this looks to be a traditional Woody Allen film, I still think it could be amazing with the three leads. Parker Posey could be a real scene stealer and possibly join the Oscar club as Woody Allen's ladies have great luck in that regard.

Southpaw: Next is the trailer for Southpaw starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rachel McAdams. Now, could this be the film that lands Gyllenhaal that elusive 2nd Oscar nomination? After that aggravating Nightcrawler snub, I can imagine him gunning for that second outing with this as he has a physically transformative role (which they love) and the film has none other than Harvey Weinstein behind it. In terms of the film itself, I think it looks marvelous. As long as I potentially save up for the summer movie season, I might see it in theaters.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Uhhhh.....Yeah!!!!

Spy: Next is the trailer for Spy starring Melissa McCarthy. This one is one of my most anticipated of the summer. One reason is the cast that includes Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Jude Law, and Rose Byrne. With such a unique cast like this and with Melissa McCarthy doing what she does best, how can I miss?

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice: Lastly is the trailer for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. While I am more of a Marvel guy, I'll admit that I do admire DC as well. My favorite DC hero is Batman and I wasn't crazy about Superman until I saw Man of Steel and the show Smallville. But judging by the trailer for this film, I think they are going in an interesting direction with Superman by sort of making him appear to be a villain and I think Ben Affleck will deliver as Batman. I will probably end up seeing this in theaters where it is meant to be seen.

My final ratings on these trailers:

5- Gotta See It!
4- More Than Likely
3- Eh, You've Peaked My Interest
2- Rental
1- NO!

Black Mass: More Than Likely
Irrational Man: Eh, You've Peaked My Interest
Southpaw: More Than Likely
Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Gotta See It!
Spy: Gotta See It!
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice: Eh, You've Peaked My Interest

So those are my thoughts on the trailers for the upcoming six films. Whether you want to see these films or not, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!