Monday, March 23, 2015

Go ahead, arrest me!

This post is part of Nathaniel's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series in which the participants must post a single image from a movie he or she deems as the "best shot" for any particular reason.


Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow is an anthology film by the great Italian director Vittorio De Sica consisting of three short stories starring the legendary Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. All three are huge names not only of Italian film, but cinema as a whole. I was exposed to De Sica and Mastroianni in college when I took an Italian Cinema class one semester and had the opportunity to view De Sica's The Bicycle Thief (still one of my favorite films) and Mastroianni in the classic 8 1/2 by Federico Fellini. I'm less familiar with Loren's work, even now, as most of my knowledge of her comes from pop culture osmosis.

With that said, I had a real great time seeing both Loren and Mastroianni in this film take on the different characters and relationship statuses. So without further a due, my best shot picks for each film segment...

Adelina of Naples


Here Loren plays Adelina who comically keeps getting pregnant to avoid jail time to the joy-turn-consternation of her husband Carmine played by Mastroianni. This segment is bustling with people in most of its frames from their neighbors of their close-knit community always willing to lend a hand to the seven or eight children they have. So my pick of best shot is of Loren's Adelina all alone in her cigarette-selling station (with two of her kids) after the other girls have fled for fear of the cops. Not only do I love this shot because of the great background of the ascending stairs, but also because it's wonderful seeing Adelina so steadfast in her taunting of the cops. So daring.

Anna of Milan


My least favorite segment features Loren and Mastroianni as a couple out on a drive. She plays Anna, rich and listless, and he plays Renzo, frustrated and hopeless. She's married to some unseen rich guy and who has paid for the Rolls Royce they're taking out for a spin. De Sica has some slick camera movements here giving this mostly driving, no-plot segment some of its momentum, but for the most part I wasn't a big fan. So it's probably why my pick of best shot was at the end with Renzo walking away from the wreckage (of the car, of his relationship) with flowers he bought from the boy in the background in tow. As the film fades to black, we see Renzo about to toss the flowers aside. Fleeting beauty.

Mara of Rome


The final segment takes place in Rome in a rooftop apartment overlooking the picturesque Piazza Navona where Loren plays a high-class escort named Mara and Mastroianni plays Rusconi, one of her clients. He's expecting to spend some quality time with her, but there's always something to get in the way. For her part, she meets and enchants Umberto (played by Gianni Ridolfi), a young priest-to-be who is visiting his grandparents who live in the apartment next to Mara's. For my best shot, I was tempted to choose a shot that displayed the effortless sexual appeal of Loren, the comical expressiveness of Mastroianni, or the gloriousness of the balcony set overlooking the Piazza Navona. Instead, I went with a shot of Umberto, cutting quite a striking figure in his priestly garments. In fact, Mara actually pauses from her gardening/singing to take it all in. Granted, she's most likely reacting to him being a priest more than anything, but I'd like to think she also saw something she liked. Wink wink.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

It's a bold one you are...

This post is part of Nathaniel's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series in which the participants must post a single image from a movie he or she deems as the "best shot" for any particular reason.

With it being St. Patrick's Day and all, the film chosen this week was John Ford's Oscar-winning movie The Quiet Man starring John Wayne as a well-to-do Irish-American coming back to Ireland to put down roots who then falls in love with a fiery local played by the captivating Maureen O'Hara. Hilarity ensued.


The film is shot gorgeously with Ireland's greens and O'Hara's reds making the biggest impact for me as is evident in many scenes where she is asked to run through verdant fields as shown above. She's actually running home after a particularly hot encounter with Wayne's character at his new place which she was cleaning as "a good Christian act." What ensued though was slightly less Christian when he discovers her with him pulling her back from leaving and with the strong wind from the outside rushing in plants a kiss on her. The whole windy scene is technically my "favorite shot," but the one below pre-kiss really encapsulates the combative and passionate nature of their whirlwind relationship.

Best Shot

So even though I realized halfway through that I just don't "get" Wayne, the film's visuals and lighthearted tone plus his compatible chemistry with O'Hara carried me through.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

I wanna live a normal happy life...

This post is part of Nathaniel's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series in which the participants must post a single image from a movie he or she deems as the "best shot" for any particular reason.


Paris is Burning is a 1990 documentary that recounts the underground drag ball scene of late 80s New York City as well as the gay and transgendered African-American and Latino communities involved in it. The film provides an essential (and still relevant) look at gay and trans life through the exploration of this specific subculture highlighted via actual ball competition footage as well as the one-one-one interviews with the leading players of the time.

With how important, critically-acclaimed, and ground-breaking this film was at the time (and still is as a cult favorite), I'm ashamed to say that I saw it for the first time only yesterday and even more embarrassed to admit being aware of its existence only a year ago. Its short 78-min running time belies the amount of cultural knowledge it provides from the specifics of drag ball culture (categories, houses, etc.) to the origins of voguing and throwing shade. At the heart of it is the film's exploration of how the ball scene enabled the disenfranchised community to find an empowering, supportive, fun, and safe outlet to deal with their very real fears and realities of homophobia, racism, poverty, and AIDS.


I didn't think too hard then about picking my favorite shot when I saw the film since I was too busy learning about a world I previously didn't know. Shot by then NYU film student Jennie Livingston, the documentary's gritty aesthetic is both a product of its time and a fitting reflection of its subject matter. The elaborate costumes and the energetic dance routines made it tempting to pick a shot from the ball competitions, especially any and all voguing routines. But most of my favorite shots were actually of the people during their intimate one-on-one interviews with the filmmaker from Dorian Corey's extended makeup scene to Pepper LaBeija smoking to Venus Xtravaganza lounging in bed. My pick for best shot is from one such scene...

Best Shot

In this shot, Octavia from the House of Saint Laurent is speaking about wanting to live a "normal happy life" which might mean marriage, kids, or being famous and rich. She's flanked by photos of models and celebrities she aspires to be, especially her idol Paulina Porizkova whose picture is right above her, dead center in the shot. While not representative of the documentary as a whole, it's still a lovely snapshot of someone vocalizing and visualizing their dream, regardless of how out-of-reach it may be, which Paris is Burning wholeheartedly encourages for all.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I don't supposed I'm used to dancing...

This post is part of Nathaniel's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series in which the participants must post a single image from a movie he or she deems as the "best shot" for any particular reason.


It's very fitting for The Sound of Music to kick off the sixth season of HMWYBS since it's not only a classic film that was so beautifully shot, but it also celebrated its 50th Anniversary yesterday. Unfortunately, I actually didn't have time to re-watch the entire film, but this is the sort of film that literally every shot chosen would be a fantastic choice. My first thought was actually to pick the scene above with Maria getting caught by the nuns at the very start of the film. I'm just a big fan of Julie Andrews comical look and windswept hair juxtaposed by a line of judging sisters.


Then my next thought was perhaps something from my favorite song, which is weirdly enough "The Lonely Goatherd" (which my grade school class performed ages ago). It's a lovely and random diversion from the film proper with the kids and Maria putting on a puppet show for Captain Von Trapp, The Baroness, and Max. But there really wasn't any "best shot" possibilities during this sequence since most of my love for it is due to the fun song and the yodeling. Luckily there's a reprise of sorts later on...

Did you know that the beautiful instrumental music Maria and the Captain dance to a few scenes later in the film is a re-arrangement of the tune of "The Lonely Goatherd"? I actually never made the connection until recently and it just made me love that already great scene more. The scene, of course, is Maria and the Captain showing his kids how to dance The Ländler and is pretty much the turning point in the movie where Maria realizes she has real "falling in love" feelings for the Captain (and vice versa). The entire dance sequence is lovely and a highlight in a film full of them. My pick for best shot is towards the end of their dance with them not actually face to face...

Best Shot

I just really love the look of fear/realization/longing that's so clear on both of their faces. Look at him reaching out for her hand unseen afraid she might just take it, but more afraid she might not. It's such a small moment in such an epic film, but like both of them to each other, it's hard not to fall in love.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Birdman Tops Academy Awards


"Stay weird. Stay different." That's from Graham Moore's speech last night as he accepted the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game. It's also a very apt way of not only describing this year's Oscars ceremony or the films that were honored, but of the entire awards season as well. But first the full list of winners:

Best Picture: Birdman
Best Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman
Best Lead Actor: Eddie Redmayne, Theory of Everything
Best Lead Actress: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Best Animated Film: Big Hero 6
Best Original Screenplay: Birdman
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Imitation Game
Best Foreign Language Film: Ida
Best Documentary: Citizenfour
Best Original Score: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Original Song: "Glory," Selma
Best Editing: Whiplash
Best Production Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Cinematography: Birdman
Best Costume Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Makeup and Hair: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Sound Editing: American Sniper
Best Sound Mixing:
Whiplash
Best Visual Effects: Interstellar
Best Live Action Short: The Phone Call
Best Animated Short: Feast
Best Documentary Short: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

4 - Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel
3 - Whiplash
1 - Boyhood, The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, Still Alice, Selma, Ida, Big Hero 6, Citizenfour, American Sniper, Interstellar, The Phone Call, Feast, Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1


Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel walked home with the most hardware with 4 each with Birdman taking the top two prizes of Picture and Director while Grand Budapest's haul consisted of technical awards most notably for Production Design, a first for a Wes Anderson film. Whiplash was the only other film to win more than one award with 3 wins including Supporting Actor for J.K. Simmons. Early frontrunner Boyhood only went home with one award for Patricia Arquette's Supporting Actress role, but it wasn't alone as 13 films received only one win including all of the other Best Picture nominees. In fact, this is the first time since the category expanded to more than five nominees that this has happened. Other Best Picture films' wins include Theory of Everything's Eddie Redmayne for Actor, the aforementioned Imitation Game for Adapted Screenplay, Selma's song "Glory" for Best Song, and American Sniper for Sound Editing. So literally, everyone got a trophy. The biggest surprise there is probably Redmayne's win over Michael Keaton since Keaton's film was the star of the night. Another notable wins include Julianne Moore finally winning her long-awaited first Oscar for Actress and Big Hero 6 upset win in Animated Feature. For my part, I got 18/24 in my predictions which was fine, I guess.

The show opened up with a wonderful ode to Moving Pictures from singing-dancing host Neil Patrick Harris accompanied by Anna Kendrick and Jack Black. It started the night off on a high note, but things quickly came back down to earth as the first few speeches were hilariously/tragically drowned out by an overzealous orchestra and them Harris stumbling often coming off as snappy instead of charming. I personally thought he did a solid B, but some of his jokes did fall flat and his whole locked box trick could've been executed far better. He did take off his clothes for the middle part of the ceremony, for which we were all grateful. And while the show went long, there were plenty to like. I personally enjoyed most of the Best Song performances especially the wacky and energetic "Everything is Awesome" and the powerful and emotional "Glory." Lady Gaga's pitch perfect Sound of Music medley was fantastic albeit coming in way too late in the ceremony and Meryl Streep's speech prior to the In Memoriam segment was elegant and touching.


What made this year's Oscars memorable though were the many, many wonderful speeches that the winners gave when accepting their trophies from Simmons' personal plea for everyone to call their moms to Alejandro G. Iñárritu's call for immigration reform. Common and John Legend talked about incarceration rates while Arquette spoke about women and wage inequalities (prompting Streep and Jennifer Lopez to leap out of their seats with agreement, the most gif-worthy moment of the night). Others tried to raise awareness for important issues, personal or film-related, like teen suicide, Alzheimer's care voting rights, veteran's care, privacy, and ALS funding. The award ceremony wasn't perfect, but is it ever? Let's do this again next year, folks!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Final Thoughts Before the Oscars


What I loved about this year's Oscar race is that the two top films vying for Best Picture are both not Oscar-y films at all really. Both Birdman and Boyhood seem at once too small, too experimental, too personal, too weird/mundane (respectively). And yet here we are with both films (which many have together dubbed as Boyman) as the frontrunner to win the big prize. Certainly both had an "easy" hook with critics and audiences alike at the onset with praise-worthy technical achievements--Birdman's one-shot cinematography and Boyhood's twelve-year span--but I like to believe that fans of either films loved it for more than those. I certainly did. As for which film will actually come out on top, well that IS the big question. Boyhood was an overwhelming favorite early on with the critics, also winning at the BFCA, and picked up major awards from the Golden Globes and BAFTA. But it's Birdman which post-Oscar nominations had really shown the momentum and industry support one expect of a Best Picture winner winning PGA, DGA, SAG ensemble, and many other guilds.


The Birdman-Boyhood battle extends to Best Director as well with many thinking that early favorite Richard Linklater can hold off Birdman's Alejandro González Iñárritu. It's true that Iñárritu won the all-important DGA Award, but apart from that loss, Linklater has maintained his frontrunner status as the clear critics favorites and winning director prizes from all of the other major awards organizations. Yesterday's Spirit Awards may become the bellwether for Oscars with Birdman winning Picture and Linklater winning Director. It would certainly be fitting for the Academy to do this as well to honor both great films and the man who helmed them.


With regards to the acting categories, it's cut-and-dried for the most part with Julianne Moore, J.K. Simmons, and Patricia Arquette expected to pick up their first Oscar trophies after dominating all season long with critics, BFCA, Golden Globes, BAFTA, SAG, and even Spirit Awards all going their way. All fine and all, but I repeat this fact again Julianne Moore will FINALLY win her first Academy Awards tonight. YES, PLEASE. Now, the only category up in the air is Best Actor with a two-man race between Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne. The latter seems to be poised for a win especially considering the Academy's penchant for a) British actors, b) actors in biopics, and c) actors who dramatically change their looks. Redmayne also won the trio of Golden Globes, SAG, and BAFTA. But Keaton is a Hollywood veteran who has worked with plenty of Academy members and is the undeniable star of a film more people preferred. He also was the critics' favorites (and BFCA winner), won the Globes as well, won at the Spirits, and technically won a SAG. It's going to be a nail-biter.

But enough about Birdman and Boyhood since it's actually more likely that neither one will walk home with the most Oscars tonight. That film seems to be The Grand Budapest Hotel which shares the most Oscar nominations this year with 9 nods (along with Birdman). The Grand Budapest Hotel is a favorite to win many of the technical awards including Best Production Design, which would be a shocking first for a Wes Anderson film. It's also the unlikely favorite for the Original Screenplay facing off against Boyhood *and* Birdman. Elsewhere fellow Best Picture nominees Whiplash, Imitation Game, and even American Sniper might win an award or two. The latter of which hit the zeitgeist post-Oscar nominations easily becoming not only the biggest film of this year's crop, but close to becoming the highest-grossing film of last year. Its ubiquity in the media during the voting period and surprise support from the Academy makes it one of the films prime to play spoiler to the Boyman show. Then there's Selma. With only two nominations (Picture and Song), it doesn't look likely to upset and yet the uproar over its director Ava DuVernay not receiving a director nod rivaled the reaction over Affleck's snub the year Argo won. Plus Selma has also tapped into the spirit of the time with many questioning the lack of diversity, #OscarsSoWhite, etc.

Like every year at this point, I'm relieved the end is near. Awards season is almost always exhausting with its usual drama and building predictability. The show should be fun this year though especially with host extraordinaire Neil Patrick Harris doing his thing. It actually looks like it going to be a music--heavy show with NPH no doubt doing a number or two plus full performances of the Best Song nominees, AND Anna Kendrick, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Hudson (and more?) set to perform something as well. As outlined above, some of the major categories are still up-in-the-air to make the ceremony more nerve-wracking for some. It's true of some of the smaller ones as well especially after early favorites like Gone Girl's screenplay, The LEGO Movie for Animated Film, Force Majeure for Foreign Film, Life Itself for Documentary, Birdman's editing inexplicably snubbed. That Gone Girl snub actually still hurts and for a year where Oscars seemed to fully embraced the out-of-the-norm, they missed out on honoring one of the year's best.

Related links:
Click here to see my official predictions.
Click here to see my own personal ballot.
Click here to see my initial thoughts on the Oscar nominations.
Click here to see all my posts on "Awards Season."

Birdman Flies at the Spirit Awards


Yesterday, the Spirit Awards, celebrating its 30th year, picked their winners and, for the most part, felt more like a prediction list for tonight's Oscars. There were a few unique choices, but essentially if you're a frontrunner to win an Academy Award tonight, then you probably won a Spirit Award yesterday as well. The winners were:

Best Feature: Birdman
Best Director: Robin Linklater, Boyhood
Best Lead Actor: Michael Keaton, Birdman
Best Lead Actress: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Best Screenplay: Nightcrawler
Best First Feature: Nightcrawler
Best First Screenplay: Dear White People
Best International Film: Ida
Best Documentary: CITIZENFOUR
Best Cinematography: Birdman
Best Editing: Whiplash
Robert Altman Award: Inherent Vice
Piaget Producers Award: Chris Ohlson
Someone To Watch Award: Rania Attieh & Daniel Garcia, H
Truer Than Fiction Award: Dan Krauss, The Kill Team
John Cassavetes Award: Land Ho!
Special Distinction Award: Foxcatcher

As has been the case the past few weeks, Birdman came out on top, winning Best Picture and grabbing two more wins for a leading 3 wins at the Spirit Awards. Its rival Boyhood won 2 including a Best Director win (Ethan Hawke accepted on behalf of absent Richard Linklater) setting up the two-film, two-man fight everyone's expecting for the Oscars tonight. All of the acting awards went to the respective Oscar nominee front-runner and all should repeat their wins tonight give or take Eddie Redmayne making good on his precursor successes. Whiplash (Supporting Actor and Editing) and Nightcrawler (Screenplay and First Feature) were the only other films who won multiple awards making the latter's lack of Oscar love all the more egregious.

Apart from Nightcrawler though, other Spirit-winning films that won't be honored much at the Oscars tomorrow include Dear White People, Inherent Vice, and Land Ho!. So on the one hand, it's heartening that so many of the Oscar front-runners come from "independent films" but on the other hand, I'm saddened for the sameness of the films and performances being awarded. So shout out to Love is Strange, Obvious Child, The One I Love, The Guest, Jenny Slate, Tilda Swinton, David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Jessica Chastain, Alfred Molina, etc.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

My Oscar Predictions


Right now, we can all Imagine What's Possible as the Oscar poster says. But by this time tomorrow, we will all know the winners of the 87th Academy Awards. I'll attempt to make some predictions below, but I'm not super hopeful. Yes, some categories are as easy as pies, but this year more than most seem to have categories that have no true frontrunner, which I supposed is refreshing. So for my predictions...

Best Picture: Birdman
Best Director: Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Best Lead Actor: Michael Keaton, Birdman
Best Lead Actress: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Best Animated Film: How to Train Your Dragon 2
Best Original Screenplay: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Imitation Game
Best Foreign Language Film: Ida
Best Documentary: Citizenfour
Best Original Score: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Original Song: "Glory," Selma
Best Editing: Boyhood
Best Production Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Cinematography: Birdman
Best Costume Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Makeup and Hair: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Sound Editing: American Sniper
Best Sound Mixing: American Sniper
Best Visual Effects: Interstellar
Best Live Action Short: The Phone Call
Best Animated Short: Feast
Best Documentary Short: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Tally: 5 - Grand Budapest Hotel; 3 - Birdman, Boyhood; 2 - American Sniper; 1 - Still Alice, Whiplash, How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Imitation Game, Ida, Citizenfour, Selma, Interstellar, The Phone Call, Feast, Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Any combination of Birdman-Boyhood winning Picture-Director I could totally buy, but I'm going with the split that everyone seems to be predicting. It's certainly my preference if Boyhood HAD to lose Best Picture. The rest are a mix of gut feeling and based on precursors and buzz. Grand Budapest will certainly win the most awards tomorrow as I'm predicting here. But American Sniper for both Sound awards? No wins at all for Theory of Everything? Sure? Let's see how right/wrong I am.

To see what I would've voted for instead (i.e. my Should Wins), click here.

End-Of-Year: Favorite Films #16-35

So with 111 films seen, I wasn't just going to do a simple Top 10 list. Instead I narrowed it down to my Top 35, because I'm just an "everyone gets a trophy" sort of person. Plus I enjoy looking back at my ranked lists from time to time so why not include more films, right?

Here's the first half (#35-#16), with my Top 15 either being posted right before or after the Oscars tomorrow. I'm thinking it's going to be the latter. Onwards!


35. Only Lovers Left Alive - Casting Hiddleston and Swinton as vampires is the first highlight of this wonderful film. Making them wallow in the filth and ennui of our world longing for the good old days is the other. Such a weird and lovely film in all the similar ways its two main leads are as well.

34. Under the Skin - When I watched this six months ago, I had no idea what I was in for. It's as elusive, alien, beautiful, and scary as its main protagonist brilliantly played by Scarlett Johannson. Certain scenes are just seared into my brain.

33. Into the Woods - One of my most anticipated films of the year mostly lived up to the hype with good to great performances from many involved including my MVP Emily Blunt. I would've done minor tweaks and recast Depp, but that's me getting all nit-picky. It could've been a lot worse!

32. The Immigrant - The two elements that stuck with me were the magnificent cinematography and the Sophie's Choice-level acting from Marion Cotillard making its two-hour run time seem relatively quick despite the movie's deliberate pacing.

31. Life Itself - This superb documentary about Roger Ebert was illuminating in so many ways enabling this one fan of his to learn more about his early life, his journey after his diagnosis and surgery, and more importantly just how impactful the man really was after all was said and done.


30. Chef - Don't see this movie hungry, because apart from its charming cast and feel-good, easy-going plot about a guy traveling the road with his young son on a food truck, the beautiful food cinematography/pornography will have your stomach growling.

29. Begin Again - John Carney's Once is one of my all-time favorite films, but I think his sophomore musical film holds its own especially with Knightley and Ruffalo in the lead as well as some smart and unexpected choices (both musically and plot-wise) the movie makes.

28. Stranger by the Lake - It's been a wonderful year for queer cinema with this film being 1 of 5 on my list. This French film is probably the most erotic (French? Erotic? What are the odds?), but one of my favorite things about it was the continuous sense of not knowing what to expect all the whole still trying to be present at the moment.

27. Wild - Vallée, Strayed, and Witherspoon collaboratively brought forth a touching and contemplative film about finding one's self through journeys and revelations both big and small. The natural beauty of the surroundings didn't hurt at all.

26. The LEGO Movie - Everything is awesome... literally. This was such an unexpected gem in the early part of 2014 that even after all these months I'm still smiling. Perhaps I was amused by its novelty, but you could tell everyone involved had such a lot of fun and they did their best making sure their audience were a part of it.


25. G.B.F. - I'd like to say this was a gay version of Mean Girls, but that film was pretty gay all its own. That said this lightly satirical film is fast-paced, delightfully fun, and gives Michael J. Willett another kick-ass (though different) gay role (see him United States of Tara and Faking It).

24. The One I Love - This indie-love-story turn sci-fi romantic comedic is definitely one of the surprises of the year for me mostly because I literally was caught off-guard by the plot twist and then was thoroughly entertained by it through the film's final and serious scenes. It was also lovely seeing Elisabeth Moss in something contemporary for once.

23. Birdman - This film's "low" ranking belies my deep affection for it. After all, I saw the film on my birthday and was immediately enraptured by what Iñárritu, Keaton, and company managed to bring to the screen. Perhaps it's the kind of film that sticks with you, but also keeps you at arm's length. Still not sure that's good or bad.

22. Snowpiercer - My favorite part of this film, other than Chris Evans delivering a knockout punch acting-wise and Tilda Swinton delivering another unforgettable performance, was the impressive world building and unexpectedly deep social commentary (as only the best sci-fi films can deliver).

21. The Way He Looks
- Based on a beloved short film, this tale of a blind boy falling in love with his best friend is just the sweetest thing ever. Truth be told, I might have ranked this higher if I didn't LOVE the short film so much since a few of their changes slightly bugged me, but not enough to actually make me fall out of love. That would be impossible.


20. The Skeleton Twins - This film may have been the darkest comedy I saw all year with subjects as suicide and pedophilia mixed in with sing-a-longs and makeovers. Thankfully both Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, who obviously excel in comedy, are experts in drama as well.

19. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
- I really liked the first film and this sequel actually managed to be darker, smarter, more affective and just plain great. It effectively builds from the first film and rightfully focuses on the simian population on the brink of civil war. Thrilling stuff.

18. Belle - Gugu Mbatha Raw (who also excelled in Beyond the Lights) absolutely shines here playing an illegitimate mixed race daughter of a well-to-do man whose family raises her after his death. This period film is not only beautiful, but also manages to raise social commentary without feeling too preachy.

17. Big Hero 6 - Disney's animated ode to Marvel's The Avengers is super fun and surprisingly affecting effectively mixing in themes about found families, acceptance of loss with super-hero antics and humor. Baymax is a scene-stealer, but I think the secret MVP was the beautifully imagined and rendered world of San Fransokyo.

16. Obvious Child - It's tough enough to tackle a sensitive subject like abortion, but writer-director Gillian Robespierre managed to do just that while delivering a wholly charming film. It helps that Jenny Slate is just beyond good with every emotion/situation she experiences.

As previously mentioned, I'll probably post my Top 15 sometime after the Oscars tomorrow. I'm hoping it won't be too late like what happened last year aka four months after the Oscars.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My Personal Oscar Ballot

Tabulating Oscar ballots are probably happening as I post this as the deadline for Oscar voting was yesterday. So as I do every year, I imagine what my own ballot would look like if I was given the opportunity to fill one out. These are NOT my predictions which I'll post in a few days.

Note: For Best Picture, Academy voters are asked to rank their choices. For the other categories, they are only asked to pick their choice of winner, which is exactly what I've done.

Best Picture
1 - Boyhood
2 - The Grand Budapest Hotel
3 - Whiplash
4 - The Theory of Everything
5 - Selma
6 - Birdman
7 - The Imitation Game
8 - American Sniper

Best Director: Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Best Lead Actor: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Best Lead Actress: Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Best Animated Film: How to Train Your Dragon 2
Best Original Screenplay: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Theory of Everything
Best Foreign Language Film: Ida
Best Documentary: Virunga
Best Original Score: The Theory of Everything
Best Original Song: "Everything is Awesome," The LEGO Movie
Best Editing: Boyhood
Best Production Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Cinematography: Birdman
Best Costume Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Makeup and Hair: Guardians of the Galaxy
Best Sound Editing: Birdman
Best Sound Mixing: Whiplash
Best Visual Effects: Guardians of the Galaxy
Best Live Action Short: Butter Lamp
Best Animated Short: Feast
Best Documentary Short: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

My favorite Best Picture nominee Boyhood came out on top for me with 4 wins including Picture/Director while Grand Budapest Hotel and Theory of Everything were next with 3 wins a piece including being my picks for both Screenplay awards. I'm all about spreading the wealth always. So Oscar front-runner Birdman didn't walk home empty-handed with 2 wins along with Whiplash and Guardians of the Galaxy, the latter of which I've picked to win its two nominations. As blasphemous as it is, I did pick Pike over Moore, but Pike had the better role bar none (and Moore would've won in plenty of my personal ballots in previous years). And while I wish Selma would've gotten more love from the Academy, I still voted for The LEGO Movie for Best Song, because it is. What would YOU have done?