Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Looking Forward To...

Release: February 3, 2012
Distributor: Fox
Director: Josh Trank
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw, Bo Petersen, and Anna Wood

Monday, January 30, 2012

Birthday Girl: Vanessa Redgrave

Just wanted to give a quick birthday shout out to Vanessa Redgrave who turns 75 today. Admittedly, I actually haven't seen many of her films including any of her Oscar-nominated turns, which I really need to fix right away. With that said, she did appear in one of my favorite films ever, Atonement, as the older Briony and in spite of her limited screen time, she was just grand. I also haven't seen any of her most recent films from the past year including Anonymous and Coriolanus. I've only heard great things about her performance in the latter.

The Help and The Artist Get Boosts From Guilds

It was a huge night for The Help at the SAG Awards netting three awards for its Ensemble, Lead Actress for Viola Davis, and Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer. Those latter two look pretty solid for Oscars especially Spencer who has won all of the major precursors prior. Same goes for Supporting Actor Christopher Plummer who took home the award here. Jean Dujardin's win over George Clooney was the biggest shock (and biggest delight for me this entire awards season), but then I supposed they just couldn't let the Oscar front-runner The Artist go home empty handed could they? What it means for the Oscars is not clear except that actors clearly support The Artist as well making its run to Oscar glory even easier.

Best Ensemble: The Help
Best Actress: Viola Davis, The Help
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, The Help
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners

The TV awards were... at best boring and at worse completely awful. Consider that 5 of the 8 awards went to last year's winners and it'd probably be 6 if they could award Claire Danes for Temple Grandin again! The only differences this year were Kate Winslet and Paul Giamatti winning Best Acting in Miniseries and Jessica Lange winning Best Actress in Drama. Plus why was Winslet not around to at least give us an overly enthusiastic speech?

Best Ensemble, Drama: Boardwalk Empire
Best Ensemble, Comedy: Modern Family
Best Actress, Drama: Jessica Lange, American Horror Story
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: Kate Winslet, Mildred Pierce
Best Actor, Miniseries: Paul Giamatti, Too Big To Fail

But to shift back to films and Oscars, the Directors Guild handed out their awards earlier this weekend and the race for Best Picture is now a one-film race as Michel Hazanavicius of The Artist won it over his more experienced fellow nominees among them Martin Scorsese. I still believe Scorsese, with his acclaim and legendary status, could win at the Oscars over Hazanavicius, but this win more than any this awards season points to The Artist ultimately triumphing for Best Picture at the Oscars.

Feature Film: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
TV Drama Series: Patty Jenkins, The Killing
TV Comedy Series: Robert B. Weide, Curb Your Enthusiasm
TV Movie/Mini-Series: John Cassar, The Kennedys
Documentary: James Marsh, Project Nim
Musical Variety: Glenn Weiss, Tony Awards
Reality Programs: Neil P. Degroot, Biggest Loser
Daytime Serials: William Luel, General Hospital
Children's Programs: Amy Schatz, A Child's Garden of Poetry

The other winners are above, and I wished I could comment on them a bit more. Though I was surprised to see Patty Jenkins winning for her admittedly great work on The Killing especially in light of some fierce competition from Homeland, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and Friday Night Lights. Who ever knows, right?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

TV Report: Week of 1/22

I guess many shows decided to take a break the week right before February sweeps which meant there's not much to talk about. In fact all I really want to talk about are the series finale of a show I stopped watching and an old school episode of a show seemingly no one is watching.

Aces Series Finale for Chuck

Being 22 episodes behind didn't stop me from checking out the two-hour series finale of Chuck. I only stopped since I thought Chuck proposing to Sarah was a great ending to linger on, but unfortunately I just never got around to catching up. With that said, watching the finale was like seeing an old friend you haven't seen in awhile. Sarah losing all her memories enabled the show to go back to those best moments in the show, especially in the first season, as Chuck tried to walk Sarah down through memory lane in hopes she'll regain her memories. It reminded us how lovely their journey has been. It helped that Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski were just so sensational with what they were given. Levi's waterworks as he realized that Sarah is gone or Strahovski's reaction to her video diary broke me. Not to mention the awesome action sequences, more notably Sarah channeling her inner-Bryce Larkin. In the end, it was a great conclusion to an enjoyable show with most of the characters getting their happy-ish endings. Yes, the main relationship is a bit uncertain with Sarah's memories still mostly gone, but if this show taught us anything is that anything is possible. I believe they will get together in the end.

Fringe Tackles Old School Case

As much as I've liked/loved the past few episodes of Fringe, there certainly was something refreshing about this week's Case of the Week episode revolving a girl who can sense when death is coming. I mean we've had Case of the Week types of episodes recently, but if you noticed this was the first in a while that we got Peter working with his usual crew. On top of this, we get a bit of movement on the Observers warning Olivia last week about her inevitable death as well as a peek into Nina's true motives. No actual answers, but the teases are good enough for now. Next week the Astrids meet each other! I seriously cannot wait for that.

Other Miscellaneous TV Thoughts

It was a heart-breaking episode of Once Upon a Time with Snow/Mary Margaret forcing herself to forget about her true love. Her meeting the dwarves were great, too. Though who is the mysterious stranger with the typewriter?... Kiefer Sutherland has a new show and while I found the pilot of Touch good, I'm going to need a couple more episodes. My review is here... Not one the stronger Parks and Rec episodes, but made well use of its ensemble. Especially loved Tom's Drive-esque jacket and April using her various accents to beat Chris... Big Bang Theory was pretty bad this week, right? A Siri-centered plotline? Penny and Leonard beta testing each other? Amy and Sheldon do a web blog on flags? Not good.

Australian Open: The Finale

Don't really know where to begin in talking about the end of the Australian Open championships only to say that the eventual champions are also the best players in tennis right now not only because they are both the no. 1 players come Monday, but also by how they won their finals. One beautifully handled the situation outplaying her opponent in two quick sets, while the other suffered through a five-set battle outlasting his opponent. So it was that Victoria Azarenka and Novak Djokovic won the 2012 Australian Open for their first and fifth major titles respectively. It was Azarenka's first major final and with her win, the streak of first-time slam winners continues with four players. Djokovic becomes only the fourth man to win to win three or more Australian Open titles in the the Open Era and only the fifth man who have won three Grand Slam events in a row n the Open Era. For the latter record, he joins the elite group of Rod Laver, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal.

It was completely understandable that Azarenka would have been tight right out of the gate of her first major final especially with Maria Sharapova right across the net from her who had more experience with these kinds of matches. The occasion, the noise, the crowd, and the cameras were all probably too much for Azarenka who dropped served early. She finally found her groove, with a bit of help from Sharapova to even the match at 2-all in the first set. Sharapova held the next game for a 3-2 lead only for Azarenka to reel off 10 straight games, bageling Sharapova in the second set, to win. While Sharapova's serve let her down, Azarenka was also the stronger, more aggressive player dictating points and playing with such a swagger. Sharapova will be ranked #3 after the tournament and she be pleased to have reached the finals after years of dealing with injuries, but like the Wimbledon final with Petra Kvitova last year, she'll see this as another slam she should've won. In the meantime, Azarenka remains undefeated this year, also winning a tournament in Sydney prior to the Australian Open.

Could it be possible for the match of the season to happen this early in the season? That seems to be what everyone was asking during the epic five-set brawl between no. 1 Djokovic and no. 2 Nadal. It was the pair's first five-set match and at 5 hours and 53 minutes, it also was the longest Grand Slam finals in the Open Era. Nadal won a tight first set only for Djokovic to take command in the next two. Djokovic had a chance to break Nadal down Love-40 3-4 in fourth set to serve for the match, but Nadal won five straight points to make it even. It was also right after this that played was suspended for 15 minutes in order for them to close the roof due to rain. It eventually went to a tiebreak where Djokovic again found himself a few points away from winning only for Nadal to make a great comeback and winning the fourth to force a fifth. Nadal was actually up a break in the fifth, but Djokovic broke right back. At 5-5, Djokovic finally broke Nadal's serve and was able to serve out the match after which he fell on the ground, probably due to ecstasy and exhaustion in equal measures. For Nadal, this match will haunt him especially at how come he came to winning. It was also Nadal's 7th straight loss to Djokovic, third straight in Grand Slam finals (an Open Era record). For Djokovic, if he can find a way to win the French Open, he would claim the Djokovic Slam and be the eight man to win all four titles.

A couple of unseeded teams won in Doubles with Leander Paes teaming up with Radek Stepanek avenging his lost to top seed Bob and Mike Bryan last year in the Men's Doubles Final and the last-minute Russian pair of Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva winning over the 11th seed Italian team of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci in the Women's Doubles Final. Eight seed team Horia Tecau and Bethanie Mattek-Sands won the Mixed Doubles title over fifth seed team Paes and Elena Vesnina. The end... now back to normal sleeping patterns!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

End-Of-Year: 2011 Film Winners

Already getting impatient about the Oscars to see who'll win? Unfortunately we all still have to wait a month to see who wins that and hell, the final ballots haven't even been mailed out yet! So take some time and enjoy the next best thing, the result of my own year-end awards! Cue the applause and the cheering, etc. etc. etc. Of course, if you want, check out my nominations first, then see which I've picked as my favorite...

Best Actor: Ryan Gosling, Drive/Ides of March/Crazy, Stupid, Love
Runner-Up: Dominic Cooper, The Devil's Double

You can't be shocked by the winner here. How many posts have I done on Ryan Gosling this past year? Definitely more than a couple, that's for sure. But how could I not award him this after the year he has had with three different fantastic performances? You could argue that by that logic I probably should've given the award to Michael Fassbender, who I nominated alongside Gosling, but I was just slightly more impressed by Gosling. Of course, why did I pick Cooper over Fassbender for runner-up? That decision was more me wanting to highlight a performance that people probably haven't seen. His film was a bit on the messy side, but he really got into playing the dual roles of Uday Hussein and his double and made me believe it.

Best Actress: Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn/Meek's Cutoff
Runner-Up: Viola Davis, The Help

Ugh, okay so I'm exposing my love for Blue Valentine here, but I didn't award Williams (and Gosling) just because of that beautiful film. I actually didn't know much about Marilyn Monroe, but I was pretty bowled over by Williams' portrayal of her. While she may not have the infectious charisma that Monroe oozed, Williams was still able to make me believe this was the real Marilyn Monroe, the Marilyn who wasn't in front of a camera. I didn't even mention her very strong work in Meek's Cutoff which was a film I didn't expect to like, much less love. Then of course there's Viola Davis, who lordy, made me cry and made me give her a standing ovation. She really was the dominant force in her film even with the immensely talented ensemble around her.

Best Supporting Actor: Corey Stoll, Midnight in Paris
Runner-Up: Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes

It's really weird that I'm giving it to Corey Stoll for probably the smallest screen time of any of the actors I nominated, but he just left such an indelible impression that I do still think about his Ernest Hemingway from time to time. In fact as much as I love the film, I'm not sure I'd be so in love with it if I don't constantly think about Stoll's Hemingway. Then of course there's Andy Serkis who adds yet another phenomenal mo-cap performance on his resume with his nuanced work as Caesar. The movie worked as well as it did, because we had to relate to this CGI ape and Serkis was extraordinary in making Caesar the heart of the film.

Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain, The Help/Tree of Life/Take Shelter
Runner-Up: Carey Mulligan, Shame/Drive

I know what you're saying, I'm biased towards actors who do a lot of films a year and it may seem like that with my third multi-film actor winner, but similar to Gosling above, I just couldn't not award Jessica Chastain. She had an incredible year and that's something to celebrate. I didn't see all of her performances, but she was fabulous in the three films that I did see. If I had to pick, her Celia Foote was probably my favorite performance of the summer and so even if I could vote on just one film, she'd probably still win with that performance. Of course, Carey Mulligan also had a great year continuing in her quest not to be typecast as the Audrey Hepburn heir apparent by appearing in not one, but two dark and brave films. Her work in Shame is probably the better of the two since it was so unlike anything she's ever done, so raw, so electric.

Best Young Actor or Actress: Elle Fanning, Super 8
Runner-Up: John Boyega, Attack the Block

This was a bit difficult to pick since any of them really could've won, but then I remember that train depot scene, you know the one, with Ellen Fanning and just like the boys watching her, I was just transfixed. She also cast her spell with me last year in Somewhere, so maybe that also had something to do with my pick. But I also wanted to highlight John Boyega's strong leading performances in Attack the Block as Moses. He really was the glue of that quite inventive and fun film. Quick shout out to Saoirse Ronan who always seem to be doing fantastic work and Thomas Horn who made me cry a few times.

Best Ensemble: Midnight in Paris
Runner-Up: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

First I want to talk about the runner-up which is definitely a career award. Hasn't every British actor appeared in this film at one point or another? It's either this or Doctor Who I guess. I was most impressed by how the three lead actors held their own amongst these British acting juggernauts like Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman. Woody Allen outdid himself with the cast of Midnight in Paris, not only picking just the right actors to play these historical figures (great blend of known and not so known actors), but to also choose an unlikely, but solid lead in Owen Wilson (who I probably should've nominated).

Most Disappointing Film: The Conspirator
Runner-Up: Like Crazy

James McAvoy in a period piece revolving around the events after Lincoln's assassination co-starring Robin Wright and Rachel Evans Woods. How could that movie suck? And yet, it did. Despite fine acting from those three (though Wright gets almost nothing to work with), the film was pretty flat and dull throughout. I literally could not stop looking at my watch every few minutes or so. Then there's Like Crazy which is the type of movie I usually enjoy. Hell, critics were calling it a younger version of Blue Valentine and we all know my feelings towards that film, but as much as I like the two main actors, their relationship never hooked me and thus when their relationship went through its ups and downs, I could hardly care. I found myself rolling my eyes a couple of dozen times throughout the film.

Worst Film: Your Highness
Runner-Up: Beastly

The less said about these two films (and the other films I nominated) the better. I'm thinking Your Highness would be much better with a little herbal therapy, but I was unfortunately clear of mind when I saw this film and nothing was good. I literally wasted my time watching it. Beastly was actually less aggressively bad, but it was still pretty heinous. In the middle of the film I asked myself out loud why ANYONE would think this was a good idea to green-light.

Worst Acting Performance: Channing Tatum, The Eagle
Runner-Up: Natalie Portman, No Strings Attached/The Other Woman/Your Highness

My friends for some reason make fun of my seemingly baseless hatred for Channing Tatum and I wish I could articulate why I find him so... unappealing. I suppose I just find him dull and blanked-face plus his charms just don't work on me. Natalie Portman should thank her lucky stars that these films came out after she was already on her way to winning her Academy Award, because as much as I love her in Black Swan (she won my Best Actress award last year), she was just as dreadful in not one, not two, but three films this year. You may say I could be reacting negatively because of the films, and yes while the films are also bad, she was quite awful in them as well.

Best Netflix Movie: Almost Famous
Runner-Up: Undertow

his is one of my weirder categories since how can you really compare films from different eras? You really can't which is why I implore you to check out all of the films I've nominated for this. With that said, I can't believe it took me this long to see Almost Famous. It was love at first sight... or is it love at first hearing? I'm a sucker for coming-of-age stories, especially as well-done as it was with this film. It also helps that by now most of the young sort of unknown actors who appeared in that film are now household names and that was fun. Quick shout out to my runner-up Undertow, a Peruvian gay film that is beautifully structured and emotionally heartfelt.

Of course, I'm saving my pick for Best Film until sometime next week when I'm ready to post my list of top 30 or so films from this past year. Though, spoiler alert, I've already told you my top 10: The Artist, Drive, The Help, The Ides of March, Meek's Cutoff, Midnight in Paris, My Week with Marilyn, Thor, Weekend, Warrior. Which film will come out on top?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Australian Open Report: Finals Preview

Tennis fans were absolutely spoiled the past couple of days at the Australian Open with some highly competitive semifinal showdowns. And even though every match went against what I wanted to happen, they were still good for the sport. The non-winners fought hard making each of the four finalists (three of which are former champions) earn their opportunity to win the tournament.

At the beginning of the tournament, about eight women had a chance to overtake Caroline Wozniacki for the top ranking. So it's only fitting that the two of these women are in the finals and thus not only fighting for the trophy, but for the honor to be world no. 1 on Monday. And so it will be world no. 3 Victoria Azarenka vs. world no. 4 Maria Sharapova. This would be Azarenka's first Grand Slam final, while Sharapova will try to get her fourth major win, her first since 2008.

Both ladies had to get through a battle of a semifinal match against proven champions. Azarenka had to face defending champion Kim Clijsters who was supposedly playing in her last Australian Open while Sharapova avenged her Wimbledon loss last year in the hands of Petra Kvitova. Both matches went to three sets with the eventual winner losing the second set and taking charge/being more consistent in the deciding set.

As for the finals, their H2H is tied at 3 a piece. Azarenka has been undefeated so far this year taking the title in Sydney prior to the Australian Open, but Sharapova is more used to the big stage with the stakes as high as they are. I'm thinking it's going to be pretty even and potentially high-quality if Azarenka can keep her nerves in check and if Sharapova's serve is stabilized. Have no real basis for this prediction, but I'm predicting Victoria Azarenka to win in two tight sets.

Sunday's final between no. 1 Novak Djokovic and no. 2 Rafael Nadal will be the third consecutive time these two have met in a Grand Slam final with Djokovic winning the previous two in last year's Wimbledon and US Open. In fact, Djokovic has had Nadal's number of late winning their last six encounters. Winning here will be big either way. For Nadal, it'll be his 11th slam victory and one step closer to reclaiming the top ranking. For Djokovic, not only will he be among just a handful of players to win three or more Australian Open championships, but it'll also signal a continuation of his most dominant last year.

Their road to the final was not made easy especially by the opponents they faced in the semifinals. While Nadal had every confidence he could big Roger Federer, losing that first set was a wake-up call. He did eventually edge Federer in the next three sets, but the 16-time Grand Slam winner hung in there. Andy Murray was even more relentless pushing Djokovic into a fifth set and clawing his way back to 5-5 after being down 1-5. Both Federer and Murray lost to the better player that day, but their skills and grit are unquestionable leaving the rest of the tour outside the top 4 looking from the outside.

Nadal leads the H2H with Djokovic 16-13, but as I said above Djokovic has won their last six, all last year, including in Nadal's precious clay surface. Both have had physical problems during the off-season with Djokovic and his shoulders and Nadal with his knees, but both have seemed more than fit the past few days. Djokovic may have been pushed a bit harder than Nadal in their previous match and has one less day to recuperate, but I don't think that will matter with these two. The question is... has Nadal figured out how to beat Djokovic. I'm going to say yes and predict Rafael Nadal wins in four sets.

It's Not Easy Being Green or a Song Up for Oscars

Is there more I could've said?
Now there are only pictures in my head.
That's why my green is feeling gray.
Sometimes even frogs have rainy days.

Every day that passes since Oscar nominations, I find myself getting angrier and angrier about what happened with the Best Song category. Joe, Nathaniel, Andrew, amongst many others have already gone into everything I wanted to say about this tragic situation from this category missing potentially showstopping acts to perform at the Oscars to the obviously screwed up selection and qualifying process for the songs.

At the very least, they did nominate at least one song from The Muppets, even if it wasn't my favorite song (which I excerpted at the beginning of this post). But "Man Or Muppet" more than deserves its nomination if only to (most likely) give Bret McKenzie his Oscars.

See its music video below:

Plus the surprise cameo makes me smile every single time. Though I am still amazed that "Pictures in My Head" didn't make it in this year especially with the unofficial theme of nostalgia and looking back this year. No offense to Jason Segel and Walter, but I really, really wanted Kermit and the gang to sing at the ceremony. Maybe they'll still do somehow, or maybe not. That's why my green is feeling gray.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pilot Thoughts: Touch

First of all, I know my mind is always in the gutter, but can we just take a few moments to reflect that someone actually thought it was a good idea to name a show centered around a young boy "Touch." Of course the name probably has more to do with the general conceit of the show that somehow, some way every single person in the world is touched (influenced/affected) by everyone else. More literally, it could also have to do with the young protagonist and his dislike of people touching him.

Touch's main duo is an autistic child and his father, the latter played by Kiefer Sutherland. I do admit that 80% of the reason why I felt compelled to check this show out was my fond memories of those early seasons of 24. There's just something quite familiar about seeing Sutherland back on TV screaming on his cell phone, almost like a homecoming of sorts. In any case, the pilot episode introduces us to the obviously delicate relationship between the two with the father patient, but frustrated by his son's condition. The son, played well by David Mazouz, is mute and confounds everyone he comes in contact with. He is busy doodling repetitive numbers and tinkering with cell phones and being obsessed by it all. We later find out that he has a preternatural ability to "connect the dots" of the universe enabling him to more or less know the future. He then tries to use the numbers and the technology as a way for him to communicate this knowledge to others.

It's certainly an ambitious and intriguing concept. Something I'm not surprised Tim Kring created. In fact, the pilot for Touch gave me eerily similar feelings for when I saw the pilot for Kring's Heroes (whose first season still kicks ass in spite of what transpired later on). It was made more evident in the B-plot with the camera phone that made its way to London, New York, Ireland, Japan, Kuwait, and Iraq affecting a handful of people's lives in the process which was also something very reminiscent of another high-concept show... Lost. And so I readily admit that, even as I recognized that the show was manipulating me to feeeeel something (seriously among other plot lines in this episode... there was a mom who dies in 9/11, a bus full of kids getting saved, a father grieving for his dead daughter, and a son who was willing to kill himself to help his family), it actually did make me feel something.

I already know people on both sides of the aisle: those intrigued and would love to see the next episode and those who think of it all as a waste of time. I'm leaning towards the former group, but the real test for this show is not its pilot, but its second, third, tenth, and even its 22nd episode. Will every episode have Sutherland's character try and connect people by whatever vague clues his son gives him? If so, is that a bad thing or a good thing? I mentioned both Heroes and Lost previously and its quite apt since one show did a better than the other to re-invent itself season after season. It's still too early to say where Touch will fall in that spectrum, but I'm willing to wait it out for a bit. B

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Australian Open Report: Quarterfinals

Australian tennis fans are in for a double treat today as not only are they celebrating a national holiday (Australia Day of course), but the tennis lineup is just ridiculously awesome as both women semifinal matches will be played as well as an epic blockbuster of a men's semifinal match at night, but before that let's quickly rundown what happened in the quarters...

Roger Federer d. Juan Martin Del Potro 6-4 6-3 6-2

Federer has only lost to two players in Grand Slam finals and Del Potro is one of them, so Federer has a lot of respect for the Argentine's game. It clearly showed when Federer put on a masterclass and wowed not only the crowd, but himself on his great play. Not to say Del Potro played badly, but Federer was just on another level. He is the only player left in the draw not to drop a set. He'll take this momentum and use it to his advantage when he next faces a very familiar foe...

Rafael Nadal d. Tomas Berdych 6-7(5) 7-6(5) 6-4 6-2

Two days earlier, Berdych made headlines when he refused to shake Almagro's hands at the end of his fourth round match garnering a ton of bad press. Many thought that would color the match between Berdych and another Spaniard Nadal. I don't think it did, especially since both already have a contentious history. With that said, Berdych played Nadal tough in the first few sets seemingly fearless. But Nadal stepped it up and took care of business in the fourth to setup a tantalizing match-up with Federer.

Novak Djokovic d. David Ferrer 6-4 7-6(4) 6-1

Defending champion Djokovic has been in cruise control all tournament long until he met up with Hewitt a round before where he lost his first set. Indefatigable Ferrer would seem like a bigger obstacle for him, but Djokovic was able to take advantage of Ferrer's non-threatening serve, especially in that crucial second-set tie break to jump ahead. Djokovic has won 19th straight Grand Slam matches and will try to make it 20 games to reach the final. But before that, he'll have to play in a rematch of last year's final with...

Andy Murray d. Kei Nishikori 6-3 6-3 6-1

It's obvious that Murray is the lone non-Slam winning member of the Big Four, but reaching nine major semifinals and three finals deserves credit. In this tournament, Murray has been blessed by the draw gods with his most dangerous opponents losing before they get to him. It was in this way that he faced Nishikori instead of Tsonga. The scoreline may seem overtly one-sided, but Nishikori played pretty Murray quite closely especially in those first two sets making Murray work hard. In the end, Murray was just too much.

Kim Clijsters d. Caroline Wozniacki 6-3 7-6(4)

This was a do or die situation for both players. If Wozniacki lost to Clijsters, she would relinquishes her no. 1 ranking. If she had won, she would be Clijsters final Australian Open opponent. Clijsters, still tentative especially with the ankle injury she sustained a match prior, really took it to Wozniacki in the first set. It was closer and more nervy, from both, in the second, but Clijsters finally came out on top in the tiebreak. She next faces...

Victoria Azarenka d. Agnieszka Radwanska 6-7(0) 6-0 6-2

Azarenka must have been super frustrated at herself after losing the first set tiebreak at love, but she took a break and came back a different player. That and she also got some help from Radwanska would couldn't string together points after winning the first set. This match has actually been very similar to many of their matches with Radwanska winning the first then losing composure for the last two. It's pretty bad since Radwanska is also the highest ranked women's player to never reach a Grand Slam semifinals.

Maria Sharapova d. Ekaterina Makarova 6-2 6-3

If you ask around, it seems that everyone is calling Sharapova the favorite to win the tournament. It's certainly a sound prediction especially with the way she has been in cruise control all tournament long. She continued her great form against an outpowered and outshrieked Makarova. But she'll have to get by another 'ova in the next round and this one has been on a roll...

Petra Kvitova d. Sara Errani 6-4 6-4

Kvitova is probably the best player in the women's game at the moment, but she really needs to live up to her seeding and reach the finals and possibly win to solidify this. Her match against Errani wasn't as straightforward as the straight-sets scoreline indicate. She was actually down a couple of break points in the second before reeling off five straight games to win the match. It's that fighting spirit she will need when she goes up against Sharapova.

Final Note: The semifinal stage is seriously stacked. Not only do we have the top 4 men, but also 3 of the top 4 women along with Clijsters. Both of the defending champions are still alive and amongst all of them, they have 38 Grand Slam titles. There's not one match that isn't intriguing, but I do admit that there is one match that is the MOST intriguing and that is Nadal-Federer XXVII. I will be up until the break of dawn for that one.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thoughts on Oscar Nominations

It has been more than 12 hours since the Academy Award nominations were announced and just like every year, there are a few snubs, some pleasant surprises, and basically the same films and performances everyone has been predicting since this past fall. Before I talk about each category, just a few numbers. Out of the 46 films nominated (excluding the shorts categories), I've seen exactly half at 23 films. Out of the 104 total nominations (again excluding shorts), I've only seen 71 (68%), which is worse than last year's. Finally, I correctly predicted 33 of the 44 nominees from the top 8 categories, which isn't half bad.

And now for the nominations (I bolded those I've seen):

  • The Artist (10 nominations)
  • The Descendants (5 nominations)
  • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2 nominations)
  • The Help (4 nominations)
  • Hugo (11 nominations)
  • Midnight in Paris (4 nominations)
  • Moneyball (6 nominations)
  • The Tree of Life (3 nominations)
  • War Horse (6 nominations)

It was no surprise to see Hugo and The Artist leading the nomination tallies setting up a curious two-horse race between a Hollywood film set in France and a French film set in Hollywood. The other films were mostly expected with the key exception of the critically lambasted Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close which was also most ignored in the precursors. Tree of Life was similarly ignored by the precursors, but its much highly regarded and did well to get its three nominations. For the first time in history, we have 9 films nominated and it'll forever be debated which film would've been the tenth. The most likely candidate would probably be The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with its 5 nominations.

  • Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
  • Alexander Payne, The Descendants
  • Martin Scorsese, Hugo
  • Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
  • Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life

This was the same as the DGA nominations only with David Fincher being replaced by Terrence Malick. I predicted Fincher would get replaced also, but I thought they would go for Steven Spielberg. I definitely was rooting for Nicholas W. Refn to surprise here, but his film didn't resonate at all with the Academy it seems. The race here is between Martin Scorsese (the legendary frontrunner) and Michel Hazanavicius (the hot newcomer). Finally, it's important to note that Stephen Daldry's streak of being nominated for his films was broken today.

  • Demián Bichir, A Better Life
  • George Clooney, The Descendants
  • Jean Dujardin, The Artist
  • Gary Oldman, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
  • Brad Pitt, Moneyball

The great news, of course, is that Gary Oldman finally, finally has his first Oscar nomination. The fact that he has waited so long is frankly ludicrous. Demián Bichir's nomination may surprise many, but he was shortlisted by the SAG showing us great support. Of course Leonardo DiCaprio couldn't join his fellow SAG nominees, but maybe his time will come someday. And finally, even with 100 or so films between the two of them this year, Michael Fassbender and Ryan Gosling couldn't get nominated for any of their critically-lauded roles. Watch Clooney win here, but perhaps Pitt or even Oldman can surprise.

  • Viola Davis, The Help
  • Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
  • Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
  • Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

It's pretty shocking to see Tilda Swinton not nominated especially since she pretty much hit every precursor including a win from the National Board of Review. Rooney Mara supposedly replaced her, which is too bad only because it'd be a great list if both of them made it on. With that said I'm of course on Team Williams and happy that she has garnered her 3rd nomination in five years. Then again that's nothing to Streep who gets her record 17th nomination. At this point, I can actually see every single woman here win though if I was a betting man it'll probably go to Davis... or Streep... or possibly Williams.

  • Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
  • Jonah Hill, Moneyball
  • Nick Nolte, Warrior
  • Christopher Plummer, Beginners
  • Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

The lack of Drive love was most evident in this category where critical favorite Albert Brooks was completely snubbed just as he was at the SAG. Of course this makes the road for frontrunner Christopher Plummer's first Oscar win a bit easier. Then again maybe not since there's another former Oscar nominee octogenarian on the list in the form of Max Von Sydow whose film is nominated for Best Picture. Finally, I'm not against Hill's nomination, but I was hoping for perhaps Andy Serkis or Patton Oswalt.

  • Bérénice Bejo, The Artist
  • Jessica Chastain, The Help
  • Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
  • Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
  • Octavia Spencer, The Help

Melissa McCarthy is having quite an awesome year doesn't she? Not only did she star in one of the biggest movies of last year, but she is also on a hit TV show, both of which garnered her an Emmy win and now an Oscar nomination. Just... wow. Of course the other breakthrough actresses made it here in the form of The Help's Jessica Chastain (who appeared in all the other films Fassbender and Gosling couldn't be in) and Octavia Spencer. I'm thinking the winner will be between these two and it's going to go down the wire. Shailene Woodley's non-nomination could mean nothing or something.

  • The Artist
  • Bridesmaids
  • Margin Call
  • Midnight in Paris
  • A Separation

With the benefit of hindsight, these nominations seems so obvious. Of course The Artist and Midnight in Paris would fight it out for the win. Of course, Margin Call and A Separation would be nominated due to their quality. Of course they'd find a way to reward the success of Bridesmaids (sidenote: who thought Kristin Wiig would garner an Oscar nod before Tina Fey?). The losers here are a pair of WGA-nominated indie films, 50/50 and Win Win.

  • The Descendants
  • Hugo
  • The Ides of March
  • Moneyball
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

This nearly matched the WGA nominations with The Ides of March and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy replacing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Help. I was hoping for Drive to sneak in here, but again no love lost for that film. But it doesn't really matter since the race is and has always been between The Descendants and Moneyball. I like the latter better, but Jim Rash (Community) co-wrote the former. I don't know who to root for!

  • Bullhead, Belgium
  • Monsieur Lazhar, Canada
  • A Separation, Iran
  • Footnote, Israel
  • In Darkness, Poland

A Separation is the overwhelming favorite here winning almost all precursors including a pleasant surprise win at the Golden Globes against Angelina Jolie-helmed In the Land of Blood and Honey. From what I hear it's biggest competition will be In Darkness since the Polish film's topic is very Academy friendly i.e. Nazis!

  • A Cat in Paris
  • Chico and Rita
  • Kung Fu Panda 2
  • Puss in Boots
  • Rango

The big shock here is the absence of the Golden Globe winning The Adventures of Tintin which probably shouldn't have been that big of a surprise since the Academy is so unsure of what to do with mo-cap technology. With that film gone, Rango should be declared the winner here and now especially with Pixar for the first time ever not making the shortlist.

  • The Artist
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  • Hugo
  • Midnight in Paris
  • War Horse

The final Harry Potter film finally pops up here and it has two more nominations in the tech categories. I personally think it deserves a bit more love, but it was just never meant to be. It'll come down to Hugo and The Artist here, like most of the tech nominations below... or at least that's what I'm telling myself.

  • The Artist
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Hugo
  • The Tree of Life
  • War Horse

Tree of Life's Emmanuel Lubezki has dominated the precursors and he should win his first Academy Award. I would have been more wary if he was his film's only nomination, but the Picture/Directing nods only solidifies his front-runner status. Drive really should've been nominated here.

  • Anonymous
  • The Artist
  • Hugo
  • Jane Eyre
  • W.E.

Nothing too weird, though I supposed I expected to see My Week with Marilyn, The Help, or The Iron Lady to show up here. I'm guessing Anonymous or Jane Eyre are the front-runners since ZOMG FLUFFY OLD TIMEY DRESSES!

  • The Artist
  • The Descendants
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Hugo
  • Moneyball

As always, this is an important category and the winner is usually the Best Picture champion which just goes to show you again how odd it is that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo didn't make that shortlist. In the same vein, if something else wins Best Picture outside of the four Best Picture nominees here, it'll surely be a big surprise.

  • The Adventures of Tintin
  • The Artist
  • Hugo
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
  • War Horse

This is one of my favorite categories, but I'm not really feeling it this year. Perhaps because, with the exception of The Artist, I can't really remember any of the other scores. Must do research.

  • "Man or Muppet," The Muppets
  • "Real in Rio," Rio

I'm so upset that the Academy only deemed two songs worthy out of the 37 songs they had to pick from. At the very least, they could've nominated more than one song from The Muppets. I really expected "Life's A Happy Song" to make it in or my favorite "Pictures in My Head." And where Captain America's little ditty? Too on-the-nose for them? I'm one of the few who actually LOVE the inclusion of this category, but they need to severely overhaul their selection process ASAP.

  • Drive
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Hugo
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  • War Horse

Oh look it's Drive! For its one nomination! But then again here's Transformers yet again. I'm sure it's well-deserved, but there's just something to this series getting these nominations while other films don't get any.

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Hugo
  • Moneyball
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  • War Horse

Take out Drive. Put in Moneyball. Rinse. Repeat. There was one time I knew the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing.

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  • Hugo
  • Real Steel
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Real Steel's inclusion is probably the only one that causes one's eyebrow to raise a little. The five films that were in consideration that didn't make the shortlist include Captain America, Mission Impossible 4, Pirates of the Caribbean 4, Tree of Life, and X-Men: First Class. I personally would've been a-ok to have seen either Marvel films or even Mission Impossible or Tree of Life. But oh well.

  • Albert Nobbs
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  • The Iron Lady

This was what everyone predicted and so here they are. I'm thinking a non-Harry Potter film will win this one.

  • Hell and Back Again
  • If a Tree Falls: The Story of the Earth Liberation Front
  • Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
  • Pina
  • Undefeated

I unfortunately haven't seen any of these, but there's no time like the present. I don't even know what half of them is about. Anyone have any recommendations and/or any insight which film is the likely winner?

  • The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement
  • God is the Bigger Elvis
  • Incident in New Baghdad
  • Saving Face
  • The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

Of course I need to do more research on all of the short films nominated, but I do like my initial ignorance when trying to predict which one I think would win. I usually pick the film with the quirkiest title which would be God is the Bigger Elvis, but for some reason I'm leaning towards The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom for the win.

  • Dimanche/Sunday
  • The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
  • La Luna
  • A Morning Stroll
  • Wild Life

Even though Pixar failed to get nominated in Animated Feature, they still have a horse in the race with La Luna. They might even win though with the title alone, I want to desperately see The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

  • Pentecost
  • Raju
  • The Shore
  • Time Freak
  • Tuba Atlantic

And finally... the quirkiest title award is between Time Freak and Tuba Atlantic.

So those were the nominations. I do remember this morning I felt quite zen about the whole thing. Perhaps it's because I've been paying attention to the Oscar race for a few years now and have gotten just a bit jaded or perhaps it's because I got a total of 2 hours of sleep the night before. Either way, let's bring on the final phase of campaigning. It'll probably be just a bit less bloody and ridiculous than the presidential campaign in the coming months.

Monday, January 23, 2012

End-Of-Year: 2011 Film Nominees

Before the Academy announces which films and performances they liked bright and early tomorrow, I wanted to make my personal picks known. I usually try to post these nominations the first week of January, but I had wanted to see a few more films.

With that said, there are still many films I just never got around to seeing such as A Separation, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Melancholia, Pariah, The Adventures of Tintin, The Skin I Live In, Coriolanus, The Debt, Tyrannosaur, A Dangerous Method, A Better Life, Albert Nobbs, War Horse, Margaret, Young Adult, and I'm sure a lot more. My final tally is 97 films, which was A LOT more than last year. Maybe next year I'll finally crack 100 films. So without further a due...

Best Film
The Artist
The Help
The Ides of March
Meek's Cutoff
Midnight in Paris
My Week with Marilyn

Best Actor
Dominic Cooper, The Devil's Double
Tom Cullen, Weekend
Joel Edgerton, Warrior
Michael Fassbender, Shame/X-Men: First Class/Jane Eyre
Ryan Gosling, Drive/Ides of March/Crazy, Stupid, Love
Chris New, Weekend

Best Actress
Juliette Binoche, Certified Copy
Viola Davis, The Help
Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Elisabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn/Meek's Cutoff

Best Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn
Bruce Greenwood, Meek's Cutoff
Tom Hiddlestone, Thor/Midnight in Paris
Brad Pitt, Tree of Life
Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Corey Stoll, Midnight in Paris

Best Supporting Actress
Jessica Chastain, The Help/Tree of Life/Take Shelter
Marion Cotillard, Contagion/Midnight in Paris
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Carey Mulligan, Shame/Drive
Maggie Smith, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Octavia Spencer, The Help

Best Young Actor or Actress
John Boyega, Attack the Block
Joel Courtney, Super 8
Kerris Dorsey, Moneyball
Elle Fanning, Super 8
Thomas Horn, Extremely Close & Incredibly Loud
Saoirse Ronan, Hanna/The Way Back

Best Ensemble
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Help
The Ides of March
Midnight in Paris

Most Disappointing Film
The Conspirator
The Eagle
J. Edgar
Like Crazy
The Three Musketeers

Worst Film
Bad Teacher
The Hangover: Part II
No Strings Attached
The Other Woman
Your Highness

Worst Acting Performance
Cameron Diaz, Bad Teacher
Ken Jeong, The Hangover: Part II
Alex Pettyfer, Beastly
Natalie Portman, No Strings Attached/The Other Woman/Your Highness
Channing Tatum, The Eagle
Chris Zylka, Kaboom

Best Netflix Movie
Almost Famous
Annie Hall
Fish Tank
Galaxy Quest
Love of Siam
Spirited Away
The Stranger in Us
Tokyo Sonata

I do want to make it know that most of the categories, especially the acting ones, each had a long list of about 12-15 contenders so it was insanely difficult and if you ask me a day or two from now if these would be the same exact nominees, I'd probably say no. With that said, unlike the Academy Awards, I won't make you wait a month for the winners which I'll post in the next week or so.

Australian Open Report: Fourth Round

Let's talk about the women first. The top four have been insanely on form this whole tournament. Combined, they have lost only two sets heading into the quarterfinals with plenty of lopsided matches in their favor. Maria Sharapova had been the most dominant of them all except she was finally tested in the fourth round by Sabine Lisicki. Caroline Wozniacki and Petra Kvitova also won easily against Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic respectively. Victoria Azarenka has yet to drop a set while Agnieszka Radwanska dispatched Julia Georges easily while Sara Errani shocks everyone by making it into her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

This is where it gets interesting. The blockbuster fourth round match-up everyone had been waiting for since the draw came out was a re-match of last year's final between Li Na and Kim Clijsters. Let's just say it lived up to the hype. At 3-3 in the first set Clijsters twisted her ankle and after getting it checked out continued to play and lose the first set. Li would jump ahead in the second set with an early break, but Clijsters recovered to force a tiebreak. Li again jumped ahead 5-1 and then 6-2 with four match points, but incredibly Clijsters saved them all and won to force a final set where Clijsters eked out a win against an obviously stunned Li. And if that was an insane match, then I'm not sure what to call Serena Williams' inexplicable straight-set loss to Ekaterina Makarova. It's definitely the tournaments biggest upset so far and it also means that no American, men or women, are heading into the quarters.

Quarterfinal Preview
Kim Clijsters vs. Caroline Wozniacki
Victoria Azarenka vs. Julia Georges Agnieszka Radwanska
Serena Williams Ekaterina Makarova vs. Sabine Lisicki Maria Sharapova
Petra Kvitova vs. Samantha Stosur Sara Errani

I only got half right, but in retrospect I guess I really underestimated Maria Sharapova while overestimated Samantha Stosur. I would have never guessed Errani or Makarova, but then again no Americans in the quarterfinals is also pretty damn rare. We'll see how Clijsters' ankle hold up as she's the only one I believe can break up the top four. I did predict Serena to win the tournament, so I guess I'll revise that to... Maria Sharapova.

Like the women, the top four men have made it through the quarters losing only two sets. Again like the women, the most dominant of them all, Novak Djokovic, was finally tested last night against hometown hero Lleyton Hewitt who managed to get a set off the defending champion. Andy Murray in the meantime made quick work of Mikhail Kukushkin who retired in the third set with a hip injury. Potential semifinal opponents Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have yet to lose a set and they both thumped Feliciano Lopez and Bernard Tomic respectively. David Ferrer and Juan Martin Del Potro also won easily against their opponents.

The lone upset of the round was Jo-Wilfried Tsonga losing to first time major quarterfinalist Kei Nishikori. While Tsonga easily won the first set, the heat must have gotten to him as he managed to win only three more games in the next two sets. He valiantly won the fourth to force a deciding set, but Nishikori held his ground to beat the Frenchman. Now I did say it was the lone upset of the round, but if you asked those who saw Tomas Berdych and Nicolas Almagro's match, they'd tell you differently. Berdych had to win in four sets and three tiebreaks to move on, but it was his behavior after the match was done that's been getting a lot of press. During the match Almagro hit the ball at Berdych's arm, not on purpose. Berdych then refused to shake his opponent's hands at the end, a classless move, thereby turning the Australian Open crowd against him.

Quarterfinal Preview
Novak Djokovic vs. David Ferrer
Andy Murray vs. Jo-Wilfred Tsonga Kei Nishikori
Roger Federer vs. Juan-Martin Del Potro
Rafael Nadal vs. Tomas Berdych

I'm actually shocked at how well I predicted these line-ups. I probably did as well as anyone out there unless some crazy psychic actually picked Nishikori to be a surprise quarterfinalist. I believe the top four will make it into the semifinals with Del Potro the only player I see who can break that up, which as a Federer fans worries me to no end. I'm still naively predicting a Djokovic-Federer final, but really it's all about the top four in the end.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

TV Report: Week of 1/15

Don't have as much to say on TV this week, but that's probably because I've been all caught up with tennis and other things. With that said, other than yet again missing an episode of The Secret Circle (which doesn't bode well for me catching up on that show any time soon), I pretty much found the time to watch all my usual shows. Just a few quick thoughts on some of them...

CBS Shows Reach Milestones

How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory celebrated their 150th and 100th episodes respectively. One of the more refreshing things about both episodes was that if you didn't know about the milestones, you wouldn't have really known it by the episode, but once you do you can look back and appreciate what they did. Both made great use of the past to comment on where the future of each might be heading. For Mother, we get the gang struggling to handle the idea of Lily/Marshall moving out of the city into Long Island prompting Barney to find their replacements in Lily's stripper doppelganger and her pimp. The new credits first sana Lily/Marshall and then with the new gang were nice touches, but of course the episode ends with the original gang hanging out in Long Island in their "new booth." For Big Bang, Leonard asks Penny out on a date seemingly wanting to get back together with her. We find out in the end, that the entire episode was a daydream, but before the audience feels cheated, Leonard really asks her out. The fun bit in the episode of course were the main cast wearing the same as what they wore in the pilot.

Wedding Bells Are In the Air...

...Or at least that's what it felt like this week. Glee actually had an okay episode that revolved around Will trying to figure out the best song (how about no song?) to use when proposing to Emma. I was especially shocked at my non-hating feelings considering the episode largely focused on characters I didn't really like, but good solid performances plus a rare three-dimensional Sue plus the random Helen Mirren voiceover put it on the good column for me. Of course the episode ends with another proposal with Finn hilariously asking Rachel's hand in marriage.

In Revenge, Daniel finally bit the bullet and proposed to Emily, but if the pilot is any indication, he's one day closer to death. This episode most of all proved that while Emily's laser-focus on wreaking havoc upon the Graystones is fun to watch, it's also hurting innocent bystanders. Jack's been badly beaten while Charlotte's world has been turned upside down with the reveal that she's David Clarke's daughter (though she doesn't know this yet). Emily was just about to retreat a bit only for Daniel to put his foot in his mouth and diss her father. Vengeance wins yet again!

Other potential wedding bells on TV this week... Frank is already trying to get together with Butterface in Shameless to get her insurance money while The Office's Andy thinks about proposing to his new girlfriend, but is still confused about his obvious feelings for Erin.

Cute Guys Abound

I wasn't such a huge fan of 30 Rock this week even though I knew Fey and company was going to deal with Tracy's troubles from last year. With that said, Jane Krakowski remain hilarious in every scene she's in and cute guy James Marsden is revealed as Liz's new boyfriend. At the moment, she isn't sure is he's just Dennis 2.0, but um... it's James Marsden. Another cute guy Paul Rudd makes his first appearance in Parks and Recreation as Leslie's political foe. In Parks style, the character isn't really evil and more spoiled dumb brat. Love his interactions with the cast as well as the dueling ads of Ben and Leslie. Finally, there's the mysterious cute guy that appeared at the end of Once Upon A Time played by Eion Bailey. Who is he? My friends and I are betting the Big Bad Wolf, but it could be anyone really. And since I'm already talking about this show, how great was it to see Emma Caulfield as the Blind Witch? She looked amazing.

Miscellaneous/Other TV Tidbits...

Sherlock's finale was emotionally brutal... Fringe was spectacular two episodes in a row... Not the best Good Wife episode, but the end was great with Kalinda put in the precarious position of either betraying Will or Alicia... I also find little children cursing funny so that Modern Family storyline this week worked for me.

The Artist Remains Ahead with Producers Guild Win

Remember when Avatar made a bajillion dollars two years ago and won Best Picture at the Golden Globes? Remember last year when The Social Network swept the critics and won the Golden Globes handily? Well, they both lost at the Oscars their years. The beginning of the end for their Oscar hopes happened at the Producers Guild of America Awards when The Hurt Locker and The King's Speech won then taking their momentum all the way to the Kodak Theater. This year, however, there's no such shift. The Artist was the front-runner before the PGA results and with the win, it is even more of a front-runner. I'm still expecting, probably naively, to lose the DGA and the SAG Ensemble awards, but if it's truly a sweep year, then so be it.

The rest of the PGA winners were just as predictable with the exception of Best Animated Film going to The Adventures of Tintin over its more lauded Rango. I guess the only two real competitive categories at the Oscars will be Best Actress and Best Animated Film!

Here's a list of the PGA winners/award recipients:

Motion Picture: The Artist
Animated Motion Picture: The Adventures of Tintin
Documentary Motion Picture: Beats, Rhymes and Life: the Travels of a Tribe Called Quest

Drama Television: Boardwalk Empire
Comedy Television: Modern Family
Long Form Television: Downton Abbey
Non-Fiction Television: American Masters
Live Entertainment and Talk Television: The Colbert Report
Competition Television: The Amazing Race
News Television: 60 Minutes
Sports Television: ESPN’s 30 for 30
Children's Television: Sesame Street
Web Series: 30 Rock Presents Jack Donaghy, Executive Superhero

Milestone Award: Leslie Moonves
Norman Lear Achievement Award: Don Mischer
David O. Selznick Achievement Award: Steven Spielberg
Vanguard Award: Stan Lee
Stanley Kramer Award: In the Land of Blood and Honey

As I said, pretty unexciting in terms of winner's list. Would it have killed them to shine a light towards Parks and Recreation? Or how about Game of Thrones? In any case, let's all just shrug our shoulders and move on. I mean I'm actually happy that The Artist won and that Downton Abbey continues its unlikely, but welcome stampede through awards season, but there's just not much else to comment on, don't you think?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Australian Open Report: Third Round

Australians have lots to cheer about this Australian Open as two of their men reached the round of 16s, a first since 2004. Top ranked Australian Bernard Tomic thrilled Rod Laver Arena with his win against equally quirky and 13th seed Alexandr Dolgopolov in five sets. Of course the other Australian is Lleyton Hewitt who seems to have found his form of old taking out young up and comer 23rd seed Milos Raonic. It was, however, a tournament to forget for the Americans as the lone man in the draw, 16th seed John Isner, fell to 18th seed Feliciano Lopez.

Other upsets include 9th seed Janko Tipsarevic being soundly beaten by 17th seed Richard Gasquet while Mikhail Kukushkin impressed everyone by outlasting 14th seed Gael Monfils. Kukushkin is the first Kazakhstan tennis player to make a Grand Slam fourth round. Similarly, 24th seed Kei Nishikori becomes the first Japanese man to reach this round after winning against Julien Benneteau. Of course the top contenders are still moving along quite nicely with the top 7 seeds still in and winning their matches in straight sets. Top ranked Novak Djokovic has only lost 10 games in his first three matches giving birthday boy Nicolas Mahut only two games in his most recent match. The top three seeds of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer have yet to lose a set. 10th seed Nicolas Almagro and 11th seed Juan Martin Del Potro are also looking good.

Similarly to the men, the top women contenders have been in scary form leading into this second week of the tournament. Surprisingly, yet also not, there was no one scarier than 4th seed Maria Sharapova who has only dropped 5 games in three matches. She is joined by top seeds Caroline Wozniacki, 2nd seed Petra Kvitova, 3rd seed Maria Sharapova, 5th seed Na Li, 8th seed Asnieszka Radwanska, 11th seed Kim Clijsters, and 12th seed Serena Williams all moving on. Williams is the last American in both draws with Serbian compatriots Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic beating Americans Christian McHale and Vania King respectively.

Of course not all of the top seeds made it through as 7th seed Vera Zvonareva was taken out by Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets. Jie Zheng, 2010's semifinalist, also continued her lopsided H2H against 9th seed Marion Bartolli. The only other noteworthy results was perhaps 14th seed Sabine Lisicki's "upset" of 18th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova after being down a set and a break. Lisicki is making great progress after being out with injury for most of 2010. Last year, she made the semifinals of Wimbledon and the 4th round of the US Open.

Final Note: The Fourth Round match-ups are as juicy as I've remembered it to be. Djokovic-Hewitt? Wozniacki-Jankovic? Gasquet-Ferrer? Kvitova-Ivanovic? Clijsters-Li? Nadal-Lopez? Lisicki-Sharapova? Federer-Tomic? There are hardly any that doesn't look even somewhat interesting. All of them are fighting to reach the quarterfinals and with the top players strong and in-form, it should be a sight to behold.