Sunday, January 31, 2016

The U.T.C.: Ben Mendelsohn

So now that Rachel McAdams' membership in the Undervalued Talent Club has finally been revoked, I figured I'd delve into not only a member of the U.T.C., but someone who is practically its president. That person being Ben Mendelsohn.

It all started with The Dark Knight Rises. When I saw it a second time and noticed his scenes, I thought to myself "Who is this guy?" because Ben Mendelsohn was so good in his brief scenes as Bruce Wayne's corporate rival Daggett. Then I saw his work in The Place Beyond The Pines as the former bank robber with a heart of gold Robin, went back to his breakthrough into American cinema: His psychotic Pope in Animal Kingdom. But ultimately, what had me really following his next career moves is Starred Up. While it is mainly a star vehicle for Jack O'Connell, it is Mendelsohn that acts as the rock trying to hold the main character together. As someone who loved J.K. Simmons in Whiplash, Mendelsohn should've walked away with every Supporting Actor award under the sun.

On the brighter side of the spectrum, we have been seeing his name appear on awards shows thanks to his work on TV's Bloodline. Also, he did receive an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Mississippi Grind. I'm not sure he'll win but I'm still hopeful that his name will be called at another ceremony in the future. Plus, with him being in the upcoming Star Wars spinoff Rogue One and being in talks to be in Ready Player One directed by a guy named Steven Spielberg, more people will get go know his name and I will be a happy man to witness it.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Oscars 2016: Spotlight wins SAG

After losing at PGA to The Big Short, Spotlight got a nuch needed boost in this awards race, winning Best Ensemble. As of right now, I think Best Picture is still going to The Big Short since PGA is more indicative of what goes on to win Best Picture. Of course, the SAG Ensemble occasionally indicates a Best Picture upset like Shakespeare In Love over Saving Private Ryan and Crash over Brokeback Mountain. 

As for the rest of the acting winners, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brie Larson won Best Male and Female Actor In A Motion Picture, respectively. So Larson can start writing more 'thank you' cards and Twitter should prepare for itself to crash once DiCaprio finally wins Best Actor. Idris Elba won Best Supporting Actor despite being ignored by the Academy. I think his win helps the cause of Sly Stallone who was snubbed by SAG. Also, I really have to put Beasts of No Nation on the top of my watch list.

Lastly, Alicia Vikander won Best 'Supporting' Actress for The Danish Girl. She was easily the best thing about a tedious film. But I'm still pretending that she won for Ex Machina.

Anyways, those are my quick thoughts on the SAG winners. Please be sure to leave your own thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Oscars 2016: Screen Actors Guild Awards Predictions

Hello, Bloggers. The Screen Actors Guild Awards will be taking place tonight and I figured I'd share my predictions for who I think will win the film categories.

Best Ensemble In A Motion Picture:
Beasts of No Nation 
The Big Short 
Straight Outta Compton 

This is a dodgy one. I think it is between Spotlight and The Big Short which are the only nominees up for Best Picture. But The Big Short did just win at the Producers Guild Awards, indicating a sudden industry surge. So it could easily win here.

Will Win: The Big Short 
Should Win: Spotlight 

Best Performance By A Male Actor In A Leading Role:
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo 
Johnny Depp, Black Mass 
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant 
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs 
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl 

The narrative of "It's DiCaprio's time" looks to continue here. Although I'd watch out for Bryan Cranston in Trumbo. It has 3 Screen Actors Guild nominations for Ensemble, Actor, and Supporting Actress for Helen Mirren. Also, TV actors vote in the film categories and Cranston may have support from his TV peers.

Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant 
Should Win: Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs 
Could Win: Bryan Cranston, Trumbo 

Best Performance By A Female Actor In A Leading Role:
Cate Blanchett, Carol 
Brie Larson, Room 
Helen Mirren, Woman In Gold
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn 
Sarah Silverman, I Smile Back 

The Brie Larson train is looking to continue its roll. I certainly hope so.

Should/Will Win: Brie Larson, Room 
Could Win: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn 

Best Performance By A Male Actor In A Supporting Role:
Christian Bale, The Big Short 
Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation 
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies 
Michael Shannon, 99 Homes 
Jacob Tremblay, Room 

This one's tricky because BFCA and Globe winner Sylvester Stallone isn't nominated here. But if either Christian Bale or Mark Rylance wins, then they are a major threat to Stallone since they are the only ones nominated at the Oscars. But I'm going to go out on a limb and say maybe Idris Elba wins. Beasts of No Nation did also get in for Best Ensemble and they may want to reward the category's only person of color in the midst of the whole #OscarsSoWhite hashtag. Category fraud aside, though, my vote would go to Jacob Tremblay for Room.

Will Win: Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation 
Should Win: Jacob Tremblay, Room 
Could Win: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies 

Best Performance By A Female Actor In A Supporting Role:
Rooney Mara, Carol 
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight 
Helen Mirren, Trumbo 
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl 
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs 

Another dodgy category. But I'll say that it's between the two frauds: Rooney Mara and Alicia Vikander. Kate Winslet did win at the Globes, but that might've been because Mara and Vikander were put in Lead. Between both names, I'll go with Vikander. She has more big emotional scenes compared to Mara's passive, subtle performance and she also had a prolific year. My vote would go to Mara, though. McAdams is someone to watch out for since she is one of the few in an Ensemble nominee.

Will Win: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl 
Should Win: Rooney Mara, Carol 
Could Win: Rachel McAdams, Spotlight 

The Screen Actors Guild Awards will air tonight at 8 p.m. ET/5:00 PT on TNT and TBS.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Review: The Boy (2016)

                'The Boy' Almost Made Me Feel Like A Dummy

         The best way I can describe watching The Boy is as follows: It is a lot like watching your favorite hockey team play a game and they are on a roll, beating the other tean. That is until the opposing team comes back to beat your team in the third period.

        The Boy follows the story of a woman named Greta (Lauren Cohan) who is asked to look after the young boy of a British elderly couple. But it turns out their son is a dummy that the couple treats as a child. A series of coincidences that occur then lead Greta to believe that the dummy is alive.

         First off, I thought Lauren Cohan's performance was terrific. Cohan is very charismatic and makes for a very likable horror heroine. She is also quite three-dimensional as when she reveals a secret about her past that compulses her to take care of the dummy, you really understand why. I really enjoyed Cohan in this and I hope she has a bright future as a leading lady.

         Another thing that I thought was fascinating is how they took a very minimalistic approach with the horror. Not only do they set it almost entirely in the main isolated mansion, but the dummy that is central to the story has a presence in each scene it appears in even as it never moves or talks in a possessed voice. The dummy would appear then disappear and we also get scenes shot from its point of view. Because of this, I would feel creeped out whenever the dummy came on screen.

       As good as it is, the film takes quite a while to really pick up steam even though the film is only about 90 minutes. As a result, it never really felt like 90 minutes.

       There is also a romance incorporated between Greta and a man also employed by the elderly couple that is quite forced in my opinion and we even get a subplot involving Greta's abusive ex that is incredibly cliched.

        Lastly, I'll get into why the film feels like the end of a crappy third period of a hockey game. Two words: The ending. Wow, somebody call the police because that ending was such a major copout. I don’t know if I want to give it away because I usually don't like to do that. But watching a twist ending has never made me want to kick something in anger which is what I did since I was beating up snow. Everything that I loved about the film, mainly its minimalistic approach to the supernatural, got almost butchered thanks to that ending. While I was watching the climax, I just kept going "Uhhh...what the hell?!" Ugh, I hated the ending.

       Overall, The Boy is a nearly brilliant piece of horror cinema that almost got completely suffocated by its anger-inducing, nonsensical ending.

Grade: B-

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

2015 Film Guy Awards

Hello, Bloggers. After having seen many great movies in 2015, now is the time to reveal my annual Film Guy Awards. Even though it didn't nab the ultimate prize, Mad Max: Fury Road still gets to ride shiny, eternal and chrome, emerging as the big winner with 6 wins. Enjoy!

Best Picture:
Inside Out
Mad Max: Fury Road
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Best Director:
Lenny Abrahamson, Room
Ryan Coogler, Creed
John Crowley, Brooklyn
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road*
Denis Villeneuve, Sicario
Best Actor:
Matt Damon, The Martian
Tom Hardy, Mad Max: Fury Road
Michael B. Jordan, Creed
Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind*
Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
Best Actress:
Brie Larson, Room*
Melissa McCarthy, Spy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Supporting Actor:
Emory Cohen, Brooklyn*
Benicio Del Toro, Sicario
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina
Jason Statham, Spy
Best Supporting Actress:
Rose Byrne, Spy*
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anomalisa
Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria
Tessa Thompson, Creed
Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina
Best Adapted Screenplay:
The Big Short
The Martian

Best Original Screenplay:
Ex Machina
Inside Out*
The Hateful Eight
Best Cinematography:
Mad Max: Fury Road*
The Revenant
Best Film Editing:
The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road*
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Best Original Score:
Inside Out
It Follows*
Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Production Design:
Crimson Peak
Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road*
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Best Costume Design:
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Visual Effects:
Ex Machina
Jurassic World
Mad Max: Fury Road*
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Best Makeup:
Mad Max: Fury Road*
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Best Sound:
Ex Machina
It Follows
Mad Max: Fury Road
Star Wars: The Force Awakens*
Best Original Song:
“Grip” from Creed
“Can’t Bring Me Down” from Dope
“Flashlight” from Pitch Perfect 2*
“Who Can You Trust?” from Spy
“Mean Ol’ Moon” from Ted 2

Monday, January 25, 2016

Oscars 2016: The Acting Nominees: Will They Be Back?

Hello, Bloggers. For the second year, I am going to delve into the acting nominees and figure out whether there is a chance we will see them in future ceremonies to sort of test their longevity. Let's take a look:

Best Actor:

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo: Possibly. He's been on quite an awards roll with his Emmys for Breaking Bad, his Tony win for All The Way, and now his Oscar nomination. So if he delves into more baity roles in the future, then his time will come eventually.

Matt Damon, The Martian: I'm sure he will. They've nominated him for his acting once in a blue moon. But if he has an awards-caliber role at some point in the future, then they'll likely include him.

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant: Even if he finally gets his overdue Oscar, I still think he'll be invited to future ceremonies. Especially considering he's got another collaboration with Scorsese and a film where he plays a man with Multiple Personality Disorder called The Crowded Room. Yeah, he'll likely be back.

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs: More than likely. He did finally score that overdue Lead Actor nod and it is his 2nd nomination overall after his first for 12 Years A Slave. So it's clear they do like the guy. Also, if he amps up his campaigning skills, then he could actually win at some point. Not now, but another day, Fassy. Another day.

Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl: Absolutely. If they nominated him for an underwhelming performance in an underperforming Oscar bait movie, they clearly like the guy. The more bait he does, the more voters will nip at it.

Best Actress:

Cate Blanchett, Carol: No doubt in my mind she will. 2-5 record? Yeah, they love the girl.

Brie Larson, Room: I'm sure she will. She already proved with Short Term 12 that her Room success isn't just a one-off. So the more legit projects she does, the more likely they'll ask her to return.

Jennifer Lawrence, Joy: No doubt, yes. Even if she doesn't do another film with David O. Russell, they'll still find a way to nominate her since her first nomination was for Winter's Bone.

Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years: Probably not. We'll see what kind of roles come her way and we all know how Hollywood is with older women.

Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn: Definitely. She already scored her 2nd nomination by the age of 21. Even if she doesn't win this time around, voters might be aware that she'll have a lot more opportunities to take home the gold.

Best Supporting Actor:

Christian Bale, The Big Short: Certainly. This is his 3rd nomination and he's a previous winner. So he's become quite beloved by the Academy and is likely to be nominated often in the future.

Tom Hardy, The Revenant: I hope so. He does have a good amount of acting years left but he doesn't strike me as the kind that does movies for awards. Then again, he does have that Christopher Nolan WWII movie on the horizon. Hmmm..maybe we'll see him get another invite.

Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight: Yes. No doubt. In fact, because he's scored 3 nominations within a span of about 6 years, he might eventually build up momentum to a win.

Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies: I'm not sure. He does a lot more TV/theater work than film. So, we'll see.

Sylvester Stallone, Creed: Probably not. In fact, because he might not have much chances in the future, that might be why he's such a favorite to win.

Best Supporitng Actress:

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight: I hope so. She does have that Lyndon B. Johnson biopic on the horizon where she plays Johnson's wife and as names like Sally Field and Jennifer Connelly will tell you, Oscar LOVES the supportive wife role.

Rooney Mara, Carol: More than likely. Since she just scored her 2nd nomination, it is pretty clear she is beloved. Some of the projects she has on the horizon, like Una which is based off a play and co-stars Ben Mendelsohn and The Secret Scripture where she plays a mental hospital patient seem promising.

Rachel McAdams, Spotlight: She did finally score her first Oscar nomination. So maybe it's a "welcome to the club" type deal where they'll nominate her for whatever she does in the future. Fingers crossed.

Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl: I'm positive she will. Even if she doesn't win this time around, she'll probably be back. Some of the projects she has coming up, including the period dramas The Light Between Oceans opposite Michael Fassbender and Tulip Fever opposite Dane DeHaan and Christoph Waltz, show some promise.

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs: More than likely. After being away from Oscar for quite some time, she scored herself a comeback nod. Also, before she finally won, she had 5 nominations by the time she was in her early 30's. So now that she's been invited back, we could see her appear at the ceremony once again in the future.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Oscars 2016: The Acting Nominees And Their Best Unnominated Performances

Hello, Bloggers. Since the Oscar nominations have been announced, I figured I'd gear my attention towards the 20 acting nominees and some of their best work that went unnoticed by the Academy. Let's take a look:

Best Actor:

Bryan Cranston: I haven't seen a whole lot of his film work. But along with John Goodman, I think that he was an unsung hero of Argo. 

Matt Damon: This one is tough because he's been nominated for some of his best work. But I'm going to go with his work as Colin Sullivan in The Departed that is both charismatic and duplicitous.

Leonardo DiCaprio: Django Unchained. Before I saw the film, I never thought he could play someone so villainous. Boy, did this guy prove me wrong! Not only should've been nominated, but he should've taken the trophy.

Michael Fassbender: Another easy one. Shame. The performance that put him on the map in the first place and on people's radars, his flawless work as a sex addict is one of many diverse and complex characterizations that remains his best to date.

Eddie Redmayne: I'll go with Les Miserables. Interestingly, he had more screentime than Anne Hathaway who took home a trophy for the film and nominated the film practically everywhere else. Yet he couldn't ride the Les Mis train. Shame because he's better here than in his two nominated performances.

Best Actress:

Cate Blanchett: Agh, a tough one. If I had to choose one of her best unnominated performances, I'll go with her luminous turn as Daisy in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Very underrated and understated turn from her.

Brie Larson: I'm going with Short Term 12. While this may be a pretty motherly role like in Room, what makes her work as Grace in Short Term 12 a complete 180 is how she builds invisible walls between herself and those around her.

Jennifer Lawrence: The performance that truly made her a superstar, The Girl on Fire Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. I would argue she's better there than she was in Silver Linings Playbook which won her the Oscar that year. I mean, whenever I think about the scene where she volunteers as tribute, I get a small lump in my throat.

Charlotte Rampling: This one is tough because I haven't seen much of her work outside of 45 Years. The only other performance of hers that I've seen is her one scene wonder in Melancholia. Only one scene, but boy, does she makes the most of it!

Saoirse Ronan: Her leading turn as a teenage assassin in Hanna. Very underrated film and performance, but it's a performance that blends tough physicality and an emotional awareness of the world itself.

Best Supporting Actor:

Christian Bale: Easy, American Psycho. "Try getting a reservation at Dorsia now, you f**kin stupid bastard!"

Tom Hardy: A performance that I thought was robbed of a Best Actor nomination last year, his one man in show in Locke. If anyone can make a film about a guy driving on a highway intriguing, it's this guy.

Mark Ruffalo: Probably his work as Bruce Banner in The Avengers. He plays the role of a shy scientist worried that he'll "lose it" perfectly. He really made you sense his fear that he would turn green.

Mark Rylance: I'm not familiar with his other work in film or even his television and theater work. So, I can't really say.

Sylvester Stallone: Another tough one because Rocky is the role that has defined his career and I haven't really seen his work outside of it.

Best Supporting Actress:

Jennifer Jason Leigh: Other than her turn as the animalistic Daisy Domergue in The Hateful Eight, I've seen her revelatory voice work in Anomalisa. So, I'll go with that.

Rooney Mara: Her brief yet significant turn as the bitter ex-girlfriend Erica Albright in The Social Network. She only had two scenes, but I still think she deserved a place among the Best Supporting Actress lineup. That's how great she is.

Rachel McAdams: Easy. Mean Girls. I've always enjoyed her work after, but she'll always be Regina George to me. McAdams' performance as the sugary yet sinister Queen Bee is fetch!

Alicia Vikander: I'm going with her analytical Ava in Ex Machina. It's also the cherry on top of an amazing year for this breakthrough of a talent.

Kate Winslet: Another tough one because while I think she is a tremendous talent, I've seen only a handful of her work including performances where she actually was nominated. But I'm going to do a bit of a cheat and go with her appearance on TV's Extras where she plays a fictional version of herself trying to win an Oscar. Not necessarily her BEST work, but still absolutely hilarious and hey, she did get an Emmy nod for her work!

Oscars 2016: The Big Short Wins PGA

So, the Producers Guild of America Awards took place last night and I have to say, they have made this year even crazier. When they could've easily sealed the fate of critical darling Spotlight (Critics Choice Winner) or Golden Globe winners The Revenant and The Martian, they gave best Motion Picture to The Big Short. 

But the fates of Amy and Inside Out have been sealed as they have won Best Documentary and Animated Film respectively. They're both safe bets going into Oscar night at this point.

Of course, winning PGA isn't always an indicator of Best Picture. In 2004, The Aviator won PGA, but Million Dollar Baby won Best Picture. Also, Moulin Rouge! won PGA in 2001, but Best Picture went to A Beautiful Mind. But more often than not, it is a good indicator as to what the big prize goes to.

So the Screen Actors Guild Awards will take place on Saturday and I'm quite curious to see the direction they go on as well. Until then, thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Topic Of The Day: Oscars Announce Membership Changes

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. For today's topic, I will discuss a recent announcement regarding the Academy Awards.

President Cheryl Boone-Isaacs has announced a new rule voted on by the governing committee regarding voting privileges amongst incoming and returning members:

According to this statement, starting at the end of this year, incoming members will be given a 10 year voting period and if they satisfy two more 10 year periods, then they will be given lifetime voting privileges as a way to encourage voters to fill out their ballots.

Similar rules will apply to current members. But those that have not been active in the past 10 years will be moved to emeritus status, meaning they will be moved to emeritus status, meaning they will enjoy the privileges of being a member except voting.

They have also made it their goal to allow more minorities and women into the Academy by 2020. Now, I think this plan is very smart. I'm sure giving those that haven't been as active emeritus status is a way to weed out the older voters. But to me, that seems fair. If they haven't been as active in the voting process or even the filmmaking industry, then why should they continue?

Also by having more women and talent of color that will be allowed to vote is a nice way to encourage more diversity. Even if it won't solve the diversity problem tomorrow, they are still on the right track.

Of course, I am curious as to what'll happen with the younger voters who are more active in the filmmaking industry? Will they be too busy to watch their screeners or will they go by films they saw in theaters? No matter what happens, though, we will hopefully see an Oscar ceremony that is less old and white in the years to come.

So those are my thoughts on this new membership announcement. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Topic Of The Day: How To Solve The Diversity Problem

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. For today's topic, I figured I will yet again offer my input into the whole diversity situation present amongst the Oscars. But because I think this is more of an industry problem, here is my input on how they can fix it.

First off, when I bring up the diversity situation, I don’t just think of stories dealing with race. But also stories dealing with gender and/or sexuality. The problem that the industry is facing is that they heavily promote films dealing with the racial or the gay experience that send the same continuous message.

The Help did very nicely at the box office and scored a Best Picture nomination and Supporting Actress win for Octavia Spencer. But the biggest problem that I have with its success is how it gives us the same tired storyline of "the problems of minorities can be solved if a kind white person is on standby" and if more films like The Help do well, then it encourages the suits to churn out more films that put blacks in a box, forcing black actors to continue to play subservient characters to earn recognition. The very same year that film came out, we also had an unsung indie named Pariah which depicts an African-American lesbian woman living in Brooklyn. That film doesn't necessarily deal with an external racial struggle, but rather the main character's internal struggle as well as the struggle of a family unit. So Pariah's themes are much more universal, allowing it to be something anyone can relate to and beyond just a black film.

If the suits were brave enough to put their weight behind films like Pariah, then we will start to see some progress. Even though we have recently given Oscars to names like Octavia Spencer and Lupita Nyong'o, we're still handing out awards to blacks for playing maids, slaves, chauffers, crooks, etc. I don't want to take away from the work given from the actresses I just mentioned or any other talent of color that works hard to secure a nomination for the roles they are given. But if we keep seeing blacks, as well as Lations or Asians, win and get nominated for the same kind of roles, then we won't see much progress in my opinion.

Obviously, stories about slavery and civil rights are important. But I don’t want them to be the sole representation of the black community. The day we see a performance along the lines of Adepero Oduye in Pariah, Michael B. Jordan in Creed, or Pam Grier in Jackie Brown win an Oscar for a performance that isn't a stereotype is when we start to see progress.

It's just like how when we reward cis actors for playing gay, they still win for playing gay characters suffering from AIDS or fighting for gay rights. Again, these stories are important. But they shouldn't be the sole representation of the gay community. Not when we have movies like 2011's Weekend, a romance between two men that transcends being just a gay romance. When we see performances along the lines of Tom Cullen and Chris New in Weekend or Adele Exarchopoulos in Blue Is The Warmest Color win an Oscar is when we see progress.

Of course, audiences have proven that they want to see rich and complex roles for women. But whenever the studios campaign for actresses, their roles tend to be wives or mothers or real-life women and so on. Even if we saw a performance along the lines of Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow, Emma Stone in Easy A, or Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl win an Oscar, that would be progressive and a game-changer in terms of what is considered awards worthy.

If Hollywood, or audiences, want to see progression, then give us something different. Some of the films I just mentioned were smaller independents. But if the suits become brave enough to give us more films that celebrate the racial, gay, and/or female experience, then we will see progress. The studios are the ones who have a say in what movies get made as well as what films get campaigned for awards. They have the power to make this happen.

So that is my proposal on how to fix the diversity problem in Hollywood and the Oscars as well. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Topic Of The Day: #OscarsSoWhite 2.0

Hello, Bloggers! Welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. For today's topic, I wanted to continue discussing the #OscarsSoWhite trend and why I think it is getting way out of hand at this point.

First off, I do think that it is glaring and bothersome how once again, all 20 acting nominees are Caucasian. There's no denying that. But I think that the bigger fault lies on the industry itself. If you looked at the acting nominations at the Golden Globes, SAGs, and even the Critics Choice Awards, not only are most of them white, but it is who the studios are persuading the voters to go for. There was quite an outcry that Michael B. Jordan got snubbed for Best Actor in Creed. While I agree that he should've been included, he was still a longshot because most of the buzz and promotion surrounded Sylvester Stallone for Best Supporting Actor. Idris Elba did have a good shot at Best Supporting Actor for Beasts of No Nation, but he had the misfortune of competing in a stacked category. Same with Benicio Del Toro in Sicario who only got a BAFTA nomination.

So because the precursors are an indication of what lies ahead for Nomination Day, it is not like voters take a random list of eligible films and performers and pluck them out of a hat. That's not the way it works and after last year's controversy, it is not like performers of color can just expect to magically get nominated to atone for what happened last year. It simply does not work that way. Will Smith was pretty active on the campaign trail for Concussion, but the movie itself came and went, getting mixed reviews and not making much box office business. So it shouldn't have been a surprise that he got left out since nobody paid his performance much mind.

It is also on the studio's hands to do more promotion for their films that center around people of color. If they do solid business, critically and financially, of if they believe in their products early on, then they should get a head start on their Oscar campaigns to promote their talent. When Creed and even Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which had a diverse main cast, arrived as Oscar players, it was a little late in the game. Star Wars didn't even screen for the Golden Globes.

I worry that because this controversy happened two years in a row, then by the time we see another minority performance get nominated, it'll feel like a token nomination and I'll just say this right now: No performer should ever, EVER, be nominated mainly for their race. No matter what race or gender they are, an actor and director should always get in on merit and merit alone. If that sort of thing happened this year, then we would've probably seen a case like..say, Gugu Mbatha-Raw getting in for Concussion even though she had absolutely nothing to do. I want to see voters be like, "We're including you because you deserve it" and not "We nominated you because we had to." It even makes the performer feel like they didn't put a lot of effort into their performance and takes away from the artistry. If I was black and got recognized because I "had to be," on the inside, I would want them to take my nomination back because I wouldn't have earned it.

Lastly, I want to delve into the boycott started by Will and Jada Pinkett Smith as well as Spike Lee. That is also out of line for a few reasons. One is that Spike Lee just received an Honorary Oscar by the Academy and to bite the hand that just fed him, especially after trash-talking them for snubbing Do The Right Thing for Best Picture, is so petty and makes him come off as a spoiled brat. Also, the ceremony will have a black host with Chris Rock, a black producer with Reginald Hudlin, and of course, the president of the AMPAS, Cheryl Boone Isaacs. So even if they couldn't recognize talent of color in front of the camera, try to show your support for the talent behind it.

So overall, while the Oscars may be an easy target, I feel that people are failing to see the bigger picture and that the Oscars are just a fraction of people in a larger industry which has an influence in what voters put on their ballot. If Hollywood continues to churn out more Creeds, Straight Outta Comptons, and Sicarios while heavily promoting them for awards contention, then we may see some progress down the line. Boycotting the ceremony isn't going to do any good because it might discourage the suits from crafting and promoting such legitimate material.

What do you guys think? Do you agree that this whole #OscarsSoWhite controversy is getting blown out of proportion or do you think this backlash is legitimate? Please be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Oscars 2016: Critics Choice Awards Winners

So the Critics Choice Awards, which celebrated both film and television, took place last night. Since I mainly cover the film industry, I will discuss the film winners.

First off, Spotlight won Best Picture along with Best Original Screenplay and Best Ensemble. All of which aren't surprising. But even though it won the big prize, the big winner was Mad Max: Fury Road, winning 9 awards out of 13. One of which was Best Director for George Miller. Despite not showing up, the actresses who played the Five Wives (Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Zoe Kravitz, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, and Courtney Eaton), accepted the award on Miller's behalf. I thought that was very nice.

Another one of my favorite speeches was Jacob Tremblay when he won Best Young Actor/Actress for Room. I loved when he said he was going to put his award next to his Milennium Falcon. I thought that was so cute. Speaking of Room, Tremblay's co-star Brie Larson won Best Actress yet wasn't there to accept her award. Neither was Leonardo DiCaprio who won Best Actor. Although DiCaprio did make a speech via satellite.

Also, Sylvester Stallone won Best Supporting Actor and Alicia Vikander won Best Supporting Actress for The Danish Girl. Now, I would say Supporting Actress is between her and Kate Winslet who won the Golden Globe.

So as of right now, because Spotlight won Best Picture despite Mad Max being the big winner, I would say Best Picture at the Oscars is between Spotlight, The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Big Short which won Best Comedy Movie at last night's awards. I would say The Martian factors in the Best Picture race but it got badly stung by Ridley Scott getting snubbed for Best Director as well as the Editing snub. In both categories is where the aforementioned four films got included and you usually need both a Directing and Editing nomination to win Best Picture.

Those are my quick thoughts on the Critics Choice Awards and how they have affected the Best Picture race. You can read the full list of winners on the link below and I look forward to discussing the winners in the comments section down below with you. Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Top 15 Male Lead Performances of 2015

Here is my final list celebrating the great performances of 2015. The top 15 best male lead performances of the year. Enjoy!

15. Michael Fassbender as Silas in Slow West: You got to love Michael Fassbender! Last year, he plays Magneto, the mutant with a metal helmet as well as a musician that wears a paper mache head. Now he bounces his way into the Western genre as the rather sly cowboy Silas. What makes his work here different from his previous work is how he plays someone that is, oozing charm and slight sensitivity.

14. Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy Hope in Southpaw: Even if Gyllenhaal is hampered by subpar writing, he still fights his way out of it with his performance in this. I would say this is a performance as demanding and committed as well...Jake Gyllenhaal's performance last year in Nightcrawler. I can imagine he's only going to get better.

13. Joel Edgerton as John Connolly in Black Mass: Black Mass may have been marketed as a comeback vehicle for Johnny Depp. But ultimately, it's Joel Edgerton who walks away with the film as the sole MVP. Even if his John Connolly wasn't the most likable guy in the room, I still found myself feeling bad over what might happen to him in the end.

12. Jason Bateman as Simon in The Gift: Who knew Jason Bateman was capable of playing someone so punchable? He's usually playing the lovable comedic straight man. But as a man with a hidden past, Jason Bateman really gets to play against type. While we normally see comedians go serious, I certainly did not expect this from him.

11. Jason Mitchell as Easy E in Straight Outta Compton: Back in August when this movie came out, while the main acting trio was getting major props, it was Jason Mitchell who was on the tip of everyone's tongue. With good reason too because with how he nails the performing style of Easy E and showcases layers of humor and depth, Mitchell steals every scene he is in.

10. Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass in The Revenant: At this point, saying Leonardo DiCaprio gave a masterful performance is like saying the grass is green. It is so obvious that he always delivers and pushes himself as a performer. Here, he pushes himself to great physical lengths, hardly uttering any dialogue as he lets his face do the talking while undergoing such brutal conditions. If he doesn't win an Oscar this time around, the man truly is cursed.

9. Taron Egerton as Eggsy Unwin in Kingsman: The Secret Service: Taron Egerton is one of the greatest cinematic finds of 2015. In Kingsman, he gets to ooze charisma, hold his own against veteran actors like Sir Michael Caine and Colin Firth, and handle some killer action scenes. It's the kind of star-making turn that makes you eager to await his next move and I certainly can't wait to see what he's got on his table in the future. The near future.

8. Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs in Steve Jobs: Even if Michael Fassbender looks little like Steve Jobs, he still gets to create a colorful portrait of him. He plays Jobs like the machines he's trying to sell, speaking in rapid fire while always trying to look ahead and evolve. This year, he not only got to speak "Aaron Sorkinese" but also Shakespearean in Macbeth. At this point, he's not an actor, but a certified chameleon.

7. David Thewlis as Michael Stone in Anomalisa: A lot of us can probably identify with David Thewlis' Michael, somebody who feels they undergo the same mundanity every single day. Through his voice work, Thewlis is able to capture Michael's neuroticism as well as his more optimistic switch as soon as he stumbles across the mercurial Lisa. Once he meets this woman and feels he has immediately found love, you really felt that.

6. Jacob Tremblay as Jack in Room: Jacob Tremblay gave perhaps one of the best child actor performances in recent memory if not ever. It is quite rare for child actors to portray children as...simply children in my opinion. Jack experiences the atypical starry-eyed wonder that children have as well as their burning curiosity about the world perfectly.

5. Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky in Mad Max: Fury Road: Action star is another thing that Tom Hardy can add to his already diverse resume. But not only does Hardy handle the action very well, but the subtle emotional journey as well. He goes from paranoid recluse who holds women at gunpoint to sympathetic ally that becomes a great asset to the central female characters through sudden inflictions of his eyes. Much like Michael Fassbender, is there anything this man can't do?

4. Michael B. Jordan as Adonnis Creed in Creed: Jordan proves himself as a more than worthy successor to Sly Stallone in the Rocky franchise. Jordan's work is a dynamic mix of charm, physicality, and depth. Even as he shows off his charming smile, he captures his inner fury and torment through his hard punches. Thanks to his work in both this and Fruitvale Station, Michael B. Jordan proves why he is destined to be one of our biggest stars working today.

3. Matt Damon as Mark Watney in The Martian: Few movie characters this year have left me feeling as much joy when leaving the theater as Damon's Mark Watney. Even when we sense the fear in his voice that he won't make it through to the end, he still throws out a few funny quips, trying to stay optimistic in the face of danger.

2. Jason Segel as David Foster Wallace in The End Of The Tour: We have seen plenty of comedians attempt to play it straight, but when I heard about this film and that Jason Segel would star, I thought "Really? Jason Segel?" But boy, am I glad that he stunned me with his dramatic powerhouse of a performance. It's a shame that despite ticking the right boxes (comedian going serious, real-life person), Segel was considerable overlooked this award season. But regardless, here's hoping his work here opens up an interesting chapter in his career.

1. Ben Mendelsohn as Gerry in Mississippi Grind: Trivial question: What do the cold eyes of Pope Cody in Animal Kingdom, the power hungry sleaze of Daggett in The Dark Knight Rises, and the heart of gold from Robin in The Place Beyond The Pines all have in common? They're all played by the guy above. Gerry is a rare leading role for typical "that guy" Ben Mendelsohn and he seizes it. Through the way he widens his big determined smile and says "Uhh, you know" like a kid who he thinks he's in trouble, he is able to give Gerry a huggable factor that sets him apart from the darker characters he's portrayed in the past. After both this and Starred Up, I'll pretty much follow whatever his next projects are.

Here, you can see my list of the top 15 best supporting male performances and my lists of the best female performances here and here.