Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Golden Globes: Film Nominations


Apparently I needed to sleep on my thoughts on the film Golden Globe nominations for a few more nights. Perhaps I just got too excited over the TV nominations? Regardless Birdman leads with 7 nods followed by its fiercest awards season rival, Boyhood, with 5 nominations. Onwards...

Best Director
  • Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Ava Duvernay, Selma
  • David Fincher, Gone Girl
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman
  • Richard Linklater, Boyhood
If this was the eventual Oscar lineup, it would really be something to behold, but I doubt this would actually happen. And yet other than NBR winner Clint Eastwood and mega superstar Angelina Jolie who has been everywhere (until she was forced to take a break recently), there are not many alternates. Linklater is the front-runner at the moment.

Best Motion Picture, Drama
  • Boyhood
  • Foxcatcher
  • The Imitation Game
  • Selma
  • The Theory of Everything
Many expected Unbroken here and in fact that film was completely ignored by the HFPA which has usually been kind to Jolie in the past (remember The Tourist?). I thought Whiplash should've sneaked in, at least over Foxcatcher which saw its slightly dwindling fortunes rise with these Globes nominations. Boyhood should be seen the big favorite here as Birdman is relegated to Comedy/Musical.

Best Actress, Drama
  • Jennifer Aniston, Cake
  • Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
  • Julianne Moore, Still Alice
  • Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
  • Reese Witherspoon, Wild
These are the same nominations as the SAG Awards so I would think it would be quite difficult for anyone else to try to make the shortlist. Marion Cotillard, who has been one of the critics' favorite this award season will do her best though. And I suppose underestimated Amy Adams (in Comedy/Musical) at your peril.

Best Actor, Drama
  • Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
  • Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
  • Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
  • David Oyelowo, Selma
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
With Michael Keaton in Comedy/Musical, this is a five-man race not only to grab a win here, but to also occupy four of the five spots at the Oscars. Only Oyelowo wasn't nominated for a SAG earlier, but his film might have screened to late. I would think Carell and Gyllenhaal are the weak links with regards to Oscars even though oddly enough I think Gyllenhaal might be a slight front-runner for this award (in Keaton's absence).

Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
  • Birdman
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Into the Woods
  • Pride     
  • St. Vincent
I'm super, super happy to see such a small film like Pride get nominated for such a major award and the other nominees are quite solid as well including front-runner Birdman, early-year favorite Grand Budapest Hotel, and starry musical Into the Woods. It is a bit sad to see Begin Again and Skeleton Twins ignored though. And how about the mainstream comedies this year like Neighbors and 22 Jump Street? Guardians of the Galaxy and Edge of Tomorrow should've also deserved SOME recognition, but really this year's slate isn't as bad (in fact NOT AT ALL) compared to other years.

Best Actress, Comedy or Musical
  • Amy Adams, Big Eyes
  • Emily Blunt, Into the Woods
  • Julianne Moore, Map to the Stars
  • Quvenzhané Wallis, Annie
  • Helen Mirren, Hundred Foot Journey
Moore is doubles up on the nomination for getting in for a film that won't even be released this year so you know, whatever. I bet Blunt is fantastic, but a tiny part of me wished her nomination was for her superb work in Edge of Tomorrow. Wallis though? I loved her in her debut film a few years ago, but I'd rather use her spot for someone like Kristen Wiig, Elisabeth Moss, Jenny Slate, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Keira Knightley, etc.

Best Actor, Comedy or Musical
  • Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Michael Keaton, Birdman
  • Bill Murray, St. Vincent
  • Joaquin Phoenix, Inherent Vice
  • Christoph Waltz, Big Eyes
Keaton is your likely winner here, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Fiennes put up a fight for this as well as the Oscars (IF he's nominated, a big if). With that said, I was honestly hoping for a surprise nomination for Chris Pratt in this category, but alas.

Best Supporting Actress
  • Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
  • Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year
  • Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
  • Emma Stone, Birdman
  • Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
This matches the SAG nominations almost perfectly with Chastain replacing Naomi Watts, but I think Chastain's performance is more of Oscar's speed so I think give or take Tilda Swinton, this is your Oscar line-up. A couple of other ladies who might break through would be veterans Laura Dern and Rene Russo.

Best Supporting Actor
  • Robert Duvall, The Judge
  • Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
  • Edward Norton, Birdman
  • Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
  • J.K, Simmons, Whiplash
People talk about what a weak year it's been for lead actresses, but supporting actor seems to be lacking any options other than these five names who were also all nominated by the SAGs. I think the closest thing to an alternate would be Josh Brolin in Inherent Vice unless the Academy actually deigns to nominate Andy Serkis for his mo-cap work. Regardless, this is Simmons (likely winner) vs. Norton.

Best Screenplay
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Gone Girl
  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • The Imitation Game
No big surprises here as the trio of Boyhood, Birdman, and Budapest Hotel are likely Oscar front-runners in Original while Gone Girl and Imitation Game likewise in Adapted. It's quite a boost to the latter two films being singled out here as it's been a not so thrilling awards race so far this season for Adapted (compared to Original).

Best Animated Film
  • Big Hero 6
  • The Book of Life
  • The Boxtrolls
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2
  • The LEGO Movie
Unless one of the smaller, foreign animated films make any headway, this is your Oscar list as well. Except it doesn't really matter because EVERYTHING IS AWESOME, I mean The LEGO Movie will likely sweep the majority of awards as it has been doing for a few weeks now.

Best Foreign Film
  • Force Majeure (Sweden)
  • Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (France)
  • Ida (Poland)
  • Leviathan (Russia)
  • Tangerines (Estonia)
I haven't seen any of these yet, but I have heard good stuff from people on Force Majeure, Ida, and Leviathan. It's sad that Brazil's really sweet submission The Way He Looks isn't making any awards dent at all so far.

Best Original Song
  • "Big Eyes," Big Eyes
  • "Glory," Selma
  • "Mercy Is," Noah
  • "Opportunity," Annie
  • "Yellow Flicker Beat," The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I
After they snubbed her last year, I guess they had to honor Lana Del Rey here for her work in Big Eyes. In any case, there isn't a "Let It Go" from the bunch so who knows? Shocked to see "Lost Stars" from Begin Again not make it in though.

Best Original Score

  • The Imitation Game
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Gone Girl
  • Birdman
  • Interstellar
The only film here I haven't seen is The Imitation Game, but it's nice to see Sanchez's innovative drum score nominated here especially after the news that his score is ineligible for the Oscars. Why? Because they suck.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Golden Globes: TV Nominations


Like last year, the Hollywood Foreign Press' penchant for honoring the newest, shiniest things actually paid off with some much needed new shows and faces appearing in their TV nominations. Let's take a look...

Best TV Series, Drama
  • The Affair
  • Downton Abbey
  • Game of Thrones
  • The Good Wife
  • House of Cards
It's a bit sad to see last year's nominee Masters of Sex not make it back, but I guess it's somewhat fitting that fellow extra marital affair Showtime show took its place. I probably would ditch Downton Abbey to get The Americans some damn recognition or Mad Men... has everyone forgotten about Mad Men? At least The Good Wife makes it in here after being snubbed by the SAGs yesterday.

Best Actor, Drama
  • Clive Owen, The Knick
  • Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan
  • Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
  • James Spader, The Blacklist
  • Dominic West, The Affair
With last year's winner Bryan Cranston out of the competition, this is a wide open race. Though again, I grieve for Jon Hamm whose show seem to have fallen out of award bodies' graces or something just when they could all be winning acting awards finally! I'd think Spacey, as an Oscar winner, is the favorite here but I don't really know.

Best Actress, Drama
  • Claire Danes, Homeland
  • Viola Davis, How To Get Away With Murder
  • Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
  • Ruth Wilson, The Affair
  • Robin Wright, House of Cards
Nice to see Wilson, who was just fabulous in Luther, get some kudos. It also makes total sense for them to nominate Davis and I'm just shocked her show didn't go more love from the HFPA. The other nominees are solid, but it's a bit hard to accept it totally when just last year they nominated Tatiana Maslany! Maybe, she can only be nominated for one major award every year (GG last year, SAG this year).

Best TV Series, Comedy
  • Girls
  • Jane the Virgin
  • Orange Is The New Black
  • Silicon Valley
  • Transparent
Yup, hell has finally frozen over. I mean this is a major awards show and neither Big Bang Theory nor Modern Family is nominated... anywhere! Not even in the acting categories. I honestly never thought I'd see the day. It's also fantastic that this category is mostly made up of new shows including my favorite one this season Jane the Virgin, which is also the very first show from the CW honored with a Golden Globe nod. Transparent, meanwhile, is the first show from Amazon to get a nod. It's all very cool, but I am still lighting a candle for the non-nomination of Parks and Recreation and last year's surprise champ Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Best Actor, Comedy
  • Louis C.K., Louie
  • Don Cheadle, House of Lies
  • Ricky Gervais, Derek
  • William H. Macy, Shameless
  • Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
Cheadle is the only repeat nominee here so even though this category is usually my least favorite at least the HFPA is mixing it up. Shameless' genre switch to comedy is paying dividends for Macy and I hear nothing but praise for Tambor (my pick to win). Last year's winner Andy Samberg was curiously left out.

Best Actress, Comedy
  • Lena Dunham, Girls
  • Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
  • Gina Rodriguez, Jane the Virgin
  • Taylor Schilling, Orange Is The New Black
I can't even be mad that last year's winner (see a pattern here?) Amy Poehler is not nominated, because GINA FUCKING RODRIGUEZ got nominated. She and her show are absolutely delightful and I know people say that the Golden Globes don't really matter, but tell that to someone like Gina who's breaking through right now on a new show from a little seen network. This is everything to her right now and I'm so happy for her.

Best Mini-Series Or TV Movie
  • Fargo
  • The Missing
  • The Normal Heart
  • True Detective
  • Olive Kitteridge
Other than those new and fresh nominees up above, one of the reasons why I was happy with the HFPA today was because they corrected what the Emmys and the SAG got so very wrong i.e. placed True Detective under Miniseries rather than a Drama Series. NOW I'm interested by the competition amongst it, The Normal Heart, and Fargo. The latter leads all TV shows with 5 nods and I think I'm rooting for it. It's going to be a real race though.

Best Actor, Mini-Series or TV Movie

  • Martin Freeman, Fargo
  • Mark Ruffalo, The Normal Heart
  • Billy Bob Thornton, Fargo
  • Matthew McConaughey, True Detective
  • Woody Harrelson, True Detective
Weird that Sherlock (and thus Benedict Cumberbatch) wasn't nominated, but maybe it wasn't eligible? That said, this is a fun category. McConaughey and Harrelson may be the frontrunner, but I would count out any of the others at all.

Best Actress, Mini-Series or TV Movie
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Honorable Woman
  • Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Freak Show
  • Frances McDormand, Olive Kitteridge
  • Frances O'Connor, The Missing
  • Allison Tolman, Fargo
Though I've seen all of them in other roles, the only nominated role I've actually seen is Tolman's and she's fabulous in it so I hope she wins. And she's finally in the right category as well! How some people thought she was a supporting character on the show confuses me.

Best Supporting Actor
  • Matt Bomer, The Normal Heart
  • Alan Cumming, The Good Wife
  • Colin Hanks, Fargo
  • Bill Murray, Olive Kitteridge
  • Jon Voight, Ray Donovan
Nice to see Bomer and Hanks nominated and of course they would fine a way to nominate Murray. Cumming is fantastic of course, but I actually think his co-star Matt Czuchry would have been a better choice. Of course this category should be split or at least expand to ten nominees because combining genres is just plain ridiculous.

Best Supporting Actress
  • Uzo Aduba, Orange Is The New Black
  • Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Freak Show
  • Joanne Froggatt, Downton Abbey
  • Allison Janney, Mom
  • Michelle Monaghan, True Detective
Yeah, I guess this is fine. I mean I'm actually SUPER HAPPY that Aduba picks up her first Golden Globe nod and Janney is unstoppable, but again this category could've been expanded to ten and it would still not be enough room!

My thoughts on the film nominations to come tomorrow once I've slept on them. They weren't nearly as exciting as the TV ones though.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Screen Actors Guild Nominations


Meant to write about the SAG nominations much, much earlier today but didn't have the time. So in an effort to be complete, here's a few quick thoughts on the nominees even though all everyone will be talking about tomorrow are the Golden Globe nominees. Oh well!

BEST ENSEMBLE

  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Imitation Game
  • Theory of Everything
Both Boyhood and Birdman have been a favorite in the awards circuit so far and it's pretty much a two-movie race for now and this guild did little to rock the boat. Birdman does lead with 4 nominations, but Boyhood is right behind it at 3 including this ensemble nod consisting of only its four leads. Thrilled to see Grand Budapest show up here and Imitation Game makes sense. I did love Theory of Everything, but I really thought it would've been replaced by Gone Girl, Selma, or Into the Woods. Those latter two films though were hurt by their late release. But whither Gone Girl? It's lack of awards momentum so far has left me confused.

BEST ACTRESS

  • Jennifer Aniston, Cake
  • Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
  • Julianne Moore, Still Alice
  • Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
  • Reese Witherspoon, Wild
Jennifer what now? I mean in the back of my head she was going to get a Golden Globe nod, but that's it so this surprise nomination is just that. Can she go all the way or is the TV-dominated SAG just voting for their old pal Rachel Green? The rest seem set for Oscars. It'd made sense for critics favorite (so far) Marion Cotillard to get left off here. Would've loved to have seen someone like Gugu Mbatha-Raw or Jenny Slate though.

BEST ACTOR
  • Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
  • Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
  • Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
  • Michael Keaton, Birdman
  • Eddie Redmayne, Theory of Everything
Even before "awards season" began this category has always been about Keaton vs. Redmayne vs. Cumberbatch so it makes sense to see them here and they'll most likely take this fight to the Oscars as well. They'll most likely go up against not nominated David Oyelowo and perhaps Timothy Spall. If so, Keaton would be the lone American... food for thought. Is it just me or is Carell and his film slowly fading from people's mindset? I didn't particularly enjoy the film so I'm okay with that.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
  • Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
  • Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
  • Emma Stone, Birdman
  • Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
  • Naomi Watts, St. Vincent
Even with Watts surprise nomination, I thought this was pretty much expected, but I had expected Watts to have been nominated for her work in Birdman NOT St. Vincent. How she vaulted past Jessica Chastain for her work in either Interstellar or A Most Violent Year is pretty crazy. I was also banking on a Tilda Swinton or Carrie Coon nod, but it's not to be. With that said, I love all of these actresses so I'm all good.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
  • Robert Duvall, The Judge
  • Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
  • Edward Norton, Birdman
  • Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
  • J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
So enough people actually saw The Judge and liked it enough to nominate Duvall? I'll take their word for it. Then again the next best choice was who? Andy Serkis for Apes? Josh Brolin for Inherent Vice? Tyler Perry for Gone Girl? For all the talk about the Best Actress field being "weak," I think this category could use some more options.

BEST STUNT ENSEMBLE, FILM
  • Fury
  • Get On Up
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  • Unbroken
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past
I had been banking a nomination for those two awesome Marvel films this year, Captain America and Guardians of the Galaxy, but alas. Get On Up though? Really? Again, I'll take their word on it.


With Breaking Bad not eligible this year and the nominating committee finally recognizing streaming networks, there were a lot of new shows and faces. It's not perfect, but it's not bad overall.

BEST COMEDY ENSEMBLE
  • Big Bang Theory
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  • Modern Family
  • Orange is the New Black
  • Veep
I'm really, really happy to see Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Orange is the New Black, and Veep on this list. When the first two weren't nominated last year for their outstanding freshman seasons I was livid so nice to see them make right. I get that Big Bang and Modern Family are two of the biggest comedies on TV right now, but man we get it. How about some love for Parks & Recreation and Shameless? Maybe next year? I won't hold my breath.

BEST DRAMA ENSEMBLE
  • Boardwalk Empire
  • Downton Abbey
  • Game of Thrones
  • Homeland
  • House of Cards
I bet all of these shows are relieved to not have to compete with Breaking Bad this year. I'm hoping this means Game of Thrones win, because that cast is just ridiculous. I have nothing negative to say about the other nominees, but it is hard to take this list seriously with such obvious snubs as The Good Wife, Mad Men, Masters of Sex, The Americans... I can go on and on.

BEST ACTRESS, COMEDY
  • Uzo Aduba, Orange is the New Black
  • Julie Bowen, Modern Family
  • Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
  • Julia Louis Dreyfus, Veep
  • Amy Poehler, Parks & Recreation
If we must nominate someone from Modern Family, can we at least nominate Sofia Vergara? She, Falco, and Louis Dreyfus were nominated last year, so whatever (though yay Veep). I am glad to see Poehler back in the mix after missing out last year and MY GIRL EMMY-WINNING UZO ADUBA! YES! To be perfectly frank, I would've been 100% okay if all five nominations went to Orange is the New Black here.

BEST ACTOR, COMEDY
  • Ty Burrell, Modern Family
  • Louis C.K., Louie
  • William H. Macy, Shameless
  • Jim Parsons, Big Bang Theory
  • Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family
God, this is the worst category. Two actors from Modern Family? Parsons... again? I don't doubt their talents, but the lack of new nominees here year in, year out bugs me. Where's Adam Scott, Andre Braugher, Adam Driver, Chris Messina, Nick Offerman, Andy Samberg, and on and on and on.

BEST ACTRESS, DRAMA
  • Claire Danes, Homeland
  • Viola Davis, How To Get Away With Murder
  • Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
  • Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
  • Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
  • Robin Wright, Homeland
If they had to add another nominee to make sure to honor Maslany then I'm all for it. She's now won 2 Critics Choice Awards and been nominated for a Golden Globe and a SAG award. Fuck you, Emmys. But hey, real talk now... Maggie Smith? Doesn't care if she wins or gets nominated. So stop it. Keri Russell, Lizzy Caplan, Elisabeth Moss, and plenty of other actresses would love to take her wasted spot.

BEST ACTOR, DRAMA
  • Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
  • Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
  • Woody Harrelson, True Detective
  • Matthew McConaughey, True Detective
  • Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
The more distance I get from True Detective, the less positive things I have to say about it. With that said, however, I still think those two guys were pretty great so I guess I'm okay with their double-dipping here and plenty thankful they didn't nominate the show for Ensemble. That said, hey SAG committe Mad Men does still exist you know. Jon Hamm, Matthew Rhys, Matt Czuchry are guys who exist.

BEST ACTRESS, MOVIE/MINISERIES
  • Ellen Burstyn, Flowers in the Attic
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Honourable Woman
  • Frances McDormand, Olive Kitteridge
  • Julia Roberts, The Normal Heart
  • Cicely Tyson, The Trip to Bountiful
No big surprises here though it's worth to note that the Gyllenhaal siblings have bookend nominations so it's a good awards season for the household! I wish Alison Tolman had been nominated though.

BEST ACTOR, MOVIE/MINISERIES
  • Adrien Brody, Houdini
  • Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: His Last Vow
  • Richard Jenkins, Olive Kitteridge
  • Mark Ruffalo, The Normal Heart
  • Billy Bob Thornton, Fargo
They do love them some Cumberbatch. Were there any snubs? The only two I can think of is Martin Freeman for either his work in Fargo or Sherlock and Matt Bomer for The Normal Heart.

BEST STUNT ENSEMBLE, TV

  • 24: Live Another Day
  • Boardwalk Emppire
  • Game of Thrones
  • Homeland
  • Sons of Anarchy
  • The Walking Dead
I mean sure. What is there to say really? Maybe Agents of SHIELD especially with so many more fight sequences this season, but whatever.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

AFI Top Ten Films/TV Programs of 2014

Early tomorrow morning will be the announcement of the SAG Awards nominees and the following day will be the Golden Globes nominations so awards season is ramping up! well the American Film Institute (see the jury this year) chimed in with their picks of their favorites in film and TV this year. They are...


MOVIES OF THE YEAR
  • American Sniper
  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • Foxcatcher
  • The Imitation Game
  • Interstellar
  • Into the Woods
  • Nightcrawler
  • Selma
  • Unbroken
  • Whiplash

This year the group has picked 11 films to honor and it's mostly the usual suspects give or take Into the Woods and perhaps American Sniper and Unbroken, all of which by the way has NOT been seen by the general audience because year-end film awards don't care about the audience at all. Neither here nor there though! I am curious at the momentum for a film like American Sniper as well as the lack of one for Gone Girl, which unrelatedly is looking to make over $165 million. Also missing is The Grand Budapest Hotel (came out forever ago), Wild (but it's about a woman), Theory of Everything (it's TOO British/not eligible?) and NBR's top pick A Most Violent Year (yeah, I don't know).


TV PROGRAMS OF THE YEAR
  • The Americans
  • Fargo
  • Game of Thrones
  • How to Get Away With Murder
  • Jane the Virgin
  • The Knick
  • Mad Men
  • Orange is the New Black
  • Silicon Valley
  • Transparent

The absence of The Good Wife is giving me an allergic reaction, but this list is not baf at all. At least they didn't include True Detective, right? I haven't seen The Knick, Silicon Valley, and Transparent, but the other freshman shows on the list are excellent especially Jane the Virgin which is probably my favorite new show this year. Nice to see a couple of last year's freshman class hold fort (The Americans and Orange is the New Black) as well as some old standbys in Game of Thrones and Mad Men. Like last year, I'm just going to assume Orphan Black isn't "American" enough for this group.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

National Board of Review Winners


It's still early days this awards season but it's so far looking like an actual race to the Oscars this year with recent winners from critic groups like New York and Boston Online as well as the Gotham Awards not yet coalescing into a sweeper, which is good all around. In fact, I hope this season in particular the critic groups take a page from Boston Online and really go crazy and champion smaller out-there films. With that said, the same could be said about this past week's National Board of Review winners. Yes, they did their usual Clint Eastwood worshiping and some of their choices were downright odd, but bully for them!

Best Film
A Most Violent Year

Top Ten Films
American Sniper
Birdman
Boyhood
Fury
Gone Girl
The Imitation Game
Inherent Vice
The LEGO Movie
Nightcrawler
Unbroken

Only industry insiders and intrepid film fans have actually seen A Most Violent Year which releases for the general public on the last day of the year (ugh) so I think more than a few people were surprised by its big win here topping Oscar front-runners Birdman, Boyhood, and The Imitation Game which all made it in. Their Eastwood obsession continues with American Sniper and Brangelina are well represented, but can we just talk about the inclusion of The LEGO Movie? I really liked the film, but who knew? Does this mean there's a chance Chris Pratt could actually be in a Best Picture nominee for four years in a row (Moneyball, Zero Dark Thirty, Her)? Fun, if remote, possibility!

Best Actor (TIE)
Oscar Isaac, A Most Violent Year
Michael Keaton, Birdman

Best Actress
Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Best Supporting Actor
Edward Norton, Birdman

Best Supporting Actress
Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year

Breakthrough Performance
Jack O'Connell, Starred Up and Unbroken

Best Ensemble
Fury

Last year, this group's acting winners went on to collect in total just one Oscar nomination, but I have a feeling it's going to be different this year with Moore, Norton, and Keaton seemingly locks for their respective categories. This does give a much-needed boost for Isaac and Chastain. As for O'Connell, I think this will be just one of many, many breakthrough awards he wins this season. I don't think it's enough to catapult him into Best Actor race, but it won't be for lack of films on his part!

Best Director
Clint Eastwood, American Sniper

Best Directorial Debut
Gillian Robespierre, Obvious Child

Best Adapted Screenplay
Inherent Vice

Best Original Screenplay
The LEGO Movie

Best Animated Feature
How to Train Your Dragon 2

There's a lot of intriguing choices here. Again, their Eastwood love is showing hard with that pick, but Robespierre's small film did well to show up here and The LEGO Movie winning a major award like this outside of Animation is pretty shocking. At the moment, it IS the frontrunner to win Animated Film at the Oscars so it is curious to see it lose to How to Train Your Dragons 2 here.


Top 10 Independent Films
Blue Ruin
Locke
A Most Wanted Man
Mr. Turner
Obvious Child
The Skeleton Twins
Snowpiercer
Stand Clear of the Closing Doors
Starred Up
Still Alice

Great list with some inspired choices in Locke, Obvious Child, Skeleton Twins, and Snowpiercer all of which I've seen and loved. It'd be great if critic groups (and the major award bodies) actually champion these smaller films more.

Best Foreign Language Film
Wild Tales

Top 5 Foreign Language Films
Force Majeure
Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem
Leviathan
Two Days, One Night
We Are the Best!

Best Documentary
Life Itself

Top Five Documentary Films
Art and Craft
Jodorowsky's Dune
Keep On Keepin' On
The Kill Team
Last Days in Vietnam

Unfortunately, I haven't seen any of these films and even more shamefully I've only really heard of four of them including the Cannes-winning Force Majeure and the Rogert Ebert documentary Life Itself. Time to step up my screening game!

Spotlight Award
Chris Rock for writing, directing and starring in Top Five
William K. Everson Film History Award
Scott Eyman

NBR Freedom of Expression Award
Rosewater
Selma

As I said up top, it's still at the point where anything and everything can happen. I hope that it does.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Spirit Awards Nominations


Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Of course, Thanksgiving not only signals the beginning of the holiday season but the start of awards season as well. In fact on Wednesday the Spirit Award nominations were announced. Below are the nominees and my brief thoughts on them...

BEST FEATURE
Birdman
Boyhood
Love is Strange
Selma
Whiplash

Birdman leads all films with 6 nominations followed closely by Boyhood and Selma with 5 nominations. Nightcrawler also surprised with 5 nominations but couldn't crack Picture/Director. Love is Strange and Whiplash meanwhile received 4 nominations. A few films like Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Theory of Everything weren't eligible but The Imitation Game, Wild and to a lesser extent The Skeleton Twins were and were surprisingly shut out.

BEST DIRECTOR
Damien Chazelle, Whiplash  
Ava DuVernay, Selma
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
David Zellner, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

Looks like this is going to be a race between Iñárritu and Linklater, but DuVernay's nomination seems like a game-changer to me. Regardless, it's nice to see Linklater here after this group ignore his Before Midnight masterpiece last year.

BEST FIRST FEATURE
Ana Lily Amirpour, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Justin Simien, Dear White People
Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
Gillian Robespierre, Obvious Child
Anja Marquardt, She's Lost Control

Unfortunately I've only seen Robespierre's delightful Obvious Child, which I'm glad is getting some year-end awards recognition. Had been meaning to catch Dear White People and Nightcrawler, but haven't yet!

BEST FEMALE LEAD

Marion Cotillard, The Immigrant
Rinko Kikuchi, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Jenny Slate, Obvious Child
Tilda Swinton, Only Lovers Left Alive

I know nothing about Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter but getting Director/Actress nominations is a testament to that film. I have seen Slate and Swinton and thrilled both are nominated. The day of the nominations I also checked out Cotillard's turn in The Immigrant and I compared it to Streep's Sophie's Choice turn so that's where I am with THAT performance. Finally, Moore is the prohibitive frontrunner to win here AND at the Oscars though she'd likely have to go up against Reese Witherspoon who was inexplicably snubbed here. Shout out to Kirsten Wiig, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Elisabeth Moss.

BEST MALE LEAD
André Benjamin, Jimi: All Is By My Side
Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
Michael Keaton, Birdman
John Lithgow, Love is Strange
David Oyelowo, Selma

Benihana Cumberband's non-nomination for The Imitation Game is really quite strange and really supports the theory that the committee just wasn't sure if it was eligible or not. That said, it does give a few men who need support early on like Lithgow, Gyllenhaal, and Oyelowo the boost they need for awards season momentum. Keaton is the likely favorite, but again that's without facing his biggest rivals of the season, the aforementioned Belichick Cumbaya and Theory of Everything's Eddie Redmayne.

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year
Carmen Ejogo, Selma
Andrea Suarez Paz, Stand Clear of the Closing Doors
Emma Stone, Birdman

Arquette! Chastain! Stone! Already with those three this feels like such a fun line-up though how amazing would it have been to see Swinton pop up here for her turn in Snowpiercer, which I'm sure is being largely forgotten in awards campaigning. Arquette seems like the favorite for now, but it's early days and I'm more excited at the prospect that Stone COULD get her first Oscar nomination. Again, still early days.

BEST SUPPORTING MALE
Riz Ahmed, Nightcrawler
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Alfred Molina, Love is Strange
Edward Norton, Birdman
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Molina is supporting while Lithgow is lead? I liked Love is Strange and any award recognition this small film gets is a good one, but category fraud is super annoying. Moving on! I *love* Norton in Birdman and Hawke was pretty good in Boyhood (and I'm seeing his nomination as a make-up for the Before series as well). Simmons is the front-runner right not for this and the Oscars.

BEST SCREENPLAY
Big Eyes
Love is Strange
A Most Violent Year
Nightcrawler
Only Lovers Left Alive

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Appropriate Behavior
Dear White People
Little Accidents
The One I Love
She's Lost Control

It's a bit weird to see the screenplay categories have little overlap with the feature categories, especially Birdman and Nightcrawler but I'll chalk it up as a positive in that voters are actually thinking about each category. With that said, I've only see three of the ten films cited here so I need to up my game a bit.

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD (Low Budget Films)
Blue Ruin
It Felt Like Love
Land Ho!
Man From Reno
Test

I've heard good stuff about Land Ho! so I can't wait to check that out and I have seen Test which I liked, but thought it just okay.

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM
Force Majeure, Sweden
Ida, Poland
Leviathan, Russia
Mommy, Canada
Norte, the End of History, Philippines
Under the Skin, UK

Wow, this feels like a stacked category already that could repeat at the Oscar with only Under the Skin not eligible for the latter award. I've only see Under the Skin on this list, but I've already heard very good stuff about most of these and it's cool to see the Philippines represented.

BEST DOCUMENTARY
20,000 Days on Earth
CITIZENFOUR
The Salt of the Earth
Stray Dog
Virunga

I'm ashamed to say I haven't ever heard of any of these. Are all worthy to check out?

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Birdman
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
The Immigrant
It Felt Like Love
Selma

BEST EDITING 
Boyhood
The Guest
Nightcrawler
A Most Violent Year
Whiplash

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD

Inherent Vice

SPECIAL DISTINCTION AWARD
Foxcatcher      

Not much to say about the rest of the categories except to say how ecstatic I am to see Adam Wingard's The Guest nominated for anything. It's one of the pleasant surprises for me this year and if it was up to me I probably would've nominated it for Feature, Directing, and Lead Actor.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Let us give thanks...


"I have decided to scalp you and burn your village to the ground."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Birthday Boy: Leonardo DiCaprio


Leonardo DiCaprio celebrates his 40th birthday today. And even though he's been a bunch of movies for which he has garnered lots prizes and Academy Award nominations, he will ALWAYS be Jack Dawson to me. He can cover himself up in presidential old-age make-up, make-up a fake identity or two or three, and have a lot of dead wives... but he'll still be that fresh-faced artist from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin who saved a girl in every way a person could've been saved. So basically, happy birthday Leo and oh, draw me like one of your French girls.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Looking Forward To...


Horns
Release: October 31, 2014
Distributor: Radius-TWC
Director: Alexandre Aja
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Max Minghella, David Morse, Joe Anderson, James Remar, and Heather Graham

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Kalinda Goes, NPH Hosts

Today was a busy pop culture day wasn't it? Stand-alone streaming service from HBO! Every Friends episode available on Netflix next year! Superhero films through the year 2020! Yet none of those made the cut for me tweeting about them. These two news report did though...


Yup, everyone's favorite leather-bound in-house investigator is leaving The Good Wife filling me with much sadness. Apparently Archie Panjabi recently signed a talent deal with 20th Century TV and will be headlining a drama pilot for them so at least we won't be without her talents for long. I, however, can still mourn the end of Kalinda and contemplate why the show's first breakout character and Emmy-winning role has been so wasted the past few seasons. Severing her ties to Alicia in the third season hurt, but it was the abusive husband storyline in the fourth season that seemed like the point of no return for the character as the writers then decided to stop any character development at all for her perhaps out of making the same mistake again. For the best drama in broadcast TV the past few years, it's the rare blind spot for them and I truly hope that at least with the end in sight they're able to craft an ending as brilliant as the character was in the first season. At the very least, they could have her share a scene with the Alicia, which apparently hasn't happened since season 4!


And finally, Neil Patrick Harris is finally hosting the Oscars! He'll emcee the upcoming telecast and it really is about damn time. I knew that as soon as How I Met Your Mother ended, it wouldn't take long for him to get asked and for him to accept. Apparently, they first asked Julia-Louis Dreyfus (which would've been fantastic also), but she turned them down. So instead, Harris will be just one Grammy hosting duty away from claiming the EGOT of hosting as he has already hosted the Tony Awards (to much critical acclaim) numerous times as well as the Emmy Awards. Mind you, he just won the Tony for headlining Hedwig and the Angry Inch (I saw him in it and LOVED it) *and* in the midst of a book tour to promote his autobiography. Where the hell does he find the time? It will be interesting that he'll be hosting the Oscars with his latest film, Gone Girl, already one of the front-runners for the award.

Looking Forward To...


Birdman
Release: October 17, 2014
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough, Merritt Wever, Amy Ryan, Naomi Watts, Lindsay Duncan, and Edward Norton

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pilot Thoughts: The Flash and Jane the Virgin

When I decided that I was done with Supernatural after last season, I was relieved to have at least one broadcast channel that I didn't have to mind. Well, the CW had their own plans because they brought me right back in with a couple of new shows featuring strong lead actors...


The Flash is CW banking on the success of their other current DC comic book hero show Arrow, but it's this very reason why I was first hesitant to check it out. I only mildly liked the Arrow pilot and only managed to see a handful of episodes before stopping (though it apparently got much better) and the people who created the show are the same as the ones working on The Flash. Fortunately, the show is less Batman in tone like Arrow and more like Spider-Man (films) i.e. more fun and even a little cheesy. Grant Gustin as Barry Allen is practically playing Peter Parker as a CSI with his own Mary Jane and dead relatives. He's the best part of the pilot for me, easily selling the comedic and dramatic moments he's given and to skillfully balance the science nerd and hero in-the-making personas. The origin story and the world building was substantial, but easy-to-follow for a newcomer like me (even one who doesn't watch Arrow). The cast is okay to good with Tom Cavanaugh and Jesse L. Martin as the standouts as Barry two father figures while his real father, played by 90s Flash actor John Wesley Shipp is in jail. Some of the dialogue was awkward and corny (that roof pep talk with the Green Arrow was cringe-worthy), but at least the special effects were spot-on. Good first outing!

Grade: B
Willingess to continue:
I like this pilot more than Arrow's pilot so I think I'll stick around if only to find out what the deal is with that newspaper from the future!


Jane the Virgin is a show that feels like it shouldn't be on the CW with all of its supernatural/fantasy/comic book shows and yet it is and I hope for its success more than any new show of the season, because we need more shows like this. It revolves around 23-yo Jane Villanueva, played by the revelatory Gina Rodriguez, who has been raised to value her virginity above all else, and who in the pilot gets accidentally inseminated causing her to become pregnant. The concept is the "stuff of telenovelas" as the show states, but the overwhelming charm of the writing and the acting transcends the ridiculousness of it all. In that way, it reminded me of Ugly Betty which was also adapted from a telenovela and also led by a strong actress. This show, however, already feels more grounded even with all of the twists and turns the pilot takes. It's not perfect and there are some characters that definitely need work (the cheating wife, the mega-star father), but the show did well to perfectly cast its lead and I'm loving the fun sudsiness of it all already.

Grade: A-
Willingness to continue:
Uh, yes. I mean I watched Ugly Betty to its bitter end so what do you think?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pilot Thoughts: A to Z and Gracepoint

These next two pilots I thought were quite good, but both seem to be anchored by expectations of certain older shows. You'll see what I mean...


A to Z was my most anticipated comedy of the fall mostly because I adore the two leads played by Cristin Milioti and Ben Feldman, who I loved before in other TV shows, and also because the concept intrigued the romantic in me. As Katey Segal says in voiceover narration the two "will date for 8 months, 3 weeks, 5 days and 1 hour. This television program is the comprehensive account of their relationship, from A to Z." It's all very high-concept and twee, but the chemistry between Feldman and Milioti is palpalble and is definitely the best of the new fall shows of its ilk. The problem of course is the comparison to How I Met Your Mother which was another high-concept comedy about finding love which ended in a whimper (and featured Milioti) down to the use of flashbacks, voice narration, and non-linear storytelling. And yet people seem to forget how amazing Mother was early on and if this show can tap into that to fill the sitcom void, I'm all for it. Plus the pilot episode had quite a lot of great moments such as the quick social media montage where we saw their relationship suddenly bloom to that wonderful flashback to the first time they laid eyes on one another to that kickass cameo from Lea Thompson. Yes, this show is way too precious, but I'm the right Gollum for it.

Grade: B/B+
Willingess to continue:
I'll watch it for 8 months, 3 weeks, 5 days and 1 hour... and more if the show is willing.


It's difficult to figure out how to review Gracepoint, especially for someone like me who saw and loved Broadchurch. It's even trickier with the pilot specifically because as far as I can tell, other than very minor details, most of the story beats and character work is a direct copy of the BBC America show. David Tennant reprises his Broadchurch role except now he has a passable American accent and a seemingly bored disposition while the terrific Anna Gunn, like the rest of the cast, has the uneviable task of putting their own spin on characters already fully realized elsewhere. So yes, the Gracepoint pilot was good because the Broadchurch pilot they "adapted" was good. Perhaps this show just isn't for us Broadchurch viewers at least until they diverge more from the original story. Even during this first episode, I felt my attention waning a few times at the sameness of it all.

Grade: B-
Willingness to continue:
Maybe, I'm not sure. It's certain the end will be different (it has to be!), but will the journey to get there just feel too much of the same?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Pilot Thoughts: Selfie and Manhattan Love Story

I've noticed that I've been talking about the new shows this fall in pairs even though I didn't mean to do so consciously. In any case, last week's double premiere of ABC sitcoms about men-women relationships made it easy to pair them together. And thus...


I wanted more than anything to fall head over heels in love with the unfortunately titled Selfie mostly due to my love of John Cho and Doctor Who's Karen Gillan. The bad news is that didn't happen, but the good news is the show is actually not as bad as its self-aware trying-too-hard-to-be-hip title. The show is loosely based on My Fair Lady with Gillan playing Eliza, a self-centered social-media obsessed swan who used to be an ugly duckling. She seeks the help of Henry (Cho) to rebuild her image and mild hilarity ensues. Recognizing that is only been one episode, Eliza as a character isn't working at the moment. She's too much of a lame caricature and the fact that Gillan isn't able to use her regular Scottish accent isn't helping matters. I'm hopeful though that her character can evolve (and I can get used to her new accent eventually). The call outs to the various social media trends are also a bit much, but perhaps they'll tone it down in future episodes the way black-ish did with race. The saving grace of the show is the chemistry between Gillan and Cho as well as both of them delivering in the charm department, which is no easy for her saddled with such a work-in-progress character.

Grade: B-
Willingness to continue:
Yes, because I love the actors and definitely see potential for growth. #selfie #badromance


The trailer for Manhattan Love Story appealed to me, because I found the concept of hearing the inner thoughts of a man and a woman as they date and start a relationship pretty intriguing. What I didn't count on where those inner thoughts being predictable and really lame. In the first scene alone our leading man played as dudebro-ingly as possible by Jake McDornan and our leading woman played as neurotically insecurely as possible by Analeigh Tipton think about big boobs and pretty purses respectively. As the episode churns on, you realize that inner thoughts should always be kept to themselves as almost every reductive thought we hear make the characters more unlikable (or stupid). I can see a version of the show where the thoughts are slightly more insightful and both characters deserve happiness (with each other), but unfortunately that's not the version of the show the pilot showed us.

Grade: C-
Willingness to continue:
Relunctantly yes, mostly because it's smack dab between two shows I'm watching at the moment, Selfie and SHIELD.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Looking Forward To...


Gone Girl
Release: October 3, 2014
Distributor: Fox
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Rosamund Pike, Ben Affleck, Carrie Coon, Patrick Fujit, Emily Ratajkowski, Boyd Holbrook, Scott McNairy, Tyler Perry, Sela Ward, Missi Pyle, Casey Wilson, and Neil Patrick Harris

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pilot Thoughts: Black-ish and How to Get Away with Murder

Even though it was Premiere Week this past week, I actually only saw two new shows so don't think I'm putting them together now just because they happen to feature people of color as lead characters (though that isn't unimportant in the least). Let's go...


Black-ish is the first sitcom pilot I've seen this season and it looks like I started out on a good note. Dre Johnson, played slightly over-the-top by Anthony Anderson, is a marketing executive who is on the verge of a promotion and is generally high on life until he realizes that his family for all of their success have forgotten their black roots. His identity crisis and paranoia about them being black-ish is compounded by his son wanting to play field hockey and have a Bar Mitzvah and his company asking him to lead the "urban" division. He's put to the paces by his bi-racial doctor wife played by Tracee Ellis Ross and his father played by Laurence Fishburne as well as his other kids and predictably all's well that ends well as things do for sitcoms. The focus on race may have been too sledgehammer-y (or at least too broad) for a few, but it gives this show a solid base for the rest of its life. Plus it was funny (Ross and the young twins provided a lot of the laughs for me). I do hope that the show is more family comedy than work comedy because I generally found all of the latter slightly dull. Now let's all take a black break and get some white yogurt.

Grade: B
Willingness to continue: High. It has tons of potential and the family characters are great. Plus being sandwiched between two shows I already watch helps A LOT.


How to Get Away with Murder was my most anticipated show of the fall season so I'm super happy that it lived up to my already high expectations. First of all, Viola Davis as the brilliant and intimidating law professor Annalise Keating is just superb. Her role feels familiar already in the well-worn TV trope of smart and tough teacher who mentors her students in an unorthodox way (in the first episode she pits her students against one another to come up with the best defense on a case she's currently working on with four of the best to intern at her firm) and yet in Davis' hands she also feels fully fleshed out already in spite of still so many unanswered questions about her. I understand people saying she wasn't in the pilot enough, because from the first time she enters the frame to write the title of the show on the blackboard, you just never wanted her to leave and you definitely miss her when she's not on. The rest of the show though intrigued me if not in equal measure, then enough. It revolves around the young folks she's taken under her wing led by the baby-faced Wes Gibbins, adorably played by Alfred Enoch, a character you can easily root for in this dog-eat-dog world/show. In flash-forwards, we see Gibbins with three of his classmates literally trying to hide the evidence of a murder that's been committed. We get small clues in the pilot about what could've led to this dark moment in their lives (the tenuous relationships between all of the characters, the origin of the murder weapon, the identity of the victim, etc.) and I have to say I'm hooked. There's also so many other things I loved about the show such as having a gay character who is actually shown to have sex and of course seeing Liza Weil (Paris in Gilmore Girls) on my TV again. The week wait for the next new episode is murder.

Grade: A
Willingess to continue:
A murder mystery and a chance to see Viola Davis weekly? HELL TO THE YES.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pilot Thoughts: Mysteries of Laura and Madam Secretary

Yesterday, I talked about a couple of new FOX shows and today I'll go into two shows which highlight that a woman can be a mother AND something else. Whoa, whoa, WHOA talk about suspension of disbelief. Onwards...


The Mysteries of Laura has already been raked through the coals for its pre-premiere marketing campaign hammering the fact that Debra Messing's character is a cop AND a mom with the emphasis on the word and. The pilot doesn't help matters since it really did try to magnify how motherly she has to be in her job and how much of a cop she has to be in her personal life, the latter of which includes two twin boys who are obviously the spawns of Satan. In any case, everything about the show feels formulaic and forced and as delightful as Messing is, she just doesn't have the presence to shoulder this largely by-the-numbers show alone. She'll need help from the ensemble which isn't making much of an impression so far with the exception of her investigative aide/babysitter. With that said, they smartly take advantage of shooting on location in New York City and the case-of-the-week featured in the pilot had a nice twist in the end, but overall it all just feels a little too been-there-who-cares?

Grade: D+
Willingness to continue:
I really shouldn't, but there's nothing else on at the same time so maybe I'll catch an episode or two or just catch up on my reading.


First of all, I misrepresented Madam Secretary earlier since unlike Mysteries of Laura it's not at all underlining the fact that Elizabeth McCord, played by Téa Leoni, is the Secretary of State AND a mother. Her being a mom is not ignored as we see her interact with her husband and kids, but it's just a natural extension of the character rather than a prominent schtick (at least not yet). The President, an old CIA boss, calls her up from her civilian life as a professor to be Secretary after the current one dies in a plane crash. The first part of the pilot had to go on hyper speed to bring us to two months after she has agreed to the job so it felt slightly choppy and rushed, but then the rest of the episode focused on showing how McCord was still adjusting to the job from entertaining foreign dignitaries to handling personnel issues, namely trying to figure out how to leverage her friendship with the President against the antagonizing Chief of Staff (played by none other than Zeljko Ivanek, because of course). From there, the pilot goes on auto drive with McCord deftly handling International Crisis #1 through her connections and brilliance. There's also a possible Big Conspiracy reveal in the end, because of course. Overall, the show is solid if slightly unremarkable for now with a pedigreed cast full of Tony/Oscar/Emmy winners who seem to be overly qualified for what's being asked of them so far. Now, was anyone else distracted by the number of House of Cards actors in the episode? I counted three.

Grade: B-
Willingness to continue:
Yes and no. Yes, based on the show's quality, but no based on its time slot. It would be approximately the 1000th show I watch on Sundays and I'm just not sure if my DVR is up to the task especially since it'll also be surely affected by football overruns.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pilot Thoughts: Red Band Society and Gotham

The only reason I'm putting these two shows together is because they air on FOX and nothing else since they couldn't be further from each other. One is a show about a bunch of really sick kids who band together during their extended stay in a fancy hospital while the other is the story of Batman before Batman became Batman. Onwards...


Red Band Society has been dubbed as Glee meets Grey's Anatomy meets The Fault in Our Stars and that's actually pretty on point so if you're a fan of at least two of those then this show might be for you. Unfortunately, I found the pilot just a tad cloying, over-earnest, and overall hokey. It's not easy doing a show about seriously sick kids since you don't want it to be too depressing, but it can't just be too peppy and at least based on the first episode they're leaning a bit too heavily on the latter. Granted a lot of that could just be the usual expositionary stuff every pilot goes through, but with this show all of that just seemed to magnify the over-sentimentality of it all (cue Coldplay music). And don't get me started on the coma kid who's providing voice-over narration and commentary on the goings on in the hospital and is stuck in some "in-between" world. Not even my love for Octavia "Scary Bitch" Spencer could make me tolerate that.

Grade: C
Willingness to continue: I'll check out one more episode (maybe two), but it just seemed like the show isn't for me.


Why would you do a Batman TV show without Batman? And yet the creators of Gotham did just that with the show taking place when Bruce Wayne is just a wee little boy whose parents are killed in front of him and Jim Gordon is still the boyish rookie in the form of Ben McKenzie all blue-eyed and noble. The thing is... it's not bad. McKenzie is pretty great as Gordon going up against and dealing with the shady figures of Gotham be it his opportunistic partner Bullock (Donal Logue), the  dangerous Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith), the intimidating Carmine Falcone (John Doman), or the various young folks he encounters who happen to be the evil supervillains of the future. These various cameos were probably the most distracting parts of the pilot. Of course we had to see Bruce Wayne, but we also got a glimpse of the future Catwoman, Poison Ivy, The Riddler, The Penguin, and maybe even the Joker himself. I guess the show has to do that since without that, it would just be a run-of-the-mill cop show. At least, they got the look of Gotham City just right, feeling lived-in and appropriately dark. All of the actors also seem to be committed and I'm already intrigued by one or two things namely the past relationship between Barbara and Renee. The show does need more shirtless Jim Gordon action. Priorities!

Grade: B
Willingness to continue: Definitely for a few episodes and since I like to support genre shows, if it doesn't completely suck then it's a safe bet for a season's pass.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Happy September 22nd!

Apparently today is a big pop culture day. It's the 20th anniversary of Friends, the 10th anniversaries of Lost and Veronica Mars, and it's the birthdays of Rose Tyler, Draco Malfoy, and Sarah Manning (and Alison Hendrix, Cosima Niehaus, Helena)... well the actors who play them. So...


HAPPY 20TH FRIENDS!

I would never say that this is the greatest sitcom of all time, but due to its cultural reach, especially to my generation, it's definitely one of the most popular show even two decades remove from its debut. I'm pretty sure an episode of Friends is airing right now somewhere. I still watch re-runs on Nick at Nite whenever I can and recently aced a supposedly super difficult trivia quiz on it. Its series finale is one of my absolute favorites. Though I have yet to visit Central Perk so that's on my to-do list. Now go sing Smelly Cat or tweak your nubbin to celebrate the day.


HAPPY 10TH LOST!

Even though I've seen every episode of Lost and have love/obsessed over this show (and its cast) all the way to the end, it's pretty funny that I actually didn't start watching the show until the third episode had already aired. Couldn't commit to the 2-hour pilot (incidentally one of my favorite pilots ever) and yet once I did see it, I was all in for the 121 episode journey of madness and brilliance. Too bad there really hasn't been a true replacement for it on network TV.


HAPPY 10TH VERONICA MARS!


I mistweeted earlier today saying I saw the pilot of Veronica Mars when it aired, but I just realize that I had disowned UPN (whoa old school!) after Buffy ended so I didn't get to see the show until a friend burned DVDs of the first season to me a year or so later. Of course, I didn't get to finish watching the first season until THIS YEAR with my roommate pushing me to do just that and watch the entire series so we could see the movie which came out in March.

BIRTHDAYS! BIRTHDAYS! BIRTHDAYS


Billie Piper, who turns 32 today, was the first companion of the rebooted Doctor Who and thus was a lot of people's entry to the now 50-year old sci-fi institution (she was part of the celebration last year). I had no previous history with her and didn't even know she was a pop singer, but she was fantastic both with Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant. All New Who companions are still compared to her. Currently she's starring in Penny Dreadful which I haven't seen, but I thought she was excellent in Secret Diary of a Call Girl.


Turning 29 today, Tatiana Maslany's star continues to rise as the lead of Orphan Black winning two Critics Choice Awards and being nominated for a Golden Globe for playing half a dozen or so characters on the small BBC America show. That show is her breakout role as she mostly appeared on Canadian productions prior to that. She memorably appeared in a couple of episodes of Parks and Recreation last year. Hope she gets more opportunities!


Finally, Tom Felton aka Draco Malfoy of the Harry Potter films is 27 today and he seems to have been typecast in these villainy type roles the past few years such as his roles in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and this year's Belle. He stars in TNT's Murder in the First and has a few films lined up where he hopefully plays not the bad guy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Looking Forward To...

Fall TV Edition

The weather is starting to cool and suddenly everything is pumpkin flavored, which means that the Fall TV season is upon us. Of course, I'm excited for my returning shows, but I'm also eager to dive into whatever new shows TV has to offer. Below are just some of the shows I'm highly anticipating for one reason or another. 

Gotham (FOX)
Premieres: Monday, 9/22 8PM
Starring: Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Robin Lord Taylor, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Cory Michael Smith
Time Period Conflict: Big Bang Theory, Mom
Why: A Batman show without Batman is a laughable concept, but so is a TV show about the Headless Horseman plus McKenzie is easy on the eyes.

How to Get Away With Murder (ABC)
Premieres: Thursday, 9/25 10PM
Starring: Viola Davis, Charlie Weber, Alfred Enoch, Billy Brown, Karen Cabrera, Katie Findlay, Jack Falahee, Matt McGorry, Liza Weil, and Aja Naomi King
Time Period Conflict: N/A
Why: VIOLA DAVIS. VIOLA DAVIS. VIOLA DAVIS. Also Paris from Gilmore Girl and Bennett from Orange is the New Black. But really... Viola Davis.

Selfie (ABC)
Premieres:
Tuesday, 9/30 8PM
Starring: Karen Gillan, John Cho, Allyn Rachel, Joy Randolph, Tim Peper, and David Harewood
Time Period Conflict: N/A
Why: Modern retelling of My Fair Lady is a fun concept and I really like both actors. Plus I have nothing else to watch at that time.

Gracepoint (FOX)
Premieres:
Thursday, 10/2 9PM
Starring: David Tennant, Anna Gunn, Nick Nolte, Michael Pena, Jacki Weaver, and Kevin Rankin
Time Period Conflict: A to Z
Why: As a Broadchurch viewer, this American adaptation is unnecessary and yet to see Tennant and especially Gunn weekly? I won't pass that up.

A to Z (NBC)
Premieres:
Thursday, 10/2 9:30PM
Starring: Ben Feldman, Cristin Milioti, Lenora Crichlow, Henry Zebroski, and Christina Kirk
Time Period Conflict: Gracepoint
Why: The trailer is twee even for me and yet all I can hope for is that the show is as charming and adorable I find the two leads.

The Affair (Showtime)
Premieres:
Sunday, 10/12 10PM
Starring: Joshua Jackson, Ruth Wilson, Maura Tierney, and Dominic West
Time Period Conflict: Revenge
Why: I don't know much about this show except all of the actors are great and it looks to be some excellent soapy drama.

The two new shows actually premiering tonight, Red Band Society and The Mysteries of Laura, aren't on my list, but I'll still check out their pilots. I'm going to do that for a bunch of new shows. The other shows on my radar include Madam Secretary, Black-ish, Manhattan Love Story, Bad Judge, Mulaney, Jane the Virgin, and Marry Me. I might see them all or just half, we'll see.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sports Movie Rankings

With the US Open crowning its new champions, football season starting to bombard us with its inescapable presence, and baseball heading into its month-long play-off race, sports has been on the mind as of late. Kacey over at Pop Culture Crazy was in the same mindset when she decided to poll as many people as she could to come up with a Sports Movie Ranking. She asked people to send in their top/favorite 5 sports films and to rank them. She received over 50 submissions with over 90 different films. Check out her great site for the full results including the Top 25 as well as her methodology.

Below are the five films I submitted for the poll as ranked by me. How they were ranked in the final Sports Movie Ranking is in parenthesis:


1. BRING IT ON (#3)

As soon as I heard about the sports film poll, this was the first and second film I thought of. So many people think cheer-leading is not a sport, but I still remember just being in awe at the level of athleticism displayed in the film. Of course the film is more than just a cheerleading film. It's incredibly fun, addictively quotable, and the trio of Dunst, Dushku, and Union is just the best. A few years ago, I briefly talked about the film during it's 10th year anniversary.


2. WIMBLEDON (#16)

If you know me at all, then you know that tennis is my absolute favorite sport. So putting this on my list was a no-brainer even though its presence is less about its quality and more about how few tennis films there actually are. With that said, I saw this on opening weekend and even got a poster of it. Dunst (she's my sporting muse apparently) and Bettany had fun chemistry with each other. So while this is more a guilty pleasure, I don't really care, especially since this is also the very first film I saw with James McAvoy.


3. SUMMER STORM (Unranked)

This German film about rowing teams preparing for a rowing regatta is a must-see especially if you like to watch good gay films. It's sexy, gorgeously shot, and just an affecting coming-of-age coming-out film.


4. WHIP IT (#7)

The year this film came out I dubbed it "like Juno but not annoying." It was fun and energetic and in the heart of it was Page kicking ass in roller derby with Wiig and Barrymore. How could anyone say no to that? Saw it at a special screening and was rewarded with swag, a shirt that says Whip It: Be Your Own Hero. I still cherish it so.


5. MILLION DOLLAR BABY (#25)

I was one of the few people rooting for this film during the Oscars over The Aviator and I don't regret it one bit after all of these years. Eastwood's aesthetics matched this particular story and with Swank's Oscar-winning powerhouse performance, it was clear cut for me. Her death scene is still one of the saddest for me.

Wow, my list began quite happily then ended in such a depressing way. That sounds about right. Looking over my list now, it's not really surprising that the majority of them are girl-led and the two that aren't directly speaks to my interests (tennis and pretty gay boys). A few of the other films I considered included A Knight's Tale (jousting fun!), The Cutting Edge (Romeo and Juliet on ice!), and Space Jam (fly you fools!). Then there's the trio of The Mighty Ducks, Angels in the Outfield, and Remember the Titans with young Joshua Jackson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Ryan Gosling starring respectively.

Again, don't forget to go to Pop Culture Crazy to see the full list of Top 25 Sports Films (as polled) as well as other cool stuff.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Looking Forward To...


The Skeleton Twins
Release: September 12, 2014
Distributor: Roadside Attractions
Director: Craig Johnson
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Luke Wilson, Joanna Gleason, Boyd Holbrook, and Ty Burrell

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Dodge This...

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

In honor of Keanu Reeves' 50th birthday, the film chosen today is the sci-fi classic The Matrix. In spite of how disappointing the final film ended up or how many inferior action films afterwards aped its aesthetics, The Matrix is still a great cinematic achievement for its imaginative concept and ground-breaking visual flair. I certainly remember being wowed by it all when it came out in theaters and even upon re-watch for this post, I noticed most of its visual effects have aged quite well.

Neo, played by Reeves, is the main character and he's the Chosen One in every sense of that phrase. Morpheus, played by Laurence Fishburne, is the wise mentor who opens Neo to the realities of the Matrix. Agent Smith, played by Hugo Weaving, is the main antagonist hellbent on capturing Neo and company. They're fine and all, but I want to talk about Trinity played by Carrie-Anne Moss, because even though I remember loving her when I first saw the film, I really couldn't take my eyes off of her during my re-watch. She's the first of the main good characters we meet and she gets to kick ass a number of times even before we meet Neo and Morpheus. These two great shots are from the first six minutes of the film already showing us how ready she is for anything:


She gets a lot more opportunities to show off how awesome she is throughout the film, which is when I realized how fantastic it would've been if instead of Neo being the Chosen One, it was Trinity. Instead she becomes a catalyst for Neo to become the Chosen One, which is fine and all if a bit predictable, but to then frame it all by how much they loved each other was a bit of a stretch for the film as their romantic feelings were barely developed other than a few errant glances and the tacked-on Oracle prophesies to both of them. In any case, my runner-up pick is the shot right after my pick for best shot:


I think it's great how it's Trinity who is in charge of the active situation while Neo is on the floor still barely reacting. Plus if you watch the film, the whole thing is done in the film's trademark slo-mo way which adds to how bad-ass this moment was. My favorite shot is then the literal "shot" right before this one with Trinity giving the bad guy a heads up to the world of hurt she's about to deliver unto him:

Best Shot... literally

The foregrounded gun is made to seem huge, but she's the weapon and if you think differently then you're in trouble. It's a wonderful moment in the film and I'm glad she's the focal point of it since the entire film really should've focused on her.