Sunday, January 30, 2011

SAG Awards Winners

Yesterday I said that if The King's Speech ended up winning Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards then the awards season was "all over." They did and in one weekend, the film went from co-favorites with The Social Network to the lone top dog. In fact the film also picked up Best Actor for Colin Firth while The Social Network walked home empty-handed. Birthday boy Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, and Melissa Leo also took home wins. All of them, including Firth, should cruise to their first Oscar wins in a month's time. Not only have they all won everything under the sun, but they all deserve it as well.

The film winners are:

Best Ensemble: The King's Speech
Best Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Best Actor: Colin Firth, The King's Speech
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter

The TV awards were a bit all over the place as per usual. They went with the new hot thing in Boardwalk Empire giving it Ensemble and Actor. It was the only TV show that got more than one award. Betty White unexpectedly took home a trophy capping off an eventful awards season for her during the past year while Julianna Marguilies and Alec Baldwin repeated their wins from last year. Claire Danes and Al Pacino won the same awards they won at the Golden Globes. Finally, Modern Family took home Best Ensemble over last year's winner Glee.

The TV winners are:

Best Ensemble, Drama: Boardwalk Empire
Best Ensemble, Comedy: Modern Family
Best Actress, Drama: Julianna Marguilies, The Good Wife
Best Actress, Comedy: Betty White, Hot in Cleveland
Best Actor, Drama: Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
Best Actor, Comedy: Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Best Actress, Miniseries: Claire Danes, Temple Grandin
Best Actor, Miniseries: Al Pacino, You Don't Know Jack

Now just to go back to the movie awards, it really has been something to witness the stark shift this award season has taken in regards to the fortunes of The King's Speech. Of course this award show also solidified the winners of four acting categories at the Academy Awards. The only possible "drama" might be in the actress categories. First, Annette Bening is Hollywood royalty so if there's anyone who could upset Portman, it'd be her. Then there's the case with Melissa Leo. The Academy showed their love for True Grit giving it 10 nominations, and they might want to honor the film in a big category by giving it to Hailee Steinfeld. So that sentiment plus possibly vote splitting with Amy Adams may do Leo in. It's important to note that Leo is not nominated for the BAFTAs which would be the next big award show.

Australian Open: The Finale

As I said before, as amazing for tennis as it would have been if China produced its first major winner or for Britain to have a homegrown champion after many unsuccessful years, it just wasn't meant to be down under. Instead, Kim Clijsters and Novak Djokovic, both third seeds in the tournament, won the Australian Open for their 4th and 2nd Grand Slam title respectively. For Clijsters, it was her first major title outside of New York. For Djokovic, he became the first multi-slam winner not named Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal since Lleyton Hewitt won Wimbledon in 2002.

Clijsters was able to overcome being down a set against Na Li who ate up the pace that Clijsters was feeding her in the first set. Clijsters started to vary her balls in the last two sets unnverving Li who also started getting frustrated by the crowd, the noise, the cameras, everything. Both players were broken a few times during the match, but Clijsters was the more stable of the two in the last couple of sets ultimately winning 6-3 3-6 6-3. For Li, it was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but here's to hoping she'll have more chances. For Clijsters, her comeback is already one of the most successful in sports. She was 1-5 in slam finals before her retirement and now she's 3-0 and with a good result in another tournament, it's likely she'll take over the #1 ranking from Caroline Wozniacki.

Both Djokovic and Andy Murray knew that with Nadal and Federer out of the tournament, it was a huge opportunity for both of them. Unfortunately for Murray, Djokovic was on fire as he was the rest of the tournament. For the first eight games or so, it was pretty even between the two and it looked the the match was going to be a long one. It wasn't until Murray was broken while serving to stay in the set 4-5 where the momentum shifted, permanently, to Djokovic who then went on a tear of games into the second set and led 5-0. Murray finally held and broke, but Djokovic took the second set and then the third set with ease en route his straight sets victory of 6-3 6-2 6-4. Murray's second serve massively let him down, but it was Djokovic who really stepped up to the challenge playing unbelievable tennis from start to finish making it impossible for the Brit to gain any foothold on the match. The result must have been disheartening for Murray who not only has lost his first three slam finals, but has also yet to win a set.

In doubles, the top seeds prevailed with Bob and Mike Bryan defeating the reunited team of Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes for the Men's Doubles Title and Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta beating Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko for the Women's Doubles Title. Finally, the second seed team of Katarina Srebotnik and Daniel Nestor claimed the Mixed Doubles Title. And with that the first Grand Slam tournament of 2011 is done.

Directors Guild Choose Hooper; Social Network Fading

The King's Speech takes another guild award at the expense of former Oscar front-runner The Social Network as King's director Tom Hooper wins the DGA award over Network's David Fincher. Suddenly, the outlook for Oscars is completely different from just two weeks ago.

What happened two weeks ago? Well, The Social Network, still high on its unprecedented dominance with critic groups, won four Golden Globe awards including wins for Picture, Directing, and Writing. At that moment, it was the overwhelming favorite heading into "phase 2" of awards season. But then suddenly, it wasn't. First, in a shocker, it lost the PGA Award to The King's Speech. Then it only managed a lower-than-expected tally of 8 Oscar nominations compared to 12 for The King's Speech and 10 for True Grit.

But even with its front-runner status being slightly challenged, it was still favored to pick up wins with the DGA (for Fincher) and the WGA (for Aaron Sorkin). So it was thought that those wins plus its critical love plus its zeitgeistic buzz would make it still the one to beat at the Oscars. Tom Hooper's win tonight, however, seemingly changed all of that and now it's not even "Will The Social Network win Best Picture?" but "Will it win any Oscars at all in a few weeks?" Yikes!

Here are the complete list of winners at the DGA:

Feature Film: Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
TV Drama Series: Martin Scorsese, Boardwalk Empire
TV Comedy Series: Michael Spiller, Modern Family
TV Movie/Mini-Series: Mick Jackson, Temple Grandin
Documentary: Charles Ferguson, Inside Job
Musical Variety: Glenn Weiss, Tony Awards
Reality Programs: Eytan Keller, The Next Iron Chef
Daytime Serials: Larry Carpenter, One Life to Live
Children's Programs: Eric Bross, The Boy Who Cried Werewolf
Commercials: Stacy Wall

There are only three other big precursor awards to be given which are the WGA, SAG, and BAFTA. The King's Speech is favored to win at the BAFTAs as expected and since it wasn't eligible at the WGA, the only other award it needs to really take a stranglehold of "phase 2" would be the SAG Ensemble Award. If it wins that, it's all over. But even if the cast of The King's Speech don't win it, it seems like it only needs the cast of The Social Network to also not win the prize to keep their winning momentum. An insanely predictable Oscar year is suddenly anything but.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

TV Report: 1/23-1/28

Thankfully lots of shows were in reruns or preempted for one reason or another since with the Oscar nominations coming on Tuesday and the Australian Open still happening full swing, my brain couldn't have handled it all. With that said...

I realized this week that I'm going to hold off on any of the new mid-season shows. Maybe wait to see if they get canceled then catch up with them over the summer. This means I'm putting a hiatus on The Cape and Off the Map. I already sort of gave up on Skins as soon as I saw, but oddly enough I think I'm going to keep watching Being Human. The second episode still felt like an encore showing of the UK version, but I'm intrigued enough by what they're doing and a good story is a good story. With that said, I'm stoked to have the UK version also back. The third season premiere packed all the humor and the tears I've come to expect from the show and they delivered in spades. I'm so pumped for the new season now!

For two shows, it was all about the past. In Castle, Beckett is forced to go back to learn more about her mom's murder. It was a fairly dramatic episode that surprisingly didn't feel out of place in this mostly comedic show. My favorite part was the deepening of the Castle/Beckett relationship. Of course, there was that kiss, but his "It's more than just about books." was wonderful. Though if I had one complaint, who did Stana Katic's hair? Because it was so beautiful and perfect, I really was distracted throughout! The other show was White Collar and it was a full-blown flashback episode complete with silly hair pieces and mustache. It was quite a hoot to see all of the regular character back to when they first met as well as setting up the "big bad" of the season in Neal's mentor awesomely played by McCarthy.

The comedies weren't as on fire as they were last week. Well that's not completely true, because Parks & Recreation probably delivered one of their best episodes ever. Can Rob Lowe and Amy Poehler play sick ALL THE TIME. I could not stop laughing. And who isn't shipping Ben/Leslie? They are adorable together and he made her homemade soup and it's all rainbows and puppies and I love it. I'm also really enjoying Ann this season. 30 Rock was also pretty good actually and in fact the episodes in 2011 so far have been above average so go them! The impromptu benefit was perfection complete with Jenna singing and Robert DeNiro with a Cockney accent. Now I still enjoyed Community and Cougar Town, but personally they weren't the strongest episodes. Both felt just a bit unfinished to me.

Finally, Fringe was again brilliant this week. I said the same thing last week, but this week we got more into Peter's head and it's scary. The machine has weaponized him? What does that mean? And when Walter said that and all we got was Peter slightly smiling, I got chills. Of course Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson are still conveying that complicated emotions they should be feeling regarding Fauxlivia's deception and it is amazing to watch week after week. Next week the gang gets to dress to the nines and I'm just counting down until then!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Australian Open Report: Finals Preview

It's been a crazy few days down under as the stage was set for the women and the men's finals to take place this weekend.

Even before the tournament started, a lot of people saw this Grand Slam as an incredible chance for world no. 3 Kim Clijsters to finally get that major title away from New York especially with Serena Williams out and all of her other competitions either not as experienced or not 100%. Her opponent, 9th seed Li Na, also was fully aware that this is a big chance for somebody to breakthrough with Serena gone and so WHY NOT HER?

Both players showed incredible form leading up to the finals. Between the two of them, they had only lost one set and that was Li Na who lost the first set against her thrilling semifinal match against world no. 1 Caroline Wozniacki. Li Na showed wonderful guts overcoming a match point to even the match in the second and winning the third. Her victory there meant she was the first Chinese player, man or woman, to reach a Grand Slam final. For Clijsters, she put the brakes on the great run from world no. 3 Vera Zvonareva, dominating the match with her bigger and more penetrating shots.

Their H2H is 4-2 in Clijsters' favor, but since her comeback it's been 1-1 with their last meeting happening just a few weeks ago in Sydney where Li Na had another amazing comeback being down 0-5 to win the final in straight sets. But as historically amazing it would be for China and the world of tennis, I'm predicting Kim Clijsters to win in two sets.

It was also going to be a toss-up match, more than a lot of people were willing to admit, but the fact that world no. 3 Novak Djokovic was able to take out defending champion Roger Federer in straight sets is an amazing result for him. Sure, he took out Federer in that epic 5-set match in their last Grand Slam meeting in Flushing Meadow, but to gut this out says a lot about his focus, his intensity, and his desire to win his second major. Federer fans, such as myself, should take heed that even though this is the first time since 2003 that Federer isn't holding a major title, he is far from over.

But with Federer (and Rafael Nadal) out of the tournament, not only can this be a fairytale slam for Djokovic, but to slamless world no. 5 Andy Murray as well. The two times Murray had reached a slam final prior, he was soundly defeated by Federer and while Djokovic is probably playing better than ever, he'll probably like his chances a little better against the Serbian. Of course, he had to first get through a tough four-set win against indefatigable 7th seed David Ferrer who pushed Murray every single game, making the Brit earn his second consecutive Australian Open finals appearance.

Their H2H is fascinatingly tight with Djokovic leading it 4-3 (3-3 in hard courts), but Murray has won their last three meetings, with Djokovic's last win on hard courts going back to 2007. Interestingly enough, they actually haven't played each other since the spring of 2009, so there's a lot of unknowns in this match-up. Frankly, this adds much excitement to the grand finale of the tournament. I'm predicting Djokovic to win in four sets just because he'll be the more steady of the two and Murray's need to win this might overwhelm him. I'm hoping for an epic duel.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Australian Open Report: Quarterfinals

While it didn't have as many twists and turns and drama that last year's insane quarterfinal match-ups brought, there were still a lot to talk about.

David Ferrer [7] d. Rafael Nadal [1] 6-4 6-2 6-3

The biggest story to come out of this round is Rafael Nadal sustaining an injury during his match against David Ferrer. Apparently the injury came very early, in that epic 16-min+ second game, but instead of retiring, like he did last year, he played on clearly not 100%. His loss also meant that his quest for a "Rafa Slam" has ended. Credit to Ferrer though for playing his game and staying focused while his fellow Spaniard was suffering.

Roger Federer [2] d. Stanislas Wawrinka 6-1 6-3 6-3

With Rafa's injury, suddenly Roger Federer is the favorite again. Even though he hasn't shown his best form in the middle rounds, he brought his A-game against fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka. There was a point late in the match where you could've been forgiven for thinking you were watching an exho as Federer (and Wawrinka) delighted the fans with a few trick shots. Federer will need to be on top form for his next opponent...

Novak Djokovic [3] d. Tomas Berdych [6] 6-1 7-6(5) 6-1

Many thought this would be a much closer match especially since both players have similar styles and have been playing excellent tennis. Much credit to Novak Djokovic for dismantling Tomas Berdych in such a straightforward manner. It definitely sent a message to the rest of the field that he's ready to win his second Australian Open championships.

Andy Murray [5] d. Alexandr Dolgopolov 7-5 6-3 6-7(3) 6-3

Finally, newcomer and hard-hitting Alexandr Dolgopolov provided the first real test Andy Murray has faced all tournament. Murray admitted that it took him awhile get used to the style of play of the Ukrainian, but with this win, his quest to get his first major title is still alive.

Caroline Wozniacki [1] d. Francesca Schiavone [6] 3-6 6-3 6-3

There are champions and there are CHAMPIONS and Francesca Schiavone showed us she was the latter this tournament. After winning the longest women's Grand Slam match two days prior, Schiavone was able to give world no. 1 Caroline Wozniacki trouble from the get go. Even when she was down in the last two sets, she never gave up and her commitment and fire endeared her to so many. Now is Wozniacki ready for her maiden slam? Two more matches to go. She'll yet again to put to the test against...

Na Li [9] d. Andrea Petkovic [30] 6-2 6-4

Na Li hasn't lost a single match this year and hasn't lost a set in this tournament. To say she's on fire would be an understatement. With this win here, she makes the Australian Open semifinals two years in a row. Can she finally be the first Chinese player to reach the finals of a Grand Slam? Can she be the first Chinese player to WIN a Grand Slam?

Kim Clijsters [3] d. Agnieszka Radwanska [12] 6-3 7-6(4)

The best bet for the women's title though is Kim Clijsters who, unlike the others left, have actually won some. This tournament is squarely on her racket and if the form she showed this round was any indication, it's not a done deal. She made it out in straight sets (she hasn't lost a set this tournament so far like Na Li), but she looked sluggish and committed way too many errors. Still, her non-US Open Grand Slam history is a bit dubious so anything can still happen.

Vera Zvonareva [2] d. Petra Kvitova [25] 6-2 6-4

I actually didn't get to see this match, but Vera Zvonareva has shown strong form in the last two Grand Slam tournaments she has played, reaching the finals at last year's US Open and Wimbledon. She's now en route to her third straight major finals and with Clijsters not feeling 100%, it doesn't look impossible at all.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thoughts on Oscar Nominations

Out of the 56 films nominated, I have seen 22 films including all ten Best Picture nominees. If I had seen Another Year, Rabbit Hole, and Biutiful then I would've seen every film or performance nominated in Picture, Directing, Acting, and Writing categories. Out of the 120 nominations, I've seen 85 of them i.e. 70.8% of the nominees. If you ignore all of the short films, my percentage goes up to a lovely even 80%.

I've bolded the films and performances I have seen below:

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

This is probably the first time I have seen every film nominated for a Best Picture before nominations came out. It wasn't that hard since most of these films I really wanted to see and then some others were made readily available on DVD. These ten films plus the snubbed The Town were the films to make any real impact all awards season including critically and even at the box office so absolutely NO ONE was shocked when these ten were announced. And as someone who has seen them all, I can say there's not a single stinker. The King's Speech lead with 12 nominations followed by True Grit with 10 nominations.

  • Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
  • David O. Russell, The Fighter
  • Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
  • David Fincher, The Social Network
  • Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, True Grit

The big shocker here is the absence of Christopher Nolan who is still looking for his first Academy Award nomination as a director. The snub is even more glaring when you think about the fact that he's been nominated by the Directors Guild three times, including for his work this year with Inception. His other DGA nominees made the shortlist here with the Coen brothers presumably taking Nolan's spot. It's worth noting that while last year gave us a woman and an openly gay black man, this year we have five white men in the lineup. David Fincher is the current front-runner, but his film's lower-than-expected nomination count (8 nominations), is putting to question the strength of the film. Then again his biggest competition, Nolan, is out so that should only help him.

  • Javier Bardem, Biutiful
  • Jeff Bridges, True Grit
  • Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
  • Colin Firth, The King's Speech
  • James Franco, 127 Hours

The Academy decided to stick with the SAG nominations with the exception of Robert Duvall being left out on the list. In his place is Javier Bardem who came from nowhere thanks to lots of A-list people campaigning for him. Also shafted were Ryan Gosling and Mark Wahlberg. The former, in my opinion, gave the performance of the year while the latter had to settle seeing the rest of his cast be nominated. Colin Firth is the favorite to win here, especially with Jeff Bridges already winning last year.

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

Even with Gosling's snub, the Academy had the decency to nominate his co-star Michelle Williams. This whole category is actually pretty good even though I was a bit more partial to Julianne Moore over Annette Bening, but it's all pretty moot now. The award is Natalie Portman's to lose as everything has just been going perfectly for her. Only Bening can possibly take it away from her. Also very happy to see Nicole Kidman back in the limelight.

  • Christian Bale, The Fighter
  • John Hawkes, Winter's Bone
  • Jeremy Renner, The Town
  • Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
  • Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech

I still can't believe Andrew Garfield got snubbed here as not only did he give one of my favorite performances of the year in The Social Network, but he delivered a second fantastic (supporting) performance in Never Let Me Go. I suppose everyone should've seen it coming, as the Academy went 5 for 5 here with the SAG. For the win, this is Christian Bale's unless the Academy really loves The King's Speech and decides to give Rush another statue.

  • Amy Adams, The Fighter
  • Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech
  • Melissa Leo, The Fighter
  • Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
  • Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

The question here was whether or not Hailee Steinfeld would garner enough votes since many consider her role as lead. The category fraud worked though and she should be seen as the co-favorite to win alongside Melissa Leo. Jacki Weaver was able to sneak into the shortlist knocking off SAG nominated Mila Kunis. My Hail Mary wish for a surprise nomination in the form of Olivia Williams for The Ghost Writer didn't pay off at all.

  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • The Illusionist
  • Toy Story 3

These were widely known to be the three to get nominated, so no big shocker. Though Despicable Me (and Tangled) were holding up well enough in the precursors that it made fans of The Illusionist (and even How to Train Your Dragon) nervous. Pixar fans though should never ever be nervous. Pixar will again win here.

  • Another Year
  • The Fighter
  • Inception
  • Kids Are All Right
  • King's Speech

The Academy decided to throw Mike Leigh's Another Year a bone here presumably at the cost of WGA-nominated Black Swan. They also honored Christopher Nolan here hoping he's not too upset for that directing snub. Nolan's film is actually the front-runner here based on the precursors, but The King's Speech seems to be much more the Academy's taste. Then again, maybe they feel so bad about snubbing Nolan in directing, they'll almost be forced to give him this win.

  • 127 Hours
  • The Social Network
  • Toy Story 3
  • True Grit
  • Winter's Bone

Even thought the films foothold on award's season have been lessened the past few days, The Social Network is still the film to beat MOST ESPECIALLY in this category as I'm sure the Academy is just dying to give Aaron Sorkin this award. The rest of the nominees were also widely expected replacing WGA nominees Phillip Morris and The Town with Best Picture hopefuls Toy Story 3 and Winter's Bone.

  • Biutiful, Mexico
  • Dogtooth, Greece
  • In A Better World, Denmark
  • Incendies, Canada
  • Outside the Law, Algeria

The precursors have been immensely unhelpful with this category, but it seems these are not at all shocking nominations. Many are pleasantly surprised that Dogtooth made it in. The slight favorite might be Golden Globe winner In A Better World, but it's worth noting that the only film to have a nomination outside of this category is Biutiful with its lead actor also nominated.

  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • Inception
  • The King's Speech
  • 127 Hours
  • The Social Network

Sadly, I don't really remember the score for 127 Hours, but I do like A.R. Rahman's work in Slumdog Millionaire, so I probably really liked it. The other four scores are fantastic and like every year, I'm just absolutely in love this category. A few people are bemoaning the fact that Daft Punk's work in TRON: Legacy were not honored, but honestly I couldn't even say which one I'd want them to replace it with. Click here to sample of all of these wonderful scores.

  • Coming Home, Country Strong
  • I See the Light, Tangled
  • If I Rise, 127 Hours
  • We Belong Together, Toy Story 3

The fact that Cher and her wonderful "You Have Not Seen the Last of Me" solo in Burlesque was not nominated is another egregious snub on the Academy's part. Burlesque is no Citizen Kane, but it had some Oscar-worthy songs. If that were to have been nominated, it would've been the favorite. As of now, this category is wide open.

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I
  • Inception
  • The King's Speech
  • True Grit

Tough to figure out where the tech nominations will go. Inception is a good bet, but it didn't receive nearly as much love as many had expected. Anyone have a clue?

  • Black Swan
  • Inception
  • The King's Speech
  • The Social Network
  • True Grit

Can acclaimed Roger Deakins finally FINALLY get his first Oscar win for his work on True Grit? Well, this year is as good as any. The closest competition is probably Wally Pfister for his work on Inception. I'd be shocked if neither these two men win this.

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • I Am Love
  • The King's Speech
  • The Tempest
  • True Grit

Was thinking Burlesque could've appeared here, but I guess not. I Am Love and The Tempest get their lone nominations here and methinks deservedly show. I have no clue who is the front-runner here.

  • Exit Through the Gift Shop
  • Gasland
  • Inside Job
  • Restrepo
  • Waste Land

I've only seen Exit Through the Gift Shop which I really loved and is one of my favorite films of the year. It's hilarious to me that Banksy might actually be a presence at this year's award. I'm expecting something crazy if anything happens regarding him. I'll probably get to see Inside Job and Restrepo before the big night. The winner is likely from those three aforementioned films with Inside Job the likeliest option.

  • Killing in the Name
  • Poster Girl
  • Strangers No More
  • Sun Come Up
  • The Warriors of Qiugang

My yearly tradition of picking the winner by how awesome the name is continues. This year that is The Warrior of Qiugang especially since I'm totally picture a queer film in my head. God, I don't even know what that film is about. I hope I didn't just make an inappropriate joke.

  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • The King's Speech
  • 127 Hours
  • The Social Network

The big exclusion here is once again Inception. Lee Smith's work was thought to be the front-runner here, but alas no mas. With this award becoming in recent year a sort of barometer for Best Picture winners, these films become the slight front-runners in that race, though realistically, only The Fighter, The King's Speech, and The Social Network are probably in the running.

  • Barney's Version
  • The Way Back
  • The Wolfman

What an odd list of nominees. Not exactly undeserving, but just really out-of-the-blue considering these are the lone nominations for all three films. But as far as I can tell, there's no man in drag wearing a fat suit, so it's one of the better years.

  • Day & Night
  • The Gruffalo
  • Let's Pollute
  • The Lost Thing
  • Madagascar, a Journey Diary

My favorite title is The Gruffalo. Now, please tell me this is not some animated short based on Mark Ruffalo? Or if it is, someone give me the link now! but anyway, I did see Day & Night. Not the best Pixar short, but still good.

  • The Confession
  • The Crush
  • God of Love
  • Na Wewe
  • Wish 143

Kind of boring titles, but I kind of really like Wish 143. Of course I'll find out later it's some heinous movie or something.

  • Inception
  • Toy Story 3
  • Tron: Legacy
  • True Grit
  • Unstoppable

Inception should get this unless they really don't like the film.

  • Inception
  • The King's Speech
  • Salt
  • The Social Network
  • True Grit

Again, Inception, but with four Best Picture nominees here, this award will be worthy to pay attention to early on to see how the evening might go.

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
  • Hereafter
  • Inception
  • Iron Man 2

And finally, we get to this category which is a little painful to look at because I know fully well that the two films they snubbed was TRON: Legacy and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. The latter would've been such an inspired choice and would've given the cult-favorite film its one and only nomination. Alas they picked dull and inexplicable choices such as Iron Man 2, Hereafter, and Eyesore in Wonderland (via Nathaniel). Remember last year when Avatar, District 9, and Star Trek were the three nominees? Good times.

The big night is on February 27th and will be hosted by James Franco and Anne Hathaway.

Oscar Nominations

Black Swan (5 nominations)
The Fighter (7 nominations)
Inception (8 nominations)
The Kids Are All Right (4 nominations)
The King's Speech (12 nominations)
127 Hours (6 nominations)
The Social Network (8 nominations)
Toy Story 3 (4 nominations)
True Grit (10 nominations)
Winter's Bone (4 nominations)

Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
David O. Russell, The Fighter
Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
David Fincher, The Social Network
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, True Grit

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

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

Christian Bale, The Fighter
John Hawkes, Winter's Bone
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech

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

How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

Another Year
The Fighter
Kids Are All Right
King's Speech

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

Biutiful, Mexico
Dogtooth, Greece
In A Better World, Denmark
Incendies, Canada
Outside the Law, Algeria

How to Train Your Dragon
The King's Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network

Coming Home, Country Strong
I See the Light, Tangled
If I Rise, 127 Hours
We Belong Together, Toy Story 3

Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I
The King's Speech
True Grit

Black Swan
The King's Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

Alice in Wonderland
I Am Love
The King's Speech
The Tempest
True Grit

Exit Through the Gift Shop
Inside Job
Waste Land

Killing in the Name
Poster Girl
Strangers No More
Sun Come Up
The Warriors of Qiugang

Black Swan
The Fighter
The King's Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network

Barney's Version
The Way Back
The Wolfman

Day & Night
The Gruffalo
Let's Pollute
The Lost Thing
Madagascar, a Journey Diary

The Confession
The Crush
God of Love
Na Wewe
Wish 143

Toy Story 3
Tron: Legacy
True Grit

The King's Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Iron Man 2

Monday, January 24, 2011

Seven Wishes for Oscar Nomination Morning

For the most part, the people and films that will be nominated tomorrow morning will be fairly predictable. With that said, there's always a chance for a surprise nominee here and there and that's where this post comes in. After the nominations, it's pretty much all over. So this is everyone's last chance to hope and dream for certain nominations no matter how unlikely they'll happen. Here are some of mine:

1. For the love of pete, nominate Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams!

The fact that these two are hovering in #4-#7 spots in their respective categories and not leading them is one of the most frustrating thing this awards season. There's a 50-50 chance they'll be snubbed or nominated. Let's hope it's the latter. They more than deserve it.

2. In fact give Blue Valentine lots and lots of love.

Picture, Director, Screenplay, Editing, ALL THE AWARDS. ALL THE AWARDS.

3. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World to be nominated for at least one award.

It most likely will not get Best Picture, Editing, or Adapted Screenplay. If it does, I might pass out from the shock. But is it really too much to ask for a token nomination in Visual Effects or Sound?

4. How about some surprise nominations in those Supporting categories?

Take your picks: Olivia Williams in The Ghost Writer, Marion Cotillard and Tom Hardy in Inception, Kieran Culkin in Scott Pilgrim. I mean, seriously, go crazy here... like "nominate Cher for Burlesque" crazy. It'd show those Razzies who's boss! DO IT!

5. Academy Award nominee Emma Stone!

Okay, won't happen, but I just really have this random need for the entire cast of Zombieland to be nominated for an Academy Award. Abigail Breslin and Woody Harrelson already have theirs and Jesse Eisenberg will get his tomorrow morning. So why not Emma Stone?

6. As much as I want some shocks, let's not go crazy snubbing worthy people.

Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, David Fincher, Aaron Sorkin, The King's Speech, Social Network, Black Swan, Christian Bale, Hailee Steinfeld, Melissa Leo... we're all probably sick of hearing these names and titles already, but you can't deny they all deserve an Oscar nomination for their great work this year. Academy, don't be a douche.

7. Try to keep your love for Alice in Wonderland in check.

I know it made a bazillion dollars and it's probably locked for a bunch of tech nominations, but if you deem it worthy for those bigger awards like Picture or Actor, I may disown you forever.

Producers Guild Picks King, Goes Anti-Social

In a bit of an upset, the Producers Guild of America is the first big organization to put a dent in Oscar front-runner The Social Network's dominant awards season choosing instead to award the producers of the British film The King's Speech. Last year, they also went against expectation picking the low-grossing film The Hurt Locker over the billion dollar mega-blockbuster Avatar. The Hurt Locker went on to win six Oscars including Best Picture.

The Social Network should still be seen as the favorite for the Oscar win especially since it'll most likely get guild wins for its directing and writing. It does make the awards season more interesting though especially since a third film, The Fighter, is looking likely to get the Best Ensemble prize at the SAG Awards.

Here is a list of the PGA winners/award recipients:

Motion Picture: The King's Speech
Television - Drama: Mad Men
Television - Comedy: Modern Family
Non-Fiction Television: Deadliest Catch
Live Entertainment and Competition: The Colbert Report
Long Form Television: The Pacific
Animated Motion Picture: Toy Story 3
Documentary Motion Picture: Waiting for Superman
Milestone Award: James Cameron
Norman Lear Achievement Award: Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman
David O. Selznick Achievement Award: Scott Rudin
Vanguard Award: RealD
Stanley Kramer Award: Sean Penn
Visionary Award: Laura Ziskin

It's important to note that Scott Rudin, the producer of The Social Network, took home that David O. Selznick Achievement Award. Might the group have thought this was enough? Last year's loser James Cameron was also honored with an award. Toy Story 3 and Waiting for Superman should be seen as Oscar front-runners as well.

Australian Open Report: Days 7 & 8

The top contenders are still alive down in Melbourne. Despite an early scare of a possible virus, Rafael Nadal claims he is 100% after his resounding win against 15th seed Marin Cilic in straight sets. Roger Federer faltered a bit, but he eked out a win against Tommy Robredo to reach his 27th consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals. Perpetual also-rans Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have shown fierce form throughout the tournament and continued their bid to interrupt the Federer-Nadal monopoly of major tournaments.

Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer were also amongst the 6 of the top eight players to move on to the quarterfinals. Many people thought it was possible to get all of the eight seeds in the quarterfinals, but 4th seed Robin Soderling unexpectedly went down in five sets to newcomer Alexandr Dolgopolov while Stan Wawrinka took down 8th seed Andy Roddick. All eight quarterfinalists are European.

Quarterfinal Preview
Rafael Nadal vs. David Nalbandian David Ferrer
Andy Murray vs. Robin Soderling Alexandr Dolgopolov
Novak Djokovic vs. Fernando Verdasco Tomas Berdych
Roger Federer vs. Gael Monfils Stan Wawrinka

I got exactly half right regarding my predictions. The same four--Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Murray--are on top of their forms day in and day out and should be favored in their QF match-ups. Interesting to note that both Nadal and Federer are up against the second ranked player of their country. I'm still predicting a Nadal-Federer final, but I'm not as sure as I was a few days ago based on form I've seen so far.

As expected, the women's tournament is wide open, chaotic, and frankly more fun to talk about. The top three seeds--Caroline Wozniacki, Vera Zvonareva, and Kim Clijsters--are holding remained strong through four matches. Na Li, undefeated so far this year, is also showing great form. There won't be a repeat of last year's result of having two Chinese players in the semifinals as Shuai Peng went down valiantly to Agnieszka Radwanska.

Maria Sharapova continued her dubious streak of pre-quarterfinal Grand Slam losses by going down to Andrea Petkovic. Petra Kvitova took out Flavia Pennetta. Of course the biggest story this round was the epic match between Francesca Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Italian was able to win after saving six match points in 4 hours and 44 minutes, the longest women's Grand Slam match in the Open Era.

Quarterfinal Preview
Justine Henin Caroline Wozniacki vs. Yanina Wickmayer Francesca Schiavone
Na Li vs. Venus Williams Andrea Petkovic
Kim Clijsters d. Agnieszka Radwanska
Vera Zvonareva vs. Sam Stosur Petra Kvitova

Like the men, I only got half right. I'm proud that I picked Li and Radwanska early on, but don't blame me for picking Henin-Wickmayer over Wozniacki-Schiavone since based on form and history, I thought for sure that would happen. Suffice to say, this is Clijster's slam to lose. She's the only multiple Grand Slam winner and has one of the best records on hardcourts in the women's game. At the moment, I'm going to predict a Clijsters-Li final, though Wozniacki has proven me wrong multiple times already this tournament.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Neverending Match II

When John Isner and Nicholas Mahut played last year in the first round of Wimbledon, no one knew that they were about to take part in tennis history. Over three days and 11 hours later, they would finish their match and lay claim to having played the longest tennis match ever. Yesterday at the Australian Open, that record remained safely intact, but a similarly record-breaking dramatic match did happen.

The two most recent French Open champions, 6th seed Francesca Schiavone and 23rd seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, met for a fourth round match that had the lower seeded Kuznetsova favored especially in light of her great H2H record against the Italian on hardcourts. Schiavone won the very tight first set though shocking a few people, but Kuznetsova was able to sneak out a 6-1 (it was much closer than this score makes it seem) second set. At that point, both players had already played nearly two hours under the hot Australian sun. It was clear how tired and physically spent they were.

The third set would last exactly three hours long full of twists, turns, drama, and general epicness. There would be match points, break points, shanks, errors, winners, deuces, and love holds for both. With better numbers and a more powerful ground game, Kuznetsova almost had this match in the bag. She had six match points in that final set, but couldn't convert a single one. In the meantime, Schiavone was relentless in defense and outlasted the Russian 6-4 1-6 16-14. The entire match lasted 4 hours and 44 minutes becoming the longest women's tennis match at a Grand Slam tournament. And while the time is considerably less than that epic men's match between Isner-Mahut, this match had unbelievable rallies that the other one just didn't have.

It's a crushing blow for Kuznetsova who did so well in working hard off-season to be match-ready and then seeing that pay off in her amazing win over Justine Henin a match prior. Schiavone, too, shouldn't celebrate too much as she is playing in less than 48 hours to a much younger and less physically spent player. Hope the emotional low (for Kuznetsova) or the emotional high (for Schiavone) doesn't affect their year. It's worth noting that both Isner and Mahut of that epic aforementioned match were seriously deflated for the rest of the year.

Thoughts on the American Remakes of Shameless, Skins & Being Human

So what is up with the trend this midseason of remaking British shows for American audiences? First we got the Showtime's version of Shameless, which I thought was pretty good. Though for that show, I only saw the first of its eight seasons and I wasn't really that emotionally invested in it in the first place. Plus Showtime, like HBO, is known for quality so I'm actually looking forward to seeing where they take this show. It's also really good to see Emmy Rossum and Justin Chatwin in a project that's not totally heinous and I totally buy their chemistry. Fun fact: James McAvoy met his wife in this show playing the characters that Justin and Emmy are playing now. I think my one complaint was that it felt a little too British to me, which probably makes sense since they pretty much copied the British pilot scene by scene.

The same could be said for MTV's version of Skins except with bad acting and a much more palpable sense of redundancy. Like Shameless, the premiere of MTV's Skin was pretty much a photocopy of the British premiere and even more so than Shameless, I couldn't stop comparing the two versions. And while I'm intrigued enough about the characters in Shameless to see where this American version will take them, I can't say the same thing about the bland characters/actors of MTV's Skins. I guess I shouldn't have been that surprised since there is absolutely nothing good being created on MTV the past few years. I may check in on the show for fits and giggles, but I think it'll be a wiser decision to not even acknowledge its existence.

Finally, there's SyFy's Being Human and this was the one remake that I was most worried about. Unlike Shameless and Skins, which I watched and liked, I fell head over heels in love this show. It made my top ten for two years in a row. It was also the one remake out of the three that was the most confusing to me as to why they even decided to green-light it. Shameless is in its 8th season while Skins is in its 5th with the cast for both, especially Skins, having changed so much since its first season that an American remake doesn't seem such a crazy idea. Additionally, The overuse of drugs/sex in those two shows also probably makes it less possible for them to just air in the United States without some heavy censorship. Being Human, on the other hand, is only in its third season and the principal cast have remained the same. Plus other than being awesomely gruesome, there really wouldn't be that many things to censor save for a butt shot here or there. Plus it just seems like sci-fi/fantasy audiences are more accepting of international imports. I mean Doctor Who anyone?

With all of that said, I expected the worst with SyFy's remake and the best thing I can say about it was that they didn't completely and utterly screw it up. Now don't get me wrong, this version PALES IN COMPARISON and you should immediately find a way to get a hold of the original and I still find the decision to remake it patently ridiculous. But the one thing it did do, which I admire a bit, and something that Showtime's Shameless and MTV's Skins didn't do was to attempt in giving itself its own voice. And for better or worse, I think they did. With that said, there's just a lot of things that didn't sit right with me. One of the things that made the original work was the chemistry between the three leads and unfortunately the actors in SyFy's version don't have it. A few other little things are a bit annoying such as Aiden, the vampire, looking like the stereotyical vampire that someone who reads Twilight might find interesting or Josh, the werewolf, who was the heart in the original, acting like a whiny emo kid complaining about the fact that they are monsters and how awful it all is. He's downright unpleasant at some points which is something I never thought about the character in the original. Sally, the ghost, is actually pretty okay, but at the moment she's a bit at odds with the other two which is not gelling with me. I'm hoping the proactive changes they made in the pilot is a hint that they are not afraid to break new ground for this American version. If only for that, I'll continute watching. Of course, I again implore anyone to watch the original, which actually has its third season premiere TONIGHT.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Australian Open Report: Days 5 & 6

Already a few people are through their fourth round matches and into the quarterfinals, but let's back it up a few and talk about the third round matches that transpired the past day or two.

The top men continued their strong showings in the third round. While not bringing their A-game top ranked Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer moved through in straight sets. Novak Djokovic only had to play a set until his compatriot retired with injury while Nicolas Almagro Fernando Verdasco, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Andy Murray, and Robin Soderling all won in straight sets, the latter reaching his best results at this tournament. Tommy Robredo and Andy Roddick (the last American in the men and women's draw) won in four sets.

10th seed Mikhail Youzhny lost to newcomer Milos Raonic while 13th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga lost in five sets, after being up 2 sets to 1, to Alexandr Dolgopolov. 12th seed Gael Monfils was beaten in straights by 19th seed Stan Wawrinka. Finally, 11th seed Jurgen Melzer and 15th seed Marin Cilic won over lower seeded players Marcos Baghdatis and John Isner. Isner-Cilic went five sets almost reminiscent of the epic Isner-Mahut match at last year's Wimbledon. Thankfully, it ended 9-7 in the fifth set.

The top three seeds--Caroline Wozniacki, Vera Zvonareva, and Kim Clijsters--are all safely through with straight set wins. The fourth seed Venus Williams had to withdraw for the first time in Grand Slam play as she was still recovering from the injuries she sustained the previous match. Top players including Francesca Schiavone, Victoria Azarenka, Na Li, Agnieska Radwanska, and Maria Sharapova won as well.

One of the biggest upset of the third round was probably last year's finalist and 11th seed Justine Henin going out to 23rd seed Svetlana Kuznetsova. Another upset was 5th seed Samantha Stosur beaten in straights under the lights of Rod Laver by 25th seed Petra Kvitova. 10th seed Shahar Peer and 13th seed Nadia Petrova also lost to 22nd seed Flavia Pennetta and Ekaterina Makarova (who beat Ana Ivanovic in the first round) respectively.

TV Report: 1/16-1/21

With the Australian Open underway and a bunch of new shows starting this week, I knew I couldn't do my daily TV report. In fact I haven't even caught up with all of the shows I wanted to watch this week, but instead of keeping off any longer here are some of my thoughts on the week in TV.

Was it just me or were all of the comedies ON FIRE this week? Of course it began with the highly anticipated How I Met Your Mother episode that dealt with the death of Marshall's dad. It wasn't the funniest or even the best (the kick in the crotch and the diminutive bully fell flat to me), but it was highly effective towards the end. Big Bang Theory, to me, delivered one of its best episodes of not only this season, but of the series itself. It finally felt like a confident ensemble show as opposed to a show that was dominated by one character. I really hope Amy and Bernadette come back next season. The gender balance really has done wonders for this show. Modern Family was a riot and I can praise every actor in that show for this episode, but the MVP was Sofia Vergara. She started me laughing from her hilarious reaction to a errant sent email and she kept at it when she offered her cupcakes to Phil. Last week's pre-empted Cougar Town was finally shown and it was a nice chill episode letting the audience check in with various relationships, which was a good change of pace. Finally NBC roared back with its Thursday "Comedy Night Done Right" lineup. Lots of forward movement happened in Community as Shirley's one-night fling with Chang and the resulting pregnancy came to light as well as a bit more of Jeff/Annie. Parks & Recreation was expectantly wonderful upon its return integrating Adam Scott and Rob Lowe seamlessly into the very talented ensemble. I smiled throughout the whole episode. Finally, 30 Rock, too was quite strong with a lot of jokes at the expense of its parent network as well as Tina Fey doing a hilarious impression of Little Edie.

I'll speak more in detail on another post soon about those damn American remakes of Skins and Being Human, but for now what about the other mid-season shows? Unfortunately, I haven't really been feeling them. I haven't checked out the third episode of The Cape and oddly enough, not unlike No Ordinary Family in the fall, I'm not really rushing out to see it. I heard a few good things about Harry's Law, but again I didn't really check it out yet. I did see the second episode of Off the Map and it's still not must-see-TV for me. The cast and location are all damn pretty, but I'm going to need more if I watch a few more episodes.

And now a few quick things about my regular other shows... I actually found it a bit refreshing to see Tommy back in Brothers & Sisters. It reminded me of the first two seasons when I was still sort of invested with this family... Chuck wasn't too bad though I was never really fan of the will-they-won't-they and now they're doing it regarding their proposal. Great ending, but OMG please get rid of all the Buy More storylines... Things revved up on V this week as Erica really went into action torturing/skinning a Visitor, which was also one of the most graphic things I have seen on TV bar none. It's great what they're doing to Chad as well as Lisa... Thank God the war between Will and Diane are over on The Good Wife because I couldn't stand them fighting one another. Nice opening for Cary to come back to the fold and yay for Kalinda just being, well, her. The case of the week was odd though. I didn't quite get the ending... Finally, but certainly not least, tonight's Fringe was just pitch perfect. They couldn't have gone into their new Friday time slot with a better episode focusing on the Observer and its mission to "set things right." This episode is such a perfect complement to last season's brilliant "The Tulip" episode... I have not seen White Collar yet, but it's on the top of the list to catch up on this weekend.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Australian Open Report: Days 3 & 4

Slacking a bit on my supposedly daily Australian Open reports, but it's been a busy week so I'll cover two days of second round worth of action here. It's worth knowing that heading into the third round, there are 22 seeds (out of 32) still alive on the men's side while there are 20 seeds in the women's.

The biggest story on the men's side is most likely Roger Federer needing five sets to take out Gilles Simon. I think the fact that he cruised in the first two sets made the whole thing even more odd, but Gilles was a former top ten player only two years ago and had a H2H of 2-0 against Federer before the match. While Federer struggled, most of the other top men moved on easily including Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Robin Soderling, David Ferrer, and Andy Roddick.

Some seeds that didn't fare as well and were eliminated include 27th seed David Nalbandian who had to retire due to just not having enough time to recover from his epic first round match with Lleyton Hewitt. 16h seed Mardy Fish was the highest men's seed to get the boot in the tournament so far. Other seeds to fall were 22nd seed Michael Llodra, 25th seed Albert Montanes, 26th seed Juan Monaco, 30th seed Thomaz Belluci, and 31st seed Feliciano Lopez.

Unseeded Juan Martin Del Potro and Janko Tipsarevic were ousted by 21st seed Marcos Baghdatis and 9th seed Fernando Verdasco. The latter, Tipsarevic, had match points in the fourth set, but when he was unable to convert, his disappeared completely from the match winning no points in the fourth set tiebreak and then getting bageled in the final set.

With Ana Ivanovic getting ousted in the first round, Serbian hopes were put on 7th seed Jelena Jankovic only for her to get beaten becoming the highest women's seed to get eliminated. Another former world no. 1 almost lost as well as Venus Williams suffered an injury mid-match right after losing a crucial first-set tiebreak. Inexplicably, Venus played through the pain and winning the next two sets, even dishing out a bagel to her confused opponent. The older Williams sister showed true grit in the face of injury and bad fashion.

Along with Jankovic, other seeds to fall include 15th seed Marion Bartoli, 18th seed Maria Kirilenko, 20th seed Kaia Kanepi, 21st seed Yanina Wickmayer, 24th seed Alisa Kleybanova, 26th seed Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, and 32nd seed Tsvetana Pironkova.

The top contenders themselves are still in the running and some displaying dominant forms including Caroline Wozniacki, Kim Clijsters, Sam Stosur, Victoria Azarenka, Na Li, Shahar Peer, Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova, and Svetlana Kuznetsova. Other notable survivors were Vera Zvonareva and Francesca Schiavone.