Monday, February 25, 2013

Argo and Life of Pi Win Big at the Oscars

When the most surprising result came in Sound Editing (a tie!), then you know it was a predictable night. It was a long night full of music and mostly expected winners. For my part, I did 18/24 (75%) in my predictions which is on the high side for me. The full list of winners is below:

Best Picture: Argo
Best Director: Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Best Lead Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Best Lead Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
Best Adapted Screenplay: Chris Terrio, Argo
Best Foreign Language Film: Amour
Best Animated Film: Brave
Best Original Score: Life of Pi
Best Original Song: "Skyfall," Skyfall
Best Editing: Argo
Best Production Design: Lincoln
Best Cinematography: Life of Pi
Best Costume Design: Anna Karenina
Best Makeup and Hair: Les Misérables
Best Documentary: Searching for Sugar Man
Best Documentary Short: Inocente
Best Animated Short: Paperman
Best Live Action Short: Curfew
Best Sound Editing: Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall
Best Sound Mixing: Les Misérables
Best Visual Effects: Life of Pi

4 - Life of Pi
3 - Argo, Les Misérables
2 - Lincoln, Django Unchained, Skyfall
1 - Silver Linings Playbook, Brave, Amour, Anna Karenina, Zero Dark Thirty, Searching for Sugar Man, Paperman, Curfew, Inocente

As expected, Argo took home Best Picture and two more awards for its screenplay and editing. Ben Affleck gave an impassioned acceptance speech thanking everyone from his peers to his wife and probably most importantly to Canada. It was Ang Lee's Life of Pi, however, that walked home with the most trophies with four wins including a second Best Director Oscar for Lee, perhaps my favorite win of the whole night. Other wins that I love were actually in the Animated Short and Live Action Short categories with my both my favorites Paperman and Curfew winning. Now can someone please turn the latter into a kickass HBO/Showtime series, please? The Golden Globes were the only major award show that predicted the acting categories, but then again they do have the advantage of two Actor/Actress awards. In any case, Daniel Day-Lewis, Jennifer Lawrence, Christoph Waltz, and Anne Hathaway all won with both ladies picking up their first Oscars with their second nominations and Day-Lewis and Waltz winning their third and second Oscars respectively. Day-Lewis is the first man to win Best Actor three times. Seeing him getting handed an Oscar trophy by Meryl Streep was definitely one of the highlights of the evening that unfortunately was hampered by a host that didn't quite gel with the occasion.

Now, I wouldn't say Seth Macfarlane was a terrible host, but more often than not his jokes fell flat or worst were tinged with the kind of sophomoric humor he's famous for. He wasn't exactly helped by whoever wrote the banter for the presenters or structured the show with the former falling into either awkward or forgettable and the latter lacking any kind of flow. Some of that had to do with the still confounding decision to suddenly make this year's theme "Music in Film" which seemed to have been decided solely based on their desire to get the entire Les Misérables cast to sing on stage. To their credit, their performance of "One Day More" was sufficiently great as were the performances by former Oscar winners Catherine Zeta Jones and Jennifer Hudson. And yet the whole theme still felt less than fully realized even if you factored in performances by Shirley Bassey, Barbra Streisand, Adele (halfway to EGOT!), Nora Jones, Kristen Chenoweth, Channing Tatum, Charlize Theron, Daniel Radcliffe, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. All were great, of course, but I wished more elements of this bloated ceremony were played out to the Jaws score. Though getting Michelle Obama to present Best Picture (after that misdirection with Jack Nicholson) was pretty brilliant.

Overall, there are plenty of good things one could remember about this year's ceremony and I'd rather focus on those than on any of the bad things. For example, was it just me or did everyone seem to love Beasts of the Southern Wild and Quvenzhané Wallis? That's good! Focus on that! Who cares if it was the only Best Picture nominee to walk home empty handed? That's bad. We're ignoring that! And with that... see y'all next year!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Final Thoughts Before the Oscars

You've heard it already said elsewhere, but this year's Oscar race has been more open and competitive than in recent years. This is very true especially in regards to a handful of categories, but for Best Picture, it's all but over since Argo will most surely take the top prize tonight after picking up Best Picture notices at the BFCA, Golden Globes, and BAFTAs, not to mention nearly sweeping the guild awards including PGA, WGA, DGA, and picking up the SAG Ensemble Award. In fact, its director Ben Affleck has also been picking up every single Best Director award post-Oscar nominations, which means he should be the favorite... oh, wait he wasn't nominated for Best Director! This perceived "snub" during Oscar nomination morning, as many people believe, somehow benefited his film catapulting him and his film into the front-runner status. I think the wind was already blowing in that direction especially with that film's making Hollywood out as the hero of its story, but that surprise development certainly set the tone for the rest of awards season.

Despite Argo's domination, the director snub emboldened the other films nominated and all of them had great reasons to think they could derail the presumed front-runner. Zero Dark Thirty for one was a hit with critics winning more critic awards for its film, director, and actress and won the season's first major award at the National Board of Review, but unlike with Argo its director snub for Kathryn Bigelow coupled with increased media scrutiny hampered the film's chances to take it all the way. Then there's Lincoln, a film perfectly timed to release right after the presidential election, which also received the most Oscar nominations, is also the highest-grossing Best Picture nominee, and has a slam-dunk Oscar win with Daniel Day-Lewis for Best Actor. But it's the Harvey Weinstein-led campaign Silver Linings Playbook that could possibly play spoiler especially with its recent wins at the BAFTAs and Spirit Awards.

Speaking of Silver Linings Playbook, Jennifer Lawrence seems poised to win Actress despite going up against Jessica Chastain who seemed to be in the driver's seat pre-Oscar nominations as well as the oldest and youngest Oscar nominees ever in Emmanuelle Riva and Quvenzhané Wallis respectively. Those latter actors' films, small as they were, shocked everyone by getting Picture-Director nominations with Amour a virtual lock for Foreign Film. Another virtual lock is Anne Hathaway who will get the one high-profile award for the divisive Les Misérables (which should be noted still garnered good reviews and big box office numbers). The last acting category is also the most up-in-the air with the Supporting Actor trophy literally could be given to any of the (previously Oscar nominated old and white) men in the category. My acting predictions was conservative as I picked all of the SAG winners: Day-Lewis, Lawrence, Jones, and Hathaway.

With most of the directing awards going to Affleck and Bigelow this season, this category really is quite open with Steven Spielberg having the slight edge, but many pundits (and myself) think it could go to Ang Lee, the only director to be nominated at the Oscars, DGA, BFCA, BAFTA, and Golden Globes this year. Lee's film Life of Pi, with 11 Oscar nominations, is also set to win the most trophies with the possibility of dominating the techinical awards though facing some competition from Anna Karenina and Skyfall. Both of those films pleasantly surprised with the handful of nominations they received, but the latter will certainly be honored with the series' first Oscar win with Adele's song "Skyfall" a mortal lock and even if that doesn't happen, the series will be honored for its 50th anniversary during the big show.

All of this talk about winning and such is no consolation to those who ended up not receiving nominations such as Spirit Award winners Matthew McConaughey and John Hawkes or the WGA-nominated screenwriters for Looper and Perks of Being a Wallflower. Even films that looked like they could've been big with the Academy, such as The Master and Moonrise Kingdom, were probably too auteur-driven and only picked up a few nominations and none for Picture. But like every awards season, there will always be those left out, for better or worse. It's hard to say how the earlier nomination deadline and the extended period between nominations and award show effected everything this year, but it certainly made many pundits antsy to say the least. It probably proved useful to the Best Picture nominees, however, at least in terms of box office as this crop grossed a record high $300+ million post-nominations and with 6 films making over $90 million before the ceremony.

In any case, there are certainly way more important things than "awards season," but this year more than any other has been very interesting to follow. To be honest, I'm just hoping for a good show even though I have my reservations with Seth McFarlane hosting (he'll never top what Amy Poehler and Tina Fey did at the Golden Globes) and the seemingly endless musical moments planned for the big show including a pointless tribute to musicals of the past decade. My favorite film, Perks of Being a Wallflower, isn't nominated for anything, so I'm pretty much sitting pretty, but three of my top 5 films could win a bunch. I'm not including Joss Whedon's film The Avengers since the biggest film of last year was only nominated for one Oscar (Visual Effects) and it's unlikely to win even that one. Oh well, can't have everything you want! Argofuckyourself!

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

Quick TV Thoughts...

It's difficult to get my head to remember the past week's TV especially with my mind focused on tonight's Academy Awards. Nonetheless, just some brief thoughts on some of the shows...

A Firm Divided in The Good Wife

The Good Wife returns after its brief hiatus with a predictably excellent episode that features not only the welcome end of the debt storyline, but also a storyline that put Elsbeth and Eli together. For the latter, seeing these two breakout characters teaming up to fix Eli's problems was something to behold and I just think the show should find a way to make Elsbeth a series regular already. As for the debt storyline, the firm is all of a sudden in the black and in fact showing profits which makes the existing partners re-think their previous partnership offers to Alicia, Cary, and their fellow fourth-year associates. This creates a fun and tense episode pitting Alicia and Cary against Will and Diane and coloring their mock trial. I love it when Alicia and Cary partner up, but of course in the end the partners decide to offer partnership to just one person: Alicia. Thankfully she accepted showing great growth for her character, but what does this mean for her relationship with Cary? She also kissed Will... drama!

Sad, But Tense Revenge

I've been more frustrated than in love with some of the story beats and character work on this show this season, but I thought last Sunday's episode was quite spectacular especially with regards to anything dealing with Emily-Amanda. Knowing someone was going to die by the end of the episode made every scene in the boat tense and in the end I'm just very saddened to see Margarita Levieva leave the show, since her character, compared to most, was the one that grew the most and I'm really going to miss her. With her death and Helen Crowley's, it's certainly a turning point for the show this season which I'm hoping gets better in the second half. Give Nolan more to do and can we just stop humoring this whole Aiden deal?

Once Upon A Time Expands Family Tree

Everyone probably should've expected this from the very beginning, but this all important pivotal episode of the show finally confirmed it: Henry's family tree is FUCKED UP. We all finally found out that his long-lost father is also Gold's long-lost son! We all predicted this, but to finally see the all of the characters realized this as well was a fun moment for the show and I think everyone involved handled it well. It'll be very interesting to see what this means especially once they're back to Storybrooke. Certainly Regina will be pissed that yet again someone she loathes is blood-related to her adopted son.

I Love You and I Like You Parks & Rec

The wedding episode of Ben and Leslie was everything I could have hoped for. It even seems silly to write about what I loved about it, because it would pretty much just be EVERYTHING. From everyone working together to Leslie's amazing wedding dress to Ron giving Leslie awar to those wedding vows with those black & white flashback scenes... it was glorious. I heard this was written as a series finale if need be and though I would've been depressed if it was, it would've let the show go out with one of its best episodes. They then followed that episode with another one that takes place after the honeymoon is over and it was pretty much an episode to make everything go back to normal again. It was a good and funny episode with Leslie dealing with surviving a correspondent's lunch and Ben getting used to his new job at Sweetums. Renew this show, NBC, or face my wrath!

Miscellaneous TV Thoughts

No time to talk about any more TV, but just want to say quickly that I think How I Met Your Mother has been slightly on fire this month with a strong episode this past week that highlights the show's unreliable narrators. Castle also began its usual sweeps two-parter this time putting Alexis in danger. I just wish the threat was actually real, you know? I also liked this week's Girls episode though a step down from two weeks of really great episode, but I liked putting Ray and Adam together and that Marnie/Hannah phone scene in the end was genius. And finally, how could I not love Community's Inspector Spacetime convention episode?

Spirit Awards Find Silver Linings

The first major awards to release its nominations is also one of the last ones to dole out their winners before the Oscars. And so here are the winners from yesterday's Spirit Awards...

Best Feature: Silver Linings Playbook
Best Director: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Best Lead Actor: John Hawkes, The Sessions
Best Lead Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Best Supporting Actor: Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike
Best Supporting Actress: Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Best Screenplay: Silver Linings Playbook
Best First Feature: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Best First Screenplay: Safety Not Guaranteed
Best International Film: Amour
Best Documentary: The Invisible War
Best Cinematography: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Robert Altman Award: Starlet
Piaget Producers Award: Mynette Louie
Someone To Watch Award: Adam Leon, Kimme the Loot
Truer Than Fiction Award: Peter Nicks, The Waiting Room
John Cassavetes Award: Middle of Nowhere

For a second year in a row, a Harvey Weinstein-campaigned film won 4 of its 5 nominations dominating the Spirit Awards. Last year it was already Oscar front-runner The Artist while this year it's Silver Linings Playbook which is hoping to play spoiler at tonight's big show. It won Picture, Director, Actress, and Screenplay and it has a more than good shot at those two latter categories at the Oscars. The one nomination it didn't win was for Best Actor as Bradley Cooper play bridesmaids to the should-have-probably-been-nominated John Hawkes for his work in The Sessions. The film also picked up an award for Best Supporting Actress for Helen Hunt, not shockingly the only Oscar nominee in her category. Matthew McConaughey also won his first major awards in his career ever, which was a bit of a shock to find out. My favorite wins though were all below-the-lines with my favorite film of the year, Perks of Being a Wallflower, winnings its one and only nomination for First Feature. Beasts of the Southern Wild, Middle of Nowhere, and Safety Not Guaranteed only won a lone award each, which is still more than what the Moonrise Kingdom team received last night.

As for how this will effect the Oscars, not by much. Certainly Silver Linings Playbook with its 7 nominations and Harvey Weinstein-led campaign won't go down without fighting. As I said above, its two best shot for an award is Screenplay and Actress with Jennifer Lawrence the prohibitive front-runner at the moment especially with her Golden Globes and SAG wins. The only other award to most likely repeat tonight would of course be Amour for Best Foreign Film.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

My Personal Oscar Ballot

Now that I've finally finished my yearly film rankings, I can finally debut my personal Oscar ballot i.e. the films/performances I would vote for if I was an Academy member. A boy can dream, can't he? Note that these are different from my predictions, which can be found here.

Note: For Best Picture, Academy voters are asked to rank their choices from 1 to 9. For the other categories, they are only asked to pick their choice of winner.

Best Picture
1 - Argo
2 - Life of Pi
3 - Zero Dark Thirty
4 - Beasts of the Southern Wild
5 - Les Misérables
6 - Lincoln
7 - Silver Linings Playbook
8 - Amour
9 - Django Unchained

Best Director: Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Best Lead Actor: Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Best Lead Actress: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Best Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Best Animated Film: ParaNorman
Best Original Screenplay: Moonrise Kingdom
Best Adapted Screenplay: Argo
Best Foreign Language Film: Amour
Best Original Score: Anna Karenina
Best Original Song: "Pi's Lullaby," Life of Pi
Best Editing: Zero Dark Thirty
Best Production Design: Anna Karenina
Best Cinematography: Skyfall
Best Costume Design: Anna Karenina
Best Makeup and Hair: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Best Documentary: Searching for Sugar Man
Best Documentary Short: Innocente
Best Animated Short: Paperman
Best Live Action Short: Curfew
Best Sound Editing: Life of Pi
Best Sound Mixing: Argo
Best Visual Effects: The Avengers

My top two favorite Best Picture nominees (and amongst my top 4 films of the year) Argo and Life of Pi both come out on top with 3 wins a piece with both films splitting the Picture-Director categories. Anna Karenina also got 3 wins from me, all in technical categories. The only other film to get more than one win is Amour taking Foreign Language and Actress. For the most part, however, I spread the wealth around especially in those acting categories. Now, you might be wondering why I didn't vote for Adele's Skyfall song. Love her and the film, but I'm just not a fan of the soon-to-be Oscar-winning song. And even though Life of Pi's visual effects are better and SHOULD win, I couldn't not give one of Joss Whedon's films a freaking Oscar! Hello, do you know me?

End-Of-Year: Top 15 Films of 2012

Just a day later than planned, but still a full day before the Oscars so I'm pretty much just on time with this much-awaited list of my favorite 15 films of 2012. And they are...

15. Wreck-It Ralph - Akin to Disney's Enchanted a few years back, after watching this film, you ask yourself why no one has ever thought about making this movie before. Why not have a film that goes inside the world of video games with cameos from arcade icons Pac-Man, Sonic, and the cast of Street Fighter? But apart from that novelty, the film would be nothing without a great story and this film had that in spades with "Wreck-It Ralph," a villain who wants to be a hero finding his inner good guy when he meets quirky racecar driver outcast Vanellope. Their friendship and parallel self-discoveries elevate the film and really provide the heart. The animation is quite great, but it's the voicework from the fun cast that deserves much kudos.

14. Seven Psychopaths - As a big fan of writer-director Martin McDonagh's earlier film In Bruges, I was highly anticipating this sophomore effort which thankfully lived up to my already high expectations. The snappy, witty, meta dialogue was expectantly enjoyable as was the game and talented cast headlined by performances by Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, and Christopher Walken. Colin Farrell, who I'd like to think of as McDonagh's muse, plays the main character, a struggling screenwriter who is trying to write a story about seven psychopaths and his wacky, hilariously violent journey in trying to complete his vision drives this wacky tale that is ever so re-watchable.

13. The Impossible - The spectacle of the tsunami and its devastating aftermath is reason enough to see this film (the theater audience I saw this with was captivatingly silent during this part), but its the way the film personalizes the horrors and tragedy that makes this film so great. Most of this is due to the wonderful actors headlined by tour-de-force performances from Naomi Watts and young Tom Holland, a mother and son struggling to survive. Some of their scenes were almost too hard to watch, but they make it impossible to look away from the screen even one second. Ewan McGregor, with unfortunately not much to do, still killed in his few scenes. Talk all you want about how emotionally manipulative the film is, but I for one loved this heart-wrenching and inspiring real-life tale.

12. Searching for Sugarman - This absolutely wonderful documentary about a long-lost music icon should be seen not only by music lovers, but by everyone who has ever had a dream and not been able to achieve it because of one reason or another. In the center of it all is a 70s rock musician known as Rodriguez whose music was largely ignored in America, but made him a star in South Africa unbeknowst to him. The documentary chronicles South African fans detailing the influence Rodriguez's music had on their lives and their quest to learn more about, or perhaps track down the mysterious Rodriguez. The payoff is at once uplifting as well as bittersweet which the film doesn't sugarcoat, which I appreciated. It's a human interest story for the ages and I implore again how much everyone needs to watch this little gem of a film.

11. Moonrise Kingdom - Calling a Wes Anderson film "whimsical" is like calling a Tarantino film "bloody" or a Joe Wright film "pretty," but it truly is the perfect word to encapsulate Anderson's latest film about two youngsters falling in love and escaping together into the wilderness. The two young actors, Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman, were perfectly cast and fit seamlessly into a film bursting with quirky personality. Anderson's films do tend to have a specific look and feel to them, which in this case complemented the setting, a New England summer camp in 1965.

And now my top ten...

10. Anna Karenina - I'm a huge Joe Wright fanboy and my love for him seemingly grows for every period film he makes starring Keira Knightley so I always knew this film would be something I would enjoy. The decision to use theatrical trappings as a framework to tell this classic Tolstoy tale is simply inspired making the film a sumptuous treat for the eyes. The acting, with the exception of the miscast Vronsky, was superb from Knightley's pitch perfect turn as the titular character to Jude Law's more subtle, but equally impressive role as the cuckold husband. The costumes, the music, the production design, the dialogue... it was all just oh so romantic, luscious, and enticing.

9. Chronicle - Found footage films aren't usually my cup of tea, but I was intrigued by the ambiguous marketing and the promise of some X-Men-like stories of super-powered humans as well as the presence of Friday Night Lights alum Michael B. Jordan. I'm glad I checked it out, because what I discovered was a movie way more clever and way deeper than it really had any right to be. Three boys suddenly finding themselves with super powers is cool and all, but its the film's commitment to painstakingly show us what this fantasy scenario really might do to the boys, their relationships, and their view on the world that is worthy of praise. Dane DeHaan especially impressed me in a role that called him to be shy, charming, explosive, angry, sad, smart, and foolish sometimes in the same scene.

8. The Cabin in the Woods - It's been 3 years in the making, but Joss Whedon's genre-busting horror film finally came out and it's one of the theatrical experiences of last year I won't soon forget. Just the sheer boldness of the film which really does take every single preconceived ideas you have about horror films and flip them every which way is something to be admired. All of that plus the trademark Whedonesque humor ever-present in the film helps alleviate the sometimes truly horrific things happening on screen, but isn't that just Whedon to mix his horror with his comedy with his meta musings? The twists and turns the narrative takes all the way to the end really calls for repeat viewings. Plus, how cool was its posters?

7. Looper - To be honest, the time traveling aspect of the film has got to be the least interesting part of this smartly crafted, wonderfully original, and action-packed film. For me, the most praise-worthy elements are the nuanced performances by the cast and the script's willingness to not handhold its audience. On the surface, it's a film with a really cool premise, but underneath, like most very good sci-fi films, it touches on something deeper, a universal truth. In this film's case, it's redemption through sacrifice or perhaps even simpler, actions have consequences. It's just a stunning, imaginative work from Rian Johnson, a very exciting new-ish director who recently won a DGA for his work on Breaking Bad!

6. ParaNorman - This gorgeous stop-motion film is my favorite animated film of the year perhaps because I saw a lot of myself in the lead Norman who feels a bit like an outcast. He does see dead people after all! But there's just chock full of things to love about the film. The music, the look, the great plotting all coalesced into one very beautiful film about acceptance, bravery, and friendship. And yet by the time you get to the end, you don't feel like you've been hit in the head with all of these Important Life Lessons since they all came forth organically out of this fun zombie kiddie flick. Of course, I can't not mention that this film also features the first gay character in an animated film, which yay! It also contains one of my absolutely favorite sequences on film this year.

5. Zero Dark Thirty
- Apparently there's some kind of controversy about the use of torture and/or use of classified government information, but for me I just want to praise writer Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow on the amazing job they did to expertly craft such a thrilling and suspenseful film of the greatest manhunt of all time. Not to say that they lucked out with their ending as they were making the movie before Osama bin Laden was actually captured, but the capture certainly helped give their film that narrative drive and a climax for the ages. All of this wouldn't have worked though without the central figure of Maya played by the consistently excellent Jessica Chastain. Exhilarating and contemplative, this film was the whole package.

4. Life of Pi - This epic film, headlined by master director Ang Lee and brilliant newcomer Suraj Sharma knocked me out. I literally couldn't believe what I was seeing on screen while watching in theaters. Supposedly the source material was dubbed "unfilmable" so of course Lee was able to literally make movie magic and deliver this breathtaking piece of cinema. The technical achievement alone makes the film worth while with its stunning vistas and brilliant life-like special effects, but it's the very human element of Pi's emotional, spiritual, and physically draining journey that grounds the film. All of that plus a thoroughly thought-provoking finale makes you just want to examine everything you ever believed in.

3. The Avengers - Joss Whedon's billion dollar baby has the honor of being my favorite summer film and while it didn't take my top spot for the year, it remains one of my most enjoyable theatrical experience of the past year. Of course I'm a huge Whedon fanboy, but even someone not familiar with his ouevre had to have been impressed by the seamless way he was able to bring together the various actors from different movies to make one magnificent ensemble (in fact my favorite ensemble of the year). The action sequences were, excuse the pun, marvelous not just because we got to see shit get blown up, but because Whedon's direction and script uses these sequences to illuminate his characters! What a crazy concept, right? Plus the film is just tons of fun. Now, I can probably talk endlessly about what I love about the film, but I'll just end it by confessing that I still have never tasted shawarma.

2. Argo - It's not often my favorite Best Picture nominee is also the front-runner to win, but I'm glad this political drama-Hollywood satire-espionage thriller film is getting its due. As I just mentioned, the film is pretty much three great films all smashed into one, but it also never feels disjointed or awkward. I give all the credit to the filmmakers who really were able to craft this real-life story of a covert operation to rescue Americans from Iran into not just a thrilling and nail-biting film, but also one that is uplifting and surprisingly funny at times. The cast, full of unknowns and TV actors plus Affleck himself, were simply extraordinary. Everyone say it with me now, Argofuckyourself!

1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower - I joke that this film is like a live-action ParaNorman with the main character feeling like an outcast haunted by ghosts (of the past) and getting into hijinks with the most unlikely people. You can't un-see it now, right? In any case, I actually read the coming-of-age best-selling YA novel the film is based on when I was roughly the same age as the characters in the book so to say the story affective me would probably be understating it. And with author Stephen Chbosky writing and directing the film version, most everything that I loved in the book made its way to the big screen. The cast in the film is quite divine with the main trio of Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and especially Ezra Miller doing a tremendous job in conveying every highs and lows of adolescence without ever really falling to cliches. Lerman especially had to somehow come across as passive, a wallflower one could say, but also engaging and he really did pull it off. This film is heartfelt, fully realized, truthful, simply lovely and is my favorite film of 2012.

And that's all I wrote. Well, not exactly. There were so many films that I wanted to include in my top 35, but they just missed out such as The Paperboy, Cloud Atlas, The Deep Blue Sea, Killer Joe, Magic Mike, Farewell My Queen, How to Survive a Plague, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Compliance, etc. They aren't flawless films, but all of them SHOULD still be seen. Anyways, onwards to Oscars and then 2013!

More year-end film posts:
- Favorite Films #16-35
- 2012 Film Winners
- Favorite Posters of 2012

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Oscars Best Picture Retrospective

Right around this time in a couple of days, we'll know the winners of the the 85th Academy Awards, or as they would now like to be called "The Oscars," including Best Picture.  But before then, watch this fantastic retrospective showing brief clips of past Best Picture winners from the very beginning all the way to the nominees of this year's ceremony.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Oscar Predictions

While I'm not ready yet to post my own personal ballot, I am ready to make my predictions. Now, this year is probably trickier than most, because even though there are real favorites in most categories, the past awards season has been just wacky enough to sprinkle doubt in almost every single category. So I fully expect my 60-70% prediction rate to go down this year. C'est la vie!

Best Picture: Argo
Best Director: Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Best Lead Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Best Lead Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Best Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Best Animated Film: Brave
Best Original Screenplay: Zero Dark Thirty
Best Adapted Screenplay: Argo
Best Foreign Language Film: Amour
Best Original Score: Argo
Best Original Song: "Skyfall," Skyfall
Best Editing: Argo
Best Production Design: Life of Pi
Best Cinematography: Skyfall
Best Costume Design: Anna Karenina
Best Makeup and Hair: Les Misérables
Best Documentary: Searching for Sugar Man
Best Documentary Short: Innocente
Best Animated Short: Paperman
Best Live Action Short: Buzkashi Boys
Best Sound Editing: Skyfall
Best Sound Mixing: Les Misérables
Best Visual Effects: Life of Pi

Tally: 4 - Argo; 3 - Life of Pi, Les Misérables, Skyfall; 2 - Lincoln; 1 - Silver Linings Playbook, Brave, Zero Dark Thirty, Amour, Anna Karenina, Searching for Sugar Man, Innocente, Paperman, Buzkashi Boys

Clearly I didn't exactly go out on a limb in my predictions. Most evident of that is me picking all of the SAG winners to repeat at the Oscars. Of course, Argo could always sweep, but I don't think it's that kind of year. I have seen the live action and animated shorts this year so I'm not exactly going in blind with those predictions, but the hell if I know how exactly people vote for these things.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

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

My goal to post my list of favorites films of the past year before the Oscars are held this weekend is coming right down the wire, but without further a due here's the first half of my Top 35 films of 2012. I'll be posting my Top 15 in a couple of days!

35. Safety Not Guaranteed - It starts a bit slowly, but this quirky film about a man who puts an ad out in the newspaper for a time traveling companion is full of charm and originality. Lovely performances from Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass.

34. Django Unchained - Though it's my least favorite Best Picture nominee this year, it's hard not to praise this audacious film which has everything you love/hate about recent Quentin Tarantino films--the gore, revenge plot, and dark humor--but I was mostly impressed by the fun performances from the talented ensemble.

33. Smashed - While it was the great collection of actors that pulled me into the film in the first place, it was the raw and honest performance by Mary Elizabeth Winsted that I will take away from this really affective film about addiction.

32. Tonight You're Mine - Didn't think I would like this film much about two battling rock stars getting handcuffed together only to fall in love in the process. But even if the means of getting the two leads together were contrived, the undeniable chemistry between Luke Treadaway and Natalia Tena made it all work.

31. Take This Waltz
- I want to call this film a sensual coming-of-age tale wherein the luminous Michelle Williams plays a married woman whose world is rocked by falling in love with the sexy guy next door. Why wouldn't I like a film with that synopsis?

30. Skyfall - It wasn't my favorite Daniel Craig Bond film and I think Adele's theme song is way overhyped, but the way it smartly reboots the series while also giving homage to its past was well done. The breathtaking visuals as well as the superb acting from Javier Bardem and Judi Dench elevate the film. Plus Ben Whishaw as hipster Q!

29. 21 Jump Street - First, a word on Channing Tatum. How dare he give two good performances (in this one and Magic Mike) making me rethink my apathy towards him. But I seriously cannot deny how hilarious and, more importantly, clever this remake/reboot/whatever this is was. Maybe I'll just praise the script and the cast so I can still pretend to not care about Tatum?

28. Pitch Perfect - I've listened to the soundtrack more times than I can count and there are many moments of glee within the film itself including showing the world how great Rebel Wilson is, but a few underdeveloped plot threads and a less than captivating Road to the Championships hampered the film for me just a little bit. I kept comparing it to Bring It On, which the film practically aca-begs us to do, but as truly fun as it is, it just doesn't compare.

26. Amour - Despite knowing what the film was about heading into it, I still found myself ill-prepared for the heart-wrenching tale of a couple struggling with the tragedy of old age. Haneke's restraint made it possible for both Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant to shine. It's one of those films I probably won't ever see again, but very happy to have seen.

26. Silver Linings Playbook
- I still have reservations over many of the elements of the film, but I can't deny that this is Bradley Cooper's best performance since his Will Tippin days in Alias and with a smart script and a talented ensemble around him, the film manages to charm its way into my heart.

25. Lincoln - A slow beginning and a longer-than-needed ending were probably the only things I didn't like about this supremely handsome and dignified film that shows off the best of what Steven Spielberg can do working with the best in the field. Daniel Day-Lewis' performance as the 16th President is magnificent as expected. Focusing the film on Lincoln's quest to abolish slavery and end the war was an inspired choice.

24. Gayby - This is my one gay film in my list this year, but it's a good one that I highly recommend. The plot itself isn't even special (girl and gay friend want to have a baby together!), but it's very sweet and very fun mostly due to a cast of largely unknowns able to deliver one hilarious line after another.

23. The Hobbit - Yes, the film was long and the fact that there are two more films just as long is making me shake my head, but to be honest it was fine. It was more than fine actually since Peter Jackson was able to immerse me in his world of hobbits, elves, orcs, and dwarves that I fell head over heels in love with about a decade ago. Martin Freeman was perfectly cast and Andy Serkis was still able to amaze as Gollum.

22. Les Miserables - I have never seen any iteration of this musical before seeing this film and the first time I saw it I had mixed emotions. Lots of good things about it, but it didn't wow me like I expected. I saw it a second time and somehow something clicked. Maybe I finally got used to Tom Hooper's direction or to the "live singing," but it really connected with me emotionally. Anne Hathaway is great of course and Hugh Jackman was meant to play Jean Valjean, but I wish Samantha Barks or Eddie Redmayne were getting similar dues.

21. Your Sister's Sister - The casual charms of the film owe a lot to the wonderful and natural chemistry of the actors as well as to the script that is somehow both low-key and supremely engaging. Every emotion, revelation, confession, and beat in the movie feels real and, more importantly, earned.

20. The Master - This impeccably crafted film is certainly challenging, but I don't think this Paul Thomas Anderson classic is as impenetrably obtuse as many people think it might be. In the heart of it all is a man, curious and self-destructive, played brilliantly by Joaquin Phoenix and his journey to find meaning in his life. The collaborative portrait Anderson and Phoenix paint is bleak, engrossing, and immensely watchable.

19. Beasts of the Southern Wild - Talk about a great debut by writer-director Benh Zeitlin who offered us an imaginative and fantastic tale about a small community dealing with a devastating flood all through the eyes of a courageous and fierce little girl astonishingly played by the very young Quvenzhané Wallis. This film is at once magical, strange, and affective from beginning to end.

18. The Hunger Games - I remember marathoning the book series last year and just getting completely caught into this dystopian tale of revolution and survival by Suzanne Collins. So this film was definitely one of my most anticipated of the year and thankfully the film met my expectations. Not flawlessly, of course, but that's to be expected and Jennifer Lawrence actually exceeded my expectations as Katniss. Also... "That's mahogany!" has got to be one if not my favorite 2012 movie quote.

17. Perfect Sense - The premise of the film with everyone in the world losing their individual senses one sense at a time was brilliant as it was depressing and horrifying in many levels. Most of that probably had to do with the absolutely heartbreaking performances by Ewan McGregor and Eva Green whose characters tried to maintain their humanity and their love amidst this new, scary reality.

16. Brave - After taking a break last year, Pixar does it again with their first "princess" movie that only they can deliver i.e. with lots of heart, an engaging protagonist, and some truly gorgeous animation work that we all come to expect from the studio. Merida is one of my favorite characters of last year from her wonderful smile to her distinctive accent to the magnificent mass of red hair.

As I said my Top 15 list will be posted in a couple of days before Oscar weekend. And then I can finally put 2012 behind me once and for all!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Editors, Writers Honor Argo, Searching for Sugarman, & Breaking Bad

The Academy Awards is less than a week away and tomorrow is the final deadline for voting. The past few weeks, however, have already shown us where the wind is blowing with Argo dominating industry awards left and right including taking top honors in a couple of big ones which were announced this past weekend.

First up is the ACE Eddie Awards which honors editing in both film and television. The winners are:

Feature Dramatic Film: Argo
Feature Comedic or Musical Film: Silver Linings Playbook
Animated Feature Film: Brave
Documentary: Searching for Sugar Man
Half-Hour TV Series: Nurse Jackie
One-Hour Commercial TV Series: Breaking Bad
One-Hour Non-Commercial TV Series: The Newsroom
Miniseries or Motion Picture for TV: Hemingway & Gellhorn

Argo continued its hot streak by beating out three of its fellow Oscar nominees to win the drama award which more often than not has gone on to win at the Academy Awards giving the film even more momentum for its now supposedly inevitable Best Picture triumph. Silver Linings Playbook expectantly won its category as it was the only one nominated for an Oscar, but underestimate Harvey Weinstein's film at your peril. It's perhaps the one film that has been doing better than any other film to try to derail the Argo speeding train during this volatile voting period. Searching for Sugar Man, already the Oscar front-runner won here while Pixar's Brave is picking up some late-season steam. Finally, nice to see Breaking Bad win some more industry awards. For a complete list of the ACE Eddie Awards winners, click here.

ACE winners Breaking Bad and Searching for Sugarman join Argo as repeat winners at the Writers Guild Awards which honors screenwriters. The winners are:

Original Screenplay: Argo
Adapted Screenplay: Zero Dark Thirty
Documentary Screenplay: Searching for Sugar Man
Drama Series: Breaking Bad
Comedy Series: Louie
New Series: Girls

The two films that got the most critics wins in their respective categories came out on top here with Argo picking up yet another guild award and Zero Dark Thirty triumphing after all the controversy. With this said, both categories still seem delightfully up-in-the-air for Oscars. Argo is certainly the favorite for Adapted (especially with its more surprising win last week at the USC Scripter), but how do you deny BFCA-winner Tony Kushner for his work in Lincoln? Original Screenplay is even more of a minefield with Zero Dark Thirty, as stated previously, mired in controversy and not facing two of its fellow Oscar nominees and biggest challenges at the WGA Awards namely BFCA/Golden Globe winner Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained and surprise nominee Michael Haneke for Amour. Finally, Lena Dunham picks up another award for her work in Girls! For the complete list of WGA winners, click here.

Finally, if you're like me and want to have some idea how those always tough-to-predict Sound categories might go at the Oscars, then perhaps these results might shed some light though I honestly remain stumped:
- Les Misérables, Brave, and Homeland won at Cinema Audio Society Awards
- Life of Pi, Skyfall, Wreck-It Ralph, and Les Misérables honored at MPSE Golden Reel Awards

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Quick TV Thoughts

Before I talk about some lingering thoughts I had on some of the TV shows I watched this week, I just want to express my disappointment and anger that my favorite show last year The Hour will not see a third season. I guess I hadn't been paying attention to its ratings across the pond, but I guess they were low enough for BBC not to renew the show. Now we're left with a bummer of a cliffhanger ending that I hope won't dissuade others to check out the show's second season, because it is still damn worth it. There's a fan campaign in the works to try and save the show, if you think those things work at all.

Girls Gets Indulgent

Was it an indulgent episode? Very much so, but I also don't think that made it bad. In fact, it was probably one of the series' best though still a step below last week's brilliant episode. It was essentially a bottle episode that starred Lena Dunham and Patrick Wilson as two individuals going on a 3-day journey of self-discovery together. It was sexy, messy, sad, absurd, and most importantly fleeting. My favorite moment was towards the end when Hannah was forced to extricate herself from this obviously emotional and fantastical moment of her life. Will this lead to a more grown-up and mature Hannah? Time will tell.

The Americans Continue to Impress

In probably its strongest episode yet, I'm really falling just a bit in love with this show. It helps that the luminous Margo Martindale makes her first appearance as the two leads' tough as nails new handler. I also love that we got to explore more of Elizabeth's and Phillip's past especially in regards to their strained relationship as compared to Elizabeth's more passionate one with Gregory. Hope we see him and his crew again.

Parks & Recreation Gives Me Feelings

Immediately after the episode ended I tweeted that it gave me "Harvest Festival feelings and more" with me of course referring to the fantastic S3 episode that solidified for me the show's awesomeness. It shared a lot of aspects with that episode after all with Leslie facing improbable obstacles and her friends rallying around her to save the day. That S3 episode is also just one of the highlight reels in the magnificent Ben/Leslie relationship which ties in nicely with the cliffhanger ending of this most recent episode of Ben proposing they hold their wedding now in front of the whole town who has shown up in a black-tie gala to save the park. To say I screamed with delight (at this revelation) then indignation (at the To Be Continued) would be underselling my reaction. I'm going to be a mess next week.

Semi-Old School How I Met Your Mother

I don't have much to say about the guys' part of the episode, but the Robin/Lily parts were just aces. Utilizing the show's old school way of narrating a story through time jumps and hidden twists made Robin's story of being left alone for the first time with Marvin a joy throughout. The dual climax of finding out Mike Tyson assisted her and Robin's reaction when she finally does hold Marvin shows the show still has the capability to surprise and create heartfelt moments.

Elementary Proves Super Bowl Episode Fluke

More and more I'm thinking everyone involved just dropped the ball with that Superbowl episode, because these last couple of episodes post-Superbowl were really quite good. I especially liked that we got more of Bell's history in this one focusing the main mystery on who was trying to kill/frame him and giving him a brother who just got out of prison. The episode also gives us the scene we've all been waiting for with Sherlock confronting Watson about needing her to stay with him indefinitely not as a "sober companion" but simply as a "companion." It was well done by both, but Miller just continues to impress.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

End-Of-Year: 2012 Film Winners

I'm still in the process of ranking the films I saw last year, but you already know my top 10 from my nominations last week. While it'll still be a few days until I post aforementioned rankings, I can at least show you my favorite performances from last year.

Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Runner-Up: Logan Lerman, Perks of Being a Wallflower
Other Nominees: Daniel Day-Lewis, Dane DeHaan, Hugh Jackman, Suraj Sharma

I'm still surprised I ended up picking Phoenix for the win, but I just really love what he did with one of the best characters conceived in film last year. His Freddie Quell was brilliant and magnetic and it was impossible to look away. As for my other nominees, I can't say enough good things about them. Lerman, DeHaan, and Sharma may be young, but they all exude such a maturity that belie their baby faces. Lerman especially as my runner-up delivered a leading man performance we always knew was in him. Of course Jackman excelled in a role he was meant to play all his life and Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln was nothing short of a revelation.

Best Actress: Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Runner-Up: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Other Nominees: Keira Knightley, Jennifer Lawrence, Emmanuelle Riva, Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Perhaps if I hadn't just seen Amour last week and had let the performance linger in my head a bit more, Riva would be the winner here, because seriously, wow. But I went with fellow Oscar nominees Watts and Chastain for my top two picks. Very little separated these two for me, but I ultimately picked the more emotionally harrowing role. Watts just made me feel and as cliche as it is, I just went with my heart. But Chastain, she of the million roles last year, showed why all the praise she received last year were no flukes. Meanwhile, Knightley is 3 for 3 in Wright films, Lawrence showed range in two of her films this year, and Winstead impressed in such a difficult role.

Best Supporting Actor: Ezra Miller, Perks of Being a Wallflower
Runner-Up: Tom Holland, The Impossible
Other Nominees: Javier Bardem, Mark Duplass, Fran Kranz, Eddie Redmayne

This was Miller's award from the very first time I saw him cheer in the trailers for the film (a scene sadly cut out from the final release). But even without that fun scene, he was able to effectively steal scenes throughout with his mix of humor and heart. Holland is my runner-up mostly because he reminded me of young Jamie Bell in Billy Elliot, which is high praise. Duplass showed up everywhere this year, but it was his turn in Safety Not Guaranteed and Your Sister's Sister that solidified his status for me. Redmayne's performance of "Empty Chairs At Empty Tables" was probably the film's most emotional moment for me. Kranz was a hoot in Cabin in the Woods and I still can't get over how Bardem was able to make such a cartoonish villain feel so real.

Best Supporting Actress: Elizabeth Banks, Hunger Games/People Like Us
Runner-Up: Anne Hathaway, Dark Knight Rises/Les Misérables
Other Nominees: Emily Blunt, Scarlett Johansson, Nicole Kidman, Rebel Wilson

I fully admit that Hathaway absolutely nailed "I Dreamed A Dream" and allayed any misgivings anyone might have had that she was somehow miscast as Catwoman, but I couldn't not give my award to Banks purely for her line reading of "That's mahogany!" in Hunger Games. She also pleasantly surprised me in People Like Me, delivering probably her best dramatic work I have ever seen from her. Of course, Wilson is the breakout star of the year, which I hope opens up more doors for her. Finally, Johansson and Blunt were able to stand-out in their testosterone-heavy summer genre films while there really isn't much to say more about Kidman, right? I'm just glad she keeps going after films that seem atypical without any hint of ego.

Best Young Actor/Actress: Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Runner-Up: Suraj Sharma, Life of Pi
Other Nominees: Jared Gilman, Tom Holland, Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller

I've already talked about my love for Holland, Lerman, and Miller's performances above which is probably why I decided to single out Wallis who just missed out on my Best Actress shortlist delivering a singular performance especially at such a young age. Sharma is a bit older, but what he accomplished by acting opposite a CGI tiger is nothing short of amazing. Finally, Gilman, along with co-star Kara Hayward were just really fun to watch. Not nominated, but I'd like to give a shout out to the young actors cast (and died) in The Hunger Games.

Best Ensemble: The Avengers
Runner-Up: Argo
Other Nominees: Lincoln, Moonrise Kingdom, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Seven Psychopaths

Was there really going to be any other winner other than this cast full of different franchises and personalities who was able to somehow come together almost effortless to bring us one of the year's best blockbuster film? Yes, director/writer Joss Whedon had a lot to do about that as well, but he had one mighty fine cast to help him along. In fact this Marvelous ensemble were my top pick for best performance so far in the year back in August and I maintain their excellence after all this time. Argo won Best Ensemble at the SAG so don't feel too bad about their runner-up status here. Meanwhile the rest of the ensemble I nominated were pretty aces as well.

Most Dissapointing Film: Prometheus
Runner-Up: Keep the Lights On
Other Nominees: John Carter, Snow White and the Huntsman, Total Recall, The Words

The difference between this category and Worst Film is that I had actually expected to like these films to some varying degrees, but for one reason or another they all fell short of my expectations. Prometheus, for example, was gorgeous to look at and delivered some memorable performance like Fassbender's, but the script, like many other things in the film, was a ripe mess. There were also brilliant moments and wonderful performances in Keep the Lights On, but it was also a chore to get through.

Worst Film: This Means War
Runner-Up: Vamps
Other Nominees: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The Lucky One, Mirror Mirror, Rock of Ages

I really like Witherspoon, Pine, and Hardy but boy did I feel so much anger towards them when I saw This Means War. There was literally no redeeming qualities to that garbage of a movie. Vamps at least was trying to be camp, but it too was bad. Not even a shirtless Dan Stevens could save it for me. Don't feel like talking about the other films, but I do have to say with regards to Rock of Ages... if the best part of the film is Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand singing a duet, then you are not a good film.

Best Netflix Movie: Strangers on a Train

Runner-Up: Manhattan
Other Nominees: City of God, The Counterfeiters, Gambit, Hannah and Her Sisters, Silkwood, Singin' in the Rain, The Skin I Live In, Sophie's Choice

What a silly, silly category! But I continue to have it in my year-end awards mostly so I can honor all of the amazing films I saw on Netflix the past year for the first time. As you can tell, I tried to get my fill of Meryl Streep's and Woody Allen's filmography. To be honest, all of these films could've "won" my award. The only reason I picked Strangers on a Train was that it had a prolonged scene of the lead character played by the adorable Farley Granger playing a tennis match. Cute guy + tennis = My favorite Netflix film this year.

So as I said, just the final film rankings coming up. We all know my top 10, but which film will be declared my favorite? And what about all the films below my top 10? Where did some of your favorites ended up on my list? Pretend you're excited to find out, will you?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Kelly Clarkson at the Grammy Awards

I'm sure there were other winners and performers last night, but the only reason I checked out the Grammys were because of Kelly Clarkson who was up for three Grammy Awards. She expectantly lost Pop Solo Performance to Adele and Record of the Year to Gotye, but she did win Best Pop Vocal Album beating stiff competition from Florence & the Machines, Maroon 5, Pink, and fun. It's Clarkson's third Grammy award, her first since she took a pair home back in 2006.

Her speech was a bit all over the place, and still completely and utterly charming. She praised fellow nominees Fun. and Pink and then unforgettably said, ""Miguel, I don't know who the hell you are, but we need to sing together. I mean, good God. That was the sexiest damn thing I've ever seen." She was speaking, of course, of R&B singer Miguel who performed a few minutes earlier.

She came back on stage after a while to pay tribute to Lifetime Achievement honorees Patti Page and Carole King singing "Tennesee Waltz" and "Natural Woman." See her heartfelt performance below:

After all of that, she still found time to photobomb a picture of Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, which of course sufficiently went viral after the ceremony:

Argo Wins BAFTA Awards

Who even watches the BAFTA awards? After all, it's up against the Grammys and more egregiously, the winners are announced hours prior to the tape-delayed show. Well, I do, mostly to indulge my awards season completist freak side, but also to spend a few hours listening to the dulcet tones of Stephen Fry cracking jokes. In any case, the complete list of winners are below:

Best Film: Argo
Best Director: Ben Affleck, Argo
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Best Actress: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Best Original Screenplay: Django Unchained
Best Adapted Screenplay: Silver Linings Playbook
Best British Film: Skyfall
Best Foreign Language Film: Amour
Best Documentary: Searching for Sugar Man
Best Animated Film: Brave
Best Film Editing: Argo
Best Production Design: Les Misérables
Best Cinematography: Life of Pi
Best Costume Design: Anna Karenina
Best Makeup & Hair: Les Misérables
Best Original Music: Skyfall
Best Sound: Les Misérables
Best Visual Effects: Life of Pi
Best Short Film: Swimmer
Best Short Animation: The Making of Longbird
Best British Debut: Bart Layton and Dimitri Doganis, The Imposter
Orange Rising Star: Juno Temple

While Les Misérables walked away as the night's most awarded film with 4 BAFTA awards including one for surely Oscar-bound Anne Hathaway, it was yet again Ben Affleck's Argo which came out on top winning Best Film, Best Director, and Best Editing. The only surprising result really was that it didn't win more, but Affleck expectantly lost out to heavy front-runner and very British Daniel Day-Lewis for Best Actor while Adapted Screenplay shockingly went to Silver Linings Playbook beating both Argo and presumed winner Lincoln making this category a must-watch at the Oscars. That award surely lessened the sting of SAG winner Jennifer Lawrence losing to surprise, but very well-deserved winner Emmanuelle Riva for Best Actress, which significantly boosts the octogenarian's Oscar chances. Amour also won Best Foreign Film and joins a handful of films with two wins including Django Unchained, Skyfall, and Life of Pi. Those latter two films probably should've have picked up more awards, but it was still a solid showing for both, especially for Skyfall, the most successful British film ever, picking up Best British Film.

Speaking of British Film, I surprised myself by correctly predicting that category as well as Best British Debut and the Orange Rising Star award (Juno Temple). As for the rest of my predictions, I did better than last year, but 14/22 (63.6%) is nothing to write home about. As for what all of this means for the Academy Awards, I think it's pretty much a done deal for Argo, Day-Lewis, Hathaway, and Visual Effects for Life of Pi. Actress, Supporting Actor, and Adapted Screenplay are crazy competitive wile the Affleck-less Director field is pretty much up in the air.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

BAFTA Predictions

Last year was the first year I tried predicting the winners for the BAFTAs and I pretty much sucked at it. Hopefully I do better this year. We'll know how I did in just a few hours when the BAFTA winners are announced. Above is a couple of posters designed by illustrator Jonathan Burton which were commissioned by the organization for its Best Film nominees. The other designs and my predictions are below:

Best Film: Argo
Best Director: Ben Affleck, Argo
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Best Actress: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem, Skyfall
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Best Original Screenplay: Django Unchained
Best Adapted Screenplay: Lincoln
Best British Film: Skyfall
Best Foreign Language Film: Amour
Best Documentary: The Imposter
Best Animated Film: Brave

Best Film Editing: Argo
Best Production Design: Life of Pi
Best Cinematography: Skyfall
Best Costume Design: Anna Karenina
Best Makeup & Hair: Anna Karenina
Best Original Music: Skyfall
Best Sound: Skyfall
Best Special Visual Effects: Life of Pi
Best British Debut: Bart Layton and Dimitri Doganis, The Imposter
Orange Rising Star: Juno Temple

Looking over my predictions and I have a feeling I'm going to do pretty badly yet again. How else do I justify Les Misérables, nominated in both film categories, only winning one award? Perhaps I'm also overestimating their love for Skyfall? Well, it has been a crazy awards season.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Quick TV Thoughts

You could tell it's February sweeps when I'm tempted to do one of my mega-post trying to talk about a bunch of TV shows I watched this past week...

Post-Superbowl Elementary Fumble

First, let's talk about football! Just kidding. Of course, I was one of the 100 million people who saw the Super Bowl last Sunday, which definitely got more exciting post-power outage. Unfortunately the outage also extended the game by half an hour which pushed CBS freshman show Elementary out of prime time giving the show less new eyeballs. I have to say though that I think they picked a pretty bad episode of the show to show off. Yes, there were strippers and a serial killer on the loose, but the episode failed to highlight the main reason to actually watch the show: the relationship between Sherlock and Watson. Instead, both were relegated to separate stories with him working with the FBI agent to solve the murders and her dealing with her apartment situation. They still interacted, of course, but not at the level they usually do, which also gave the episode a "so what?" kind of feeling. As an aside, the episode this past Thursday was a much better episode minus the requisite strippers.

Robin Sparkles 4.0

It's no secret to say that How I Met Your Mother has seen better days. When it was officially announced last week that it was renewed for a final season, the reactions were largely mixed with many former hardcore fans just wishing the show had ended a few seasons ago. I for one am happy the show has a firm end date and I know CBS feels the same way. This last new episode got the best ratings for the show since last February rating a 4.0 in the demo beating out its Monday neighbor 2 Broke Girls and Wednesday powerhouse Modern Family. Of course, it was also a Very Special episode featuring everyone's favorite Canadian pop singer Robin Sparkles. And while it still didn't capture the magic of the first RS episode, it was certainly the best of the sequels with tons of Canadian celebrity cameos that put a perma-smile on my face throughout the episode. Hope the show can use this momentum and go out on top.

Smash Falling Through the Sky

In the other end of the ratings spectrum, Smash debut to horrible numbers, even worse than already lowered expectations. Despite all of the much publicized changes the show had made in-between seasons, it seemed no one really wanted to come back for more. The tepid reviews didn't help with many TV critics admitting that while the show addressed many of the surface problems from the first season, it was largely unchanged. This was most evident in the continued misstep of the show to prop up bland Katherine McPhee over the obviously more talented Megan Hilty. Hiring Jennifer Hudson, herself not the greatest actress, highlighted all the more that McPhee can't even hold a candle to another Idol alum. The two-hour premiere also felt overstuffed and viewers probably needed more breathing room. One of the brighter spots of the premiere was Jeremy Jordan's rendition of "Broadway, Here I Come." Too bad his character is also kind of a jerk. Smash just seems to want people to root against it every time. Many did hate-watch it the first season, but this season no one seems to care enough to do even that.

Pilot Thoughts: Monday Mornings and House of Cards

I don't have much to say about these two shows except to say that I generally liked their pilots. Monday Mornings is a medical drama on TNT by David E. Kelley so you know it doesn't really break any new ground while House of Cards is a political drama starring Kevin Spacey and is more know as Netflix's first foray in original programming. The pilot, directed by David Fincher, was made available at the same time as the entirety of the first season with the company wanting its subscribers to have a choice on how quickly they consume the show. I already know many people who have seen all 13 episodes and while I can definitely see myself binge-watch one snowy afternoon, I only made time to watch the first episode where I was definitely intrigued by the various machinations that were introduced. I especially latched onto the smarmy genius that is Spacey and look forward to the chaos he'll surely be inflicting, though I'm still unsure about breaking the fourth wall. As for Monday Mornings, it's solid if a bit unremarkable save for seeing the beautiful Jamie Bamber be this show's answer to McDreamy. The ratings are apparently dismal so I won't get too attached, but I'll keep watching just to see his pretty face. House of Cards: B+; Monday Mornings: B-

I Peacock NBC Thursdays

"That's our show. Not a lot of people watched it, but the joke is on you, because we got paid anyway." First, I would just like to toast to 30 Rock which ended its run last week with a series finale that let the show end on its own terms and nothing else. It wasn't for everybody, as evidenced by the opening quote (which was uttered by Tracy in the finale), but it certainly was a big influence on the TV landscape. I express my thanks to Tina Fey and company for the show and hope they all quickly find a job elsewhere. The other NBC Thursday show ending this season, The Office,  also seems intent to go out on top re-tooling the final season to showcase more of the ensemble and put the drama on the Jim-Pam relationship. The latter is made more complicated with this fabricated love triangle that probably could've worked if given more time, but unfortunately it all just seemed manipulatively engineered to get us the inevitable emotional payoff by the end.

With those two shows going off into the sunset, NBC is "stuck" with Parks and Recreation and Community which incidentally were their #2 and #3 sitcoms of the week with The Office taking the top spot. I'm hopeful that these ratings are good enough for NBC to renew them both, but I'm just relieved for Community that its ratings actually went up from its average last season especially with the behind-the-scenes drama of Dan Harmon getting the boot and the show's premiere being delayed four months. The premiere also allayed my fears that Harmon's absence would be felt in the show suddenly becoming more mainstream, but it was still the same goofy, niche, and hilarious show that I love. Jim Rash continues to steal every scene he is in. Finally, Parks & Rec is consistently amazing, but I have to give them kudos on that super funny scene of Ben, Chris, and Ron suffering together from a bout of food poisoning. Emmy Awards for all of them!

Honestly Impressive Girls

And finally, I'll end this already too-long post by commending Lena Dunham on delivering possibly my favorite episode of Girls. As much as I don't "like" Hannah as a character I at least have a handle on her, which I couldn't really say with regards to Jessa. This episode really showed us what made that mercurial character tick and it was a delight to see Jemima Kirke really show off her talents not only in that super awkward dinner scene and her explosive break-up with Thomas-John, but also in the beautiful scene in the bathtub that ended the episode. My favorite part of the episode though was that surprisingly subtle and honest declaration of love between Ray and Shoshanna on the subway platform cementing them as two of my favorite characters and couple on the show bar none.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

End-Of-Year: 2012 Film Nominees

The year 2013 is already more than a month old and I'm still talking about 2012, but everyone knows the film year doesn't really end until the Oscars which is a little less than three weeks away. Hope to talk about my personal favorite films and performances until then beginning with my own nominations below.

Now, I see lots of films in a given year, probably upwards to 150 or more, but my year-end awards are only for those films released theatrically in 2012. This year my tally is 95 films, which is a bit below last year's tally. I mostly saw all of the films I had wanted to see, including all of this year's Best Picture nominees. A few notable exceptions include Flight, Bernie, On the Road, End of Watch, Middle of Nowhere, Promised Land, Rust and Bone, This is 40, and The Sessions. I know, I'm such a slacker! Oh well, on to the nominations:

Best Film
Anna Karenina
The Avengers
The Cabin in the Woods
Life of Pi
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Zero Dark Thirty

Best Actor
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Dane DeHaan, Chronicle
Logan Lerman, Perks of Being a Wallflower
Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Suraj Sharma, Life of Pi

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Keira Knightley, Anna Karenina
Jennifer Lawrence, Hunger Games/Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Smashed

Best Supporting Actor
Javier Barden, Skyfall
Mark Duplass, Safety Not Guaranteed/Your Sister's Sister
Tom Holland, The Impossible
Fran Kranz, Cabin in the Woods
Ezra Miller, Perks of Being a Wallflower
Eddie Redmayne, Les Misérables

Best Supporting Actress
Elizabeth Banks, Hunger Games/People Like Us
Emily Blunt, Looper/Your Sister's Sister
Anne Hathaway, Dark Knight Rises/Les Misérables
Scarlett Johansson, The Avengers
Nicole Kidman, Paperboy
Rebel Wilson, Pitch Perfect/Bachelorette

Best Young Actor/Actress
Jared Gilman, Moonrise Kingdom
Tom Holland, The Impossible
Logan Lerman, Perks of Being a Wallflower
Ezra Miller, Perks of Being a Wallflower
Suraj Sharma, Life of Pi
Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Ensemble
The Avengers
Moonrise Kingdom
Perks of Being a Wallflower
Seven Psychopaths

Most Disappointing Film
John Carter
Keep the Lights On
Snow White and the Huntsman
Total Recall
The Words

Worst Film
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
The Lucky One
Mirror Mirror
Rock of Ages
This Means War

Best Netflix Movie
City of God
The Counterfeiters
Hannah and Her Sisters
Singin' in the Rain
The Skin I Live In
Sophie's Choice
Strangers on a Train

I used to have a "Worst Performance" category, but I couldn't muster enough energy to care about singling those out this year especially with my usual go-to punching bag Channing Tatum annoyingly proving me wrong this year. In any case, my goal is to post the winners in a couple of days or so, which probably means sometime next week.